Fred Itua, Abuja
Senator Chris Adighije represented Abia Central in the Senate between 2003–2007. In 2005, Adighije spilled the beans on fellow senators involved in the N55 million bribe-for-budget scam.
Adighije, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in this interview with Daily Sun, spoke on how the Igbo can clinch the presidency in 2023. He also spoke on other issues.
What is your take on the recent tribunal judgment in Abia North?
My position maybe different from others. I think those of us from the South East should learn to play strategic politics. Both Orji Uzor Kalu and Mao are both from Abia State. When there is a conflict, we have to weigh the benefits that will come from the two options. Kalu is now a principal officer. In fact, he is the highest ranking principal officer from the South East. Going by his nature, the entire South East stands to gain from the position.
I am looking at a position where elders from the area will advise Mao to consider the entire situation in the interest of the South East. South East should not lose the little one we have. I am not afraid of the courts, but this is not the time. I think the South East should step in, not on the pages of the newspaper, but from a different perspective. It is more beneficial for the South East to have Kalu as a principal officer in the Senate.
I know that Mao is qualified. Nobody can question that. But we need to look at the bigger picture and see what we stand to benefit. Four years is not far. Mao can take a shot in 2023. But for now, we should allow the status quo to remain in the interest of everyone.I am not talking as a member of a political party. I am speaking as an elder statesman who should be able to intervene when necessary. And this is what I am trying to do.
How true is the claim that Igbo are not tactical in playing national politics? If the claim is true, will this affect the chances of the East in 2023?
Igbo has its own style of politics. We are mature people and we have produced people like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara and others. So, we can’t say South Easterners don’t play politics. There is need for reorientation and plan in view of the fact that the South East was hitherto the majority. We are now becoming a minority. We have to reorganise our strategy and approach to national issues. We need to demonstrate this with this issue between Kalu and Ohaubunwa. We should think about this strategy, come together and talk to individuals. Let people understand where we are coming from. This will also affect other issues and positions in the future.
We need to begin to talk to ourselves. We are becoming an endangered region. We have the least number of states. There is no way we can balance up with the way we are going. We need to stand for ourselves as a people. Politics is a game of power and we need to plan. We must try and do the right thing. So, if you want to quote me, let it be on record that I said the South East needs to re-strategise.
During the last presidential election, there were claims that some leaders sabotaged Peter Obi. Will this not play out in 2023?
Peter Obi is an eminent Igbo man. If he was sabotaged, I don’t know what that means. Politics is a game of interest. I don’t know these saboteurs. Like I told you earlier, there is need to re-strategise. That means planning and execution. We have to plan our strategy.
You’re opposed to the return of power to the South West in 2023. Are there plans to open talks with leaders from the West on why they should concede the position to the South East?
I have used the word strategy. It will not be strategic for me at this point to say whether we are going to meet or not. It’s part of the strategy I am talking about. You can’t get anything without negotiation. You have to negotiate with other regions of the country. Before we go into that negotiation, you have to put your house in order. Many people think that it is impossible for the South East to put its house in order. But that statement lacks merits. That’s not true. I know that Igbo are resourceful. The only thing the Igbo won’t accept is for them to be underrated. Don’t underrate the South East. Anybody doing that is doing it at his or her own peril. At the appropriate time, our strategy will become clearer.
As a member of the APC, do you think the Federal Government has been fair to your people since President Muhammadu Buhari came in?
Again, strategy! One of the things we have to watch in the South East is to allow people to speak for us and put words in our mouths. We are looking forward to 2023. Our business at this point is to build bridges across all regions and across party lines. Everyone knows that it is morally right for the South East to have a shot at the presidency in 2023. It was done for South West in 1998/99 when the two dominant parties zoned the position to the West. Head or tail, the West would have gotten it. But Obasanjo won. We won’t achieve this by broadcasting our strategy before even planning it. We need to plan and study our environment.
Part of the strategy will be not to criticise the government for the sake of criticism alone. If you look at the communique from Catholic Bishops, they observed that South East is not well represented.
Do you agree with the position of the Bishops?
Do you want me to say that Bishops don’t see? Or because they are Bishops, they don’t see what’s going on across the country? They’re our Christian fathers and I believe they have made the point. For me as a politician, I think I can say that the East ought to have gotten more than what they have now. Therefore, we should leave our doors open to see if we can get better than what we have now.
What is your take on the alleged huge pay members of the National Assembly receive?
They should be on the side of the people. Whenever issues like this arise, they should be able to debate it. I don’t think the Senate will want to be against the will of the people. I was in the Senate and the idea is to always be on the side of the people. Whatever they’re doing must be in the interest of the people, particularly when people are criticising. The Senate should be able to review the situation. Is it fair for me to talk about it when I am not sure of the facts. Life is very tough now and I am sure the National Assembly is aware of that.
Do you also harbour fears that the current leadership of the National Assembly will not have the guts to challenge the Executive when necessary?
I saw the leaders of the National Assembly campaigning vigorously. They’re mature men. I didn’t see anywhere the Executive intervened. Ali Ndume fought gallantly and he lost. No senator can be manipulated. Lawan is a man of honour. The National Assembly will not be a rubber stamp. When you agree with the Executive, it doesn’t mean you’re weak or a rubber stamp. These lawmakers are experienced. We need to guide our utterances. Let’s be more mature. Democracy is delicate. I would rather go for things that improve our system than to rock the boat.
Heads of government agencies seldom respond to summons by the National Assembly. As a former senator, how do we handle this?
It is condemnable if heads of government agencies don’t respond when they’re invited. The National Assembly has the constitutional powers to summon anybody. Our democracy is growing. During the last ministerial screening, this point was raised. As we grow, we have to accept this. Those who don’t show up are not showing any sense of responsibility. If it happened in the past, we can understand. The eight Senate had its problem. We pray it doesn’t happen again.