BY PETER DURU
Second Republic Minister of Steel and elder statesman, Wantaregh Paul Unongo is the deputy chairman and spokesman of the Northern Elders’ Forum. In this interview he spoke on the position of the North on the 2015 election and other nagging national issues. Excerpts:
Looking back on the anniversary of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, would you say Nigeria’s democracy has developed, particularly in the area of credible elections?
I think the people who said Abiola won the freest election in the history of this country were either talking with their tongues in cheek or they are secessionists or they are people that have vested interest because I don’t know what was free about an election that was held under the military.
And while we slept and deceived ourselves that we had a system that was democratic, I knew that the military had given us some kind of aphrodisiac. We fell asleep while they were implementing a programme that was a deliberate institutionalization of a political system in Nigeria. They were testing it out, and it has worked up till today.
Those who see any serious difference between that election and what we have today in our so called14-year democratic system are just jokers because there is no single difference, it’s the same military system that we are practising today.
So, as far I am concerned, Nigerians slept while the military in uniform perfected a system which they wanted to impose on Nigeria. And the military system had this simple thing of protecting the interests of the moneyed men of Nigeria beginning with the military who made huge sums of money and wealth.
They also allowed a few civilians to make same. And they formed themselves into the most formidable political alliance, pretending and deceiving us.
They have formed political parties that were aimed at protecting the perceived interest of this most powerful clique that has continued to waste our energy and resources and ruin Nigeria up till today.
I submit humbly that the same system we are practising today may have been the same system that produced Abiola. Take note that the system didn’t produce him with due consideration for the feelings of human beings, that is the system that subsists today.
That was the system that produced Abiola, that was the system that produced Jonathan, that was the system that produced Obasanjo who was part of the people that produced the system.
So, I don’t see anything excitingly different between Abiola’s election, Jonathan’s election and Obasanjo’s election.
They practiced a system that is institutionalized. Nigerians have done nothing about what has been imposed on them.
If that is the case, when do you think we will have true democracy?
True democracy implies transparency, it implies respect for human dignity, it implies proper election when one vote is one vote, two votes is two votes, when a person beats you with one, it’s one.
But today, my governors who run the fate of this country; they allowed a camera to record the thing they called an election.
They voted and talked friendly. And the returning officer counted so that they can show us how transparent they were. The man compiled and sorted the votes for the two candidates; he said this is Jonah Jang, this is Amaechi and then he went on.
These are the votes for Jonah Jang, these are the votes Amaechi got. Everybody was watching. These are the chief executives that are supposed to drive, institutionalize and solidify the democratic process.
Amaechi got 19 votes, Jonah Jang, 16. Not a single person complained, no fight, nothing. Everybody was happy. But they tried to say 16 is greater than 19 and they wanted us to stand behind them.
Our heads of government, 35 of them ruling Nigeria could not believe that 16 has always been lower than 19? Are they not jokers?
You think this will not fall back on you and your country? What are you teaching our children? So, I don’t see any difference to what has happened to Abiola and what has happened now.
Abiola claimed he won, Babangida, who produced the system together with his friends the Obasanjos said no, you didn’t win.
Okay, Amaechi felt 19 was greater than 16, he claimed that he won. They said, we sack you, we want to show you that 16 is greater than 19.
But this crisis is within your party…
Yes, they don’t believe in party politics in PDP. When we formed the PDP, we had ideological orientation in our heads.
Quote me correctly, when we formed the PDP, it was a liberal democratic party. PDP was Peoples Democratic Party. It was supposed to be based on the principles of liberal democracy.
Do you see the emerging mega opposition party snatching power from the PDP in 2015?
I don’t think, because I have no confidence. Are they different from the people in PDP? They are the same people who are going round trying to wrest power from these people; but the question is, if they wrest this power, are they likely to be committed to the ordinary people? Are they going to give us freedom or will they do the same thing by muzzling everybody?
Do you support the call on President Jonathan to re-contest in 2015?
No, I don’t just support people. You would have asked, is Mr President implementing my programme and would I help him to improve? No, no, no. They want the president to hear that I support him, so that they will send money to me.
I cannot sell my conscience by telling him in advance that I’m going to support him when I don’t know his programme. I like some of the things he’s doing and I don’t like some of the things he’s doing.
I belong to an organization known as Northern Elders Forum, we are a political organization, we want peace, stability and the progress of Nigeria, particularly, northern Nigeria because the stability of northern Nigeria is the stability of Nigeria as a whole because of its huge land mass.
If there is peace in the North, if there is stability in the North which is two-third of Nigeria, there will be peace and stability in the rest of Nigeria.
So, I am loyal to the Northern Elders Forum, I am the deputy leader, I’m the spokesman, whatever decision that is taken by the NEF as to whom we should support as the president of Nigeria, we know that person will win.
We feel the North has not been treated well and we have statistics right from the time Obasanjo became president of Nigeria.
We are talking about structural allocations. Perhaps, when you see them and abstract them and juxtapose them with the time of the various presidents, perhaps you will feel more angry during Obasanjo’s time. Perhaps, you will say Jonathan has tried, I don’t know. But we will do that exercise when it comes to supporting anybody.
The Northern Elders Forum recently met with the President on the security situation in country. What was the outcome?
We’ve been advising the President. In Nigeria, everything is secret, they don’t take Nigerians into confidence.
We of the Northern Elders Forum are very worried that security of Nigerians was so threatened that living in this country became too precarious and people who were too scared were taking off from Nigeria.
We understood that. We have taken steps to bring this situation back to normal.
Together, we believe that if we contribute our quota we will solve the problems. So, we stayed and wrote copious suggestions to Mr President.
In fairness to Mr. President, he granted us audience when the thing became too much and he saw us face-to-face and discovered that he paid hirelings that always hang around power corridors who were all bunch of northerners who were floating the idea that Boko Haram don’t want him as a Christian. I particularly told him to be very far away from them.
By constitution, Mr. President swore to protect every Nigerian and the territorial integrity of Nigeria and this thing whether it is his political opponents that created them is completely immaterial.
The thing was threatening our finances as almost everywhere was running out of control. We told Mr. President, this is a very serious situation, don’t look at Boko Haram it’s a multi faceted problem that you have at hand; the approaches should be multi faceted.
He agreed. Our position is that Mr President swore by constitution to protect us and give us security in our country and proceeded to swear to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria.
If anybody comes and starts appropriating some parts of Nigeria and planning and telling people that he is going to declare this part of Nigeria, part of Chad, part of Niger and part of Mali as whatever, he should blast that person to hell.
So, we are not opposed to Mr. President declaring a state of emergency.