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Tinubu’s action on subsidy removal has dwarfed past Presidents’ positions –Abe

Candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the recent Rivers State governorship election, Senator Magnus Abe, speaks on some policy changes made by President Bola Tinubu since the assumption of office on May 29 and their positive effect on Nigerians. In this interview on Channels TV ‘Politic Today’, monitored by David Lawani, Abe, a former senator who represented Rivers East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, says Tinubu is better prepared to lead the country than all other candidates that contested the presidential election with him.

Have you had enough rest after this election?

I have just been at home.

What do you make of the position of the European Union (EU) on the recently concluded general elections in Nigeria?

Well, I think substantially that we have done very well in our electoral process in this country. When I say that a lot of times, people are surprised, but the truth of the matter is that I have been part of elections in this country from 1999 to date, even before then, and I have kept on saying to people that the 2023 general was the best election we have ever conducted in this country.

What will you say of people who differ that the election fell below expectations?

If you look at the participation of the parties, the people, the process, and the laws under which the elections are conducted, these are massive improvements in what we have always done.

In what area are you referring to?

First of all in the law, in the use of technology, in the use of accreditation, and in the failures of the system- where the system was allowed to work, it worked very well. But the truth of the matter is that the conduct of politicians and key political stakeholders in undermining the process itself is the biggest problem that we face as far as elections are concerned. Even in the older democracies, the election itself is always very much in progress. You continue to improve, and as you see, things that undermine or challenge the process or challenge the practices that you have, you take steps to correct them. So, I think that as in every other election circle, there is a lot for us to learn from the last election. But in terms of the improvement of our electoral process, anybody who is objective will admit that the 2023 general election and the amended 2022 Electoral Act were major leaps for the Federal Republic of Nigeria in terms of elections. We can do it better, even in terms of following the rules that we have set for ourselves. For example, you heard everybody talking about the way the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) picked their staff and those who conducted the election. There is a process that is set out in the electoral system in picking these staff and people have to apply online and all that. But this process at the end of the day came to be subverted like it was in several places. Were those lists of those who applied independently replaced by hand-picked people? So all these are things that are self-inflicted on the electoral process and we can improve that.

So, the 2023 election was the best?

I am telling you that I have followed elections in this country. I was a victim in the 2023 general and I know the wrong things.

Did you lose the election fairly?

No, I am telling you that I know the things that are wrong with the elections. The things that are wrong with the elections are not the law or the process, it is the fact that politicians have refused in several places and several cases to respect the rules and the system that have been put in place.

Was the election free and fair in Rivers State, where you contested?

I have already said it severally that it was not.

So, when you said the general election was generally a good one, is Rivers State an exception?

I have said it before and I will repeat it here. Wherever the process was allowed to work, this process that we have put in place for election in this country is very good. It is a superb improvement on what we have had before.

In Rivers State, did it work?

It didn’t work in Rivers State. Everybody knows about it.

So, Rivers State was an exception?

Yes, because people didn’t make it or allow it to work. People make the rules. Where people respect the rules and respect laws, we will have an outcome that will be pretty much acceptable to all.

Were you rigged out in Rivers State?

I have said clearly that for me, let me repeat it here, the election in Rivers State was an aberration. I even said before the election that there will be problems in Rivers State, and everybody knew there would be problems. But you know coming down here now, I am not here to discuss the Rivers State election, but I am talking about Nigeria and the process as far as this election is concerned.

Is Rivers State not a component of Nigeria?

Even before the election in Rivers State, I told the whole world, that everybody in Nigeria knew that Rivers State will be a problem and that the turnout would be so.

Are you in court to challenge the process?

No, I am not. I have withdrawn from the court.


There have been several reasons why I withdrew. Political exigency.

Which is the chief of exigencies that made you withdraw?

You know we have a new President, and we have new hopes, a new atmosphere. You won’t believe that as much as possible at this point that all of us should put our heads together to see how we can move the country forward.

Are you still in SDP or you have moved to the APC?

I have not moved but I went to the SDP primarily because of Rivers people, the situation, and the politics of Rivers State. As far as national politics is concerned, I have always been where you know that I am. Let us leave that one.

Are you Tinubu’s man?

That is where I am.

Do you think that President Tinubu can galvanise the Nigerian people?

Well, like I said from the outset, of all those who indicated interest to rule this country, nobody was better prepared or had a better experience. None of them has greater capacity than President Tinubu.

Even Atiku Abubakar?

No. He doesn’t have it.

What of Peter Obi?

Atiku Abubakar, with all due respect to him when he was politically challenged, ran to Tinubu. It was Tinubu who accommodated him. He gave him a platform. He supported him and sponsored him to run. So, this man has the capacity, knowledge, and reach to be able to bring diverse people together in this country. He has shown that repeatedly, and in this last election, if it was not for the fact that it was Tinubu that was running, I doubt if APC would have been able to do as much as he did with all the challenges of currency change and everything that went on in this country. It was only Asiwaju who had the personal reach across this country to be able to bring together the kind of force that he brought about. This is the only politician in the history of this country that has been able to bring the conservative West an alliance; the conservative North into an alliance, to the progressive West and uprooted a sitting government, and then turned around and now bring himself back as a President of this country. In terms of political strategy, engineering, dexterity, and ability to bring people together, I don’t think you have a match in Asiwaju. That said, let’s say this, during the inauguration, I said Nigerians have very low expectations of Tinubu, and it will be very easy for him to surpass those expectations, and events in less than three weeks have proven me right. A lot of people seem to be surprised by the actions that the President has taken by his speed, and understanding of the challenges of this country and NY his courage, by his determination to get this country where it needs to be and where he wants to take this country to. But those of us who knew him are not surprised. We knew that all this was possible with him at the helm of affairs. And that is why you see everywhere now, people are turning and singing one song. That they didn’t know that Asiwaju can do the things he is doing. But we always knew that.

What has he done, and who are these people that are singing his song?

A lot of people, and very soon, you will see it. Let me tell you something. Let us take the removal of this subsidy for instance. Every president that has come into office in this country, has come with the understanding that the fuel subsidy is a scam. It is destroying our economy. It is killing our country. It subsidises the entire West African sub-region. It is not sustainable. They all said that and knew that. But no President was able to finally cross that line to say it ends now. Or whatever it is. Without living in Eagles Square, Asiwaju achieved that for this country. That is something some people danced around for years and they could not do it. He has done it. So, it may look simple because it has been done, but it was one of the most difficult challenges that this country had to face.

Some are of the view that the bills signed into law by President Bola Tinubu had already been prepared for former President Muhammadu Buhari to sign. So, some are of the view still that there is nothing much to celebrate. What do you see differently?

I don’t want to go into any kind of controversy with our former President Muhammadu Buhari. He is our father and we must be respectful to him in our discussions. However, I am not the spokesperson for Tinubu’s presidency, I am just a Nigerian who is privileged to be part of the politics of this country. So, I have a few things to say. If people were so concerned about helping Tinubu to win the election, one of the things that gave the greatest challenge to both the election to the capacity of the APC to perform well in the election was the change of currency. That directly impacted the election. The question of the oil subsidy removal could have been done anytime within the past eight years. And it would not have affected the election at all, and it could have been done after the election and when it has been concluded. There will still be a window to have done it then. I don’t want to go into any kind of controversy about that, but what I want to say is that if somebody has done something let us give him the credit for the ones he has achieved. Anybody who did his own will also get credit for it. When you talk about bills that have been prepared and signed. Okay, if they have been signed why were they still there for the incoming President to sign them again? So, it is clear these bills have not been signed.

I said they were prepared by the 9th National Assembly, and it was more of a lesser work. Do you see anything different? Again, Nigerians are buying things three times more than they used to buy them. Life is more difficult now. Their lives have taken 360-degree turns. The electricity tariff is over the roof. What do you make of these whole developments?

First, the most critical thing is that you have money, not what things cost. If things cost N10 and you don’t have it, you are out of demand for the particular product. People are buying airplanes that cost $300m because they have $300m. Nigerians are living Nigeria to go to London, America where fuel is costing $4 a gallon. It is not fuel they are going to look at. They are looking for opportunities to make money. Even if fuel is more expensive and things are more expensive, the opportunities are wider because as they get there, they will start making money. Because that economy provides the opportunity for people to be able to achieve and actualise their goals, and that is why people are going there. The other day, there was a joke that somebody posted on the Internet. If the British and the Americans were to come back with slave ships, to come and carry slaves from Nigeria, Nigerian volunteers will fill the ships by themselves. Someone wrote that he will come with his chain. He doesn’t want to get there and hear that the chains have finished and they cannot carry him. That is how much people want to go to where there is opportunity. What the President is trying to do is to create opportunities in Nigeria for Nigerians to be able to make money and expand their capacity to improve their lives. So, yes, the price of fuel may go up, but it will also come down. Today, fuel is being imported by only Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) and the NNPCL is an unwieldy organisation that is propped up by the government, but it is inefficient. Today, anybody can import fuel because he has been given a licence to import. You don’t have the same overhead with NNPCL. So, your own may probably be cheaper than theirs. So, these policies have just come into place and they are going to expand opportunities for Nigerians. People will be able to make money. Now look at the single forex window for example. If you look at the single forex window, what has he done? Today, some people were at my house, they brought me some documents. These are people who tried to import foreign exchange to Nigeria for almost two years and they have not been able to get their money out of the CBN. What happened? They bring money in. CBN grabs their money and gives it to you at N450 or some ridiculous rate and then turns around and gives it to some favoured persons at the same rate. The person takes your money and crosses over the streets to the parallel market.

Is that what has been happening?

That is what has been happening in the country. Everybody knows it.

That the CBN gives out money?

Yes, to their preferred people, it has been on the front pages of the newspapers. Where they said like the other day one of the papers carried it that they gave the Bureau De Change licence to some people.

Is this part of the reasons Mr (Godwin) Emefiele was arrested?

I didn’t arrest him, and I can’t come on national television to give reasons why he was arrested. The other day I was in the church and the Bishop of the Methodists Church was saying one of the things that he is supporting Tinubu is the arrest of former CBN governor, Emefiele. And that everybody should pray for Tinubu and that Emefiele should remain in prison. So, people saw all these things because it was not helping the economy.

Do you think Tinubu meant well for Nigeria?

It is not like I think. I know that he meant well, and our economy by the grace of God is going to expand in ways that Nigerians will be amazed by the opportunities that will be open to people in this country.

Do you think his policies may have an immediate impact, and pains might be short, isn’t?

Yes. Because he is willing and ready to put in the policies. The pains will come as soon as the policy is changed. But in that same changed policy, there will be opportunities, and as people begin to accept the opportunity offered by the change in policy, then the benefits will begin to accrue to Nigerians.

Going by the rate of inflation, how do you think he will cope and accept that President Tinubu meant well for him?

That is the point I am saying. You are focusing on the fact that this man has N100,000, but there is no opportunity in this economy. What I am saying is that progress and prosperity are not just about what things cost. It is about the ability of the average person to make more money, and in this Nigeria, outside of stealing and criminality, there is no opportunity for that man who is making N100,000 to be able to improve on that his N100,000. So, he is stuck in a given place. He has no hope and he is despondent, and that is why he wants to leave to a place where he can have opportunity. What the policies of this government are going to do is that it is going expand the opportunity for the average Nigerian. So, that man that is making N100,000 when this policy begins to percolate, into the economy, will have an opportunity to now be making N200,000. So he will be better off. What this whole thing is about is creating opportunity for the Nigerian people, and even in the downstream sector, opportunities will abound. People will get in and more people will make more money. That is what the whole thing is about, making more money, and President Tinubu understands it. Let us support him and things will work out.

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