Posted by News Express | 27 March 2019 | 1,753 times
In this interview which he granted Chukwudi Nweje of Daily Sun, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, a lawyer and former President- General, Aka Ikenga, says for equity and justice the 2023 presidency must go to the South East. He also says the major political parties should field presidential candidates from the South East when the time comes.
Question: The president of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Yerima Shettima recently described President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration as a failure noting that the North will field a more competent candidate in 2023. What is your reaction to this, given that 2023 is generally seen as the turn of the South East to take a shot at the presidency?
Uwazurike: It is one of those statements that can throw the nation into chaos. Obviously, the AYCF president, Yerima Shettima means what he is doing because he is doing the bidding of a particular governor in the North who wants to come back in 2023 as the president. But I must tell you that it is most insensitive, most careless and most ridiculous for anybody to think that after the North has held power for eight years, power will continue in the North. It doesn’t make sense. What do they take this country for? A banana republic? A place where they can do anything they want and get away with it? I think the statement of Yerima should be consigned to the rubbish bin of history. But it should be noted that those who are out to destroy this country are at work, and it is full blown.
Who is this governor prompting Yerima?
For now, I don’t want to mention the name of the governor. But note one thing, when Yerima and his group were busy telling the Igbo to leave the North, they were talking from a revered place and being protected by a particular political party and a governor. That same governor is at work again but unfortunately the governor’s major problem is myopia, he never looks beyond his nose and beyond the frames of his eyeglasses, he sees nothing. In a country of more than 300 ethnic groups that after President Muhammadu Buhari, who is a Fulani man, he another Fulani man will take over? That is carrying a joke too far.
Whenever a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023 is mentioned, the concern is absence of a political party with national spread. The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is seen as a regional party. What are your thoughts?
If you trace this issue back to 1999, by an unwritten agreement, two people contested for the presidency of this country, both of them are still alive and both of them are Yoruba from the South West. In 2007 two people contested for the presidency of this country, one is dead but the other is still alive, and both of them are Fulani. That was a time we were observing this unwritten agreement. Then suddenly somebody comes up to say the Igbo are not organised? It does not make sense. We should handle this 2023 issue the same way we handled it in 1999 and 2007. In other words, the leading political parties must nominate candidates of Igbo extraction so that it will be Igbo versus Igbo and not Igbo Versus Yoruba or Igbo versus Fulani. It was this arrangement that made 1999 and 2007 successful. You must not forget that Ogbonnaya Onu was the presidential candidate of the All Peoples Party (APP) but he stepped down for Chief Olu Falae so that the contest was between two Yoruba, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Olu Falae. Let nobody ever deceive himself. Fairness is fairness, let there be equity.
The unwritten agreement you talked about is a political party arrangement, it is not a provision in the constitution. What do you think?
The constitution says that power must go around, this means that nobody or group should monopolise power. It is unconstitutional for a section of the country to say we are in power and we will continue to be in power. I know the All Progressives Congress (APC) is talking about the rotation of power between the North and South. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is talking about rotating power among the six geo-political zones. Since 1999, the South West has had a chance, the North West has had two chances, the South-South has taken a chance too. As it is, it remains the South East, the North Central and the North East who have yet to take their turn. The rotation arrangement is between the North and the South. So, when power comes back to the South in 2023, it should naturally go to the South East for equity and justice. It does not make sense to say because I have more people than you, we will continue to rule. We will not accept that, when the time comes all the major political parties should have to produce candidates of Igbo extraction as it was done in 1999 and 2007. We are not talking about forcing it on the political parties, but they should tell themselves the honest truth that as it was done in 1999 and 2007 that it can be done again in 2023, it is as simple as that. It is not fair that after eight years of a northerner being president, a political party will be talking about fielding another northerner again in 2023. In 2007 that kind of campaign was raised in the PDP, whether the South East should field a candidate, but the PDP South East said no that the arrangement was for power to go north. So, in 2023, we expect them to take a stand and respect the agreement and reciprocate.
Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo has said severally that it is more interested in restructuring of the country than the presidency…
(Cuts in) Restructuring is a continuous process; it is something that happens naturally in life. But unfortunately, since 2015 some people have been blocking restructuring, blocking a natural evolution in life. Ohanaeze means every word it is saying on restructuring, changing from where you are to somewhere better is restructuring. What do we mean by restructuring? We are talking about reducing the cost of governance, reducing the burden on the Federal Government and making sure people benefit from the resources in their soil. We are talking about fairness and equity and that federal character must be observed. That is what restructuring is all about. The fiscal federalism must be there, you are making lots of money from the resources in my area and I’m dying of hunger? So, when we talk of restructuring, we are talking of justice and equity. The issue of 2023 is what concerns everybody. Equity demands that what goes around comes around, equity demands that power must shift. So Ohanaeze is interested in 2023, but they are saying that while waiting for it, we must go ahead and ensure that restructuring is not stopped. That is the position of Ohanaeze.
How do you assess the just concluded 2019 elections?
Beginning from the presidential election, people were enthusiastic to vote but the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was not ready to receive their votes. The commission was not ready to do the needful. The security forces on duty did not live up to the expectation of national interest. When President Buhari came to power, one of his first actions was to deploy soldiers for the Ekiti State election. Some of the governorship elections are still unfolding, but I will call what I saw a charade, there was no election, it is only a blind man that will after seeing what transpired call it an election. I know that in Lagos State for instance, Jimi Agbaje was working alone, the PDP did not help him, but today they are accusing him. This means there were some state party chairmen who were not inclined towards victory. In my home state of Imo, it is more like liberation from Rochas Okorocha and his company. You needed to go there to see how people were dancing on the streets. In some other states, INEC failed woefully, returning officers and election officers did not live up to expectation. On the whole, the 2019 election was below bar.
How has the INEC evolved in these past 20 years?
The 2019 election was a case of one step forward, 10 steps backwards. If I were the INEC chairman the first thing, I will establish is my independence and autonomy. I’m aware that there will always be pressure from security forces who will want to exert undue influence on me. I’m also aware there are people who will want to do some funny things. But he should stand up like a man. Look at Rivers State, what happened there is a disaster. We have taken a flight backwards as far as INEC is concerned. INEC has failed both in the manner some of the national members are acting and the manner in which it failed to protect people who stood up to be counted and of course the behind the scene action. The impression the ordinary man has is that INEC is always waiting to receive instruction from somebody.
What changes do you want to see in the electoral commission?
First of all, not only must INEC be independent, it must be seen to be independent. There are people there who have no reason being there. To put it bluntly, if you have any relationship with anybody in power or contesting election then you should not be part of INEC; look at the man who printed very sensitive material for INEC, he was also contesting election in Niger State and you want me to believe it was an independent election? It is difficult; we need men and women of integrity in INEC. The only weapon INEC has is called openness. If INEC does things openly people will believe it but when you do things secretly like in Kano when they wanted to collate results and sent the press away, what are you doing?
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