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Most Nigerians Are Currently Yearning For Change And, That Philosophy Driven By The Federal Government Is Believed Will Make Nigeria great


Former Commissioner for Science and Technology in Akwa Ibom, Hon. Samuel Efanga, in this interview with journalists in Uyo, the state capital, bares mind on the Change mantra and other national issues. Excerpts:

As a stalwart of the All Progressive Congress (APC), what would you say are the achievements of President Buhari since resumption of office?
President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration over the past one year, has witnessed tremendous improvement in the way public administration is run; in terms of transparency, probity and accountability. Why I say so is because, we have seen the things he is trying to do to reposition governance in the country. We may not see the immediate result as I speak since Nigerians expect a dramatic kind of change. But to be very sincere, there have been some dimensions of change witnessed in the country through what I may describe as radical policies government is embarking upon.

We believe that, in a short time the dividends would be visible for all to see. That change, which began slowly, is gradually being deepened beyond political sentiment. It might not be convenient to those who do not appreciate the change but, it is something that is going to be sustainable. I am saying so devoid of political sentiment. While the opposition perceive the change negatively based on the economy; where people feel that life is becoming more difficult and expensive or we are facing economic recession.

To such people, it is sentiment being played out to portray the administration as being incapable of addressing the economic challenges we are facing today in the country. But the change we are talking about is beyond party affiliation. We are looking at where this administration picked up the economy as a starting point or foundation and from where the administration took over. The policies so far implemented are such that Nigeria in a short time from now will witness new dimension of change to a level that will be sustainable in the country. Therefore, we appreciate the transparency by Mr. President which is a deliberate intervention of government to alter the way things used to be done, even in the expenditure of public funds, the nature of appropriation of public funds and then the due process for appropriation of public funds.

Hitherto, what was practiced led to large scale fraud and corruption that made Nigeria almost a failed state. Because the level of corruption was uncontrollable, alarming and mind boggling that, in every sector of administration there was corruption and looting of treasury. From the report in public domain by the EFCC, the amount of looted funds recovered so far is over N3 Trillion. So, you can imagine what this country would have been if we had continued in that trend.

With the level of investigation which has not reach 50 per cent, that amount is reported to have been recovered from looters in various accounts of fraudulent transactions. So, any sincere person no matter the political or religious leaning would first of all acknowledge that, this country was heading to a doom based on these fraudulent acts displayed by former public office holders of this country now running into billions of Dollars in illicit transactions. So, for somebody to come out and decided that, let us put a stop to these lootings of the treasury of government, is a remarkable development in the direction of change. That is the kind of Change we are talking about.

But Nigerians are of the view that this Change mantra is responsible for the current economic down-turn. Is this true that the present economic crunch is experienced only in Nigeria?

Well! Like I said, some of the views are based on ignorance of the current situation and sentiments of party affiliations even when they know, some people still feel they should criticize negatively and condemn no matter the effort being put by Mr. President. The truth is that, we have witnessed a downward economic trend. Nigeria was dependent by about 95 per cent on oil revenue and collections of receipts from the internally generated revenue sources were almost not accounted for. Those ones disappeared in the hands of political administrators, they never accounted for what came out, but that was also not significant enough. Government did not really generate anything for instance, from the manufacturing sector; it was almost zero export apart from oil.
So, we did not look at that sector of the economy that was not bringing money. The main revenue source that was recognized, by the expectation of government, was the oil sector and maybe the internally generated revenue. But, even the internally generated revenue was not accounted for. So, salaries, development projects and running cost of government administration etc, were dependent on oil as far as 95 per cent. World-wide, we have seen that the oil revenue has dropped from where we were selling crude oil at $110 to $40 Dollars per barrel and this is what has created the major crisis especially, those countries who were dependent on oil. It has affected Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and almost all oil the exporting countries of the world and Nigeria is one of such countries that is affected.

The challenge witnessed was not only peculiar to Nigeria but why we talk so much about Nigeria is because we are from here and most people might not even know what happens elsewhere to make comparison because, in Nigeria we are being faced with the day to day challenges of living. We also talk about how we can help the country out. This was a major challenge and though a world-wide phenomenon but in Nigeria the administration came to admit the reality that, why we are suffering is because we depended too much on oil as our major revenue earner and the only product we exported, while our manufacturing sector was almost low and zero export. We were only importing everything including staple food items for day-to-day sustenance. We were not realistic and so, a population of over 170 million people depending on importation to eat was a wrong planning, mismanagement, complete lack of idea and how long would we continue with this pattern of survival importing everything?

So, President Buhari has come to ask; what can we do to get out of a life of importing every basic need?

Since government has found out that, pressure on the Dollar was because we were importing everything that supposed to be done in Nigeria including education, which if checked, the number of Nigerian parents looking for foreign exchange to pay tuition of their children is of great concern to Nigeria thereby, mounting serious pressure on the Dollar. Another issue is the rate of Nigerians travelling abroad for medical tourism in the guise of not having efficient medical facilities to handle even common illnesses that should have been sorted out here in our hospitals. We are still going abroad and all these constituted to mounting pressure on the Dollar.

So, this administration has come to reposition things by saying, this is the situation, our future will not be guaranteed if we continue to live this kind of life style, even in the running cost of governance. The government came to say that, let us cut costs and sacrifice by deliberately reducing the running cost of governance and dependency on imports. These are sacrifices that we have to do if we must experience the real Change we are looking for. In doing so, there is no way it would not create temporary inconveniences until when the situation begin to settle for us to witness the positive results of these policies and programmes.

That is the Change and we believe that, within a very short time when these things have normalized, Nigerians will begin to enjoy and thank God that, Mr. President came with a vision for Nigeria, he is somebody who can call spade a spade. Before now, we were living fake and false life styles, borrowing to eat while governments borrow to pay workers’ salaries. If the government borrows money to do project, that can be considered as investment but when people borrow to eat, that is the worst that could have happened to a government.

What would you say are the policies and programmes of government to reposition the economy?

Investment in agriculture, deregulation, cutting down cost of governance and fighting corruption. I would say that, the present policies are steps in the right direction, and Mr President needs the support of all Nigerians. Like I always say, nobody is perfect and there is no government that would ever be perfect except government of the Almighty God that can be completely perfect.

There could be mistakes arising from human errors in the implementation of policies. The fact that, you must take a decision on what to do and, some of the decisions may not even be the best but, a decision has to be taken so that you move from where you are to where you want to be and then, as you go you keep making amendments and that is what happens in government. So, the decisions and steps taken by this government so far are in the right direction to address the challenges of recession.

Government is presently talking about diversifying into agriculture and solid minerals in order to strengthen the economy. What is your take on that?
That is the best that can happen at this time. Even when the crude oil was selling, the best thing would have been to diversify the economy because; it is not good to continue to depend only on one source of revenue. It will make you wealthier if you have revenue from different sources like other developed economies; they don’t depend only on one source of revenue. It was wrong for us not to think of having other sources of generating revenue. So, diversification at any point in time is always a good option.

Just last week, a gubernatorial election was held in Edo State and, the outcome of that exercise saw Mr Godwin Obaseki emerged as the Governor-Elect under the platform of APC. As a stalwart, what is your impression of that election?
I congratulate the winner first of all and, as APC stalwart, I will also say it was a victory for democracy even though I am not from Edo State but, I also monitor developments in other states and I am happy that my party; APC won in that election. So, I congratulate the winner and the APC in Edo State and of course congratulations to the entire APC family in Nigeria. It was a display of the power of the people in deciding who their leader is and, I think INEC did well but though there is an Election Reform Committee; my argument on election is that, we still have a long way to go to conduct elections that would be satisfactory to both parties. Because, we have a number of challenges particularly, when election results are out, people still feel they would have won the election.
Our process still needs some reforms and I want to see a situation in Nigeria where elections will be conducted and it would be won and lost such that, those who lose at elections would not have the cause to cry foul. They will rather admit the result in good faith after seeing the transparency of the process. To me, that was what happened in Edo State and I think APC did a good work to deliver the party.

But the PDP is crying foul of the outcome of that election in Edo State?
That is what I have already said, because of the processes. The challenges in the processes of our election throws up great need for serious reforms because, to those who feel the election was not done well or not favoured by the process they will always protest. But if they were favoured by same process, they would have said is the best as it happened in Akwa Ibom and Rivers States.
So, I want a process either you win or lose, people would be satisfied that the election was transparent enough.

But what would you say to the losing parties which may now be complaining?
They have the democratic right to protest if the feel aggrieved but, as usual, they should go to the tribunal because the law does not allow you to go violent. A peaceful protest is okay but the modality set up is for any aggrieved party in an election to go to the tribunal or any other level of court processes.
Recently, Mr President has appointed four prominent Akwa Ibom sons into the federal agencies and commissions as Managing-Directors/Chief Executive Officers and Commissioners.
What is your view on this?

Well! You know as it is expected at the beginning of every new administration, there are key institutions that appointments are usually made for people to man some positions to run the government. It is one of those things and Akwa Ibom people also expected their fair share of appointments into federal agencies; boards and commissions and I believe that, this is just the beginning of the series of appointments that would be coming to the state.

I have seen that, these appointments have elicited jubilation across the state. I believe the jubilation was as a result of the kind of individuals that have been appointed: Obong Nsima Ekere and Obong Umana Okon Umana have created impact in the state may be, because of their leadership roles and relationship with the people of Akwa Ibom, the struggle for the emancipation of the state which they championed for the people to be free from the grip of PDP led administration.

After the APC lost the elections in Akwa Ibom in 2015, supporters felt the party would be doom at the state level in terms of recognition for appointments and others by the government at the centre?

Sometimes, it is not good to generalize issues because, what happened in the state was a situation where one man became the sole administrator of the entire state; taking every decisions as the sole owner, which made the people to react that that was not democracy. So, there were some people who led the struggle for freedom and felt, Akwa Ibom should be free and, that any hard working citizen can aspire to any position based on his or her talents, abilities and the grace of God. But what we witnessed in Akwa Ibom was a complete suppression of the rights and privileges of the citizens of the state, under the former administration. People felt because Nigeria is a democratic society, sometimes you don’t take up arms, you will wait until when you have the opportunity to take a decision through the ballot box.

That struggle resulted in a mass movement led by Obong Nsima Ekere under the PDP and later leader of G-22. He refused to be compromised and intimidated by putting all he had to insist that Akwa Ibom people must be free and, even at a point when the leadership of PDP at the national level still supressed that aspiration of the people, we went through APC to continue the struggle, which at APC level was led by Obong Umana Okon Umana. That struggle was painfully terminated at the Supreme Court.

So, as democratic citizens, we took whatever happened in good faith believing that, there is always tomorrow and that, someday it would yield result which we would still deliver the people of Akwa Ibom because the struggle was for freedom; the people must make their choices. We are happy that, those who championed that struggle have been given some level of recognition through these appointments, which is why the masses especially, those who were in support of the struggle are happy that, at least all hope is not lost.

So, you still had the hope?

Yes! It shows a revival of hope that, at appropriate time the struggle must continue. It is also a relief that, yes, Akwa Ibom is effectively accommodated within the federal structure of government and, for me I believe more appointments would still come to the state. We appreciate Mr President for his magnanimity in those appointments including that of the minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma and Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Solomon Enang.

As a Coordinator, ONE For Change in Akwa Ibom State, we also want to say that these appointments are so significant to the state and the people are happy. We believe that, one day, the struggle which they started would be realized. So, for now, we say very big congratulations to all the appointees, while more are still being expected.

What are your expectations from the appointees?

We are urging them to join hands with President Buhari to develop this country by contributing immensely to advance the cause of the Change agenda.
The philosophy of ONE For Change is also in solidarity with the philosophy of the Change administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari. We would continue to drum support for the programmes to change this country. We would continue to bring the message of change to the nooks and crannies of this country especially, the people of Akwa Ibom State and we believe Nigeria will change for better.


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