Minister of Information, Culture, and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in an interactive session with newsmen in Lagos at the weekend, speaks on issues of national interest.
Recently, the Customs General, Ahmadu Ali, said you have 50 percent PDP members in this administration, he even said they are more than 50per cent and that they have constituted problems for the administration, the question is, why can’t the president do something about it?
I think he has actually explained that as early as 2015, he did direct that they should bring nominations for constituting the boards and he was very clear with the directive as to who should make the boards, who should qualify. I remember he said anybody that has been a frontline actor in the run-up to the elections, anybody who had either contested for primaries within the party and had lost or because they agreed on consensus and was asked to step down, anybody who actually contested elections, either at governorship level, National Assembly level or even state level against either PDP or Labour Party and had lost that these are the main stakeholders in the party, these are the people who ought to be commended for the appointments. But as you know, Mr. President himself alone cannot do all these, all politics that we play is local.
I agree that those are charged with that responsibility failed and that’s why we are in the mess we are now and he has promised that there is going to be a fresh exercise because it is one thing to dissolve the board but you can’t leave them vacant and I think we are going to see a lot of progress in that direction.
But do you believe they are making money to fight your government, these PDP people that are still in your administration?
Well, I wouldn’t know where they are making the money from, but clearly, in politics, they always say never empower your enemies.
Even now, two years into the office of President Buhari, some of those who worked for him have not been compensated.
That is why I used the example that I used for some governorship candidates/ aspirants, I used the example of National Assembly.
Again, don’t forget, like I say all politics is local. If I am the chairman of Delta State APC or I am a leader in Delta APC, and I have given some criteria, I may decide to bypass those criteria. Mr. President is too busy to look at all those things.
I know of many states for instance where people are complaining that it is not those who ought to be compensated that were compensated. Again, it’s not possible for you to compensate everybody at the same time. Certain Boards are not due for dissolution because some of them are tenured and certain boards need specialists. Certain Boards are governed by certain rules and so like you said the truth of the matter is that Mr. President as far back as 2015 gave this assignment to party members and they failed, they failed Mr President, that’s honest truth, I know.
What about the Baru and Kachikwu matter?
I think we should not go over Baru and Kachikwu’s case. To the best of my knowledge, Kachickwu made his point and Baru also, but the fine thing is that I think over time, we’ve seen Baru and Kachikwu working together, but the position of government is that I think you can’t start talking about fraud, there is nothing about $25billion fraud, not in the least.
The opposition, notably the PDP of course thought that oh, for once, we have our smoking gun against this government, but I can assure you that it is not possible under this administration to have $25billion fraud, the entire economy would collapse. There is no $25billion fraud, yes, there could have been lack of communication, understanding on procedures, but I think all that has been put behind us.
After two years, APC finally held both the caucus and NEC meetings, which to some extent by your own constitution ought to have taken place earlier than that they were held, is it that you have really changed or the meetings were held out of pressure?
Now, frankly speaking, there is no party that came to power like APC that is not bound to have the kind of challenges we’ve had. If you go back to ANC of those days and even what APC is facing today. Now our case is like we are in a rainbow party. You see people often forget that APC didn’t come into being until July 31, 2013. APC did not elect its executive council until June 2014. Within two weeks of the election of the executive, it had to face elections first in Ekiti, then a few months later in Osun.
Now, what I am saying is that if you look at APC, it is made up of disparate political parties, ANPP, CPC, ACN, DPP, part of PDP, part of APGA. It takes time for these to jell and works together as a party. Now less than a year, within eight months, of being a political party, we had to face elections and when we won this election, even some members of APC had not even known one another or sat down together. So the hiccups that we experienced is normal and before we could settle down, our first test, you know was the election of National Assembly leadership which showed the political fault line of the party. Now we thank God, we are gradually mending all those fences, the party is working more together as a whole, the major gladiators now are back on the same page as you could see from what transpired at both the caucus and the NEC meetings.
Are you in any way afraid that your government might not go beyond 2019?
Now, as to whether we are afraid that the PDP would win, I can tell you absolutely, we couldn’t even contemplate it because it would be tragedy for Nigeria to fall back into the hands of PDP.
Look, we have very painstakingly taken this country through hell, I mean, they dropped us in hell, and we are taking you people out of hell, we can’t come back to Egypt. No, I am serious, it is not about APC, it is about President Muhammadu Buhari, it’s like the kind of revelations that are coming out, the kind of rot, you want those people to come back and preside over the affairs of Nigeria again.
Now, let me ask you for instance what would happen to the investigations that have been held if the PDP should win in 2019? They would be swept under the carpet.
There have always been investigations.
No, no, no, this is the first time in the history of this country that you are making the real recovery. Only some days ago, we signed a MoU with the Swiss government to return $321million that was stolen from the country. I just told you that this is the first time this country is looking at our problem from a very realistic and very pragmatic viewpoint. We are not talking about what we are going to achieve in two years or three years or four years, we are thinking of getting a solid foundation for a Nigeria that my children and your children will be able to thrive.
Unfortunately, the reform agenda is always longer than a political agenda and in many parts of the world, they plan for 10 years, they plan for 15 years, nobody plan for four years. And even if you look at our plan, we are talking about 20 years even though we know that there could be a change of administration, but you do not think in short term. What I am saying is that Nigerians should never, never pray for PDP to come back and I am being sincere because I know as a minister the kind of challenges we are facing.
Do you know that when we negotiated with the Swiss government to return Abacha’s loot, they gave us conditions, one of them is that we must identify what programme we want to use the money for and that the World Bank would supervise what we are using that money for and when we now argued that we are sovereign country, you can’t dictate to us how we are going to spend the money that was stolen from our country and you are returning to us. They said yes, but when we returned part of it to your country, you re-looted it under Jonathan, which is true. So I have already said that we have delivered, I am serious, we are winning.
How do you feel when the opposition try to turn your name from Lai to lie to connote that you are a liar?
The fact that I happened to be the face of opposition and PDP has not forgiven me and they won’t. Now they look at the magnitude of what has happened to them and they hold me singularly responsible which is not fair. Now becoming the face of government again as Minister of Information, it is like saying, ‘We will deal with you.’ So it is automatic. Whatever comes from Lai Mohammed, we must shoot it down as a fake news, as a lie and unfortunately, my father named me Lai also. So it is very easy for them. But what I challenge them every time is, please, give me what I have said which is not true. Emotionally you might not agree with me, but in terms of facts and figures, I have never said anything which you can dispute. You don’t have to like it but those are the facts. For them, it is not about the message, it is about the messenger. Incidentally today, with the social media where there are no rules of engagement, where there is no verification for any story, it is very easy to label anybody as a liar.
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