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‘Zoning is elitist manipulation to confuse Nigerians’

By Dayo Benson, Political Editor
Uche Anya, is chairman of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, NTDC. He is a former minority leader in Enugu State House of Assembly during the administration of former governor Chimaroke Nnamani. In this interview with Vanguard he spoke on PDP zoning arrangement, the choice of Vice President Sambo, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor’s resignation, constitution amendment’s and the activities of NTDC. Excerpts:

What have been the activities of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation NTDC? What has been happening there of late?

Well, of late, the major challenge facing our board is to ensure that the law setting up the corporation is implemented. We want to follow the law. We also have a tourism master plan for Nigeria. The board wants to ensure that we implement the master plan because the Act setting up Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation makes it clear that the corporation should create an enabling environment that will encourage outsiders to come to Nigeria and spend their holidays.

You know Nigeria is immensely blessed, we have many resorts, hot springs, natural packs, fantastic beaches and several tourism attractions scattered all over Nigeria. It is important, NTDC have these things properly audited and we must also develop them by creating enabling environment for people to come and enjoy them. We have something that is wasting between Abuja and Niger State. Zuma rock is one of the greatest gifts of nature.

Each time you approach Zuma rock, you see a human face from all corners; from east, north and south of Zuma rock, you see a human face. There is no reason why the tourism industry cannot tap in on this. I keep saying it, people take off from Nigeria to go to California to see a bridge. People take off from Nigeria to go to China to look at walls and we have these gifts given to us by nature. I’m encouraging every Nigerian to pay attention to Zuma rock, things are happening there and we need to develop it as an important tourism destination in Nigeria.

It is believed that a  major threat to tourism in Nigeria is the issue of security. How is this impacting on the sector?

Far from that, the insecurity question is blown out of proportion. I’ll tell you a story. In Yale University, I think it is an Ivy League university, a doctoral student was murdered there, not too long ago. In fact, that was breach of security but that have not turned Connecticut where Yale is situated into an unsecured place. I just used this example to let you know that this security issues are blown out of proportion, maybe by mischief makers.

Abuja is one of the most secured cities in the world. Crime rate is very very little. So, when people talk of insecurity, Nigeria is not really that unsecured. I think the authorities have taken steps to make it even more secured. It can get better and we are working on that. And you must know that there is a partnership between the police and Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation. The police is giving us massive support. The Inspector-General of Police is giving us fantastic support.

Since the former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died May 6, a lot of things have happened. Dr. Jonathan has taken over as President. Just a few days ago PDP chairman , your party, resigned over allegation of corruption by the ICPC, and then the issue of Vice-President coming from Kaduna. How would you view the political temperature of the country?

Nigeria will for ever remain grateful to the late President Yar’Adua for instituting the rule of law. The essence of life, the essence of living, basis of day to day activities is rule of law. President Yar’Adua lived it, institutionalised it in our consciousness. And it is the rule of law that was put in place by President Yar’Adua that is taking Nigeria to the next level. Under the rule of law, former Vice-President Jonathan was bound to become President if, for any reason, President Yar’Adua was no longer in position to continue his presidency. And we thank God that the constitution has been fully respected and Nigeria is better for it.

President Goodluck understands the need to move Nigeria forward. He will not disappoint. And another thing people must note about President Goodluck is that he has shown us within his first ten days that he has the capacity to run this country. Look at the steps he has taken so far, look at his choice of Vice-President.

You can see that he is his own man. If he goes on this way, he may be the next Abraham Lincoln because you will see him consulting, doing appropriate consultations and all the steps he has taken so far, there is none that you can fault. So, we are praying for President Jonathan that God will continue to guide him and direct him because this country needs the type of dynamism that he is exhibiting.

If you were to advice him, in what area would you say he should concentrate his attention on, especially at this critical moment?

You must remember that President Jonathan was the Vice-President to former President Yar’Adua. So, the Seven-Point Agenda is still their joint agenda. However, he has made it clear that he intends to pay serious attention to power and I think if he can get the power issue right, it will be a major burden lifted off the chest of the nation. So, I would advice the President to do whatever it takes to reverse the situation in the power sector.

The Niger Delta, another master stroke by late President Yar’Adua, is another area I would advice President Jonathan to enhance and he cannot afford to fail.

He comes from Niger Delta, so, he cannot afford to fail. In fact, I expect him to go further than Yar’Adua. The late president  has laid the foundation and I’m definite that he cannot afford to fail. Another sector is ability to conduct credible election because Nigeria’s problems will be reduced by 80 percent if we can conduct credible election, because all it needs is that once the votes can count, the citizens can go to bed and sleep believing that if their elected persons disappoint them, the vote will count again and they will vote them out.

These are three cardinal areas that if I were the President I will focus on. He doesn’t have too much time for what is left of this his tenure. He has barely 12 months, so, he cannot afford to pursue too many things at the same time. Maybe if the Nigerian people vote him back to office in 2011, he can expand the scope of the things he wants to do.

You said if Nigerians vote him back to power and there has been series of calls and counter calls for him to contest in 2011. But some have advised that he should not think about that? And if you say yes, why would he contest?

President Jonathan is a Nigerian. He doesn’t need any advice on whether to contest or not to contest. He is a Nigerian; he is qualified to contest. It will be his decision. I think the people calling on him to contest and people calling him not to contest are busy bodies. The decision to contest or not to contest is his. He is very qualified to take that decision.

And if he decides to run for office, of course, the people will decide. And he has a rare opportunity. If within this 12 months he gives Nigerian people what they are looking for, he will be unstoppable. And if at the same time he is found wanting, the Nigerian people will decide. I think those calling on him to run and those calling on him not to run are busy bodies. Once he makes up his mind on what he wants to do; once the President decides on which way he wants to go, the Nigerian people will decide.

What of the contentious issues of zoning in PDP that after eight years of Obasanjo, that it is the turn of the North and of course, if Yar’Adua have not died, definitely he would have contested in 2011. So, the argument has been that since Yar’Adua is dead, as soon as Jonathan completes the current term, he should allow the North to complete the four years left. Do you buy that argument?

Nigeria will never make progress if we don’t throw this zoning issue to the dustbin. When you say you are doing zoning, you are acting God. Zoning will not take us to anywhere. What did zoning achieve in Yobe State when Mamman Ali died? What was the outcome? Now our late  president, Yar’Adua died. What happened? So, all these zoning are elitist manipulation targeted at confusing Nigerians.

Thank God it is not a constitutional matter. I come from a minority part of Enugu State and I’m always vocal that zoning is nonsense. We must bury this concept of zoning. The best man should have a chance to lead this country. It doesn’t matter whether the person comes from the remote part of Nigeria.

Wherever  we are looking for solution and zoning will retard us. So, I have no respect for the concept of zoning. It should not even be an issue in modern world. Every Nigerian should be free to run for any office, that is my position. So, I don’t consider zoning an issue. In my party the PDP,  it’s an internal arrangement but
those who should know are disputing it. If a gentleman like former President Obasanjo says that there is no such thing, who am I to disbelieve him?

What do you make of choice of former Governor Namadi Sambo of Kaduna State  as the Vice-President, ?

In fact, this is one of the major constitutional responsibilities conferred on the President. He has made his choice and I’m sure his choice was an informed choice. He would have done his consultations, he would have checked  his security agencies. Those are issues that people should not bother about. If the constitution gives him the power under the circumstance to nominate his Vice-President and he has done that and has  forwarded it to the National Assembly.

His is to make a choice and the rest is for us to move with it. It doesn’t require any comment. It is a constitutional duty, which he has done. But you must take judicial notice of the fact that former Governor Sambo, running one of the very big states we have in the country, he’s been a commissioner, he is eminently qualified to be a Vice-President, the rest is for the National Assembly to do their job and the nation moves on.

The PDP happens to be in the eye of the storm. The chairman has resigned even though they said he is going in June and what is being talked about at the moment is a replacement. Who do you think should replace Ogbulafor, or what type of chairman do you think PDP needs at this point in time?

The chairman PDP needs at this point in time is the chairman that will respect rule of law. We don’t want an arrangee chairman. We want a chairman that will promote internal democracy. We want a chairman that will refuse to be manipulated. We want a chairman that will give effect to the spirit and letter of the manifesto of our party. And there are many people that are qualified to step into the shoes. The important thing is that there should be no endorsement by any group. The party should elect a chairman that will meet the aspirations of members of the party. The internal democracy issue is very important. Once that is not respected, we’ll go back to square one.

On issue of constitution amendment, some people have argued that we should have two major parties. Where do you stand on this?

I think Nigeria has one very national party and two provincial parties. I think the ANPP is a receding provincial party and the AC is an emerging provincial party. However, we’ve got more than 50 parties but we all know it’s all false. Most of does parties don’t exist in form and in substance but on paper. So, the National Assembly is doing the proper thing by trying to streamline the parties.

I think, three parties for Nigeria will help. The issue of having two party system will again make some godfathers while in one party to manipulate the order party because we saw it in recent times when you see one man manipulation virtually all the parties, even determining who should run and who should not run.

So, the important thing is to also make it possible for people to run as independent candidates because in small elections like the councillorship election, House of Assembly election, popular candidate can win without political party. There are  men popular enough to win Senatorial elections in this country without any political party. I think it is important to streamline the parties. I’ll not recommend two parties because if we have two parties it will snowball into north and south; it may snowball into religion.

How is the political situation in Enugu, your state and how would you assess the performance of your governor so far?

The governor of my state, Sullivan Chime, has touched people’s lives infrastructurally. You need to visit Enugu, it’s unbelievable. And nobody is perfect, but for putting in place things we can see and touch, I think Enugu people are enjoying dividends of democracy under this present governor. And that is very very important. You need to go to Enugu and see the roads are being done, water is in place, security is enhanced. The situation is very encouraging and we are happy for him.

That is an endorsement that he should run for a second term in 2011?

The decision to run or not to run depends on him. I don’t believe in endorsing or calling anybody to come and run for office. The decision is his. Once he makes up his mind top run, he will tell the nation that he intends to run and based on what he has put on the ground.  He will be the candidate to beat if he decides to run. Like I said, only busy bodies go about telling people to run or not to run. It will be his decision to run and when he decides to run, based on what he has done he will be a strong contender.

What are you up to politically in 2011?

I’m interested in the political development in my state, in my country Nigeria. We still have an air of uncertainty and it is hoped that as the cloud gets clearer and clearer, I’ll be in a position to make up my mind on what I may want to do. Right, I still maintain that the situation is very uncertain.

What situation is uncertain?

Because INEC has to be put in place, our party, the PDP, we have serious leadership crisis, which must be resolved, the voters’ register has not been updated and the guidelines are yet to come out. Until these things are in place, it’s difficult for one to firmly announce his intention for whatever office. But I have my eyes on running for office.

Which office is that?

I have my eyes on running for office. I can run for anything; I can run for councillor, I can run for House of Assembly, I can run for National Assembly. I’m qualified to contest any office in the land but we want the air of uncertainty to pass so that we can see clearly and we see what is possible.


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