Achieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Delta State, Paul Odili, a former Communications Adviser to the state governor and presently on the board of Federal University of Petroleum Resources, speaks on the state of the nation, saying President Buhari’s re-election bid should be supported.
Based on the complaints from across the country, do you feel Buhari deserves a second term?
I do actually feel that Buhari deserves a second term; I do believe that he has done well because the process of rebuilding is not easy. He met a very challenging situation, not many people thought including the president himself that the situation was as bad as he met it. But here we are, I think he has done well in terms of some of the in the area of security. Boko Haram insurgency has substantially subsided, the Niger Delta region has stabilized, we are now dealing with herdsmen, and I have every confidence that he will sort it out. If there is one area of strength that Nigerians will not question Buhari, it is on security.
We know how the IPOB thing almost divided the country and we know how that matter was taken care of. So I think the herdsmen issue will be resolved adequately. Unfortunately the issue is being politicized. Elsewhere where there are major security challenges like this, people come together because everybody’s interest is at stake, we have to have a country first before worrying about our individual political interests. Nigeria appears to be different. In the moment of security challenges, people throw up all kinds of divisive issues which are extremely unheard of. And I regret that many people I look up to as leaders, their statements have been very unfortunate, and in many instances you don’t find them offering solutions. Be that as it may, we shall overcome it, the president has said that he is taking some steps which may not be very obvious for now. What many people also overlook is that the herdsmen/farmers clash has long been a challenge that previous governments and this present one have struggled to contend with.
Are you saying this because you are now in APC?
No! It is not because of that. Looking at the track record of the president on security, I have no doubt that it will be brought down to the barest minimum soon.
Based on what you have said as achievements of Buhari, which are not being felt in Delta State, what are the chances of APC winning the state in the presidential election knowing that the party lost woefully in 2015 in the state?
The impact is being felt. I am sure that in the course of the year, some of the measures being taken will begin to affect more and more of our people. We just came out of recession, in recession, you are in a period of contraction – purchasing power drops, people take hit in their wallet, they are not able to buy and consume and live a life they desire. Those things are bound to create pressure on the lives of the people, pressure on government to quickly move to deliver. The government inherited a very bad situation, it came at the period of low oil prices; when production dropped as a result of Niger Delta militancy; when there was scarcely any savings, I think our foreign reserve dropped to the extent that it was not enough to keep the economy vibrant; when infrastructures were not working, the roads and railways, electricity were in bad shape or not working. Those are challenges. People will say he promised change, yes but I say change is different from miracle. Change takes time, change is that you stop digging yourself deeper into the hole, and it is at the point that you stop going deeper into the hole that the process of change can start. It is very difficult making the people understand that we were going deeper into the hole. For the two years plus, this administration has succeeded in stopping us from digging ourselves deeper into the hole, now we are in the process of rebuilding. The rebuilding process is not a quick fix, there is no quick fix in Nigeria, unfortunately, we just need to accept that. If we were producing the food we were consuming, if we were not importing rice, palm oil, corn, toothpick and virtually everything that we consume, if we were productive, the argument might be different but here we are, basically depending on outsiders to feed us. I am happy that some of the measures that were seen then as painful are already paying off. Now agriculture is becoming a focus, in a very serious way not as a mantra, people are investing very seriously in agriculture, the government is also investing. If we can have food security, physically security of lives and property, then we are making a move, other things can come. We can now invest in infrastructure, social programmes, and then the country can have a turn around. I see the wheel is turning for good but I also know that the pain of waiting for the wheel to turn fully, people are impatient with that. I am sure that if the president had the magic wand to turn things around he would have done so but he needs to really change the mindset, change the policy that made it permissible for us not to think of how to produce, how not to build infrastructure, how not to make people accountable. We are talking about leakages, the records are there.
Based on the fact that Nigerians are complaining and Buhari promised to do a term, and now he is eying second term, are you confident that he will get the support of South-South and South-East where he lost in 2015?
I don’t know about his promise to do a single term. With fake news all over the place, people get confused by it. Look as far as I know the president is not marginalizing any part of the country in terms of infrastructure, in terms of appointment, every part of the country is represented. You talked about hardship, ultimately we are in a battle field, and we have a government that is serious enough to want to change it. The statistics show there is a gradual drop in the rate of inflation, consumer confidence is growing. I am not saying that suddenly everything has changed. We are in January, in the course of the year the benefit of the policies and programmes will begin to manifest fully.
What is your assessment of the Okowa administration here in Delta State?
I really don’t have assessment of this administration, to be honest with you. It is hard for me to say government is doing much. People complain about lack of development, salaries are owed, pensioners are not paid. In my community, I go there all the time, we don’t see anything. I hope for the sake of the suffering people that he wakes up.
But you made excuses for the Federal Government and the factors apply in Delta, militancy, drop in oil production…
… Yes, if they have made progress, let them put it on the table. Where are the big iroko projects in Delta state, where are they? I have explained a few things that we can see the Federal Government has done, and I am willing to listen to anybody put something on the table that they are doing in Delta state. Within the contest of these challenges, things are happening at the federal level. A lot of investments have gone into infrastructure, economic development, social programmes, these things are there. Projects are now being commissioned, roads are being built.
People now know that there is improvement in power supply even though the privatization programme was not properly done. They have stopped the massive leakages that made it impossible for this country to get the benefit of good income from high oil sales. We are out of recession, the economy has started growing. I don’t know if anybody in Delta State can explain what the government is doing, I am here but I am yet to see what they are doing.
Why did you leave the PDP?
I find that the party has been driven into a ditch, the direction that the party was moving, it did not show me that the party has a future, I just can’t see the future of PDP. I don’t think the people of Delta State will get anything good from PDP, I mean it is evident.