On December 3rd, 2019, Alhaji Falalu Bello, the National Chairman, Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) inaugurated its Media Dialogue in Abuja. It is considered a major event in the context of the silence or incoherence of the other political parties when it comes to addressing what should be the most serious issues in Nigerian politics today. In other words, any political parties raising issues at all on the Talakawa, on popular democracy, taking a position in favour of control of the economy and talking about imperialism is on its way up or deserves to be taken seriously. Such a party is automatically interrogating the rest of the power elite in general and the government of the day in particular. As such, Intervention is publishing excerpts from the preliminary remarks of the National Chairman. It was titled Repositioning Nigeria.
I am pleased to welcome you to this maiden edition of the PRP MEDIA DIALOGUE. Our Party, the PRP, decided to create this platform in order to provide a forum whereby the leadership of the Party and representatives/correspondents of the mass media can freely interact and exchange views and ideas in an informal atmosphere that is stripped of the shackles of formal protocols and pretentions. This, we believe, is necessary for frank and effective appreciation of the challenges which our society faces today and the collective choices which we have to make in confronting these challenges.
As representatives of the Fourth Estate of the Realm charged with the constitutional responsibility in Chapter II of the Nigerian Constitution “to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people”, the media has a crucial role to play, not only in the protection of our nascent democracy but also, in its progressive development. You cannot satisfactorily fulfill this responsibility without unfettered access to information as well as access to the thinking, policies and orientations of the major actors in the political process. It is our hope that PRP MEDIA DIALOGUE will go a long way in contributing towards this goal.
As I have already said, the PRP MEDIA DIALOGUE is designed to be an informal, free flowing and unfettered platform for the exchange of information, ideas and views between the leadership of the PRP and representatives of the media. You should feel free to field any questions or to advance any views. It is meant to be an unfettered open-minded and interactive forum.
May I, on behalf of the PRP, once more welcome you all. To kickstart the process, it is important that we all understand and appreciate the political and programmatic concerns of our Party, the PRP, and a few of the vexatious issues in the nation’s economic and political management
Our Cardinal Principles as a Political Party
We, the members of the People’s Redemption Party of Nigeria, believe in five fundamental principles. These five principles constitute the foundations on which our party exists; the pillars upon which our party firmly stands, deeply rooted in the history of our country; the cement which binds us together in our struggle for the redemption of our people and our country; as the ideals which gives us a sense of common purpose; and the beam of light illuminating our path towards our vision of the future of our great country. These five fundamental principles of the People’s Redemption Party are as follows:
- Value and the Equality of Human Beings
We believe in the human being as the most precious thing in the world, above all wealth and material objects; in the sacrosanct nature of human life; in the collective nature of human existence, in which every human being is unique and has equal rights and duties. And as an individual, he and she are primarily social beings who are members of families, members of communities, and citizens of nations, and links in the chain of succeeding generations of the dead, the living and the unborn, with the fundamental human right to the conditions necessary for the creative development of his and her human potential to the fullest, free from all forms of discrimination, degradation, oppression and exploitation.
- The Power of the People
We believe in the inalienable democratic rights and duties of the people to fully, and purposefully, participate in exercising their sovereign rights to decide how they are governed and to elect, hold to public account and remove those who govern them, and to actively participate in determining the direction and content of the political, economic, social, and cultural structures, policies and practices shaping their lives and destiny; and to resist (by whatever means) any attempt at the violation of these rights. We believe that it is only by the exercise of this right, through the power of a conscious, organized and vigilant people, that any form of human development can be achieved and sustained.
- State Control of the Economy
We believe that the building of a prosperous and self-reliant national economy has to be on the basis of just social relations of production and exchange, with the democratic state playing the leading role in ensuring that our domestic productive capacity, and the national currency, are developed, modernized and strengthened; and all the human and natural resources of the nation are identified, cherished, utilized and renewed, within the framework of long-term national planning; and that everyone receives fair and adequate returns for their mental and manual labor and legitimate private enterprise, with the aim of constructing a new social order. We believe also in the mainstreaming of the Working People, Worker’s Organizations, Popular Groups, Women, the Youth, and Persons Living with Disabilities in Nigeria’s political and economic process.
- Genuine Federalism
We believe in the forging of Nigerian national unity on the basis of justice and equitable political, social and economic opportunities for all citizens, within a genuinely federal system of government in which our diversity is recognized and cherished and which promotes a national sense of belonging and of a common destiny, through the elimination of all unequal and unjust relations of hegemony and monopoly of office and assets between and within ethnic groups, wherever they exist. We believe that the aforesaid could only be achieved with genuine and real federalism as practiced in the 1st Republic and as we see in real federalisms worldwide. We are equally committed to the prevention of religious and ethnic strife, through sustained democratic community action and a strong purposeful defense of the fundamental human rights of all citizens, wherever they are.
- Total Liberation from Imperialism
We believe that the defense and promotion of our national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, economic survival and development, requires the total liberation of our country, and the rest of Africa, and the world from the chains of old and new forms of imperialist domination, including those being imposed through the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and such other international capitalists organisations. This in turn requires the forging of the unity of all patriotic political organizations across the continent, and the world, in order to renew and revitalize the pan-African vision, commitment and action, and to use this to contain and end civil wars and other violent conflicts, and to institutionalize peace and democracy and to accelerate regional and continental economic and political integration. We are committed to solidarity with the peoples and governments of Asia, the Pacific, South and Central America, Western Europe and the Caribbean, in order to bring about a new and just international economic order, based on mutual respect and cooperation among nations and which promotes the sustainable use of the natural environment and world peace.
Current Issues Regarding Political and Economic Management
The 2019 Budget
The Peoples Redemption Party would like to congratulate the Executive Branch of the Federal Government of Nigeria for presenting the year 2020 Budgetary Estimates to the Legislative arm early October this year. It is hoped that the Legislature will also do its work timely and ensure that the Budget is approved and signed into Law before end of the year so that we return the Nation back to the January – December Budget Circle as has been the case before our Nation became derailed; and
We also welcome the high Revenue target of N10.33 Trillion and hope that the target will be achieved through higher collection from wealthy and taxable individuals and corporate entities, many of whom have been incorrigible tax defaulters, rather than the introduction of more taxes to an already impoverished populace and dying businesses.
However, we in the PRP unequivocally condemn the increase in Consumption Tax, otherwise called Value Added Tax by 50% from 5% to 7.5% at this time when the President of the Nation himself has admitted that the citizenry is facing hardship and when we as a Nation have become the acknowledged world Capital of Poverty. We call on the Legislature, as elective representatives of the people, to rise up to the challenge and reject this ill-advised and ill-timed 50% increase in Consumption Tax as the poor more than the rich will pay for this increase.
Furthermore, we condemn the decrease in Capital Expenditure proposed in the Budget by as much as 22.65% from N3.184 trillion in 2019 to 2.46 trillion in 2020 because there is no way the nation will grow with Capital Estimates attracting only 24% of the Budget and Recurrent Estimates gulping as much as 76%. Looking into the Budget closely, one can see that the wage Bill of the Public Sector alone will gulp N3.6 trillion of the total Budget of N10.33trillion. This certainly is unacceptable and must be reversed if the Nation is to grow and this can be achieved by:
- Considerably reducing the cost of the Legislature to the economy which is one of highest, if not the highest, in the world by reducing its budget to no more than half or abolishing the bicameral legislature and making it unicameral as done by sensible and sensitive nations in recent history. Nigeria is a poor Nation and cannot afford a Bicameral Assembly paying itself so handsomely without any checks on its expenditures. We would be with the President, if he initiates a serious downward review of the costs of the National Assembly to the Nation;
- Reducing expenditures at the Executive branch, beginning with the highest level of Government, that is the Presidency. The President should honor some of his Campaign promises which included reducing the Presidential Fleet, cutting the Budget of the Presidency as a means of giving him the moral courage and strength to reduce the unnecessary and over bloated wage bill and cost of governance in Nigeria.
- Reducing some ministries and merging some MDA’s as conceived by previous administrations. We urge President Muhammadu Buhari to have the courage of looking into and implementing in whole or in part the Orosanye Report as a means of reducing the executive cost of Governance in Nigeria.
- Reducing the unacceptable rising debt profile of Nigeria under the present APC government. When it came into office in 2015, the government inherited a debt burden of just Ten Billion Dollars ($10billion). Today our country’s debt exposure has spiraled up to about eighty four billion dollars ($84billion). Yet there is hardly anything on the ground to show for this staggering debt profile. This irresponsible profligacy must stop before our Country and its present and future generations become indentured slaves. Already debt servicing is costing us almost half the Budget with nothing left for development.
In addition to reducing the cost of Governance as put above we urge the Federal Government of Nigeria to:
- Stop the Foreign Exchange subsidy that benefits only a very few at the expense of the Nation. Multiple Exchange Rates of N305.00 to a $ for government business; N345.00 to a $ for the Interbank Market; and N345.00 to a $ at the Import and Export window benefit only a few and deprives the Federal, States and Local Governments of much needed revenue. The President should order the merger of these rates to increase revenues to the 3 tiers of Government and eliminate the arbitrage benefitting only the corrupt in the system.
- Stop the fraud in the Fuel Subsidy regime which the APC Government and President Muhammadu Buhari have promised to stop during their electioneering campaigns. Mr. President Sir, the petroleum subsidy fraud you have identified and promised to stop is continuing and has even become bigger and need be brought to an end.
Finally on the issue of the bourgeoning executive expenditures, we salute the Government and Legislature of Zamfara State for abolishing of the thievery in their state in the guise of Pension and Retirement benefit of old Governors, their Deputies, Speakers and their Deputies which has reportedly robbed their citizens of N760 million in a state with only one trained Mathematic teacher and where Secondary Schools do only two terms instead of three terms as in other states for want of funds. We urge all state Legislature all over the country copy Zamfara states and abolish all those Pension laws which steal from their populations.
Boko Haram, Kidnapping and Banditry
In the Leadership Newspapers Conference of the year 2008 held on March 4th 2008 at which President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR and Alhaji Abba Kyari amongst the Nigerian elite were present, I had predicted that there was going to be social upheavals, particularly in Northern and the South-South regions of Nigeria, because of the economic stagnation of these regions which I ranked 3rd and 4th Nigeria. On the North, if President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR and Alhaji Abba Kyari may kindly recall, I said inter alia that:
By design or by accident, Northerners and South Southerners as peoples and regions have been made 3rd (third) and 4th (fourth) class citizens. We may well choose to ignore these happenings and pretend that they have not happened but doing so will be at the peril of the Nigerian polity. It is indeed in the interest of the South Westerners and the South Easterners for some affirmative actions to be taken to redress the situation else there will be no real peace in this country moving forward. The so called “religious disturbances” in the Northern State and the Port Harcourt conundrum of kids of less than 15 years carrying guns and terrorizing the population will not stop until these imbalances are consciously addressed and redressed. As the saying goes “where the poor does not sleep because of hunger, the rich too will not sleep because of unrest”
15 years since these predictions, the social upheavals predicted have come to pass. Boko Haram is in the North Eastern part of Nigeria where in Borno State, for example, they are reported to be active in 15 of the 23 Local Governments. Kidnapping which started in the South South region of Nigeria has now spread northwards and is manifest in places such as Abuja – Kaduna, Abuja – Lokoja highways and almost all parts of the Nation. Banditry is in almost all the 6 states of the North West where human beings are being killed like rats.
The PRP as an Opposition Party has alternative blueprints for addressing most of the challenges facing Nigeria and the will and capacity to put them into effect if given the popular mandate to steer the affairs of the nation
Gentlemen of the Press, I thank you for your attention.