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Igbo presidency: we’re pandering to undue emotionalism – Oye

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The emergence of Chief Dr. Victor Oye as the National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA) has impacted tremendously on the fortunes of the party. He has achieved political credence and resourcefulness undergirded by his pragmatic and charismatic leadership laced with utmost transparency and accountability. In this interview with POLYCARP ONWUBIKO at his country home, Amawbia, Awka South Local Government, Anambra State; he exuded his cerebral excellence and brilliant grasp of burning national issues which include the controversial Electoral Bill, Igbo presidency, among others. Excerpts:

WHAT’S your take on the promising democratic elections in Nigeria and Anambra State November 6, 2021 governorship election?

   President Muhammadu Buhari has done his best in terms of restoring democratic governance taking into cognisance the off-season governance elections like the November 6, 2021 governorship election in Anambra State. After God, the next credit should go to Buhari because he stood for what was right. He insisted that there should be free, fair and credible election in Anambra State; and it came to pass.

  If Buhari had thought otherwise, there would have been the end of that election. Remember when some people tried to play some games like suggesting a state of emergency due to devious exploits of the so-called gunmen; the president said no it should not happen and told Governor Obiano, who visited him to “go your state and do your work; I will not declare state of emergency”. Why?  Is Anambra State the worst in terms of insecurity; have you declared state of emergency in Bornu, in Yobe, in Benue?

The insecurity in Anambra State prior to the election was caused by disgruntled elements; politicians who did not want the election to hold so that they will create chaos so that based on that, they would be able to achieve their inordinate ambition. But God was greater than all of them; and God went into Buhari and Buhari listened to the still small voice and gave Anambra State people their wish.

  In fact, Soludo’s election as governor was the desire of the whole world because everything resonated in every nook and cranny of the world. They expected the result of Anambra election not to go another way other than the way they had expected. So when the result came out, people jubilated and that is why it is foolish for anybody to challenge such a result because the election was free, fair; and people voted their heart and that was what happened.

  This is a foundation for future elections in Nigeria because INEC has said “we cannot go below the Anambra standard”. INEC used Biometric Voter Verification System [BVS] and it is one of the reasons Anambra election was not rigged.

  Remember before that election, it was rumoured that the result of the election had been written and it was true; they wrote the election result but God rewrote it. When they deployed BIVAS, I knew the election was over and that’s what we need in Nigeria. Let me tell you, if what Buhari had done at the end of his tenure was to create free and fair election system in Nigeria, he would have achieved everything, because free, fair election is the foundation for sustainable democratic system. If the elections are free, it will put people who have the capacity and capability to deliver, not people who use money and buy over the system.

  Through BIVAS, people will vote their choice and their votes will count. That’s what we need in this country. You talk about America, France, etc, where their system is wonderful but we can create the same system here but we need the political will to do that. It must come from the leadership, from the president down. If we want to change Nigeria, it must start from Buhari; a sincere commitment to change, then others will follow.  

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  What is your position on the Electoral Law which the president sent back to the National Assembly for reappraisal?

    You know I am a politician and the National Chairman of APGA. I knew where the president was coming from. You know, there must be choice; you must give people choice, you cannot constrict the space. For instance now, what the president was saying is simple. He said: “Do not narrow the thing down to one choice, just one option. If need arises that we should do something else because this didn’t work, what would we do”?

  There must be alternatives; why do you go to examination and say multiple choice A,B, C, D… choose any one you like and if you chose the right one, you pass and if you choose the wrong one, you fail? You must give people options; give them choice, variety; so the president looked at the whole gamut, looked at everything holistically and said “look, there is a flaw here. I don’t mind any other thing but this particular one, it cannot work”.

  One, direct election is very expensive. Do you know the implication of direct primary? One, INEC does not have the infrastructure, the capacities and the logistics to service the system, so it cannot work. The political parties cannot even do anything because they are all impoverished; they are not funded by anybody.

  Do you know that if you want to carry out direct primary, it means you must have an electronic register? INEC must have a copy of that register. Now, let’s assume that it’s Anambra election and we gave INEC notice that our primary election would be conducted in July 23, last year; what it means is that INEC would have to deploy personnel to each of the 326 wards in the state. Then the political parties would also deploy their own personnel to complement INEC’s personnel.

  So people are not being realistic; they are just pandering to undue emotionalism by saying ‘why is it not direct primary’? They don’t ask about the logistics. There was a time political parties were given N10million funding every year but later, government scrapped it since 1991 and the political parties are bleeding; and INEC said that each political party must submit audited report every year. Submit report for what? For money you gave them or money you didn’t give them? How can you audit somebody you didn’t give money to?

  Many things are wrong with our democratic system especially this direct primary. APC did it in the last Anambra governorship election preparatory to the election. What did you achieve? Somebody just wrote the name of Andy Uba and submitted but later, the court declared that there was no primary election for APC in the state.

Remember that the man came up with a bogus figure, 283,000 votes but in the real election, he could not muster up to 45,000 votes; and he got the 45,000 votes because of the decision of the Anglican Church to vote for him; that was how he was able to muster 43,000 votes in the election.

  If it were in ordinary situation, I can bet you the man wouldn’t have gotten up to 2,000 votes. So, leave the system as it was before the National Assembly tinkered with the idea of going direct primary; leave it as it was; what we had before then in our constitution as political party [APGA] is direct primary or indirect primary, APC, direct primary, indirect primary or consensus candidate.

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Allow each political party to operate the way it has been as nobody had ever complained. They said that indirect election is subject to manipulation; but were they not able to manipulate the direct primary of APC prior to Anambra election?

  All you need to do is to encourage the political parties to introduce into their system openness, transparency; what you call “internal democracy”; let them fine-tune the indirect primary which is the “delegate system” to achieve better results because you are jumping from frying pan to fire. That direct primary, who will pay for it?

Let me tell you, it will be fraught with more corruption than the direct primary because it means that the delegates will have field day. For instance, since we have 326 wards in Anambra State, everything will be held in one day because APC will send people across Nigeria to each may be three, three to each ward; it cannot work, can three persons handle one large ward like my community where we have three wards?

 In my ward, we have nothing less than seven thousand persons and three persons can’t handle it mind you talking about polling units. You also have to supply monitors and supervisors to all the polling units. All parties will supply their personnel including INEC and security agents. So Buhari said “who will pay for it?”

  People were doing shenanigans. When some members of the National Assembly who had threatened to mobilise and override the president saw the reality, they said ah, okay… let’s wait until we reconvene. By that time, tempers would cool and they would do what the president had requested them to do which is to “effect the amendments, I will sign the Bill”.

  As a member of the Steering Committee of the National Development Plan, can you give an update?

  The 2022 budget was predicated on the National Development Plan [NDP-2022 2025]. So the whole idea was to get the plan ready before the year 2021 which we did. We have three levels of authority namely: Technical Working Group [the first stage], the Central Working Group, and the third stage, the National Steering Committee, which is the highest decision making body.

  The Technical Working Group submitted its report to the Central Working Group, then to the National Steering Committee. We went through the report line by line and made input, 42 of us: seven governors, seven ministers, including other top Nigerians, including the Sultan of Sokoto, the president of CAN.

  We agreed and vetted the plan line by line and made amendments; so the report was sent back to the Technical Committee to incorporate the amendments and observations we made. Then the thing started its journey to Central Working Group again, National Steering Committee. When it got there, we went through the report and saw that all we asked them to do, they did and we now approved the plan. Then it went to the Federal Executive Council for approval which they approved at a sitting. Then we went back and they picked the few of us to go to Aso Rock and launch it, that was on the 9th of December 2021 and it came into effect.

  So the 2022 budget was predicated on the National Development Plan and you are going to see the difference in this budget and other budgets. On the socio-economic challenges facing the country, the advice is to stick to the National Development Plan because it has mechanisms that will bring about a better economy, a better security, in fact, a generally better life for our people. Buhari can never afford to fail this year because this is his final year. By January 2023, we should be talking about elections and he may not have  time again so he has this 12 months to do whatever is left to make Nigeria better.

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  With respect to rebalancing appointments, he has started by appointing an Igbo woman president of NNPC; if it were four years ago, it would have impossible. He appointed a Yoruba man, Elegbeye, economic adviser. Things are changing. Buhari now allowed free, fair election in Anambra; he wants to leave a good name before he leaves and there is no administration before Buhari that has constructed as many roads as Buhari has done.

   Are you not worried about the foreign loans which appears to be mortgaging the future our generation?

  The man who is borrowing money knows why he is borrowing the money. When the future generation comes, they will pay off the loans. Let us live today first before worrying about the future generation. Let me tell you, government is a continuum. If Buhari borrows money to build Second Niger Bridge, the incoming generation will enjoy it. Build infrastructure, pay later; that is what the man is doing.  

  Next year, 2023 is the general election with presidential election. How do you see the clamour for presidency of southeast extraction?

  I have a different attitude; I always believe in what God can do. Whoever will become the president of Nigeria in 2023 is already known to God; and it is God’s will that will be done, not man’s will.

  Whoever emerges as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2023 must be according God’s plan. I am not interested who produces the president; I am interested in the quality of the man who emerges as the president. That’s my interest and I think by the time we get to the bridge, we cross the bridge.

    When things begin to happen, you will see the result by yourself; but I think it is fair that the Igbo are allowed to produce the president for equity. According to the Federal Character Commission, there should be equitable distribution of political offices. The Yorubas have done eight years under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as president; now eight years for Professor Yemi Osinbajo as vice president, that is 16 when Igbo has not done any.

    So it only fair that the two political parties [main political parties—APC and PDP] agree that the president should be zoned to the southeast. If one of the parties agrees that the president should go to the southeast, and the other agrees to go the north, Igbo man can never be president.

  The two parties must agree to zoning it to the southeast then Igbo will become president of Nigeria. But if PDP zones it to the north and APC zones it to the southeast, the northerners will vote for PDP. You see the calculation so that is the game plan.

But if they say APC southeast; PDP southeast, then Igbos are already president because east, west, north and south must end here; and they don’t have the will-power to do that. But they cannot do it; the two parties can never agree that presidency will be zoned to southeast. Mark it anywhere, it can never happen now unless there is a compelling factor that can make it happen; and that factor is the entire southeast congregate in coming together to build a single political force. That is the only way we could be respected; Anambra   APGA, Ebony APC, Abia PDP, Imo APC—in fact we are pandering to undue emotionalism. We need to face the realities of our times.

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