Joel Danlami Ikenya is a former senator who represented Taraba South in the 7th National Assembly. In this interview, Ikenya, who contested Taraba governorship in the 2015 elections, aligns himself with Governor Kashim Shettima’s position on restructuring, and commended the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari in the last two years. Excerpts:
What is your take on the current clamour in the country for restructuring?
Restructuring has always been on the lips of many Nigerians. There have been many versions on the issue of restructuring. But I must say I quite agree with the position of the Governor of Borno State on this matter. He was very bold to say that restructuring is not limited to physical attributes alone; there has to be restructuring of our minds and thinking. People are looking forward towards technology-driven economy and even technology driven democracy. Yet, others are sitting down and talking about resource control; restructuring is far beyond this. Some countries are better than Nigeria even though we have oil. Such countries are not merely relying on oil, but are making great impact.
Therefore, we should rather be thinking of how we can harness the resources we have by making sure that we think very well for our people, our country and work together as a people. Let us not be talking on the basis of regionalism -I am from the East, West and so on. A time will come in our history when you find out that the issue of North or South producing the president will no longer be there. We will be talking about our best brains.
Therefore, if we have people like Governor Shettima of Borno State talking about restructuring in terms of our minds and thinking it would be better for this country. I wish we have the governors backing him with such thinking so that this country can move forward in the right direction.
To me, there is a lot of restructuring already going on in the country. For instance, it was not everybody that had telephone. But today, almost everybody in the village owns one and this is part of restructuring. Remember that we used to have OMPADEC which has now been transformed to NNDC where billions of Naira is being pumped into for the benefit of the Niger Delta.
How would you rate the performance of the current administration in the face of criticisms that it has failed to bring about the change it promised?
For me, this government came in when crude oil was selling at less than 35 USD. Between 2010 and 2014, a barrel of crude oil was selling for over 100 USD. We are not like Zimbabwe that can print money (dollar). What the government did first was to put the economy back on its feet. Even the enemies of this government know that Mr President has tried in putting the economy back to its proper position now; we are out of recession.
You would also understand that it was during the past government that some states were unable to pay salaries. But the President made sure that whatever he was doing at the national level is reflected at the states. There were a lot of funds that were released to the states as bail-out.
Therefore, it is my candid opinion that this government has done much within the past two years in spite of limited resources. If there were enough resources, everybody would have felt more of the change they were expecting. To us in Taraba, we have to thank the Federal Government – even the ruling PDP in the state knows that the government has done well for the state.
We have the Kashimbilla Dam project that is on-going and the government did not stop it. And today, it is almost completed. Also, the Mambilla Hydro project which has always been a campaign slogan for previous governments. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo flew into that place from Abuja just to lay the foundation even when there was no design. I therefore, want to give kudos to this government of change.
The minister of Women Affairs, who is also from your state, ruffled political feathers when she openly declared support for former President Atiku Abubakar, who recently left your party back to the opposition PDP. What implication does this have for your party in Taraba State?
It was actually a tactical blunder from the minister and she is left with a moral burden. For her to have said what she said and still remain in government means the President has a good heart. But now that Atiku has left the party, the best thing for her to have done is to say “since my mentor has left, even if I am here, people will be seeing me as a spy; therefore, I will leave too”. That is the only way she can be properly upgraded. Today, as it is, I feel that the best thing for her is to follow her mentor to the PDP otherwise no one should trust her.