By Daniel Kanu
Hon. Fidel Ayogu, former Federal House of Representatives member (Igboeze North and South, Enugu State), former Ambassador to Uganda, Ethiopia and South-East Coordinator, Buhari-Osinbajo re-election 2019 is a political heavyweight that cannot be ignored.
He spoke to Sunday Sun exclusively on critical national issues, just as he assessed the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership under President Mohammadu Buhari, insisting that the government is adequately managing critical issues and soldiering on the right track. Excerpts:
Let’s have your take on the November 6, Anambra governorship election which your All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate is contesting?
(Cuts in) I do not think I should talk about it now as the case is already before the court. Our APC candidate there (Senator Andy Ubah) has taken the case to the court to determine. And he has the right to do what he is doing. The onus then is for him to bring his evidence. As a member of the APC, I will want my party to win, but not to win at all costs, not to win against the wish of the people, against the majority vote. For me, let the votes of Anambrarians decide who the winner is. Let the choice of the people of Anambra prevail.
Most Nigerians seem to be dissatisfied with what they are getting as democracy dividends given the promises made by the APC, when it took over power. Do you disagree with such views?
I think there is the need to put perspectives right. I am satisfied with what this government has been able to do so far. We should be looking at the assessment of the President Buhari-led government based on what were on the ground, based on what he inherited, the environmental factors. We are looking at the economy worldwide; we are looking at security, looking at the insurgency worldwide and not only about our country. I was an Ambassador in Uganda, that is in East Africa and by the time I was there they were having the problem of cattle rustling in that part of Africa. Their own was that they always come for food item, when they are running out of food because they are in the bush. That East Africa is kind of taking what looks like a lead; something will happen and after sometime the thing will find its way in other places, including Nigeria. When I got there I realised that they had MTN, five years before us. Of course, it is like we normally say that the world is a village, something will happen in another land and before you know it, it has also invaded your own territory or country. When I went to Uganda they were doing their 10th year anniversary of MTN and we were just five years of introducing GSM in Nigeria. Some of these issues like the security challenge were already taking its root before this administration took over. So, I will say that I am satisfied given the fact that the government is managing and navigating things to address some of these critical issues. Remember also that COVID-19 had its toll on the economy, not only on Nigeria, but the world economy was badly affected that the developed nations were seriously affected and till date some are still battling with it and yet to come out of it. In the case of infrastructure, we are doing quite well. We doing well in roads, railway, waterways, constructing bridges and the rest of them, the second Niger Bridge is almost completed. Most of our federal roads are being rehabilitated. In terms of politics too, we are doing well, we are conducting better, free, fair and credible elections now. Even some elections that people thought that were not going to hold you will see that they also usually take place and it will be conducted free and fair. This government is re-visiting some of the election laws were there are bottlenecks and you can see, for instance, that now election can be transmitted electronically. All these are improvements that will raise confidence in our elections and make it more credible. You can see the issue of party primaries and we said this issue of party primary as regards indirect party primary is prone to hijack by moneybags. We said we preferred direct primaries, so, all these issues are being taken care of and all are to help the electoral system become more transparent, acceptable and free from undue interference. These are part of the institutions that are building to sort of fortify tomorrow for Nigerians. We must get clean, clear-cut system of INEC control of elections with no unnecessary interference. We need to establish INEC independence. We are equally looking at the judiciary independence and a lot are being done in that area, good reforms that will enable the judiciary arm of government to be equally independent too. The same thing is being done in the legislative arm, state assemblies to ensure that they are strengthened, as well as other institutions. All these strengthening of institutions will give birth to a strong democracy that we all are looking for. So, I can tell you that the country is getting better and I think it would have been worst if this government is not in-charge. We may not have gotten there, but huge progress has been made so far. For me, I give a very good pass mark to the government of APC. This government is resolving critical issues, some out of courts and trying to bring everybody on board for the good of the country.
There is this belief that Nigeria is deeply divided under this APC government. How will you react to this?
It is part of what I said earlier that some of these things were already taking their roots before this administration took over. They did not start with the APC. Also environmental factors, hazards, cracks were already there and some of these issues are also created or widened by the politicians for one reason or the other. But a lot of issues are being resolved, some out of court, so that everybody will be brought on board. If you look at the Anambra State election, it was relatively free to me although that is not denying that there will not be connivance, maybe, it was not pronounced as we used to witness it. So, it is left for the person who lost election there as I said earlier to come up with proofs which the court will look at. One thing is true; APC government is working hard to ensure the deepening of our democracy. Democracy is self-correcting, you make mistakes and you correct them over time by building strong institutions that will checkmate abuse.
You have given a pass mark to your party in its conduct of affairs of the country, but the APC has been accused of disregarding internal democracy within the party. This is evident in parallel primaries in many states of the federation?
Well, internal democracy in terms of party politics, of course, it is part of the governance, but that is not the main focus of the government of the day. Party is a society and every political party has its own internal mechanism to resolve or addressing issues according to the ethics of that party. The parallel congresses are as a result of the way some governors handled some interest groups. You know that APC is very large and most other bigwigs from some other parties are also coming to APC, so sometimes you should expect some of these things to happen, but this does not happen everywhere as some people would want us believe rather they are isolated cases. Look, the party has rules and regulations, for instance, before you conduct the party primaries you are expected to have people from Abuja. You are expected to let the national secretariat know, but when some individuals ignore the party rules, refuse to alert Abuja and they fix themselves to positions, will it be right to say it is parallel leadership or parallel congress? There are party rules that must be followed and when you don’t, the party has the right to call you to order. It is wrong to say that those ones are parallel congresses. It is INEC that conducts election, INEC must be there to monitor it, but some of the parallel congresses you find them ignoring INEC, ignoring party directives. You can’t create a group loyal to you and you claim it is congress or that it is parallel leadership, no. Remember that this is a big political party and there is bound to be struggles for positions, for power, which is normal. Some of the struggles show that the party is strong and vibrant. You can say that some parties are quiet, but go inside them, go close to them and see what is happening, total imposition or the other, but this does not happen with us.
What is your take on the Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023? Is it feasible?
Nigerian president of Igbo extraction is feasible in 2023. We are believing that the party may decide to zone it to the South and if the Southeast geo-political zone gets it, fine, we have highly credible, qualified, experienced, presidential materials or candidates who have done well in their different endeavours. We have former governors, former senators, sitting governors and other technocrats who can deliver as the president of Nigeria. We have Igbo sons that have made their mark; we have those who are well known in any part of this country and beyond. There are those that have been given chieftaincy titles not only in the East or West, but comfortable with the North, the North equally respect them because they know that they can deliver this country if given the opportunity. One of them also received chieftaincy title from the North recently and there are others too in the APC folk.