‘Buhari is a Product of a Time When Power was Absolute, He is an Extreme Democrat’

13
Tonye Princewill

Vanessa Obioha dialogues with Tonye Princewill, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress on how the party can escape humiliation it suffered in some states in the 2019 national elections

President Muhammadu Buhari has said he won’t meddle in the affairs of the All Progressives Congress (APC). To some, it is a sign of weakness and selfishness. They claim he doesn’t need the platform again and doesn’t care what happens to it or what the contending forces do with it?  

He has never been the meddling kind. All of us know that. Many would like him to meddle some more, but he’s a product of a time when power was absolute, so he knows the implications of using it too freely. I believe the term extreme democrat has been used to describe him. Unfortunately, he can’t afford to sit this one out. I don’t believe he will. Politics affects governance especially in the last few months of the end of a term. In the case of the APC, 2023 affected even 2019. That’s way too soon and shows a dangerous level of indiscipline among the troops. Only one person can restore order. If he doesn’t, it will overflow into governance and affect it even more. That, we cannot afford.

The state of the economy is a concern to many. Oil is now $30 per barrel.  Considering our mono-product economy status, aren’t we going into another recession? As a businessman with interest in the oil sector, what measures should be taken to absorb the shock?

We are looking at two separate issues which are the cause and affect of each other. The first is the Coronavirus which is impacting and will impact on the global economy, resulting in negative growth across board. Nigeria is no exception. Current forecasts put our expected growth rate to hit 2% as opposed to the 2.5% earlier predicted. The second issue is the Saudi – Russia crude cuts debate and the impact of a crude war. That sent the price stumbling. But Russia has since indicated a willingness to talk, so the oil price is recovering slowly again. It’s important not to panic. Oil prices will go above our estimated price of $57, but it may take a while for that to happen and we are losing time.  The government will be under pressure to devalue the Naira, but it shouldn’t subscribe to knee jerk reactions. One month from now, things will be a lot clearer. In the meantime, our handling of the Coronavirus issue is our biggest currency.

APC doesn’t have Rivers. Bayelsa has slipped out of its hands.  Edo is threatened by internal dissension. Is the claim to penetrate the South-south, not becoming an empty boast?

No. It’s not. We all know why we didn’t win Rivers and we all know that we won Bayelsa. In both cases, the court reigned Supreme. So, let’s not debate our acceptance in the zone, let’s instead debate our acceptance in the courts. We need to look inwards. I remember when I was running around the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in 2019 to find out why INEC was not ready to put us on the ballot. I bumped into some people in the legal department and we had a heart-to-heart on our matter. They said, ‘you are here, but nobody from the APC secretariat comes here. We only see them in court.’ Reflect on that. Edo state is already an APC state, so penetration there is already a concluded affair. What is of concern to us now is returning Governor Godwin Obaseki, but we can’t do it if his party is fighting him.

How best do you think the party crisis can be resolved considering that we have two state governorship elections ahead?

Let me spell it out for the avoidance of doubt. Obey the preliminary court, set up a caretaker committee, set a date for the convention and put in place fresh leadership. APC needs to become a well-oiled machine again.

The Bisi Akande reconciliation committee has been silent since the unfolding drama in the last two weeks.  Is it Morning Yet on Creation Day?  Can we say it has crashed before taking off?

I won’t go that far. The recent developments would have no doubt impacted on the progress the committee would have made. The need for reconciliation remains, so the need for the committee will remain as well. How the recent dynamics will affect things remain to be seen, but I foresee a delay, not a denial of the reconciliation mandate.

The recent USD22.7 billion loan attracted a call for a debate on the floor of the National Assembly with the Senate minority leader claiming marginalization of the South-east. What are your thoughts?

Debate what? Each loan, line-by-line? What was the sub-committee set up to do? If I’m not mistaken it was headed by a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) man from Edo state. That sub-committee after extensive work recommended the loan should pass. It’s now that the issue is in front of the media, some lawmakers are now making a fuss. Why were they not making their case when it was at committee level? Not to stir up tension and try to play to the gallery.

Granted there may be issues, but where were they? Is it just now they are waking up? This has been on the table for years. The loans are all linked directly to projects, money is not going into anybody’s pocket, like was the case before. We have a very serious infrastructure deficit and we are boosting the economy with this loan. Paying back is not only possible, it’s happening as we speak. Let us, at least, see what we are paying for. And after we pay back, we will then know that we don’t have excess money to waste.

When the traditional haters of this President, especially from the South-east, query this government in my day to day interaction, I often don’t bother responding. There are more like them who feel the same way and worse, and your analysis can’t sway them. Nothing you say will calm them. They are extra convinced Buhari hates the South-east. They are convinced the South East should hate him back.

I disagree with them. The evidence is there to the contrary, but there is no place for dialogue these days. It’s a collective ethnic monologue. The solution is to let them shout until Buhari leaves.