Big Interviews

Most political leaders are out to steal our money, not love for Nigeria- Nwanyawu, ZLP chairman 

National Chairman of Zenith Labour Party, Chief Dan Nwanyawu, speaks on the nation’s state and the controversy trailing the alleged N3.7trn budget padding, which led to the suspension of Senator Abdul Ningi. In this interview on Channels TV ‘Politics Today,’ monitored by David Lawani, the former chairman of the Labour Party challenges President Bola Tinubu to take proactive steps to address the issue of insecurity and the collapsed economy, among other sundry matters



Do you think politics is behind the escalating cases of kidnapping and banditry in the country, considering what happened in Kaduna with the abduction of over 250 school pupils?

They don’t care. Those 250 or more children that you took away, do they put them in the pockets? Was it the 747 Boeing jet that took them away? It will not be accepted that even as we speak, they do not know where these kids are- that is why I said it is politics. During the era of former President Goodluck Jonathan, some government people were interested parties in this matter, which is why it has become intractable. I have always referred to what the late Gen Sani Abacha said. He said when you have a situation like this (massive kidnapping) and it lasts more than 24 hours or 48 hours, take it that the government has a hand in it. He said so. Nigeria’s army, military, and security agencies are overqualified and equipped to clear this mess if you give the appropriate orders. Put the proper people, not people who will be sympathetic to the terrorists, not people who will be looking at them as people who should not be killed. Prominent people are saying go and negotiate. Don’t negotiate with terrorists- they are asking for N40trn—three-year budgets of Nigeria. I don’t know whether that demand resulted from ignorance, stupidity, or a joke. Where will you put it? How many warehouses will carry it? It is madness. If we want to stop this thing today, President Tinubu should give the appropriate order.



What would that order be?

Go and smoke them out. You get them.



But he has said that to them, yet no result? He even ordered that no ransom should be paid and that they must get those children out

Apart from the order, you put the appropriate people there. Look, something was working before President Jonathan left. Even earlier, when former President Buhari came into office, I recall officers being removed. It happened in this country. And I am saying that President Tinubu should know and realise today that they are looking at that office of the President. And he should guide it jealously.



Do you think some people want to bring down President Tinubu’s government?

Yeah, sure.



For what purpose?

Some people feel that they have lost out. He is making decisions that will touch them based on the atrocities they have committed in the past eight years. They think they keep this man busy. Let him not concentrate, which is why the President must hear it. I wonder if they are giving him the right advice; that is why the meeting was called by Malam Nuhu Ribadu, the National Security Adviser (NSA). The President must know that they are looking for that seat, nothing more, which is why I said it is political. Put the appropriate people there and give the proper command. These people are not ghosts; they are not spirits. Meet them at their base. With two strikes, they will leave the kids and run away.



What is the collateral damage?

There is no collateral. Look at what Russia did. I said it when we were campaigning. They were taking 100, 50, 10, and five that time. I am not saying people must die. But you should save thousands that will be victims at the expense of few others. They knew where this people are. Malam Nasir el-Rufai say so when he was governor. We listen to their discussions. We know where they are. He said it publicly. But when we give the information, they don’t do anything. Even though I don’t believe the sincerity of those comments, President Tinubu should realise that they are looking for his seat. They have brought different suggestions. I am not interested in negotiating with terrorists. No. Look at what happened during former President Jonathan’s time when the Americans came to help us. They came, and they discussed what to do to get to that place. After two days, the terrorists were seen wearing masks. It happened in this country. Which means an insider in that meeting communicated with them. There are insiders both in and out of government. These are the people. They want President Tinubu out. They don’t know that it is a complicated task. They succeeded with President Jonathan. President Tinubu should know who did that in 2014/2015 and see where they are now. It is easy to identify them. Call them to order and take them in. We should be bold when making complex decisions regarding the issue.



Are they Nigerians?

Yes, of course. They are Nigerians.



That means they don’t have the love of this country at heart?

Do they care?



To what end?

If they love this country, look at the looting that took place. Money you cannot spend before you die, you stole it. Impunity. Only a few people love this country. They are looking at what they will take. They look at the billions and trillions in our common inheritance, and you will say, love. There is nothing like love. It is love for their pockets.



There are different security agencies in the country. The NSCDC, police, and many others. Why are they not all working together to ensure these issues are addressed?

It is laughable that some people still believe it is not politics. I don’t blame them; I only sympathise with them. People spoke better during former President Jonathan’s time than now. He made convincing arguments that there was no politics in it, but when they succeeded, they went for a party that they had succeeded in.



Why won’t you mention names?

These are security issues, and you have your intelligence, and you only ask me to give you my intelligence if we agree on an exchange of intelligence. You can ask me, but I won’t talk to you. The truth is that go out there, and they will tell you it is political. Even in the public, that is what they will say to you. Some Nigerians love to pretend. You see the right thing, but you don’t say it. You don’t look at it and talk about it to avoid being tagged as somebody against this or that. The truth is that, or the summary is, President Tinubu should get the appropriate hands in the field. Give the proper orders, and they will clear this mess. Many people are feeding fat. Look at the amount of money they are talking about. You referred to Boko Haram; it started small. When they saw the money, they expanded. But the purpose of increasing the tempo then was for power, and they have started now. Look at the time of President Jonathan; they went on demonstrations and rallies and did all sorts of things. This was because the former President was a perfect gentleman. They succeeded with the treachery.



Your point is that they are using insecurity as a political tool

No, since they have found a way that works for them before, they can also use it the second time. But this time around, it is going to be problematic. Nigerians are waiting and unhappy with how we are having these skirmishes. It is all over the place. The bulk ends on President Tinubu’s table. He is the only person that can give the commanding orders. Let him do so and get the results. These people will leave the forest.



What do you make of the budget padding brouhaha raging in the National Assembly?

The National Assembly has the power of appropriation. I want to save time with somebody who collected N500m or N300m. Is it budget for part of the year? Is N28.7trn put in a box so that they will start using a knife to divide it? What is the role of the Accountant-General? I think it was God’s doing that somebody like Godswill Akpabio, cool-headed, became the Senate President, and I supported him as against his closest rival.



Do you still support him now?

Well, I will not say no.



What do you make of the allegations against the Senate President for the kind of projects, boreholes going to his state as constituency projects totalling billions of naira? How do you feel about how some Senators have accused the Senate President of running the affairs of the Senate?

That is within the purvey of the Senate to treat. Nigerians can ask questions. But some of these things they say have yet to see any facts we have seen. I do not support anybody, but there are no facts that we have seen. These are figures. You said something has been padded somewhere. It is padded the other way. I know they have been talking about these funds. There have been constituency projects since 1999. We see it in more than just my own part of the country. I spoke with a member of the House of Representatives years ago, and he told me about the number of people he has given jobs to in his federal constituency and the projects he brought there. It was actually in Ondo State. I listened to him, and when he finished, I said, wow, where are my House of Representatives member projects? How many people did he influence their employment? It depends on how you look at it. The public has the right to interrogate this issue.



Why would 422 borehole projects cost N482bn in that budget? This means each borehole will cost N193m. As a private citizen, would you construct a borehole for N190m and 1,150 streetlights for N12bn at N184m per one?

I agree with your position on that. In this country, I have not seen these details. I just came in. I have been away from Abuja and called my secretary to let us have the budget details. If he brings it back, I will tear it into pieces based on my observations. Contracts in this country have been over-bloated. Do you know how much it costs to build a kilometer of rail? In the neighbourhood here and Nigeria. But if they have discovered something obnoxious in the budget, there are ample provisions to bring it to the public domain by raising it on the floor. What angered the Senators was getting to BBC speaking outside. If he had said those things to BBC on the floor of the Senate, he would have been covered by immunity.


Should Senate President Godswill Akpabio be answering some questions by coming clean about some of these projects linked to his constituency and causing ripples as a public servant?

I am cautious when I have to deal with or see a situation like this. In this country, five Senate Presidents in the South East were removed after accusing them of wrongdoing. You remove them, and the matter dies. That means you have achieved your purpose. That is not the reason for removal. The second person was removed, and the third, the fourth, and the fifth were removed, all within a particular Senate session. I don’t want a situation where we don’t have enough facts, and we will start repeating this with Senator Akpabio. I will not support any wrongdoing in the Senate if there are issues. Suppose there are issues with Akpabio overreacting himself. In that case, the Senate should bring it up in an executive session, and it will be possible to look at the budget again. But this issue of impeachment, if you ask me, people are not happy that Akpabio is not towing a line. I have not seen nor spoken with him since he became Senate President. But I am guided by our past experiences. My good friend, Lawan, finished his tenure. There was no problem. David Mark came, and he stayed for eight years. He was not an angel, but everything was done right. Akpabio won’t dance to the tune and be talking about the office of the President. The owl cried late at night; the child died this morning. Please don’t ask me who killed the child. It was that bird that cried last night.

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