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2023: For justice, fair play, S-East should produce president — Babatope

6 min read

…State of Nigeria very chaotic …APC will lead Nigeria to failure if… By Dapo Akinrefon, Deputy Politics/Southwest Editor CHIEF Ebenezer Babatope, elder statesman, and former Minister of Transport is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. In this interview, he speaks on the need for the South-East geo-political zone to produce the next President of Nigeria in 2023 saying it will lead to fair play, justice and equity. He also bares his mind on the state of the nation and described it as chaotic.. His take on the state of Nigeria now. The state of the nation is very chaotic and it brings sorrow and sadness. Apart from the coronavirus ravaging the land, another is poverty in the land and the poverty is becoming terrible. Prices of things are rising in the market and Nigerians are suffering. Honestly speaking, I must confess that I have never been as sad as I am today because things are not just alright. Nigerians cannot provide three square meals for themselves. It is a terrible thing and I think the government of the day must do something urgent to salvage us from this situation. We must do it because if we don’t do it, Nigeria will continue to suffer and bleed which will be terrible. On what the current administration should do to save the situation? I am not blaming them because the coronavirus has brought in new challenges, it has brought in a new culture that is dangerous to humanity but I want the government to address the poverty in the country promptly. Even though I don’t belong to the ruling party with the president, I cannot close my eyes to the fact that he has been doing his best with the available resources at his disposal. The government must protect the citizens from this mass poverty because it is becoming frightening. The government must rise up and commit all the resources of the country into salvaging the Nigerian people. Aside from the deaths being recorded as a result of insecurity, there are deaths from the coronavirus and poverty. All I can say is that the best must be done to bail the Nigerian people out of poverty. You expressed worry over the rising poverty in the land but how do you relate it to the revelations of alleged corruption coming out from the NDDC and EFCC probe? Most people will argue that Nigeria had money but it is being mismanaged. Do you agree? It is correct. The revelations from the NDDC are frightening and that is why I want the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator. Godswill Akpabio, to respond to what the Speaker of the House of Reps, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila said. Let him (Akpabio) release the names of the National Assembly members, who are getting contracts and if he cannot do so, then, the Speaker is right to say that he is just making a mountain out of a mole hill. Luckily, President Buhari has said that corruption is fighting corruption. Let us see his demonstration of his fight against corruption. The manner he handles the NDDC, in particular, will give assurance because the NDDC loot is becoming abnormal. We are just hearing billions being taken out of the NDDC and they are frightening. Buhari must intensify his fight against his so called corruption and ensure that we have the best for Nigerians. Aside the NDDC probe, the presidency has also set up a panel to probe the leadership of the EFCC… it is a bad picture in the EFCC even though Ibrahim Magu is claiming that he is a saint. You cannot judge him because he has been recovering looted funds but let President Buhari, who said he has been fighting corruption, tell Nigerians and the world that he is not tired in that fight because the corruption is frightening. To leave the NDDC and EFCC, as they are, is to subject Nigerians to irredeemable frustrations and despair. The agitation for power shift is gaining momentum, while some opine that power should shift to the South, especially to the South-East, some northerners want it retained in the North. What is your position on zoning and 2023? I have always argued in support of the South-East. If you want to make a balanced federation, we must allow the South-East to produce the President. It is very important but the political parties are supreme in making this choice. I am a member of the PDP and whatever the PDP decides, essentially, it is what I will go with but I want to appeal to all parties that we want a federalism that is based on justice and fair play. To promote justice and fair play, we must allow the South-East to take part in the leadership of the country and if it is not possible, then, let them assure us that at one time or the other, those who have not been given the opportunity of producing the president of Nigeria, will be allowed to produce the president. But the case of the South-East is very important and we must not shy away from it. Like I said, it is only the leadership of the party, like my party the PDP, that knows how to tackle the issue of the presidency. I believe that a PDP government is the only thing that can salvage Nigeria now. The APC is tired, fed up and would lead Nigeria to failure if we continue with what is happening. Having said that, fair play is fair play and justice is justice, we must allow the South-East to produce the president. I don’t believe the story that the South-East  cannot be trusted. If the PDP had been allowed to win the last general elections and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar had become the president, of course, his vice president would have been from the South-East and we all know that his vice president is a sound fellow. the question of trust is just being bandied by those who are lazy and mentally unbalanced. I know that if we give it to the South-East, they will be forced by the challenge given to them to produce a president that will solve the problems of Nigeria. Do you agree that there should be restructuring before the conduct of the 2023 elections? Restructuring is the only solution. When you talk of restructuring, it simply means that there must be a redefinition of the federal nature of our country’s existence and restructuring will make for justice, fair play and everybody to be committed to making Nigeria a better state. All the security problems and challenges are arising from the fact that we have failed to embrace restructuring and our leaders must seize the hour to advise us on what to do. We must be just and fair to all sides. Unless we restructure, we are just like Alice wondering in wonderland. The level of insecurity is getting worrisome and the Senate has joined in the call for the  sack of the Service Chiefs. Do you support this call and what should be done to address insecurity? The level of insecurity in the land is worrisome but I don’t think we should be sentimental and emotional in joining what has been said by the Senate. The Senate means well, but then, I don’t think we should panic. We should not put the service chiefs in a state of panic and ask them to go. A mistake has been by allowing them to stay all this long but let us drive this mistake to a logical conclusion by ensuring that the service chiefs are not allowed to panic out of office. They should be allowed to plan who would succeed them and tackle the security situation in the country. Honestly, no Nigerian will want insecurity to continue. The service chiefs should be allowed to regulate what is happening in Nigeria. If we panic them out, Nigeria will be worse for it and I want to say that while the Senate is correct evaluating matters, they should not be getting sentimental or emotional by saying they should go now. The insecurity is becoming alarming in the country and we must do something to guarantee the safety of the Nigerian people.

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