Nigerians against Muslim-Muslim ticket because of Buhari and APC’s failures, says Eya
Former Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and former Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC, Chief Nduka Eya in this interview with LAWRENCE NJOKU, spoke on the 2023 general elections.
Why do you think agitation against Muslim-Muslim ticket is resounding?
Nigeria has a problem; the problem of forgetting sequences and they jump at current situations and address it as if that is the thing. Everything has a background. I had said earlier that part of the problems of Nigeria is the 1999 Constitution, which clearly was imposed on the people. Obasanjo was president in 1999 but he did not know anything about that constitution until he was sworn in. He swore on a constitution he would protect which he had not read. The truth is that the 1999 Constitution was parochial and developed by the Nigerian military and in the interest of a part of the country against the others. Everything in that constitution is lopsided against some sections of the country and everybody is expected to share from the same pot.
This is where the trouble started and we have gone from bad to worse. So because the current administration of the country has encouraged divide and rule and continued to treat certain parts of the country as if they are slaves, agitation against the same faith ticket will exist. Because the Muhammadu Buhari-led government has treated the economy with disdain. Agitation against the same faith presidential ticket will grow; because there is insecurity, which the government has failed to address, and people are bound to reject anything coming from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Let me say that myopic leadership tendencies created anger over the same faith ticket and it is bound to continue unless those who foisted it leave the scene.
Some are arguing that Nigerians once voted Muslim-Muslim ticket for Abiola and Kingibe
I said Nigerians never sat down anywhere to write the present Constitution. It is an imposition by the military. Besides, who are the people trying to benefit from the Muslim-Muslim ticket? Are they people Nigerians can trust? Who are the people behind them? These are the key questions. Remember that MKO Abiola was an established international businessman before he joined politics. Abiola was a known name in telecommunications. He made money as a businessman before he entered politics. He was a philanthropist and showed pedigree in his business. He reached out to all parts irrespective of the fact that he was a Muslim. He did not differentiate. Abiola was free and established himself. At that time, the military had served several years in power and Nigerians wanted a change to the civil rule. So it didn’t matter to Nigerians whether there were two Muslims or not because the people wanted to restore Nigeria. It was a different environment compared with what we have now. The people didn’t care. Abiola was 1993 and when you compare it with now that Muhammadu Buhari is in power, you discover that Nigerians have gone through a lot of hell. So many things that could have made the country great have been jettisoned.
The Buhari campaign came up with the change mantra following the level of corruption going on in the government of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I am of the opinion however that what should be the paramount concern of Nigerians a few months before the election is a scorecard. PDP with all its corruption ruled us from 1999 to 2014 and Nigerians should begin to look back at their social condition, their security condition, and economic and political condition and begin to compare those conditions with that of today.
The APC administration has been there since 2015, what has our situation been? Have things changed for the better? Nigeria has been so divided, particularly in the last seven years. Buhari’s agenda has resurrected ethnicity and religion and that is why there is so much controversy in the land. The blame should be on Buhari for his method. Tinubu has been the national leader of the APC, which is the party in power; what has he done to call attention to the level of deceit and decay as well as the suffering of Nigerians? Does it mean that he remained aloof in the guise of coming in as president, but to do what? What else is he coming to do? Who is his running mate and what do Nigerians think about him?
Nigerians are fighting and opposing the Muslim-Muslim ticket because of what has happened in the last seven years that Buhari has run the country. He has ensured that only one region and his religion dominate in every aspect of the country.
You cannot be talking about security without the three major tribes being involved. But in the case of Buhari, he removed the tripod and appointed only the Fulani. Buhari is the first leader, who defied the federal character of Nigeria and the Commission could not ask questions. Let us publish how the ministries and parastatals are headed and you will agree with me that his appointments are lopsided. In a country that is secular, somebody who studied Sharia law was appointed a Chief Justice of Nigeria. Was that the best Nigeria could boast of?
Look at the issue of corruption and tell me whether we are fighting or encouraging corruption. If we talk about zoning, after the north it should be the south. So, why did it become the turn of the south and we started prevaricating on whether to give it to them or not? What happened at the presidential primaries of the APC and PDP, does it mean that the North and Southwest are the owners of the country? Why won’t we tell ourselves the truth and allow the country to run? PDP leaders ganged up and took their ticket to the north while the APC in turn took theirs to Southwest, even when there are regions that have not been ruled for the first time?
The same presidential primaries seem to have thrown up regional contests with Atiku, Tinubu and Obi coming from different regions. Does it look like people will vote along regional interests in 2023?
I want to talk as a concerned Nigerian and I think we must be very careful. Your observation is right but it should not have been so if we had put equity and fairness in our dealings. If we practice what we preach, the person Nigerians should be voting for in 2023 should be one that is best suited for the job. But because of our parochial interests and desire to cling to power, that division is still on. If we are one, Tinubu should not have accepted the presidential ticket of APC when it was zoned to the South. He should have allowed an Igbo man to run, knowing that the Southeast remained the only region that has not tasted power at that level. He decided to join the bandwagon against the zone.
The PDP did the same when its leaders conspired against the Southeast. That was why Peter Obi resigned from the party after buying the presidential nomination forms to pick the presidential ticket of the Labour Party.
Despite the colouration being imported into the 2023 contest, I want to, however, warn the Igbo not to make Peter Obi’s candidature an Igbo project because if they do, it will fail. This is because, those who planned that no Igbo person no matter how good he is, will not be president will ensure that he does not emerge. What has happened so far has shown that Obi and his running mate have what it takes to move the country forward. I think he is Godsend from nowhere. We need to rescue this country. Corruption has grown bigger and with the level of consciousness going on now, I think there is hope for Nigeria.
The fuss over the presidential primary of the PDP is yet to settle; how do you read the situation?
I am neither of the PDP nor of any other political party. I am however a Nigerian who believes that the country should move forward and it is time we make the needed change since those we entrusted with power have failed us. It is about ideology and principle and if you ask me, where is the ideology and where is the principle?
The challenge the PDP has at the moment is how to manage the fallout from its presidential primary. One of the governors who very much believed he would get the nomination of the party, Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, unfortunately, did not get the support of some of his colleagues. It is also the problem of the party betraying its own constitution as it regards zoning. So, who wouldn’t complain? Wike said he built the PDP. He has done very well in the Rivers state. I didn’t like him when he was Minister of Education because of the role he played in the leadership of the University of Nigeria, which is my alma mater. But he has shown class as governor of Rivers State. He changed the infrastructure of the place and you could hardly know Port Harcourt. He has put in new ideas whereas people thought that he was a combatant. But the problem with him is that he has no diplomacy.
We saw what happened at the presidential primary as well as the choice of the presidential running mate. His colleagues rejected him and that affected his angling for the choice of a running mate. So the fuss is about interests. It is about who gets what. Atiku made a better choice in Okowa as running mate. Okowa is from Delta State and an Igbo. Wike couldn’t get the nomination because of his attitude and since then, he thinks that the party will lose in the election without him. That is the posturing of the Nigerian politician. It is the people that should have the last say in the real sense of the word but that does not happen in our clime. The implication is that appeasing him will go a long way in giving his party victory in the election.
There are uncertainties over the 2023 general elections, such as insecurity and vote-buying. Could these fears be real?
The way and manner the President has gone about security in the last seven years does not show seriousness and this is part of the fears being expressed over the 2023 general elections. We have not been able to contain insecurity and Nigerians are dying anyhow. People are kidnapped in their homes and farmlands and those who kidnap them ask for huge ransom. Boko Haram is holding sway in the North; in the South, especially Southeast, it is unknown gunmen. Who created insecurity? Boko Haram has continued to attack facilities in the country and recently, they attacked the President’s advance team and went to Kuje prison. And all he could say was that “I am disappointed”.
Boko Haram strikes anywhere they want. Our farmers don’t go to the farms anymore. This government is a failure. Nigeria has become a failed state and that is why I am emphasizing that we should begin to ask questions regarding the scorecards of the two political parties that have ruled us since 1999. I think we should try to change. We should try other political parties. The Obi phenomenon has become something else because the people seem to have woken up from their slumber.
Look at what happened in the Osun governorship election. It should serve as a big lesson to anyone who wants to rule. The people felt that there was a better alternative despite the boasting from the ruling party and all their resources. When Buhari came on board, we knew how much our foreign exchange was and the value of the naira. Now, where are we today? If there will be 2023, I am sure, we will not continue the way we are.