Senator Dalhatu Tafida, until now, was a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Former Director-General of Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation in 2011 and Nigeria’s immediate past High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (UK).
He recently granted an interview to Channelstv where he spoke on critical issues as it affects the country and why he dumped the PDP.
When people grow older especially people in your generation, they tend to become more pessimistic about the nation Nigeria. Do you find yourself in that situation?
Not at all, I have always been optimistic about my country. I believe that we will get over all these difficulties because we are not what we are today. I remember in those days as a student, Lagos was sparsely populated. There were few buildings there and in fact, Lagos is a big city or in fact a state now and everywhere is expanding. We are beginning to have many basic infrastructures even though many of them are decaying but at least, the government is aware that they need infrastructures. As soon as possible, many of these things will be brought about and some of them will be renovated and we will begin to smile. I am one of those who believe that Nigeria will be a great country.
Some people always say that we were a
great country and they wonder what is going on…
We want to be a great country. Even in America, if you go to America now, many of them will be despondent as to how America is, that America is not the dream of the founding fathers of America. The same way in Nigeria; many people will say so. But I believe those who say so are not being fair to themselves and to the country. We must be optimistic about what we have unless we don’t want it. I believe every Nigerian must belong to Nigeria, must help Nigeria of his dream and such we must be optimistic.
Many believe being optimistic calls for restructuring. Do you share that view?
I always hear about restructuring. What it means, I don’t know. Is it to break the country into bits and pieces? Or is it to go back yesteryear when we had three regions which later became four regions?
You were a very strong supporter of the Jonathan administration which held a national conference to find a consensus on how restructuring should be about…
I was not part of that conference. I was in the UK as an ambassador though I monitored the process. They didn’t plan to have what people actually wanted in that conference. The government wanted those few noisy people to say what the government has been saying. So, they picked state-by-state, selecting people who will go to that conference and speak the mind of what the government wanted.
But from the outcome of that conference, did it become clearer to you on what restructuring is all about?
To me, it is a negative way to think about the country. How do we go to a conference and be talking of breaking Nigeria into ethnic or tribal group? I don’t know. I don’t know what it means. I read all these things but I don’t know what restructuring means. We always hear these things from the Southwestern part of Nigeria but it has now become more or less the southern part. Now the Northerners are now beginning to talk of restructuring. Now when a Northerner speaks about restructuring, actually he means that he wants the country to break. That is the meaning to me. Anybody who speaks of restructuring wants the North and South to break up. For instance, we didn’t hear much about restructuring when Obasanjo was the president. Of course he had a conference but that conference was about what they want but President Jonathan did not execute it. He handed over the papers to the incumbent government to do it.
During Obasanjo’s time, there was a call for restructuring which led the conference. Don’t you think so?
That call is always there. But it is only a few that talks about restructuring. I am not a believer of breaking this country but if people believe that we must, then we could but I don’t think so.
Some people believe that this country needs to be structured because the owners of the resources that are the mainstay of the economy should be able to control their resources. Do you think that will enhance the country?
We have a similar structure in the US in terms of federation. What did they do with oil? Let’s find out what they do with the oil that they have. Is it meant for that particular region of the US or is it meant for the federation, which is the United States government? We should study all these things before talking about ownership and so on. Then we should also go back and study see how the country was run and with which resources. When you do that then we will be able to come out with something much better.
Sometimes this year, because of the loss of the PDP in the general election, you resigned your membership of the party. Quoting you, you said “I have decided to leave PDP, and I will not join another party. I left because there is no focus, if a market is over, a responsible man should go home. Now the market is over. It was good in the past, but now it is the worst, with impunity and confusion.
Why is that so?
It is not because of the loss of the election. That is what PDP is up to this moment. I didn’t make that statement too early because I have been away from the country for long and when I came back, I didn’t find the type of political party that I wanted. I found a party with impunity. Somebody with money is the one who runs the party. Somebody with political power is the one who runs the party. I don’t think we should run political parties like that. We run parties on interests. In fact, in countries like the United Kingdom, you inherit a party. Your father will be so-so, your son will be so-so, your grandson can be so-so. That is how it is.
Why do you think this has happened to the PDP?
This decay in PDP I believe is unfortunate. People were there but they didn’t know how PDP itself came about. They found themselves in office. They misused the opportunity and including lots of corrupt enrichment. Power means you must have money. They had both and impunity came, then everything went to pieces.
But are you serious when you said you are joining another party?
I have not joined any party but I’m still thinking if I will join another one.
So the chances are high that you could join another party soon?
I could join a new party but I am not in a hurry. As for joining the APC, I say not yet.
You once served as Senator. Recently former president, Olusegun Obasanjo lashed out at the NASS. Are you aware of that?
Those are very bad words. They are bad in the sense that he never used these words when he was there as president. But I don’t think these are correct words. Really, maybe things have gone worse than it was in our time. In our time, it is only in our third year as senators that we begin to have some special allowances. In our second term, we begin to have constituency allowances but not to execute projects. I heard that now they have money to work and execute projects.
As a former senator, what is your knowledge on budget padding?
The truth is that I have never heard or used the word budget padding. I want to know the meaning of budget padding as far as it is allegedly concerned. The truth is that the process of budgeting in the National Assembly is one of the problems encountered in budget. The real place where the budget is configured is at the Appropriation committee, whether in the House or the Senate. In our time, it is the House that does most of the work. If what people called padding is that the lawmakers add figures to the original figures brought by the president, which is not padding. Even in America, when the president sends a budget to congress, they alter figures because of their knowledge. Of course, in this case our National Assembly do not have a special body that will give them special information.
What is your view on constituency projects?
Constituency projects are something that also came because the governors think that members of the National Assembly were just benchwarmers and they don’t execute any projects. So, when a senator goes to his constituency, members of the public will expect to see what he has brought. A member of the National Assembly does not have the power or money to go and construct a dam, hospital and so on. But people expected them to do these things. That is the origin of constituency projects. People wanted something but not for the projects to be put in the budget that is going to their own constituencies. This project is not to be executed by them. It will be put in the budget but the executive will go and execute them.
But, do you think it is being abused now?
I think so. That is why people are crying about it. But in our time, nobody was ever given one naira to go and implement any project. On whether the present lawmakers are being given money for constituency projects, I don’t think so. Maybe you should go and investigate. We are not in antiquated era where we can’t know anything. We know everything and we can investigate.
You said when you arrived the UK as ambassador; the High Commissioner was indebted to the tune of about 3 trillion pounds. Is that correct? You also talked everything in a state of disrepair, staff morale being low and others.
A lot of Nigerians have not had pleasant experiences at with these embassies abroad…
Not during my time. Not during the seven, eightyears that I served in the United Kingdom. I changed everything.
You also talked about poor funding and you said you were able to get the funds you needed owing to your relationship with the National Assembly. Do you think the president’s threat to close some embassies is a right solution?
To a large extent, it is correct because it will be stupid for a country to open an embassies and then to have problems. Where is the money? If you don’t have the money, why should you open an embassy? You send an ambassador there and he doesn’t have the money to even pay his salary or the salaries of people working for him? You need to make sure you have the money because in abroad, you have to pay for electricity, water, gas and so on as at when due. It is not like this country where the agencies can say don’t worry, pay it when you have the money. Over there, you can be ridiculed. So, if you don’t have money, don’t open any embassy.