Dennis Etim Inyang-Mbekwe, FCT Chairman of Social Democratic Party (SDP) in an exclusive chat with Seyi Anjorin, Assistant Editor of The News Chronicle in Abuja takes a cursory look at the Buhari led administration, emphasizing that the recently passed #NotTooYoungToRun bill was long over due
How would you rate the achievements of the Buhari led administration?
Let us get this straight, there is nothing to celebrate about this government, if there is anything, which we are supposed to be talking about, it should be that the masses should stand up and vacate this government from Aso Rock. First of all, when they were doing their campaign, they gave an impression of fixing everything, as if governance was an instant noodle kind of business. Unfortunately, virtually everything this government had promised, they have failed to deliver on. Let us take security for example, they are claiming to have made progress in tackling insurgency in the north east, but if you look at what has been happening in recent time, the killings in Benue and other parts of the country, through the Fulani herdsmen, you will have to come to one conclusion that whatever success they claim to have recorded in the north east has been outweighed by the dastard act of the herdsmen who are worst terrorists thundering through the country without Presidency doing anything, It is very pathetic. I do not know the last time the president visited Benue, to even show any kind of sympathy to those slain by Fulani herdsmen. That was the same crime that they accused president Jonathan of ,that he did not visit Chibok. Buhari has also done the same thing and that is why the masses must come together and vacate this government from office. The Benue situation is very pathetic and I can tell you with the recent killing of the priests in Benue and the uprising, it is very obvious that this present day government has no business in governance; they need to just leave the seat for others who have a clear headed agenda for development to step in.
Economically, the president claim that the economy has also improved…
Cuts in… That is pure statistics! How does that reflect on the lives of the people? People are complaining of being owed salaries across some of the states, most of the workers are being owed, so how has the economy improved for them and now, government is the biggest partner of doing business in Nigeria, how has owing worker’s salaries added to the economy, so where is the increase coming from, is it in terms of the productivity of the people; we are already recording strike in the medical sector, so productivity is low there; is it that we are now exporting so much goods that is now upsetting our internal docility or are we saying that there is another type of economies that runs outside the context of what we know about. Has there been more jobs for the youths, an average of three million Nigerians hit the job market every year, out of this three million Nigerians, the greatest population among them are the youths. You have the out of school youths even in the secondary school that are there jobless and they are not participating in the economy and that is why some of them are into drugs, that is why about N3million worth of codeine is consumed every day in two state alone, which means they just want dull the pain of under development that has plagued them.
Would you say the government has been successful in its anti-graft war?
The anti-corruption campaign interestingly, as far as I am concerned needs to be looked at dispassionately. This means that we must encourage every effort to bring to book those who have looted the treasury of this country, there is no gain saying that these people should be let go because people feel it is one sided. If you have stolen money, the crux of the matter is the money you have stolen and not which camp you belong to, there is nothing wrong about it. It is unfortunate that the present regime has made it a circus show because; it has become a tool to harass political opponents and also to pave way for people who are corrupt to join their party and increase their rank and file and chances of winning election. The former governor of Bayelsa, Timipre Sylva was having a case against him, when the APC government came into power, because he was a staunch supporter, Festus Keyamo who was actually working against him withdrew, now an SAN and we do not hear anything about that case again. If people are saying it is one sided, yes it is not impossible that it is true but it is also very instructive that if you are corrupt and you are caught, you should be prosecuted, no sentiments about that. Come to look at it, you are saying you sentenced a particular governor, how about Governor Orji Kalu and the billion he looted allegedly. The EFCC prosecution, suddenly because he had joined the APC, nothing is heard about it again. The fact remains that Orji Uzor Kalu has joined the APC and they did not reject him on the grounds that he is corrupt, so this maybe a face saving device, I want us to face one fact, if you are corrupt and you are caught in the act, you should be prosecuted whether you are a Buhari supporter or not, we should allow institutions to work.
The #NotTooYoungToRunBill has been signed into law, what does this portend for the Electoral College?
The bill is good for Nigerians, first it places responsibility on the young people and when they begin to taste politics, they will now have to develop the capacity to fit in. For you to join a political party is one thing, for you to be given the opportunity to contest is one thing, when you are now contesting, you will now know that head or tail, money is involved, legitimate money that you will spend to run your activity not the one that you use to bribeanybody, you will have to travel round for campaign, this thing takes money and any young person who does not have the where withal will now begin to understand that it is not just enough to be qualified to run, but the pocket also need to have certain credentials to make this a possibility. The bill is a very good thing and PDP should not lay claim to it because it was largely an NGO based campaign. PDP like any other party like SDP must have supported it but we all know that there is a major champion of that bill and that is Samson Itodo. I can tell you that it does not call for celebration, that somebody has consented to what is your right .That does not mean you should jubilate because in the first place, your right was not supposed to be violated, why did it take Buhari months before he could assent to such an important bill, that was critical to national development? Because, it is just like liberating the young people from mental slavery, when you consider the age when you can contest for elections then you begin to take responsibilities because you will not be depending on your parents for the critical activities that you are going to carry out, for me it does not call for any celebration, that should have been done long ago.
What do you think is responsible for the face-off between the executive and the legislature?
To me, it is the season of politics and changing sides, there may be genuine political disagreement between the senate, house of representatives and the president, it is normal in any political arena but, it should not be taken out of context that also in politics you can change sides, most especially when the parties are not anchored on any particular ideology. Interestingly, the SDP is changing gears on that, our new constitution declares totally what our ideologies are, and I can assure you that people will change sides because they are looking at what the next dispensation will be like, the APC and PDP are already discredited so they are looking for an umbrella where people will take them for who they are, for being in a fresh party, people will be full of expectations but some of these other platforms have lost credibility and that is why you see the massive movement of people coming into SDP being very strategic.
Most Nigerians actually see the SDP as more of a western party; does this not restrict its popularity?
That is not true, if we are present in virtually every state of the federation, because our chairman is from the southwest does not make it a south west affair. Come to think of it, we pride ourselves as a party that died and was resurrected according to our national chairman, and it is enjoying an eternal life.
Looking at the years of diverse leadership has gone through, is there anything new SDP is offering?
It will interest you to know that what is new about SDP is a genuine contract with the people, in FCT we are doing something that is big; we have asked communities to work with us to develop a community development plan that is sustainable. Every candidate must sign to actualize this as part of his campaign agenda, the needs of the communities are stated in the plan and when candidates sign to it, they commit to it. If you look at the previous dispensation and the parties involved, it will interest you to know that the bottom up approach that we are using is in it. Our manifesto is all encompassing; the new manifesto of the party is looking at development from the perspective of the Sustainable Development (SDGs) because virtually all the issues are captured, so you do not come in as a candidate to begin to talk of your own agenda but the part’s own agenda which is captured in the manifesto of the party. APC and PDP should tender their manifesto and you will find out they are few pages, ours is multi-faceted and encompassing. Besides we are combining this with the bottom up approach, where the communities will have to come up with their plan, candidates have to sign to it and they must commit to actualizing it, which is the beauty of democracy. We want it to be engaging and participatory; it must have a sense of fulfillment. I want you to remember that SDP has an history of winning elections in Nigeria, we are reenacting that feat and getting closer to the people day by day, our registration process is not just at the ward level but at the polling unit level, so I can assure you that we are not only just a party that exists at the central level where it is unreachable but closest is the polling unit and we have structures across, we want to assure you that for you to engage the people in drafting their own community development plan simply means that you are in touch with the people. It will interest you to know that SDP is doing direct primaries and that means option A4 which is not delegates that people can buy or harass but you must go for the people to join the party, from there if you have the majority, you win the race, if you don’t, you leave it for the person with the majority, that is what we are doing to get the crowd.