By Sunday Ani

Senator Anthony Ani is the newly-elected member representing Ebonyi South Senatorial District at the National Assembly. In this interview, he speaks on the Stephen Oronsaye report, security challenges and the economy, among other issues.


What is your mission in the National Assembly and in the Senate in particular?

My mission in the National Assembly is for proper representation. I am an embodiment of fairness, equity and transparency. Those are the things I tend to bring to bear as far as my representation of Ebonyi South Senatorial District is concerned. I am going to ensure that what is due to Ebonyi South is given to them. I want to be a voice in the National Assembly for the nation; to see that laws of the land are obeyed, to see that people’s rights are accorded due respect and recognition and to do everything humanly possible within my means to see that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is being upheld.

How do you intend to achieve these; are you going to be coming up with motions or bills?

Of course, those are inherent in the system here. I will actively participate and give my best when it comes to motions and bills that touch on human life; that touch on human existence, to see that the right things are done.

You happen to come from the South-East that is always crying against marginalisation. Do you really agree that the zone is being marginalised, and if yes, how do you intend to help end this as a lawmaker?

The issue of marginalisation depends on how one sees it. The basic question I want to ask here is: Are you not marginalising yourself? If the South-East should come together and speak in one voice, there will be nothing like marginalisation because when their voices are put together, it will make great impact. However, I have observed that, in the South East, each person goes his own way. This is the time I have the opportunity to appeal to the senses of the people of the zone, especially the lawmakers for us to always speak with one voice. When we do that, I don’t think the issue of marginalisation will be there.

South easterners are said to be republican in their approach to issues, and this is also seen to be the major reason for the lack of unity among them. What is your take on that?

Well, it depends on your interpretation of who a republican is. South easterners, by culture, by creation are republicans and they are very disposed to using such a system in their own governance. However, what is important and paramount in this case is when diplomatic means are used, especially when you have something in common and where other tribes or cultures are involved. You use diplomacy and democratic principles to achieve your aims and objectives in trying to meet up with the needs of your people.

Recently, President Bola Tinubu and the 36 governors met and resolved that it has become imperative to set up state police as one of the pragmatic means of tackling the insecurity in the country. Are you in support of the idea?

It depends on how you see it. You see, many governments in their own dispositions are already using state police though giving it various names. So, I don’t think anything is wrong if it is approved at the national level. I don’t know what the fear of people is about state police. I think when there is state police, security will be taken down to the grassroots.

The security challenges in the country today are such that federal police alone may not do it. That is why if you go to South-West, they have their own security outfit, though not actually named state police. If you go to the South-East, you will find the same thing. So, every region, every state government is trying to come up with additional security outfits to ensure that the security challenge is tackled. However, for those who fear state police, I don’t know what their fears are. But I think that will add up to make the security situation in this country better.

Those who are afraid of state police are of the view that governors will use the outfit as an instrument of witch-hunt against their political opponents. Is their fear not cogent enough?

Well, that is their opinion but remember that we are running a presidential system of government, where the centre determines overall what happens to the country. And again, it depends on individuals. When you talk of governors using state police as a political instrument, I don’t think that’s enough reason why there should not be state police. Good reasons should give a chance to better reasons. The powers of these governors are limited in the sense that people gave them powers.

Anybody who abuses power is contravening the constitution and the laws of the land, and such a person should be held responsible. I don’t think that’s enough reason. Of course, if opponents of the government are democratic and diplomatic in their approach to issues, there wouldn’t be any reason to use state police to abuse them. It doesn’t arise.

The nation’s economy has been depressive over the years, and it’s deteriorating in the present dispensation. Do you have the antidote to the situation?

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As far as I know, a lot of economic measures are being applied but some individuals in their different ways are trying to sabotage the government. Good enough, just last week, the President set up a tripartite committee that will handle it. We have experts in this land. We have people who are very knowledgeable on how to manage the economy.

The situation could be arrested if the number of the economic saboteurs is reduced. Government is doing its best to see that the economy is improved, that the welfare of the people is improved upon but I don’t know what some people derive from sabotaging the government because it is sabotage that is causing all these problems.

What about government agencies that should go after the saboteurs; why are they not doing their work or are you saying that they have been compromised?

I wouldn’t be their mouthpiece but all I know is that the agencies of government are trying. They are doing their best but the population is overwhelming. A good number of people have turned into saboteurs. You can see a lot of efforts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other offences Commission (ICPC) and the rest of them trying to curtail these excesses. However, I am optimistic that over time, all these issues will be a thing of the past given the resolve of the Federal Government to see that all these economic issues are tackled.

Lack of productivity is the greatest challenge facing this economy. Diversification has also become a mirage over the years. What do you think should be the way out of this?

We are already getting it right in the sense that many state governments, local governments and even the Federal Government engage citizens in agricultural production because that was the basis of our development as a nation before oil was discovered. If you check back in those days when our mainstay was agriculture, every hand was on deck. I think the best thing to do is that every locality should look at where they have comparative advantage and fully engage in it, so that all will be pulled into our economy, and we will be better for it.

Successive governments have been talking about cutting cost of governance but the National Assembly keeps setting up new institutions such as the zonal development commissions. What is your take on that?

I don’t think so because the more, the merrier. Anything that has to do with development is a good show for total overhaul of the economy. I was suggesting that every region should have this development commission, with the mandate of developing their own region infrastructurally, educationally, agriculturally and all that. And when put together, the Federal Government will be better for it because we are operating a federal system.

If each region does what it is supposed to do, there will be no problem. I think what all these development agencies need to do is to partner and let there be synergy, so that there would be no conflict of roles in the performance of their duty. It is a good development and I support that there should be a development commission for every region.

There is this fear that these development commissions will end up as conduits, using the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) as a case study…

I wouldn’t speak for them, and of course what you are alleging, I don’t have evidence to support your assertion. However, the most important thing is to get the framework of these development commissions; get their terms of reference, get their mandate. And when you put the right people there, it is going to function. I think the problem we have been having over time is putting the wrong people in the right places. When you put a round peg in a square hole, it doesn’t work. So, the problem is manmade; it’s a human factor.

What is your take on the recent directive by President Tinubu that the Oronsaye report should be fully implemented?

My view is in line with the decision of the President. Before now, that has been my position, because a lot of duties, responsibilities are being duplicated and that adds to the cost of governance. If this is fully implemented without sabotage, it is going to be well for the country. In fact, it is one of the best decisions taken by the Federal Executive Council.

Are you not concerned that implementation of that report may cost some Nigerians their jobs?

I don’t think so. You see, the issue of losing jobs should not be the first consideration for now. Every change comes with some attendant disadvantages. We will feel it at the beginning, but at the end of the day, we will be better for it. People losing jobs are people who are not skilled. As a result of proliferation of agencies, departments and organs of government, many employees are not skilled. But this time around, the employers of labour will stick to people who are skilled in their professions.

You are coming to the national parliament for the first time, how do you feel? Is it what you anticipated that you are seeing?

I wouldn’t say that I anticipated much but I am so impressed with what I am seeing for now. I am still in the learning process. Give me some time; I will be in tune with the happenings here. However, I see people with different potential; people with different dispositions. Of course, what I am seeing here is not different from what I see in the university system, because in each place, we are talking about knowledge, we are talking about human relations.

You see people successful from different fields of life. When we converge at the Senate and when issues come up, everybody will be giving his own version of the subject matter, depending on his or her professional background. So, what I am seeing here is very interesting. So, I am so pleased to be here.