Dr. Joseph Targema Orkar is the Deputy Chairman of All Progressives Congress in Benue State believes that the Muhammadu Buhari administration needs constructive criticism on the grounds that the rot in the system will take time to clean up. In this interview with HENRY IYORKASE in Makurdi, the elder brother of the late Major Gideon Orkar of the failed 1990 coup d’état fame also argues that those saying the government is slow were being economical with the truth. Excerpts:There have been claims in some quarters that the new regime is too slow paced in setting up a new government and promised implementing reforms in the country. What are your views on this?
I do not agree with those who feel that the President is slow. The President is steady, not slow. It is not a race that one has to run. Here, it is governance and you have to be able to provide what would make the people appreciate. I do not think Buhari is too slow; he only needs time. There are certain things he has to get to the root of before he will be able to act. If you will recall, before Buhari was sworn in, he was asking for certain information, which made the PDP government then to say that he is behaving as if there were two governments. Some of these things if he had been able to get the information on them he would be able to act on immediately he came in. But since he was unable to get, it is now that he is been able to get the correct information on which to act and that is what I see.
The administration is insisting on bringing people who are incorruptible that will form its cabinet, what calibre of personalities do you subscribe that should be appointed?
You have already said it; Buhari wants people that are incorruptible. I don’t think I should bring anything else to qualify people that will have to be appointed. He also wants to be sure that he doesn’t mess up. People have misbehaved so much that he has to take time not to go and pick the wrong people. Look at the case of the man who is appointed as Director of DSS and the Acting Chairman of INEC; you still find the PDP saying things against these appointments. Buhari did not even employ these people. The people were in the service and maybe employed by the PDP government and if they have only been made to occupy positions now within the same setup, nobody should be talking about it. But you find that they are learners in opposition politics so they say anything. I don’t think Buhari should be stampeded into making the appointments. He may have been contacting people privately and has already made up his mind. When the time comes, he will bring up the list and the government is still going on; there is nothing that is not happening. The most important thing is that the government that we have taken over from was corrupt; so corrupt that the revelations which are coming up are very serious and one would imagine how a government behaved the way it did, not minding what would happen, not minding the fate of the people that they are governing, packing money, looting and looting so much alone. That alone is an area that has to be looked into. Take the case of Benue State, our transition committee just gave a report and when you look at that report, you marvel why things should happen that way; packing money, withdrawing money not attached to any projects. So even looking at these things alone means a lot.
The opposition PDP is pointing accusation fingers at Mr. President for allegedly being one sided in his quest to probe the former government officials. How about members of the APC who served the same period with them? How do you reconcile this?
I do not understand what is meant by witch hunting here. If somebody discover that one looted government funds and is been investigated, does that means witch hunting? It does not mean witch hunting. So the allegation is rubbish. They have nothing to say, they have nothing to help Buhari to perform. They should be over looked. Buhari should go ahead and do what he is doing. If anybody is found wanting, that doesn’t mean witch hunting, accusations are made. I remember the other time the president was answering questions bothering on this witch hunting of a thing, if you are accused of having done anything what you would do is to clear your name, say ‘I have not done it’ not to talk about witch hunting; talk about the facts of what you are accused of. If you are not guilty say ‘I am not guilty, I have not done it’. And that is what happens even in the court of law where a charge is read against one and one would say not guilty. In the end, it would be proven that the man was guilty then he would turn round to be pleading for mercy forgetting that right from the way go he said he was not guilty. So that should not bother anybody. Let the judges come out with the verdict that the people have done nothing; it was witch hunting.
A few days ago, close associates of President Buhari, former governor of Rivers State Rotimi Amaechi and Fashola of Lagos State were alleged to have heavily looted their states. The accusation was made by the opposition and other offenses against these former governors. Do you think this portrays the APC in bad light?
If people made accusations, let them prove it. Buhari has said that there are no sacred cows. So if they are found to have done anything wrong, the law will take its course. That’s all.
You pointed at some mind boggling revelations of the state’s funds been looted. How would you suggest to the government on how to recover the looted funds?
I am a part of this government and I don’t usually like to say that I am advising the same government in the media. I am part of the government and if I have any word, I will go and talk to the governor. He should not hear about what my opinion is on the pages of newspapers. But he has already said it that those that looted, they will be called. Whether you are the governor, you will be called to come and explain. So nobody will be witch hunted or condemned without fair hearing.
How the situation does portend to the present administration?
Our problem is that so much looting is affecting us, whereas we should be going ahead from where we are coming, we have to look back, we have to settle debts. I know that government is a continuation but it shouldn’t be paying salary arrears and pension arrears. It should be some of the projects that have been executed and maybe, the government couldn’t pay genuinely and that is okay. But a government receives money from the federation account, it has to be ascertained what they do with that money and did not pay workers. Look at the case of a technical school where those people say they were owed five years. It is the height of patriotism for those staff to have remained teaching in that school. How can one explain that? So we will look into those things very well and as I said, instead of trying to move forward, we have to sort out the mess before we can move forward. I have always say that if you are given a house and the house is dirty, you clean the house before you live inside; you can’t live in that house with the mess. So we have to clear the mess that has been put in place by the past government before we will be able to do something new. When I say something new, it doesn’t necessarily mean having to put up new structures but moving forward. Some of the moribund companies will have to be re-opened and that means we are moving forward. The thing is that we have to pay back so much because of bad governance. We have inherited too much of a debt. You can’t say that a new government should not inherit debt but it should not be to this magnitude.
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