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You can’t stop godfathers– Iwuanyanwu

Posted by By CHIDI OBINECHE on 2008/07/18 | Views: 2351 |

You can’t stop godfathers– Iwuanyanwu

Business mogul and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu has endorsed the concept of godfatherism in politics, saying, it is a worldwide practice.

Business mogul and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu has endorsed the concept of godfatherism in politics, saying, it is a worldwide practice.
Dismissing the notion that godfatherism had been the bane of Nigerian politics with the unorthodox way it was used in Oyo and Anambra states to harrass elected public officials, Iwuanyanwu urged newbreed politicians “to get close to them, study them and know what they are doing. Be part of them, so that you can know what qualities in them took them to where they are.”

The Champion newspapers publisher, who is convalescing after a major knee surgery in the United States of America, spoke to Daily Sun in his palatial Victoria Island, Lagos home.
He continued: “I don’t think that type of system will stop. There is no time in politics in Nigeria when you won’t have people who have been there. You will have leaders and these leaders must exercise their powers in accordance with the constitution of the party.”

He, however, objected to godfathers employing violence and coercion to appropriate by force power that belongs to the party.
Iwuanyanwu further lamented the parlous state of the nation’s economy, which had fuelled poverty and youth unemployment, describing it as a time bomb waiting to explode.
He urged the government to take urgent measures to arrest the situation, suggesting as a first step, the government set up a committee to look into the situation.
He also spoke on contemporary national issues, including electoral reforms, appointment of chairman of the Independent National electoral Commission, (INEC), PDP, President Yar’Adua and opposition parties.

You have been out of circulation for some time. Where have you been?
I have been on vacation. Every year, I take a vacation. But this year, in addition to my vacation, I went for a medical check-up. Some years ago, I had an injury on my left leg which has continued to worry me. So I went to John Hopkins hospital in the United States of America and they removed the kneecap and replaced it. It was a major surgery. I thank God that I am safe and back to Nigeria.

In your absence, a lot has happened. The relationship between President Yar’Adua and the National Assembly snapped a bit at a time. What is your view on how this democracy can fare with such frictions?
Frankly speaking, although I was out of the country, I was getting information from home. To the best of my knowledge, I think President Yar’adua has had a good relationship with the members of the National Assembly. I still believe that he has had a wonderful liaison with them. With what is going on in the world today, it can be understood. You see, the world is passing through a phase. There is a general phase of difficulties sweeping through everywhere in the world.

Prices of things have gone high. All over the world, there is inflation, and it is universal. Many students of history say it occurs once after many hundreds of years. We are passing through a phase. It is complaint everywhere and here in Nigeria. You can also see that we are having problems of inflation. Prices have gone up. I believe, really, that it calls for co-operation between the legislature and the executive, at local government, state and national levels. They should be able to maximise the use of our resources to the people. I would like them to have an excellent rapport and co-operation. It is an important ingredient for any successful democratic practice.

Some Nigerians accuse the president of being too slow and not having done enough to show that he can fix Nigeria. What is your view?
I don’t agree with them because frankly, the president is a member of my party, the PDP. I knew President Yar’Adua many years ago. His elder brother was a friend. Their father, who was a minister, was known to my family. I know that he had a good family upbringing, which of course, has matured him to the present lofty heights. As governor of Katsina State, he did well. If you go to Katsina and find out what happened in the eight yeas of his tenure, you will doff your hat for him. With this rich background, we believe he will excel in this new task.

He is capable. A leader leads a team. He has a formidable team of advisers, and ministers who will help him steer the ship of state. He will give direction and give vent to his vision. When he assumed office, things were really bad. The major problem, I think, is electric power. Power was extremely bad at the time he took over. There is nobody, who does not know that. It is a problem that has defied solution. I understand that in my absence, the National Assembly subjected the power problem to inquisition. I think it is still going on. It has been a major problem. Other problems are hinged on it. If you tackle the power problem, others can be easily solved. Democracy goes with good leadership and independence of the various arms of government.

Today, the judiciary is completely independent. Some years ago, it was clear to us that the judiciary was not independent. As for the ordinary person, it was a burden. We can move about freely. Now, take a look at other areas. I have been able to map out programmes like Due Process when I was chairman of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA). I had a glimpse into the mechanism of government policy implementation. Most of the things you see being unfolded now, will not mature immediately. Some of them take about two, three or four years to mature. After all, he has been in office for only one year. I think it is too early to assess him.

When I was in Washington, I heard many people complain that the president was sick and may not continue in office. This is not true. I was able to address people in Washington and I told them that the president is certified fit. At a stage in America, their president was using a wheelchair. The most important thing is the constitutional provision. If a president is absent from office for a determined number of months, he will certainly lose his job. But Yar’Adua’s case is different. He is in office and working. He only goes for medical check-up, which is normal. Many presidents in the past have gone for medical check-up. So, I don’t see anything wrong with that. It is not right for Nigerians to protest that because the president is sick and goes for medical check-ups, he should be removed. I don’t think that is proper. I believe Nigerians should give him a chance. I think he will do well.

Also in your absence, a notable godfather in PDP, Chief Lamidi Adedibu died. Do you believe his death marks the end of godfatherism in Nigerian politics?
There is nowhere in this world where you don’t have what Nigerians call godfatherism. When you go to any system, there are people who are serious there. There are leaders there. These are people who take decisions. You must be able to get yourself close to them, study them, know what they are doing, be part of them, so that you can know what qualities in them took them to where they are. It is the same thing that is happening in politics in Nigeria.

So, I don’t think that type of system will stop. There is no time in politics in Nigeria when you won’t have people who have been there. You will always have leaders and they must exercise their powers in accordance with the constitution of the party. But what I am opposed to, is people exercising powers outside the constitution of the party or the country. If someone by violence or coercion, appropriates by force power that belongs to the party, I think it is wrong and should not be condoned in any democratic society. Otherwise, what is necessary is to go through the process. If you want to run for an office, you go through the primaries. Every party has a constitution that allows primaries as long as we don’t abuse or rig the primaries, or someone comes and cancels it. The problem is not whether there is godfatherism or not. The problem is people abiding by the constitution of the party and the country. This is very important. It is a fundamental prerequisite for every system that will endure.

The Electoral Reforms Committee has flagged off public hearings. What do you consider necessary as inputs for a perfect electoral system in the country?
I am terribly disturbed over what has happened in the past few years. This trend of people trying to cling to power by all means is very, very bad. The hope of any common man in a democracy is to have his rights. For instance, our Constitution in Nigeria has given every leader four years with a possibility of another four years and he is out. That is the limit. If the person fails to perform in four years, it is the right of the people to use their votes to remove him. If the system makes it impossible for the people to exercise this right, that is what I consider wrong. This has happened here in the past. The notice is clear that there was election, but it was rigged in many places. People say it is party A or B. It is not true. If you watch while you have Party A in power, it will continue to be in power, even when they are not doing well.

For instance, states that were controlled by other parties remained in control of the states even when other parties worked hard to take over power. It is not a question of PDP rigging. It is a matter of the character of Nigerians. It is in the character of Nigerians, not a matter of party. Nigerians have that knack of staying in power by all means, irrespective of whether they are in PDP or ANPP or whatever party they are. Even in local governments, you notice that once somebody is in power, he continues there. What has saved us is that the Constitution prescribes two terms’ limit. Otherwise, people will stay in office for life. You see what is happening in Zimbabwe? It could have happened in Nigeria. So the electoral reforms are important. It will make our electoral system free of unwanted provisions and go some distance in stemming the tide of rigging. Much depends on the character of Nigerians. Nigerians must change their ways completely.

The problem in this country is money. Everybody is looking for money. This has affected our democracy. Democracy thrives when there is a strong opposition. Without opposition, democracy is nil. If you notice in this country, after every election, a party wins. One expects the losing party to work hard and form a cabinet of shadow offices to shadow the government. Opposition parties should have their ministries of finance, transport, education and so on. They have to shadow the government to know where they have gone wrong. We don’t do that in Nigeria. What they do is they talk of sharing the booties of government. If they get some offices or ministerial appointments, they forget about their rights to form opposition, which is very important. As long as Nigerians fail to understand that there is dignity in opposition, we are not getting it right. Opposition is recognised all over the world. Here in Nigeria, everyone wants to be part of the government and participate in cake-sharing. It is one of the greatest problems of democracy.

No matter what we do, we must get this perception re-examined. So, it is not only bad, in seeking for appointment from the opposing side, we need to re-examine ourselves. The quest for money is the whole problem. People have taken money to be everything. In Nigeria, you hear of one person stealing billions of naira. It is unique. Let somebody ask, what is he going to do with it? Somebody takes millions of pounds, what is he going to do with it? If somebody is 50 years old today, and he has N50 million in a fixed deposit, he won’t finish it until he dies. If this money is left, it will create happiness for him. Today, our banking system has improved. Nigerians don’t have any reason to keep their money outside Nigeria. I used to buy credit card from other countries, but since the banking reforms, things have changed. This time, I travelled with a credit card from Access Bank. It served me all over the world. I was in America, it was well accepted everywhere. So, I don’t see why Nigerians cannot bring back the money they have abroad. Nigerians have billions of pounds and dollars abroad. If they bring it back, the economy will flourish. The economy needs the money. The banks will have so much money and the business class can secure facilities to set up companies and employ people.

Critics of Yar’Adua argue that his cabinet is weak and needs change. Also, the chairman of your party is seen in some quarters as biased in some disputes in some states. What do you say?
Any president should be able to re-examine his cabinet because that is his power. If the cabinet is unable to perform, it is the President that the people will hold responsible. Presidents must know that they are accountable to the people and must be able to satisfy their yearnings and aspirations. It is the duty of the President to lead aright and ensure that his ministers perform. These ministers were appointed based on certain political considerations. I believe that after one year, the President should be able to review their performance and be guided accordingly. If there are shortcomings, make sure they are removed, because if there is a failure, Nigerians will blame the President, not minister.

The issue of PDP and the handling of disputes, I am hearing it from you for the first time. I have been in this for many years. There is no time mediation in any political dispute can be accepted by all interests in the dispute. To be the chairman of a political party is a difficult job. You are supposed to take difficult decisions. You will step on every kind of toes, toes of powerful people, not-so-powerful people, but human beings all the same. If you want to be honest and just, it is difficult. So, whether it is by consensus or not, decisions are usually not accepted by all parties. If it is a question of nomination, I won’t be surprised. But it does not mean that the chairman is not doing well. I don’t believe that. He is capable. He has worked with me and I know he is capable. He was a minister and later, secretary of the party. So, I believe he has the experience.

Who should appoint INEC chairman? The President, National Assembly, a college of political parties or the National Judicial Council?
To be honest with you, it is a serious matter. The job of INEC chairman is quite challenging. It is just who appoints the Chief Justice of the country. I believe that the chairman of INEC should be appointed in the same way the Chief Justice of the country is appointed. This is because in political terms, the burden he carries is big and I believe that the process of his emergence should be credible and non-controversial. I have not studied this carefully but I am convinced it is too high a position to be treated with levity in the appointment process.

I also want to speak on the economy. There is a lot of unemployment and poverty in Nigeria. I am worried. If you get to Imo State, for instance, we have about five or six institutions of higher learning and every year, they churn out graduates in many disciplines. You have Alvan Ikoku, FUTO, College of Agriculture, Polytechnic Nekede and so on. We also have in Abia, Anambra and in other states. The problem is that some graduates who left school more than five years ago are in the job queue. Thousands of them. It is a big threat. It is better you don’t give someone education at all than educate him and leave him out in the cold.

We know that a society does not owe anyone a living but any society that offers one education up to university level, should give him an opportunity to make a living. In Nigeria today, there is no such opportunity. I think something must be done. It is a time bomb. It seems to me also that it is helping in furthering criminality in the society - kidnapping, armed robbery, prostitution. Government must do something now to ensure that this matter is addressed. Without the banks in the last three years, we would have been in a terrible mess. They came to the rescue. It is getting to a point where the banks can no longer employ.

The people working in banks today are young. They are not going to retire in the next 30 years and yet graduates are churned out yearly. If the government has not raised a committee yet to look into this matter, they should do it now. On my part, now that I am okay, Iwuanyanwu Foundation is going to start a programme of job creation for the youths. We are commissioning some studies on job creation for Nigerians and whatever we can do to support them, we will do. We believe that most of them should be given opportunities to float their own small businesses and they will in turn employ other Nigerians. I have a daughter who graduated as a lawyer. I invited her to come and work with us. She refused. She set up her own business and today, she is employing over 26 people. She is from a business family and I am sure she will do well. Not everybody is from a business family. But if others are also given opportunities, they will do well.

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Comments (3)

Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown