In his renowned non-patronising manner, Engr. Martins Onovo, shares his views on patriotism, corruption and governance in Nigeria today. Excerpts
Let us start with the state of political activism in Nigeria today. Many Nigerians have lost hope in our political activists, much like the labour leaders. Where did they get it wrong?
Political activists exist within the Nigerian environment. So, they are affected like other groups by the collapse of our value system. You can see how unscrupulous some policemen are; how corrupt some judges are; how irresponsible some lecturers are; how treacherous some labour leaders are; how greedy some politicians are; etc. We must hold the crooked political leadership responsible for the collapse of our value system because, it was the corrupt political leadership that led our people to this abyss of selfishness and materialism.
What will you say to Nigerians who believe the present Buhari administration is not getting adequately criticized? Are Nigerian activists being intimidated or compromised by this administration?
It is the constitutional responsibility of the mass media to hold the government accountable to the people. The mass media must not abandon its responsibility to activists. We must note that activists are good citizens who work for the development of their society. Some activists have been intimidated. Some have been compromised, others have joined the oppressor and some have remained faithful to their principles. That is natural.
You have been a politician and good governance crusader. Could you give an assessment of the state of the Nigerian nation, vis a vis the expectations of the people in 1999 when civil rule returned?
Gen. Buhari has destroyed our country. We warned in 2015 that he will destroy the country but partisanship and selfishness blinded many people. I see many that opposed us then, weeping now. Presently, Gen. Buhari has destroyed the country with Corruption, Disunity, Nepotism, Insecurity, Inflation, Unemployment, Poverty and Debt.
The Buhari administration is laying claims to fighting corruption. How have they performed and how can they do it better?
Do not be deceived. The corrupt regime cannot and will never fight corruption. We accused the regime in 2016 of promoting corruption. Now, it seems clear to all Nigerians and the international community, that this is the most corrupt government ever in Nigeria. Do you remember the NNPC contracts scam? Do you remember the NNPC N50B diverted away from the TSA? Do you remember the N18B BCDA contracts scam? Did you see the Auditor-General’s report for 2019? According to the US DoS, “Massive corruption by government officials and security agencies is on the rise with most perpetrators being shielded from trial”.
According to Transparency International, ‘Corruption is getting worse in Nigeria’.
According to Barr Aborisade, ‘APC is deeper in the pit of corruption than any regime in the history of Nigeria’.
According to Alhaji Buba Galadima, ‘People steal, left, right and centre in Buhari’s government’.
According to Alhaji Junaid Muhammed, ‘They are more corrupt than other governments’.
So, we must ask Gen. Buhari to account for over N42T of national funds Nigeria has appropriated without any significant achievement since 2015.
You have always believed that the petroleum subsidy in Nigeria is a subsidy on corruption, inefficiency and waste. Has your position changed now that the price of petrol has gone up by over 200%?
No! As long as we continue with the unpatriotic and wasteful importation of petroleum products, prices will remain high and subject to international market dynamics. So, we will continue to subsidize waste as the landing cost is wasteful. The alternative is efficient domestic refining. Now, we are a major crude oil exporter, we also have 4 (four) domestic refineries with a total capacity of 445,000 BPD. So, we can refine our crude oil. Domestic refining will save so many costs associated with the importation of petroleum products including; international transportation, port charges, insurance, refinery profits, brokerage charges, foreign taxes, etc. Even at the current prices, government still pays subsidy. With domestic refining, the costs will be about N138 per litre.
During the 2015 Presidential Election Debate, many Nigerians said intelligent minds like you are needed in government to lift the nation. Why not join the ruling party in order to contribute your ideas to nation-building?
We do not wish to join a party that is unpatriotic and corrupt. We do not wish to join a party that is sectional, deceitful, divisive and dictatorial. If we join the ruling party, then we will be guilty of their deceitfulness, divisiveness, dictatorship and corruption. They must first be remorseful, then we can join them.
What electoral reforms will you suggest in Nigeria in order to curb the money politics that is shutting out the potential bright leaders who often operate in smaller political platforms?
We cannot continue to reform perpetually. The problems are corruption, lawlessness and impunity. The existing laws are disregarded with impunity and so new laws will also be disregarded. We must first insist and establish the rule-of-law to curb corruption and enforce election finance limits.
One of Nigeria’s challenges is the economy. Do you have any recipe to make things better?
To improve the economy, all that is required is increased domestic productivity so we can simply prioritize all factors that will improve productivity including ethical ambience, health, skills and infrastructure.
What came to your mind when the youths rose in unison during the EndSARS protests?
We felt that the youth have come to realize their responsibility to themselves, their country and their future.
Is the problem that Nigeria is earning too little or that the political class is consuming too much?
Nigeria is not earning too little. The political class is definitely consumes too much with N3.4B for feeding and travels in the Presidency. In addition, we have the wastages from mediocrity, incompetence, inefficiency and corruption.
What is your honest assessment of the Buhari administration in terms of the relevant indices? Is it the problem the system or the person?
The problem is principally the person because even the problems with the political structure can be mitigated and were mitigated by former President Obasanjo. The Buhari regime is a catastrophic failure. It has promoted corruption with impunity; it has divided our people; it has promoted insecurity; it has destroyed the economy and enslaved our people with foreign debts. The indices are very clear. Under Gen. Buhari, total national debt moved from N12.1T to nearly N40T. With unprecedented job losses, unemployment and inflation, we have become the poverty capital of the world. Presently, with increasing insecurity, Nigeria fell from fourth (4th) to third (3rd) most terrorized country on the Global Terrorism Index.