BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE,Deputy Political Editor
…•Says faulty constitution not responsible for nation’s woes • Makes case for state police
President of an Igbo socio-political action group, also known as C21, Senator Annie Okonkwo, in this interview, speaks on why the group was established, the need for state police, Igbo presidency in 2015, Anambra governorship election, and how to combat insecurity in the country. Excerpts:
Why C21 was established?
C21 is a socio-political action group formed by the South-East people, purely to articulate the situation of the Igbo-speaking people in Nigeria. When this group reviewed the situation of the Igbo, they found out that the situation is not right. Since1966, the highest position the Igbo has occupied was in the Second Republic when an Igbo man was the Vice President. Starting from 1999 when Senator Ken Nnamani was the Senate President and, today, we are at the number five and six positions and, if nothing is done, it would become worse. The C21 is also trying to change our orientation, bring our people together.
On the belief that lack of unity is the main problem facing the Igbo
Presently, the South-East is more united than before. We have realised the issues and every Igbo man today believes in the unity of the Igbo. Of course, in every 12 disciples, there must be a Judas. We are also aware that some people are trying to sabotage the efforts, but they will be disappointed because, this time around, we have taken a decision on where the Igbo are heading to and anybody trying to sabotage it will definitely suffer.
On the stand of Igbo on the 2015 presidential election
It is obvious that we will contest the 2015 presidential election. Presently, we are consulting with other groups and we have chosen the All-Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, as the platform to use because we cannot contest in a platform where manipulation will allow us to have our way. Our request is a genuine one and that is why we have adopted APGA as our political platform because it is the only platform that will give the opportunity for an Igbo man to emerge as the President of this country.
If you want to achieve your vision, you must create your own platform because, if you don’t have a political platform, it will be difficult to actualise the vision. We cannot actualise our vision in the PDP because of the way it is structured. For example, an Igbo man was the National Chairman of the party and, within a short period, he was removed and, presently, in the PDP, we are not occupying any good position. The truth of the matter is that the party did not recognise the Igbo and we cannot fold our arms and continue to support a platform that does not give hope for the Igbo speaking people.
On his Anambra governorship ambition
For now, I have not made up my mind on the Anambra governorship election. I am qualified and eligible to contest any election in Anambra. The state is my state and I have contested several elections there. I represented Anambra Central at the upper chamber of the National Assembly and 2014 is fast approaching, but the most important thing I am doing right now is to unite the Igbo and realise the vision of C21. For Anambra governorship election, we will sit down and decide what will happen. If the people support that I should fly the flag of the party, I will do so. I am not the one to decide.
On the quest of Anambra North to produce the next governor
We from Anambra State have not sat down to zone the governorship position to any district. And there was never a governorship election that the people from the three districts have not come out to contest and they cannot change it now. Anybody saying that it is the turn of Anambra North is selfish and has another agenda. It is left for the parties to field the candidates they believe would win election for them.
So the issue of Anambra North, Central and South does not meaning anything. As far as I am concerned, I believe that any serious party will field a candidate that would win election for it. It is not about presenting a candidate from the North; the issue is, will he win the election? The people of Anambra State will not vote sentiment, they will vote for a credible candidate no matter where the person comes from.
On constitution amendment
It is true that our present constitution was put together by the military, but I don’t think that amendment or a new constitution is our major problem. You cannot tell me that constitution amendment is the cause of our insecurity. It is not why the infrastructure is decayed. Constitution amendment is not also responsible for the high rate of unemployment, and it is not why our health and education systems have collapsed.
We have fundamental issues. However, the constitution has to be amended to strengthen democracy because there are some imbalances in the constitution. The constitution was hurriedly put together by the military. For instance, the situation where some regions have six and seven states leaving only the South-East with five is injustice. So, certain things must be addressed, but we don’t have to blame constitution amendment for our inefficiency.
On need for local councils autonomy
It is sad that, today, most of the local governments are not functioning. The idea of creating the three tiers of government was to ensure that development is brought to the common man. In this situation, the governors collect all the money thus making it difficult for the managers of the local governments to attract development to their people and the people that are supposed to fight it, the House of Assembly, have been pocketed by the governors.
How can the assembly that was put in place to checkmate the excessive of the governors be working with the governors? So, something must be done. It does not happen in the National Assembly because they are independent. The constitution must amend that area in the interest of this country and to strengthen its democracy.
On how tackle insecurity in the country
Insecurity is the greatest challenge that we are facing in this country today and people in charge of that sector are not handling it with sincerity. I am fully in support of decentralisation. I am also in support of state police so that people that are familiar with a particular environment can handle security in that area. For instance, if you bring a Commissioner of Police from Maiduguri to Anambra, he does not know the nooks and crannies of the area and he cannot do well.
It is a problem. To solve the problem, there must be state police where the indigenes of a state are allowed to take charge of their security. People are saying that if we create state police, you will empower the governors and they will use it against others. It is not true, if we put the necessary things in order, it cannot occur.