Chief Dan Nwanyanwu, former Chairman of the Labour Party (LP) and now National Chairman of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) is a thoroughbred politician, lawyer, and business strategist.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, he stressed the need to overhaul the nation’s electoral process by quickening the signing of Electoral Act by President Muhammadu Buhari. He also spoke on the Amotekun security initiative of the Southwest, debt profile, corruption crusade, among others. Excerpt:
Does it worry you that the courts are gradually becoming the decider of those who won elections in the country rather than the votes of the people?
You see in an election if you participated in it and you felt that things were not done right, that your votes were stolen, or that your mandate was taken away, won’t you go to the court?
I will, but it’s gradually becoming a tradition in Nigeria unlike in some other countries. Don’t you see it that something perhaps is wrong with such an electoral system?
What I am saying is that when an election is conducted and you have politicians who are there to win at all costs, they do all sorts of things, votes are counted, you won the election, but along the line something happens, either at the collation or thugs came and carried the ballot boxes of some polling units, but votes recorded against them, INEC officials forced to authenticate such results, you will feel the injustice of the action and you will go to court. The courts are there to bring remedy to the person cheated. If we don’t have the courts you can imagine what will happen, it is the courts that give hope that if they have done wrong you come to the court, if we don’t have the courts you can imagine what will happen at the polling units. What it means is that as the man or thugs come to cause problem, if you can shoot them you do that, as they are carrying it you engage them in a battle and join to carry your own too, then what you will have is anarchy, it will become a war. So, there is no way all over the world that the courts are ostracized or put aside from bringing justice and bringing remedy to those who felt oppressed or cheated, not only during elections, but even in business.
But what can we do to make sure we reduce the influence of the court in giving electoral verdict by ensuring that the votes count and electoral process is free and fair to all?
It would have been reduced in the last election if the electoral bill was signed by the president. For example, you don’t have to shut down the economy because we are going to vote or do an election. One can vote from the comfort of his or her room if we get our acts in order. I can vote from my room, I can vote from anywhere and it will hit the INEC server and it will be recorded appropriately, so you would have sent thugs away from business with such process, there will be no ballot boxes to carry, you would have sent away or stopped those who will come and buy votes or are you coming to buy me in my house from where I will be voting from or in my office where I am voting? It will bring more transparency in the electoral process and the people will have greater confidence in the system. So, we just have to take another look at our electoral laws again, particularly the Electoral Act with a view to rectifying all anomalies, curing the mischief that the present act has brought into the system. Secondly, politicians should caution themselves and not seek power, by all means, they must not be desperate to win at all costs. Most of what we see are initiated, plotted and executed by the politicians and the most disturbing one is the involvement of the military and the police in the security in the electoral process. You could see where thugs are escorted to cart away ballot boxes by men in police and army uniform. You saw where in some cases the military will take action on its own that is the most dangerous of the situation because the impression it is giving is that we are not ready for democracy and there is no form of government that is better than democracy. So, these are the things we have to take care of, it is humongous, it is too heavy that these three aspects I have just pointed out are aspects we must pay great attention to. I started shouting from the Ekiti, Osun elections, that the military, security and the police were the culprits, so when you start bringing them to help a particular candidate to win or a particular political party to win where then lies the right of the citizens to choose in an election?
You have seen the controversy Amotekun, the Southwest security initiative has generated. What is your take on the entire development?
Amotekun is a blessing, Amotekun is a welcome development, Amotekun came about as a result of the collapse of our security apparatus, the security, which we operate. Amotekun should be seen by everybody as something that has come to assist in the security problem, helping to fight insecurity in the country. It is an indictment of the nation’s security architecture, in the sense that the clamour for community state police has been on for a very long time. Even recently the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo has had occasions to make case for state community policing through an organised formal structure. Members of the community know their environment better, their terrain, situations where you post police officers to where they are total strangers to the culture, tradition, and language of the people or the area and they are completely alien to the community levels, it has proved ineffective over the years and it is noticed now more than ever before in very high momentum. We know also in his country that we have Hisbah, the civilian JTF, we have the Bakassi and other vigilantes etc, all these were established in different states to have community security arrangements. Therefore, what Amotekun has done that is different, is that it is now being organised at a regional level to secure all the communities within the region. And the governors in the region irrespective of their political leanings and affiliations agreed to fund the process. The criticisms that came in the area of legality by those who don’t want Amotekun is now being taken care off by the various state legislators in the region to give a legal backing, legal teeth to it. This is an aspect of restructuring which Nigerians have been asking for. Amotekun, as I have said earlier, is a blessing, Nigerians should encourage and appreciate the Southwest governors for keying into this project. It will save not only the Southwest, but also the entire country by improving security manned by the locals of a particular community, which will enhance in a great deal the fight against insecurity. In fact, if you ask me I will say that since the president and the Federal Government are comfortable with the name Amotekun, just remaining to have the legal framework and rules guiding it, I will suggest that all the states of the federation who believe that there should be community, state or local police to embraceAmotekun. They don’t need to change the name, if it’s in Imo and they like it, it should be: Amotekun Imo, so other states can take theirs like: Amotekun Yobe, Amotekun Cross River, Amotekun Kaduna, Amotekun Zamfara, Amotekun Kano, Amotekun Gongola, etc, they don’t need to change the name after all they already know that Amotekun means leopard, and leopard is the same everywhere and acts same. We need community policing and as a member of the defunct national conference, we unanimously agreed on community policing, I am for Amotekun, Amotekun is a blessing to Nigerians security-wise.
What is your take on the rising debt profile of the country?
You see, there is nothing wrong in borrowing money, I am sure you agree with me on that, but the question is: what are you borrowing the money for? In fact, there is no billionaire, I am yet to see one anywhere in the world that is not owing the bank, but what is the money used for. You don’t borrow to pay salaries, you don’t borrow to fund non-productive ventures. When you borrow, put it where you will re-coup your money back to pay your debt. I don’t know if that is what Nigeria is doing? And with all the money that we have borrowed, I am not too sure there will be return on investment. So, we must check it, check what we are using the money for. Is it for production? I am not for borrowing money, relating it to the GDP, you don’t borrow money and relate it to GDP, you borrow money and relate it to your income. Will the income be able to pay? It is not the level of the GDP, you don’t merge apples and oranges.
What is your take on 2023 elections, particularly on which political zone the presidency should go to either to remain in the North or South? Every region is already strategizing, including the Southeast, your zone?
I think it’s early now to begin to talk about 2023 presidency. Although it is not too early to discuss 2023, but you see, in politics 24 hours is a long time, I think we should start talking about it from 2021. The government just entered its second tenure, they have not even operated its first budget after election and people are already struggling for 2023. I don’t want to talk about 2023 now because it will be mere permutation or speculation that you will be talking about now. When we get to the bridge or is it the river, we will cross it.
But do you support zoning for Nigeria?
For now, Nigeria needs zoning, especially looking at what is happening today, Nigeria needs zoning so that every zone in Nigeria will have that sense of belonging. It was zoning that returned the power back to the North, so why will it not leave for other zones after eight years? We must build a nation, by the time you finished an election and the leadership is delivering on promises Nigerians won’t care where you come from, if they open their tap they see water running, their children can go to good schools, their roads are good, hospital no longer mere consulting clinics, etc, you can leave Lagos by train and arrive in Abuja in 2 or 3 hours nobody will be interested in where you come from, etc; but as Nigeria is today, it’s important that power should rotate to give sense of belonging to every sector of the country.
Do you think it is necessary we deregister some political parties?
But you cannot deregister any political party now because of the laws unless you are going to put up another law or make it more stringent. I agree that the number of political parties we have is funny and becoming ridiculous, especially when over 60 or 70 of them don’t have an office in Abuja, they don’t even have an office anywhere, they don’t even operate. They only wait for elections to find whom to support and bargain with. So, what I am saying is, if the laws are made stringent, for instance, that if you don’t win election anywhere, you go, that will be fine. But I think we have to reduce the number of our political parties and I have said so in the political parties’ forum and in other platforms where I spoke. We cannot continue to have a ballot paper as we have it today, very lengthy and full of non-performing parties.
Do you have fears for Nigeria today?
I believe Nigeria is passing through a phase; I have very high faith in Nigeria, I am not persuaded by what is happening around me or around us now, but I know that someday, by the time we get there, so soon, thereafter, Nigeria will fly and will be among the comity of nations.
You think President Buhari’s APC-led government is leading the country well towards your expectations?
Well, President Buhari is doing his own best, every leader has his style, let him finish and go another person will come and continue, that is what it has become.
So far are you satisfied with the situation on the ground?
Of course, nobody is satisfied with everything done by any government, there must be some minus and you will also have some pluses. So, the government will go another will come, the barracks will remain.
If you are giving the Buhari administration a plus which area will you give the mark?
Fight against corruption by the EFCC and by average on infrastructure.