Professor Alphonsus Nwosu is a former Minister of Health. In this interview conducted by RAPHAEL EDE in Enugu, he spoke on a wide range of issues, including the state of the nation. He expressed concern about alleged drift into dictatorship and challenged those condemning the endorsement of Atiku/Obi presidential ticket as saboteurs who are pursuing non-Igbo interest.
How do you see the state of the nation as things are now?
I fear seriously for the future of Nigeria. In an earlier interview I had said that my greatest fear was not corruption but the return of dictatorship, which the PDP fought very hard against in 1997/98 under General Sani Abacha. I was at the all politicians summit at Eko Hotel chaired by Dr. Alex Ekwueme and Pa Adekunle Ajasin and the subsequent intense struggle for the return of democracy.
The PDP played a major role in the return and sustenance of democracy from 1999 till date. I am very frightened about prospects of retuning to those days of lack of freedom and dictatorship.
I was at Ohanaeze Imeobi meeting last Thursday where you spoke for Anambra State. What are the implications of that communiqué on the political future of Igbo in Nigeria?
I cut my teeth in politics from Igbo politics to national politics. I was the chairman of the organizing committee of the much-acclaimed Mkpoko Igbo summit where Dr. Alex Ekwueme as keynote speaker proposed the six geopolitical zones and rotational presidency ideas. Thereafter, I was head of the Igbo secretariat to the General Abacha Constitutional Conference and have been a major player in Ohanaeze for more than three decades. The communiqué by Imeobi, which is the highest decision making organ of Ohanaeze Ndigbo on Thursday, January 24, 2019, is one of the most detailed that I have seen. It comprises two paragraphs and seven resolutions. I challenge those who want to object to be specific on what their objections are. I shall cite two examples: One, resolution two states that “a major political party (PDP) by the nomination of our son, Peter Obi, as the Vice Presidential candidate has given Ndigbo an opportunity for inclusivity”. Peter Obi was a very successful two-term Governor of Anambra State. Can this be what the government of Anambra State is objecting to in its statement? Second, resolution three states “that the Presidential candidate of PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has made an avowed commitment to restructuring of the federation”. Is this where Imeobi Ohanaeze has erred in representing the collective views of Ndigbo given the Igbo declaration at Ekwueme square in Awka emphasizing the restructuring of Nigeria in the presence of other geopolitical zones? I therefore advise those who want to comment on the decision of Imeobi Ohanaeze to focus on the issues and Ohanaeze resolutions and not resort to cheap abuse and pursuit of non-Igbo interest.
But the Anambra State government has issued a statement dissociating itself from the Ohanaeze communiqué and you are from Anambra State. What is your reaction?
As you had observed, I spoke for Anambra State at the meeting, my Igbo and Ohanaeze credentials entitled me to speak. The senior persons to me at that meeting were Dr. Tim Menakaya, Chief Guy Ikoku and Chief Simon Okeke and they did not object to what I said. Anambra State government is entitled to object but I want to assert with all respect that Anambra State government is not Anambra State Ohanaeze. They have a right to object, which they have done, and we bonafide members of Ohanaze Ndigbo also have a right to represent Ndigbo, which we did at the meeting. Ndigbo should then look at the substance of what we did at Imeobi and the substance of the statement by the Anambra State government and decide which of us is working for Igbo interest and who is working against Igbo interest. I have it on authority that Anambra State government has resorted to abuse of President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, who has been brilliant in presenting the collective views of Ndigbo. This is most unfortunate considering the role of Ojukwu, Ekwueme, Pius Okigbo, Ben Nwabueze, Dozie Ikedife and other prominent Igbo sons in the nurturing of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. This is truly a sad reflection of the unfortunate side of Igbo politics. But I have no doubt that Ohanaeze shall endure and shall outlive this temporary misguided outburst.
You were also at Amechi Awkunanaw where His Excellency, Senator Jim Nwobodo returned to the PDP….
(Cuts in) This is an excellent move by Senator Nwobodo in the interest of the Igbo nation and Nigeria. For those who have very short memory, His Excellency Jim Nwobodo was the choice of the Great Zik of Africa under the Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP, to govern the old Anambra State comprising the present Anambra, Enugu and most of Ebonyi. His equivalent is the revered late Dr Sam Mbakwe. For him to make it clear in his statement that he must stand with his kit and kin and firm in the restructuring of Nigeria, is a big tonic for those of us who had the privilege of welcoming him back.
So, you see the return of Senator Nwobodo as indicative of a unity of purpose among Ndigbo on who to vote for in the next election?
Certainly. His Excellency, Chief Jim Nwobodo was explicit that Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar’s commitment to restructuring of the federation must be a central consideration for any genuine Igbo person. Secondly, he was equally explicit that the nomination of Mr. Peter Obi as Vice Presidential candidate gives Ndigbo their best chance of inclusivity in the Nigerian federal government; forty years after Dr. Alex Ekwueme was nominated by Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1979. I therefore expect any true son of Igbo land to listen to these positions.
Why are you so certain of this unity of purpose among Ndigbo especially when Nigerians had seen such endorsement by Ohanaeze in the past and this time it would appear the governors of South East states are indifferent?
I believe that Ndigbo has now seen from their extreme marginalization by the present APC government that there is no other way to go. I am encouraged that on Tuesday, 22nd January, the three PDP governors of South East and the Deputy President of the Senate at the PDP zonal rally in Owerri had a unanimous position that Ndigbo should vote “PDP all the way”. The decision of Imeobi Ohanaeze is completely in tandem with “PDP all the way”. It is intriguing that Anambra State which has no election is campaigning as if it has an election and it is not campaigning for the APGA presidential candidate. Rather it has endorsed the APC presidential candidate. For those of us who were long term associates and relations of the patron of APGA, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, it is very saddening.
What really are the issues in this election for Ndigbo and for Nigerians?
The issues in this election are fundamental and serious. The first is the upholding of democracy with the basic rights and freedom, and the rejection of the return to dictatorship. This upholding of democracy must be anchored in the rule of law. The second is the building of the Nigerian nation where every component part of Nigeria has a sense of belonging. The third is the security of lives and property. The fourth is good governance in all its ramifications that includes a sincere fight against all forms of corruption such as stealing of money, extreme nepotism and abuse of power and non-observance of rule of law and good management of the economy. Bill Clinton in his book says that you cannot superimpose good policies and good governance on bad politics. What we are witnessing in Nigeria now is bad politics in its extreme force by the APC government and my position is that bad politics cannot deliver good policies and good politics, be it fight against corruption, insecurity or building of the economy and an egalitarian nation.
Why are you so vehement that the APC government cannot redress these issues?
Simply because APC as a political party and the government that it has brought to being do not understand good politics. For example, they completely ignored the fact that a diverse nation like Nigeria under a federal system of government inclusivity is mandatory. You cannot therefore exclude any part as the South East has been excluded from the National Security Council. The reason that appointments in the military are based on merit is a gratuitous insult to the South East. They do not also understand that the rule of law overrides everything and you cannot choose which court orders to obey; which court orders not to obey and which court orders to ignore.
PDP had had 16 years before the APC but your party, PDP, did not redress these issues. Why?
This is nonsensical APC propaganda which they used to access power and which they are now choking on. Where were they when the founders of PDP were battling dictatorship? PDP brought back democracy and nurtured it to the point of handing over to the APC when it was in opposition through elections organized by the PDP as government. How has APC managed this democracy in four years? PDP ran an inclusive government and stabilized the Niger Delta. PDP brought in mobile telephony and created a phenomenal growth in the Information Technology sector. The PDP embarked on serious reform the most notable of which is the reformation of the banking sector. The PDP reduced Nigeria’s debt from over 30 billion dollars to less than 2 billion dollars. Now the APC government is seriously taking us back to a debt peonage end. The PDP created the anti-corruption institutions such as ICPC, EFCC, Public Procurement Act within its first four years of existence under which many PDP high-ranking officials including governors were jailed. The appointments of key operatives of these institutions were made by the PDP. The PDP instituted the NIPP projects which more than tripled Nigeria’s power outputs by 1999. Why don’t those people ask what the heck the APC has done with Nigeria’s money in four years and compare with the initial four years of the PDP. The APC propaganda excuse is that oil came down to 30 dollars per barrel. In 1999 when I became one of the first appointees of the PDP federal government, oil sold at less than 20 dollars per barrel and we were not exporting 2.1million barrels per day because of insurgency in the Niger Delta. The external reserves from the preceding regime was less than 3 billion dollars. There was no excess crude account. There was no National Sovereign Wealth Fund etc. Compare this with the billions in the external reserves, the excess crude account, the debt relief and all sundry funds from the LNG Project etc, which the PDP bequeathed to the APC government. The APC propagandists should have some shame as they continuously nauseate Nigerians with their silly arithmetic of 100 dollars per barrel multiplied by 16 years, conveniently ignoring even the glaring fact of Niger Delta insurgency and the amnesty by a PDP President Yar’Adua who had vision.
In recent times, your party, PDP has been relentless in accusations of alleged rigging plans by government in favour of the APC. Are your fears about rigging really genuine?
Very genuine. What is disturbing to me is that the APC in its typical propaganda mode resorts to name calling that PDP is master rigger and has no moral right to talk about rigging rather than addressing those fears which have been expressed nationally and internationally. They also conveniently forget in their diction that it was President Umaru Yar’Adua who brought about electoral reforms through the Justice Uwais Committee the faithful implementation of which saw their success in the 2015 elections organized by the PDP government. What have they done with their Ken Nnamani Report and why did Mr. President not sign the Electoral Bill? The PDP has genuine concern regarding the PVC and their collection. The PDP has genuine concerns about the collation of results and the role of Amina Zakari in this. The PDP has genuine concerns about Card Readers and Incident Forms. The PDP has concerns about the use of coercive agencies of the Nigerian state in elections and more. Government should provide answer rather than resorting to name-calling and finger-pointing instead of solving the problems and refining their electoral process as the PDP did post-2011. The electoral process is central in practice of modern democracy to enable people choose their leaders.
So, how do you see the future of Nigeria post 2019 elections?
I am an optimist. I believe that Nigeria can work if it is restructured to be fair to all Nigerians. I believe in Nigeria that works for all Nigerians and not just for some Nigerians. I believe that Nigeria can be a pride not just for Africa but for all black peoples of the world if they are allowed to choose their true leaders in all professions, including political leaders. I see a Nigeria that will play a major role in Africa renaissance.