Hon. Dr. Simon Mwadkwon Fwet represents Barkin Ladi/Riyom Federal Constituency of Plateau State in the Federal House Representatives. In this interview with MUSA PAM, the lawmaker appraises the All Progressives Congress (APC) admini,stration under President Muhammadu Buhari in the last five years using his campaign promises as parameter and also talks about internal democracy among other topical issues
The present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari recently presented its scorecard, stating that it has performed creditably in the past five years. Do you subscribe to this?
From my own perspective and analysis, the APC administration has failed because I cannot see one of the campaign promises that has been fulfilled. They promised to fix electricity problem in six months, they are in their fifth years, but nothing has been done. The school feeding programme is a scam. In the course of this Covid-19 problem, pupils are not in schools yet this administration claimed the pupils are being fed.
The President claimed before 2015 election that Boko Haram issue was being used for politics, many people voted for him on the basis of his promise to solve the problem but the big question today is has he been able to solve the problem of Boko Haram?
Recently, over 90 citizens of Borno State were killed by the Boko Haram. In Katsina State bandits killed over 60 people the other day, even as the North- West and North-East are under the siege of Boko Haram and bandits. The youths in these zones recently had to troop out to protest the killings yet we are made to understand that the service chiefs are on top of the situation. Where are the security chiefs of this country now that the killings persist?
The President has refused to remove them and rejig the entire system, though some people are arguing that it is not the issue of security chiefs but I quite disagree with them because once the head is rotten, there is nothing other parts of the body can do because they are supposed to give direction and be the engine room of the operation but these people have overstayed their welcome, their tenure has expired.
It seems Mr. President has some kind of agreement with these people which we are yet to know, perhaps it may manifest in 2023. Otherwise I see no reason why he should continue to keep them despite poor and dismal performances. Mr. President should listen to the yearning of Nigerians and allow these service chiefs to go. His continues retaining them amidst poor performance is in violation of the constitution.
For you to aspire to be President, governor or any other political office in Nigeria you must have a blueprint of what you want to achieve but many are just in power without any idea of what they want to do. That is why many of them cannot enumerate what they have been able to achieve either in the past five years or one year in office.
During the COVID-19 lockdown people are being killed in Irgwe land here in Plateau State nothing is being done by the state and the federal government. If there is any change in these past years, it is a very negative change.
What is your own assessment of democracy in Nigeria today?
Democracy is a welcome development but we still have a long way to go. Election in Nigeria has been characterised by vote buying, underage voting, snatching of ballot paper, rigging both from INEC office and to the security agencies. I think we still need to work on our electoral system in Nigeria so that people can really celebrate June 12 properly as a Democracy Day because if democracy is characterised by rule of law, fair play and other things that would make the process workable but in Nigeria we have not seen that.
Nigerians want democracy but the political class is not living up to the people’s expectation. The game is being played without any recourse to the laid down rules and regulations. It is unfortunate that 21 years down the line no political party in Nigeria can conduct its primary election without any rancor; it has always been complaints and litigation whereas every political party has its constitution guiding the exercise but they are deliberately jettisoned for selfish and parochial interest.
But do you think democracy can survive without internal democracy based on the happening within the two major political parties in Nigeria and presently in All Progressive Congress APC?
Internal democracy in the parties is the bedrock of the survival of democracy; that is the beginning because party primary should be transparent. Those saddled with the responsibility of conducting election should be willing to conduct free and fair election. Even within the political parties, if there is no internal democracy, like what is happening in Edo State, we are likely not to have a free and fair election because the political parties themselves have not demonstrated transparency in the conduct of their primaries.
It was still the same problem of lack of internal democracy that APC in Zamfara State lost the governorship seat and the entire seats to the PDP. If we refuse to accept internal democracy in our political life or in conduct of our party primaries we are likely to have problems in the main election itself.
I think it was a very big caution because it was also lack of internal democracy that made PDP to lose election to APC, a lot people were aggrieved in PDP as a result of the handpicking of candidates to feature in the party main elections. We were all aggrieved; many had to join hand with the APC against the PDP. So it is a very dangerous trend and that alone is likely to kill democracy itself.
I don’t subscribe to the issue of imposition and that is very big issue in party politics and politics itself in Nigeria. I want to say that nothing kills democracy like lack of internal democracy as a result of impunity. Those at the helm of affairs of political parties in this country need to be cautioned and play the game according to the dictates of the rule and regulation and have respect for the constitution of their parties.
Quite a lot of them steer affairs of their parties with sentiment and personal interest; it is high time they realized that the interest of followership and the constitution of party supersede and override their personal interest.
The PDP still has its own crisis especially over the caretaker committee put in place to steer affairs of the party in various states. What is your party doing to put its house in order?
I don’t like what is happening in PDP but there are more problems in APC, but looking at Plateau State for example, let alone I will say there is no problem in Plateau PDP because the caretaker committee was put in place by the national body of the party. You cannot come to your state and begin to fight the executives that had been so approved by the National Working Committee of the party.
Of course, the COVID-19 is like a war situation and in war situation you just have to change some of the rules to able to meet up to your survival strategy and the party in its wisdom decided that all states in the country that have not conducted state congress should have caretaker committees and the number differ from state to state, based on their peculiarities.
Like in Plateau State, some party members just constitute themselves into caretaker committee. As far as I am concerned there is no problem in Plateau PDP, because these people that constituted themselves into parallel executives cannot attend national meeting and every correspondent goes to those constituted by the national body of the party.
But in politics people would wish to be heard, recognised but I believe there are better ways that they can be heard but not by constituting yourself into parallel state executives. But I am not against anybody going to court to seek redress when he or she felt that he had been shortchanged or injustice had been performed but to constitute yourself into parallel executives can never be accepted.
The parallel executives are said to have been sponsored by some notable members of your party in Plateau. Don’t you think this will have negative effects on your party on the long run if the national body does not wade in on time?
Politics is a game of number. These people that formed themselves into parallel caretaker committee don’t have the number to alter the fortune of the PDP in Plateau State. The person that head the parallel group, how many votes did he bring to the party in the last governorship election despite the fact that the governorship candidate was from his local government?
PDP is on course, we have no fear especially in the Plateau South Senatorial election coming up. The way forward is that we must come together as a family; we must accept whoever is there now as a leader, if not for covid-19 by now we would have finished all the congresses, I strongly believe that we can achieve more when we unite and work together.
What is your assessment of the way the Federal Government is handling COVID-19 pandemic?
I co-sponsored a motion in February, along with three others and one of our prayers was that the country should close all the boarders immediately so that we would not import this pandemic to Nigeria, and most of the children of the executives were still studying outside the country. Some of their relatives were still in UK for one reason or the other.
They refused to adhere to that prayer and left our boarders open until they were able to bring in their children and relatives to the country, there are still others outside the country. Some children of top Nigerians came home with this disease. But the Federal Government did not handle it the way it should be. It took the government up to three to four weeks before it made pronouncement, the Presidential Task Force was set up very late.
What do you think government should learn from COVID-19?
The first lesson is that we must develop our health care system. We must be proactive to issues that have to do with human lives. Even Mr. President who often travels out for medical attention can’t go anywhere now. So it is a necessity that we must also develop our health care system otherwise a day will come all of us will perish.
Also we have learnt that a day is coming when every government would be responsible for its citizens alone. With the shortages of PPE that we have and rapid test kits, will America, Asia or Europe leave their citizens for Nigeria? We are just lucky in this part of the world that certain natural factors are working in our favour, otherwise we would have been burying people more than Italy or Spain.
Some natural factors which we cannot explain are working for our advantage, otherwise would have been burying people in thousands in Nigeria. There was a time Bill Gate said a time would come that with this pandemic that the streets of Africa will be littered with corpses because they know the capacity of our health care sector.