The Deputy Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Sports, Hon. Anayo Nnebe, never shies away from speaking frankly on national issues. In this interview with KEMI YESUFU, the former Speaker of the Anambra State House of Assembly speaks on former President Goodluck Jonathan’s analysis of his loss in the 2014 election and how his support for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) led to the defeat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra in the 2013 governorship election. He also shared his views on the controversy about President Muhammadu Buhari’s state of health and Senate’s rejection of Ibrahim Magu as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Recently the House debated a motion on Senator Dino Melaye’s allegations of an attempt on his life. Some have criticised the House for motions such as this one, saying legislative time should be used for issues that affect the generality of the people. Do you agree?
It would be simplistic to say Senator Dino Melaye’s safety is what is at stake. In the real sense, what is at stake is the independence of the legislature and we really need to be on guard, because Nigeria is sliding hastily into anomie, anarchy and lawlessness. And if we allow what happened to Dino, a serving Senator to be the normal, then no member of the National Assembly will be above being a target. I am a PDP man and Dino is of the APC, but the truth must be told that, what he is facing currently might be related to the fact that he is a vocal member of the National Assembly. You shouldn’t be describing what happened as his making allegations, because the police are investigating, while the media reported the incident with pictures of his house riddled with bullets. If you disagree with what an individual has said, you can counter it. You don’t have to go after his life. It’s barbaric to do such. That’s why I spoke during the debate and I spoke from the perspective of a parliamentarian, I reminded the House that we have unresolved high profile assassinations and that, not one of the assassins had been successfully tried and sentenced. You cannot expect that everyone will become deaf and dumb and not speak up in a democracy, we don’t have to wait until the man is killed. The parliament should speak up in one voice on an issue such as this.
One issue which the House spoke with one voice was the condemnation of Vice-President Yemi Osibanjo’s opinion that the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, can be fully appointed without Senate’s approval. But some Nigerians have read the posture of the House to mean that certain people in government don’t want Magu who has been decisive in fighting corruption.
I said earlier that Nigeria is hastily descending into anarchy, anomie and a state of lawlessness. The problem isn’t the fact that the Vice-President gave his personal opinion. What is worrisome is that, the Federal Government adopted the V.P’s opinion as government’s position. You don’t have to be a lawyer to ask the simple question why the presidency sent Magu’s name for confirmation to the Senate. The President sent his name, not once, but twice and in the process, wasting time and resources. If the President doesn’t need the confirmation of the Senate, why haven’t they simply called Magu the substantive Chairman of the EFCC? Why are they still calling him (Magu) acting chairman? My point is, the three arms of government should be respected.
Do you agree with your party’s call that the Presidency should tell Nigerians exactly what is wrong with President Buhari, especially as he missed the Federal Executive Council meeting twice and only attended Jumat service?
Let me state clearly that by virtue of my religious inclination and my region of origin, it is binding on me to pray for even my worst enemy not to die. And in Igboland, you don’t make jest of anyone’s health challenges. My prayer is that Mr. President gets well and he completes his tenure. As far as I am concerned, the President presiding over FEC or not… it’s not a big issue. There is no law that states that the President must preside over FEC. This is why, when the President is not available, the Vice-President carries out that duty. It’s just like when the Speaker is not around, the Deputy Speaker presides over plenary and the Speaker doesn’t have to write Deputy Speaker to preside over plenary, because he won’t be around. As far as I am concerned, if the Presidency decides to make the President’s state of health public, that’s okay. But, if they choose not to, then they would have to understand when Nigerians come up with different opinions on what the state of health of the President is. So, I think it is in the interest of the Presidency to tell the citizenry the truth about the President’s health status and if there are people who chose to be mischievous, they should be left to their devices.
Former president, Goodluck Jonathan, has spoken about what led to his defeat with his analysis dividing observers and some saying he failed to apportion blame to himself…..
(cuts in) I don’t want to join issues with the former president. Whatever happened is now history. The PDP lost the Presidency, that’s history and we should concentrate on how to rebuild the party to win the next election. As a former president, he (Jonathan) has earned the respect that comes to former occupants of the number one office and I have to accord him that respect. He is entitled to giving his opinion on what led to his losing the election, even if some of us might have different opinions on the matter.
What kind of candidate do you think the PDP can present to win the governorship election in Anambra State? There is a lot of movement in the APC and APGA has the incumbent, but it seems only the former minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka, has shown interest in the PDP?
There are many people angling for the PDP ticket and for me, it’s only when you get to the bridge that you start to talk of crossing it. At the moment, we are thinking of strengthening the party back to the level when PDP had strong footing in the grassroots. As for our candidate winning, a PDP flag bearer has a very good chance of emerging victorious. Elections are not won by name-dropping, but by having a candidate with credibility and a party with grassroots appeal. I tell you there is no other party on ground in Anambra State like the PDP. I can tell that there are other high ranking individuals who will jostle for the PDP ticket, it’s not only the former minister who is interested in getting the party’s ticket.
If the PDP has a large following as you said, why hasn’t it been able to win the governorship election twice now?
What actually happened during the APGA government during which I was Speaker of the Anambra State House of Assembly is that…… and this is why I said I don’t want to join issues with the former president (Jonathan). But then, when the game was on, the former president favoured the APGA candidate. He favoured the APGA governor and his candidate over his own people (party). And he came to Anambra when Tony Nwoye was the party’s candidate, I spoke and I was the only one that said, there was no Igbo man that would opt for a stepson, when he could have a biological son. I said it’s only when a man cannot have a biological son of his own, that he may opt for a stepson. I asked him, that as the president and leader of our party, how come you are now saying PDP is your party and APGA is your party? After I spoke at the rally which held in Onitsha, he called me aside and spoke to me. The signs were there and in the end APGA’s victory was facilitated by the former president, and so, if he is now talking about how we lost the presidential election, it’s good to also ask how PDP lost the 2013 election in Anambra.
Still talking Anambra State, what do you have to say about the recent protest in the National Assembly by some groups calling for the recall of Senator Andy Uba following his decamping to the APC? Isn’t it time the electorate started making such demands?
It was a hired crowd. We have a well- articulated process of recalling a member of the National Assembly. If the electorate from Senator Uba’s district feel that they want to recall him, they will begin the process from the district. Anyone coming to Abuja to protest, saying he is demanding for a Senator’s recall, or that his seat be declared vacant, is just playing to the gallery. There are only three ways to declare a seat vacant, one is if the person dies, or he is removed by the court of final jurisdiction, or when the process of recall has been carried out successfully. But you can’t hire a handful of people to protest and tell them to ask the Senate President to declare a senator’s seat vacant. If the Senate President allows that to happen, one day someone else can hire a crowd claiming to be from Kwara State and ask for his own seat to be declared vacant.
I don’t know if you are aware of the demonstrators’ market in Abuja. If you need a 100 people, or even 20 of them to stage a protest, you go there and arrange for them.
The point is that, we should avoid trivializing issues in the South-East. How many people have crossed over to the APC or is it only Senator (Uba), who did this? As you are well aware, the law states that you can move from a party when there is a division at the national level. Isn’t there division in the PDP at the national level? I am not holding brief for the Senator, but here is someone who was Special Assistant to the President, he is a ranking member of the Senate and a former governor, even if he left honourably after the court removed him, we should not allow faceless groups ridicule him.