Hon. Peter Akpatason is the member representing Akoko-Edo Federal Constituency, Edo State in the House of Representatives. In this exclusive interview with Correspondent, ISESELE EZEKIEL , the former President, National Union Of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers(NUPENG) talks on key national issues and the first anniversary of Governor Godwin Obaseki’s administration. Excerpts:
Recently the State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki marked his one year anniversary in office. What do you have to say about his performance so far?
Governor Obaseki has done so well and has broken record and setting the pace for economic growth of Edo State. In terms of infrastructural development, you can see road networks going on across the state. He has surpassed our expectation in the area of attracting businesses to the state, agriculture and other things. He also set an agenda that I think will move the economy of the state to a level where no one expected. In the area of employment, he has come up with unique strategy of engaging the youths in revenue generation and other economic activities that are value adding. He gave a target of 200,000 jobs creation and I am sure within four years, he is going to exceed that figure because he has started so well. The most interesting thing about his administration is that he has a clear direction and as governor, you need to have a programme and deploy resources both material and human capital in a very organized manner toward ensuring the actualization of such plan. I can tell that he had done the needful to ensure that the plans are actualized. I am happy that he started from a good foundation because the past government did so much and now he is doing so more than we expected. I think people are happy with him especially the people of Akoko-Edo who had never had it so good in the past governments, we will continue to give him the needed support.
Are you not worried over recent decision of some APC Governors to endorse the candidacy of President Muhammad Buhari for a second term in office?
I am not aware of any such endorsement at the National Executive Committee, NEC meeting of our party. I am aware that at that meeting, the party unanimously passed a vote of confidence on the President; if that is what people considered as endorsement, fine. If you ask me I think he has done so well to deserve such consideration, but APC being a democratic party I think the party will consider what is good in the unity, strength and stabilzation of the party in deciding who carry the party’s mandate in the coming election. In 2014 exercise the party’s primary contributed to the overwhelming support it enjoyed during election. We had the most transparent primary and President Buhari contested and won. I think the party would consider all this while deciding how to go about the primary.
There appears to be clandestine move by some persons to oust the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie- Oyegun who is also from Edo State. On what ground do you think anybody may want to remove him?
Personally, I have not been approached by any person so I don’t know of the move and since it has remains clandestine with no evidence or fact to buttress it, I don’t think I want to comment on that. However, I think that we need to strengthen the party, we need peace and unity to grow the party and be able to confront the challenge of governance and the challenge of taken the nation out of recession. So I think we have to focus on how to deliver dividend to the people rather than getting enmeshed in squabble that will not help anybody.
What is your take on President Buhari’s anti-corruption fight amidst conception by some people that his anti-graft war is targeted at the opposition?
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF, Babachir David Lawal who was sacked recently; is he a member of the opposition? The people saying that the anti corruption is targeted at certain people are just lazy liars who do not want to be objective. Now, who were the people in power in the past 16 years before this government came on board? Are they going to go after people who have not been in power? So majority of those fingered are those who have been in government. These are the people that have access to public fund and mismanaged the fund, those of them who have cross over to other parties are facing similar challenges. It is where you have the bulk of the people that the focus would be. The government is doing the right thing but I think we have a very formidable opposition to anti -corruption campaign and this is what people should focus on. We have people who are very rich and most of them through fraudulent means, they have acquired enormous means, they control the press, the masses and lots of other things because of their ill-gotten wealth and are using it to undermine what the President is doing. I think we need to support the President and give him some time to perform. He is doing so well as far as I am concern. We have a judicial system and position of law that stated clearly how things should be done, he is no longer General Buhari who had the fiat to make things happened but now he is President Buhari, a democratically elected President, who must follow due process in whatever he is doing. Now if people have been investigated and charged to court and are in court for two years, then how do you blame the President for it. Mr. President has clearly made a point that he is not after any particular person but that corruption must be fought and won and he is doing that clearly by dealing with people even close to him. It would have been difficult for some Presidents to do to the SGF what the President has done.
The way he is facing anti corruption charges, who else has ever done it? And how many people will have the courage to do what Buhari is doing?
With APC in majority at both the Senate and House of Representatives a lot of people did not anticipate any altercation between the Executive and National Assembly which they believed have slow down the process of governance in the country. What is your take on this?
The efficacy of a piece of legislature is not determined by the haste with which it was passed but the depth and thoroughness of work done. I think people should not just rush into conclusion and when people follow due process, there are issues in the party. Secondly, the beauty of democracy lies in the separation of power, check and balances that goes with that. We are not supposed to be rubber stamp to the executive arm of government, we ought to check them and they also have a way of checking us and that is in the interest of the Nigeria people. If you have a situation where you have unholy alliance between the legislature and the executive arms, it is probably because of a sort of patronage between the two parties and in most cases, it is always counterproductive to development of democracy. So I don’t see anything wrong in what is happening between the executive and the legislative arm of government, it is healthy for our development and democracy. It is only when people are unnecessarily antagonistic for personal reasons that is harmful to our democracy but when it is objective and people ensure that the right thing is done, even if it seems to have slow down the pace of getting things done , in the end is good for the country because the end justify the means.
The clamour by APC members for stomach infrastructure has been on the increase since inception of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. Is this healthy for our democracy?
I don’t think it is our members but Nigerians that are clamouring for stomach infrastructure. Personally, I think we should focus on more concrete issues like physical infrastructure but I will be deceiving you if I say there is no need for stomach infrastructure now. Presently, there is hunger in the country not because the party is not doing well, it has savaged the country because we were at the threshold of total collapse with the state of economy APC inherited. And because the government is also confronting corruption, lots of people are trying to sabotage the government in one way or the other and all that is affecting the economy. I am happy that former Minister of Finance, Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okojo- Iweala made the point that the economy was in recession before the APC took over and because some people were not honest enough to give out honest statistics, they sugar coated the situation for people to believe that the economy was doing well when it was not. I am aware that foreign exchange was flowing in because oil price was still good and NNPC and CBN were still able to manage dollar, naira exchange value through artificial value manipulation to give the impression that all was well when it was not. But Buhari was honest enough to give the right information to the people, now the situation became clear to everybody. We are actually in a very difficult situation but this government has been able to take Nigeria out of the worse situation, we have not gotten the best yet but we are heading there. From every economic indices available, it was clear we are moving in the right direction. It takes more than two to four years to fix a battered economy by people who had the opportunity but failed to utilize it, you can’t blame a President or a party that was in power for just two years for the woes of a country that was mismanaged for 16 years.
In your own assessment as a lawmaker, is Nigeria out of recession?
Statistically we are out but in terms of translating to standard of living and employment we are still in difficult situation but if you look at the major indices used globally to determine whether a country is out or not, we are out because there is growth and no longer in negative level.
What are the chances of APC in the 2019 general election?
I am convinced that APC will win the 2019 election because it is a party to beat and other parties clamouring to come back know that they don’t deserve to come back. And with what the President is doing now, I think well meaning Nigerians are appreciating him and lots of people will see no other option as fixing Nigeria economy than to vote APC for another four years.
What is your stand on legislating immunity for National Assembly members?
I don’t believe in immunity even for the governors. I never voted for it but I think we need to educate people about immunity for the lawmakers on the floor of the House which is not immunity against criminal offence but while doing your job you can be protected, I think that is what people see as immunity for NASS members.
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