By Levinus Nwabughiogu, Abuja
Emeka Etiaba, SAN, a governorship aspirant in Anambra State under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in this interview, among other national issues, says the fight against insecurity has not been given the best shots.
What informed your decision to run for governor of Anambra in 2021?
My decision to vie in this election was not taken yesterday. It wasn’t taken any time around now. You remember that in 2009, I contested for governorship under APGA. But when the opportunity to do primary was foreclosed, I had to leave the party.
Eventually I found myself going to PDP in 2010 and I have remained in PDP. Governance is not something that you say anybody can offer a complete conclusive solution to. At any given time, there is a need to have a governor in Anambra. And I believe that the state Anambra is today in, there is need to have somebody whose head is together to govern because there is need to fix a few things. That’s why I have offered myself to contest.
Do you think PDP stands a chance with what APGA has done so far especially the recent commissioning of airport? Looking back to what happened to Obaze, PDP candidate in the last election, do you think your party stands a chance?
Obaze lost to APGA because PDP members worked against his ticket. A lot of people felt he didn’t emerge in a free and fair primary which is what PDP is trying to get right this time around. So, Obaze did not lose because PDP was not a good platform or that he was a bad candidate. He wasn’t. Obaze remains a very formidable candidate but the people resented the manner in which he emerged.
Talking about the chances of PDP, if PDP didn’t have a chance, 16 people wouldn’t have been jostling for the ticket and out the number, I can assure you that 10 out of the 16 are formidable. Talking about the chances of APGA because an airport had been built; the airport has not been completed. The governor is in the process. A test run of the runway has been conducted.
Are people happy with that stride? Yes, people are happy. I am extremely happy. The people who are not happy with that, I can tell you are people who just decide to politicize everything. Otherwise why would any Anambra person say he’s not happy that an airport is being birthed in Anambra? Does it change the narrative for the political party called APGA? No, it doesn’t. You see, the problem is that people think that a change of guard has to do with governors doing or not doing airport. No, there comes a time in the political life of a people, they want a change. APGA has been there since 2006. Their report card is there. Under Peter Obi, most people believe he did well. And I believe he did well.
Now, the current governor is there. People are now trying to compare him with the Peter Obi era. And when you do, you can say he has not done well. And when some other people check, they say he has done well depending on where the person is coming from. But my attitude is very different. Anambra, since the days of Ngige, has always been blessed with reasonable governors. But I am coming in to take governance to higher level to make Anambra great again. APGA has lost quite a lot of followership and you can tell that the method adopted by APGA in this election may also mar their performance. A situation where you tell aspirants it’s only one person that will contest, that means the others will feel foreclosed and whatever happened in PDP will likely happen in APGA because people will be angry and they will rise against the candidate the party has foisted on them. That’s basically that.
But even if they get their acts together, I can still tell you that PDP is a formidable party. A political party is about people, not a name or ideology. Talking about ideology, when we were all in APGA, it was known for its ideology, Onye aghala Nwanne ya (we should not live our own). But, today, they have dumped that. It is now Nkea bu nke anyi (this is our own). So, they are two different words. So, ideologically, APGA has also lost it. I can also tell you that most of us who made APGA what is today are now in PDP. So, our chances are very bright.
What will you be bringing on board as governor?
If I become the governor of Anambra, I will be bringing to bear, first of all, responsive governance. You know governance is not just only when you have a signature project. It is responsive governance. For example, I don’t believe that the response we gave to COVID-19 is befitting of our state. There are things that happen around and you begin to ask whether government is actually aware.
I will give responsive governance. I will make sure my government is very close to the people that the people can say this is our government. In Anambra today, I don’t think anybody can say this is our government because the government is very distant from the governed. I am a grassroots person. I will bring governance down and what it means is that I will conduct local government election. It’s been long in Anambra we had elected local government.
I will do that. Why many governors do not conduct election is because they want to monopolize and manage the funds due to local governments which is unconstitutional. As a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, I must live by the constitution of Nigeria and every law that is in place in the state and local government. And the constitution says there should three tiers of government. What is going on at the local government level is akin to the federal government insisting that sole administrators will govern states. So, I will do the right thing.
To what extent has JUSUN’S strike affected the activities of courts?
It has dealt a very terrible blow on our justice system. Everything is at a standstill. The courts are not sitting which means that people cannot even been granted bail which is their right. So, people’s fundamental rights are trampled upon because the courts are not sitting. Many cases are at the point of trial. Many are at awaiting judgment and all that. It’s really a terrible time for Nigeria. But, again, you can see it is in line with the others like insecurity, maladministration and all that.
The judiciary staff members are not to be blamed because it boils down to the constitution. The constitution says they must get their money and the independence of the judiciary must be ensured. They shouldn’t walk cap in hand for their money. It’s about their welfare, making sure that the constitution is upheld. But the governors do not think that they should aspire to have their rights restored and that’s why you have a problem. In Nigeria, as long as anything that is going wrong does not affect you adversely, you are alright with it. But the governors also shout when it gets to their own. So, I can tell you that as a governor, I will support JUSUN.
Talking about good governance, some people will submit that all election matters needed to be concluded before the swearing in of elected persons so that there will be a focus and a system that will not encourage corruption in place. What do you think?
It is actually not a new conversation. It’s been on and on. Before now, it was impossible to think of but now it’s getting to reality. So, it is a question of being responsible. If you are responsible, you know that as an incumbent, you should not touch government money. You shouldn’t use it to fund your election. Yea, it will serve some purpose but I don’t think it is the solution to our problem. The Electoral Act should make sure that judges are not left with powers to scuttle peoples decisions at elections. Over 700 citizens of a state will go ahead and vote a particular candidate and then a court comprising seven men will sit back and say no, it should go the other way. It shouldn’t be.
The judiciary also has a role to play in sanitizing our electoral system. So as much as it possible, the judiciary should not be made an electoral college because that’s what it is turning to where somebody scores 300, 000 against somebody’s 50,000. And then, the judiciary now sits as an electoral college to say no, the 50,000 has won.
What’s your view on the gale of defections in Nigeria especially at the National Assembly? Today, you are in a party speaking good of it. Tomorrow, you dump it for another party and start saying ill of it? Does that help the growth of democracy?
The truth is that in Nigeria, it is very difficult to solve that problem because our political parties are not borne out of ideology. So, you find out that as far as the people are concerned, political parties are a vehicle that takes you to power. So, if this one is not likely to work, you jump into the other one and next tomorrow, you jump back because there is no ideology.
Nobody will tell what APC stands for. Nobody will tell you what the PDP stands for. So, it is about a vehicle. Until we found political parties based on ideology, the problem will continue and it is sad. With the number of political parties we have, it also encourages defections. Maybe, we will consider having two parties and we make it obvious that you cannot defect and when you do, that will be final.
Are you corroborating the position of former military President, Gen. IBB?
Under SDP and NRC, it worked well. Today, if I wake up tomorrow and I have a friend in INEC, I will register a political party. Those parties have won no council in Nigeria. The High Court and Appeal Court actually deregistered 75 and they went to the Supreme Court. Thank God the Supreme Court has also confirmed their de-registration. But what you do find, the same 75 deregistered political parties will go and apply for fresh registration and then be granted. It’s like a mad house. If we can just have two, maybe it will do.
Nigeria is battling insecurity. What is your own solution if you are to suggest?
Insecurity has not been given the best shots. It has rather been encouraged or fanned by the people who should fight it. I don’t believe we have given our best to the fight against insecurity.
How do you mean “fanned”?
We are more like unconcerned. If I speak out now against the kidnapping in Kaduna, one of the presidential aides will jump at me and say I have done this and that as if what I have done has anything to do with the truth I have said. Anyone who stands up and accuses the Federal Government of not doing enough in any area of governance, no body deals with the substance that you have come up with. What they will deal with is who I am and how bad I am. We have really not done our best in terms of security.
Imo, the South-East is boiling as well…
In the South-East, I have access to the governors. So, I shouldn’t address them on the pages of the newspaper but I am very sure they listen to me. And they are not complacent. It is just that their ability to ensure security is limited. There is a limit to what they can do. And seeing how fragmented the nation is, whatever step you take, the people who are at the receiving end will say you are fighting our people. We have a problem and the problem will soon eat up everyone if nothing is done.
The governors are the chief security officers of their states without powers to act…
That’s the constitution. That’s why everybody is seeking for constitutional amendment so that we have state police like we have it in every civilized clime. If every state has state police, then, the governor who is in control can call the shots. Now, the governor chastises the commissioner of police in his state for not doing well, the IGP will want him if the commissioner is quarreling with the governor but if the governor and the commissioner are working in sync, there could be an order for that commissioner to go because the governor is probably not in APC and so, he shouldn’t mingle with the commissioner of police and all that. So, we are not serious. We are politicizing everything in the country. But, unfortunately, in the past few years, Nigeria has degenerated to the level where total destruction is possible.
The House of Representatives recently asked the federal government to declare a state of emergency on security. Do you support that move?
I support that move but, unfortunately, who are they talking to. Has anybody responded to them? You are talking to a government that doesn’t talk back to you except to abuse you if they feel that you are crossing the line. So, I don’t know what we will do or what will happen. But I pray that something happens in terms of the government having a change of heart.