"Why Past Governors, Ministers Stole So Much" - James Bawa Magaji




James Bawa Magaji was deputy governor of Kaduna State under Dabo Lere from January 1992 to November 1993. He has remained active in politics and last year sought to be the governor of Kaduna State on the platform of the Labour Party. In this interview, Magaji explains why he joined the All Progressives Congress (APC) and talks about other issues affecting the polity.

Daily Trust: How will you assess the promises made by the APC before the elections vis-à-vis accomplishing them so far?

James Bawa Magaji: I have always told the president in person that I empathise with him because of the type of followership he has. Everybody supported him and everybody sees him as a miracle worker because things really got to a bad state and everybody saw Buhari coming in as the Messiah. The damage that has been done to this country is enormous and even a miracle worker will not fix this country in four years, let alone, one year. Between 2000 and 2010, crude oil price averaged about $120 a barrel. The revenue that should have come into this country definitely tripled more than what has accrued from independence up to 1999, but, there is nothing to show for it. Every person that was governor or minister from 1999 to 2015 just helped themselves.
These people sat without fear or shame and shared the resources of this country. The era of PDP was just like people who won battle over an area and were so desperate over the spoils. They shared everything and did nothing. They didn’t generate power and you could see that they were outright thieves. For instance, for power supply, we did privatisation - ideally, commonsense in privatisation tells that you are supposed to sell what you have to get the capital for other things. Where are the proceeds of all the privatisation? We privatised almost everything, we gave away all our patrilineal inheritances; even if we didn’t sell crude oil at all from 2016-2023, we shouldn’t be where we are today.

DT: How do you explain the fact that the fight against corruption is tilted towards opposition party members?

Magaji: I do not only support the war against corruption, I am eager to see it win. In fact, they are not fighting it as hard as I wish. People are dying in the hospitals because others are diverting money; people are dying on the roads because there are no good roads and the money for constructing new ones have been diverted. Is it not the people’s rights that have been trampled upon? And why are processes of conviction taking too long? I thought that within a month or so, you would have tried and convicted people. I mean, people should be in prison. My only anger with government is that nobody is in prison yet. People have to be in prison because we don’t have to continue talking and talking, we must walk the talk. For people to be convinced that we are fighting corruption, people have to see practically that there are people in jail. But today, if EFCC invites accused persons, they go with siren. This is becoming disgusting and embarrassing. Of course, the fight has to be one-sided because they (PDP) were the ones in government.
I wish the government will get more aggressive in its fight against corruption. I score Buhari 100 percent in his one year because Nigerians voted for him to come and fight corruption which held us back. Once we have a government that can have the will to fight corruption and set standards, successive governments will build on that and Nigeria will be great. Just as former President Olusegun Obasanjo was bold enough and pushed the military back from politics, can’t you see that our democracy is growing? So, if Buhari can fight corruption, make examples with those that have looted, confiscate their loots and return it to the national coffers and jail the perpetrators, that will put fear in people and Nigeria will be better.

During General Murtala Mohammed’s regime, there was no corruption because everybody was afraid, the government was transparent and they were intolerant of corruption. Murtala within six months did what others did for many years. He charted the course for Nigeria, set a foundation and liberated the whole of African continent. Everything worked within six months. So, this is what is expected of President Buhari.

DT: Do you think the names of looters should be published?

Magaji: This law they talk about surprises me sometimes. What is the implication of publishing the name of a looter who refunds his/her loot? Law is logic. We have all read law in the course of our studies. Even if we didn’t read it as a major course, we might have read it as an auxiliary course. I expected that the names of the people who returned money be published. The only way you can fight corruption is by exposing the corrupt ones.

DT: Calls for the restructuring of Nigeria have suddenly resurfaced. What is your take on this?

Magaji: Some people just say restructuring because they hear others talk about it. I don’t ingest or take opinions of any book. I read books of the greatest economists, sociologists, and historians among others and I also interpret and place their opinions on my own perception. But some politicians, once they hear restructuring, they also say they want restructuring because they want popularity. What do they mean by restructuring? Restructure what? Have you ever seen someone going forth and back? We were regions before and it didn’t prove effective because there were a lot of marginalisation. When we were under the North-east, when we had the whole Northern Nigeria, if we had remained like that, would Atiku Abubakar have grown into what he is today? The centralisation of everything took care of smaller tribes and of course we can see the advantages in expanding and giving identity to people by the number of states that were created.
Are they trying to say that we should go back to the regions or what? I don’t know what restructuring they are talking about. Then, the talk about fiscal federalism; I agree on fiscal federalism to the extent that every state or people should go and work hard and produce something. People should not sit down, for instance, and lazily say that they have gold, so they want federalism so that they can own the gold there. What these people are looking for is war. To say that we should leave the resources of Nigeria for them, please they should prepare for war. The restructuring they are asking for is federalism that everybody should own what is in their area and that is not federalism. Our federalism is a perfect one, our fiscal federalism is a perfect one. These unpatriotic elements are not talking of federalism, but, they are campaigning for confederation, which as you know, is a gateway to balkanisation. I think Nigeria is already doing enough by paying special derivative money to states where oil is produced. Besides, government has been very fair because this derivative principle should have applied to only oil that is exploited onshore because it causes one ecological problem or the other. And where the oil is drilled also causes destruction to farm lands among others. But, the oil that is taken from the ocean, the high sea far away, may be 200 nautical miles away, yet, government gives derivation on that. I do not think they deserve that but government still gives. On top of that, there is Ministry for Niger Delta where huge sums have been sunk into the Niger Delta region.

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