NIGERIA @ 59: No reason for nationhood – Osemeka

Emeka Osemeka, a partisan politician since 1998. Special Assistant to Speaker, House of Representatives. First PDP, Party Chairman, Onitsha –North LGA. Council Chairman, Onitsha-North, First Transitional Chairman, Onitsha-North, PDP, Publicity Secretary, Anambra State and former South-East Regional Manager, Multi-choice, in this sizzling interview with Prime Pointers bares his mind on the state of the nation.

PP: Good day sir, for the benefit of our readers, we will like to meet you.

Osemeka: I am one of the few politicians who believe in principles, though they say politicians don’t have principles. I have my principles, I have been in People Democratic Party (PDP) since 1998 and I have not joined any other party. My foray into politics is not by accident. Prior to 1998, I was the Regional Manager, Multi-choice, South-East. In 1995 we had what was called cable Network in Onitsha and I was transferred from Lagos to Onitsha to midwife it. By the time it was fully established Multi-choice along the line needed to divest into dish system so they had to sell off their interest. I bided for it as an agent and got it.  So with that, I had more free time to myself. In 1998, a dear friend of mine, Dr. Obiogbolu came into my office and told me one word, “you remain here, idiots will be in-charge, but if you join, you will help shape the polity”. So I joined. By 1999, I became PDP Party Chairman, Onitsha-North LGA, (1999-2002), PDP, Anambra State, Publicity Secretary

2002, and the First Transitional Chairman, Onitsha – North LGA, 2003

PP: Being there at the dawn of Democracy in 1999, were there things that you observed to be out of place at the inception that eventually got us to where we are today?

Osemeka: We had great hopes, wonderful dreams and ideas. Mind you, we were just trying to break away from the shackles of military rule then, and we took off well but there were a lot of factors that we did not anticipate which came into play. We didn’t know how badly the military had affected the Psyche of Nigeria citizens. I am one of those that believe that the wrong in Nigeria politics doesn’t have to do with the leadership alone. No, 50% of it has to do with followership. When we took off, we thought we will play politics right because some of those involved at the inception had schooled in it, some had experience abroad, some had seen what working in the developed democratic system was. Such was what we had in mind. But when you attend a typical PDP political meeting then, you find out it was a potpourri of characters; intellectuals, stark illiterates, money bags, principled people, and people with high moral backgrounds. They all had to mix and come to a common understanding. It wasn’t easy getting all these people of diverse backgrounds, ideas and leaning together to form anything and it remains the challenge till today. But if the followers decide within themselves and insist on the right thing, no politician will cut corners. You cannot convince an INEC official who says I want to do my job. 

PP: This is 20 years of uninterrupted democracy and      APC has made it clear that the rot currently in the system is a hand-down from PDP. From your explanation of the constitution of PDP from inception, will you say that it affected what the good work of nation-building should have provided?

Osemeka: In effect, it is difficult to get the right thing from that mix. As of 2003/2004 there was nothing like APC. So the rot they are talking about is arrant nonsense. However, who is in APC today that was not in PDP.

The only people I know that are in APC today that were not in PDP are Tinubu and Buhari. Every other person is robbed off from PDP. But like I keep saying, it is a problem of followership; it is not a party thing. It is a Nigeria thing. The rot in PDP did not make somebody steal money and say that the snake swallowed it. PDP did not hand-over snake to APC. The rot in PDP did not make a governor to be caught in camera pocketing bribe money in brad daylight. The rot in PDP did not stop the federal government from prosecuting him. Assume there was rot in PDP. APC was elected to correct it. What is the correction?

How did the rot in PDP give us rice at N8,000 and the decency in APC gave us rice at N20,000? It doesn’t make sense. Let us leave the party thing and start to look at where we are coming from. Actually, by the time Goodluck Jonathan hit the road, the brigandage 2003/2017 election was beginning to thin out. INEC was becoming more disciplined. Throughout the Jonathan years, we had a decent INEC. We have now gone back more than 360 degrees.

PP: You talk so much about followership. In inexplicit terms how do you think the followers are getting it wrong?

Osemeka: I have contested elections three times. It is the followership that determines the outcome. You’ll see a moron who has nothing to offer but once he brings money, the followership will follow. I have severally gone for election to explain the thing I believe should be done but nobody will listen. They will only wait for you to mention money.

Why do they call me GAWU? It is because I point it out all the time. If I am assisting you in politics I will rather be your campaign manager. When you are talking about your long grammar about how you will do beautiful things, bring health insurance etc, they are not listening. What they want to hear is how much they will be going home with from there and if you interrogate that situation, they will tell you they have seen better politicians before this guy taking, who had been in office, stole money, and never bothered about anybody. So now that they have seen this one, they must collect something. so it is a vicious cycle. Do we keep going like this? No, we have to say at a point in time, “this must stop”. That is why I support any youth with any radical idea of change. I don’t care if he has fine-tuned it well, but something has to be done.  Something has to give way. We can’t keep going like this.

PP: Do you think that at 59, Nigeria has realized that something is wrong with our system and we need to make a change?

We know something has gone wrong, but this nation has leadership with no sense of history, we are still swayed by things like ethnicity and religion, which is an easy instrument for oppression. When a man on the street says dividends of democracy, what he is referring to is the money or the bag of rice or yam you will give him. That is his own idea of the dividend of democracy. It is we the politicians that need to change the narrative and explain that the dividend of democracy includes good health, insurance, housing, good roads, freedom of expression and etc and it doesn’t just have to be bread and butter.

PP: But why blame the followers whom after freely giving their votes, get nothing as a dividend. Don’t you think the electorates have waited far too long for politicians, hence their psyche is affected?

Osemeka: No they have not waited enough.

PP: for 20 years?

Osemeka: The problem with humanity is that when we want a change, we want it with us. We want it to happen in our presence. That is not the trait of a great leader. A great leader lays the foundation and by the time the change comes, he is far gone. We mustn’t do things so that we must benefit from it. The major reason the oppressors stick together and we tolerate bad government is corruption. As long as I have hope that one day one of mine will become a minister and I will enjoy my own, therefore if somebody is messing up, we have to wait because one day, they will make changes and our own will be appointed. It is corruption that holds us down from acting.

PP: Nigeria @59 is there a reason for Nationhood.

We created a disconnection from the vision of our fore bearer. The founding fathers of this nation had a vision that was epitomized by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe without prejudice to others. Chief Obafemi Awolowo did not fight for our independence so to speak. He was more interested in his ethnic group, so also was Sir. Ahamdu Bello. It was only Dr. Azikiwe that really wanted a United Nigeria. He paid a price for it. We have that disconnect between what he wanted for Nigeria and what is there now and the last five years have polarized the nation beyond repairs.

Before 2015, if you are talking about forging ahead as one united people, I would believe that a lot of Nigerians will key into it but with the way this government has polarized this nation today, I doubt whether anybody will be ready for one nation any longer. All the signs are there, they say it too and the government pursues it as a policy. Looking at the situation, you don’t need a sorcerer to tell you that the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed and the member of an economic advisory council, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo are not of the same class. But this government cannot resist the need to either make a Muslim or a northerner the head of everything. What advice will a world-class economist like Soludo give to the minister that she will accept?

For me, I don’t think there is any reason. They only way we can be one is to exist according to what was provided in the constitution to the letter.

We are the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The states are federating. Unless we are properly a federating unit, we won’t be okay. There is no reason why somebody in Abuja will tell the governor here about how to police his state. It doesn’t make sense. It is not wise for someone in Abuja to tell me that MOSOB agitators here are terrorists, but blatant and known murders are not. Is it not obvious that there is no way an Igbo man will not suspect any person that takes a decision that tells us that we are one. Justice Esho, is presently the most senior judge of the Federal High Court. He ought to have been sworn in as the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court but the government will not. They want to bring his junior who is a Northern Muslim to be the Chief judge of the Federal High Court. Where the Chief Justice of Nigeria is a Muslim, others must be. So does that sound like a one Nigeria to you? The most senior and educated Police Officer, prior to the retirement of the last Inspector General of Police was DIG Patience Ibekwe. This government decided to retire somebody that is young in age but senior in rank to the present inspector general of police in order to make the latter, I.G because he is a Northern Nigerian. Does that seem to you like one Nigeria? For me, it doesn’t.

I cannot find one Nigeria where the entire security apparatus of the nation is built around an architecture that is Fulani in action and words. Is it one Nigeria? Our problem in this country is not Moslem but Islamic fundamentalists. There are much more peaceful Muslims than there are of an Islamic fundamentalists.

Islam is a religion of peace too. A true Muslim peacefully works in his office and on Friday, goes to the mosque. On the other hand, an Islamist believes that everybody that lives within his neighborhood must be a Moslem. A normal Moslem has no problem living with a Christian in the same house but an Islamist cannot understand why my wife will go to the market in jeans trousers. So the problem with Nigeria today is that the country is being run by Islamists. Islamic fundamentals have taken over the whole nation.

PP: A top-flight politician was recently of the opinion that Nigeria may not celebrate 100 years. If this must be checked what are the things that must be put in place.

Osemeka: When intellectuals decided to be fraudulent and dishonest in the way they market their views, the society is bound to suffer for it. When Jonathan Goodluck was president those of us who are not first-class economists may not easily read the indices and know where the country was going. But those that had the capacity to do so, read and saw the signs that the economy was growing. Then, a school leaver with 10,000 and a laptop could start a business, be it importation or whatever. You could purchase things and go over to DHL and collect them. The economy was moving and people saw it. Even the intellectuals saw it. But what happened? Intellectual dishonest like Pat Utomi, Soludo, Oby Ezekwusili, Wole Soyinika etc went to the market square to bastardize the effort of a world-class economist like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. They knew they couldn’t bring a better model and Okonjo-Iweala was practically doing great and many other nations were running on her model. They knew the figures and they had access to World Bank records.

But instead chose to go ahead to rubbish Okonjo-Iweala and joined APC to rubbish all that Jonathan Goodluck tried to institute. Jonathan being a complete gentleman, told them that the freedom you enjoy with me today will not be there when I am gone. What is happening today?

Sowore was there, abusing Jonathan but nobody touched him. Today what is happening to Sowore? Just that he mentioned the word, “revolution”, today he is languishing in jail and that is coming from a government he helped to install. That Sowore insulted my principal does not mean that I should rejoice that he is ill treated today because tomorrow it might be me. There are Nigerians in jail today because of what they wrote on facebook. Yet you want us to keep quiet? A lot of us will cower, but the intellectual dishonests are the people I blame for today. They were not truthful.

PP: Recently Soludo has been appointed as a member of the economic advisory council. Don’t you think that is a way forward?

Osemeka: Who will listen to him? It is late. If I were in his shoes, despite being my classmate in Nsukka where he read Economics and I read Statistics, I will not go there. For his involvement, people will not remember his positive contributions to the nation and world at large but instead, they will remember him for the failures of this government.

After being a chief economic adviser to a president, a CBN governor, you are now reduced to an ordinary member of the advisory council whose advice might not be taken. Meanwhile, Salami who is the chairman of the council was a staff under Soludo. His subordinate is now his boss. It is a disgrace.

PP: Isn’t that a call to service?

Osemeka: No it is not. It is a call to eat. It is either Soludo is starving and hungry or he is looking for money to contest for the governor of Anambra State or looking for how to lobby APC to rig election for him when the time comes. It is only on these premises that you would go and start taking orders from your staff. He will do all the work but nobody will take it.

PP: If the best bran’s keep away from this government who will contribute to bringing about the expected positive change?

Their resigning is a way of sending a message to the government to do the right thing by employing meritocracy in their operations. Put people in positions based on merit.

PP: Are you saying that at 59, there is no need for Nationhood?

Osemeka: There is none. The only thing that will save Nigeria is justice, fairness, and equity, which should start by the judiciary doing the right thing. First on Atiku’s petition. You could see the embarrassment that is the appeal court judgment but the irony is that the judiciary does not know that the joke is on them.

PP: Do you accept that there is a demon in Aso Rock that influences its occupants towards wrong decisions as once written by Reuben Abati?

Osemeka: Yes! That write up gave a lot of comic relief but when your master is a lot shorter than you are, you must stoop to talk to him. You cannot talk down on him. When the president you work for has a slender academic qualification, you are advised to work below him and not above him. His slender education will limit your performance because each time you try to explain something to a dull person, you will be assumed to sound abusive.

What is happening in the villa today is that you have a professor of law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria trying to lecture a president of the federal republic of Nigeria that is still looking for his WAEC certificate about the rule of law. Do you think it will go down well? It will be assumed the vice is insulting the president. If I am the presidential aide, I will remove the vice president. How will you explain the rule of law? He cannot explain anything to him. Therefore, that demon in the villa is after Osinbajo. Without prejudice to the Yorubas, when you play an Ostrich game, you can only hide your head but your whole body will be outside. Osinbajo is an errand boy of nonsense.

A professor of law, justifying the use of arms to disperse armless protesters, a professor of law, justifying the raid of the national assembly by the DSS and after doing the errand boy, you think he will go free? No! He will not. Timi Frank said the truth. FIRS gave the VP 90 billion for the last election. They know why they allowed FIRS to do that. It is because they know he will have problems account for it since it is not a budgetary allocation. The 90 billion was held as a leash so that whenever they want to destroy him, it will be thrown out. Why do you think the details were kept all these while and they chose this period to leak it to Timi Frank? It is because they are ready to destroy him.

A quote from my cherished TV programme, Judge Judy says, when you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember. Osinbajo refused to tell the truth in Aso Rock when the early morning preacher of Redeemed Christian Church of God was murdered. When Biafran protesters were killed at the bridgehead, Onitsha, he did not make a single comment. The rule of law has been trampled severally, yet he made no comment. If he is cornered for questions, he tries to hide his voice. Why don’t you tell the truth? The only demon in Aso Rock is the truth. Once you don’t say the truth, they will look for leverage against you.

PP: Are you insinuating that the past administrations that occupied Aso Rock were victims of truth?

Osemeka: Yes! You only know a good man when you give him power. Wole Soyinka once headed Road Safety. How did he leave? Tai Solarin once headed Peoples Bank. How did he leave? There is a spirit that goes with power and that is why those who want to maintain their principles stay away from it. If you are in politics, have a second address where you make a livelihood. But if you depend on politics alone, you will see green and call it blue because your Oga says so.

My last appointment was as a Special Assistant (SA) to Yakub Dogara. I was in PDP but worked for a house speaker that is a member of APC. To date, people still want to know how I managed it but there was nothing to it. I managed it because the speaker then was a complete democrat per excellence. When my name was suggested to him, he said, this man, Gawu, I know what he can do. However, he knew I was against his joining APC. In spite of that; he was able to work with me. Throughout that period, my facebook was littered with posts against APC of which he knew. He appointed me SA to Nigeria and not to APC. It is not easy to have the right kind of mindset. It is the right mindset that we need to rule Nigeria and not a nepotistic mindset that cannot take us anywhere. This government has ruined this country.

PP: Is there hope?          

Osemeka: I see no hope, except where everybody has a loose federation. Though I do not support Biafra, that is not what I want but I want a situation where every zone freely looks after itself.

PP: Currently there are lots of agitations to go back to the 1963 constitution. Do you support that?

Osemeka: I accept it. First, it will cut down the cost of running the government. Secondly, it will enhance sensible and capable hands in government so that the only way you can be a minister is by winning an election. Just like the British constitution.

PP: Considering the prevailing failures and culture of negative attitudes in the country, do you think Nigeria can succeed with that constitution if we have to go back to it?

Osemeka: It will not be easy to sit together and generally accept to go back to that constitution. There is no constitutional creation that has ever been easy in Nigeria. In spite of the constitution haven laid down guidelines for the creation of states, it has not been possible except through the military. We are very suspicious of one another in Nigeria.  Could you imagine that even the state houses of assembly cannot make a law that will allow them to have a first line charge to their own account?  For instance, Anambra State House of Assembly could not make a law that will allow their budgeted allocation to go straight into their separate account instead of going into the state account. They failed.

The state assemblies could not make the law to give autonomy to the local government. When they couldn’t do these minimal things, is making a law to create states that they can? As a statistician, I know that for administrative convenience, ethnicity, and LGA, should be enumerated during census so that it will help developmental plans but till date, the north refused that such should be enumerated because of the fear that if such is allowed, it will be discovered that Igbos are the most populous ethnic group in Nigeria. Apart from the northerners, the most populous ethnic group in the north is the Igbos.

PP: Has the argument not been that since none natives use the resources of the state where they reside, they should be enumerated there for even distribution of economic and infrastructural allocation?

Osemeka: No, that is the flimsy excuse. You don’t have to pull them out to be counted somewhere else. All you do is just identification. If you know the number of Igbos that lives in Kano, for example, a budding crop businessman may use that figure to estimate that he can send Ukwa (Breadfruit) or palm; Ora or Pumpkin leaves to the north and makes a profit because he will know he has a market for his products there. People use these figures for economic or social planning. Also, if we know the number of Hausas that reside in Onitsha, it will be easy for someone to package Ram suya meat and send it down to make money. If I am a planner, I need these figures.

PP: but people believe that those components promote division

Osemeka: No. You record every characteristic of a person during censors. It is quite different from when a person fills a form for university admission or civil service employment. You don’t need these factors for those ones. In censor, these figures help to adequately plan for development and even distribution of infrastructures but the reason they are not included in ours is because of ethnicity and nepotism.

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