No one can turn Nigeria to one party state —ex-Reps
Chief U.S.A Igwesi is a former chairman Banking and Currency Committee in the House of Representatives. In an interview with JUDE OSSAI, he bares his mind on the clamour for Igbo presidency and insecurity in the country, among other issues.
What can you say about the future of democracy in the country in view of the current multi-faceted challenges?
What we have now in our opinion is not a democracy; it is indeed a returnto civil rule, where the military is no longer in charge of the day-to-day running of the country. Definitely, it is not a full blown-democracy, where citizens’ rights andliberties are guaranteed. The indices that make up a democratic state are very much elusive. We can see on a daily basis government’s disobedience to court orders. The law is trampled upon and the law does not rule the people. Nigerians are not equal before the law; we have selective application of the same law and honestly speaking, the law is no longer supreme. With all these indices conspicuously missing and others in our journey to democracy, we cannot proudly say that we are practising democracy. Our electoral system is faulty. We have not been able to get our act right with our electoral body conducting a free and fair election, where the people’s vote will count and be used as the basis for electing candidates of theirchoice. Worst still, the judiciary has taken over the inalienable rights and powers of the electorate to the extent that the wishes of the voters are most often truncated inappropriately by the judiciary to the detriment of the massesagainst the candidate of their choice. The manipulation, which perverts the nooks and crannies of Nigeria, has found its way to the judiciary. So, I feel a lot of work has to be done for us to have a working democracy. For now, what we have is civil rule.
What is your assessment of the role of opposition in the present dispensation?
The opposition political parties are not doing their biddings well, especially because some parties were just assembled withoutmanifestoes and ideologies and are just in the political space to see how they can raise money for their personal pockets. However, the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is alive to its responsibilities and is doing its job as the opposition party diligently and with the force required to put the ruling party on its toes. So, one can say that the PDP is playing its role in ensuring that the APC doesn’t embark on executive recklessness and radicalism. But the big question is whether the ruling party is ready to take corrections and make amends where necessary without exhibiting malice and tantrum. If the job of the opposition is to always scavenge for poor governance and remind the government in power to enable them correct it, then I think the PDP is actually doing its job.
Is the country not drifting towards a one-party system based on what some critics have described as the antics of the APC?
If a party in power wants to squeeze up the political space to the extent that it will be the only party in power, then the ruling party should always get its act right by initiating people-oriented programmes. The standard of living in the country should be exciting, high and friendly, with the security of lives and properties guaranteed, which is the primary responsibilities of any government in power under the grundnorm of democracy. Our education system and health facilities should be fixed. So, to answer your question, anygovernment that do not provide all these things enumerated above and others not mentioned cannot seize the political space to the extent of turning the country into a one-party system. In other words, is not possible to have a one-party system in 2023 based on what is presently on the ground from the ruling party APC? Nigerians naturally love variety and are not fools who can easily be swayed with frivolities. Nigerian believe in substance and conviction. So, any party that wants to be the only cock crowing should be able to provide all round good governance. Therefore, based on the present scenario, the issue of one-party system in 2023 will not be possible unless and until the country is muzzled or forced into such undemocratic arrangement. But with votes counting and INEC discharging it duties objectively such scenario will never play out in 2023.
What do you have to say on the call the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe on President Muhamdu Buhari to resign because of worsening insecurity in the country?
Senator Abaribe is just doing his normal work and duty as the leader of the minority and the opposition party in the Senate. He is a well-exposed parliamentarianand fully understands the role of effective and efficient opposition party inthe parliament. Nigeria is no longer securebanditry, kidnapping, herders/farmers’ clashes, ceaseless Boko Haram attacks and other criminalities have taking over the centre-stage of our existence, whereas the security and welfare of the people is the primary responsibilities of the party in power. The opposition does not derive joy in lambasting the ruling party any time; it criticizes when it realizes that the ruling party isswimming in misrule and bad governance.
So, the call from Senator Abaribe is not new and definitely not different from the calls from opposition leaders of the parliament the world over. It is usual and normal for high inflammatory statement to come from the opposition. So, the call from a group asking him to retract his statement andapologise to the president is out of colour and not fashionable in modern politics, where the political space is wide open to accommodate the views of the opposition. One is that Senator Abaribe did not speak for any group other than the PDP in the Senate. He spoke for his party of which he is the most senior member in the senate. Probably, this is the product and outcome of the consultation he had with the caucus of the party in the Senate. He is just doing his normal work, which is to raise the alarm where necessary. But, has President Buhari resigned after Abaribe’scall? This is indeed a normal legislative behavior and parliament trend.
What is your take on the agitation that political power should shift to the South-East in 2023?
The agitation is good and in order. It is simply fair and just to allow the South-East to produce the next president in 2023. Equity and justice demand that a president of South-East extraction should be encouraged in 2023 to assuage feelings in some quarters that the Igbo nation just escorted other ethnic groups to the Nigeria project. The entire country needs to show magnanimity and enhance their confidence on the easterners that they are part of this country. The Igbo are in a position to salvage Nigeria from the inept leadership. The southeastern region is endowed with human and material resources to lead the country to greatness, unite and return the country to proper leadership roles that will guarantee the rule of law and robust economy.
A Nigerian president of the Igbo extraction in 2023 will also ameliorate the restiveness in the region and the endless call for restructuring and secession of the region, that will also serve as restitution for the long marginalisation and injustice meted on the Igbo in the political engineering of this country. An average Igbo man is resilient, dexterous,intelligent, hospitable and naturally organised to lead the country to achieve its full potential as a nation and they can use theirtechnical know-how and ingenuity to revolutionise Nigeria’s industrial sector that has gone comatose and moribund. An average Igbo man is not only entrepreneurially intelligent but competitive and can think out of the box in most situation. More over fairness, equity and justice demand that since every other major ethnic group has taken a turn on the plum job, the South-East should be supported by every other ethnic nationality to have a shot, even though power is not given, it is taken and required serious consultations from the leaders of south East. They have to inter-face with their friend from other zones and put their statistic and facts on the table and convince them on why they should have sense of belonging in the Nigeria projects.