Professor Tam David West, former Minister of Petroleum is yet to overcome his joy over the electoral victory recorded by his long time friend and associate, President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari. In this interview, the erudite professor of virology and known for his ‘no hold back’ views on matters of national interests, speaks on what the Buhari Presidency portends for Nigerians and why every hand must be on deck to salvage Nigeria from the myriad of self-inflicted problems.
What came to your mind when Buhari was declared as President-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)?
As you are aware, this is not the first time General Muhammadu Buhari is contesting for the highest position in the country. He did that in 2003 and also in 2007. In 2007, he was robbed of victory and I remember very well writing an article articulating my position on the matter. The case went up to the Supreme Court where out of the seven Supreme Court justices; three gave the victory to Buhari. That is to show you how far the man has remained steadfast and determined in a cause he believes so much in. I am so glad that his emergence as President-elect has changed the whole political complexion of Nigeria. Politicians sometimes think that only money can ensure electoral victory, but the victory of Buhari at the poll has demonstrated that principles are also required in winning polls in Nigeria. I have not been tired in giving glory for the Almighty God for this victory and I congratulate Nigerians for this victory and believe that with this victory, the Nigerian electorate have opened up an opportunity to have a new dawn for change and retrieve this country from people who are determined to destroy it. Buhari’s emergence as President-elect has demonstrated that a good man with a patriotic cause can win election in Nigeria and that money is not the only consideration for election.
Buhari is set to be inaugurated as President on May 29, 2015. What priorities can you identify for the incoming government?
For someone who has contested for the Presidency four times, one should note that been someone who has been around for a while, he knows some of the issues confronting the Nigerian state. My advice is that he should not rely on the opinion of the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who said that the Nigerian economy is the biggest in the African continent. What benefit is a large economy to a nation that cannot feed its citizens? We have been told that the over N475 billion has been borrowed to pay salaries and overhead since January. The nation’s debt, both domestic and foreign, is put at N64 billion. The debt overhang has returned to us and there is need to revive the economy and rebuild confidence among the people. The incoming administration should note that it is starting on less than zero point. The task must be geared towards getting the economy out of the woods. The power sector that is comatose should be revived to bring life to dead industries and release the potentials of Nigerians for economic empowerment. The scarcity of fuel and accompanying high prices of petroleum products must be tackled. I am happy that the new government has promised to build new refineries and repair old ones. Employment opportunities should be created and that can only be achieved through an aggressive efforts aimed at resuscitating industries and promoting agriculture. The wave of insurgencies blowing across some states in the North-east and other states in the North must be combated. I know the incoming President is capable of tackling these problems and we should be patient with him to provide solutions to these crises.
How long do you think Nigerians should be patient with Buhari over his promise to deliver this country from its many problems?
The rot in this country is deep rooted and we cannot expect Buhari to tackle them within so short a time. This is democracy and consensus needs to be built among stakeholders. We have experienced a long night of crises that have crippled the process of national development. I believe that the incoming government has the capacity to take charge and deal with all issues that have bedeviled the nation. What I must state here is that we cannot be too simplistic in our expectation, just as we also believe that the President-elect will not take long to deal with the problems. Buhari knows the level of expectation of the people and he will spare no effort in addressing them once he assumed power on May 29.
You were recently quoted to have called for capital punishment for people engaged in sabotaging the economy and engaged in other corruption. What informed your opinion?
It is obvious that armed robbers who are engaged in violent stealing are made to face capital punishment. What difference is there between an armed robber and economic saboteurs whose action makes the nation loose billions of naira? What about a top government functionary who corruptly enriches himself through the public treasure? All these actions are similar, if not worse than that of the condemned armed robbers. I have no regret on the call for capital punishment for looters of our nation’s resources and others responsible for the corruption in government affairs. I believe that if we can be serious on tackling corruption in Nigeria, which Buhari has promised to do, the problems of the country will be solved speedily.
What advice do you have for Nigerians as they prepare to witness the inauguration of Buhari on May 29?
They should be fully hopeful that the change they so desire for the country is about to be realised. I am calling on Nigerians to be patient and believe that God who made the victory of Buhari to come to pass in March 28 poll is ever ready to assist the new government achieve its electoral promises. With Buhari’s election as President, the nation has commenced the journey in making the nation takes its rightful place in the comity of nation.