Chima Anyaso is the Managing Director of Caades Group and was the PDP House of Representatives candidate for Bende Federal Constituency in the 2019 general election. In this interview, he talks about the impact of coronavirus COVID-19 on the economy, youth participation in politics and national development…excerpt
What will you say about the state of the Nigerian economy today with the COVID-19 still much around? Is the economy being managed well enough?
The adverse economic effects of COVID-19 are a global phenomenon which in reality is not peculiar to Nigeria. However, the handling of the economy in response to the pandemic is where intuitive, responsive and responsible leadership comes to the rescue. Unfortunately, the federal government has not demonstrated capacity to make the necessary sacrifices it takes for the Nigerian economy to be able to cater not only to the poor and vulnerable but also to the working class who are losing their jobs in millions and business owners who are shutting down because responsive policies were not put in place to protect their businesses.
How do you feel about government interventions, corporate and individual palliatives toward COVID-19, especially with growing poverty rate?
The various interventions, especially from the private sector have been helpful, impactful and very commendable. The various isolation centres set up across the country by CA-COVID are today catering to thousands of patients. However, more still needs to be done. We are not out of the crisis yet, and Nigerians deserve more. On the part of the government, I think people are asking for there to be more transparency and accountability. It is rather unfortunate that the federal government focused only on material reliefs and conditional cash transfers, ignoring almost completely, the very heart of the Nigerian economy the SMEs a lot of whom have shutdown, sacked staffs and put hundreds of thousands of people out job. In fact, a few weeks ago The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that 42 percent of Nigerian workers lost their jobs as a result of the impact of COVID-19, and this diminished the incomes of about 79 percent of households in Nigeria. There ought to be robust economic intervention for businesses at this point, these are businesses who have been remitting their taxes to the federal government and so in times of dire needs as this, government should take steps that clearly shows it cares about the economy rather than paying lip service.
You recently provided some COVID-19 interventions in your home state, Abia, can you tell us about it?
There’s nothing to tell really. I have always believed that in times of need we should do the most we can to help those who are down and in need, and that is what I did. When you have a family where the breadwinner is a laborer who feeds his family on his daily income and he can no longer go out to make that daily income because of a lockdown will it be fair for such a family to starve? So, you see, even though I couldn’t help everyone, I couldn’t also ignore the families I could help.
Elections are around the corner in some states, and with COVID-19 still here, how do you expect that political parties should conduct electioneering campaigns without jeopardizing public health?
I do not think you need to gather thousands of people together simply to tell them what they’ll gain if they vote for you. Therefore Ideally I would expect that political parties would adopt community by community campaigning using wards and local government structures to reach the people in small numbers so that social distancing, use of hand sanitizers and face masks can be ensured. This, however, is my personal opinion. But you can see that even in America president Trump is going ahead to hold massive rallies even against the advice of the CDC and health professionals, so in the coming weeks, we will see how the political parties in Nigeria will conduct their electioneering campaigns.
As one who ran for the Federal House of Representatives in the last election, how well do you think that the current Assembly is doing?
The National Assembly is a congregation of representatives of all parts of Nigeria therefore a fair scorecard will look more at individual performance rather than collectively. This is because both as law makers and as representatives of the people each person comes to the table with the needs of his own people so we should judge each on how they have responded to the needs of their people. In terms of lawmaking as well, you will agree with me that there are members of the National Assembly who have demonstrated competence and capacity by the way they conduct the business of lawmaking and holding the executive accountable but then you equally have a situation where a house member or senator is trying to fight an injustice against his people as a lone voice without help where majority carries the day whether it good or bad. So you really cannot aggregate all lawmakers and score them together if you do that it will be unfair to the ones who are trying their best to make a difference.
You have just been recently appointed youth ambassador of the People Democratic Party, how do you expect to galvanize the youths for your party?
I am excited to be considered for such an appointment. You see first and foremost, PDP is indeed a party for the youths. In 1999, PDP produced governors who were below the age of 40, I dare anyone to point to any party in Nigeria that can boast of giving youths as much opportunities as the PDP has done.
On my appointment as youth ambassador for the party, I have always been a strong advocate of progressive and successful professionals joining politics in other to offer their fresh ideas and 21st-century problem-solving skillset for National growth. Some years ago I started an organization called NN19, which served as a vehicle to convey the ideas, ambitions and aspirations of Nigerian youths across the country. In the build-up to 2019 general elections, I led a very powerful team of highly successful young professionals under the NN19 organization to galvanize support for youths seeking to serve Nigeria in various political capacities and today the successes of that organization still echoes loud. So I am not new to the idea of youth cohesion. PDP already has a very vibrant youth leadership so I will only be coming in to offer support. I will assume this role with a wealth of experience and our great party will benefit greatly from the plans and programs we shall role out in no time.
What do you foresee as the next big political event that may shape the 2023 election and with increasing political activities ahead of 2023 election, do you have any plans?
Politics and political activities come with a caveat and that is “be prepared for everything and never ignore anything”. However, I think it might too early to start speculating on what events and activities may or may not occur and their would be effects on the 2023 elections. And as for my plans for 2023, I see myself as only a servant of the people, I am of the opinion that since politics is for public service, let the people decide who shall serve them and when. I am in constant touch with my people when the time comes they will tell me what they want me to do for them.
What do you see as the likeliest political setback to our democratic progress? What are we doing wrong politically and what should we be doing better?
You see Nigerians must learn to demand the highest moral posture from her elected political office holders. An elected official must not at any point become stronger than an institution because when this happens emphasis are now laid on individual behaviors rather than the system.
It is abominable in a democracy for the executive arm of government to intimidate or malign the judiciary. It is equally dangerous for our democracy when the executive can wield so much force both legal, illegal and some times purely criminal brute just to impose their wishes on the legislative arm. There must be separation of powers. We must demand that institutional reforms be prioritized so that we can thrust our hope on strong institutions rather than on the strength of an individual’s character.
Lastly, the peace and progress of Nigeria must become the pivotal point of every government activities, policies and programs. I have always maintained that Nepotism bigotry and loyalty to religion over constitution is the bane of Nigeria’s development and until we do away with this, especially in our political settings Nigeria may not make any meaningful progress.