Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), in this exclusive interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, speaks on his agenda for President Muhammadu Buhari in his second term. Excerpts:
President Buhari has won reelection for a second term but the impression out there is that many Nigerians are not celebrating his victory like they did when he won in 2015? Are you also aware of that?
No, I don’t believe that. We must realise one major factor. In 2015, he came from opposition to defeat the candidate of the ruling party. In other words, he created a precedent; for an opposition candidate to defeat a sitting President is something that has never happened in the history of this country. So that was the major source of excitement to everybody. But now in 2019, most people expected him to win based on his performance in the last four years and he won. The result is not a surprise really to the vast majority. So, whatever joy Nigerians are feeling, they keep it to themselves because they feel safe, secured and satisfied that there is continuity in good governance and somebody they can trust is still in charge of the affairs of the country. The majority of Nigerians who voted him believe that with him at the helm of affairs, corruption will be fought to a standstill. So, you don’t need to jump about on that. It is just a sort of quiet happiness. So, in the real sense a lot of Nigerians are excited about his coming back.
If you are to set an agenda for the President, what areas do you think he should focus on?
He is going to continue on the three major agenda that brought him back to power; that is, improving the economy, fighting corruption and keeping Nigeria secure and safe from insurgency through improved security. He will also consolidate on some other things which he has done in his first term such as infrastructural development. Major roads in the country will be fixed in a permanent manner, not what used to happen where a person got a contract and the money was shared between him and those who awarded the contract; eventually they did a poor job so that the road can be re-awarded. That is not happening again under the Buhari administration. There is a critical assessment of projects being done and you are not paid until it has met international standards.
What major problem do you think the government will face?
I think the major problem the government is going to have is on electricity. Power supply is a major problem and apart from economy and corruption, that is the major problem in this country. That is what is holding back our economy. A lot of people in this country would have been very productive if there is continuous electricity. So, that is a major problem and I am not sure government has found a solution, though they are trying to. My personal view which I have conveyed to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing is that, we don’t need one major colossal body running electricity in Nigeria, like the Transmission Company of Nigeria. We don’t need that.
My belief is that we should break down the operations into smaller units like Independent Power sources in Ikeja, which is giving 24 hours. If you want a private one, you go to VGC. We don’t need Eko Distribution or Ikeja Disco. We need to break it down into smaller units. For example, there is no reason why Lekki Phase 1 cannot have its own Electric Authority. Everybody will contribute and because the area covered is small, efficiency will be increased.
Won’t that be expensive compared to what consumers are paying now?
Of course, it will be more expensive but all of us are prepared to pay more money for improved electricity. What we pay for in diesel and petrol is going to be tripled when compared to what we will pay in having efficient, regular and conducive power. So, my advice to the Minister is to break down this huge colossal electric authority and let communities take over electricity, of course, with the help of the government.
Given the experience of the government with the outgoing national assembly, what advice will you give to President Buhari on the issue of the leadership of the incoming National Assembly?
The President made a very major mistake which became a huge drawback to his administration for the last four years. The mistake was that he was a bit aloof about the leadership of the National Assembly. His disposition was that they have been elected, let them choose their leaders. But that was wrong. You don’t do that because they are an important arm of government and they can obstruct you and cause you setbacks, pain and can stop government from making progress in many areas including fighting corruption and improving the economy. That is what happened under the Saraki-led national assembly where they became the major opposition to the federal government. For me, the main opposition party we had was the National Assembly, headed by Saraki and the Senate.
It wasn’t the PDP at all. So, I am sure the president has learnt his lesson and this year, now that the APC has majority based on the number of elected lawmakers, he should call the lawmakers, they will choose a leader internally and simply go and formalise it when the National Assembly resumes. He will tell them who he wants to be the Senate President the way Obasanjo did successfully. That’s the way he should do it. He should take full control of the process. He must put his foot down and make sure somebody who will cooperate and work with him emerges before the lawmakers assemble to formalise the process .If not, we are just going back to the destructive and acrimonious era that we just managed to survive under the Saraki-led senate.