Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Third Republic Governor of Anambra State (January 1992 to November 1993), has warned that the yet-to-be registered All Progressive Alliance (APC) portends danger to the country. Speaking in an exclusive interview with The News Chronicle, Dr Ezeife, called the APC ‘a Sharia merger’, arguing that the major proponents of the new party share ‘deep religious beliefs’.
How do you assess the yet to be registered All Progressives Alliance?
For those of us who have been lobbying for a two party system in Nigeria, the APC gives the impression of making that come to fruition. But it is an illusion. I see APC as a danger in the Nigerian political system. When we want two parties, we want one to be little to the right and the other a little to the left, meaning parties based on ideologies.
I don’t know whether APC is to the left or to the right but what is very clear is that it has a very strong dosage of religion. The major proponents are share deep religious beliefs, making some people to call it a Sharia merger and it is dangerous for our system.
In the South-West, Muslims and Christians do not just coexist, they mutually cohabit. The fear is that this APC may end up radicalizing the South-western Muslims and this is not something theoretical anymore. With the APC, the cleavages that are developing are not very positive and because I believe God exists and is concerned about the future of Nigeria APC will not make progress. It will not be good for Nigeria if they make progress.
Many Igbo leaders seem to be supporting the Jonathan presidency. How do you reconcile this with the perennial agitation for a President of Igbo extraction?
Key Igbo leaders took a decision to play a game of co-operation with President Jonathan. Yes, we want to go for Igbo President but we also recognize the right of Jonathan to go for a second term as the constitution provides.
The cooperation between the Jonathan forces and the Igbo forces is this: when it gets close to the time for primaries, the two forces will meet and assess the situation on the ground objectively. If we think that Jonathan can win, we will support him but if we don’t, we will beg him to support us. It’s a win- win game. We want to be president but we don’t see it as our role to hound Jonathan out of office, if he merits to go for a second term.
Given the famed disunity among Igbo leaders, how can they be trusted to speak with one voice?
Who says the Igbos are not united? In critical issues of importance they come together. You have to understand the Igbos from a very utilitarian point of view. The Igbos have voted with their feet for one Nigeria and everybody sees it. Unfortunately they are the only geopolitical zone which has not produced a President for this country [apart from the six-month reign of the late General Aguiyi Ironsi].
There appears to be a consensus that President Jonathan has underperformed. How will you assess the Jonathan Presidency?
Those assessing the successes or failures of the President should take note of the pronouncement of some people that they would make the country ungovernable for him. True to that statement, insecurity has reigned supreme in the country, no thanks to Boko Haram insurgency.
We don’t know of any leader with whom you can compare Jonathan because all those who led Nigeria before led without major security problems. With Boko Haram, how do you assess what it would have been without the Boko Haram scourge?
I believe however that the greatest challenge/accomplishment that Jonathan can make is to transform Nigeria from a shipwrecked country to a country where things work. If he can do this, whatever else he does or does not do, he has beaten everybody.
Nigeria is mired in serious political problems, which seem to be undermining or complicating the country’s economic challenges. What do you see as the way out?
There must be a constitutional conference where we will look at all the issues on the ground and all the contending ideas and then harmonise them into a document which we will proudly say, “we the people of Nigeria make and give unto ourselves this constitution”.
Are you talking of Sovereign National Conference?
No, I said a Constitutional Conference. The Constitution resulting from the Conference has to be approved by Nigerians in a referendum. Once this is done – and it has never been done before in Nigeria – we know we have a country.
Sir, let’s turn to Anambra State where you were once the State Governor. There will be a Governorship election in the State next year. What are your thoughts on this Sir
I want to state my position on Anambra 2014 governorship elections because some people quoted me as saying that ‘we don’t want cleaned up criminals’. I didn’t use those words but I said things meaning the same thing. I said we would want people with clean backgrounds. We want people who are already successful in what they are doing, not people who will use the governorship as a first assignment. We want people who have good adjustments in the Igbo system, not people who trained and stayed overseas and come back to become Governor without a proper understanding of the nuances of the time and place. We want people who will go far in helping the state. The most important of these qualifications is a well adjusted Igbo who understands the town unions and what sustained us as a people during our most difficult time and how and why we were able to overcome many of the challenges we faced as a people.
There is a controversy as to whether it is the turn of a particular group, Anambra North Senatorial Zone to produce the Governor. By the way, I am the grand patron of Anambra North Youth Movement. I was there and they said it was their turn and I told them “you are right. You have a moral right to produce the governor of Anambra state and you can if you unite, back one person with all your votes and your resources. First of all, you need to choose the kind of person who satisfies what we need as a governor. Those things done, Anambra North can produce a governor”. I gave two reasons why I could have sympathy for that.
I am complaining that the Igbos have not produced a president for this country. The Igbo or the southeast geopolitical zone has not and if I am the person talking about our right to produce a president, at the local level, I should understand the feeling of the senatorial zone which has not produced a governor for Anambra state.
I was chairman of the Power Sharing Committee in 2005. We recommended the rotation of presidents by geopolitical zones, rotation of governors by senatorial zones.
Though I understand and sympathise with the moral argument on why Anambra North should produce the Governor, it is also important to underline that moral rights do not make legal rights. There is no agreement on zoning in Anambra State. People from all the zones have been presenting candidates for election and no candidate has withdrawn or been disqualified on grounds of zoning. Therefore, strictly speaking, it is nobody’s turn to produce the Governor for the State in 2014. The correctness or rightness of saying it is the turn of Anambra North Senatorial zone does not go beyond the moral argument.
Sir, you have been a State Governor and the Special Adviser to President Obasanjo on political matters. Can we expect a political comeback from you in terms of presenting yourself for an elective political office?
[Smiles] Yes, of course you can expect a political come back from me. But that will be in my next incarnation. At 74, I will surely make a political comeback and present myself for an elective position – in my next incarnation!
Wow, you look really good for your age Sir