Prof Abubakar Olarewaju Sulaiman is the immediate past minister of National Planning under the Goodluck Jonathan administration. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI of Leadership, the chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) speaks on the accusation of looting against the erstwhile ruling party, the Third Force alternative, among other topical issues in the polity
What legacies did you leave behind as minister of National Planning?
Don’t forget that I became a minister during the election period, towards the tail end of Jonathan Administration. I spent only ten months in the saddle. During that short period of time, I made some remarkable achievements. National Planning is the coordinating ministry of any government. It is the framework of any government.
We were able to rectify two key policy frameworks, which had been in the pipelines for 2 years before I got to the ministry. I got them to FEC and it was approved. In terms of my impact on the ministry, I made sure two promotions were carried out successfully. Their buses were grounded before I got there, but before I left, I was able to ensure that, some of the buses were working. This is aside what I did for my people from Kwara state.
The Jonathan administration was berated for not handling the issue of Boko Haram insurgen- cy well. As an insider then, what would you say?
Jonathan was not the architect of Boko Haram. Terrorism has become a phenomenon worldwide. The Boko Haram are not southerners, they are northerners. In terms of affiliation and identity, they don’t have southern identity. With due respect to my fellow northerners, the Boko Haram don’t see themselves as anything but Muslims. Anybody out of mischief who placed the blame on Jonathan was doing a disservice to the nation and to humanity. But unfortunately, because of sheer politics and vendetta, they lay the blame at Jonathan’s doorstep. I am a Muslim and also a northerner, but I won’t be unjust to other Nigerians. Jonathan did his best as a leader.
The day the chibok girls were kidnapped, Jonathan couldn’t sleep that day, he did everything within his capacity to ensure that those girls were released. One of the things he did besides equipping the military was to ensure that, he set up a committee whose membership was drawn from every part of the North but these measures taken by Jonathan were frustrated by northerners and their southerner counterparts most of whom are in APC today for whatsoever reason, I don’t know.
Their reason was, they must wrestle power from Jonathan and whatever they could do to get that power, and they did. One of the things they did to sabotage his government was to frustrate the chibok girls’ rescue. They also ensured that the Boko Haram insurgency keep on raging, they also ensured that they made governance impossible for Jonathan.
Do you have proof to back up these allegations?
One is that this thing started in the North and it kept raging in the North, it was a northern creation. Two, when this terrorism was going
on, what was the support from the northern leaders? Jonathan was to send the military to the affected areas even before it became worst, they refused. He was to impose a state of emergency on the affected areas, that too, they refused.
It’s on record also that Buhari was among those resisting some of these efforts by Jonathan. Don’t forget that Buhari made a statement akin to an unpatriotic leader, that an attack on Boko Haram is an attack on northerners. What can sabotage government’s effort more than that? Buhari is not just an ordinary Nigerian, he is a leader in this country, a former Head of State.
A statement made by Buhari carries weight. He made that statement on a radio programme in Kaduna or so, and the social media carried it. Nations like America always achieve their fight against terrorism because the leaders and followers are always on the same page.
The first part of defeating terrorism in any country is when everybody is on the same page, they come to join hands to defeat the terrorists after they must have accepted that, the insurgents are the common enemy. They will collectively join hands and fight them. But when people don’t believe in what government is doing and some people go behind to destroy any attempt to do that, then you will get what we have in Nigeria.
Would you say it is the same thing that is playing out in the Buhari administration?
This God we serve is a God of justice. When they were doing these things to Jonathan, I said that Buhari will be paid back in his own coins, in a more damaging way. We have lost more lives across the country than we did during Jonathan since the coming of Buhari.
Were you surprised when the Buhari government accused the Jonathan administration of massive looting?
I have not seen the looting. APC government rode on propaganda to come to power. When they got power and realised that they don’t have anything to offer Nigerians, they sustained their propaganda. Why haven’t they convict anybody 3 years down the line? Corruption is ungodly. Both Islam and Christianity hate it. PDP was the first to start the fight against corruption. Jonathan did not just fight corruption but he removed some of his aides that were indicted. It is only under Buhari that corruption is being shielded. His boys are protected when they are accused of being corrupt. Jonathan government was not the only government that had corrupt aides. That your aide is corrupt does not make you corrupt.
Goodluck Jonathan enjoyed goodwill from Ni- Nigerians when he was first sworn-in, in the aftermath of Yar’Adua’s death. If he wasn’t corrupt, then what eroded that goodwill that led to his Sulaiman loss at the 2015 elections?
What happened was just propaganda because they knew that Jonathan was going to complete late Yar’Adua’s tenure and might seek re-election, so because they couldn’t wait that long, they started bringing up all manner of antics to ensure that he doesn’t come back after his 4 years.
That was the beginning of the acrimony and bitterness. It was all about power. The average Nigerian is gullible and so they believe anything they are told. See how they did with subsidy removal, look at how Tinubu went about it all, they went as far as mobilising musicians in Lagos to come and protest, yet today, what do we hear about subsidy? The same thing with the Chibok girls. But ask them before the God they serve whether they were doing it for the good of the country or for selfish reasons. Some were denied oil blocks and that was why they started fighting Jonathan. Others wanted the seat and so were willing to do anything to remove him.
It was not Jonathan that rated his economy the fastest growing economy. He wasn’t the one that rated or made a Nigerian to be elected into the UN twice. We made inroad among the comity of nations for once. Jonathan said it clearly that no Nigerian blood is worth his ambition which is something Buhari cannot say. People refused to give Jonathan credit for ensuring that, the election was smooth through reforms he introduced in 2015. Today we are under fascism, Nigeria is under a dictatorship.
We have a man on the seat, who said he will only consider those that voted for him. Is that a leader? Is that a nationalist? The country today is divided, it’s like we are in a civil war. The Buhari administration came under three carnal points: insecurity, corruption and job creation. Have they done well in these three areas? They promised Nigerians that, because Jonathan government had failed in its fight against insurgency, Tinubu said Buhari that chased out the Chadians will be the best person to chase insurgents away.
So, the question is, how far has he done that? It’s on record today, that it is under Buhari that
insurgents are being empowered financially. It is under his administration that insurgents could come to a school, kidnap students and the military was asked to withdraw to give them free rein. The same insurgents returned the girls without a single shot being fired at them by our security because they are also a government.
Shekau is not a head of any government anywhere but he was granted immunity of free passage to wreak havoc and go back again. The president directed his troops not to fire a single shot. This will never happen even in Somalia. Under Buhari, insurgents have the freedom to operate freely. They are even arming them by releasing them and giving them amnesty. Look at the havoc herdsmen are causing, the genocidal killings in Taraba, Benue, Plateau and the rest.
Recently armed robbers classically attacked a local government area in my state and killed more than 50 Nigerians and got away. Where is that prowess in the General (Buhari)? Where is the skill and military experience? The Transparency International rated Jonathan’s fight against corruption high than what Buhari got recently. A serving member of the House of Representatives alleged that the Speaker padded the budget and yet, it was swept under the carpet.
Today, in most MDAs, when they give you contract they will tell you 30% is for the government, is that not corruption? Another point is job creation. Where are the jobs?
Nobody is being engaged anywhere. So, when you look at the three promises APC made to Nigerians, it shows that Buhari and his party have all failed. Buhari is not the only one that can do this job out of 180 million Nigerians. So, Buhari to me is a tragedy for Nigeria. The best thing we can do as a people is to tell him to go because he doesn’t have the capacity, healthwise, mental-wise and in terms of the skills to govern.
Former President Obasanjo recently came up with the idea of a mega-coalition or Third Force. If this comes to be, what will happen to your party, the PDP?
If actually, it is true that he is trying to get a new formation, then I think it is a mistake. Any attempt to have a strong opposition beside PDP is giving Buhari an easy passage because you are dividing the ranks of the opposition. That should not be encouraged. He should talk about bringing them together under one umbrella rather than dissipating their energy and resources. Our common enemy is Buhari and APC. Obasanjo should use his experience and honour to mobilise all the opposition together against Buhari.
What is the state of PDP in Kwara State?
For the past 3 years, we have been divided because of internal acrimony but the last few weeks have been good because, through our efforts and other leaders, we have been able to achieve some form of peace. We now have one chairman. We have one common enemy in Kwara, which is the Senate President. We are trying to ease him out of the Senate. So we are working together to get that common enemy out.
Originally published in Leadership