Judex Okoro, Calabar
Sunday Michael is the chairman of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) in Cross River State; he was the immediate past chairman of the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and one time governorship aspirant. He speaks on the just concluded general elections.
A few weeks away from now, President Buhari would be sworn in for the second term. Do you think Nigerians voted rightly considering his adjudged abysmal performance in the first term?
Personally, I feel Nigerians did the right thing to have brought him back to power. Yes, his style is slow but I think in times like this President Buhari is the right person to govern Nigeria and every Nigerian should give him that support to take Nigeria to the next level. We may not be where we want to, but I have always told people that when President Buhari leaves, we will appreciate him better. Yes there are some things that happened and we are very saddened like the trial of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN). The chief justice is from my state and I protested when he was removed, but again come to think of it, outside the fact that he is from my state, has it ever been heard that the chief justice is being tried, so we must also commend Mr. President for that.
The corruption should be real and should be tackled from all angles and should not be selective. The fight against corruption should be all encompassing. We want to see the fight against corruption being fought headlong. Then, we want to see the president inject young people into his government. If the president can make at least 60 percent of his cabinet youths, then he can see the wonders. Not just youths, qualified youths filled with energy and zest. Besides, there should be a mechanism to check what his ministers are doing because there are so many ministers we don’t know; we want to see the appraisal of the 2017 – 2018 budget performance. We want to see the ministers talk in a town hall meeting and say this is what and what we did, as was done in the past because the president alone cannot do everything. And then we want to see the president caution his party. There is overbearing influence of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the governance of this nation, and that has caused so many problems as we have seen in the last elections. There are so many states APC could have won including Cross River. Besides, Mr. President should also caution his party, let party concentrate on party activities and let the issue of governance rest with him.
Look at what is happening in the National Assembly, the constitution is kept aside and the party is saying that this is who we want. Election of National Assembly leadership is not the exclusive preserve of the ruling party. It is for the legislators to elect who they feel can govern them well. The rule did not say that the party should appoint somebody, it says they should select from among themselves. That means even if the APC is in the majority and the senators feel they should elect Senator Ifeanyi Uba of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), so be it. So that overbearing influence should be set aside and allow the National Assembly to work so that we can have a peaceful National Assembly. One of the things that slowed down the president is the leadership of the National Assembly because it was not in tandem with the presidency and they were always at loggerheads with the executive. Nigerians do not want to see those things because the people that bore the brunt of those things were the masses. We want to see that synergy. Again, President Buhari should learn the politics of give-and-take. He should not run a winner-takes-it all like what he did the last time.
The CNPP seems to be at the forefront of re-engineering the electoral processes in the country. Can you rightly say that your political associations lived up to its responsibilities in the 2019 general elections?
I can tell you our association lived up its billings in the 2019 general elections especially in Cross River. This is the first time in the history of the state that all political actors and gladiators came together and mobilised the electorate through our different political parties on the need to participate. Virtually every local government had a candidate who participated in the elections and we covered the length and breadth of the state. It’s not like before where we were relying on what we heard from the field. Now, all the candidates were in the field and from what we saw in the field, the elections were reasonably free and fair. And don’t forget that in the past, no opposition candidate will score close to 60, 000 votes. Here, we see the leading opposition candidate, Senator John Owan Eno had over 150, 000 votes. If the process were not credible, he would not even polled up to 20, 000. We know too well that maybe, if his party had put itself in order, who knows, maybe they could have won, but because of the fracas within their party that cost them the votes. We commend the role played by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), all stakeholders, the CNPP in giving us a free, fair and credible election.
Out of 25 governorship candidates in the state, 23 joined the CNPP. We want to move the state forward irrespective of who is saddled with the responsibility of governance and that is why we are still appealing to the two other candidates especially the candidate of the APC, Senator John Owan Eno, to see reasons why they should accept the result of the elections. Based on our understanding, we agreed before the elections that whoever wins we would work with that person and congratulate the person. And immediately INEC announced the winner, we all came out together and congratulated the winner. We rolled out billboards and did paid adverts in national dailies to congratulate the winner.