Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
Professor ABC Nwosu was once a presidential adviser on Political Matters and later Minister of Health. A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in this interview he says he is not happy over the 2019 general elections. He also spoke on other national issues. Excerpts:
Based on the outcome of the just concluded governorship and state assembly elections, would you say your party performed to expectation; was the election a reflection of the wishes of the electorate?
My party is not doing well. The PDP is clearly the preferred party in Nigeria and everything is being done to stifle it. I think this INEC, what it has done in the presidential and governorship elections will stand as a testimony to it as one of the worst electoral umpires we have had in Nigeria. The Chairman, Prof. Yakubu amazes me. His calmness is opposed to what he has inside. He is made of steel inside, firmly doing the wrong things. First, he cancelled the entire general election on the election morning and postponed it by a week; only to produce the charade he called the presidential elections. Secondly, count the number of states and seats where INEC declared their elections inconclusive. They want to adopt the Osun formula. In the states where elections are inconclusive, find out which political party was leading by the time it was declared inconclusive. The facts are being gathered. The history of this election will be written and Prof Yakubu’s position in that history will be there. I am happy he is a Professor and so he will live with that history and that history will not be kind to him. Even after the annulment of the Abiola election, everybody looks on Prof Humphrey Nwosu and remembers option A4 and how he tried to be transparent. Even Jega with his manipulation of card readers produced an election. Only Prof Yakubu has had an election being masterminded and run by military officers.
But he is not in-charge of the security?
I believe that the law in INEC gives him the power to say where security personnel will be deployed. I believe also that he had said earlier that his lead security agency shall be the police. So, how did the military come and who determined where the military was deployed? Who was it that did that? Was it the INEC? Was it the GOCs, was it the Army Commander? Until we know the answers to these questions, the primary responsibility for an election belongs to INEC and to its Chairman, Prof Yakubu.
The Chief of Army Staff cleared the air on that before the election when he said that they are bound to obey the order of the President and Commander-in-Chief. Are you not satisfied with his explanation?
Was it the president that ordered the military to invade a Commissioner’s residence? The video and photographs of that are trending. Those that watched it counted up to 30 military officers invading a man’s house and you could see the man was in his casual dress. They even went to the man’s kitchen. Who orders that kind of movement? Is it the Commander-in-Chief? And like I keep saying, the buck for the election stops on INEC’s table and the overall boss of INEC is Prof Yakubu. If Prof Maurice Iwu would be blamed, if Prof Humphrey Nwosu would be blamed, if Prof Jega can be blamed, if Prof Eme Awa couldn’t take it and left, who do we blame other than Prof Yakubu. Until people are blamed and they learn to accept responsibilities, there is not going to be any improvement.
Under Jega, we also had a situation where the then President Jonathan was already voting before he learnt that elections had been canceled, yet much dust was not raised over it. Why is the last postponement so much an issue?
My criticisms of Jega at that time were well publicized in the print media. I also believe from the number of collection of PVCs, especially in Yobe compared to Enugu, I said something was wrong. If you remember in the Council of State, Jega with thirty something per cent PVC collection in Lagos State said he was ready. It was the Presidency of Jonathan that postponed the election by six weeks so that they could try and do something in Borno. Yakubu owes Nigerians explanation on somethings that happened. Until we demand and get these explanations, we cannot hope to have elections where the people believe that their votes will count. I was in the Southeast for the presidential election. Everybody knows that the Southeast has never had that kind of turnout since voting started in Nigeria for the presidential election. But look at the figures that were returned. They were in hundreds. Look at the last governorship and state assembly election, even with voters apathy, low turnout etc; the figures INEC returned are much higher than the Presidential/ National Assembly election in the Southeast. Unless we do forensic examination and analysis of these things, we can never get to the ideal. The ideal is that the people should elect their leaders, people who will serve them. It is not that people will decide to rule over others. One of the maxims of democracy is that nobody is good enough to rule over another person, without that other person’s consent. Whether that person is Mr Integrity or Mrs Integrity is completely irrelevant. You need that person’s consent to rule him.
Before the elections, the president had promised repeatedly that he was going to deliver a free and fair election. Are you saying that the promise was not kept?
I have nothing for or against the president. The president is his own best judge of himself. But I have something against INEC. INEC should do everything to make sure that elections, which are central to every democracy are held in a manner that they are credible. When they fail, they set democracy backwards immensely and I think this election is only comparable with the moon slide victories of 1983 in Nigeria. Those moon slide victories where sitting governors were removed and people announced and thereafter the military came in announcing. This election is compared to that because your winning in the polling booth means nothing to your winning at the collation centre. We thank God that some decisions were taking regarding the situation in Rivers. But why Rivers? Why not Katsina? Why not Kaduna? Why are these things selective? Isn’t it clear how military people took over the collation? I salute people like Wike for not confronting them because the story could have been different.
If you say that INEC didn’t do a good job, would it have been a good job if the PDP had won?
No, I keep remembering President Yar’Adua . I keep insisting that that he is the best President Nigeria never had for long. Let me give you three reasons. President Yar’Adua was the one who publicly declared his assets and anybody could see those assets. Secondly, he had the boldness to say that the election that brought him into power was faulty and if it was the last thing he will do, he will improve on it. He immediately appointed the Uwais Panel and we are seeing the effect of it. If it hadn’t been for the Uwais Panel and the Electoral Act, the PDP if it wished, could have continued to hold on to power. The third thing about Yar’Adua is that Nigeria was his constituency, not Katsina, not the North. He did the right things. So, it’s not whether PDP won or not. Look at the PDP margin in 2011. In 2015, it lost that margin. Apart from criticizing Jega for his PVCs and the selective use of them, can you recall me saying that the election was bad. Am I comparing Jega’s election with that moon slide, and yet PDP lost so massively. So, it has nothing to do with PDP winning or losing. It has nothing to do with APC winning or losing. It has everything to do with when a people want a particular candidate and go out to vote for that candidate, that candidate is the person they have given their mandate to rule them. Some other person should not by sleight of hand change that mandate. It is wrong.
What do you regret most in the loss of PDP candidate at the poll – restructuring or what?
It is a major regret. It is an existential problem for Nigeria and it has remained for a long time. We have had some so many conferences. I was in the 2014 conference and I was in the Committee on the devolution of power, which is the main thing. If you reduce the Federal Government’s powers at the centre to what it was and what it should be in a federation, you will find that all these do or die politics will almost be obliterated. The last papers we had for that conference, were from Alfa Belgore’s paper that focused on recurrent issues in Nigeria’s federalism. There are recurrent issues. Revenue allocation is a recurrent issue. Citizenship right is a recurrent issue. Education is a recurrent issue. The question of local government is a recurrent issue. These will sooner or later have to be addressed. Whether this government addresses it or redresses it or not is its problem. The Southeast where I come from says that when you hold something up because you are tall to a height where the others will be jumping, but they can’t get it, sooner or later, the muscles can’t continue and you will lower your hand. I only hope that in the scramble, you won’t create chaos and a lot of collateral damage. That’s why it is easy to discuss it now that most people have agreed on it. And when you discuss it as we saw in that our national conference, solutions can be found. There is nobody who wants to eat all the food so that his neighbours will be hungry. What the people are looking for is justice, sense of belonging, equity. So, if I tell you that I’m not disappointed to see a setback to restructuring, I will be lying. One of the strongest weapons we have against those who are urging for a complete and total breakaway from the country and forming a country of their own is that we are better off together if it is a proper federation. People will have opportunity to develop at their own pace and people will be happy to cooperate with others. The South-south came with it. They started with agitations for resource control. It is all part of it. It is not a Southeast problem. Southeast problem has its own because it is completely excluded. If they had allowed the figures of the elections, they would have found out that Igbo votes matter in Nigeria. The essence is to teach that Igbo votes matter in Nigeria and I have already said that the Igbo don’t care whether you take it or not. But get ready during the next election; they will be determined again to show that Igbo votes matter, whether it is in the Southeast or other parts of Nigeria where they live and work. But these things won’t be important if you were to treat everybody fairly. The classic example, I have said it and I’m repeating it is the one of security agencies. The Igbo is not even good enough to head Federal Road Safety, which it had headed before. The Igbo is good enough to command ECOMOG. The Igbo man is good enough to command DAFUR; I know Major General Ihekere was there. The Igbo was good to be Adviser on Defence, United Nations. I know that Lt General Isaac Obiakor was there. Suddenly, the Igbo have no merit and when you tell that to people who thrive in competition and who hate quota system, it is the greatest insult. Everything else, which you do have competition run fairly by the best international agencies, the Igbo man has never had problem with.
Ohanaeze was torn apart by the last election, how do you think the body can be rebuilt?
Nothing has torn the Ohanaeze. Ohanaeze is strong. What people didn’t know is that many of us were privately sitting on Nnia Nwodo and preventing him from resigning as President of Ohanaeze. It didn’t tear it apart. Look at the pattern of voting in Igbo land. The preference was exactly as Ohanaeze prescribed. Are you looking at the Secretary? The Secretary is an interloper.
Why do you say so?
You have an entire Executive Council and you are the only one. He became Secretary because the Secretary General was zoned to the Port Harcourt axis of Ikwere and other ethnic nationalities. Many of them believe that they are Ikwere, but they are not Igbo. This one said he was Ikwere and he was Igbo and he was taken in. But it is a shame that his acquaintance with Ohanaeze should end disgracefully as it has. Who did he have with him? Is it the Treasurer, the Legal Adviser, the Deputy President General, or the Vice National Chairman? Who did he have? He came and collected money and he confined himself to infamy. The shame of it is that the people he represents will have to take the infamy. You don’t beg anybody to be your brother. Ndigbo are not begging anybody to be their brother. They just say brother if you are there, come on. Delta has no problem. We had a Chairman in the late Ambassador Ralph Uwechue, one of the best President Generals of Ohanaeze. The President of Ohanaeze in Abuja is from Ika-Igbo in Delta. One of the strongest speeches I’ve heard in favour of anything was from Efezomor. It was such a strong speech. So, if you believe that you are, that’s who you are. If you believe that you are not, you are not. For Uche Okwukwu that said he was and he came and behaved as if he was not, the records are there for him. It is the first and last time he will get away from that kind of thing because if he goes anywhere now and pronounces himself Ohanaeze, it will be a joke. Everybody will leave the place for him. Nobody begs any other person to be his brother. The Igbo are not begging for people to be their brother. In 1994, I was Chairman of Nkpoko Igbo and that was the most successful conference Ndigbo has had in recent memory. That was the place where I provided a platform for Ekwueme to put up the six geopolitical zones. Ojukwu and everybody were there. Even Ken Saro Wiwa, my friend was brought in. We came there and preached rotational presidency and preached six geopolitical zones and restructuring in 1995. I was the Secretary of the Igbo Secretariat and the Secretary of the Pius Okigbo Committee that did it. So, for Ndigbo, they are not doing it to hurt anybody. They are trying to bring ideas that will make everybody a happier citizen in Nigeria.
Your presidential candidate is in court, but some are putting pressure on him to end the legal battle against the president. What is your take?
I think that it is not the first time Atiku has gone to court. Atiku went to court when his name was removed and Atiku going to court has always thrown more light on our judicial system. It has never had a negative effect. It has been to challenge certain impunities and our legal system has always benefited from it. His running mate had a long encounter with the court and finally became governor of Anambra State and my personal opinion is that he was a very good governor in so many respects. Look at the Director General of the Buhari Campaign Organization. He was not even in Nigeria when he felt his political right was trampled upon. He went to court and left and he ended up becoming the governor of Rivers State. The Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole was not governor after the election. He became governor through court case. The President-elect, you know how many time he went to court. It is instructive that some of the people who adjudicated, I think one is Ambassador to the US and the other one is the High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Even the leader of the APC, so many times that the Federal Government seized his allocation, he went to court. When he didn’t get what was his due in what he considered a federation, he went to court. So, anybody who says our presidential candidate should not go to court, then what are courts for. I can’t understand that. If the court says he doesn’t have a case, then it becomes established. Even treasonable felony, Awo went to court. Even Shagari went to court. So, I don’t know why this particular one is of interest. Jonathan didn’t want to go to court. That was his decision. But going to court to challenge what you think is wrong is the only way to go.
Are you disturbed by the rejection of your candidate’s request for a forensic audit of the ballot papers?
That is the court’s decision. I am sure that it will be represented. I am sure that evidence must be presented in court. When you go to court, you must present evidence and the judges will do justice to the evidence. If you have refused, then it will be recorded for you that you refused. So, I don’t think there is any problem. That is just the first thing that was done. What should a person do when he is wronged? Some of us voted and we know the result. The good thing in the present elections is that there are no riots in the field and there are no killings in the field. People are not being killed and there is general peace. It is the prayer of most Nigerians that the killings should stop, nobody should be killed. Even if we go to court, nobody should be killed at the end of it. What people are doing is that they are giving the President-elect their say. By May 29, he won’t be President-elect. He will be President if the court says so and now, Nigerians will expect good governance. He will now fix those things. He will now take us to the next level. But what clearly annoys me is this their silly arithmetic of hundred dollars a barrel times 365 days a year, times 16 years. It is silly, it is simplistic, it is irresponsible arithmetic. When Obasanjo came to power, oil was about $18 and Abdulsalami Abubakar can confirm. Abdulsalami Abubakar can confirm also that the foreign reserve was about $3 billion. He can also confirm that our foreign debt was over $33 billion US Dollars. I was appointed on 29th May 1999, so I’m in a position to know. And for those who are asking, the template for setting up ICPC and EFCC were already on ground by that time because I saw them. Our oil production fell as low as 500,000 barrels per day because of the challenge we had in the Niger Delta. The challenge was there until that good man, Yar’Adua, using people like Godwin Abeh and the rest, did amnesty. This amnesty this government is doing, who did it? Let them ask General Godwin Abeh. He was in charge of Internal Affairs. He has since gone quiet. Now you are ignoring all these and saying oil sold at 100 dollars times 365 days times 16 years. I can tell them where the money went. Part of it went in getting debt relief. The money went in excess crude account, if you are talking of saving. Look at the road to the airport, who didn’t know that it was single road to the airport by 1999? And all these rail projects, I was in the team that went to China first and we paid. So, when people ask that kind of question, I say it’s okay. In the next four years, may we now go to the next level.
Buhari has said it will be tough, what do you make of that?
I don’t know. Going to the next level may be tough or may be easy, but we will know. When we are in jobs, we will know. The social insurance, nobody is criticizing. Trader money, nobody is again interested. The elections are over. May trader money get all over the country. May school feeding continue and get all over the country. May the N30,000 payment continue and get all over the country and Nigeria will become better by it. Let us see what it is. But what we are seeing again is that they are spending too much time, when everybody have said it wasn’t $16 billion; that the money spent was about $4 billion. You say where is the power, where is the money. You have NIPPs. Which have they been commissioning? Which kobo did they spend on electricity? Their budgets are available. Or they are changing electricity with body language, not by investments in gas pipelines and infrastructure? I know how we get involved in getting some of the players like GE Electric and Marubeni and they came into the country. Which ones have they got? So, the money we know where it is and they can audit the money. But their own, you have been sliding above 60 dollars per barrel. Where is also the money? We know where the money is even right now under their nose. If the government is really serious about finding the money, it should have international auditors to come and conduct forensic audit of Nigeria’s account and what was done with it and budgets from 1999 to date.