New Telegraph

It’s too early to accuse Tinubu of skewed appointments –Obidigwe

How would you access the over two weeks administration of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu?

It is too early in the day to begin to evaluate what Mr. President has done but I think he has hit the ground run- ning. He seems to know exactly what he wants and that is what he has shown so far. But we still need to keep our hands crossed and watch.

He has made key appointments and some people are contending that the South-East is not included. What is your take on that?

The appointments he has made so far like the Chief of Staff, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and all that are personal aides and he doesn’t need to submit their names to the National Assembly for screening or approval.

These are people that who will work closely with him at the seat of power and it is at his discre- tion to pick and choose whom he wants and he is not answerable to anyone at this point. When you talk about the South-East, we have Mr. John Uwajumogu, from Imo State, who was appointed Special Adviser on Trade and Investment. The President being a consummate politi- cian will ensure that all the geopolitical zones are represented in his cabinet.

Remember that he has not appointed his ministers and members of boards of federal agencies and parastatals, and until then, you cannot run away with the impression that the South-East is not represented in his government.

Your colleague and former speaker of the House of Representatives was appointed the Chief of Staff to the President. What do you make of his appointment?

Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila was a good speaker and his track record of achieve- ments in the Green Chamber speaks for him. He was a bridge builder while at the National Assembly and every mem- ber of the then Assembly can attest to that. It didn’t come to many of us as a surprise when we he was appointed the Chief of Staff to the President and I have that implicit confidence in him that he will deliver as expected. Come to think of it, President Bola Tinubu has been with him for long time and he had worked under him. So, the President knows who to appoint and into whatever position. We, his col- leagues are proud of him because he was one of our own and he is still one of our own and he knows what to do at all times. With his wealth of experi- ence at the National Assembly and as a grassroots politician he is eminently qualified for that position and I wish him luck as well as other appointees.

The election of the principal officers of the National Assembly generated so much controversy; how do you see the outcome?

The election of the principal officers of the National Assembly is an entirely business of the members and there are rules and proceedings of the National Assembly, which we must take cogni- zance of. Naturally, there would always be those colouration from the outside of the National Assembly, which is natu- ral in politics and you cannot wish that away. However, the principal officers of the National Assembly have all emerged, so let us see how it goes. Some people say that my geopo- litical zone, the South-East lost out and I make bold to say this that my achievements at the National Assembly was gargantuan and I didn’t need to be speaker or Senate Presi- dent to accomplish them. Besides, Ohanaeze Ndigbo told our legisla- tors to vote according to their con- science and the body did not insist that they vote according to geopoliti- cal zones or ethnic background.

But it is alleged that the presidency had a hand in the election of the principal officers…

All these belong to the realm of speculations and assumptions and it cannot be proven at this point. Bear in mind that the party in power is the All Progressives Congress (APC), and as a party, it has its own interests and that is the protection of the interest of the party. But to say that the executive arm of government had a hand in the election is a mere allegation and the Na- tional Assembly has some measure of independence, which you cannot deny the body.

Back to the presidency; Tinubu announced the removal of subsidy on petroleum and this did not go down well with many Nigerians. What is your position on the issue?

Yes, the effects are not palatable to Nigerians but come to think of it , while the subsidy was in place, how did we fare? Subsidy was removed and the marketers that had old stock of fuel before then jacked up the price of fuel.

What I see from my own point of view is that there would be competition in the downstream sector of petroleum and that will greatly affect the price of fuel. You sell according to how much you bought and if a marketer chooses to procure fuel at a high price, he will sell at a high price and those that bought at low price will sell at a lower price and the con- sumers will choose where to buy fuel. Going by this analogy, there will be control and those involved in ripping off innocent Nigerians through high cost of the product will be out of business. There has been so much poli- tics about fuel prices and at every time successive administrations have painted a scary picture about subsidy yet Nigerians had grapple with the issues and frustrations oc- casioned by subsidy and cost of the product.

Today, it is clear that there is no subsidy and we have to make strategic adjustments and the tale about oil theft will become a thing of the past. Similarly, we now have an enabling law that people can have private refin- eries just like Dangote has now and that means we can refine our crude and sell to the public and the idea of buying refined fuel or kerosene from outside would be a thing of the past. But then, President Tinubu should expedite ac- tion in repairing our refineries at least three and also try as much as possible to purge our oil sector of corruption. Once this is done, he will restore the confidence of Nigerians in governance.

How about our power sector where states are now free to generate electricity…

We should be very careful about this. Though the concept is good, there should be regulations because power belongs to the Exclusive List in our constitution. However, it is the same beauty of competition which brings down the price of products.

Before other communication companies came into Nigeria, it all seemed like MTN is in charge and you know how much we bought sim cards and the tariff, but to- day, people are being dashed sim cards. Also, there should not be politics in power generation and let it not be the exclusive preserve of some people in this country. Let the terms and condi- tions apply to all and sundry irrespec- tive of political interests, religion or ethnicity. If we can get our power sector working as well as resolve the issue of petroleum, our problems would be half solved in this country.

You said that your tenure at the National Assembly was remarkable; what do you mean by that?

Yes, it was huge and eventful because I came from the coastal region of the country and I had to take over 50 farmers to Egypt for them to learn irrigation and dry season farming, which is making great impact at the moment. I was able to empower our farmers through government intervention programmes and workshops and a total of eight bills and several motions were sponsored by me. I also in a motion called for the dredging of Omabala River to reduce flooding and also create a socio-economic platform for our people. Remember the Anambra-Kogi-Abuja raod which was an abandoned project; today work has reached advanced stage. In the area of poverty alleviation; over 300 mem- bers of my constituency were given employment and loans to do business and other investments which most of them are still enjoying today. During those days of flooding; all the Internally Displaced Persons were provided with shelter and palliatives for them to cushion the effects of the hazard. The farmers were also provided with seedlings and other crops as well as grants to return to farm after the flood. I must also commend the then speaker of the House of Representa- tives, Hon. Gbajabiamila, who under his watch, all these were made possible and that explains why I remain grateful to him for the fatherly role he played while I was there.

You are a member of APGA but seems to be supporting the APC government…

APC is the party in power and as a policy our party has always supported the party in power. When President Goodluck Jonathan was there, APGA did not field a presidential candidate and we gave him support. In the last presidential election, we had a candi- date but we didn’t go to the tribunal to challenge the outcome of the election and we are supporting the APC administration led by Tinubu. We cannot box ourselves to a corner because of politics. Whatever we need from the presidency, we will get it and what matters in politics is what you can do to empower our people and pro- vide social security for them. Anything aside from that is anti-people and that is against the interest of our people.

Peter Obi of Labour Party is at the tribunal; what is your take on his challenge of the outcome of the presidential election?

Talking about the matter at the Tribunal is subjudice, so it would be im- proper for me to talk about it as what- ever one says cannot even influence the decision of the honourable judges.

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