Alhaji Tafida Isa Mafindi, the Yeriman Muri, was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees (BoT) as well as a member of the campaign organisation of former President Jonathan in the last general elections.
In this interview , Mafindi explains why he dumped the PDP immediately after the presidential election in March, President Muhammed Buhari’s fight against corruption and the ministerial nominees, among other issues.
Are you still a PDP member?
No. I left the party immediately after the presidential election. I left the party because I was involved. I saw how they bastardized the party. I saw how they used hypocrisy to derail what we put forward as a party’s program and campaign.
Virtually all the leaders of the party were hypocritical. What they were advocating was that we should vote
PDP from the state House of Assembly to the House of Representatives and Senate; then, for presidency, vote APC.
Who were these people?
I am talking about highly placed people in the party. There was nothing hidden there. But for me, whatever I do, I do it out of interest, not because I derive material benefits from it. I am a professional accountant. I have a farm which I am running. I have a processing factory where the best meat in Africa is processed. So there is no reason for me to see where change is being given attention and I will continue with somebody who is not sure of who he is supporting. Is he supporting the common man or his President or his party? Everything was in disarray in the PDP. I saw how people were spending money as if we have the oil wealth of Saudi Arabia and Brunei put together.
So why did you wait until after the presidential election before leaving the PDP? And, are you now in APC?
As for my staying till after the presidential election, let us leave that and move on. But I am a member of the APC now. I am supporting the APC in Taraba to move the state forward.
What is your assessment of the APC government so far?
The party is going to fulfill its promises to Nigerians as it has all it takes to do things properly. It has a President that is honest, has focus and the followership that is ready to give the government the patience needed for the adjustment and change it wants to provide. You have seen how President Buhari took his time to select the best brains in terms of advisers, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, in terms of pursuing the Boko Haram insurgency, in terms of selecting ministerial nominees. Japanese people say good products come from good thinking.
But many Nigerians are talking about the re-cycling of some of the ministerial nominees?
It is not a matter of recycling. The problem is the Nigerian factor. Some people are comfortable criticising those in authority without providing alternative. The President took his time to study every ministry during the waiting period and brought out a blue print of how things will run properly. At the same time, he was scouting for the people to head the ministries.
There is the claim that government is selective in the fight against corruption as many PDP members are the targets of the anti-graft campaign.
seen to be interrogated If somebody is being investigated in Nigeria, he is a free and innocent man until the matter is taken to court and a verdict indicts the person. So, the question of some people saying the President is selective in the fight against corruption is neither here nor there. It is not something I expected from Nigerians who saw what happened from 1999 to this year under the PDP which I was part of .There is nothing people can say now that has not been said before and people are very good at arm chair criticism, and given the opportunity, they will do worse things. PMB has started doing his job as expected of him. For the Niger Delta, he gave the headship of the Amnesty Program to General Boro; for INEC, he appointed Prof. Yakuq, who is a tested person and for the Immigration, he appointed a North Central person from Nassarawa. For the NNPC, he appointed Kachikwu, a director in an international oil company based in America, now a ministerial nominee. So, people who thought Buhari will go to the Onitsha market to pick cobblers as ministers so that their brothers will bring applications and tenders to win contracts, whether there is fund or not, are the ones criticizing. Those who think he will bring palm wine tappers to the cabinet and not tested people like Fayemi and Fashola are those making noise. If Fashola is given any ministry to head today, will he not perform based on what he did in Lagos? We should not cut our noise to spite our face; let us hold our breathe and allow this government to gather steam. Already, a Single Treasury Account (TSA) has taken effect. Though there was semblance of that in capital expenditure, today the revenue is part of it.
And now, TSA is not only a matter for the ministries, it is also for all parastatals like where I worked before I retired, the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA). At the NPA, we spent 80% of our revenue on things that, if we talk about them, people will laugh. There are more fire equipment and shoes as well as clothes that can cover the whole of Nigeria at the NPA’ stores. People kept ordering, because the money was there to pay, whether there was need for them or not.
There are some things purchased that we can line up from Badagry to Calabar and if there is a new management, they will order for new ones. It got to a level that the NPA did not know what to do with money that they started creating subsidiaries. They created channel management in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Calabar, even when the subsidiaries were just to spend money. When we say the port is concessioned, it is not right. There is no port that is concessioned, That is the situation with the parastatals. Now, the revenue generated will go directly to the TSA and let me see the MD that can come to the Ministry of Finance to say he wants $35 million to pay for the dredging of the Calabar channel. And after one year, we won’t have vessels of $20million berthing there to discharge cargo. So let see who will say the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, will be spending 80
or 90% of its revenue on giving contracts to people to secure open sea that there is no need to secure. We have forgotten that NIMASA was made to handle cabotage so that Nigerians can own new vessels; and Nigeria does not have a single ship.
So for government to be criticized, one has to look at the antecedents. What has this government inherited? The rot, can you tell me the power we are generating today is why we spent all the billions from 1999 to date. Just generating 5,000 megawatts?
If Mabilla hydro had been constructed, it can produce twice of those megawatts. Can we say the small power generating stations we created are still producing? Why did we decide not to use solar for areas where we have sun shining for 18 hours a day? What about agriculture? Can we say Nigeria is represented in agric when we cannot produce meat? We are still slaughtering our cattle in a dirty environment. We drag cows as if we are dragging logs of wood to the shredding machines. Is that how we are going to produce our meat to compete in the world? What of rivers Niger and Benue? Can they produce enough fish for the people without us buying a single kilo from outside?
In the last regime, we saw a young man in the Ministry of Agriculture that came up with good dreams like cassava bread, processing zones, crops processing units, value added chains , but, at the end of the day, none of the bills he sent to the National Assembly saw the light of day. And as long as there is no Act of parliament, they are just verbal intentions; so we have to give this government the chance to redress all these anomalies. I believe by the time PMB has spent a year, Nigerians will see a President that will give food to every school child and will do more than they expected.
At the end of the day, those complaining today will be the ones lining the street dancing.
What expectations do you have from the ministerial nominees when they are assigned portfolios?
Let me talk about the agricultural sector where I am a stakeholder. I expect the minister to come up with a good program of creating farm lands first as the agric season is already over. You cannot start even dry season agriculture in November and December; besides all the equipment we are using in Nigeria today are obsolete. If this is the case, there is no way you can move agric forward. I expect the minister to start from land clearing and surveying to see what crop can grow , what sort of equipment is needed, because if agric is not mechanized, it is just a waste of time. Mechanization is the way to go and you can only do this if the farm land is available, because you cannot use private capital to clear land. You can not clear land privately to plant and get something back in terms of profit in three years. There has to be venture capital that will come in to clear farm land and be recoverable over a long period of time, so that the farmer will not be burdened with too much of interest on his productivity.
I am looking at a minister who will come with a deliberate policy to organize, standardize all the crops produced in Nigeria so that they can create a genuine market for the farmers to sell their products and get good values so that they re-invest against next season.
So that they will not allow middle men to buy the crops from the farmers when there is good harvest and make profit off the farmers and the middle men become richer while the farmers remain poor. I expect to see an agriculture minister that will encourage the youth to take to farming; I want to see young graduates from the various fields taking into agriculture as business. I want to see a minister of agric that will turn around the livestock sector, so that the hidden resources in our goats, ram, chicken, peacocks and cows can be exposed.
I expect to see a minister that can create an agricultural sector that is capable of paying 80% of the tax collected in Nigeria as 70% of Nigerians are farmers and if all the tax they generate can be harnessed, it will rebase our economy and the economy will change from eight trillion per annum to about 250 trillion per annum which we are capable of doing.
In Nigeria as of today, the only people paying tax correctly are the civil servants; all others are marginal and, if we are able to turn agriculture into a tax unit that can contribute effectively, Nigeria would have reached its destination.
Our expectation from the agric minister is to forget about the importation of rice to exportation of livestock, cassava chips, and rice. We need to harness our exportation strength in major crops. We need a minister that will network feeder roads for farmers to take their produce to the markets, just as we need a minister for agric that will provide storage facilities for all our perishable items and be able to standardized them at the airports for cargo to be taken to countries that we are having trade with. We will also be happy to have a minister of agriculture that will create a market for a well processed meat that will be sold in well preserved conditions.