Engr Martin Onovo was the presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) in the 2015 election. In this interview with BIYI ADEGOROYE, he speaks on some national issues, especially the 2022 National Honours Awards and the 2023 elections
The 2022 National Honours Awards have come under some criticism, especially regarding merit among some of the awardees. What is your view?
With the Muhammadu Buhari regime, we are wondering if we should now rename it ‘national dishonours awards.’
We had previously accused the regime of promoting corruption and provided evidence beyond all reasonable doubt to substantiate our allegation. Corruption indices, particularly the Auditor General’s Reports and Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index confirmed our allegations. These awards again further confirm that we were right. In the list of awardees, we have some persons who were charged to court for criminal conduct.
Some other awardees are political failures and crooks responsible for the Nigerian predicament as a failed state. Some others are influential Nigerians bribed with national honours to buy favour so as to attempt to cover the catastrophic failure of the Buhari regime.
The regime has destroyed our country. It has destroyed public morality, it has destroyed national cohesion, it has destroyed education, it has destroyed the economy and it has destroyed the military. God help us.
What do you think are the most difficult challenges confronting this country now?
The most difficult challenges facing the country now include insecurity, corruption of public morality, poverty and impunity.
How do you think we can solve these challenges you’ve mentioned?
For insecurity, we must accurately identify the root causes and check all of them. The root causes include the ruling party as the direct sponsor of insecurity and terrorism in Nigeria.
This can be confirmed from the court judgement in Dubai that convicted some Nigerian terrorism sponsors. It can also be confirmed by several near pro-terrorist positions publicly taken by the presidency and the sundry evidence of connivance of the armed forces with the terrorists.
The other root causes include illiteracy, unemployment, poverty, endemic corruption and Islamic indoctrination. These root causes can be controlled and efficient law-enforcement applied to check insecurity if we have a good government. For corruption of public morality, we can start by emphasizing our constitutional national ethics.
Section 23 of the Nigerian Constitution states that ‘national ethics shall be discipline, integrity, dignity of labour, social justice, religious tolerance, selfreliance and patriotism.’ Then, we can take disciplinary actions against any persons that violate these constitutional requirements. For poverty reduction, we can diversify the economy to improve employment, check inequality, improve education and promote social solidarity.
For impunity, we can ensure that nobody is above the law. Anybody acting with impunity can be brought to face the law. Only a good government can do all these. So, we must first ensure that we get a good government.
In view of the on-going mass migration, what effect do you think this will have on the nation’s manpower?
It will be very incapacitating, particularly in the health sector with the number of doctors that are leaving. This is a national issue that must be addressed. Many professionals are losing confidence in the country.
What is your view on the ages of the presidential candidates and their capacity to govern Nigeria at this moment?
Mental and physical fitness are critical requirements for leadership and for work. The work of a Nigerian president is enormous, so it requires a mentally and physically fit person. According to Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), ‘… any candidate for the post of Nigeria’s President should not be more than 60 years old.
The president should not be a person who will be looking for medical treatment from hospital to hospital around the world. He must be so healthy that he should be able to work for a minimum of 14 hours a day.
Also, the retirement age in the Federal Civil Service is 60.’ I agree with the highly respected Chief Babalola. So, using his standard, it is clear that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is unfit at 76 years old. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is even more unfit. Mr. Peter Obi is younger, stronger and cleaner, without corruption cases and has a better moral, mental and physical fitness profile. He has also come up first in all the credible polls so far both national and international.
He is rightly the front-runner. The candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential, Barr. Adewale Adebayo is even younger, clean and brilliant and also without corruption cases.
How prepared do you think the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is for the elections?
INEC is clearly the greatest enemy of democracy in Nigeria.
Previously, INEC violated many of its own requirements for free and fair elections. INEC registered underage voters, tolerated the violation of election finance limits, tolerated perjury, allowed under-aged voters. INEC had even falsified election results in the past.
INEC has absolutely no credibility. INEC lacks integrity and no system can work effectively without integrity. We know that INEC is the ‘election committee’ of the ruling party and works to aid the ruling party to rig elections in their Islamization agenda. So, how can we believe the same INEC under its current chairman?
INEC deceived the entire country with its ‘Electronic Collation Manual’ and electronic card readers in 2019 only to bypass them in Northern Nigeria and deny the opposition access to its server to show the evidence of the massive rigging of the 2019 presidential election.
The same INEC claimed it accredited over 900,000 voters in Boko Haram- infested Borno State alone! Same Borno State that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said was largely inaccessible due to the terrorist insurgency. INEC has no credibility. We cannot believe INEC under its current chairman because it is a puppet of the ruling party.
We have seen many videos of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) of Christians dumped or buried to suppress Christian voters in line with the Islamization agenda. However, we commend INEC for the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the electronic transmission of results. We pray that these will be strictly implemented.
We remember the case of the card reader that was fraudulently bypassed in Northern Nigeria in the 2015 and 2019 elections. We expect that such treasonable fraud will not be repeated ever again
But INEC refused to recognize some candidates, especially the President of the Senate President over issues concerning the APC primary election…
It would have been unlawful for INEC to recognize Senator Ahmed Lawan. He did not participate in the senatorial primary election as required by law and the Federal High Court in Yobe State has rightly ruled that INEC cannot recognize him.
What are your fears over 2023 polls?
Our fears are that there may be no elections or that INEC and the ruling party will again arrange another charade. We do not expect the general election to succeed because it seems obvious that the ruling party is desperate to disrupt the 2023 elections and if that fails, they may collude with INEC to arrange another charade.
We can observe that the ruling party after its consensus candidate lost the primary, is now setting mines and bobby-traps to frustrate the general election.
These include the terrorists’ moves to spread insecurity southwards; we have seen the re-launch of the obnoxious Water Resources Bill, the unlawful efforts of the government to establish grazing reserves and the plan to conduct an irregular census before the 2023 general election. These seem deliberately calculated to cause crisis and disrupt the elections.
What qualities do you think Nigeria’s next president should possess?
The universal requirements for leadership remain relevant. First is ethical integrity.
Second is vision, third is competence. Comprehensive competence will require moral, mental and medical fitness, Therefore, the kind of president Nigeria needs must be a politician of high ethical integrity, clear and pragmatic vision, moral uprightness, mental strength and medical fitness.
What do you make of Nigeria’s debt profile?
Nigeria’s debt is very heavy and unprecedented. It is crushing the economy of the country.
Certain reports indicate that 82 per cent of total national revenue was applied to service debts in 2021, Further, it is estimated by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), that we will apply 97 per cent of national revenue to debt servicing this 2022. From our low debt profile in 2015, when Buhari assumed office, we have moved to even more debt and then into a debt trap and now, we are in a debt crisis.
How do you see the 2023 budget proposal?
The 2023 budget proposal is consistent with the incompetent, unpatriotic, corrupt and prodigal disposition of the Buhari regime. With a recurrent expenditure of N8.27 trillion, debt service of N6.3 trillion and a deficit of N10.78 trillion, it is clear that the Buhari regime is the most destructive phenomenon ever seen in Nigeria since amalgamation in January, 1914.
When Buhari took over power in 2015, the entire budget was N4.5 trillion. Presently, the recurrent budget alone is higher than the entire budget the regime met in 2015 and the debt service cost too is higher than the entire 2015 budget.
With the deficit, the regime is aggravating the unprecedented debt crisis it has driven Nigeria into. So, this regime has completely ruined the country.