Senator Samuel Anyanwu is the chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions. In this interview with OWEDE AGBAJILEKE, the lawmaker, a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) representing Imo East Senatorial District and a governorship aspirant in Imo State, speaks on the forthcoming election in the state and other national issues. Excerpts:
How prepared are you for the Imo State governorship election in 2019?
We are like products. We have made ourselves available for the people to choose, and it is left for the people to choose whosoever they want. I believe that if you go to the market and you want to buy orange, you will like to buy orange that is well ripe and sweet. I have just made myself available. I have lived with the people, the people know me and I know them. And having served as a two-term local government chairman and two-term member of the Imo State House of Assembly, and from there to the Senate, there is no doubt that the people know me and I know them. But as far as I am concerned, power comes from above and it is only God that can give it to whoever He wants at any given time.
Talking about how prepared, I am spiritually prepared, high in spirit and the process has commenced. We have started talking to delegates. But I believe as a party man, if I succeed at the primaries, I have to face candidates from other parties. If I don’t make it, I will be there to support whoever that will make it from my own party. But I know that there is no way the Imo people will not prefer me.
Secondly, there is no way the Imo people will not prefer PDP because they have suffered under the administration of All Progressives Congress (APC). So, I believe that there are lots of opportunities out there for me.
Will the incumbency factor of the governing APC not work against you, knowing full well that the governor is trying to anoint his son-in-law to succeed him?
Let me say that every state has its own peculiarity. Every dispensation has also its own peculiarity. The present governor was an incumbent when I ran for Senate and won that position. Jonathan was the President when he ran and was not able to win the second tenure. So, the scenario of the governor installing his son as his successor cannot be the same. The only thing that is the same is that he is bowing out having completed his eight years. So, Imo people have resisted vehemently his plan to bring somebody from his household to come and become a governor again because that will amount to creating third term. So, people are resisting it and that is why you see the opposition among themselves in APC in Imo. It is not about what he wants but about what the people want and there is a time in people’s life when they will resist any attempt to suppress them the more.
Other things remain private to me on the way I am going to win my election. But I think that PDP is going to make an impact in Imo State.
If the Imo APC succeeds in preventing Okorocha from presenting his son-in-law as governor but chooses an APC candidate from Orlu Zone, don’t you think the candidate will give PDP a very tough fight since you are from Owerri Zone?
First of all, Orlu Zone and Okigwe Zone have agreed that it is the turn of Owerri Zone. The way they are going to resist the present governor producing his son in-law is the same way they are going to resist anybody coming from Orlu Zone because Okigwe and Owerri will never agree and besides, the people of Imo State, the Imolites are sick and tired of APC.
For us, it will be a taboo for the APC to rule Imo again in 2019. So, they understand it and they know. It is a hard nut to crack. Therefore, I think that it is not every time that money works in everything. When people get saturated of any issue, they will exhibit it and they will exhibit it very viciously. And it has got to that point because people have never felt the kind of hunger, starvation, poverty as witnessed in this present administration.
Are you saying that even if APC succeeds in getting a candidate from Orlu Zone, PDP will still defeat the person?
There are other people from Owerri Zone. Somebody will emerge from Owerri Zone from APGA. The truth of the matter is that people don’t believe in APC as a party anymore. The problem is the party, APC is the issue. The alternative to PDP in Imo State is APGA, even though the APGA cannot make it because it is like a castle on ordinary sand; it cannot stand the test of time.
There is a political arrangement called the Imo State Charter of Equity, which provides for rotation of the governorship seat among the three political zones. Is this arrangement really working because Orlu has ruled for sixteen years, Okigwe nine years and Owerri only thirteen months under Enwerem?
Every political entity has a platform, and the platform is for agitation for inclusiveness in the process of governance. The Charter of Equity you are talking about is like a convention; it is not a law, so it is not binding on anybody but it is a conscience appealing arrangement. It is a kind of pressure group to say we must take this turn-by-turn so that no zone will be marginalised or excluded from the scheme of things in the state. But under the arrangement, people are left with their conscience.
Under the arrangement, Orlu has done sixteen years, Okigwe, nine years and Owerri, thirteen months. Okigwe did nine years because Chief Mbakwe did five years and Ohakim did four years. Then in our own case, under the Military, Enwerem did thirteen months. So, it is unfair. What are we going to tell our children? Are we going to remain under domination by other people for such a long time? Are we going to tell our children that we are incapable or that we lack the capacity to produce governor in the state?
The PDP is trying to woo back its former members who defected to the APC in the last administration. Don’t you think that they will defect again when they return this time around?
If you have serious quarrels with your wife and two of you go your separate ways, if you reconcile and come back to start living peacefully again, what is wrong with that? Can’t old things pass away and all things become new?
How far has the PDP gone in producing a credible candidate that will take over power from President Buhari?
Let me tell you, it has gone to the point that people in the same party of Mr. President have asked him not to run. If I were Mr. President, I will not run not probably because I have not performed so well but I believe that God has answered his prayer which is to rule Nigeria because he begged to rule Nigeria. He should not over-stretch his luck. Nigerians wish him well; having passed this process and God gave him good health again and brought him back to his position. He should play a fatherly role by creating opportunity for the younger generation to take up leadership at the Presidency. Let it be that during his tenure, he is the first President that made the younger generation come to power.
The Igbo nation has been itching to produce a Nigerian president. Looking at the trend of politics in Nigeria today, when do you think this dream will be actualised?
That time will come. There is always appointed time for everything. That time will come and it shall come; whether it is tomorrow, whether it is today, that day shall definitely come when an Igbo man shall become the President of this country. Nothing lasts forever, even this shall pass away. It is only God that can predict tomorrow, not a human being.
Following the worsening security across the country, there are fears that Nigeria may not survive as a corporate nation beyond the 2019 general election. Do you agree with this?
We are only asking for the mercy and grace of God. It is only the mercy of God and the grace of God that can see us through. Insecurity is the greatest challenge threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria today. The Senate seemed overwhelmed by motions and resolutions on this matter.
Is there no other means of solving the issue?
We have done our job. We are lawmakers. We have put down every legal framework to bring peace in Nigeria. Our job is to make law. It is the job of the Executive to ensure that the legal framework we put in place is being implemented. The question is how far has the Executive gone in implementing the laws that will protect the lives and property of the citizens of Nigeria? This is the primary purpose for which we are elected; to make good laws for the good governance of the people as enshrined in the constitution, which we all swore an oath to protect the lives and properties of Nigerians.
We have done our own as legislators, as elected representatives of the people. Now, we cannot do theirs because there is separation of power. The Executive has not done its own and that is one of the reasons we invited the Inspector-General of Police and he snubbed us. I was just watching the American Senate. John Sidney McCain is a fellow Senator in the US Senate. There is no difference between an American senator and Nigerian senator because we are all practising the same presidential system of government which we borrowed from America. So, why is it that President Trump will respect Senate; American Senate has rejected the CIA nominee of Donald Trump, who is like Nigeria’s Inspector-General of Police, and they are bound to obey. That’s where the rule of law operates. Why can’t it work here? Why must a constituted authority, the custodian of democracy, the first of the three arms of government make laws and it cannot be obeyed, and its resolutions are not respected by the Executive? It is very disheartening.
During the last national security summit organised by the Senate, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo advocated for state police. What is your take on this?
As far as I am concerned, this present administration is the problem. The Presidency is the problem. The Inspector-General of Police is an appointee of Mr. President and Mr. President is aware that he is not respecting the Legislature, which is an arm of government; and you condone it. This is the only country where nobody resigns voluntarily. If it were overseas, what is happening in the country today is enough for everybody in this government to resign without anybody asking them to do so or passing a vote of no confidence in them. And when a vote of no confidence is passed on you, what are you supposed to do? But people don’t resign because they are having protection of someone; so it doesn’t really matter, instead they use it against you, they turn it against you and frame you up. That’s the order of the day.
What does this portend for the nation’s democracy?
What I am saying is that this democracy is in danger. People can’t even say their mind. Even the Legislative Privileges Act gave us the power to say anything we want to say in the hallowed chambers and it cannot be used against us. But today, it is used against us. Most members are facing one form of persecution or another just because of speaking out their minds on issues that affect Nigerians. I don’t think our people sent dumb people to come here.
Looking at the blatant disregard for the rule of law and human rights violations being witnessed under this administration, do you still support the assertion that the ‘worst civilian administration is better than a military dictatorship’?
Well, first of all let me say this, I don’t subscribe that we should go back to military rule, never. But if we believe in democracy, we must try and confine ourselves to the tenets of democracy, where rule of law matters, where people’s freedom of expression matters, where freedom of movement matters, freedom of worship matters and separation of powers is clear. That is the kind of democracy we need. So, I think that we must take stock of how far we have gone and be able to redress certain steps because we will not be here forever. Power is transient. Wherever you find yourself today, as Mr. President, as a senator, as a governor, you can never be there forever.
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