‘Enya’s suit to amend constitution for alleged third term agenda is inconsquential’
Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu, in this interview, says those who are still alleging that President Muhammadu Buhari is nursing a third term ambition after the President had cleared the air on the issue are mistaken. Okechukwu, who is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and core Buharist maintains that the president is a systems man and will not subvert the constitution for personal gains.
Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s clarification that he is not seeking a third term in office during APC’s NEC meeting penultimate Friday, some Nigerians still don’t believe him especially against the backdrop of a suit by a chieftain of the party in Ebonyi State urging the court to clear the way for the president and governors. As one of the ardent supporters of the President, what is your take on the development?
President Muhammadu Buhari I know is a systems man. By this I mean he places public interest above self-interest. As he said, age is neither on his side nor the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. We were taught in Government class that there are two types of constitution, one rigid and one flexible and our constitution is rigid. Mr. President is very much aware of this and cannot, no matter the pressure, put Nigeria’s democracy in jeopardy.
Tell those who think that Buhari will emulate the ignoble role of a former president who opened our national vault to lobby National Assembly members with N50,000,000 per person that it is fake news. Mr. President knows that there is no need wasting precious time and resources to lobby 109 Distinguished Senators, 360 Honourable Members and 36 State of Houses of Assembly. The truism, he knows, is that it is a Herculean task to get two third of each of the parliament.
Those who are doubtful of Buhari’s clarification are holding on to the fact that the President didn’t keep to his pledge in 2011 when in tears he declared during the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) final presidential campaign rally in Abuja that that would be his last attempt. Don’t you think those holding such opinion have a point?
This scenario, to be frank, is a different kettle of fish and less than appropriate analogy. The scenario is different, given the peculiar circumstances of events and time. As Thomas Paine said, whatever reason cannot solve time will solve it. Please tell those pundits that the suit in Ebonyi is a fictional narrative and attention seeking by one Charles Enya. Regrettably, it’s coming from a geopolitical zone where most Nigerian patriots reason that it is their turn to produce Nigeria’s president in 2023.
Accordingly, the suit is a kite being flown by some ethnic merchants with a view to distracting Ndigbo from their political destination. Mr. President, no doubt, has no linkage to it. Methinks it is better to refresh our minds in what actually happened in our camp, that is in the defunct CPC you cited.
Permit me to start with post 2007 general elections which was badly rigged by Prof. Maurice Iwu-led INEC, and which today remains the worst rigged election in the annals of our electoral history. Indeed, the foremost beneficiary, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of blessed memory, in his uncommon candour, acknowledged the fraud that greeted the 2007 general elections, hence the indelible Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee Report. To cut the story short, Buhari in consultation with the leadership of our party then, the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), went to the Presidential Election Tribunal to seek redress. Midway, Chief Edwin Umezoke of blessed memory, who doubled as chairman of the party and his vice presidential candidate and his cohorts betrayed him, as they opted to withdraw from the pursuit of the matter at the tribunal. With a formidable faction of our membership, we remained with Mr. President and fought the matter to the famous and unprecedented four to three split decision at the Supreme Court.
From there we moved on and formed the CPC. With Buhari’s 12 million vote bank, we were unable to win. We then reasoned that the only option left was to search for a stronger alliance in the South, the bridge across the Niger constructed by the great Zik, Aminu Kano, Shagari, Sardauna and Awo. We had earlier moved Southeast in 2003 with Rt. Hon. Chuba Okadigbo as running mate. So in 2011, we navigated Southwest.
In the Southwest, we ironed out a good alliance with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led progressives. As the election drew near, the issue of who couples the presidential ticket with Mr President became a thorny issue, weaved around Muslim-Muslim ticket. Opinion was divided on the feasibility of Buhari/Tinubu ticket. Some of us the liberals in the camp cited the Abiola/Kingibe ticket as an example, pointing out that all that was needed was for Asiwaju to add the critical supplementary votes of his geopolitical zone to Buhari’s 12 million vote bank.
Mr. President and some others reminded us of the difference between the time of Abiola/Kingibe in 1993 and 2011, saying time has changed and that the religious fault line was sharper than usual. The rest they say is history. We lost the election and all of us were highly dejected. That’s the scenario in which Mr President wept for a country he knows, a country that used to be harmonious is now dangerously divided along fault lines.
But was that why he reneged on his pledge not to run again?
It is not a question of reneging but change of mind when the thorny issue of Muslim/Christian ticket was sorted out by Asiwaju camp. In fact, if Professor Yemi Osinbajo was nominated in 2011 as vice presidential candidate like in 2015, we could have won.Yes Buhari was in tears and said he won’t run again. He wept for Nigerians because he was very much concerned over our collapsed and dilapidated infrastructure, and our reckless importation of food in the midst of arable land across the length and breadth of the country, among others. He was very eager to fix those national malaises. This is exactly what he has been doing in the last five years that he has embarked on agrarian revolution and has been laying the foundation for critical infrastructure.
Charles Enya, who instituted the suit seeking to clear way for Buhari and the state governors for a third term, is from Ebonyi State in the Southeast zone, which is gunning for the presidency in 2023 based on the unwritten rotational arrangement. With this kind of suit, do you see your people speaking with one voice in 2023?
One has never, in my over 40 years in partisan politics in Nigeria, heard of such name and therefore agree that he represents those against the consensus gathering that Nigeria should elect a president of Igbo extraction in 2023. It is paradoxical that an Igbo person will be the one spearheading the ignoble role of distracting us from our determined objective. A Nigerian president of Igbo extraction will be the final end of the civil war and incorporation of extremists in Igbo land into the mainstream of national politics. At any rate, we do not expect 100 per cent agreement for us to preside over Nigeria. All we require is the support of few patriots who lead both the APC and PDP, and then securing the tickets of both parties before the main presidential election.
And you think you will secure the two tickets given the musings from Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and other voices from the North?
The solution is going to come from the consensus of leaders of the two major political parties, not that of missionary parties, nor some Igbo fifth columnists and those who have lost faith. The answer is the Obasanjo and Falae model, where both candidates were drawn from the same geopolitical zone or ethnic group. This will be the golden opportunity to finally heal the civil war wounds and then return all Igbos into the mainstream.
What is your view on the concept of constituency projects in Nigeria given the accusation by the President that the National Assembly squandered N1 trillion on constituency projects in 10 years. My view is that Mr President is right that billions were squandered. Therefore, the duty of anti-graft agencies is to swoop on the culprits. The noise or blame game from executive and legislature is inconsequential. All we are saying is give us good governance.
Some Nigerians say the President succumbed to the lawmakers for political gains by continuing to release the funds even though he knew they were being mismanaged?
That’s wrong narrative, as you cannot stop paying school fees because your children are failing exams. We must keep on funding projects whether tagged constituency projects or not. At any rate, Mr. President is talking of 10 years.