Buhari Squandering Goodwill That Brought Him To Power – Teejay Yusuf

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Tajudeen Yusuf is a member representing Kabba/Bunu Federal Constituency of Kogi State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Yusuf, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market, in a chat with AHMED MUSA, spoke on capital flight and the current state of the nation’s economy. Excerpt:

What do you make of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to re-nominate Ibrahim Magu for confirmation as EFCC Chairman even when the Senate had rejected him based on a report of the DSS?

What is happening in the case of Magu’s confirmation at the Senate is pure a power play between various interests around the President. The DSS, the President’s Chief of Staff (CoS) and some other powerful entities are in one camp, while Magu, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF)and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) are in another camp. If you look at it, the letter that came from the Presidency discrediting Senate Committee report was from the Attorney General. Even aides like Ita Enang (dem no se am, na just courier masters dem be). I am very sure that the President did not take his time to read what the DSS wrote, because he has sampled opinions based on the inter-power play within them. So, it is assumed by the Presidency that whatever the DSS wrote was to weaken the other camp. So, he must be represented for balance of power within both sides, not for anti-corruption, not for delivery of good governance, but to satisfy the various cleavages and all. The unfortunate thing is that we don’t have unity or a team that works in unity. So, what we have now is that there are cleavages struggling for the control of the mind of Mr. President.

But, the letter from the DSS on Magu was said to have been countered by another letter emanating from the same source. How then did the Senate settle for one?

Which letter? Senators have been asked and they said they never saw any other letter. Or, is it in the spirit? Why would they see the one that indicted Magu and not see the counter letter? If it is available, let them bring it. Senators have asked: ‘Where is the counter you said you have?’ The DSS said, they did not send any counter. But, they kept telling us there is a counter letter. Where is it? on this Magu issue, I assume and I might be wrong, I’m not in their mind, that they were trying to help him. They met in an executive session, came back to the plenary and said, this is the outcome of our executive session and ruled on that. If they had brought him to the floor, to state those things as forming their position, it would have been worse. So, they felt that for the kind of job he does and the position he occupies, it should be handled they way it was. It is not about the man being given the floor to defend himself or wriggle out of the allegations. It’s about the public not getting to hear those details.

Don’t you think that the President would have also been justified by reports that there is a war of rivalry going on between the DSS as an institution and the EFCC? Media reports and even the EFCC head have alleged that the DSS had carried out raids on corruption suspects, confiscate cash and under-declare same. Don’t you think the President would have read into that scenario to do what he did?

Wasn’t the President aware of the DSS raids? Who sanctioned it? So, you are indicting the President the more. But, on the other hand, is it their responsibility? When you begin an aberration, when you set up cycle of errors, what will be the end? Error! Was it their responsibility? Let me tell you. The raids on Judges go and check the reports.  About 80 percent of them had already been indicted by the National Judicial Council (NJC), recommended for various disciplinary actions. So, it means by all intent, the intention was to play to the gallery. Tell me, do you need a sting operation to arrest them since there was already a report indicting them by NJC? What you need is to just go and pick them up. But, they needed that sting operation to be seen to be fighting corruption. But, we all need to see the actual war on corruption, not this 2019 game of fighting corruption.

The report by the Attorney General has been criticised by some people who believe that the President shouldn’t have given the responsibility of investigating corruption allegations on the SGF and Magu when we have an established body like the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). Do you share that opinion?

Even the Attorney General himself has become a quasi investigative panel. You know that Fani-Kayode was investigated by the Attorney General. Dasuki also was investigated by the Attorney General. So, that’s what it means to have a set of rules for some people and different rules for others. The SGF never denied that he has interest in that company. But, he said he had resigned. As at the date the report was being submitted, his signature was still valid in the bank to withdraw from the company’s account. Let’s even leave whether he under-cut the government by engaging in certain things to benefit himself. But the sum of the contracts… what grass are you cutting? Are you cutting the whole of Abuja? We do farming, we do cocoa farm and we know how much we spend clearing grass. So, what I’m saying is that can the President said that money was spent in the best interest of the Nigerian people? Is that what he is saying? You see, the truth of the matter is that the President needs all of us to succeed. But, if you feel you need some people and don’t need some people, then you have failed from the beginning. So, it’s unfortunate that we have found ourselves in this kind of situation. Nobody has been entrusted with this kind of hope and goodwill than this President.

What in your opinion has the President done wrong to find himself and the entire country in this quagmire?

The first thing he did when he came in which I hope and pray that he realises it soon enough or whoever is coming by the grace of God in 2019 will learn from, however, is that he consciously went out to de-market Nigeria. So. in the last 18 months, Nigeria has lost N4 trillion in the Capital Market. We are number five in Africa now. Kenya is ahead of us. If you are not a Nigerian, will you bring your money to this economy? When your President goes out there to say you are thieves?

What do you make of the gale of defection from the PDP into the APC by prominent politicians?

The defection is a reflection of the content of the character of whoever is defecting. They have their opinion. Every politics is local, but unfortunately, we don’t yet have political parties in Nigeria. I must be very sincere. All we have now are platforms for power grabbing. As you can see, Trump has given legitimacy to such practice. Trump was a Democrat. He is a Republican President today. So, what you are seeing is the content of character of some politicians. So, you don’t blame them, because when you have a system that criminalises you based on the political party, you belong to, it’s not everybody that can stand that. As at today, because I’m in PDP, I’m a criminal. Criminal? If I cross to the APC tomorrow, I’m a saint.

But the details eventually came out?

But, not at the plenary. A lot of things happened at the executive session that was not related at the plenary. Even at that, the details from the plenary would have rubbished him totally. Look at what happened the day the President’s letter on Babachir (the SGF) was read on the floor. Nobody could defend the President, because he messed up big time. Listen to what the committee chairman said. Senator Shehu Sani rubbishing all the excuses or reasons given by the Presidency for not sacking the SGF. Look at that! And one thing that’s working against this country is that we are too sentimental. We attach to much sentiments to issues which leads to the watering down of substance to make it look like a joke. And that is also one of the things that worked for this President, sentiment, and that what’s still going for him.

Are you saying that the President no longer has the goodwill of Nigerians, and that he now lives on sentiment?

But you are witnessing what is happening.  You can see the level of poverty and suffering among Nigerians, to the extent that the man travelled out for a 10-day leave and to do a check-up, Nigerians are saying that he is dead. How many of those who supported him in 2015 can boldly ?maintain that same level of support today? He had the highest level of goodwill in 2015, some part of 2016. But the government is busy squandering its goodwill by itself. Even the dollar issue alone is enough to crash this economy and the government. Abacha did the same thing when he tried to peg. Seeing the resultant effects, Abacha came back and liberalised the exchange rate and see what we got. The dollar came to between N87, N88 to a dollar and from there, we balanced out. And we had one of the most stable forex at that time. There was no reason for certain pronouncements that were made. You said, don’t do forex, you pegged exchange rate and contractors and investors became hit. While contractors were gnashing their teeth, investors simply took their monies and fled. So, I tell you, in the last 18 months, over N4trillion has left the nation’s capital market. Ghana even used it to mock us at the recent African Capital Market summit. When they were asked how they stabilised their market to become robust, Ghana said, “We came to Nigeria to get the strategy. But obviously, Nigeria is not using her own medicine for the same ailment”.

So, you can imagine that other people come here to seek expertise from us, and we here don’t think we have good enough people to solve our economic problems all because of sentiment. That issue as you can see is drowning all of us. Just because people were stealing in naira when you came in 1983, you changed the naira to punish looters of that time. You came back in 2015 and said that they have stolen money in dollars. So, you now ban dollar transaction and begin to determine who gets dollars for what purpose. Dollar that can be sleeping under somebody’s mattress for 10 years without complaining! So, it is those who are into legitimate businesses who are suffering.

The programme I had in June, I wrote the Ministry of Finance, the response hasn’t come out up till today. And I was told reliably that for you to get them to partner in any economic initiative, you have to write them a 30-page memo or more, so that when they read and get tired, they believe your ideas are detailed enough to command attention. I read economics so I understand the basics, not all these semantics they push around speaking grammar. One of the fundamentals of economics is that it talks about human behaviour… My mother is a market woman. My mother does not know what is interest rate. But, increase transport fare from Lokoja to Kabba, my mother knows. So, your economics must domesticate the behavioural pattern of the people. So, when Kemi (Finance Minister) speaks those Mickon Mathews, I said no, “Escho Toyor” (name not seen upon verification), one of the foremost economists in those days ‘pieced’ these things in the 80s. He said economics studies human behavior. So, you must domesticate policy thoughts as they relate to your immediate.

Credit: Daily Independent

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