Dr Minaibi Dagogo-Jack is the chairman of Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) in Rivers State and South-South. He was also Special Adviser to ex-governor Rotimi Amaechi on Empowerment. In this interview with LAWRENCE ENYOGHASU, he talks about the anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari, involvement of clerics in politics, and other national issues.
You are a man of many parts; an activist, pastor and former government appointee. How do you reconcile all of these?
Governance is all about service to the people. As a pastor, you are also serving the people. So, it is very easy to do that. It is the same people who are government that are also in the church, it is really not difficult to balance all of these capacities. There are clergymen who are actually into partisan politics. A good example of that is our Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. We also have those who into activism like Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. We started long time ago, but I think that a lot of people are beginning to key into it. And of course, it is only by His grace that you can do it.
As an anti-corruption crusader, what is your stake in the present government of President Muhammadu Buhari?
Well, it is quite interesting that Buhari came before as a military head of state and introduced War Against Indiscipline. I added a new word, ‘queue up’ to my dictionary. I didn’t know what queue up meant until they introduced that; and everybody, including those in the rural areas, imbibed that culture of discipline. And now, he has come on board as an elected president and is still talking of fighting corruption. I think he has something to offer. Personally, by my own integrity and discipline, I have been fighting against corruption and undue mannerism in leadership. I think that the anti-corruption crusade of Mr President should be encouraged and appreciated. And of course, we have also set up Leadership Support Initiative; ensure that we support the government to fight corruption in the country. We are determined to do that. Prayerfully, God will help us to achieve that.
How different is this your drive from what other men of God had when former president Goodluck Jonathan was in power?
Well, I may not wish to speak for other men of God. Let me tell you that Jonathan’s emergence as president from among the minority group was quite good and welcome. I recall that in 2004, there was a prayer meeting in Bayelsa, which was organised by Corner Stone Foundation and Ijaw Ministers Forum; I represented Rivers State at that conference. We prayed unto God to hear the cry of the Ijaw. There God led me to speak that an Ijaw man would emerge at the national level; a position that no one from this area had ever occupied. The fulfilments of that prophecy was Goodluck Jonathan’s emergence as vice president and later as president. After all of this came into being, I never went to Jonathan even for a day to ask him for anything. We were only supporting him in prayers.
But it was so unfortunate that some men of God nosed around him as though they were the ones that placed him there. They were busy praising him even when it was obvious that he was derailing, which was wrong for them to do. The fight against corruption is that when somebody is doing wrong, you tell him he is doing. When someone is doing right, you appreciate the fact he is doing right and advise him rightly. But if the person has deliberately chosen to do wrong, it is only honourable that you dissociate yourself from. I don’t want to mention names here because it will be unethical of me to do that. But most of them who were involved are fathers and religious leaders in their right. And spoke out against it, even when others were silent, that Jonathan had surrounded himself with the wrong people.
You have said that the emergence of Jonathan as president was divine, hence God was with him. How did he lose the backing of Heaven?
You remember that King Saul in the Bible was light and well built in physical structure and admirable. Jonathan has a very meek structure like Saul; has lovable structure, mannerism and all of that. The Bible said Saul was loved by many. When Samuel anointed Saul, Heaven supported that anointing. The degree of anointing was so high that Saul starting prophesying to the amazement of the people, that they asked, “Is King Saul also a prophet?” That means that the Spirit of God was with him. But when Saul went against God and the divine purpose for which he was made the leader, the Spirit of God left him. And when Samuel who anointed him was lamenting, God told him not to lament, for the Spirit had left Saul.
Now, how do you know that someone has lost God’s grace?
You will know when the people who elected him into power, the electorate are lamenting like Samuel who anointed Saul. This was the case with Jonathan. The very people who elected him into office were crying unto God for a change in leadership. There was lamentation and poverty in the land. It was as bad as state governors abandoning their party and a former president tearing his membership card publicly. And you are still sitting down there? Even our neighbouring countries were withdrawing troops from the Boko Harambattle line. America said they sell arms to Nigeria because Jonathan’s government failed to address human rights abuses by the military. When the people rejoice, it shows there is good leadership. But when the people lament and perish, it is, no doubt, a sign of bad leadership. So, you can use the people as an indicator to know when a leader has lost the grace.
How do you think President Buhari and his deputy, Prof. Osinbajo can move this country forward?
They are, no doubt, a formidable team. And with our prayers and support they will succeed. But I want to advise them to take the planned social security allowance to the poor seriously. They should set a credible committee to handle the implementation. I was the chairman of SURE ‘P in Rivers State and I can tell you impact of such empowerment programme. If 25 million households are to benefit from the scheme, it is definitely going to affect millions of people. A household is made up of the father, mother, children and other relations; so you understand what I am talking about. Buhari and Osinbajo should sit down and plan properly from the beginning, to ascertain who are the real indigent and extremely poor, using their own words, “households.”
And this can be done by identifying them at the ward and council level. There must be some forms where the people can fill in their details; where they are free, with their village heads attesting to their background. They must be people who have signed authenticating that these people are truly indigenes of this area. Secondly, to complement all of this measure, there must be biometrics ward by ward; LGA by LGA; state by state and zone by zone. There has to be equity and justice. Each state should have a management team or committee. It is a serious scheme that must pass through proper channels, auditing and scrutiny to ensure prudence. If they want us to come and serve, we are ready to serve. I did it in Rivers State and the success of SURE’ P is there for anybody to verify.
BY LAWRENCE ENYOGHASU, SUN