Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI in Abuja speaks on President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration for second term and what Nigerians should likely expect if the president is re-elected. Excerpts:
President Muhammadu Buhari last week declared his intention to seek reelection during his party’s NEC meeting. Were you surprised when you heard the news?
I knew all the time that he was going to contest even though he might not have been very keen but the large number of relevant people in the party who were determined that he should re-contest were just too many. He couldn’t resist that force; otherwise the disappointment could have been devastating. So, he had to bow to that pressure.
For now, himself and the Vice- President are the only candidates who have credibility and will us some hope that if they are in charge, the country will not just move forward, but be able to deliver this country from the wretchedness, poverty, mass unemployment and all the other negatives that we are experiencing due to the manner in which the PDP misgoverned this country and wrecked it.
Some Nigerians have criticised his decision to seek reelection given a promise he made in 2011 that if he becomes president, he will only do a single term. Do you think this change of mind has negatively affected the president’s integrity?
His decision to re-contest has nothing to do with his integrity. Did someone pay him to say he will do a single term? Did he sign a contract with anybody that if you pay me N1m, I will not contest a second term? There was no such thing”.
He made a voluntary statement and at the end of three years, the pressure on him to change his mind was just simply irresistible. And if he really wants to be a man of the people, somebody in whom we have absolute confidence, he had no choice. And what is the business of other people if he decides to re-contest? If you don’t like him, contest against him but don’t try to eliminate him because he is formidable from the beginning. They knew that with him contesting again, there is no hope for any other candidate. So, they are bitter and terribly disappointed because all their calculations have failed completely”.
What do you think his second coming will bring?
It is not that I have consulted him but I believe that his second coming will see a firmer, stronger type of leadership, a bit closer to what he was in 1984. I think that is what Nigerians should expect because this country is suffering from gross indiscipline of the ruling elites. We have seen a whole lot of impunity in the system. We have seen a whole Senate being closed down because one of them is going to a Tribunal before which he is charged. That to me is gross indiscipline. You do not stop the whole process of legislation just to show solidarity with a person charged to court and to intimidate the court. That is gross indiscipline and it is unacceptable. We have other things like that in other sectors. It is indiscipline for a group of judges to give a judgment that no matter what crime they commit, they cannot be tried unless the National Judicial Council (NJC) gives the go-ahead through the institutions created by the constitution to fight crime and prosecute those charged with crimes. That is indiscipline. So, we have a situation in this country where everybody is doing whatever he likes. Very soon, you will find the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) prescribing that if they commit any offence, they should be brought before the NBA Disciplinary panel before they can be charged by the police. Various professions that have disciplinary panels can bring that in. Even the policeman can say before you can charge me for bribery or any other offence, let the Police Service Commission (PSC) decide. That is chaos and anarchy. So, I think all these things will be brought under control in his second coming. Also by then, we would have started feeling the benefit of the groundwork they are doing now and life will be better for Nigerians. We will begin to appreciate the government more for how they have been able transform the country. Nigerians have short memory. They have forgotten that this country was wrecked and ran aground by the PDP. They have forgotten that the PDP government looted everything that was available and left an empty treasury at a time when money that was coming in was limited by cost of barrel of oil and reduction in production. So, this government has gone through extreme difficulty to keep Nigeria afloat. However, that era is coming to an end and an era of prosperity is coming. So, one is really looking forward to the second term of Buhari and Osinbajo.
You have always criticised the leadership of the ruling APC. What was your reaction when the president rejected the one year extension given to the Chief John Odigie- Oyegun-led NWC?
I supported the rejection of the one year extension not because I didn’t like Oyegun but because if the tenure elongation had been allowed to stand, the PDP would have had an apian way, expressway to the presidency and the other offices because all the nominations of the APC would have been held illegal and invalid because the people who organised it themselves are not entitled to be there. People who are occupying illegal offices could only produce illegal nominees. So, the president saved the party from catastrophe by rejecting the tenure extension.
Some governors loyal to Oyegun are trying to ensure he gets reelected. Given his handling of the party’s affairs, do you think this is a good decision?
Oyegun has been a terrible failure as national chairman of the party. He has not shown the resolve and strength of purpose to direct the party properly and rid it of moles and enemies. When a person, against the party primary goes to contest as Senate president and another one contrary to the party’s primary contests as Speaker of the House of Representatives, that is gross indiscipline and people like that should be punished and the punishment is suspension and possibly, expulsion from the party. That did not happen under Oyegun. Rather, he was cuddling, befriending and appeasing them, thereby allowing them to become monsters. The result now is that the National Assembly is the official opposition of this government; all that is created by Oyegun’s appeasement. So, his tenure has really been a disaster for the party.
There were widespread criticisms over the alleged looters list released by the federal government because PDP members who defected to the APC were not included. What is your perspectives on this?
Yes, I have heard that but I am not particularly bothered because this is not the last of the lists. From what the Minister of Information said, this is just a tip of the iceberg. We have a long list of people. I personally have a list of up to 100. From what I know, not up to 30 of these names have been mentioned. So, I expect that as more releases are made, the names of these turncoat PDP members who are in APC will be released. I have a lot of contempt for them because you cannot be jumping from party to party based on the convenience and trying to escape the fate you have created for yourself. So, their names will be released as time goes on.