From Mokwugwo Solomon, Nnewi
Senior Advocate of Nigeria(SAN), Emeka Etiaba is the first son of the former governor of Anambra State, Dame Virgy Etiaba. He is also a strong contender for the November 6th governorship election in Anambra State, on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He speaks on his governorship aspiration, as well as the state of the nation.
As a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, what are your opinions on the position of the Southern governors on open grazing, restructuring and state police?
First of all, I will tell you that Southern governors have actually impressed me so much by the way they came together, not minding the different political parties that they came from. What is good about their decision is that they did not look at political party linings; they looked at the common issues that confront the people of Southern Nigeria, which is the nuisance and criminality associated with the herdsmen. So, their decision that there will not be open grazing is a well thought out decision. It is a decision that they can enforce, because, all they need to do is to create enabling platform for the enforcement of the resolution. I heard the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice of Nigeria, Abubakar Malami, said that banning open grazing in the South is akin to banning spare parts business in the North. In as much as I have a lot of respect for the AGF, I also observe that his opinion on the matter is not correct. Our brothers, who deal in spare parts in the North, do not enter people’s warehouses or shops to take their wares or their spare parts. They buy the spare parts from the importers, rent shops for their businesses, and obey relevant government laws on revenue generation, etc. Nothing or nobody stops any herdsman from buying lands to keep his cattle, or grasses to feed his flock. All that the Southern governors are saying is that herdsmen don’t have the right to enter people’s farms to destroy crops, and when the farmer complains, he is killed. It is wrong. That is the whole basis of the resolution of the Southern governors on open grazing. You are also aware that the Attorney General stated that it is the fundamental right of the herdsmen to enter anywhere, including people’s farms. You can see the reason why no herder is being prosecuted. For goodness sake, where one man’s right ends is where another person’s right starts. So, nobody will say that coming into my farm to destroy it is his fundamental right. But I must also tell you that even with the development the world over, nobody talks about open grazing. Nobody talks about migration any more.
On the issue of restructuring, I think every wise ear in Nigeria must have gotten tired of the word, restructuring. The more the government says there is no need of it, the more agitation and call for secession come. There is nothing wrong about restructuring. All developed countries discuss their union constantly. In America, the president delivers the state of the union address every year while Nigeria is saying that its own union is not negotiable. Personally, I can bet you that at the end of the day, the result of not negotiating Nigeria’s union will be worst than whatever problem they envisage for negotiating the union.
I will also say that the call by the Southern governors on the need for state police is a way forward. In America from where we adopt our system of democracy, they have regional police formations. They have New York Police and New Jersey Police. They even have University Police, etc, because, the more you break security down, the better security will permeate every corner of the society.
What informs your decision to join the Anambra governorship race, and to succeed Obiano?
My motivation in getting into the race, not necessarily succeeding Obiano, is that I know I can do better in terms of delivering good governance. It is on record that no Senior Advocate has ever been governor in Nigeria and performed badly in leadership. Governors Raji Fashola of Lagos State and Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State have good track records. I know that by my training, experiences and dexterity, I can do better. As a Senior Advocate, I must promote and obey laws; I understand how to put square pegs in square holes. In leadership, you don’t have to see yourself as gift to the people of the state; rather, you see yourself as a servant of the people. That is the kind of leadership I will provide.
Your mother, Dame Virgy Etiaba, governed Anambra State under the platform of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA. Why do you choose PDP as your own vehicle to the Government House?
I chose PDP as my own vehicle; because that is the part y I belong to. I left APGA in 2010, and I have never gone back since then, and I don’t have any business going back to APGA. I believe that all I need in a political party is in the PDP. That is why I chose it to achieve my ambition.
With the caliber of people in the race under the PDP platform, there is no doubt that the party has what it takes to win the governorship election. Do you think the aspirants will be united in pursuing the goal after PDP primary?
I believed that if free and fair primary is conducted, and an aspirant from Anambra South emerge as candidate, the party will go into the election as one indivisible entity. We are aware of the zoning arrangement in Anambra, which has been controversially interpreted. I can tell you that the mood and sentiment of Anambra people presently are that any party that does not choose its candidate from Anambra South will have problems. It is now certain that if a Southern candidate is presented by PDP, the party will go into the election with one voice, and I, as an aspirant, will support whoever that wins.
PDP always goes into crises when major elections like the governorship poll comes. What is your advice to the party as Anambra goes to the poll again?
The major reason why PDP goes into the election fragmented is the manner of primaries that PDP has been conducting. This time around, the National Working Committee of the party has taken over the conduct of the primary, and people have confidence for a credible outcome. I believe that if credible primary is conducted, there would be no division in the party after the primary.
What do you think is a major reason why APGA should not continue in the Government House beyond March 17, 2022?
I do not have any reason why APGA shouldn’t remain in the Government House after March 17, 2022; but I have reasons why I, as a PDP person, should be there. One, I have what it takes to deliver my mandate; two, APGA has tried its best, and for now, the best of APGA, as a party, is not good enough.
What would you do to tame the rate of insecurity in Anambra if elected?
When elected governor, I would be making use of security reports; not chasing my political opponents in the name of security reports. I will use Anambra State money to secure and develop the state. I will employ the experiences of a myriad of retired and serving security experts in the state. In 2009, when I came out for governorship race, I called a security meeting in Lagos, where I invited retired army and police officers. I believe that their experiences would bring lasting solution to the security challenges of the state.
Anambra has oil deposits, but does not enjoy that status as oil producing state. What would you do in that regard, if elected governor?
I believe that if a responsive government were in place, Anambra’s status as oil producing state would actually be accepted by the Federal Government. We have gas deposits in Anambra. If we should take advantage of our gas deposits, it will reposition our industries. We will have vibrant industrial life across the state, and all the moribund industries in Nnewi, Onitsha and Awka, would be revived, and full employment will take place. Government doesn’t create employments; government creates enablers for private enterprises to thrive. If the enabling environments were created by government, businesses would thrive, and the volume of our Internally Generated Revenue would increase. If elected governor, my administration would also look at the parks and markets in order to develop them very well. There is much fraud in markets; but by ensuring prudence in running our markets, Anambra will have more IGR for her projects, instead of depending on handouts from the federation account.
As a lawyer who understands the unconstitutionality of non-conduct of local government election, how would your government handle the third tier of government?
For me, it is an unconstitutional act that the governor has refused to conduct the local government election as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, I will not deliver anything short of obeying the constitutional obligation of the government by conducting local government election regularly.
Poor electricity supply has been the bane of industrial development in Anambra and Nigeria in general. How would you attract independent power plants that would help sustain industries in the state, if elected governor?
There are many companies that indicated interest for the project. When I came out for governorship in 2009, I had so many lists of them. If elected, I would invest on the power project that would ensure better supplies to the industries.
Anglican – Catholic dichotomy has always been an issue in Anambra politics, especially when it comes to governorship election. What would be your advice to Anambra stakeholders in that regard?
When my mother, Dame Virgy Etiaba, was governor of Anambra State, nobody heard about such thing; despite the fact that she is an Anglican. She was a darling to Catholic bishops. So, I don’t see the reason why we should be playing politics based on religion. We are complaining about Fulani people in Nigeria; how they maltreat and marginalize the rest of us. Why then should somebody bring such dichotomy among the same people? I intend to have a programme that would be titled: “That we may be one.” If we were one, indeed, I didn’t think somebody would be complaining about religious dichotomy.
What is your view about the popularity rating conducted by one Elomba Television, where you were rated 6th position among 16 governorship aspirants of the Peoples Democratic Party?
I don’t believe such rating would make one a governor, or stop one from becoming a governor. I remember what happened in the Bible when Prophet Samuel wanted to anoint a king from the house of Jesse. David was least expected to become king; but he was chosen. The thought of God is not the thought of man.