By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Dapo Akinrefon, Gbenga Oke
Dr. Doyin Okupe, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs was in the Corporate Office of Vanguard Media Limited during which he had an interactive session with Vanguard editors on topical issues affecting the polity. He spoke on the administration’s response to the Boko Haram insurgency, corruption and the face off between the presidency and Governor Chibuke Amaechi of Rivers State among other issues. Excerpt:
Flip-flopping of the FG on Boko Haram
We are not in touch with Shekau. There is no flip-flopping. When you are saddled to run and govern a country like Nigeria, there are so many so many considerations that come into play. To manage and to pilot the ship of this country in order that it does not capsize is an arduous task.
When the president went to Borno and Yobe, and he said ‘I will not grant amnesty to ghosts’, he was right and it was correct. I said Shekau is the leader, I did not say he is the recognised leader because he is the one that comes up and nobody has opposed him. So, it is not like the presidency has recognised him as the leader but the whole world knows that the face of Boko Haram is Shekau.
Are you in touch with him?
The argument is unassailable that we do not know the real person because Shekau himself is a virtual personality. You only see him on television and youtube
He is a virtual personality and we have been corroborated by the fact that two or three people in the Boko Haram arrangement have borne the same name. So, these are virtual personalities and virtual personalities are not in perspective terms, are not too far from ghosts. So, that was the position of government.
But then, the issue of politics in Nigeria and the peculiarity of Nigeria now comes into play. You have the president of a nation taking a logical, decisive and correct step. The Sultan of Sokoto is the spiritual leader of the entire Muslims in the entire north. He is also the paramount traditional leader in the entire north and he was the one who spoke at first. Later on, virtually all the spiritual leaders in the north except for Sheik Gumi, came together and said they supported the suggestion given by the Sultan. The leadership of the elite class in the north came together to state their position. Should they be ignored?
Are you aware Northern Christians are opposed to the Amnesty plan?
That is true. When we have a conflict like this, various interests are at play. We have faced a civil war in this country, over one million people were killed on all sides, but eventually it ended. We all had to bear the individual pains that we bore in order for the country to move on, it is impossible to ponder on all shades of opinion and rule a nation.
Sacrifices for the country
Some will pay sacrifice, some will keep paying sacrifices and the country must find a way for which it must go ahead. Christians in the north have been consistently victims of many of these religious riots and yet Christians in the south have not thought it necessary for a reprisal, even though we are pained. That is the sacrifice we are paying for nation building, it will not always be like this.
Some people have been killed, some churches have been burnt, some people have been forced to relocate but the crisis continues. If the crisis continues, more people will be killed and so, you solve the problem one after the other. If we are able for instance to end the Boko Haram insurgency with this amnesty, everything becomes quiet, then you now go back to the victims and see how you can attend to them. But can we be attending to the victims now that more victims are been brought into play; or is it not better for us to stop the things that cause victimization first? Whatever is required for us to have peace, let us have peace.
What is the problem between President Jonathan and Governor Amaechi of Rivers state?
It is politics. The answer is politics. I can tell politics is at play.
What kind of PDP politics are you talking about?
Are you not aware that PDP is its own problem and all the problems of criticism within the PDP is created by the PDP.
Why does the president percieve Amaechi to be a stumbling block ahead of 2015?
Governor Amaechi cannot be a stumbling block to Mr President’s aspiration.
So why is he moving against him?
He is not moving against him. There are two things. If I want to achieve an objective and in achieving that objective, it will affect you, my primary purpose is not that it will affect you, my primary purpose is to achieve the set goal that is before me. So if there are collateral damages, there are collateral damages.
What are goals of the President for the Nigerian Governors Forum?
Stability of the country. We all know that the NGF was already becoming a destabilizing factor in the polity, that is the truth and let us all face it.
In what way?
The government must go in one direction and if there are dissension, there is problem. We have 36states in Nigeria, 23 of them are PDP governors and the NGF is headed by a PDP governor. Now if the NGF now becomes an opposition platform, then there is a problem. It is not what people are thinking, it is not a matter of whether somebody wants to get to a position or somebody wants to run for an office. We are a government, we are party and we must move in one direction. If we move in different directions, we are not going to achieve much.
Why must all Governors agree to the President?
All the governors do not have to agree with the President. What I am saying is that we are the majority party in Nigeria and the ruling party is the PDP and inside the PDP, there is no federalism and that is the truth. There is no federalism inside the political party, we have just one party, the party has one mission, one goal, one objective and one leader.
So you cannot say because of democracy, you now start to pull the party apart or pull the party down. That is our business and that is why we have problems with people who do not understand politics, they have refused to understand there is no federalism in the party. If the party takes a decision that we are going this way and members of the party seem to be going the other direction, the party has taken a decision and we should all move in that direction.
Can you give one example where Amaechi went against the interest of the party?
There are too many examples.
Give an example where some PDP Governors in the forum spoke against the wishes of Mr President?
If the Federal Government takes a decision for example on Sovereign Wealth Fund and it is something the party has agreed that it must be established and the NGF says no it cannot be established.
Despite being a fugitive from the United Kingdom, former Governor of Bayelsa state, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was pardoned. Did the government take the case in Britain into consideration?
Why should government take into consideration what is existing outside its own shores? We get too much holier than thou in this country. We are a sovereign nation and if Alamieyeseigha has a problem with Britain, let them sort it out with him.
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