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Lai Mohammed says “APC’ll wage war against corruption”

lai mohammedNigeria’s main opposition party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), recently launched what it called its ‘Road Map to a New Nigeria’. In this interview with Senior Correspondent, EKENE OKORO, Interim National Publicity Secretary of APC, Lai Mohammed, says top of its agenda is to fight corruption to a standstill. He also highlights some of the major focus of the ‘road map’ and the party’s political will to see it through if it succeeds at the February 14, 2015 Presidential election. Excerpts:

Just recently, the APC launched what it called ‘A Roadmap to a New Nigeria’, which many say is the party’s sign of intent of its blueprint for 2015 elections and to give the PDP a run for its money. How feasible is this blueprint considering that parties are in the habit of reeling out manifestos, which they deviate from when they get into office?

In the first instance, I think our ‘Roadmap to a New Nigeria’ goes beyond just dislodging the PDP. It’s actually our own device to fix Nigeria. One thing is clear, if you ask the average Nigerian today, irrespective of party affiliation, he will tell you that things are not working in Nigeria. So, what we have designed is how to make Nigeria work again and we just didn’t arrive at this by whims and caprices. This is the first time in Nigeria that a political party will arrive at a manifesto based on scientific investigations and methods. What we did was that we commissioned consultants to go round Nigeria and ask them questions on what is wrong with the country; particularly what they want their next government to do for them, what they think is the bane of Nigeria. So, it is result of this survey, coupled with the suggestions and ideas the Strategic Manifesto Committee of the party and our interactions with various groups; youth, women and professionals, that is what has given us what we have here today as the ‘Roadmap to a New Nigeria’. It’s instructive to know that when we conducted this survey, three things kept reoccurring; insecurity, unemployment and corruption and you see, the linkage between insecurity and unemployment is clear, the linkage between insecurity and lack of infrastructure is clear, the linkage between corruption and unemployment is clear. This is why we were able to weave around those three issues, the key problems that we are going to address in our government and that’s how we came about the roadmap. It’s not by accident, because if you see our roadmap, it deals with job creation, corruption, quality education, agriculture, housing, healthcare, social welfare, roads, infrastructure, power, security and natural resources and you can see that job creation alone takes a very huge chunk in the roadmap because it’s the number one problem of Nigeria today. Like you said, it’s not unusual for political parties to reel out manifesto which they will not keep to, you are correct, but in our own case, we’re different for two reasons; most political parties, the manifesto they have is the same one they had five to ten years ago, so when PDP said there’s nothing in our road map, I said, look, first, they have not read it, let them present their own.

One thing about the manifesto is that it is dynamic. Today, jobs might be the major problem of the country; tomorrow, we might shift to infrastructure. A political party must constantly be engaging itself with the people to know how to modify its manifesto. But one reason why we believe that we would be able to implement our manifesto is that it is a product of very painstaking research and also it’s the product of a lot of discussions and interactions by experts and whatever we have put down here is because of the economy, we can afford it and it’s feasible.

We are going to ensure that 20, 000 youths are employed in all states under the APC. We are also going to encourage that for every one job created by the state, as the Federal Government, we are going to match it with two other jobs. We will also as a federal government make conditional payment of N5000 monthly to 25 million most vulnerable and poor Nigerians on condition that, one, they have the minimum educational qualification of school certificate and also that they are ready to learn a trade or a technological training, we will also to create jobs and energise the economy, provide one meal a day in all our primary schools, with that we would create more jobs; Agriculture will become the engine of our revolution. When you provide a meal a day for primary school children, the implication is that farming will become more profitable, other industries will spring from that, many more people will be employed.

Imagine Osun State employs about 3,000 cooks, just one state; imagine if you multiply that by 30, you are going to have about 90,000 people with jobs by just cooking for these children. School enrolment will also improve, when you talk about the ability of the children to absorb whatever they are learning in school. So, those who say we do not have a roadmap, I think they have not taken the trouble to visit our website to read it.

Talking about education and agriculture, these are two sectors that need serious interventions, how does the APC intend to achieve this?

We are going to ensure that under our roadmap for free, relevant and quality education, we are going to ensure the right of every Nigerian child to receive a free, relevant and quality education become a reality, based on free and comprehensive primary and secondary education. We are also going to provide free tertiary education for anybody that is studying Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics. We call it STEM. Whoever is studying that will be guaranteed free education at tertiary level. We want also want to create incentives and dedicate special attention to female education.

For agriculture, we would bring back the old commodity boards so that we can guarantee the prices of agricultural products. By embarking on this one free meal a day for children is going to help agriculture. We are also going to make more land available and prepared for farming, and encourage young people to enter into farming through incentives such as incubator hubs and price guarantees. Another thing we would do is to ensure that Nigeria’s food supply is affordable so it can reduce food-borne illnesses and improve nutrition through a nationwide food inspectorate division. We also have a housing plan that will see us build about one million houses within four years for the poor and we are going to put in place a workable mortgage scheme, which would not be necessarily based on your income, because you see, once you make everybody gainfully employed, take decent income, it would become easy for them to afford houses.

For healthcare, we are going to provide free quality comprehensive health care for every Nigerian based on a workable national health insurance scheme. Now, we are going to stop all travel abroad at government expense for the purpose of medical treatment, if we do that and the minister, the governor come to your hospital to be treated, the quality of your healthcare system will improve and it will even give confidence to people because they know that they will be treated in the same hospital as their leaders. We will also encourage medical professionals to establish practices and we are going to give them incentives so that they can go and work in rural and medically underserved areas. We would also give incentives to all our consulting experts abroad to relocate back home and we intend to double the number of our physicians within the next four years of our being in office.

Talking about power, we are going to provide captive power to critical facilities. Why we are going to be different from the PDP is that rather than put all our eggs in one basket, we are going to embark on elective power. If Ikeja for instance needs only 10 megawatts, we are only going to encourage people to build only 10 megawatts, if Isolo needs 20, then they build only 20. Then if there is any problem with distribution in Ikeja, it would not affect Isolo, the situation that leads to blackout all over the city will no longer occur. We also intend to construct an interstate rail and highway system that links major cities and centers of production, increase Nigeria’s broadband Internet capacity through a national fiber-optics network to spur economic growth and create thousands of new jobs, we would develop an integrated inter-modal transport system that maximises the transportation of goods, raw materials and people. As far as our natural resources is concerned, we are going to make sure people at a local level benefit from mining and mineral wealth as opposed to only a few people that do so now, that’s by ensuring transparency and accountability in the oil industry.

We are going to protect people from dangerous pollution by enforcing laws to end gas flaring, this will reduce air pollution and make sure that gas is not wasted and can be sold at a lower cost. We would halt the pollution of rivers and waterways in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country and adopt a comprehensive approach to erosion and shoreline protection across the country, because people don’t realise that this pollution contributes to the poverty and hardship of the people and if you do not control it, it destroys agriculture in those areas even the fishes in the water. That’s why our policies emphasises both economical as well as the well being of the citizens.

We would also reverse the effects of the expanding desert by creating shelterbelts in states bordering the Sahara Desert. We would also do all we can to strengthen our peace and security because we realise that our most important prerogative for growth and stability is security.

So, we are going to enable states to have their own local police forces that will address the special needs of each community, at the end of the day, all security is local. We would establish a serious crime squad with state-of-the-art training and equipment to combat terrorism, militancy and ethno-religious communal clashes. We would provide a comprehensive compensation plan for victims of ethno religious crisis, communal clashes and terrorism. We are going to initiate a national reconciliation and healing plan, beginning with a truth and reconciliation commission on ethno-religious clashes, we would ensure the teaching in our schools of religious tolerance and public demonstrations of religious and ethnic tolerance by public officials. In the foreign scene, we are going to maintain strong, close and frank relationships within the Gulf of Guinea, the Commonwealth, South Africa and the rest of the world in pursuit of foreign policy that promotes our national interest, we would make regional integration a priority within ECOWAS, including free trade, to ensure that a common tariff and currency are achieved by 2020 under our guidance and leadership. We would reform and strengthen the Justice System for faster, more efficient justice in cases of terrorism, corruption, kidnapping, drug trafficking and similar cases of national importance. So, people will not appreciate the enormous work that went into this roadmap, but believe me, it’s doable and practicable.

One of the plagues facing Nigeria is corruption. Does the APC have the political will to really tackle this scourge and ensure that even those within its fold are not spared?

We are going to have zero tolerance for corruption, pure and simple, it does not matter who you are and I believe that in our government, we would have the political will to do so. Without zero tolerance for corruption, we would unable to execute our projects. How do we intend to get the money to execute our projects? By blocking these holes and leakages. Today, we talk about $20bliiion missing; you can imagine how many schools, road infrastructure that amount can give our people. We are only looking for N2billion which is less than $2billion to build the Fourth Mainland Bridge, so you can imagine, if we now have $20billion, we are going to build more than ten, we can easily build the Fourth Mainland Bridge, the Lagos Badagry Expressway. So, even for us, it is in our own interest not to spare ourselves. Let me tell you one thing about corruption, once the top is not corrupt, it would be difficult for those down to be corrupt and when people say that APC governors are corrupt, I say that it is the fault of the federal government because every anti-corruption agency is a federal government agency, so what are they doing? We are also going to revamp the justice system for corruption cases to be fast tracked and once people get punished, it’s a deterrent. So we’re very serious about fighting corruption, because if we don’t, all our policies will come to nothing. Let them pick them up.

You see, we realise that corruption is another major bottleneck to progress; our approach to corruption is that we are going to show zero tolerance to corruption. We are going to ensure that we place the burden of proving innocence on anybody who is accused of ill gotten wealth. Today, in Nigeria, some people will be poor men on Friday, and by Monday, they become rich. What happened between that time? We would also ensure that we strengthen all provisions, legislations can be expanded, forfeiture of assets can be added and we would also stop corruption in elections, be it at state or federal level.

One of the speakers at the launch of the roadmap, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, tasked APC leaders on Character, Competence and Capacity, just as she hinged the problems of Nigeria on its leaders. Can you really say you have the men who have these qualities to deliver the road map?

You see, government is not a one man affair. I have been a Chief of Staff to a governor before. I understand how government runs. A leader must have the vision and must have passion. Then he must be the kind of person that is not easily intimidated by superior argument. You are not going to find in one president, an architect, an economist, a human rights expert. No. But you can find in one government, experts in all these. Then it’s now for the political party to ensure that round pegs are put in round holes, it’s now for the president to ensure that he is able to coordinate and manage the huge resources available to him. The people who made this road map are going to be integral part of our government. We would tell them, you told us that we can build one million houses in four years, now they have to show us how to do it; all the things they said is possible, they will be part of the process to implement them. So, we have no doubt that in our people; we have the competence, the character and the capacity, I substitute character here, for political will.


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on Mar 23 2014. Filed under AFRICA, ANNOUNCEMENT, NEWS, News Across Nigeria, Oranmiyan Social Diary, OSUN DEFENDER LAW, Osun News, POLITICS, South West News.
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