Source: The Punch
Third Republic Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, tells TOBI AWORINDE that former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s endorsement of the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), may not be worth its salt
What do you think of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who helped found the Peoples Democratic Party, endorsing the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)?
Unusual and unconventional things keep happening in Nigeria. I don’t know whether the solidarity of the military is so strong that it compels people to do such things. Is there a military caucus made up of a different breed of Nigerians such that an officer must support another officer? I hear that Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd.) is also supporting Buhari, to my greatest surprise. The military caucus, perhaps, is the strongest one in the (political) system. An endorsement by Gen. Obasanjo can be a kiss of death for any political figure. I don’t know how much is left of Obasanjo’s credibility to endorse somebody and if it can have a positive effect.
But Obasanjo also endorsed President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011. Are you saying the President didn’t profit from that vote of confidence?
You are right, Obasanjo brought out Jonathan and endorsed him in 2011, even when he (Jonathan) was contesting against Buhari. So, what has changed? Or is there another caucus of the North and northern supporters? What happened to (Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru) Jega is also happening to other northerners. But some Hausa/Fulani Muslims have taken a decision to return power to themselves—the ‘born-to-rule people’—and everyone seems to be endorsing Buhari for that reason. The ways of Obasanjo are sometimes inscrutable, but I pray that, for him and for all of us, the will of God will happen. Jonathan is a tool in the hands of God, chosen to do God’s purpose for Nigeria. If he has finished that purpose, he will leave. But if he has not finished God’s purpose, he will be there and no man born by a woman can remove him.
Is it normal for an elder statesman of such prominence to go against his party’s mandate and endorse a member of the opposition?
A former head of state is a human being and has human rights. I don’t think anything is wrong with that. But if you are in a party and you endorse another party’s candidate, it means you are indulging in anti-party activities. In honour, he should therefore resign from the PDP.
Are you, therefore, in support of the Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose’s proposition that the party suspend the ex-President over ‘inter-party activities’?
Let me tell you something: we don’t have parties. After the presidential elections, we will work to build two parties in Nigeria. The two-party system has been demonstrated to be what Nigeria needs; what works for and integrates Nigeria, crushing religiosity and tribalism. We have one of the parties already surfacing—the Social Democratic Party. We will define the ideology of the SDP properly and the people who want to be on the other side will define their ideology. That way, we would give Nigeria a two-party system. After the presidential elections, even with Jonathan as president, the PDP may have to go. Look at how they cause all kinds of problems for themselves. One is not sure where a member of the PDP is heading. You can see that the President is a member of the PDP. But some people say even the PDP chairman is not with the party. The PDP may eventually leave the scene, even with the President in office.
Obasanjo, in endorsing Buhari, claimed Jonathan had allowed corruption to creep into the military and undermine its operations. Do you agree with this point of view?
No, he was just looking for something to say. Obasanjo was far more corrupt than Jonathan and he never fought corruption. Instead, he fought his enemies who were corrupt. His friends who were corrupt were never fought. That is not how to fight corruption. While I cannot say that President Jonathan has fought corruption seriously, I know that corruption is just an issue that Obasanjo can use against anybody except himself. A worse form of corruption is to prosecute people you don’t like. Imagine two people commit the same offence; one is your friend and the other your enemy. You take state power to crush your enemy and you think you are fighting corruption. That alone is corrupt. Impunity is part of corruption. The effect of an endorsement is uncertain; whether a blessing or a curse, nobody knows.
Obasanjo warned that any manipulation of electoral process by the Presidency could lead to a military coup. Do you suppose the presidency might have had a hand in the postponement of elections?
After Jega was advised by the National Security Adviser and all the security chiefs, there was a National Council of State meeting that raised doubts about readiness for elections. At the state council meeting, Jega was advised to make wider consultations and he did immediately. He then found out clearly that, in addition to the allegations made against him by some southern leaders, in the face of insecurity and other challenges, he could not go on with the elections without people crying foul. People say Obasanjo and others don’t want Jonathan at all because he is from the minority or he is too gentle; because he’s not behaving like Obasanjo, persecuting everybody. It may be true that the military has been planning a coup. But those who are targeting Jonathan can only succeed if God allows it. Whoever is coming to rule us, even if, against my expectations, it turns out to be Buhari, God must approve it.