#40 Petroleum still possible, Tam David-West Insists


Former Minister of Petro­leum and Energy, Professor Tam David-West is not happy about the increase in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise called petrol in Nigeria. He is particularly miffed by the latest increase from N86.50 kobo to N145 per litre by the Mu­hammadu Buhari administration, describing it as unjustified and nonsense. In this interview, he offers suggestions on how the pump price of PMS can be reduced from N145 per litre to N40, saying if this is done, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari would have made the Nigerian masses happy.
David-West also assesses the present administration in the last one year, expressing unhappiness with the course of governance. He warns Buhari to be wary of ministers sponsored by businessmen.
You were one of those who made a case for Muhammadu Buhari to be elected President. Why did you do that?
Well, let me start by saying I am forced to grant this interview. I have a time that I want to talk big. I have been waiting to see things well before I speak on the present situation. I want to say for my own respect or courtesy, but my honour is also involved, I must protect my honour. To me, my honour supersedes everything.
I supported Buhari and I have not regretted supporting him; not that I am completely happy with what has happened since. I am not completely happy but nobody is 100 per cent happy all the time. It may be quite philosophical. One singular thing that made me support Buhari is because he’s a man of impeccable integrity.
I am happy that I have been vindicated. Recently, when he was in London, you would remember the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in a private conversation with the Queen, which was unfortunately recorded. It has never been done before. He said Nigeria and Nigerians are “fantastically corrupt.” It’s a very unfortunate gaffe. But it is true, whether it is fantastical or not, we are corrupt. There is no question about that.
Why I said I was vindicated; I believe philosophically that everything in the world has a good part and the bad part of it. It’s good he (David Cameron) made that great gaffe in retrospect because he who came to the aid of Buhari, was no less than the Archbishop of Canterbury, who interjected and said, ‘Yes, Nigeria is corrupt, but this man (Buhari) is not corrupt.’ What the Archbishop said was more than what one mil­lion Nigerians would say about Buhari’s integrity. He is a man of integrity and I have worked with him very closely. I am very close to him and we did a lot of stuffs together.
So, I supported him and I am still supporting him because of his integrity. I am not saying in terms of governance, everything is right. No. If Buhari is described as a man of integrity in a situation where corruption is a style, it is a great credential. As he said, if Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria. I did not only support him verbally, I wrote articles, granted interviews and I took advertisements to support him. If I discovered that what I wrote about him can be edited, if they have right to do so, I paid about N600,000 a page for the advertisement to get my voice heard. But I am being vindicated by the primaries and elections that produced Buhari.
People still say they voted for Buhari, not APC. So, APC gained because of Buhari, not that Buhari gained because of APC. APC is an umbrella. I am one of the people he graciously asked to be in the merger committee to form the APC. There’re great men there; people like Bola Tinubu and a lot of other great men.
But when it comes to the crunch of the election, I knew a lot of details of what went on. Some people are claiming today that they made Buhari President. They are talking nonsense. Nobody can say I made Buhari President as Rotimi Amaechi once claimed in a church in Port Harcourt. When I heard what he said, I asked people to tell him he did not make Buhari the President. Amaechi did not make Buhari President. Tinubu didn’t make Buhari President. Nigerians made Buhari President. It is as simple as that. Nigerians made Buhari President, not be­cause of APC, but because of himself (Buhari).
I have gone into long history of corruption. Once, Nigerians have identified somebody that they can beat their chest and say: this man is not corrupt. That is Buhari. So, I have been vindicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury few days ago. So, anyone that says he made Buhari President is talking nonsense.
I have been writing articles upon articles on Buhari. Finally, I ended up publishing two books on Buhari: “Who is General Muhammadu Buhari?” and then “Sixteen ‘Sins’ of Buhari?” The books were launched at the Nigerian Institute for International Affairs (NIIA) Lagos, Kaduna and Port Harcourt. I made a lot of money. I announced at NIIA that whatever I get from the book, af­ter I had taken my capital, I would invest 50 per cent in Buhari Project and I did. I won’t tell you how many millions, but I did. I have a letter of ‘thank you’ from him.
I said earlier that APC gained because of Buhari, not that Buhari gained because of APC. It is a very profound statement. That is a fact that can be proved.
With President Buhari’s performance in his one year in office, were you happy campaigning for his presidency?
I don’t regret ever campaigning for him. At a time, I said if my father was contesting against Buhari for presidency, I would tell my father, you are a banker, go and take care of money. I would vote for Buhari, not you. I still stand by that conviction.
Am I regretting? No, I don’t regret. I feel proud of him as a friend. I feel proud of him because as a man of integrity, he has not changed. The assessment that made me support him is very constant and unique. Buhari is as straight as a needle, like himself. I have not changed my mind about his integrity.
Am I happy with everything that is going on? No, I am not happy with everything that is going on in the course of governance. Some of the things that are happening are not because of Buhari. It is because of some easy people, who have tried to derail him. And he has to be stopped from being derailed; that is my duty and other people that support Buhari.
The press have been phoning me to make statement on the situation in the country. I said if I make formal statement, I would be misunderstood. I was not minister of state. I was a full minister. In fact, Buhari made me a more powerful minister than any other minister in Nigeria. I was minister of petroleum and energy. I was the chairman of NNPC Board of Directors. He made me chief executive of NNPC.
He made an open statement in Port Harcourt, which was reported by ‘The Sun’ and I am quoting him verbatim: ‘Service to our country brought Tam and I together. The ideal we have for life – morality, made us friends.’ Buhari trusts my integrity. The people that are trying to derail him must be stopped from derailing him.
I will meet him and after that I will call a big press conference and do writings on why they are trying to derail him. This is not the time yet. I am not even sure if some of the people working with him want him to succeed. I have this strong feeling that some of them have split interests.
On May 29, this present administration will clock one year in office. So, how would you assess Buhari’s one year?
I have been a teacher all my life and I like scoring people. My students know that I don’t give marks frivolously. I am very strict with marks to the extent that somebody who was doing his Master’s under me left when he was told that he would not get enough mark because I was strict.
Now, how do I score him? Let me use the university grading system. I have been a professor since 1975. We grade on A,B,C. A stands for Excellent, B stands for Very Good, C stands for More than Average or Pass.
So, on that scale, If I do grade him, will I grade the one year as A? No, I will not. Will I grade it as B? I will not easily say B; it is going to be B-, which is C+.
What does your assessment translate to for a common man on the street?
To a common man on the street, it means that things are not going as I expected. If the common man is happy today, then the assessment will be A. Today, is the common man on the street happy? So, if Buhari is not scoring A because of the cause of common man, some people around him have made that possible. Government exists for the people. People are suffering.
When we are talking about people, we are not talking about millionaires, we are talking about the man on the street such as poor people. Any government that makes the poor people happy is a good government. Any gov­ernment that makes the masses unhappy should be very careful. A government should give greater happiness to the greater majority. Based on that I will not say A.
Still on the assessment, on what percentage will you place the administration in the last one year?
A starts from 90. B starts from 80. C starts at about 60 or so. If I say overall, I will say B-, which is 70 or thereabout. But when you are assessing government, some people make mistakes that other people make saying one university is better than the other. Univer­sities have faculties. A particular faculty in the university may be better than another one.
For instance, about 15 years ago, University of Leicester in London beat Oxford and Cam­bridge to second and third place. You know Oxford and Cambridge are topmost universities.
Why was the overall governance given B-? But there are areas we are giving A. In the area of anti-corruption, I will give him solid A without thinking about it. On management of petroleum industry in the country, it is C. But until I see him (Buhari), I will not make any critique of the management of the oil industry.
Buhari should be very conscious of ministers who are sponsored by people. They are busi­nessmen; businessmen in control of oil business. When they get there, they will have split loyalty.
Since Buhari became President, have you ever held meetings where you could give some advice?
Since he became President, we have had one-on-one meeting at least two times. Until my next meeting with him, I will not make a formal statement. But we have met one-on-one; nobody else and that was last year. On some of the things we discussed, some are personal, some confidential. But what I gathered from those meetings was that he still has his focus. I left him believing that no amount of pressure will derail him.
Last week, the pump price of petrol was in­creased. Did you have pre-knowledge of this or were you consulted on it?
I have no pre-knowledge of it and I am not sure if Buhari had pre-knowledge of it. I will not say more than that now. He was not in the country. I don’t have to be consulted.
But what happened, I don’t support it. Petrol price hike is illogical. All the reasons they are giving, to me, are vacuous. Buhari knows better and I learnt a lot from him when I was the oil minister, because of his experience; he was there before me.
What they have done is so simple that I don’t like it. I have been convinced over the years and my positions can be justified with what Buhari has said before. What they are doing is embarrassing to him. Buhari has said it repeatedly that there is no subsidy. I stand by him that there is no subsidy as such. If you come out to say you have removed subsidy, will you remove what does not exist? This is a very difficult position, but because of my honour, I must speak out. Kachikwu, for instance, I don’t know him and I have never met him before; he is brilliant from his Curriculum Vitae. I respect him for his CV. He has got a very beautiful CV. But sometimes, he says things that are, to me, outrageous.
Buhari has said there is no subsidy. I said there is no subsidy. Even the current crisis, the Vice President said what they have done is not subsidy, but forex. Minister of State for Petroleum said it is subsidy removal, even the national chairman of APC said it is subsidy removal. These two positions are contrary to what Buhari has said over the years, even before he became President. Are you helping him? No, you are embarrassing him.
Kachikwu also claimed he saved N1billion from subsidy removal. Where do you save the N1billion. The Senate set up a committee to look into the subsidy. They discovered hundreds of millions of naira that were fraudulently claimed. To me anybody that looted public fund should go to jail.
Kachikwu also claimed that he repaired damaged pipelines with N103billon. I am not saying he is not correct. But I would like to be convinced. I am not convinced. Who is subsidising what? When a government subsidises a particular commodity for its citizens, the citizens should be more comfort­able than before.
Another thing that is, to me, fraudulent is that they are trying to say that deregulation and price increase are the same. They are two different things. Deregulation of the downstream of the economy means government is not controlling it again. Under deregulation, you can have either increase or decrease in the price of petroleum.
Then, another basic problem is they give different figures of the subsidy. The figure of the accountant general is different from the one given by the CBN. Who is deceiving who? Why are they changing price of petrol all the time like amoeba?
You were quoted as saying that Buhari will make price of petrol N40 when he became President. Now the price has been raised to N145. What is your reaction?
People who are quoting me are actually lazy or physically indolent. Somebody is being fraudulent and he puts it in quotation marks that I said petrol would be dispensed at N40. I did not use the word dispense. I said it would go down. I have corrected it many times. I am saying this to protect my honour. I never said Buhari will make petrol N40.
What I said was this and I still maintain it. Apart from the other thing that makes it, if they are sure that the figure they are giving us is the correct figure after a rigorous calculation. Why do they change it so often if they are sure. Why do they change regularly. What they are using to quantify or fix the price of fuel, there are a lot of fraudulent items there. Let me start with bridging or Petroluem Equalization Fund (PEF); that normally if you take petrol from North to South, the difference in the haulage, they add it to the consumers to pay. Government always pays that. Why should the consumer pay for bridging or what you will call PEF? That was always paid by government during my days.


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