•Igbo should be aggressive about who becomes president in 2019
Former Minister of Health, Prof A.B.C. Nwosu, has said that the third force, which former President Olusegun Obasanjo is projecting to vote out the the present government will soon dissolve into the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In an interview with VINCENT KALU, Prof Nwosu, who is one of the founding members of the PDP, wondered how it would work out if the third force doesn’t metamorphose into a political party. He also noted that Nigeria will continue to be troubled on all fronts, except the enormous powers at the centre are devolved to the states.
Nigeria seems to be troubled on all fronts, killings here and there, why?
These are symptoms of a very central disease. Just like malaria comes with temperature, all kinds of things including, lack of appetite, we have a central problem. What Nigeria is suffering from is extreme concentration of powers at the centre.
Unless Nigeria restructures, which the major thing is the devolution of powers and responsibility, the country will continue to be troubled on all fronts. As money from the federating units continues go to the centre, all these problems will be occurring. There is the need to have peace in the polity.
Talking about restructuring, following the clamour for it, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has come up with recommendations on how to restructure the country. Do you buy into those proposals?
Some of the recommendations are ok. They should look at the 2014 National Conference, which I was part of. If there is any report that was more far reaching, that had many people involved, it was that conference, but a lot of things recommended are also in the El-rufai report.
Subjecting the El-rufai report to APC national committee, etc, is red herring. It’s just applying delay tactics so that Nigerians will say that the elections are near, and is not right. If it goes out by early March, as Executive Bill to the National Assembly, I will be happy.
People are asking why didn’t Jonathan do it; ok, why didn’t Jonathan also win the election? So, if the person didn’t do it, you also shouldn’t do it, even if you think it is the right thing to do. I don’t understand why they are delaying it further; if they mean it they can send it immediately as Executive Bill.
Some people are skeptical about the report because they reason that the president doesn’t believe in restructuring, and his party that cannot override him is coming up with such an idea. What is your view on this?
I believe, but the only way they can prove me wrong is if they send an Executive Bill this week; if they don’t do that, people will keep suspecting them, including me.
What is the shape of things to come in 2019?
We pray there will be presidential election; INEC said it would come. If we don’t do anything about restructuring and we think that the problem is only leadership, I don’t know what leader you would get. Will he be able to stop the herdsmen clash; will he be able to check all the numerous things, including moving the economy?
The entire thing is the courage to restructure and give states more resources. How can states be viable when the Federal Government has pocketed all the money? That wasn’t like that at independence, and instead of facing it, people are telling me that it is about youth and old.
When Michael Okpara was premier of the defunct Eastern Region, he was only 39 years old, and he did so much. Nobody ruled Nigeria before that was more than early 50, until former President Obasanjo came back, and Buhari came back. In their first time of ruling Nigeria they were in their 40s. It is not about age, it is what the person is going to do about Nigeria.
What is your position of the reordering of the election schedule by the National Assembly with the presidential poll coming last?
The NASS has the right to make laws. How does it matter which one comes first; how did it go before now? Whether presidential comes first or last, what we want is a credible election that is not rigged, where we do not have underage voters. In some past elections, presidency didn’t start, while in some past elections it started first.
While should people be splitting hairs over the NASS’ ability to make laws.
Talking about underage voters, as witnessed in Kano State council poll, what does this portend for 2019?
Disaster. Some people are already promising five million votes and more to their parties. Are they divisible into five million? You can only promise your vote. This portends disaster.
There is what I can call ‘PVC war’. Every region or state is mobilizing her people for voters cards. In 2015, we had 68 million voters, as at today, we have 74 million voters and registration is still on going. What does this trend mean?
INEC has a law that says, you are eligible to vote in Nigeria if you are of a particular age, and guidelines. INEC should follow the guidelines and if there are any discrepancies, it is the INEC’s faults, and it will have serious consequences on the election. INEC should do its job properly. You cannot refuse anybody the right to be registered to vote, but if you go ahead giving so many PVCs such that underage people can have PVC, you are accountable.
How prepared is PDP for 2019?
The PDP is playing its roles as opposition. It wasn’t expecting to be in opposition, but it grew very arrogant and found itself there, and it grew more arrogant and found itself in a major problem, which the Supreme Court sorted out for us. It should teach PDP humility. In the end, it is the will of the people. A party that promises power to the people should in effect try and make itself very popular, and ascertain the will of the people.
It has already done so when it said it was zoning the presidency to the North, that in my view is correct, being one of the founding members of the PDP, who insisted power shift to the South.
In the 1994 Abacha Conference, the major insistence was on rotational presidency. So, when I see people who say it doesn’t really matter, I shrug and say there was a reason the learned people in Nigeria then, talking from the Southeast in that conference – Ojukwu, Ekwueme, Mbakwe ,etc, were there, and they all collectively led the Southeast in insisting on rotational presidency and everybody agreed and it was in that draft constitution presented by Justice Adolphus Karibi-Whyte.
They looked at it and said it makes for stability.
The same people who are shouting it doesn’t matter will soon shout it does matter when they lose the presidency, and find that is not because they were qualified, but somebody less qualified had used his political muscle to get it.
PDP got it right by that, and I think it got it right by listening to the people, and then we will have a good 2019 election.
What should be the position of the Igbo in 2019?
The Igbo are acting very strangely on 2019. They are some lazy thinkers, who think that if you let the present order continue, and after four years, you just go and pick it because it is your turn. It won’t happen that way. If the Igbo are not aggressive about who becomes president in 2019, and aggressive that they are in the centre of power, and they are represented in the centre of power, how can power where they are not represented be handed over to them in 2023? What if the power where they are not represented hands it over to another person? Then you see the persons again drag out their knives and matchetes and go into the local markets and start shouting, Enyimba Enyi. This is the time to struggle to be part of the presidency. They will either be the vice president completely and be represented in all national structures of power.
APC is enmeshed in crises, do you see PDP benefiting from that?
I’m interested in what is happening in APC, it is doing what is supposed to be doing as a political party contesting for power. PDP should map out its own plans and not be looking across the shadow; it is like somebody running a race, when you are in your track, and you start looking left and right to see what others are doing you will not win the race. I’m focused on PDP; we will try and run our race, pick a good candidate, pick a good vice presidential candidate, and look at the different constituencies, the different wards. We had our own reconciliation after the convention, and we are still having reconciliation because the Southwest feels aggrieved and we should continue; we should continue, we should not say, let them be. The important thing is that all of us must come together on the Nigeria project, so that we can define how to solve the central problem.
Buhari is going to run for a second term, don’t you think this can stop PDP from ascending the presidency in 2019?
The APC has a right to field whom it wants, likewise the PDP. If the PDP candidate is whom the people want, and there are no rigging and other electoral malpractices, then APC will pay the same price that PDP paid in 2015. The important thing for me is, are we picking up a good candidate, what is the agenda for Nigeria that we are setting; are we setting an agenda on solving problems.
Number one problem is devolution of powers to the federating units. Anybody who wants to be the president of Nigeria and doesn’t say how this enormous power of the Federal Government will not be dispersed among the federating units is not serious. Such a person is not serious, and I won’t look at him twice.
How can he govern? Look at the budget of the states, it didn’t happen that way.
I was a senior boy in the secondary school when Nigeria got her independence, and I know the premier of my region, the late Okpara was 39 years old then, and every Igbo man swore by the name, M.I was a-39-year old man, and you can go and check on the amount of wealth he gathered. That is the way we should be looking at in order to progress. If you get a wrong candidate you will pay the price. I do hope nobody is going to use cohesive agencies of state to fix election results, or use technology – card reader and electronic transfer of result to declare a loser the winner. Anybody who does that is the greatest enemy of Nigeria.
What is your idea of this new coalition or third force former President Obasanjo is projecting?
It is a principle, which has always been there that when you have two forces, and people have lost faith in Force A and in Force B, and the way to resolve it is to create a third force. This third force has to be aligned with a political party in order to contest for power. You don’t have independent candidacy in Nigeria, and that is where I get confused that if it doesn’t metamorphose into a political party, how will people contending for power vie for power. Very soon, the thing will resolve itself again into APC and PDP.
Is it the same parties that the proponent of the third force, Chief Obasanjo had written off?
He has also written off the third force, when he said that if it becomes a political party that he would quit.
Talking about restructuring, some argue that we go back to regions, and if that is the case, what happens to the National Assembly, as presently constituted?
People use different terminologies for restructuring. The central thing is that because of the civil war, and the need to defeat Biafra, the Federal Military Government took the monies of the regions, took the powers of the regions, and took the responsibilities of the regions, and since the war ended in 1970, it has been reluctant to give them these powers, which it usurped.
When you talk of resource control, it is not new. The British had done it so many times. The last one was by Sir Jeremy Riesman, where 50 percent went to the region, 20 percent to Federal Government, which has defined few functions, and 30 percent in the distributable pool.
So, all these needed to be pooled because part of the most of the oil bearing areas had become Biafra.
The Federal Government took all these, and it began to acquire all kinds of ministries, set up new ministries and have over 500 parastatals. How can you be talking of cost of governance, and not talk of devolution of powers? Some people call it restructuring, while others call it devolution of powers, they don’t mean the same thing. You can have devolution of powers without having restructuring, but you can’t have restructuring without having devolution of powers. The key thing is not about regionalization. States that want to come together can do that, but you cannot decree regions again.
When they say regions, I was part of the development of the argument. If we accept six regions, it’s all right; some have argued for eight regions, but it will not be right. Once you start talking of eight regions, the next thing you start hearing is 12 regions, 19 regions, 36 regions, etc. It is either we accept the six regional structure, which also has its problems. It was well canvassed at the Abacha conference. Ojukwu and Ekwueme proposed six regional structure. I knew the argument and I knew how they went. If you doubt it, go and ask in Ebonyi whether they want to be part of Eastern Region; Go and ask in Lagos whether they want to be part of Western Region; go and ask in Cross River whether they will accept regional headquarters in Port Harcourt or Benin; or whether the Benin person would accept it in Port Harcourt.
In the last conference, which I was also a member, we decided that states should be the federating unit, but any state that feels like coming together can do so, but the key thing is devolution of powers. The Federal Government has 68 items on the exclusive list. At independence, it has about 43 or so. It has added more than half of what it had to its own, and states have nothing.
When people talk of state police, they forget that Native Authority Police in Nigeria started before the Nigerian Police. Nigeria Police Force came as a later event to Native Authority Police. What is wrong with state police? Some people argue on the television that the governors will use it. Was it not the Nigeria Police that abducted a sitting governor, Chris Ngige in Anambra State? Wasn’t that an abuse? The state police will be set up with legislation – how head of state police will be appointed, their training, their functions, and their protocols where they stop and where the federal police begins. The principle right now is that states fund the federal police.
What lesson does the resignation of South African President, Jacob Zuma teach us, Nigerians?
It teaches us that Nigeria is different from South Africa, and lots of things in Nigeria may not obtain in South Africa; and lots of things in South Africa may not obtain in Nigeria.
In terms of politics, Nigerians are the most docile people you can get. You can urinate on their heads, as long as they go ahead doing their small businesses, and eating their small garri with okro; they are prepared to take nonsense even if you are openly defying the constitution and the laws of the land. South Africa will insist. A country gets the type of leadership it accepts. Once you start anything in Nigeria, people will say it is because it is not your tribe’s man. We are still talking of tribe in Nigeria, instead of saying that it is not right. Some day that will come, and it may come the time we never expected it.