National Chairman of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Dr Ogbonnaya Onu calls for a change in leadership that could improve the lives of the citizens. He posited that Nigerians need the culture of excellence, for it to quickly move from where they are, to where the hand of destiny has put them. The first governor of Abia State, enumerated the problems confronting Nigeria, and said solution resides in the emerging political party, All Progressive Congress (APC). He spoke to GILBERT EKEZIE on these and other related issues
Situation of the country
We are not at war, but yet we are not in peace. Rivers State with a Governor now has two Speakers of the State House of Assembly and three maces, all meant for a single House of Assembly. Only five Legislators, in a house of Assembly with as many as thirty two members, met and purported to have removed the speaker, suspended many members and installed another Speaker. All these were done in total violation, of both the law and the rules, which should guide their conduct. Our lawmakers now break the law. Our law enforcement agents are not left out of this sad show of shame. The Government House, Port Harcourt, the official residence of the Governor of Rivers State was recklessly tear gassed by men of the Nigeria Police. Heads of Security agencies in the state no longer accept invitations to attend security meetings with the Governor. Something is seriously wrong. It is clear that some people believe and act as if they are above the law. They pick and choose, which laws to obey and those to defy. Peace cannot thrive in a society that has no respect for the rule of law. All Nigerians must be below the law, if peace and order will thrive in our dear country.
In Mamudo, Yobe State, the unimaginable happened. Dozens of young and innocent students in their secondary school were killed in cold-blood. These students, who went to school to acquire knowledge for self-improvement so that they could later contribute more effectively to national development were shot to death by the purveyors of hate and enemies of progress. Their death threw the nation into mourning. All these are happening at a time when violence has reached an unprecedented level in the country. In fact, the level of insecurity is alarming. In many places, the police have been replaced with soldiers. Soldiers are deployed to perform police duties in as many as 32 states in the country. This is happening under a civil, democratic environment. Soldiers are now found around roadblocks on our highways and streets. They are also found around important assets of the nation. This has become worrisome as the ethics and professional conduct of the military, could suffer adversely with such exposure in a purely civilian environment. We must be worried on how this could affect the performance of the military, if and when the need arises for them to perform primary duty of securing the territorial integrity of the country. Also sometime ago, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC conducted a bye -election at Oguta in Imo State to fill a vacancy in the Imo State House of Assembly. The election was marked with violence and irregularities. INEC had to declare the election inconclusive. In the meantime, the people of that constituency do not have a representation and voice in the State House of Assembly. It is disturbing that with all the security agencies in the country, INEC could not conduct a violence free and credible election to fill up a single vacancy in one State House of Assembly in the country. The signs are troubling. What would have happened, if the election had taken place in different places in the country at the same time? No one can imagine.
The merger by opposition political parties, which ANPP is included
As the National Chairman of ANPP, I am convinced that many would like to hear from me how far we have gone in our efforts to change the way politics is played in our country. Many Nigerians do not like the way things are in the country. Nigeria is such a rich nation, yet majority of Nigerians are poor. Corruption has unfortunately nearly become a way of life. Our young people know when they enter our schools, but cannot easily determine when they would graduate. When out of school, there are very few jobs as unemployment has reached an unprecedented level. When they are sick, they need to be taken to hospitals abroad. While in the country, the level of insecurity is unbearable, in many parties of the country. If they are not victims of armed robbers, they may fall victim to kidnapper. Even places of worship are no longer safe. In order to ensure that things do not remain this way, the major opposition political parties decided to come together and work together, in a way that has never happened before in our country. Many opposition political parties, which control the government, coming together in a merger to form a single political party, in a way to give up the identities of those parties, had not happened before in Nigeria and also in many other countries of the world.
For the merger to take place, it means that most of those who were elected for a term of office to manage the affairs of the political parties would have to give up their positions, even before the expiration of their term of office. We know what this means, in a country where people go to any extent to extends their stay in office.
Possibility of the merger to succeed
Many people thought that our coming together would never happen. We have proved them wrong. We have met all requirements, for us to merge and register a new political party, as demanded of us by law as contained in both the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and The Electoral Act 2010(as amended). We will all recall that the three merging political parties: The ANPP, ACN and CPC, all successfully organized their National Conventions in which the motion to merge into a new political party was successful. The National Chairmen, Secretaries and Treasurers of these parties jointly applied to INEC for registration of a new political party. Also, a list of interim national officers, whose membership cover twenty- nine States, was submitted to INEC. The registration fee, of which I was given the honour to pay on behalf of all the parties, had been paid. By Tuesday, July 9, 2013, officials of INEC inspected our National Headquarters at No. 6 Bissau Street, Wuse, Abuja as well as identified our interim national officers
When APC will be registered
Having met all the requirements, the clock has started ticking. By the grace of Almighty God, the All Progressive Congress (APC) will soon be registered.
Expectations of APC
Once APC is registered, politics in our country will never be the same again. Arbitrations and impunity in governance will cease. Our aim in forming APC is to ensure that we have effective competition in the political arena. We want to ensure that the will of the people is supreme, such that those who are elected into office are the choice of the people. It is only when this happens, that we can have leaders who put the interest of the nation first in whatever they do and who can work to secure the happiness of Nigerians. It is also when this happens that the rule of law will prevail \, such that no Nigerian can be above the law.
Why abandon parties to form APC
ANPP is not joining APC so that we can be in government; if it were so, we would have joined the ruling political party. Our aim and goals are higher than that. We want our country to be better governed. We need to build a new Nigeria that is better. We need to make our country become a nation, where though tribe and tongue may differ, in unity and peace we shall develop. We need to build a nation that other countries will respect not just because of our size and population, but also by our achievements and contributions to world civilization. We must earn our respect.
We do not like the way things are in the country. We know that things can be better. This is why we believe that Nigerians need an alternative to the ruling political party.
The All Progressive Congress’s Constitution
The constitution and manifesto of APC, which are with INEC, clearly shows that we are different. We believe in internal democracy. Those who seek nomination on the platform of APC will have to be chosen by the people. Yes, there can be endorsements, but even when all the people seem to agree on one candidate, a yes or no vote will still be needed. Our aim is that the Nigerian, will be at the center of our developmental efforts. We shall work for the welfare, well-being and happiness of all Nigerians.
Comparing past government to the present
As I stand before you, I remember with nostalgia that in 1976, when I graduated from the University of Lagos, that immediately after the one year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme, there was no single classmate of mine who did not find a job to do. It is not so, any more. I want to assure you that with the proper leadership, jobs, enough jobs, can be available for our people. If China, with over 1.3 billion people and the USA, with over 300 million people can provide jobs for their people, why not Nigeria? Great nations of the world that are doing so well took their schools seriously and invested massively in education. The most important question to ask is where do we stand as a nation? What is the state of our schools? As I stand before you, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is on strike. For over two months, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) had been on strike. It is strongly believed that not too long from now, the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union, (COEASU), may also go on strike. What a shame? Does it then surprise anyone that our students, know when they enter into schools, but may not easily know when they will graduate. What is even very sad is that ASUU is on strike because government failed to fully implement agreements it entered with ASUU since 2009. Should government enter into agreements, it does not intend to keep? No. It is not difficult to find out why our schools are not as good as they should be. We, as a nation, are paying a huge price for this. Many of our students now travel outside our country; some go to our neighbouring countries to acquire education. These pose a lot of headache to Nigerians. That is exactly what APC has come to address.
Solutions to the nation’s problems
In fact, our dear country needs the culture of excellence, for us to quickly move from where we are today, to where the hand of destiny has determined that we will be tomorrow. I am convinced that it is only when Nigerians put in their best, in all fields of human endeavour, that we can meet up with and even overtake the most technologically advanced nations of the world. Indeed, it is the best, only the best that is good enough for our country. Excellence can only be nurtured through education, training and practice. Education, particularly in science and technology, holds the key for the greatness of nations. Great civilizations have always produced great schools. Indeed great schools, make great nations. This was true in the past, as it is true today. Also, our aspiration to be a great nation cannot be achieved unless we have great schools. Our schools, including our universities, should be able to compete with the best in the world. In the past, graduates from our universities where easily admitted into foreign universities, to do postgraduate work without any qualifying examination. These were the schools that produced Prof. Wole Soyinka the 1986 Nobel Laureate in literature and Prof. Chinua Achebe, one of the world’s most renowned novelists.
Things are no longer the way they were. We must spend more on our schools. We must reward hard work, creativity and innovation. We need to attract the best brains, into teaching and pay them well so as to retain them. We must give merit its rightful place, in our schools. We must fight all forms of corruption and anti-social behaviours. Excellence must be nurtured in our schools. It is never too late to start. In spite of our problems, our country still has a bright future. There is really nothing that is wrong with our country, which cannot be put right. All we need is to look for people with vision, character and competence who can provide the leadership, which can help us, build a new nation, a better nation where love, justice, tolerance and compassion abound. And such leadership could only be possible this time through APC. So, Nigeria needs APC to solve many of the problems confronting her.