By Remi Adefulu
Senator Samuel Nnaemeka Anyanwu, chairman Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges is one of the longest serving lawmakers in the National Assembly.
The lawmaker who represents Imo East on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP says the Buhari administration is setting a dangerous precedence by not adhering to the federal character principle.
The Buhari administration will be two years in office now, how will you rate the administration?
Well, I will rather say so far so good. There are a lot of challenges, though the government has tried. It has reduced insurgency to a minimal level. The anti-corruption fight, even though they have tried has been somehow selective. In terms of infrastructural development we are yet to start. It was only of recent that we started feeling Federal Government presence in many states. The only thing that can make people believe government is working is when budget is being implemented.
We have seen a serious depreciation of the naira, though it is better now and we hope government will be able to sustain it. Importation business has been so bad and many businesses have to close shop because they don’t have forex to trade. Some companies have relocated to other countries where a comfortable environment to do business exist. Like I said, so far, so good. You can’t get it right all the time.
Do you think your party has lived to its role as a worthy opposition?
The party has been doing that, challenging the government on certain areas of the economy which needed to be fixed. Opposition will have their say; the ruling parties will have their way. I believe that if this administration is a listening government they should know that the criticisms of the PDP are not in bad light. One of the things I have found out is that there has been a lot of abuse and lack of respect for the constitution, especially in the area of federal character.
Look at the leadership of the Military, Police, Civil Defence, none is from the East. Look at the recent appointments in the aviation industry. People are asking, are we not part of this country? That is an area government has failed completely because they have never respected the constitution, they have not respected federal character. I think government has played very bad politics in that area. If you believe that certain people did not vote for you and, therefore, should not be in government, then you are setting a very bad precedence because time will come when those people will get to the top. Every Nigerian should feel comfortable being Nigerian.
Don’t you think this may be one of the reasons why the agitation for Biafra is waxing stronger?
Yes, yes I am coming up with a bill which has scaled the first reading. The second reading is coming up soon. That is the South-east Development Commission. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander. Ours came first.
The North-east development came because of insurgency. Ours is because of the civil war. There was an agreement reached under the Gowon administration about the three R’s. Are the Igbos not part of this country? That is why you see MASSOB, IPOB and all that. The South-east needs a commission that will be able to work on infrastructure. Let me tell you, there is no way you can talk about the history of Nigeria without talking about the South-east. I think the time has come for the government to look at this issue.
Do you subscribe to a political solution in resolving the detention of Nnamdi kanu?
I agree with that, though the matter is still in court. I believe there can always be solution to every angle of life. Where there is no justice, there can’t be peace. You can’t get peace through the courts. Even when the courts give judgment there can still be some underground animosity.
The South-east has no doubt been marginalized; do you see the Nwodo-led Ohaneze redressing this?
I am very happy that today we have a man that has the political sagacity, who is outspoken and intelligent as well as leading the Ohaneze. All along, Ohaneze had been politicized. Different governments have always politicized the organization, but I think we are now addressing the issue of politics, economy and of course the issue of the South-east. The people must speak with one voice. Before, there was the belief that you use money to divide the Igbos, but now things are no longer the same.
Will it therefore be safe to say you are in support of Igbo presidency in 2019?
Well, for me, I have nothing against that, but we have a documented convention which zoned the presidency to the North for now, meaning they should finish their tenure before coming to the Igbos. That is the truth of the matter, but Igbos have the right to run for presidency.
Don’t you think the PDP crisis is creating an in-road for the APC in the South-east?
I disagree with you that the APC is making an in-road into the South-east. We will decide where to go on our own if we decide to leave the PDP. Nobody forced us to join the PDP. We joined the PDP based on conviction, based on the belief that the PDP is a national party. If we as Igbos decide that we are leaving the PDP, we won’t be forced to join the APC. The APC is having their own issues. They can’t even do convention. They have different camps in APC. So, it’s not only in PDP that we have crisis. Political parties are made up of different people, different opinions, different ideas, but what should be uppermost in our minds in Nigeria is the people of Nigeria.If we can agree, we can solve the problem.
Do you think the PDP crisis can be resolved before the November governorship poll in Anambra?
The resolution of the crisis can be done overnight. I believe there will be reconciliation of everything. The election is coming up in November. So I think we still have enough time to resolve issues. Like I said, every tribe has its own political peculiarity. We have APC and PDP in Anambra State, but Anambra has always been APGA and APGA has always remained there, so you need to fight to upstage APGA in the only state they have.
How do you see the recurring dispute between the Senate and the executive?
I want to really at this point disagree with you. At a point, Nigerians were describing the Senate as a rubber stamp. We look at constitutional issues. The institution (of the Senate) must be protected. It was Obama that said we should try to build strong institutions, not persons. The institution is very important to protect. There has always been separation of powers. You cannot usurp the powers of the Senate. The executive cannot do the job of a legislature. That is why appropriation is the function of legislature. It becomes a product of the executive to implement.
We come in again by way of oversight function to make sure that our law is implemented to the letter. Sometime ago, the executive wanted to take advantage of the imaginary problem in the Senate to play divide and rule, but today everybody has realized the strength in our unity
Are you not worried about defections of senators from your party to the APC?
That is why it is called party. Every politics in local. Every state, every local government has its political peculiarity. How are you sure that moving from your political party will serve your interest? That is why people like us have been here (National Assembly) over the years without moving from my political party. If there is any need for me to move in the future, I will move.
Today, Imo State which you represent has an APC governor, does that not suggest that the PDP is no longer popular in your state?
It is true that we have an APC governor in Imo State. He was there as governor when I won my election as senator. He was there when Senator Hope Uzodinma ran for senator on PDP platform and won. We won the three senatorial seats, if not that we lost one through the court. We have two PDP out of three senators in the Senate and we have seven out of nine federal constituencies in the House of Representatives, Every politics is local and it shows how you are with the people. How popular you are. How people believe in you. He (Okorocha) is no impediment and remember he is not coming back as governor. It’s like a free seat at the moment.
The APC has told some governors who do not belong to their party to either join them or forget a second term, what is your take? ‘
That has not come to my notice. When it comes to that, it’s no longer democracy. We must allow the will of the people, we must allow people’s voice to count. You don’t force people to join you. That is not democracy. I don’t see any PDP governor allowing himself to be gagged.