By Mike Ebonugwo
After over three and a half years in office, President Muhammadu Buhari means different things to different people in terms of rating. Indeed opinions are divided among Nigerians on whether the President has done enough to fulfil his promises of fixing the economy, tackling corruption and providing security in the country. And with the next presidential election weeks away, the jury is out to pass a verdict on his performance so far and to decide if he indeed deserves a second term.
But one man who has unshakeable confidence in Nigerians to re-elect Buhari is Emmanuel Umohinyang. And he tells whoever cares to listen that there is no reason why, based on existing performance indices, Nigerians will not vote for Buhari come February 16. Umohinyang is the convener of the Re-elect Buhari Movement, RBM, which is currently involved in a nation-wide campaign to mobilise Nigerians for the purpose of re-electing the President.
In a recent encounter with Sunday Vanguard, he took his time to explain in detail those things that informed the decision to form the group and why he continues to argue that it is in the best interest of Nigerians to give Buhari another four years. According to him, by adopting Buhari, RBM members were merely following in the footsteps of their mentor, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who, in 2007, “called us and told us that, henceforth, we should give our support to the current president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari”.
He pointed out that Gani had endorsed Buhari for the 2007 election by raising his hand. Umohinyang did not stop there.
“So, we have equally taken our time outside that endorsement from our great mentor and leader. We’ve taken our time to look at Nigeria from 1999 to 2015. And we couldn’t fault that position taken by the erudite lawyer. We have watched events too. First, the coming of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, that administration was there for eight years. And Atiku was his Vice. We also have watched the brief period (administration) of the late Musa Yar’Adua; we also saw the five years of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. And I think the last administration gave us the zeal to say we mustn’t continue to sit on the fence. Let us also join and see to it that our country does not go the way the elite want it”, the group leader stated.
“On that note, in the month of June, we felt we should see what we could do as a group to contribute in helping the country move away from this path of destruction that we find ourselves. And on that note, we threw our weight behind President Muhammadu Buhari as a candidate of the APC. And to the glory of God and support of Nigerians, coupled with the technology that was introduced in 2015, he won the election”.
Explaining further RBM’s involvement in the present campaign to get Buhari re-elected, he said: “Re-elect Buhari Movement became a child of destiny. We sat down and decided that we needed to project the work of this current administration. As you know, RBM may be a political pressure group, but some of the members belong to different political parties; and some are not even members of APC. Myself, I’m not a member of APC. So, we have a focus; and that focus is to support Mr President to get re-election. Not for any particular gain, but just to see to it that the pattern the government has taken to rebuild and re-shape our country is sustained. I think that’s one reason RBM was formed. And that is the reason RBM is in existence. And also I want to reassure you that by the grace of God, by the time we get Nigerians to get the President re-elected on the 16th of February, we will also hold a press conference where we will shut down the RBM as a platform because it’s not there to galvanise support for the governorship candidates of any party. The focus is Mr President, and we will maintain that focus. And I can assure you that the focus will not be broken”.
Asked to assess the President after three and half years of being in office and to justify why he thinks the President deserves a second term, he was quick to assert thus: “If you look at what the President has done between that period and now, you cannot compare it with the 16 wasted years of the Peoples Democratic Party”.
Speaking on specifics, he cited ongoing road construction across the country, adding: “We’ve gone round the country; we’re not depending on government data to speak for government. We have structures from the national to the zonal coordinator, to the state coordinator, to the councils supervisors, to the units… All we need to do is call a meeting, pass a message; go round your unit, go round your ward, your local government; send us pictures of what this administration has done. And we have those pictures. I’m talking about live-feeds, pictures… And we can attest to it that President Buhari has done extremely well in three and half years. What PDP could not do in 16 years. It’s only normal that we say, okay, let us give him a chance to do a second four years. And that’s the point we have taken. So, I’m saying that from what the government has done, they deserve our support. And we in the RBM are going all out to see to it that the President gets a second term and do more for Nigeria”.
Continuing, he said that the Buhari administration has done creditably well compared to its immediate predecessor headed by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Fortunately, I come from the South-South part of the country, even though I don’t play ethnic politics. In 2010, when the former President Goodluck Jonathan went to campaign in Anambra State, he stood at Onitsha Bridge and said if he did not finish the Second Niger Bridge by 2015, he was going on exile. As much as we loved Jonathan as our brother, it’s not enough; and that’s why the country is where it is because whoever comes in we pet that person; even when he’s doing the things that we know are wrong; we continue to give our support without necessarily calling that person to order or pointing out to him the slope he’s descending to. To his credit, he(Jonathan) may have meant well. But perhaps the government was hijacked… But under Jonathan we saw the worst kind of government you can ever imagine. Under that administration, we saw corruption develop legs, wore clothes and was walking around the system. It was a government that allowed the door and the windows to the treasury to be widely opened, and all manner of shenanigans found themselves in. And it was also the reason why so many were killed because there was no money to procure weapons.
“So, it would have been convenient for me to say: ‘O I come from that zone, let me see what I can do to protect my brother. But who’s my brother? It’s the man who puts food on my table. He’s a man whose policy has helped to drive development in our country. He’s a man who will make our education work so that I don’t have to take my children to private schools. That is my brother. It’s not where a man comes from. I don’t think the people in Otueke, where he comes from, can point a finger at what they enjoyed from the Jonathan administration. So, we must begin to focus on who can perform; who has the capacity to develop the country. Because we’re bringing up children who will continue from where we will stop. And if this country continues like this, then we have failed our children. What are we going to tell them was our contribution to change the narrative. So, these are the issues,” Umohinyang asserted.
But reminded of the poor rating many Nigerians, including the opposition political party, the PDP, have given President Buhari with respect to his performance in addressing challenges bordering on corruption and insecurity, especially given recent return of insurgency, the RBM leader reacted angrily like one stung by a bee or scorpion.
“It is a shame; it’s ridiculous when you mention the PDP because you and I were in this country when Force Headquarters was blown up; when the UN House in Abuja was blown up; are you talking about the Nyanya bomb-blast. For several years Eagle Square was avoided by the President. Jonathan was even afraid to hold any party inside The Villa. It was that bad. So, when PDP begins to tell you about efforts they made to curtail insurgency, it’s a lie from the pit of hell because they can only say that to themselves. We know insurgents occupied several local governments in the North East.; their flags were everywhere; they were just not collecting taxes, if you fail to pay you were dealt with; our Constitution was desecrated. It was obvious to the whole world that the sovereignty of Nigeria was under threat. So, I don’t see what they did against insurgency. They failed woefully, and I know that Nigerians are people who have retentive memory. We know what happened under PDP in terms of security.
“This administration may not have gotten right 100 per cent…, but one thing you cannot take away from President Muhammadu Buhari is that he has gotten eighty-five percent in terms of security. And I challenge the PDP to bring their score-card for Nigerians to compare. When you talk of corruption, it was under PDP we saw all manners of criminalities; it was under PDP we saw a man convicted of direct stealing, being tapped by the president of a country and told to go and sin no more. Under PDP, it was official for you to steal provided you were not caught. And even when you were caught, you’re asked to go and sin no more. Under PDP, public stealing was so rampant. So, when PDP is talking about corruption, you cannot compare that era with now. For the fact that there is a fear that if you’re caught stealing under this administration you will be dealt with is a plus for Buhari because we didn’t see that under PDP. In that era it was okay if you steal and share it with those in authority. It was under PDP we had the infamous family affairs in terms of public funds. But this administration has shown commitment and that if you steal you will be dealt with. We pray to God never to be dragged back to that era; no sensible Nigerian will want to go back to that era.
“Imagine their current campaign slogan which says: Getting Nigeria working again. I don’t know where that came from because if you ask me, it’s getting Nigeria corrupt again. We must avoid bringing people without character to rule over us. Let me tell you, Nigerians are aware of what happened during the PDP era; that evil era is gone and it’s gone for good. If the PDP decides to change its name; it’s not really the party we’re talking about, it’s the actors who played a key role to destroy our system. And these same people are now telling us they’re back to rule us. And I can assure you that come April 16; Nigerians will arise and ensure that these people do not find their way either through the front door, the back door, and side door or even through window back to power”.
But reminded that many of those he accused as having allegedly ruined the country are in the APC, he said: “You have raised a valid point, that some of the alleged looters are now in APC. You see, it’s very easy for one to allege. But it’s for you to prove what you have alleged. That’s one. Two, these people that you said have returned to APC, have their case been stopped? Because the Constitution makes provision for freedom of association. And I do not think that if a man wants to decamp from one party to the other, you will say, no don’t come in because you have a case in court when you’ve not been convicted. Even those who have been convicted still enjoy the right to associate with whoever they want. All I’m saying is that there’s not one person who has defected to APC and is standing trial that this President said, go free; or ordered the EFCC, ICPC or any other security agency to stop his investigation and trial. I’m also not aware of any who has a case in court whom the government has said for the mere fact that he has come to join us, your sins are forgiven. People are still going through trial. This government has not at any time told the Attorney General of the Federal enter a nolle prosequi on behalf of anyone with a case in court who defected to the APC. This President, I can assure you, will never do that. The thing we enjoy is that we have an honest man in the saddle. That is the difference between the past 16 years”.
Told that his position contradicts the popular belief that the President does not obey court orders based on cited instances, he argued heatedly that was not the case. He also did not agree with the assertion in some quarters that President Buhari is guilty of partisanship in his anti-corruption war, especially the selective manner opposition politicians are hounded while indicted members of the APC are not given the same treatment, including those who defected from other parties.
According to him: “The President is not a lawyer. And that’s why he has the AGF. I do not agree with you that he is in the habit of disobeying court orders. The reasons are obvious. I think the president has come out to make pronouncement as regards the issue of national security. And you and I may not be in the position know the information he has about insecurity. The people you have cited are those security agencies consider a risk to the country. And if a court has pronounced on a bill, it’s the duty of the AGF to advise the President on the best approach towards such a pronouncement. So, the president may be acting on the advice of the AGF.
“With regards to the statement that some former governors who moved to APC had the properties returned back to them, I’m not sure there’s any case like that. Because if somebody is undergoing trial, I do not not see where the government comes in. May be we have to go back to find out some other reasons why their properties were returned to them.
“The President is a converted democrat and he has showed it by the way he has ruled the country. And he has shown through his conduct in the last three and half years that he has learnt very fast how to be a democrat”.