Engr. Segun Oni is a former governor of Ekiti State and now the Deputy National Chairman, (South) of the All Progressives Congress APC. In this interview, he speaks on the current economic recession among other issues.
Some Nigerians have accused the APC of not knowing what to do with the economy. How true is this? Well, the public is right to expect that we would do magic, but the right thing is, there is no magic way out of the problems on ground for Nigeria. The economy was trumatized by a government whose only agenda was to win another round. Therefore, everything that they could put into trying to win a second round even bastardising the economy were all done, and we are all here now. Fortunately for them, I would say they are not there any longer. The reality on ground is that if the previous Government were in power, by now, Nigeria would have virtually packed up; may be many of us would be refugees by now. So, it is very easy not to remember where we are coming from. Yes, we were elected to do the impossible, we will do our own best. I just want to plead that people should give us more realistic expectations. This economy must work, we must get Nigeria back, but it is not as quick as anybody could imagine or just by a touch of the hand. So, people are entitled to their expectations, we as a government, we will do our best to ensure that the end would justify this cause. We were not elected to run Nigeria for one year or two years; we were elected to run Nigeria for four years and before we get to an appreciable length of time I am sure, I am confident that we would begin to see very, very obvious changes. Nigerians are worried about some obvious inconsistencies in your economic policies. Are you not worried? You see, there is a difference between extension workers and teachers; teachers would teach in schools and extension workers would work to promote agricultural output. You see, this would tell you that there is active thinking, and there is an active programme to get people involved. I think what we just need to see is a breakthrough that people would begin to see. Yes, it has started, it is always like this when you are so overwhelmed that you are trying to make changes. Impact on people Yes, we want to bring in teachers, yes we want to bring in extension workers, yes we want to do some other things that would impact on people very quickly. It is not confusion; it is that we want to do all these, and we will do all those, but it is not going to happen by a snap of the finger. Nigerians should still expect that we will do what we promised we would do. Some of us are still very confident that we will do it. If we have doubts, our confidence level would not be what it is now; it won’t be this high. What is your take on the claim that the APC lacks experts to manage the economy and hence the current challenges? Experts to manage the economy? There are experts; there is an economic management team headed by the vice president, and I want to tell you that, yes he is a lawyer, but if there is anything this vice president cannot do about the economy, no other vice president in the history of Nigeria would have made any attempt. Even an economist? You see, we should not quickly forget where people are coming from; yes, this is a lawyer, he is a professor of no mean rating, who has done a lot of consultancy work for the World Bank, the African Union (AU) and so on and he has a team that he is heading, it is not a one man team. I know within there, the economic adviser who is a guy that all of us had known when we were at school as one of the best brains we can find on the terrain which also had a good career in the foreign service. Look, things would work and I am confident things would work, but yes we are overwhelmed by the high expectations of people right now. It is normal, but if anybody says because we don’t have people to manage the economy, which team could have managed the economy as it is now better than we are doing. Is it the team that destroyed it? That brought it down? Look, Nigerians don’t seem to also complain when they were buying dollars as if it was going out of fashion; the legal tender during electioneering and campaign was dollars. If you were eyeing other people’s currencies at that height, you were making useless your currency, how do you think you will make an overnight recovery? It is not easy. Nigeria is lucky because only very few countries in the world have gone through the kind of experience we went through, and they would still be talking the way we are talking. Yes, the situation is very bad, but we would get out of it, we would get out of it. The government claims to have succeeded in technically defeating the Boko Haram, but some bandits seem to have taken over, attacking communities. Can you respond to this? You see, this personally worries me because these gunmen who suddenly became so notorious invading villages and so on are people that have always been around. But my guess is that many of these are sponsored by people who have so much money and want to create instability. I believe that many of these have political motives and people who just wanted to trouble the government of the day, who don’t want peace because they believe peace would also not be what they would want to see. Political motives I don’t think the security situation is as terrible as it used to, no, it is not. Therefore, as far as security is concerned I would say that we have earned the pass-mark, but we can do better How would you react to the comments of the president that the Niger Delta militants would get the same treatment as the Boko Haram? I think it is a warning. You know at times a father would also warn his child not to cross the line so that he would not be hard on such a child. I think it is a warning. And that warning, let us also see it in good style, let us try and calm nerves down because the president is the president of everybody and it is in his interest and our interest that things must run normal and I believe that such warning, such body language and so on would also have a way of encouraging people who genuinely want to see peace to go after it. You seem so confident in the ability of your party to deliver on its campaign promises. Can you set a timeframe within which you think these set objectives can be delivered? Ah, I am not a soothsayer and I don’t like to say what I do not have control over, but I know that things would get better; they would get better.