Prince Tony Momoh, a national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC ) and former Minister of Information in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI of Daily Indepdent speaks on recent developments in the country and his views on the 2019 presidential elections. Excerpts:

Were you surprised by the actions of some federal lawmakers who booed President Buhari recently during his budget presentation?

You can take a pig out of the bush but you cannot take the bush out of the pig. We are in a democracy and even in most advanced countries where democracy is practiced; they have certain behaviours, the behaviour of a crowd. You cannot really discipline a crowd and even in parliament, they fight. So, we should forgive them in Nigeria for they don’t know what they are doing as regards the ethics of parliamentary behaviour. They are human beings, they are undisciplined society in a position to be disciplined and acted according to that, which is being undisciplined.

Don’t forget that there is freedom of expression. These lawmakers behave at their level of growth and maturity. That is why I said you can take the pig out of the bush but you cannot take bush out of the pig. There are some Presidents or Head of States who will walk out of the National Assembly if such a thing happened but not President Muhammadu Buhari, a highly dignified, matured and respected gentleman. You will recall that when he told the lawmakers that they should behave themselves properly because people are watching, the booing and indecent behaviour died down. You can also see a very matured leader in the person of Yakubu Dogara shaking his head at the conduct of his colleagues. So, I think Nigerians should forgive them and move on.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday said it would have been impossible for President Buhari to win the 2015 election without his support. What is your perspective on that?

Have you forgotten that Obasanjo was Head of State in 1976 and handed over in 1979 and later came back to become Civilian President in 1999? But for people like IBB , Abdulsalami Abubakar and some others he wouldn’t have become president. In 2003, if not that he knelt down and begged Atiku, he wouldn’t have been reelected. So, if someone could be helped to become president, why should you come out publicly and boast about it?

Let Obasanjo congratulate himself and also congratulate him that if not for him, Buhari wouldn’t have become president in 2015 according to his claims. Don’t forget that in 2003, Obasanjo was president and Buhari had 12 million votes. In 2007, Buhari had 6 million votes and the late President Umaru Yar’Adua agreed that the election was massively rigged and mismanaged. Someone who was in position to mismanage that election was Obasanjo because he was the sitting president when the election was conducted. In 2011, Buhari had 12 million votes.

In 2015, Buhari had 15 million votes, that is extra 3 million votes to the 12 million votes he had in 2011. Perhaps, it was Obasanjo that provided the extra 3 million votes. If we analyse the votes, the South- West provided about 2 million votes and the person that the people of the South- West looked up to for direction was Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and not Obasanjo. Obasanjo was against Jonathan and most of the votes came from the South East and South South. We all know that Obasanjo did not influence votes for Buhari in these two regions because APC had less than 300,000 votes.

In the South- West that Obasanjo comes from, I don’t know what structure he had to be able to give votes to Buhari or how much of the 12 million votes that Buhari had in 2003 that Obasanjo influenced. I don’t know how Obasanjo came about his boast that Buhari was only able to win the election because of him. His case can be likened to that of a lizard beating his own chest about what he has done and I congratulate him.

Now that Obasanjo is backing Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the PDP, do you see President Buhari winning his reelection?

The answer to prayer of winning an election is voting. So, let us see where Obasanjo will provide the votes that will make PDP defeat Buhari in 2019. As an analyst and a monitor of democracy, I don’t see where Obasanjo has votes to make Buhari either win or lose.

Obasanjo after his letter to Buhari tried a third option as alternative to APC and PDP but what he mobilised did not take off. Then he formed ADC which has contested one or two elections but didn’t make any point. He said that if CNM, the body he formed to undermine Buhari in 2019 transforms into a political party, he will withdraw. But the fact is, the same Obasanjo who announced that he has called it quit with partisan politics attended a PDP rally in Abeokuta. He has also moved into a political party but that has not taken off. So, he is not a member of APC and has never been a member of our party and as such, I don’t know where the votes he needs to remove Buhari will come from.

We have the support of Nigerians and as such we will have the votes. Obasanjo didn’t have votes in 1999. In fact, his people in the South- West rejected him but IBB and others assisted him. In 2003, he had to kneel down for Atiku before he won. In 2011, I am not aware that he was the one who made Goodluck Jonathan won. In 2015, Buhari contested against Jonathan and APC won and like I said Obasanjo is not a member of our party. So, I don’t really know where Obasanjo’s strength lies apart from just talking; saying this today and saying that tomorrow. But he is a national leader and people must listen to him and not take him to the cleaners

You said Nigerians should listen to Obasanjo when he speaks. Now that he said Nigerians should vote out President Buhari in 2019, should we listen to him?

They should listen to him because he has freedom of expression and he is exercising it. But the fact that you listen to him doesn’t mean you will do whatever he says. Obasanjo can only talk but he can’t get votes from anywhere.

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