‘PDP not providing virile opposition’
Since the defeat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last general elections, the former is expected to keep the ruling party on its toes. In this interview, social critic, Tersoo Akula, a monitoring, evaluation and budget analysis specialist, knocks the PDP for failing to provide credible opposition. He also speaks on the performance of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State amongst other issues. Excerpts:
You were vocal during the campaigns. Now that the elections have long been won and lost, how will you assess the President Muhammadu Buhari led APC government viz; rule of law and fight against corruption?
The president is doing what he should do. For now he seems very conscious and deliberate about his actions in regards to the fight against corruption. He has also tried to let the law guide him. Where he has not, I like to believe it is more of an oversight than deliberate. The fight against corruption will always have to be done in the court. It is only the courts that can pronounce a man guilty no matter the overwhelming and damning evidence against them. The president seems to me to be gathering this evidence.
This fight will be long, bitter and challenging but the nation will win. Already, he has hinted that looters are refunding stolen funds, while this is commendable; I still believe he will not shield anyone from prosecution. The fight for corruption itself has to abide by the laws of the land, so anyone won’t accuse him of abusing human rights or been corrupt. It is s a complex situation.
It is a general belief that for any government to succeed there must be a virile and vibrant opposition to keep it on its toes.
By your observation of political developments so far, would you say the opposition PDP has the capacity to provide Nigeria and Benue the required opposition?
The PDP has not provided any form of vibrant opposition to the ruling party both at the Benue State and the national levels. These days, an effective opposition should be based on facts and figures than propaganda. Nigerians now have access to information therefore propaganda will not stand the test of time.
However, pointing the loopholes in the implementation of policies and programmes, providing alternative viewpoints, countering information with facts and evidence, are the principles of sound and virile and vibrant opposition. So far we have seen empty propaganda, baseless accusations, weak criticism of government approaches and policies or as well as weak analysis of the general philosophy of the present government especially in Benue. The PDP has failed in this regard. Generally, there is a weak capacity to breakdown government policies and programmes and point out the weakness of its main thrust. Unless we develop that capacity, we will not have a virile and vibrant opposition.
Sir, you were known to be vocal in criticising the regime of the past administration. You are also believed to have worked hard to enthrone change in Benue state. Now that the change is here, how will you assess the present government led by Samuel Ortom so far?
From my point of view as a common man, nothing has changed in Benue. The common man is not interested in whether the development blue print “Our Collective Vision” is being reviewed, he is not concerned about how you bring in development, bureaucratic bottles necks that prevent development, or the politics of low allocation. He voted for change that is what he expects but has not seen it yet.
He still does not have access to safe drinking water, the health care system is still in comatose, the schools are still what they were: weak teacher capacity and poor infrastructure, he has not seen the good roads, he has not yet seen improvement in the agriculture sector, where he earns his income, Trade and commerce have not seen significant boost, his children are still unemployed. So after six months, I will rate this administration poor. To verify my score on the performance of this administration, go to the street and conduct a survey, see what the common man thinks of this administration based on the criteria I have outlined above.
It is not enough to have good intentions; it is translating these intentions to concrete benefits that is the bottom line. Unless and until people begin to see these benefits, they will score this administration very low and in case you have not noticed, the Ortom’s administration is fast loosing popularity, I dare say soon credibility, because the people that voted him are restless. The same translates into the local governments. Nothing is happening; there is virtually no difference from what was obtained.
Nothing has changed or improved, in my local government, Kwande it is worst, the streets are unkempt, poorly lit, overgrown with grass, no waste evacuation plan, the local government administration has failed in its basic responsibilities. I am pained that there is no urgency to make things different. It’s business as usual. It’s an unfortunate situation. I weep for Benue.
You speak of many things here. Don’t you think the time is too short for… (cuts in)
You talk of time when you see some hope or developmental plans or moves. Have you seen any? Our people say a good dance is detected right from the first dance steps. Have you seen any from the way this administration started?
Shortly after taking over power, Governor Ortom dissolved almost all heads of parastatals and boards. Strangely, statutory board too, were not spared. We heard that already some persons have gone to court to challenge this.
Can you say this decision of the governor was in line with the law?
If no, how would one believe that the government is anchored on the rule of law as always recited by the governor himself?
The rule of law is a very difficult and abused concept in climes like ours. The beauty of democracy is that anyone can challenge the government in court for the breach of their fundamental human rights. I have already perceived many unlawful actions by this government headed by Ortom. But the good thing is that more people are now aware that they can approach the court for retribution and the interpretation of the law. But more than that, government needs to consult more before taking certain decisions.
A worrisome issue in Benue at the moment seems to be the habit of borrowing by the present regime. What is your take on this?
While all governments borrow, it is worrying that our government has no alternatives to borrowing. What are they even doing with the money? Increasingly we are seeing a government that is more concerned about taking care of itself than those who elected it. Please let us know the number of people that have so far benefited directly from this borrowing and the allocations they have received since May 29. Let us do a cost benefit analysis. Payment of salary is not an achievement, you don’t need special skills to do that, all you need is sign a check. The fact that the last administration failed to do so in the last few months before its exit doesn’t mean it was always so.
I said it before, the common man has not benefited from this government and the justification for why this is so is simply suspect and not good enough. The government needs to get creative and innovative sound minds of Benue origin to help it succeed in fund raising, but we have not seen the willingness to tap into this potential.
Majority of the people in this government are people who are already set in their ways who can’t think outside the box and are not innovative or even willing to do things differently.
Take a look at the huge potential that the CSOs/NGOs have to attract development, what is the framework or template for their involvement in this administration? Am not talking about a proposal, 6 months down the road?
I believe the change agenda for Benue has been hijacked by some people who are feeding fat on Governor Ortom’s humane disposition and desire to bring development to Benue. Change in Benue has been held hostage by certain people who have clandestine motives and are using their professional competency and proximity to him to lead him off track.
Let me say this before I forget. Governor Ortom needs a more innovative inner team, always willing to tell him the truth no matter how ugly it is.
He needs people with the competence to assess his performance, polarity and give him feedback. No matter the intra party arrangements that produced him as a gubernatorial aspirant it is we the people that voted for him as the governor, he should know where his real loyalty lies.
No pact, arrangement or agreement supersedes the one he has with us the people. And we the people are already dissatisfied and restless, he doesn’t have much time, we don’t want have excuses, we want development and anything short of that is totally and completely unacceptable. The people are willing more than ever to move on especially now that the electoral process has some credibility: he should be careful and change strategies or else what he has gained from can also hurt him. Power belongs to the people, and the people are waking up to this realization.