•Says Buhari means well for Nigeria but…
By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
The National Chairman of the newly registered All Democratic Peoples Movement, ADPM, Engr. Okey Chikwendu, has been quietly working behind the scene to register the party, which he hopes to use as a platform to mobilise young Nigerians to effect a people-oriented leadership for Nigeria in the next election.
In this interview, the ADPM leader speaks on the vision, strength and focus of the party and where it stands in the current clamour for restructuring and how it should be done in the overall interest of Nigeria. Excerpts:
What new are you bringing to the political arena in Nigeria having just been licensed by the Independent National Electoral Commission? In other words, what does All Democratic Peoples Movement stand for and what is it out to achieve?
ADPM means All Democratic Peoples Movement and it is out to give Nigerians a credible platform where leaders can emerge using transparent processes for effective leadership. It will provide a seamless process for leaders to emerge without being imposed or foisted on our members as has been the case in the other parties. As you know, Nigerians have suffered a lot because when parties emerge, the electorate are limited only to the candidates the party presents, and if they present criminals, people get bogged down to those, and they are from where the electorate will chose from. Today, ADPM is presenting a new platform whereby even the youths will have a source from which they can emerge in an all inclusive party for everyone. But we shall ensure fairness, credibility and some clear path where we can be able to turn out leaders who have integrity, capacity and credibility.
What is the manifesto of ADPM? Is it to the right, the left or the centre?
We are a bit of a liberal Democratic Party. This is because we intend to be able to bring on board true federalism so that the federating units would be able to operate on their own and the centre can handle some marginal affairs for the entire nation. We intend to earn the trust of the people while in government. We want to be able also to build a nation where integrity, credibility and character will matter, where there will be high morals and ethical values. We want also to be able to unleash the ability of our young people to tap into technology, research and developmental issues instead of engaging in anti-social issues heating up the polity.
Are you saying your party supports restructuring?
What specifically would your party want restructured in Nigeria?
There is a whole lot to be restructured in Nigeria. The agitation from the zones is that the number of states in the area should be increased to be at par with other zones in the country. This is one urgent thing that should be restructured to remove the injustice against the region and give them a sense of belonging, fairness and equity. There are agitations by different groups for different things and we believe deliberate effort can be used to address the imbalances to bring peace and stability in the polity.
However, some commentators argue it is corruption in high places that has robbed Nigeria of the resources to address the basic needs of the majority of Nigerians that should be tackled first, in order to give a sense of inclusiveness to all Nigerians that really matter. Do you agree with them that corruption and nepotism must first be addressed?
Of course, and the issue of recycling old people in government thereby denying young people the chance to take part in governance is also a big problem that must be done away with. Today, France for example has a President who is about 40 years old. But in Nigeria you cannot be 39 or 40 years and be President. Why can’t that be? Why can’t we have a President who is 39 years old? I know that there are many meanings of restructuring being championed by the different zones in Nigeria but we must start from somewhere.
We will first balance the number of states in the zones so that every zone has equal number. We are going to look at the level of fairness in the civil service because in the civil service there has been a lot of imbalance in recruitment, promotions and appointments.
How does the party intend to tackle the monster called corruption?
Unfortunately, our Constitution is not even very helpful in fighting corruption. There are different crimes and things that people do that lead to corruption. Even when you favour people from your own zone by employing more people into positions from there, this too is corruption. This is also nepotism.
So these are areas that I think that if we are able to put legislation in place and for people to emerge strictly on merit and the punishment that will be given down the line to anybody who offends, who goes against this, it can deter people.
And even the judicial system, the bottle neck of dispensing justice, the process is cumbersome and at times people just get frustrated and overwhelmed with the whole process and they get away with injustice. I think that if we are able to cut down on the time frame of getting justice and be able to have punishment for offenders, it would deter potential offenders and reduce corruption and nepotism in this country. By so doing, it life would be made easier for the ordinary citizens of this country.
But many Nigerians believe that the there are so many items in the Exclusive list of the Federal Government that should be drastically reduced and the powers given to the states and local governments for the country to make progress. Will this help the country in any way?
Ordinarily, if you look at elections in Nigeria, when you have the Federal Government under your party for instance, it tends to favour the party in power, because they directly and indirectly control the security agencies, the treasury and other levers of government, like the INEC, judiciary and so on. So it is overwhelming for any group to contend with the party in power in Nigeria. It should come with true federalism so that the federal units can be able to operate independently apart attending to a few basic items, like INEC, the judiciary, the police and so on. I think if we can break some of these things into the federating units for control, this will reduce the tension in the land during elections.
But are you not worried that governors have too much power already? They have seized the local government system and their allocations and they control the state Assemblies and determine who takes any political position from ward to federal level. Do they still need more powers?
I feel that we can do that through this issue of restructuring and that is why I said that restructuring is not all about sharing equal states but we have to look at the legislature, we have to look at the Constitution to back all these up, because a governor should not be in a position to determine whether he has to produce a transition or interim chairman. He should not be in a position to decide when an election should hold and when it should not hold, we should institutionalize these things. These are things that are worrisome in this country, making some people in position of authority to play god and deny other citizens their basic rights and heating up the polity and making governance a nightmare.
People talk about having state police, which would be controlled by governors. Given the fact that the state electoral commissioners have made a mockery of elections in Nigeria, do you think that the governors would allow their opponents to move freely if they control the police in their respective states?
If the system is left entirely to the state governors, it would be abused like state electoral commissions which make it possible for each state to ‘win’ all the posts from chairmen to councillors in each state. But I am advocating that we should be able to have a system whereby those appointments are made and they are tenured appointments just like a governor coming for a specific term to avoid abuse. I really don’t think that the appointment of these officials should be left to the whims and caprices of the governors.
Do we require electronic voting to stamp out electoral fraud?
Yes I support electronic voting seriously because it is something that would not give room for people to manipulate the figures so that votes can begin to count in Nigeria. For now, our votes don’t really count because of the ability of criminally minded politicians and their followers to still hijack electoral materials in connivance with money bags.
Two years of Buhari government in power, what do you think that it has done right and what is wrong?
The government promised us so many things which we are yet to see any change almost three years after. I wonder what miracles will happen in the next one year. But I want to say that President Buhari himself as an individual is determined to fight corruption and I believe he means well. However and unfortunately, many of his officials do not seem to buy into that crusade. What some of the lieutenants are doing is at variance with the anti-corruption posture of the President and it is unfortunate for the country. The war will collapse very soon.
I say this because the EFCC which is the arm that is used to fight corruption seems to be a bit one-sided. EFCC does not see any corrupt person in the ruling party of Mr. President but only pursues those in governments of the past and other opposition parties. Does it therefore mean that the people in the ruling party are saints who do not commit any economic and financial crime?
They can argue rightly that our economy is still in recession and that they inherited a weak economy from the previous government but the previous government was able to manage the economy and make funds available in circulation for Nigerians to use and manage their lives. But I also agree that the Buhari government has introduced a lot of innovations that will in the long run add value to the economy. The Treasury Single Account, TSA, for instance has helped to reduce funds diversion and stealing by public officials but we should also remember that things should be done in such a way that ordinary Nigerians do not suffer unduly as a result of any measure put in place. So we must be able to balance these things.
The Bible says that when good leaders are in power, the people rejoice and vice versa. We should be able to tell if what we are doing as a government has brought happiness to the people or not.
What is the strength of your party membership so far?
We were just registered about a month ago and we already have close to 28,000 members nationally. And we have also been able to create seven offices nationwide. What I mean by seven offices is that we already have state offices in the 36 states but we have been able to put proper structures down to the ward level completely in seven states. In the next three months we expect that we should have been able to establish our presence in at least 20 states and cover the entire country before the end of the year. Like in Akwa Ibom today we are actually going to contest the local government election which is coming up on November 11. In Anambra state we are going to contest the gubernatorial election coming up on November 18, and we are doing a whole lot too in the South West, Kaduna and Borno and many other states. We have already been able to set up solid structures which will help power our aspirations.