By Hugo Odiogor, Deputy Political Editor
Distinguished Senator, the National Assembly has just passed a resolution mandating Vice president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to step in as the acting President, with full executive powers, what is your view on this?
Well, let me state briefly that it is a good thing even though it violates the constitution. It is in the interest of peace and stability. At least, it will reduce the tension in the country. Those people that have made it a special project can now give peace a chance.
It is a product of political expediency rather than law. We look up to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to restore confidence in our democratic practice. But those of in the Concerned Citizens Group believe that this process should have followed the rule of law, to avoid setting wrong precedence or leaving anybody with a feeling of being cheated in the political equation of our great country.
Does this mean that personally you are not happy with this development?
Not at all, my point is that in the interest of peace and stability, we can appreciate what my colleagues in the National Assembly have done. It is a political solution which was meant to douse tension in the country.
The other option which is that of applying Sections 143 and 144 of the 1999 Constitution which deals with impeachment would have been more protracted and may inflame political tension across the country. So, we can say that this action has helped to reduce tension in the country. After all, the recuperating President is not removed from his office, he will go back to his duties when he returns home hale and hearty.
Iâ€™m happy that you acknowledged that anybody can be sick and that anybody can die at any given time. Sickness and death are two things that can befall anybody at any given time. Therefore, when somebody falls sick, ordinarily what he deserves is sympathy and prayers that God will heal him fast.
That is the case particularly if the person is very highly placed like the President of the country. The nation should pray for him so that he will recover quickly and continue with the affairs of running the state.
So, first and foremost, my reaction is that the President deserves sympathy and prayers. But unfortunately, some people are politicizing the illness and I hate that. This is not the first President to fall sick while in office.
There are many presidents in the world that I have read about who had fallen sick while in office. Infact, recently, Cuban President, Fidel Castro was sick and could not be in his office for about two years while somebody was acting in his place and when he recovered, he returned and continued with service as the President of that country. I also know that at a point in time, the President of the US was on wheel chair and yet continued in office as President until his tenure expired.
The governing of a country or state does not require the energy of Mike Tyson. It is the mental capacity that you need. I donâ€™t think it is right for people to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Secondly, talking about power vacuum which most of the antagonists used to politicize it, I donâ€™t think there is any vacuum.
The Vice President is there and basically, the job of any Vice President is to act in the capacity of the principal when the principal is away. So, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has been acting as President in the absence of the President.
You are one of those advocating for multiple Vice Presidents, that is one from the North and another from the South. This idea was canvassed in 1994 when Dr. Alex Ekwueme proposed it at the Abacha Constituent Assembly, but the Northern delegates opposed it. Why do you think it is necessary now?
Well, as you can see, the idea of multiple Vice Presidents has become inevitable in the face of the type of crisis that is being generated by the absence of President Umar Musa Yarâ€™Adua who traveled abroad on medical vacation.
We envisaged a situation like this and we thought that it will take care of situations like this, but most Nigerians did not understand us then. Now, with what has happened , I believe they can see the wisdom in it.
Nigeria is a developing country with unique socio-cultural peculiarities. The issue of a multiple Vice Presidency is necessary so that no side will feel cheated by circumstances that were not anticipated. There is a feeling in the North that former President Olusegun Obasanjo has done eight years and under the internal rotational principle in PDP,Â Alhaji Umar Musa Yar Adua is doing the turn of the North.
Now, we are handing over power to Dr. Jonathan who is from the South. This would deny the North their full tenure as it were. But if we had two Vice Presidents, the transmission of power would be done without rancour.
This system would have ensured that the North does not lose its slot of the presidency, going by the internal rotational principles of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Recently,formerÂ President, Olusegun Obasanjo spoke andÂ denied the charge that he forced a sick man on the country as President.
He capped it with an advice on the President to resign honorably if he knows he is not fit to continue in office. What is your view on this?
First of all, as somebody who worked very closely with Gen. Obasanjo, I have tremendous respect for him and I also respect him as a former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.Â But I am disappointed to hear him say that he did not impose a sick man on us and that he asked Yarâ€™ Adua questions concerning the state of his health.
He went further to tell his audience that he demanded from him a medical certificate, which was supplied by a medical doctor. I however quarrel with the term â€œimposition.â€ I am not quarreling with what he claimedÂ Â transpired between him and Musa Yarâ€™ Adua because I am not in a position to confirm or contradict him. But I am interested in the language he used that he did not impose a sick man on the Nigerian people.Â I would have thought that the man was democratically elected.
We are talking about the process of selection of candidates of PDP?
Let us look at the reality. For Gen. Obasanjo to have said he did not impose him was wrong. The PDP has a constitution which has a procedure for electing people as candidates of the party. I would have thought that the PDP went through all the processes as contained in the constitution of the party. I know that there were other aspirants for the partyâ€™s presidential ticket.
There were people like Dr. Peter Odilli and many others who actually contested for that position.Â I know that at a point, some of them started withdrawing, but in the end, the primaries took place at the Eagle Square where Yarâ€™ Adua was announced as the person with the highest number of votes. Unless you are telling us that the election was stage managed,, I am surprised that the President is saying he did not impose as if there was no election at all.
How would you characterize the frequent flare of violent temper in Plateau State in what is now generally referred to as the Jos crisis?Â Can this really be called ethno-religious or political crisis?
I believe that it is politically motivated.Â Some people are behind it.Â But you see; these mischief makers know their onions.Â Let me tell you, there are two things that can make people react in Nigeria without thinking twice; these are ethnicity and religion.Â If you are an Ibo man, and you live in Abia, the moment somebody tells you that they are killing Ibos in Sokoto; you will react without asking questions.Â You will begin to mobilize your people and if there is any Hausa man around, you will attack him.
Ordinarily, one is expected to ask to know what actually happened before the crisis started. That is the normal thing to do. But nobody asks questions in such situations. People just act according to their emotions and sentiments. So, some mischief makers have known that these are areas you can exploit to make people act on the spur of the moment.
If they tell you that Christians are killing Moslems in Jos, somebody in Kano will just see any Christian, not necessarily from Jos, and he kills the innocent person.That is what happens.Â People allow emotions and sentiments to becloud their sense of reason, right?
So, obviously, some people will capitalize on it. I believe that the use of religion is only just to get the sympathy of the greater majority of the people. Since Plateau State has more Christians than Moslems, and so if somebody wants to contest an elections, he appeals to such sentiments that will make him to enjoy the support of a particular group of people.
That is unfortunate.Â But there is one thing which I know; God sees everybodyâ€™s intentions and God Almighty will deal with everybody, accordingly, at the appropriate time.
Whenever this type of crisis rears its ugly head, it culminates in declaration of state of emergency, do you think the situation is ripe for such a declaration?
Let me tell you one thing. Today, I can see the wisdom in that emergency that we supported, I have never seen the wisdom as clearly as it is today.Â You remember that from the very moment the President announced that he was going to send a bill to the national assembly for the declaration of a state of emergency, all the warriors dropped their weapons, even before the deployment of troops to Plateau State.
From that moment, peace was restored immediately because they knew the consequences of State of emergency.Â They probably thought that the government will deploy soldiers to face them. With the threat of emergency, nobodyâ€™s life was lost again even before we passed the declaration of state of emergency at the national assembly.
Even though many people saw the state of emergency as an over reaction, we saw the wisdom in trying to nip the crisis in the bud.Â But people will always allow sentiments and emotions to becloud their sense of reason and objectivity.
If a state of emergency is declared it cannot last for more than six months, thereafter the problem continues. So, what is the permanent solution to the problem of Jos?
Now, it is wrong to say that because it was done before, it cannot be revisited.Â When state of emergency was imposed before and it served the purpose, there was no new problem until now. When we took that decision to impose the state of emergency, some people said it was harsh, but we enjoyed relative peace until Jang came along and since then, we have had about three crises within two and half years of his administration.
So, something is wrong somewhere. But you see, each time this happens, you will learn that there is a probe panel. That is all. After that, nothing happens, nothing is heard again until another trouble starts. Then you set up another panel. People have now seen that government is not sincere or serious because the culprits caught committing those offences have never been punished.
I believe that the reports of the probe panels should be followed to the logical conclusion.Â Those people behind all these things should be properly arraigned before either a tribunal or law court and adequately punished in order to serve as a deterrent.
What is your reaction to allegations that the relationship between you and the incumbent Governor is frosty because you believe he frustrated your return to the senate?
Well, first and foremost, God used me to put Jang there as Governor. Jang contested for governorship in 1999 and lost.Â He contested for governorship in 2003 andÂ lost.Â Â In 1999, he contested with Dariye, Damishi Sango and lost.
In 2003, by this time he had left the PDP, he had gone to embrace another party, he contested the election on the platform of the ANPP in Plateau State in 2003 and he lost.Â Now, when Dariye and I fell out, I decided to go to Jang and Damishi Sango, former Minster for Sports who was also a gubernatorial candidate for AD in Plateau State and I said to them, listen, you are members of the PDP from the beginning, you are founding members of the PDP.Â Now, you left because you could not get your way.
In politics, you donâ€™t quit because you do not get what you want, it is a continuous struggle. So come back, and I was able to bring them back to the PDP; because I wanted actually to give my support base against Dariye with whom we have now strained our relationship.
That is how Jang now rode on my back to become the governor because without me getting Dariye out of office, there was no way Jang could have smelt the seat of government in Plateau State.Â But I am not also taking credit because God used me to help him to be there.Â ButÂ as soon as he became governor elect, the following week was my own election and he did everything possible to frustrate me politically.
So, I donâ€™t blame or see Jang as the person who actually stopped me from coming to the Senate.Â I believe that God had destined that I should not come back to the senate and had to use certain people who would actually execute His own plan.