Chief U.S.A Igwesi, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Enugu State represented Enugu South Urban constituency in the Enugu State House of Assembly in 1999 and served as the Majority Leader. In 2003, he represented Nkanu East / Nkanu West federal constituency in the House of Representatives and served as Deputy Chairman and Chairman respectively on the committees, Banking and Currency, respectively. He spoke on the South West security outfit, Amotekun and the controversy surrounding it and other national issues.
What is your impression of Nigeria’s democracy?
What we have now, in my opinion, is not a democracy. We are in a civil rule, the military is no longer in charge of the day to day running of the country, but definitely not a full blown-democracy. The indices that make up a democratic state are very much elusive. We can see on a daily basis government disobedience to court orders. The law is trampled upon and the law does not rule the people. Nigerians are not equal before the law; we have a selective application of the same law and the law is not supreme. With all these indices conspicuously missing we cannot proudly say that we are practising democracy. We have not been able to get our acts right in the conduct of elections so that the votes of the people will count and be the basis for electing candidates.
Worst still the judiciary has taken over the inalienable right and powers of the electorates to the extent that the choices made by the electorates at the polls are often upturned by the judiciary. I feel a lot of work has to be done for us to have a working democracy in Nigeria, for now, what we have is a civil rule, not a democracy.
How do you rate the opposition political parties, have they played their role of a watchdog on the ruling party?
The opposition parties are not playing their role. Some of these parties are just in the political space to see how they can raise money for their personal pockets. The PDP is, however, alive to its responsibilities and is doing its job of putting the ruling party on their toes. But the big question is whether the ruling party is ready to take corrections and makes amends where necessary without exhibiting malice and tantrum. If the job of the opposition is to always scavenge for misgovernance and criticise the government in power then I think the PDP is doing their job.
Do you see Nigeria drifting towards a one-party ahead of 2023?
If a party in power wants to squeeze up the political space to the extent that it will be the only political party in power, then the ruling party should be churning out people-oriented programmes. The standard of living should be high, there should be security of lives and property, which is the primary responsibility of government. Our education system and health facilities should be fixed. Any government that does not provide all these things cannot seize the political space to the extent of returning the country to a one-party system. It is not possible to have a one-party system in 2023 based on what is presently on the ground from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Nigerians naturally love variety and are not fools who can easily be swayed with frivolities. Nigeria believes in substance and conviction, so any party that wants to dominate the political space should be able to provide all-round good governance. With the present scenario, the issue of one-party system in 2023 is not possible.
As a former lawmaker, how do you rate the performance of the House of Representative?
The legislature the world over regardless of level and size are rated based on their primary mandate. The legislature in Nigeria is empowered by Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to oversight the executive. The 9th House of Representatives under Femi Gbajabiamila is a work in progress. They have shown character and readiness to come up with quality legislative interventions to salvage this country from bad governance, but the issue is whether they have the political will to do their work of oversight with the ruling APC controlling majority seats in the House. It will be extremely difficult for this present House to do the job required under the doctrine of separation of powers and checks and balances. I believe that the force of the opposition party in the House can douse the zeal of the APC to rubber-stamping all that the executive does. I will encourage the opposition lawmakers to always be prepared to storm the plenary with facts and statistics that cannot be faulted.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe recently called on President Muhammadu Buhari to resign over rising insecurity. What is your take?
Senator Abaribe is just performing his role as the Minority Leader in the Senate. He is a well-exposed parliamentarian who understands the role of an effective and efficient opposition party. Nigeria is a not safe, armed banditry, kidnapping, herders and farmers clash, ceaseless Boko Haram attack and other criminalities are everyday occurrences. The call is not new and definitely not different from the call of the APC on President Goodluck Jonathan to resign when PDP was in power. It is usual and normal for high inflammatory statement to come from the opposition. So, those calling on him to retract his statement and apologise to the president are not in tune with modern politics.
What is your position on the agitation to zone the presidency to the South East in 2023?
The agitation is good and in order. It is simply fair and just to allow South-East zone to produce the next President of Nigeria in 2023. Equity and justice demand that a Nigerian President of South-East extraction should be encouraged in 2023 to assuage feelings in some quarters that the Igbo nation on the marginalisation of the South East in the Nigeria project. The Igbo are in a position to salvage Nigeria from the inept leadership crisis it faces, the South East region is endowed with human and material resources to lead this country to greatness, unite and return the country to proper leadership roles that will guarantee rule of law and robust economy. A Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023 will also ameliorate the restiveness in the region and the endless call for restructuring and secession. It will also serve as restitution for the long marginalisation and injustice meted on the Igbo in the political engineering of this country.
The South West states of Nigeria recently set up a security outfit Amotekun. How do you see the move considering the high insecurity in the country?
Protection of lives and property is the primary responsibilities of any government in power. The government at the centre presently has demonstrated lack of political will and capacity to tackle the insecurity in the country. The regional security outfit in the South West is not only commendable but timely and will help reduce crime in region. The Federal Government should rally round other regions to establish similar security outfit and if possible, subsidise their budget. The only thing required is for these regional outfit to collaborate with the Nigeria Police to ensure effective security. I commend the South West governors for their initiative, zeal, capacity, and will to secure their zone. The idea is thoughtful and will definitely yield result. The secrecy that surrounded the establishment of this security outfit until it was officially launched speaks volumes of the seriousness of the South West governors to combat crime and in their zone. Moreover, the readiness they exhibited in taking up any dissenting voice in this direction also underscores the fact that they mean business and have the ability to work their talks.
Some PDP lawmakers in the Imo State House of Assembly defected to the APC following the Supreme Court judgment that sacked Emeka Ihedioha and declared Hope Uzodnma elected governor. Do you support the calls for their seats to be declared vacant?
Their defection shows lack of party commitment. It reiterates the fact that some politicians whether in the legislature or executive are colourless and being led by avarice and stomach infrastructure. I describe them as food is ready politicians who are ready and always willing to swing left, right and centre depending on political misfortune or fortune. For an elected member of the parliament to abandon the political platform upon which he or she was elected and switch over to another political party is illegal, unacceptable and serious height of deceit. It shows serious lack of political character and principles. And until the relevant section of constitution is amended to expressly condemn such notorious move, we will keep experiencing this brand of food is ready politics.