Sir Celestine Omehia is the former Governor of Rivers State. In this interview with journalists in Abuja, he gave reasons why Buhari should not be voted in as President. In his view, if General Muhammadu Buhari is elected president in 2015, his election would be tantamount to retrogressing the country. Excerpts:
By Chioma Obinna
DO you think that President Goodluck Jonathan is a match for Buhari in the coming 2015 election?
I don’t have any fear about Buhari being the APC presidential
candidate. People are rating Buhari from his military achievements, but we are now talking about the democratic government of Nigeria.
If Buhari achieved anything, it was by the force of arms – the use of the army, the use of gun and so on. If you put Buhari and Goodluck Jonathan in the same environment, you will see that their behaviour would be different. One was democratically brought up. The democratic ideologies in him are different from the military ideologies in Buhari.
Buhari has not learnt anything about democracy and more so, Buhari’s so called achievements in administration were not piloted by him. They were practically piloted by his second-in-command and the second-in-command unfortunately, is not his second-in-command now. He has a professor as his running mate. And we are not talking of academic work; we are talking of practical politics.
We are not talking of who will be tested in the laboratory, we are not talking about who will be tested in the farmyard; we are talking of democracy in politics. So, if the two second-in-commands are not the same, it then means that Buhari cannot do better than Jonathan.
But one thing is basic: Jonathan has had democratic experience from being deputy governor to governor, from being governor to vice president, being vice president to president. You cannot compare their experience in life in terms of democratic experience. You cannot compare their achievements. Put on the same scale, Jonathan will score 80 percent, while Buhari will score 20 percent in democratic achievements.
If you put them on the same scale, the vice presidential candidate of the PDP who was once a governor and vice president for some number of years will score much more than the intimidated vice presidential candidate of the APC. So, put the two together, Nigerians are matured enough and reasonable enough to think and know that Jonathan stands a better chance to give Nigerians what they need. Again, don’t forget that being the president for four years running; Jonathan has set several things in motion: several projects, several principles, and several ideologies that could keep Nigeria moving.
On the other hand, if Buhari is given the opportunity, he will set Nigeria ten years backward because we will start a new idea not from where Jonathan has started. He will go back and draw a plan that is different from what Jonathan has started. And in that case, Nigeria will be taken ten years behind the schedule. So, the issue of continuity comes to play.
I have always said the issue of continuity is important in Nigerian politics and in the Nigerian administrative system. Mind you, APC is only coming up with vendetta. APC has never said anything good about any other party. So, when they talk about what they can do for Nigeria, APC would always think of how to destroy what the PDP has set up to do and in that case, there would be a lot of abandoned projects, there would be a lot of wastage of our resources, there would be a lot of acrimony between the two parties. So, there would be no need creating such things.
Waste of resources
Nigerians are not good with continuity and that is what we want to avoid.
The APC has always talked of change. That takes me to the idea of APC – change, APC – change. What is there to change? They have never told you what they want to change. They will never come out to say these are the programmes they want to change.
In any case, who are the members of the APC now, properly so called members APC? They are all members of the PDP who abandoned the project and ran into the APC. And what are they going to change? Changing what they had already done? Take for instance, the campaign director of APC is a former PDP person. What is he going to change? He is going to change what he started in PDP. What it means is that ab initio, he was wrong in all he did in the PDP.
Masari is the governorship candidate in Katsina and he was a Speaker in the PDP. What is he going to change? Look at the former PDP chairman from Kwara, Baraje, what is he going to change?
Audu Ogbeh was chairman of the PDP, what is he going to change? Does it mean that all these PDP members who are in APC were failures and they now realise that they were failures and they want to make a change? It is never easy to change what you have done unless somebody else will change it. So, APC cannot change what they have done.
One major issue that would remain a problem for President Jonathan is the issue of insecurity, what is your take on this?
The issue of insecurity is a common global phenomenon. Criminals are born every day. There are criminals all over the world and Nigeria is no exemption. What we must understand is that Jonathan did not create the insecurity in the north eastern part of Nigeria; therefore, it is the problem of Nigerians and not only Jonathan’s.
For Buhari to say he will end the insecurity immediately he takes over power, it then means that he is the creator of the situation. He knows the origin, he knows where it started and more so, he is from the north. Although he is from the North West, he is from the North; therefore, he created it to destabilize the administration of Jonathan.
Talking about insecurity, the people that are affected are Nigerians, therefore, he owes it a duty to help Nigerians and save their lives whether or not he is in power, whether or not the APC is in power. If they have the antidote to it, this is the time they should help instead of looking at Nigerians suffering and dying.
Suffering and dying
This is the time they should play their role in one way or the other. But the question is, what role have they played to end insecurity in Nigeria?
So, if they cannot proffer solution now, they have no solution at all even if they are in power.
The dust raised in Rivers state following the conduct of the governorship primary election is yet to settle. Are you confident that the PDP would have the day in the forthcoming election?
I am very sure of PDP winning Rivers state. I am very sure of that because primaries are always in this form. No primary election in Nigeria has ended and the loser agreed that it has ended.
There has always been the belief that the last is yet to be heard. Even till names are submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and even after that, people are still going to protest. So, it is natural in Nigeria. It is not the same thing when compared to other parts of the world where there are gallant losers.
In Nigeria, there are gallant winners, but there are no gallant losers. But one basic thing about Rivers state is that it is a PDP state. It has always been like that. People in Rivers state don’t really like going to opposition except the individuals.
When I left the PDP and joined the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), people joined me massively because of my personality as Celestine Omehia, because of their beliefs in my programmes, my ideologies and what I can afford them. So, people followed me and I still believe that the 2011 election was won in Rivers state by APGA led by me.