•Says no responsible N-Deltan will support Sunday Igboho, Nnamdi Kanu causese
•On 2023: North should be President, S/East VP
•‘How those who urged Jonathan to run in 2015 created problems’
By Ozioruva Aliu
Senator Roland Owie is a former Chief Whip of the Senate. In this interview, Owie speaks on the state of the nation, providing historical linkages between some current events and past happenings. He is a chieftain of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
What is your opinion on the position of southern governors that presidency should be zoned to the South in 2023?
The governors are products of political parties. They can make suggestions to their parties, but they can’t direct them. It is only unfortunate that in this Fourth Republic, democracy has not been firmly established. In the Second Republic, the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) governors, and even the President of the country knew they belonged to a party. The southern governors’ position on the 2023 presidency should be routed through their political parties and not themselves. The All Progressives Congress (APC) governors have their agenda, the PDP governors also have their agenda. Their political parties have their agendas well. I am happy about their resolution on open grazing. They should send legislation to their state legislatures irrespective of what the President says.
Do you still stand by your earlier view that the North should produce the next President?
Yes. The argument by some people is that zoning is not constitutional and, for that reason, political parties can do whatever they want. But the founding fathers of this Republic initiated a policy during the constitutional conference organised by the late General Abacha that was attended by the late Dr. Alex Ekweme among others. And they created the six zones we have now. It was agreed that the presidency should rotate.
That is why PDP was able to win the presidential election in 1999. Alliance for Democracy (AD) and All Peoples Party (APP) fielded a candidate, Olu Falae, from the South-West. The PDP also fielded someone from the South-West. The PDP candidate, my father, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, lost his unit, lost his polling booth, lost his ward, lost his state, and lost his zone but won the election because of the collective decision that the President should come from that region. If it was not so, it would have been difficult. I love the Abacha Constitution, which provided for two Vice Presidents.
If we had adopted that system, as soon as the late President Musa Yar’Adua died, the Vice President from his zone would have continued and completed his tenure and moved on from there. But because we jettisoned that, when Yar’Adua died, President Goodluck Jonathan took over as Vice President and completed Yar’Adua’s tenure and did another four years. Those who urged Jonathan to run in 2015 after the completion of the first four years were enemies of PDP; they were enemies of justice and peace. Jonathan himself, a great and humble person, would not have gone ahead if those who surrounded him, the sycophants, some of them are dead now, had not urged him, we would not have been where we are today. In 2023, the North should produce the President while the Vice President should come from the South-East.
Today, south easterners are the bedrock of the nation’s economy. Is it possible for party structures to be taken from state governors as obtained in the past?
You need to have selfless party leadership. For instance, the UPN Constitution in the Second Republic made the governor the chairman of the party in his state. After elections, even though governors were chairmen of the parties, there was no single party meeting that was held in government houses. All the meetings were held at party secretariats. For instance, the governor of Bendel State, Professor Ambrose Alli, never had a party meeting in government house.
It was always at our secretariat along NTA Road, near Baptist High School. For instance, when commissioners were to be nominated like we did in Bendel State, it was the party in the local government areas that picked nominees after which we gave Alli three slots so he could choose anybody. The party chose others, yet he was chairman of the party. The party made inputs into the budget.
Party leaders at the local government level made inputs. After that, the governor brought it to the party secretariat for it to be scrutinized. Today, I am not sure any party chairman or exco member sees the budget before it is presented to the House. When you elect party leaders, allow them to function rather than sitting down at home to control them.
What is your take on the review of the Electoral Act?
Senator Ndume is my friend. He knows that his position that electronic uploading of election results is not possible in some parts of the country is not true. He knows that there is no part of Nigeria where electronic transfer does not work. Today, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) results are released electronically; West African Examinations Council (WAEC) results are released electronically; Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) results are released electronically. How did we do phone registration? Is it not electronically? Why can’t the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) transmit results electronically? Nigerians should hold their representatives accountable for this.
The PDP has lost three governors, senators and House of Representatives members to the APC. Are you comfortable with this development?
The truth is that a number of them defecting don’t have the grassroots with them. Take Edo State as an example, there is no person in the rural area today, especially in Edo South, who will declare for APC because farmers no longer go to farm. Their economic life is destroyed. Those defecting don’t mean well. They are doing it for self-protection. Look at Governor Ayade of Cross River State, for 36 months he didn’t pay judges’ salaries. At a point, there was a problem between him and the Catholic community in the state.
What is the possibility that PDP will win the presidency in 2023?
I want to let you know that as we are talking today, the only alternative that will bring this country back from the brink is the PDP. Mistakes were made. Whatever you will say of Obasanjo regime, he ensured that Nigeria exited its indebtedness. If that was the only thing he did, it was good for this nation even though he also contributed to what we are facing today by allowing Sharia to stay. Now, we are more indebted because APC is an association of angry people.
They are not from the same stock. APC lacks cohesion, unlike the PDP where you still see cohesion. I can tell you that an ordinary person at home will not vote APC in 2023. Kaduna – Abuja Road used to be a great road but, today, transporters are scared of the road.
The rail they brought, the trains are breaking down on the way. APC has brought pains to Nigerians everywhere. Voting is no longer influenced by money. It is no longer about money because I saw it in the Edo election. If it was about money, the PDP would not have won the election. In my village, I knew how people came to show me the money they collected and went back to vote for PDP.
All these defections will not make any sense, but we must present a reasonable candidate. We need a candidate that will be acceptable to Nigerians. For instance, Yar’Adua spent two and a half years but he brought peace to this nation. He agreed that his election was faulty. He agreed there was need for restructuring. He addressed the crisis in the Niger Delta. But people are being kidnapped today and you think Nigerians will vote APC in 2023?
What will you say about the recently passed PIB awaiting presidential assent?
If our National Assembly members think they have friends among the other parts of Nigeria, they are deceiving themselves because I have passed through it. In 1982 in the National Assembly, when we were talking about revenue allocation, UPN members in the South-West and Mid-West, NPP from South-East, our colleagues from the present Middle Belt, we all met to talk about revenue allocation which had percentage for landmass, percentage for population, percentage for school enrolment. Those of us from what is now known as South-South pleaded that our revenue derivation should be 10 percent. All of us agreed that they will support us.
My late friend, Dr. Junaid Muhammed, was on the committee. Sule Lamido, former governor of Jigawa State, was there. We all agreed, but do you know something else happened? I warned the late Tom Ugbuyoko and advised that we put on the agenda for voting, that after landmass, we should put derivation.
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I said he should do that because he was a principal officer but by the time he came back, I found that derivation was the last item on the agenda and I told him he was finished because these people were not our friends. If they were our friends when the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo wanted to site a university, he didn’t bring it to Mid-West, he located it in Ife. I told him we were going to lose and on the day of voting they got all they wanted, but when it came to derivation, all those that were supposed to be for us from the East and South-West voted against us and we got three percent as derivation. You can see that nothing has changed. The South-West can’t say they love South-South. If the South-West believes in the unity of the South, if the South-East believed in the unity of the South, if our friends in the Middle Belt believed in us, why did they not support us to get higher than what we are getting?
How do you see the agitation for secession as championed by Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho?
As an Edo person, I am not part of IPoB. Western Region knows what they are doing. My great grandfather fought for the Mid-West to have freedom from the West. The West voted against the creation of Mid-West and by the time it was created, the properties of Permanent Secretaries from Mid-West were thrown away.
They were evicted from their quarters. What love did they show? Cocoa House was built in Ibadan. Why did they not build Rubber House in Benin or Delta? If they are talking about their secession, it is their business. During the Biafra war, as soon as they invaded Mid-West, a responsible leader knowing that Mid-West is not a part of Igboland even though there are some Igbo speaking minority areas, you should have appointed an Urhobo person or a Benin person, an Esan person, an Etsako person or an Akoko-Edo person from the region as military administrator, but they didn’t.
Ojukwu appointed an Igbo person. It showed that narrow-mindedness. Col Victor Banjo was supposed to move to the South-West but was being directed to appoint an Igbo military administrator and the man rebelled and turned around. A responsible Midwesterner should not be part of Nnamdi Kanu’s arrangement. A responsible Midwesterner cannot be part of what Igboho or the Yoruba are doing. All we need is a united Nigeria. All we need is devolution of powers.