By Clifford Ndujihe, Deputy Political Editor
Chief Chuba Egolum, former chairman of the Eastern Mandate Union (EMU), national chairman of Ndigbo for Better Nigeria (NBN) and vice chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP (Anambra Central), was in the trenches with NADECO to enthrone democracy in the country during the dark days of military rule.
A foundation member of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, he observed at close quarters how former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s unity government of 1999 decimated the opposition with the appointment of the late Chief Bola Ige (AD) and Alhaji Mahmud Waziri (All Peoples Party, APP). With the benefit of hindsight, he now says what the country needs to succeed is not government of national unity (GNU) but good hands. Excerpts:
How would you access the 2011 elections and the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC?
We’ve always prayed for free and fair elections. There is no where in the world where elections are 100 per cent free and fair. What we asked for is to have the kind of compliance that we can look at and say ‘yes, we have complied with the tenets of free and fair elections.’ Looking at where we came from , the election of 2007 was adjudged not to be free and fair.
When you compare that with what we’ve seen today, the tendency is to say we’ve done well. As far as I’m concerned, we should be looking ahead to the next four years to ensure that future elections will be better than what we’ve just done.
What we’ve done now in any reasonable person’s perception will be given a pass mark. So this election from the point of view of INEC, security agencies, politicians and the polity can be given a pass mark.
Given the improvement, what do you make of the post- presidential election violence in some northern parts of the country?
It is unfortunate that we are still battling with post election violence. I think it has to do with our orientation: we do not see politics as a game in which somebody must win and the other person not win and not necessarily lose.
When you begin to look at politics as ‘he won and I lost,’ that has certain connotations. But when you think of it like ‘I was in this contest, my opponent won and I didn’t win,’ this mind set leaves room for negotiation, congeniality, friendship and brotherhood. It has to do with mind set.
That you did not win does not necessarily mean that you go to war. You must stay alive to be able to prepare for the future. But our people still believe that after a contest, there is something that follows. Nothing else follows except reconciliation, to rebuild and move on. Violence has no place in the contest.
What if in the process of participating in violence, you lose your life? We must discourage anything that has to do with post election violence. Violence has to be condemned. To be a politician, you must have in your ideology the fact that this contest you are going for, you may not succeed. If you don’t succeed, you want to be able to come back and try again.
What does the election of President Goodluck Jonathan portend for the country?
The election that brought in Jonathan is a good omen. It is a march towards greatness. As the young man always says, “I have no enemies to fight.” He is coming in to work for Nigeria. Jonathan is the best thing to happen to Nigeria since our return to democracy.
What we must do is to rally round him and give him total support. We are the biggest black nation in the world, yet we can’t feed ourselves, we can’t provide our own energy, housing is not there, in fact we are lacking in every department.
But with the right leadership, all of us jointly must give total support so that at the end of the day, in four years we’ll all be rejoicing. Nigeria, the sleeping giant, has woken up with the conduct of this election. The world waited to see what will happen and we’ve proven to the world that we have finally come of age. Like they say, Jonathan has to hit the ground and start running with the right people in government.
How can he get the right people in government?
The right people abound everywhere in Nigeria. He must look at their credentials to know those that can deliver. If you did not perform years ago, then you are not likely to deliver now. We are not going to be preaching its all PDP affair, even though I’m a strong member of PDP. This is a Nigerian project. We must get this nation state called Nigeria moving again. We need to also prune down the number of political parties we have.
Take a look at what happened recently, about 40 political parties went ahead to endorse Jonathan as their presidential candidate. That is making nonsense of the art of politics.
The action means that they actually had nothing to offer and they didn’t want to get involved. If we must continue in this race, we must look at those parties that have gotten some kind of representation at the various levels of government to justify their existence. Why would you exist if you have nothing to show for it? It is about existence and performance. If you’ve not performed, how do you justify your existence?
What kind of government are you expecting the president to form? Are you in support of a coalition government or government of national unity?
When you talk about Government of National Unity, to me, it has certain connotations that sometimes do not get the job done.
President Jonathan being a well educated man, I expect him to understand that this time around, Nigeria as a country, needs the best hands to get the work done. Good people are not necessarily found in one political party. Look at the entire country as a constituency, go around and look for the people to get the job done.
For the benefit of all Nigerians, we must use the right pegs in the right holes. Even if it means having to go abroad because we have excellent materials outside the PDP and Nigeria as a whole and beyond. Once we can identify them, wherever they are, they can come back here and be of use to us. We should not shy away from doing that.
You seem to back scrapping of parties. Don’t you think it is against the dictates of the constitution even though the Electoral ACT 2010 backs it?
Sometimes you will want to look at the adage which says that too many cooks spoil the broth. There has to be a way of pruning down 64 political parties at this stage of our political development. As a matter of fact, it creates more and unnecessary work for INEC and security agencies and anything that has to do with credible elections in Nigeria. I’m not in support of one party state or two party system but there has to be a way of discouraging this kind of surge in political parties.
You are a leader of PDP in Anambra and in the last election, the PDP did not perform in the state. Why is that so?
The PDP in Anambra State has been plagued by internal problems for several years now. In this civilian dispensation, Anambra State was entirely a PDP state and in fact remains a PDP state. The problem besetting PDP in Anambra today is internal democracy. Anambra is a very solid PDP state.
I’m not going to keep saying this as a mere word of mouth, we have to go back and do the right thing. There has to be a PDP executive in Anambra State that is without question the state executive, no aberration of any sort, and no factionalisation of any sort irrespective of who the members of the exco’s are. This is the time to start rebuilding the party in Anambra State.
What’s the way forward for this country?
The way forward is to ensure that within the shortest possible time, the issue of energy will be solved and permanently solved not in any half measure. We must look at housing. Nigerians are in dire need of housing. There is no reason why Nigeria, as large and as viable as our God given land is we are not able to feed ourselves. We must pay attention to agriculture but the starting point must be energy.
Energy is not a cash and carry kind of development. It takes time. But I’m beginning to see the efforts that are being put in place and we must not derail so that other things can be added on it and people will begin to sleep better.
A well rested mind does not have room to cause havoc. It also does a lot for security when the whole place is illuminated.