As a long-standing member of the PDP before defecting to the APC, can you make a fair assessment of the two parties?
Your question is lopsided given the fact that PDP has been a party on the ground for about 16 years, and APC is just about a year. But the issue I think is “performance” and not necessarily the number of years each Party has been in existence. Defection from a political party to another in a democratic setting is not new to politicians. But this was rare from the President Shagari era. But since the Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, and Jonathan’s years there have been incessant defections from one party to another, and unless the APC’s slogan of Change takes root and cut down drastically, the number defection will continue to increase unless the judiciary intervenes. In my case of defection from PDP to APC, it was not for fun that I did it. It was from a new angle that I began to tell my friends that I didn’t defect but that PDP defected. I said this having in mind the question of performance as between PDP and APC. PDP was a party destined to save Nigerian’s democracy but it failed. And because nature abhors vacuum, the PDP was no longer able to take care of its members, and I became one of its victims. PDP became a party of the past not party of today and tomorrow. It also became a party of use and dump according to its National Chairman. From this point on, what I did was “to keep moving” from PDP’s Injustice to Justice; from PDP’s rigging machine to winning election by rule of engagement; from PDP’s godfatherism to cheating and to avarice, greed, corruption, waste, and ostentation. That was not the PDP I helped to nurture from 1999 when the PDP faithful gathered in Jos Convention and instead of Chief (Dr) Alex Ekwueme to clinch the presidential ticket after working very hard for it, he accepted the wrong done to him by his party (PDP). For this, all Nigerians owe him a debt of gratitude. So the PDP began from the Jos Convention in 1999. Anyone who said he would remain in PDP with all the load of insincerity, greed, corruption, killing and more, the person will know he is also an accomplice. The PDP of 60 years to come has become a dream and a PDP that could hardly manage a PDP of 16 years and thus the APC has gone ahead.
President Buhari will soon clock 100 Half of that period has been spent on ‘’Honeymoon’’ in office, according to party chieftain, Asiwaju Ahmed Tiniubu. What is your take?
I don’t really know which visible accomplishments will be authentic more that others. All I know is that political opponents from PDP never gave Buhari any chance or any hope that APC will ever win the last election. But these elections have come and gone, and whereas Buhari was to them an “under-dog”, they now have seen after the elections that indeed Buhari remains the man to successfully pilot the ship of State of Nigeria. But what I didn’t understand is the opposition view that Buhari was not in line to win perhaps relying on their rigging machine. Some even said that the candidate was looking fragile and may not be able to conclude the elections nation-wide. All the opponent’s speculations failed as they kept seeing the same Buhari growing stronger, virile, and travelling all over from Europe to America, to attend G7 and ECOWAS meeting and many places both at home and beyond. Many Nigerians have not yet seen the type of zeal the President has displayed and has put to shame on the face of opponents who see nothing good, even his accomplishments everywhere. The recent appointments were made to achieve some targets they are meant; for example the NNPC, the Service Chiefs, some Special Advisers, and several others. The President made it clear from the beginning that he would not carry out appointments till a month from now. Even for saying this, many have left Nigeria hoping to remain abroad, but even then their records are here in Nigeria and they will sooner or later be caught unawares. I have always believed that Rome wasn’t built in one day and that whatever has a beginning must have an end. It was unfortunate that the Buhari-Idiagbon was not allowed to complete what they started but they were stopped at mid-way, and today Buhari-Osinbajo team will continue the good work started till Nigeria becomes a power in the international circle to be reckoned with. It is important that Nigerians should give President Buhari all the support he needs to do this job. The opposition party, should not only be opposing, they must support their government to succeed. Trying to pull down a government that knows its onions should rather be encouraged. Even in America both Democrats and Republicans have supported their President, and oppose when it is necessary in the interest of the nation. It is necessary that Nigeria should be allowed to be moving and not be stagnant.
It is said that Buhari did not appoint Igbo people into his government. Is it that he hates them, or that they didn’t vote for him in the last election?
The answer is none of the above. As for appointments, some Igbos across the Niger is also complaining. Even Jonathan whom Igbo gave almost all their votes did not deliver either. So what did Igbo get from Jonathan? Nothing. Is it 2nd Niger Bridge or Onitsha to Enugu to Abia to Port-Harcourt roads? I’m not holding brief for President Buhari but truth is that the President still has a lot of appointments to make running into hundreds.
if not thousands. Should Igbo need to antagonize the President at this early stage?
There’s no evidence yet to show that the President hates Igbo. If Igbo had given their votes to Buhari obviously Igbo will have got their own fair share of appointments. But I’m saying that appointments are not yet done and over, but it’s still a reward of what was done. It is not by antagonizing the President, and by force, that he’ll give Igbo the said appointments. Rather Igbo should find a way to reach out to the President and plead, not by force. It should be a friendly encounter. President Shehu Shagari worked well with Chief Alex Ekwueme as Vice President, and through Ekwueme Igbo got more than anticipated. Such can still be repeated. To get more appointments for Igbo, they must vote for candidates that can win and be useful as one Sage said: “he whose bread I eat his song I will sing”. This means a lot for Igbo. During campaigns Buhari visited the South-East several times, up to seven visits in Igbo land. Still Igbo believed that Jonathan would win. But he lost. Was that because Buhari hated Igbo? Our people should not eat their cake and have it.
What can you say about Anambra politics both before and now? Has the present Governor Willie Obiano performed, or performing?
I have the feeling that the Anambra State Governor Willie Obiano is an easy-going gentle man who came to Anambra to do a job and will not be distracted from that mission. I welcomed him on the day of his inauguration and took a space on a page of newspaper to congratulate him. Only once I visited him at his lodge and I noticed a passion in him to transform Anambra. In the course of our discussion I mentioned a few problems unsettled by former Governor Peter Obi, since 2003. But Governor Willie Obiano promised to look into the matters. When I was at Awka as State Governor there was not much on the ground. The Military just went back to barrack, and left nothing in the treasury. There were times Revenues Allocation gave Anambra N200 million for a monthly salary of 483 workers in the State. Nobody could believe it. With good management we started paying workers as at and when due and cleared the three months salary owed workers and began to pay them Christmas bonus, which no other government did till today. I went to Umuleri Aguleri and Umuoba-Anam where natives fought for 50 years and buried their dead in wheelbarrows. I invited the then President Obasanjo to visit us he did. After that I developed a blue print for the community, and nobody had fought there till I left. As for security, Anambra was very secured under my watch throughout my four years in the State. It remained most peaceful State and in a national competition I took 1st position on security and welfare and in the competition of 36 states I was awarded gold cup, first position. I can go on and on but time and space will not allow me. The present Anambra State Gov. Willie Obiano is from Aguleri and he never neglected doing everything for God and for his people and Anambra State as a whole. As for the oil, I was the first governor to begin exploitation before others after me. Anybody entering Awka now will see things different in road and bridge constructions. The slogan at Awka is “Willie Is Working” and I agreed. The politics of Anambra remains what it shall be. For example, I was the person who established the Anambra State University for the first time but the then governor after me Dr. Chris Ngige took the University away and tried to put it in his town but it failed. He then returned the University to where it was. Then Gov. Peter Obi took his turn and carried the burden of removing the University again and putting it at places nearer his local government area. Perhaps another governor may arise any time and may still return the University where I kept it from the start.
What will be your advice to the President as to how to ensure that ordinary Nigerians benefit from government?
Well President Buhari must first bake the cake before sharing. The President does not even need an advice as to what he has already done, and is doing, and will do again better than what he had done before. Buhari/Idiagbon period worked well, but it was short-lived. So what Buhari did before, he sure will do again. I believe that perhaps with some modifications Nigerians will see what will develop as years roll by. President Buhari has a good vision of what he wants Nigeria to be and this is where the concept of Change will be more useful. Buhari is the architect of Change and he’ll carry it to its logical conclusion. For him this is just a start and first thing should be first and Buhari will raise an army to lead in the direction of what is, and was, and is to come.
Do you think APC can wrestle South- East From PDP in future elections?
Very easy, and I believe there is no question about APC re-claiming power which PDP lost in the last election. In that last election there was little or no planning by APC in Anambra State. The leaders were more mindful of money, how much was brought from Lagos and Abuja and how much was shared. There was no proper engagement and party members were running up and down chasing the moneybags to no avail. This won’t happen again next time around. By the time of another election PDP will still be in shambles. Even to elect party officials recently was not possible and there are now three factions. I predicted it and it is happening already. What we expect from now on is a fragmented PDP in Anambra State with at least two factions joining the APC. And we should not waste our ammunition before the game is out. PDP at any level is still the same they can’t win again. The problem of PDP in Anambra now is a carry-over from the present PDP at Abuja. Conclusion is that it is necessary to join the APC now because it is the right thing to do. While the APC has proven itself as a promising party of present and future, we can all see glaringly that everything good about the PDP has since vanished.
Lai Mohammed the APC Publicity Secretary kept referring Tinubu as leader who really is the party leader of APC, Buhari or Tinubu?
Both Tinubu and Buhari are leaders in their own rank. Even in the PDP arrangement it is the President that they usually regard as leader of the party. This has become a convention. In the case of APC, there four regional parties namely CPC, ACN, ANPP & APGA which functioned independently and each of these parties had its party leader and that was how the issue of one party “Leader” came up. It was not wrong for Lai Mohammed to refer to Tinubu as leader in a limited party situation. The over-all party leader of APC today is President Mohammadu Buhari and he is known politically in Nigeria as leader of APC. National President and National Leader are about the same in appellation. It would be a misdemeanor to address Tinubu as “Leader” on a national level. To avoid unnecessary clashes, we can say that this is a matter which protocol can easily remedy. Even a governor of a state can in his party have capacity to be a leader. If the Governor won’t be leader then he won’t bring fund to oil the party apparatus and indeed this also goes up to party level. At national level the President doles out funds being the Leader: These are not laws; they are conventions.
You are a political scientist and a former Governor of a State. How do you see the recent travails of the NASS— Senate and House of Representative?
Actually being a governor of a state has not much to do with the politics of the National Assembly. The Constitution did well to demarcate these three institutions namely: the Presidency, the National Assembly and the Judiciary. Although the three Arms of Government are separate but they function together without stepping into the confines of each other. They indeed respect each other and they try not to over-step their boundaries. A recent example was the tumult, both in the Senate and the House of Representatives, which had to do with who becomes President of the Senate, and Speaker of the House. During the period these issues were deliberated it seemed as if heaven would fall. Noise was made, hands were raised, and the mace was protected. Good a thing the raised fists were lowered and boiling members calmed down as soon as the Senate President and House Speaker spoke glowingly and became accommodating. And who said that Senate President and Speaker couldn’t work successfully together? Now that nerve has calmed down, it will be business as usual as it has been. Obviously, the intervention of Mr. President saved the situation as they all worked together to achieve the result. So now it is “No victor, no vanquished”. But this may not yet be over until it is all over. Time will tell.
-Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju is a former governor of Anambra state and a Chieftain of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). In this interview with Correspondent Paschal Emeka in Abuja he spoke eloquently on key decisions of President Muhammadu Buhari, politics of Anambra State and many more. Excerpts