By Chukwudi Nweje

Dr Chief Emeka Charles Kalu a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Coalition (PDPCO). He is President of Eck Foundation, in this interview, he speaks on the recent killing of 17 officers and men of the Nigerian Army in the Okuama community of Delta State, the amendment of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the impeachment proceedings against the Deputy Governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu, among other national issues.

Senator Abdul Ningi representing Bauchi State was recently suspended by the Senate for alleging that the Appropriation Act being implemented by President Bola was not the one passed by the National Assembly, what does that say about the legislature and its oversight function over public expenditure?

In the first place, the budget padding alarm raised by Senator Abdul Ningi of Bauchi State manifested the spirit of accountability, integrity and a sense of decency in him. He knows the current plight of the nation and I’m sure that was what motivated him to confront the ills he sensed took place in the 2024 Appropriation Act. The actual budget passed by the National Assembly is N27 Trillion and the additional N3.7 trillion allegedly added without due reflects the level of corruption in public governance and the National Assembly or the Senate would have come clean from the beginning to state the need for such additional funds. So, the discrepancies in the budget figure raised doubts in the leadership of the 10th National Assembly to give Nigeria a sound and transparent legislative administration. Senator Ningi should have been honoured rather than being slammed with a suspension. He is a patriot who feels the pains of the suffering masses of Nigerians at heart. N3.7 trillion is enough to subsidise fuel for two years, thereby curbing inflation and the rising hunger in the land.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently terminated the employment of 19 of its directors, what is your take?

In fighting corruption, certain issues have been taken into consideration to avoid infringing on the rights of public servants. For the Olayemi Cardoso-led CBN to have sacked 19 directors of the apex bank because they worked under the embattled former governor of the apex bank, Godwin Emefiele, was a wrong judgement, except their proof of involvement in financial crimes, beyond doubt was established against them. If the law cannot identify one who committed a crime, it is illegal for the same law to sentimentally punish people without proven evidence. I do not vouch for the sacked directors, but probes through subjecting them to a test of the law would have served as a better option before unduly relieving them of their appointments.

How do you see the military action in Okuama community in Ughelli, Delta State, following the killing of 17 soldiers in the area?

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From my understanding, having read several publications on the matter, the affected community has been in a crisis with its neighbouring ones, which prompted the intervention of the soldiers to calm the situation. I learnt that the soldiers were invited to the community during its town hall meeting on the volatile situation before they were attacked. Well, I would not comment further since the military in her discretion is deeply investigating the root cause of the matter to unveil those behind the dastardly act. Again, it was bad and anti-human for the community to attack soldiers who were deployed for a peacekeeping mission. However, the actions allegedly taken in reprisal for the soldiers’ killings were not compatible with the rules of engagement in the use of arms and ammunition in a constitutional democracy. The law must be obeyed, the military acted in violation of its rights to take arbitrary action by launching attacks capable of harming innocent citizens in retaliation for the death of its personnel.

A few months before the expiration of his term of office as Deputy Governor of Edo State, the House of Assembly moved to impeach Philip Shaibu from office, some people feel the move is a political vendetta for his decision to run for the office of governor contrary to the wish of Governor Godwin Obaseki, what do you think?

The imbroglio in Edo State started last September when Phillip Shaibu, the embattled Deputy Governor of the State declared his interest to compete for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial ticket. As a leader with visions, Shaibu was not wrong to have shown interest in the governorship primaries because he believed he could lead if supported and given an opportunity. Being a committed party stakeholder who understands the nitty-gritty of politics, I would have advised Shaibu to accept all entreaties for peace since he hails from the Edo North Senatorial District of which Adams Oshiomhole who left office before Mr Godwin Obaseki took over hails from. Governor Obaseki is serving out his tenure in less than seven months and Shaibu is part and parcel of the government. To promote fair play, the next governor of the state should be seen to be coming from Edo West since the three zones have served and seem to have been represented. When this dust was raised, I promptly drew the attention of the national organ of the party to ensure the crisis and other conflicts of interest do not hamper the party’s chance of fielding a candidate in the governorship election come September 2024. Today, Shaibu despite appeals made for a harmonised primaries went ahead to contest in a parallel primary that produced him as the winner, he even threatened to go to court to seek redress should the party fail to issue him a certificate of return as the rightful winner of the governorship primary. I am not affirming that he won the primaries, but to him, he feels he did and it is up to the national organ of the party to address the issue before it goes to court. The case of 21 out of the 24 members of the Edo State House of Assembly serving Shaibu a notice of impeachment seems to be an act of vendetta for his refusal to accept Asue Ighodalo, who emerged at the other parallel primary as the candidate of the PDP for the forthcoming governorship election. Today, the youth and women folk in Edo are protesting against the move to impeach the deputy governor and if not controlled, this could destabilise the state’s party structure. The implication is that the PDP can’t win the forthcoming gubernatorial election in the state if this situation is not addressed. Shaibu is a force to reckon with in Edo North Senatorial District if he is impeached in the heat of these squabbles, the PDP may not find it easy in the zone during the governorship election. There is also the danger that the PDP will not only end up losing the governorship election but the impeachment will provide an enabling environment for the All Progressives Congress (APC) to have a field day in the 2027 general elections. Yeah, that is the truth and it behoves the national organ of the PDP to take the bull by the horns to settle this brewing crisis in the Edo State chapter of the party. Phillip Shaibu has been a competent party leader, it requires formal entreaties from the respected stakeholders to handle his issues for reconciliation, pacification and enthronement of peace and unity. Without resolving this crisis and settling for peace, the State PDP would remain in shambles, and it will truncate its strength in contesting elections against other political parties now and in the future.

Against the advice of eminent Nigerians, including those of Edo origin, the Edo House of Assembly seem determined to impeach Philip Shaibu. What further advice do you have in this regard?

Impeachment threats are easier to mention. But, when carried out, the aftermath remains an indelible mark of drawback to the strength a government enjoys in political administration. Conflict of interest is normal in party politics and I still advise that the Edo State House of Assembly members should sheath their swords and allow peace reign in the state. The truth is that Phillip Shaibu is a force to reckon with. Impeaching him out of spite to punish him for his unyielding spirit in accepting the outcome of the PDP parallel primary will jeopardise the chances of PDP winning the upcoming Edo governorship election. Shaibu has loyalists and you do not expect them to fry fish and prepare salad dishes for the party during the election if the House of Assembly goes ahead to impeach him. I, therefore, advise the national organ of the party to intervene and resolve the crisis to save the party from misguidedly jumping to simultaneously kick with its two legs and fall unassisted.

The Patriots, a group of eminent Nigerians that was led by Prof Ben Nwabueze have called for a new constitution for the country, what is your view as the ongoing process in the National Assembly to amend the existing 1999 Constitution?

The dialogue of concerned eminent Nigerians during a plenary in honour of late Prof. Ben Nwabueze of which Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State and Chief Emeka Anyaoku, to mention but a few, were guests was a square peg in a square hole. Honestly, Nigeria is doomed without a new people’s constitution, the 1999 Constitution has failed to positively impact the nation in areas of security, development, public sector accountability and the economy. A new comprehensive people’s constitution will go a long way in correcting the errors in the deceptively imposed 1999 Constitution. The present constitution is not people-oriented, some segments of Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities are in charge of the government at the expense of others, this frowns at the tenets of true federalism. The National Assembly is advised to be thorough, realistic, and comprehensive in their approach to a new constitution considering the current challenges facing the country. An all-people’s justified constitution bereft of ethnic sentiment, dogma and inequality is what Nigeria needs to enable the philosophy of unity and progress to flourish.