Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Imo State, Prince Marshal Okaforanyanwu, in this interview by JOHNKENNEDY UZOMA, holds that the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have no interest of the common man and advocates a return to parliamentary system of government. Excerpts:
How prepared is your party SDP in the forthcoming election?
The SDP is fully prepared. We have our presence everywhere in the country and we are working to ensure that we record victory everywhere. We have senators who defected to the SDP. We have some members of the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly in various states who have joined SDP. So as we speak, we have serving senators, House of Representatives and House of Assembly members. The fact is that we are poised to take over the stage. Of course, SDP is the third largest party in Nigeria and about the oldest outside Peoples Redemption Party (PRP). SDP is the second oldest party in Nigeria and for us to continue to navigate around the corridors of power up till date, it means something is in the offing for us. A lot of parties have been deregistered yet we maintained the stage and we are still moving on. I have operated as the state chairman of the party just for a few months now, yet I have been able to field candidates for every senatorial, House of Representatives and House of Assembly positions. We have a very good prospect in future. We are strong and ready and by 2024 we are going to run for the governorship of Imo State and we are going to take over the Imo Glass House.
Political parties have started jostling for votes after the rounds of primary elections. What does that portend for Nigeria?
It’s a routine. We have performed the political rituals by completing and concluding our various primaries in the 18 registered political parties under INEC supervision, but there are more to it; especially about the larger Nigerian and political parties being properly taken care of. The more to it is this: you and I know that there is abject poverty in the land. People are now feeding from mouth to ground – this is following the spiritual interpretation of Mr. President. He moved Nigerians ‘from top to bottom’. We are at the bottom. The spiritual implication is that everybody is on the ground. So nothing is moving and if you want to get it right, just like the youths are agitating, the Civil Society groups are advocating that there should be proper election. If every Nigerian wants to choose who they are sure can perform, their duty is to register. If you and I can register and have our PVC, if our votes can count, we can change the narrative. Most of us we want a better Nigeria. This is not the Nigeria we met. This is not the Nigeria of our dream.
The PDP and APC disappointed the people of the S/East; do you think the zone can still actualise their presidential bid through Peter Obi?
Obviously I wouldn’t want you to be silent about other sons of the region that are also contesting, because Peter Obi is not the only person running for the position of the presidency of the country from the zone. However, I know that people are seeing him as being more vibrant. The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) also has a presidential candidate Umeadi. I think if Peter Obi can practice what he is preaching, I believe a lot of people will be there for him. The South-East has been disenfranchised before now and we have been robbed for too long because of the quest to have a shot at the presidency of the country. That has triggered the unrest in the South-East. It was the same thing that triggered the call for a referendum because our people feel that they are being marginalised or shortchanged because the Igbo are nowhere in the scheme of things. When you look through the face of leadership sequentially from the presidency to vice president, attorney general, Chief Justice of Nigeria and other principal officers that hold the nation, you cannot find an Igbo man. Unfortunately it is said that we have Wazobia which literally spells out that there are three major tribes in Nigeria. But the two other major tribes out of the three have emasculated the other one and decided to keep it by the wayside as if they are not part and parcel of the sovereignty of the country.
So if we are being denied the right or privileges in Nigeria, we will ask for it. Most political voices have it that they would not want to separate from Nigeria. But if you don’t want somebody to separate, you must allow that person to have a share of the national cake. Whereby you say that an Igbo man cannot become the president of this country, those who decided to make a change inevitable should expect the other side. In all ramifications the South East has all it takes academically and in every other ramification to govern this country. But unfortunately the PDP and the APC denied us the opportunity of fielding a candidate through their platforms. But in SDP, I wouldn’t fail to tell you that I reached out to some of our young vibrant men including Mr. Peter Obi and Senator Anyim Pius Anyim to come and run under our party but they refused. They felt they needed political parties that have resounding names and decided to go to them. Otherwise SDP opened its flanks for an Igbo man to be a presidential candidate. I reached out to many of them. I even spoke to Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, even our national chairman met Chief Iwuanyanwu to show that SDP was open and would accommodate the people from the South-East.
Ideologically that is why our people decided to join the party because it spread out to accommodate us but unfortunately when we reached out to our illustrious sons who have what it takes to run for the presidential seat, some of them showed interest and suddenly made a u-turn. I cited the example of Peter Obi, who claimed that there were a lot of court cases, but unfortunately he did not know that the Labour Party had three court cases. The Labour Party has three executive arms, three chairmen and they all produced their presidential candidates. I heard one has conceded its own, remaining one. If that one wants to play a spoiler game, anything can happen. Without being the case, he chose to go to the Labour Party for reasons best known to him but fortunately SDP has its own presidential candidate, senatorial candidates, House of Representatives candidates and House of Assembly candidates. But talking particularly as it concerns an Igbo man, political marriages are not yet over. But in as much as we have our candidate, we will still support him because if by tomorrow Peter Obi calls for a unity of purpose to fight one political beast, the party will be ready to join hands to make sure Nigeria is redeemed and recover because nobody is happy with the present situation of things in Nigeria.
Nigerians have called security experts to assist in tackling insecurity in Nigeria. What is your view?
I am completely in support of the call. You know how long it took President Buhari to think about the security architecture which is manned by his kinsmen. The Chief of Army Staff is from the North; most of the Service Chiefs are from the North, yet insurgency is gaining ground every day. If you hear Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State shouting on top of his voice, calling on the Federal Government to assist him to quell the rampage of the Fulani and the crises they are causing in his, it is for the same reason. Unfortunately, the Federal Government has continued to label the security situation as farmers/herders clash. Why are you calling it farmers/ herders clash when the two never cohabited? The herders rove around the nation and most of the villages sacked, they rename and take over and nobody is saying anything. They even hoist their flag with a name trying to make sure that the existing name they met before sacking that village no longer exists. It is a clear land grabbing and complete take over. And when Governor Ortom continued to cry that the foreign Fulani want to take over Nigeria, it is not far from the truth because other areas have started experiencing that. If you remember, there was shooting at a church at Oraifete in Anambra State and it was blamed on one drug baron. At the end of the day, it turned out that the alleged drug baron had no hand in the matter. A similar case happened at Owo in Ondo State, where gunmen invaded a Catholic Church killed worshipers. This to me is ethnic cleansing and nobody has been convicted. It appears that the government has hands in it otherwise the same vigour and strength they apply in arresting criminals should apply in arresting the gunmen.
What are your views on the directive by the Nasarawa State governor to his citizens to carry arms to defend themselves?
It is unfortunate but do you blame the man? Before your eyes, your people are murdered and you are helpless. Sometimes, the remains of the murdered ones are not given befitting burial. It’s really disheartening. No state governor will seat back to watch his people being murdered every day and would not want to do anything. The Nasarawa State governor is being overwhelmed and he knows that the security situation has equally overwhelmed President Buhari. That must be why he resorted to the last option by signing it into law that his people should carry arms to defend themselves; and that they should be licensed to protect themselves since the security agencies cannot. So what is left for them is to find a means to protect themselves. What he is doing is making a move so that people will not start reading meanings that he is liaising with the bandits and criminals to slaughter his people. Maybe for one reason or the other, even his political opponents could use that against him. So he did the right thing by invoking such powers bestowed on him by the constitution that his people should carry arms so that they can defend themselves. If the bandits know that in each house they are going to attack there is AK47 rifle, they will be cautious themselves and it will reduce criminality because where every person is carrying arms, every person becomes a prey. Every person will stand on the same pedestal. So you don’t blame him.
The situation of the Nigerian national economy is worrisome and there appears not to be any reprieve because of continued borrowing by the Federal Government. What do you think this portends for our economy now and in future?
We have seen countries plunged into that kind of debt. Sri Lanka is one of them. A lot of countries have been plunged into overwhelming debts, and it is difficult to come out of it. President Buhari does not care what happens to us. The irony is that their children are not in the country and are happy enjoying themselves outside. If you look at the whole thing, it is no longer a laughing matter. Their actions seem deliberate. They want to make sure they exterminate sections of the Nigerian society.
How can you continue to borrow and borrow endlessly? I also blame the National Assembly for some of these things because if they refused, or opposed some of these senseless loans, the borrowing would not have taken place. And most of these loans are not plunged into any infrastructural deficit or to enhance the growth of the economy. Most of this money is borrowed for stipulated projects. It is a very funny policy. In fact I don’t know where President Buhari is taking the country to. Well, I am not surprised because he taken Nigeria from top to bottom and he will not leave until everyone is on the floor. I am not an advocate of borrowing without policies of how the economic situation would be remedied. Today a dollar is about N710 to the naira. It was the same dollar he met at N180. He promised to make N100 to $1, but he succeeded in making sure that the dollar exchange loan is above what it used to be, which is at 180 to 700.
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