The Chairman of Lagos State All Progressives Congress (APC), Otunba Henry Ajomale, fielded questions from reporters recently on a wide range of national issues, including killings by herdsmen, the performance of the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in the last two and half years and the propriety or otherwise of President Muhammadu Buhari contesting next year’s presidential election. Deputy Political Editor RAYMOND MORDI was there.
What is your reaction to the recent killings by Fulani herdsmen?
It is very sad and very unfortunate. The killings have become a national tragedy. But, I believe that the situation will soon be brought under control, as President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered security agencies to go after those behind it. To underscore how serious the matter is, the President has ordered the Inspector General of Police to relocate to Benue State. I am however baffled and worried about the upsurge in the killings; after all Fulani herdsmen and their host communities all over the country have been living together in harmony for decades without rancour. This is why I support the argument by some Nigerians that these killings are being carried out by some foreigners who are intent on wreaking havoc on innocent Nigerians. There were even recent security reports that these killings are being carried out by some members of the dreaded ISIS terrorist groups who had infiltrated the country. There have also been claims that it is Boko Haram insurgents that are carrying out the attacks. Meanwhile, many Nigerians are pointing accusing fingers at Fulani herdsmen with some even saying these Fulani herdsmen are carrying out the attacks because President Muhammadu Buhari, a fellow Fulani man, is the President.
But, I don’t support those making this argument. Buhari has never condoned any killings. How many herdsmen have enough money to purchase sophisticated arms that the killers are using?
Critics have accused President Muhammadu Buhari of not taking the necessary action to deal with the menace. What’s your take on that?
It is very unfair to make President Muhammadu Buhari a scapegoat over these killings. These killings have been taking place before Buhari assumed office. The killings took place when Obasanjo was there; it took place when Yar’Adua was there and it took place during the time of former President Goodluck Jonathan. I believe some Nigerians are just being mischievous, especially PDP members and their apologists. They are just looking for a way to get back at Buhari, because of the ongoing anti-corruption war, which has affected many their members. It is corruption fighting back. When somebody even now sneezes or coughs, it is Buhari. It is these looters and enemies of the anti-corruption war that are behind the smear campaign against Buhari.
The President has ordered security agencies to secure the affected areas to prevent further destruction of properties and loss of lives. Since he assumed office, Buhari has been trying his best to tackle various socio-economic challenges facing Nigeria. But, some Nigerians are not comfortable with his anti-corruption war and this is why some of them are deliberately destroying the man’s name – this is why they are trying to demonise him. But, Buhari and the APC will not be distracted by the antics of these disgruntled elements, because the President and the APC have a mission to fulfill. The APC is on a rescue mission; because the 16 years of PDP’s rule were years of waste. They were years of the locust.
But, the PDP has been boasting, saying that things were not this bad when the party was in power. How do you react to that?
It is unfortunate that PDP members still have the courage to be speaking in public. Was it not under the yoke and burden of 16 years of the PDP that Nigeria almost became bankrupt? Nigeria would have by now become a failed state, if the PDP had won the 2015 election. Under Jonathan and the PDP, things became so terrible for Nigeria. While millions of Nigerians were hungry, looters were having a field day and security was nothing to write home about. Unlike now when Nigerians are more secured, Boko Haram was having a field day during Jonathan’s era; bombings became a daily occurrence. It became so worst to the extent that Boko Haram suicide bombers bombed Police Force Headquarters in Abuja; they bombed the United Nations office, also in Abuja. At a point, Boko Haram suicide bombers almost stormed Aso Rock. No Nigerian was safe. It is unfortunate that these PDP leaders talking now and some Nigerians have short memory. There is no basis for comparison between the APC and the PDP at all. Was it not under Jonathan’s watch that almost 300 Chibok girls were abducted?
Jonathan and his PDP government at that time became so ineffective to the extent that Jonathan was described clueless. Look at the profligacy of the PDP and Jonathan’s administration. During that period, crude oil was selling for over 100 dollars per barrel and Nigeria was making a lot of money, but the PDP government under Jonathan wasted the billions of dollars got from the oil boom of that era. Looters were having a swell time under Jonathan’s nose, and at a point he became so confused that he as the President didn’t know the difference between stealing and corruption. Nigeria would have collapsed, if the situation had continued.
Critics say things are getting worse under the APC. What’s your candid assessment of the Buhari government?
It is only mischievous persons that will claim that Nigeria has not changed for the better under the APC. Under the administration, security has improved. People can now sleep with two eyes closed. Before the fear of Boko Haram was the beginning of wisdom. In Abuja, Kaduna, Kano and some other major northern cities, then the fear of Boko Haram was all pervading, but Buhari’s government has been able to degrade Boko Haram and major parts of the country are now safe from Boko Haram attacks.
Now accountability and probity is the order of the day, unlike the previous era when looters were having a field day. With the introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), financial sanity had been restored and all loopholes and avenues for looting have been blocked. Between 2010 and 2015, when Jonathan and the PDP were in government, the total revenue remitted to government coffers by JAMB was N51 million, whereas under Buhari’s administration, within just a year, JAMB remitted N7.8 billion to the coffers of the Federal Government. Is the difference not then clear between the APC and the PDP? Buhari has also introduced agricultural revolution and today rice is being cultivated on a large scale across the country.
Some Nigerians are of the view that Buhari should not seek re-election, based on his performance…
For us in the APC, those talking about 2019 are distracting Buhari. The President is working. He is seriously working to fix Nigeria.
– The Nation