Advertisement

INTERVIEW: Greed the major factor in Wike, Fubara rift, says Tunji Shelle

Tunji Shelle, a retired Navy captain, is a former state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos state. In this interview with TheCable’s TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, Shelle spoke on President Bola Tinubu’s one year in office, the rift between Nyesom Wike, FCT minister, and Siminalayi Fubara, Rivers governor, and other national issues.


TheCable: On May 29, President Bola Tinubu will mark one year in office. What is your assessment of his performance so far?

Shelle: The promises he made to Nigerians during the election have not been fulfilled. Only his friends and family members are benefiting from his stay in office. He carries an air of arrogance, which makes him believe that he can do anything and get away with it. He promised renewed hope, but Nigerians are currently in a state of despair. Only gullible Nigerians will continue to see him as a man of hope.

I can’t really see any hope that he has given to Nigerians in his one year in office. Is it the hope of fuel subsidy removal, a hike in electricity tariffs, hunger, or multiple taxes and levies? Almost every Nigerian, including APC members who voted for him, has lost hope. They are just trusting God for a miracle. I believe that miracles can’t happen when you have a non-performer in charge of the affairs of the country. You can’t build something on nothing and expect it to stand. It will come crashing down. At times, I look at him and I wonder if the man has advisers who are giving him genuine advice on the state of affairs of the nation.

ADVERTISEMENT
Advertisement

However, I have realised that his advisers are just figureheads who have no advice to give. All they are concerned about is how to survive. They are just there to get whatever they want to get out of the government and go. He (Tinubu) has mesmerised all of them. Virtually nothing has changed since this government came on board; rather, things keep getting worse.

Look at the oil industry. For example, they announced that petrol subsidy has been removed, but we have heard that they are still paying it through the backdoor. Nigerians have been forced to pay more for fuel since he became president, even though fuel is not available to buy. I am sure you are aware that, currently, there is fuel scarcity in all parts of the country. There is no electricity, and people can’t even get fuel to power their generators in this scorching heat. It has never been this bad. No government has ever been criticised like this one. Even the government of Sani Abacha was not this criticised because, despite being a military government, certain things were done rightly.

But what do we have now? As we are complaining of one hardship, he is imposing another, just like the 0.5 percent levy on every transaction. So, the last year of this administration has been a disastrous one. We are only trusting God that things will get better in the coming days. I don’t want to say that I have lost hope in Nigeria, but I don’t know where to start again.

Advertisement

TheCable: Do you think the national assembly has fared any better?

Shelle: The national assembly is supposed to be the representative and mouthpiece of the people, but they are far worse. Rather than defend and protect the interests of Nigerians, they are compromising us. In fact, they are the chief architects of our woes as a country.

As an independent arm of government, they are supposed to check the excesses of the executive arm of government and call them to order, but they are just silent and acting like a rubber stamp. All they do is amass money and go on a long recess. Look at the exchange rate going up. It is alleged that they share money and change it into foreign currency. Rather than put heads together to offer solutions to the myriad challenges, their focus now is on the next election. Believe me, they are already preparing for the next election. If I have to pour out all that is in my mind, it will seem like I hate them. I don’t hate anybody, but I hate injustice and those who cheat others.

TheCable: There have been controversies over the construction of a coastal road, which has led to the demolition of some properties and businesses in Lagos. Do you think that may deter potential investors from coming to the country? 

Advertisement

Shelle: To me, it is just a misplaced priority. How can you just wake up and say you are building coastal roads and they are starting from the Atlantic area in Lagos? What about all the inner roads that are in bad condition? All the roads that the farmers will use to bring farm produce to the people have been abandoned, yet they are opening new ones and spending a huge amount of money, N2.8 trillion to construct them.

I am in the US right now; I have been looking for any road that is untarred, but I’m yet to see one. Rather than allow the existing roads to go bad, they will be upgrading and improving their condition. We need to know, at what cost is this project being executed? Who is paying? Initially, they said the contractor would finance the project; now they are using government money. If care is not taken, the project will be abandoned midway. The government should be sensitive to the plight of Nigerians, and they should learn to give priority to important things.

TheCable: You once granted an interview where you said Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lagos governor, does not deserve a second term based on his performance. Are you still holding on to that view, and how will you assess his performance in the last year?

Shelle: Well, now that democracy is a free-for-all affair, judging any governor’s performance is very difficult. The only governor that I have seen who is working and taking care of his people is the governor of Borno state. He is confronted with many security challenges, yet, he doesn’t allow that to weigh him down or negatively affect his performance as governor.

Advertisement

In Lagos, it is neither here nor there because the state is blessed. I have lost track of taking account of what is being done in Lagos state. When I was in office as PDP chairman in the state, I was able to do a lot of assessments on the revenues generated, the projects being executed, and the amount. Today, a lot of flyovers are in Lagos, such as Yaba, Ikorodu, Agege and so on. The basic thing that I expect the governor to do is ensure that the transportation system is taken care of and that healthcare is adequately provided.

Also, I expect them to properly fund education, but I don’t see much happening in that area. Also, there are many bad roads in the state, while the ferry service, which could have helped reduce traffic congestion, is not functional. These are my observations. Because I am always outside the state, I cannot conveniently assess the performance of the governor.

Advertisement

TheCable: The PDP recorded its best performance in Lagos when you won eight seats in the state house of assembly and you gave the APC a good fight in the governorship election. Later, all the lawmakers defected to the APC. How did you feel when that happened?

Shelle: As of today, I don’t see any difference between all the political parties in the country. All of them have lost focus. Everybody is just looking for where to fulfill their personal ambitions and selfish desires. People do things with impunity now and get away with it. Rather than focusing on service, everybody wants to occupy one position or the other. Everybody wants to be chairman at the national or state level.

Advertisement

When I was chairman, I prayed that by the time I would leave office, whoever was going to take over from me would do better and increase the number of seats we won, rather than going there to use the position of state chairman to contest for the position of governor. That is the bane of our problem in the Lagos PDP. They didn’t want to make any sacrifice. Once they become chairman, they start looking for avenues to contest for governor instead of making sacrifices to grow the party membership.

An average politician is a deceitful person. I don’t think they mean well for the people whom they claim they represent. They don’t want to render services to the people. All they want is to make money. Even the people you are making sacrifices for are betraying you. They tell lies against you. I went as far as Oshodi LGA. They wanted to rob PDP of one house of reps seat. I went from Lekki to that place and thwarted their plans. We were leading, but they tried to manipulate the process. They had loaded the ballot boxes, but I went to the place and stopped the excesses of the APC. The PDP won the election. But what did the winner do? He never returned to the party secretariat to help the party win more seats in future elections. Instead, he was taking money to the national secretariat so that he could retain his seat.

Advertisement

I was so disappointed in all those who won elections under the Lagos PDP when I was in office. I thought they would help build on the achievements of that time; but unfortunately, most of them were protecting their interests to come back for a second or third term. One of them even said at a meeting that the position is so sweet that he feels like remaining there forever. I expected them to survive the party so that we could be well-equipped to win more seats and even the governorship. Rather than do that, some of them defected to the APC immediately. Those who didn’t defect stayed back and started funding their re-election. Some were lucky to have gotten a second term ticket. But where are they today? They have all lost out, and now they are regretting their actions. We told them that APC has nothing to offer them but to use and dump them. They refused and defected. Now, they have been left in the lurch, used, dumped, and weather-beaten. I believe I have been vindicated. I am now proud of the way politics is being practiced in Nigeria because most politicians are not concerned about rendering services to the people who elected them.

TheCable: How do you think the crisis between governors and their predecessors can be resolved, especially the latest one between Nyesom Wike, former Rivers state governor, and Siminalayi Fubara, his successor?

Shelle: Wike and Fubara are supposed to be good brothers, joining hands together for the betterment of Rivers state. Only God knows what could have transpired between them that they are now fighting each other, and it is getting very embarrassing. I think I will blame the crisis on godfatherism and greed. I believe that greed is behind everything that is happening in Rivers state. There is mistrust, abuse of power, and a lack of fear of God.

One will expect that if someone has been a governor, when you sponsor somebody to take over from you, that person must take orders from you on how he wants to pilot the affairs of the state. Fubara served under Wike as the accountant-general, and they worked together. Wike must have studied him very carefully and come to the conclusion that he is a good man. You cannot endorse your enemy and campaign for him to succeed you as governor.

In the first place, I believe godfatherism is one of the factors undermining our democracy in Nigeria. I believe you don’t have to sponsor somebody to become governor. Give everyone a level playing field and let the best man emerge. Wike didn’t do that. He openly said that he bought forms for all the local government chairmen, house of assembly candidates, house of reps candidates, senatorial candidates, and even the governorship candidate. By so doing, he wanted to dictate and be in control of all the affairs of government in the state even while he was out of office. That doesn’t make sense because democracy can’t thrive in that kind of situation. He even chose all the commissioners for Fubara who watched him do all manner of unethical things. Now, he is fighting back.

I don’t know whether they signed any agreement that he (Fubara) should be giving Wike a certain amount of money. But I think that may be the reason for the rift. Having sponsored him with state money to become governor, he now wants payback. That is unacceptable. The situation right now is that Wike’s attempt to lord it over Fubara has backfired, and it has become an embarrassing situation. What is happening in Rivers is not helping the PDP as a party; it is not good for our democracy either. I believe that we should all do our best to put an end to godfatherism in Nigeria. The moment we do that, our democracy will be strengthened. We must ensure nobody sponsors another person with government funds. If we continue to allow that, another person will still do it, and the pattern will continue.

Many governors have suffered this fate before. Because their predecessors put them in office, they want to collect regular income on a monthly basis. How will the state grow if virtually all the resources are going to one man? How will the salaries of workers be paid? It is the masses and citizens of the state that will suffer at the end of the day.

TheCable: Opinions are currently divided on the PDP lawmakers who defected to the APC in Rivers state. What is your take on this?

Shelle: The house of assembly members were directed by their boss to defect from the PDP, and they obeyed. The law says that they have lost their seats, but everybody is keeping quiet. INEC is supposed to play a role in this. I also expect the PDP as a party to take these lawmakers to court because there is nothing to show that there is division in the party at the national level. They thought the division they are causing in Rivers state is enough to say that there is division in the party, but that is wrong.

INEC and the judiciary should step in and uphold the constitution of Nigeria. But because the APC is the ruling party and they are the beneficiaries of the defections, they will allow the lawmakers to continue with this irresponsible act. What I will advise the PDP to do is take the lawmakers to court if they have not done so. Otherwise, if the law is to take its course, those people must have lost their seats by now.

Add a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected from copying.