2023 Not Realistic Until FG Tackles Injustice, Corruption – Onovo – thewillnigeria

December 06, (THEWILL) – The Presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) in 2015, Chief Martin Onovo, speaks on the Federal Government’s decision to remove the subsidy on petrol, the 2023 general election and other issues in this interview with AYO ESAN. Excerpts:
The Federal Government has said it will remove the subsidy on petrol in 2022. It also promised to give out N5,000 per person to 40 million poor Nigerians. What is your opinion on this decision?
We know what is right. Our Constitution requires ‘Self-Reliance’, but the ruling party prefers incompetence, corruption and dependency. What is right has been agreed to by NLC, MFC, PENGASSAN, NUPENG, TUC, ASUU, etc. Domestic refining is the answer not importation of petroleum products. Even the ruling party All Progressives Congresses had deceitfully included domestic refining in its manifesto. So what is right is clear.
We cannot abandon national capital investments in the refineries and continue with expensive and wasteful importation. We have concluded several years ago that the ruling party is deliberately deceitful and destructive. Also, the level of incompetence, deceit and corruption in the Muhammadu Buhari administration is unprecedented. This same administration confirmed that it had removed the subsidy previously. How is it that it continues to remove this subsidy repeatedly? The regime in its incompetence does not understand the macro-economic instability, waste and disruption associated with deregulating imported petroleum products. It is clearly contradictory to import petroleum products that we can very easily produce from our crude oil and our refineries. The ruling party in its manifesto deceived Nigerians that it will repair the refineries and build new ones. It has failed to do this, even after six years, because it was deliberately deceitful. The destruction of Nigeria will continue until the ruling party is removed from power.

The National Assembly has adopted electronic voting and transmission of election results, as well as the direct primary in the Electoral Amendment Bill currently being tabled before the President. What is your take on this?
We support electronic transmission of results from the polling units. This will check fraud at collation centres. We do not support the imposition of direct primaries on political parties because it is more expensive and less transparent. It is more difficult and almost impossible for INEC to supervise them. It can be very easily manipulated as we saw in the Anambra State APC governorship primaries.
Will the lesser political parties be able to finance direct primaries?
All political parties are equal. We do not agree that there are “lesser” parties. Do you mean parties that do not hold major offices? Definitely all the parties are able to finance direct primaries, but they may have to sacrifice electoral integrity and transparency, which then defeats the democratic standard. If we agree that corruption is a cancer and that it is endemic, then, we must mitigate corruption decisively. To mitigate corruption, we must understand the principal drivers and do everything to eliminate or mitigate these drivers. The cost of campaigns and the use of slush funds are some of the confirmed principal drivers of corruption in political office. Therefore, it is wise to mitigate the cost of campaigns and also enforce campaign finance limits.
Direct primaries are more expensive. Indirect primary is the prevailing practice at present and we have been used to that since 1999. They are also less expensive, less complex and easy to monitor. It is much easier to prevent the manipulation of indirect primaries. Indirect primaries are more representative of the democratic composition of a particular political party. Direct primaries are very easy to manipulate, as witnessed during the APC governorship primary election in Anambra State. Our position is that parties should be allowed to independently decide the mode of primary elections that they prefer.
What is your reaction to the issue of zoning of political offices generally? Which part of the country should produce the next president?
Zoning of political offices is a universal democratic standard because democracy requires representation and inclusion. In all the parts of Nigeria and at all levels, zoning is practised widely from sub-ward level to the national level. The Nigerian Constitution provides for federal character, which requires all parts of the country to be represented. Also, in 1999, the presidency was zoned to the South-West. Zoning is excellent because it ensures representation, promotes unity and mitigates domination. If you look at all Nigerian ‘Heads of Government’ since 1st October, 1960 and analyse their tenures in office, you will know that the North-West alone has dominated power for about 35 per cent of the time, followed by the North-Central and that the South-East has had only six months (less than 1 per cent of the time).
So, the South-East must produce the next president. Otherwise, it will become obvious that the South-East is unfairly excluded from the presidency. This is a matter of national cohesion, democracy, unity and justice. Afenifere has already said that the South-East should produce the next president. Prof Sheriff Folarin has also said it and the Archbishop of Lagos, His Grace, Most Rev. Adewale-Martins has advised the same publicly. The South-East should produce the next president.
Insecurity has posed a serious challenge to this country for some time now. How do we overcome it?
It is very simple. The ruling All Progressives Congress is the direct sponsor of insecurity in Nigeria. Every ethical and informed Nigerian knows this. Foreigners know this. It is not a secret. To improve the security situation, we must apply the ‘Terrorism Prohibition Act’ and investigate and prosecute the leaders of the ruling party that are sponsoring terrorism in Nigeria. Before we can do that, we must constitutionally remove the ruling party from office.
The governors of the southern states and their counterparts in the North are at loggerheads over which region should produce the next president. How do you see this development?
The governors of the southern states are clearly right. The state governors in the North should stop seeing themselves as internal neo-colonial masters. The North has unjustly dominated political leadership in Nigeria for so long.
What is your position on the controversy surrounding the collection of Value Added Tax?
We must allow the courts to finally confirm the position of the law. My personal understanding of the law is that VAT is a state tax as determined by the High Court.
Former military president, Gen Ibrahim Babangida (retd.) has suggested that the next president should be less than 70 years of age. Do you agree with him?
IBB is clearly experienced and in the right direction, but we think that the next president should be less than 62 years of age so that if he spends two terms in office, he will still be less than 70 years of age.
Some southern states recently made laws that forbid open grazing. What is your take on this?
Excellent. We need food, including animal protein, but the dead do not eat. Only the living can eat. If the availability of beef will lead to genocide, we can avoid beef or even become vegetarians. Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State and  many other northern leaders have agreed that open-grazing must stop. All states must prohibit open grazing. The largest producers of beef worldwide use ranches. Ranching will improve security and productivity in Nigeria.
How do you assess the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission and the security agencies during the Anambra State governorship election?
We must remember that the Anambra State governorship election was off-cycle. So, it cannot be compared with a general election. We also know that the stakes are higher with presidential elections. So, we cautiously rate the Independent National Electoral Commission better after the Anambra governorship election than we rated them in the 2015 and 2019 charade elections. We pray that they learn the lessons and extend the improvement to the general elections.
What is your advice to Nigerians as we move closer to the 2023 general election?
Only the survivors can get to 2023. We should focus on the immediate existential threats facing our people at the moment. The 2023 general election can only be realistic when the issues of insecurity, injustice, corruption and domination are resolved. We must restructure Nigeria now.