From Magnus Eze, Abuja
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the political architecture of the nation has become fluid; with the gale of alignments and realignments. One of those doing the realignment is former Attorney-General of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Nwoga, who recently joined the All Progressives Congress (APC) with his supporters. In this interview, he said Nigerians will give President Muhammadu Buhari another chance in 2019.
How will you rate the present administration on the rule of law with reference to the fight against corruption?
My quick response is to say that they have done well. However, whether their best is good enough is left for the public to evaluate and judge. You cannot talk about the rule of law in abstract. Rule of law connotes that government works within the confines of law. It also speaks to the fact that no person or institution is above the law. Rule of law implies that every person is subject to the law, be you a lawmaker, law enforcement official or a Judge.
In evaluating the performance of this administration in accordance with the rule of law with reference to fight against corruption, what quickly comes to mind is the performance of institutions like the EFCC, ICPC, the Judiciary and the Legislature. Of course, EFCC and ICPC represent the executive arm of the government. My assessment is that they have done well in curbing the excesses and in instilling some level of sanity. Massive investigations are ongoing; the economic crime trials are on the increase, though we have not witnessed significant convictions at the court. This in fact, brings to the fore the role of the judiciary in sustaining rule of law in a thriving democracy. The judiciary must guard its independence jealously and must have financial muscle to grow and evolve to something much better. The legislature on their part are resolved to enact laws that will make the fight against corruption effective and sustainable. I will give them a pass mark but there are still some areas that need improvement.
There has been cry of marginalisation in the south-east since the coming of Buhari government; what’s your take?
Every government is guilty of neglecting the south-east since the inception of democracy in 1999. To compound the problem, the politicians from the area are also guilty of the same offence. They are guilty because we have had prominent Igbo men and women that held offices through the time of President Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan. Each time they talk about marginalisation, I keep wondering what those big guys from Igbo land are doing. Are they just making money for themselves? What are they using those positions for?
In Jonathan’s government for instance, we had prominent ministers that held key ministries and appointments. What did it translate to? And then you have an administration that has been in government for slightly over two years and everybody is crying marginalisation. I think we are missing the point. It is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. We should stop blaming a government we didn’t even vote for. The government knows that if it does not develop the south-east, it would be very difficult for them to campaign and win elections in the zone. Today, we can point to the Onitsha-Enugu road, Enugu-Port Harcourt road, Niger Bridge, Agbani and Amagunze road. I think things are looking up. We need the presence of Federal Government to really show the Igbo that they are part and parcel of this country.
You recently joined the APC, what motivated you?
Do you know that since PDP lost power at the centre, there has been large concentration of politicians in the state jostling for one space or the other for survival? Life has become tough for a lot of them, which has not been the case before now. The revered Ikemba Gburugburu joined the NPN, after he was granted amnesty to the chagrin of all Igbo people and the NPP. We could never have imagined it, yet it happened. I recall him saying in paraphrase, that Igbo people needed to be where important national decisions were being made and where decisions on the sharing of the national cake were decided on, so that he can get Igbo share back to them.
My motivation is to work with people of like minds to ensure we are not ostracized by reason of mere emotional and sentimental politics.
PDP is seemingly entrenched in Enugu; do you think APC can dislodge it?
The truth of the matter is, it was not so from the beginning. Other political parties thrived very well. It took Chimaroke’s administration to implant the party and his style of leadership; PDP became the major beneficiary. Given the level of poverty in the state, the tendency was to flock to the side that brings the goodies. The past 16, now 18 years of PDP leadership in the state had made it impossible for the people to have another alternative. With APC holding sway at the national level, it is the only party that offers a strong and effective platform to challenge PDP leadership in the state. In effect, APC has the capacity to dislodge PDP, if it can put its house in the order and with proper focus.
Do you think President Buhari can make it in 2019?
I have never been much stronger in my belief that he will make it. I say so because after the 2015 elections, Nigerians realised that we were at a crossroad. It was either we truly and critically evaluate the life of this country in terms of where we are going or we sink. Corruption became so endemic. We had people who were almost richer than the federal government, while some were richer than the states because they could put their hands in the till. So, what Buhari has come to do is to tell Nigerians that we should look inwards and see where we have made our mistakes. And Nigerians know that things are tough. But you see that there are certain levels of acquiescence with the situation of things by Nigerians because they know that we have been going about it the wrong way. And if we must put our house in order, we need to retrace our steps. That is why people seem to be taking this hardship with the hope that things will get better. The truth is that people are willing to give Buhari another chance to bring them to that point where they would realise that Nigerians can make a fresh start devoid of massive corruption and impunity. It is up to the Nigerian people.