Chief Jude Emecheta, who hails from Ozubulu in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State, is the managing director of Anambra State Signage and Advertisement Agency(ANSSA). He is a notable All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) chieftain who has served in various capacities in the party in addition to having successfully anchored Governor Willie Obiano’s second tenure election campaign. He has made forays into media and public relations platforms and organised corporate organisations having abstruse knowledge of advertising profession. The public relations guru had a no-holds-barred interview with POLYCARP ONWUBIKO on trending national and sub national issues. Excerpts:
HOW would you evaluate the state of health-care delivery system in Nigeria today, especially with the conoravirus pandemic, aka covid-19?
Honestly, I would not assess the health care system in Nigeria based on the globally ravaging “Conorona” pandemic because it is a one in a decade-year virus that comes and goes. But it has exposed us to know what we do have and what we don’t have. Like in Nigeria today, we have three places you can test for this virus-Oshun, Lagos, and Edo States which is not good enough.
In the whole of South-East, there is no place you test this virus. In the whole of the North-West, North-East, there is no place to test for this virus. That shows that we have a very big gap in our health system. This will also help the government to know that we need to open labs that will be in the position to test for this and not only when the virus comes, we begin to run around.
How would the healthcare system be properly put in place in the quasi federal arrangement which needs restructuring?
My problem with restructuring is that it has been given several interpretations and meanings. Primary healthcare system should be the basis for every health chain in the federal. The former Minister of Health, Professor Ransom Kuti introduced Primary Health Care system across the whole local government councils in the federation. Let us take those immediate health issues like malaria fever, pregnancy, prenatal and ante-natal. Those complicated areas like caesarian operation can go to referral hospitals. If the lesser ailments can be taken care of at the primary health care level, you have less people coming to the general hospitals. As a matter of fact, every state should look into their peculiar situation and restructure their healthcare delivery system and not wait for federal government.
For instance, see what Governor Willie Obiano is doing; every community in Anambra State has at least one primary health care. The federal government is also supposed to have one primary health care in every community but the problem is dearth of basic infrastructural facilities and amenities in the local governments and the necessary personnel to man the health centres.
It is not enough to build primary health care in the community without basic infrastructure because no medical personnel will like to live in such places because of unimaginable privations. The federal government does have all the resources to provide all these needs but the state governments should appreciate the federal government’s policy and complement the resources because of the primacy of health-care in the scheme of things.
Like what Anambra State Government is doing in the education sector with particular reference to science education where incentives are giving to the teachers who undertake to live in the remote and river basin areas. Such could be extended to the medical personnel like quarters for accommodation to enable them give adequate health care to the people in those areas since health remains basic need of the people. As a matter of fact, sufficient incentives should be made available especially for medical doctors to compensate for the extra income they make in the urban and semi urban centres in their private clinics.
1999 Constitution was military imposition and does not represent true federal set like the 1960 Independent Constitution/1963 Republican Constitution. What is your position on the on-going preparation for amendment by the 9th National Assembly; or do you subscribe to the constitution of a constituent assembly for people-oriented constitution?
The members in the National Assembly namely; the Senate and House of Representative are our people whom we elected. So if they can make up their minds to re-adjust the constitution; well and good. I don’t think we really need a constituent assembly for a fresh constitution. The National Assembly has done a good job for continuing the amendments of the 1999 Constitution but they should scrupulously look at all the provisions and give the country a good constitution instead of a constituent assembly. We should stop referring to the 1999 Constitution as military imposed because the people in the legislature now are civilians who can re-jig the fundamental document to serve the interest of all sections of the Nigerian populace.
The problem in the country is not the military imposed constitution but that Nigerians are not even observing the provisions faithfully even the 1960/1963 Constitutions. People circumvent the law and find loopholes to evade the provisions of the constitutions. What Nigerians need is the people who will be faithful in implementing the provisions of the constitution especially the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary to mediate good governance which entails equity, justice, fair play to enthrone patriotism.
But the National Assembly is lopsided due to the inequality in the creation of constituencies based on lopsided creation of local government councils by the military regimes. Don’t you think that a constituent assembly made up of nominated members of the ethnic groups like it was done in the First Republic will seat and each will have the opportunity to present charter of co-existence unlike the 1999 Constitution that lacked ethnic representation and input even as the framers lied that it was sanctioned by the ethnic groups?
As far as I am concerned, the constituent assembly will never work. I will tell you why. If you appoint three or four people each from each state in Nigeria, the north will still have the majority. The snag is that some people will want to ascertain how many ethnic groups to be selected. Don’t trust the middle belt for anything. I have been in politics for a long time and worked with men at the top echelon across the national politics and they kept on telling me
Do not trust the middle belt when they say that they are now on their own because along the line, they will be browbeaten by the northern establishment and they would tremble and follow their dictates sheepishly. The problem with our people is that if a constituent assembly is constituted, they will succumb to the financial bait from the north. It is not easy to get people like Victor Umeh who would be steadfast and stand to what their people believe and cherish. When you have people who are vulnerable to be there, they would be bought over with juicy promises and even cash rewards when they vote for the interest of the north.
What I am saying in effect is that we don’t have people who are fool-proofed in the National Assembly to re-jig the constitution that would amount to restructuring the country. The only type of restructuring that is practicable is to say: Let North go, let Southwest go, let Southeast go, South-south go and form your own ideal nations in the respective geopolitical zones and let us come back to Abuja to forge a sort of confederation. Then the president, vice president, etc, will be rotated among the geopolitical zones.
Don’t you agree with the simple definition of restructuring that we go back to where we derailed; that is to reinvent the principles of federal system of government in the 1960 cum 1963 Constitutions?
It will not be viable now because at that time oil and gas have not been discovered and the three regional governments were busy exploiting the agricultural resources within their domain. Oil and gas came and abused all of us. The army came and started distributing money; there was no tax as nobody was paying tax in 1970s. If you implement the type of restructuring you are saying now when the oil is going away, who will pay tax? And the people are fighting back and will not be forthcoming in paying tax. In the Southeast Geopolitical Zone as federating units, the governors will not cooperate to establish farm settlement on a massive scale to be generating quantum earnings comparable to the revenue from oil.
The possible option is to devolve powers by the National Assembly and review revenue allocation formular to make the states have quantum funds, in addition to making local government councils under the state governments so that each state will be at liberty to create as many local government as they wish. In other words, local governments will not be beneficiary of statutory allocations. Thus roads will be taken over by the state governments since the federal government has not been able to maintain the so called Trunk A roads.
What do you understand by diversification of the economy within the context of federal and unitary constitution? Has the federal government diversified the economy by touting; doing so in the agricultural and solid minerals sectors?
To me, diversification is not just about moving from oil to rice, cassava cultivation and animal husbandry, etc. The federal government should distance themselves from agricultural policies and let the federating units initiate policies peculiar to their environment and comparative advantage and earn foreign exchange; thus contributing largely to national income.
In a federal setting, where is the position of community police? What do you understand by multi-level policing in a federation like Nigeria and the ideal way to have effective security in the country?.
The federal government should not have gotten itself involved in community policing. Community policing should be a situation where the states are empowered to have local police men, you might say don’t carry arms at the incipient stage, train them better with legal backing. The federal government has been unable to manage Nigerian Police since state governors have been supporting the police with functional vehicles, cash and equipment; talk less of dabbling into community policing.
Are you happy with the condition of the education sector in the country today? If you are not satisfied, how would you want it become an ideal with respect to a federation?
The ideal thing is that the federal government should give a broad policy in education while the states will go for the nitty-gritty in the implementation based on the respective peculiarities. The interventionist policies of school feeding programme has not worked well and therefore, education should be within the purview of the state governments.
The federal government can for instance say that five credits should be the qualification for admission into university but the state and privately-owned universities should have the right to say what they want. They should be allowed to run the university according to what values and standard they cherish in manpower production.
In recruitment in federal institutions, the federal government should have policy on qualification. So in terms of funding institutions of higher learning, the federal government has proved incapable of doing so.
What do you think about JAMB in terms preventing brilliant southerners from accessing higher education?
It is harming the education system; even the North itself. It makes way for producing half bakes. Politics crept into our educational system, hence the federal government having universities and it can’t even maintain the institutions of higher learning. The issue of ASUU makes it clear that the federal government should off hands in institutions of higher learning. Rather, it should concentrate on funding researches in the universities.
How would you evaluate Governor Willie Obiano’s style of administration as one of the critical stakeholders as an election campaign manager? With the apparent stoppage of work on roads in some communities like Oraeri, where half of the stretch of the road was tarred made the people to be begging endlessly, do you think that APGA will defeat the powerfully strategising PDP and APC in the governorship election come 2021?
The fact remains that Governor Willie Obiano, Akpokuedike Global is committed to completing all the awarded roads in the affected communities. If it were possible, he would have enlisted all the communities in the contract awards but before the year runs out, the affected communities will smile. The governor is consistent in the execution of landmark and legacy projects like the construction of the International Conference Centre at Agu-Awka, which will generate massive employments to the people.
How would you evaluate the 50-year long term development planning by the governor; peradventure another political party takes over, what is the probability of its sustenance?
The Anambra State 50-year long term development project is not Willie Obiano’s project because the members of the committee cut across political parties in the state. The project is looking at Anambra State’s tomorrow. For instance, time will come when vehicles will not be plying the roads but plying in the flyovers. Capacity building is given top priority to make students embrace science based courses to make the state key into scientific and technologically advanced nations of the world.