Hon. Charles Anike, a public affairs analyst and social activist is the National President of Eastern Union (EU), a political pressure group for the people of the Old Eastern Region. In this interview with EJIKEME OMENAZU, he spoke on the coming Edo and Ondo states governorship elections, among other crucial issues. Excerpts:
Edo State, do you think the coming governorship election will be free, fair and violent free?
Talking of the coming governorship election in Edo State, we can only say that it is very unfortunate that the battle between a godfather and the godson has degenerated into the level it is today. The threat of war coming from both camps clearly shows that there will not be free and fair election in the state.
There is a popular saying that it is only a madman that can finish building a house and later pull it down by himself. We expected the former governor and former national Chairman of the ruling APC Adams Oshiomhole, to have more sense of maturity and tolerance in leadership. He should have also known that no man can be champion forever, except the gods. He should also realise that whatever goes around, comes around, and whatsoever a man sows, he must reap.
To avert the looming bloodshed in the coming Edo governorship election, only one man has the answers to the looming crisis and danger there. But, the man has refused to talk about the Edo election threats. That man is no other person than President Muhammadu Buhari, the leader of the APC and the Commander-in-Chief. He should act now to save Nigeria from this looming blood bath in Edo State.
How do you think the Edo governorship election will go? Do you think Governor Godwin Obaseki will retain his position as governor under the PDP or if Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of APC will turn the table against him?
Well, the chances of the incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki retaining his position in the coming election are very high. This is considering the fact that the testimonies of his performance and the records of his achievements by the Edo people are high. Most of the people, and I mean the real Edo electorates, believe that Godwin Obaseki has done very well and would have even done better but for the distractions from those in and outside the state, who fought him out of his former party. Therefore, Edo people would want to give him another opportunity. They also believe in the saying that the ‘devil’ they know (Obaseki) is far better than the ‘angel’ (Ize-Iyamu) they don’t know anything about. The Edo people are also seeing Pastor Ize-Iyamu’s candidacy as Adams Oshiomhole’s third term bid as governor, which to them is unacceptable.
Another angle to it is that the Edo State we know is still a stronghold of the PDP, even when Adams Oshiomhole by default took over the state as a governor. So, the incumbent governor and his deputy pulling out of the APC with their supporters to join the already existing powerful and formidable forces in PDP is an added advantage for Governor Obaseki to overrun the APC candidate.
The Oshiomhole factor is also not a good omen for Ize-Iyamu’s ambition. The history of Oshiomhole’s dirty and derogatory statements on the present APC candidate during the 2016 Edo governorship campaigns were well recorded and still very fresh in the minds of the Edo people. Therefore, the continued presence of Oshiomhole in Pastor Ize- Iyamu’s campaign goes a long way to de-market the APC candidate. The Edo people, and indeed, all well-meaning Nigerians see the former APC National Chairman as a man who talks before reasoning, and whose present position on the election does not mean well for the state, as he does not seem to be well guided by the living conscience. Therefore, under normal circumstances Governor Obaseki will win. And by normal circumstances, I mean a free and fair election, devoid of rigging and the all-powerful federal might.
INEC under the current chairman has been conducting controversial elections. Do you think the agency will not cave in under the federal might in the Edo election?
Well, talking about the present INEC it is just whiling away time. As long as the commission still remains under the headship of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, we do not think anything good can come out of it. From inception till date, the INEC under its present chairman has performed below expectations. There has not been anything to suggest that the present INEC will just suddenly wake up overnight and perform well as an independent electoral umpire. INEC started its operation under the current chairman with all kinds of inconclusive elections and confusions. As long as any election does not favour its paymasters, the commission remains a toy in the hands of the cabals.
The body language of INEC in the case of the Edo governorship election shows that there is nothing new to be expected from the agency. It may either postpone the election, or create one confusion, or the other during or after the election to favour its chosen candidate. In all honesty, this INEC was already compromised long before the Edo election and therefore cannot be trusted.
Between the APC candidate, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, the PDP candidate, Eyitayo Jegede and Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi, the candidate of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), who do you think will win the Ondo governorship election and why?
The coming governorship election in Ondo State will be keenly contested. Therefore, it will be difficult to predict for now, because we can see alignments and realignments still going on among the political class. But, judging by the feedback from our members residing in Ondo State, the game is between Agboola Ajayi deputy governor and the PDP candidate, Eyitayo Jegede. The reason, according to feelers from members, is largely because the deputy governor is a grassroots politician and the bitter internal crisis within the ruling APC, which has remained unresolved despite the white washing by the party leadership. The crisis in APC has led to mass movement of politicians, who defected from the ruling party to the camps of Agboola Ajayi, the ZLP candidate and Eyitayo Jegede, the PDP candidate. However, Jegede, the PDP candidate, stands the best chance due to the fact that Ondo State was and is still one of the PDP strongholds in the South West.
With APGA ruling Anambra State for about 16 years now and the increasing popularity of both the APC and PDP in the state, how do you think the Anambra governorship election next year will go?
The hitherto dominance of the political leadership by All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Anambra State for about 16 years now was due largely to sentiments attached by the people of Anambra State towards some personalities like the late Chief Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, Ikemba Nnewi and Eze Igbo Gburugburu, and later, Mr. Peter Obi, whom the Anambra people have come to believe in because of their sincerity and commitment to their wellbeing. But, with the death of Ojukwu and the defection of former Governor Peter Obi to the PDP after his tenure, coupled with an age-long leadership crisis in APGA, there will be no magic that can make an APGA candidate retain power in the coming governorship election. This is also coupled with the fact that the incumbent governor has not made any genuine effort to reconcile the factions and reposition the party, even at state level. The events of the recent past have shown that the governor may not be a good party man. And that can be confirmed by the PDP and YPP candidates who defeated all the APGA candidates in the 2019 senatorial election. The PDP is favourably positioned to produce the next governor of the state. Our members in Anambra State are seriously involved in the processes leading to the election. May the best candidate win.
In what areas do you think Governor Willie Obiano has performed in Anambra State?
Well, relying seriously on the information from the Eastern Union members in Anambra State, His Excellency, Willie Obiano has some exceptional achievements to his credit. In the area of security, it is generally agreed that this is the greatest achievement of his administration. Prior to his arrival, the state was plunged in wanton killings, cultism and kidnapping. But, he set up in every town an organised vigilante, a kind of community policing. He also equipped the police with modern security equipment. Anambra State under his administration is said to be the safest state in Nigeria. Job creation was equally a tool he used to achieve this. Furthermore, there is what they called Community Choose Your Project Initiative. This initiative made every part of the state to have a feel of the government’s presence. In each of over 400 communities chose a particular project of not less than N20 million and the fund is directly given. By this everyone is a stakeholder and part of the government. Again, in the area of environment, it is said that prior to his administration, the state was ravaged by erosion. But, his government was able to fix some of the sites, like the Awka/Agulu gully erosion site. There was also the setting up of OCHA Brigade to keep Anambra clean, as Onitsha is no longer a city known to be dirty.
In terms of infrastructural development – the huge investment in the building of the ultramodern airport for the state is no small feat. Road construction has been said to be massive under his administration, as all the 21 LGAs have at least one major road constructed. The state is also known to be one of the states, if not the only one that pays its workers on or before 27th of every month, hence the governor is called the ‘Alter Governor.’
In recognition of the roles of the traditional institutions, the government gives the recognised Igwes money as security vote, and also recognised the President General of each town and partnered with them for grassroots development. The appointments of youths as PAs, SAs, SSAs and Commissioners has helped to bring government plans and policies down to the communities.
The Bayelsa electoral tribunal recently sacked Gov. Douyle Diri. With controversial rulings emanating from the courts, do you think he will get favourable ruling at the Appeal and the Supreme Courts bearing in mind how he emerged governor?
The recent development in Bayelsa State is very unfortunate and goes a long way to show that some actors within the state and federal levels have not given up on Bayelsa State. Most unfortunate is how things have degenerated in our judicial system. Apart from underdevelopment and hunger in the land, the worst legacies of the APC government in Nigeria are in the areas of politicising of the security system, judicial system and impunity against the media.
Governor Diri is not likely to get favourable judgement anywhere, because it is very clear that there are some vested interests in the APC that want to take over Bayelsa State. The earlier the Bayelsans cry out, the better for them.
With politicians strategising over the next general elections, what shape will the 2023 elections take?
The next general elections will not be anything different from the sham we witnessed in 2019. Otherwise, since after the 2019 elections, what efforts have been made to improve the system? The 2023 elections are most likely to be worse because none of the political thugs and hooligans that operated freely in Rivers, Kano, Lagos, Benue, Akwa Ibom, during the 2019 elections and later in Kogi and Bayelsa was arrested and prosecuted. Is there any major change(s) in the electoral agency?
The truth is that the status quo still remains and with the growing insecurity across the country, the barbaric acts witnessed in Kogi and Bayelsa are pointers. And none of the APC leaders have been able to boldly take a cue from the former President Goodluck Jonathan and dared to come out publicly to tell his or her supporters not to kill or rig elections for him or her, or that his personal ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. If we are to witness any significant improvement, then we need to hear them come out to make such public declarations. President Muhammadu Buhari needs to be courageous and sacrificial enough to work towards leaving a legacy in our polity. In doing that the present INEC boss should be shown the way out. Anything short of these, then be sure that 2023 general elections will be a charade, because the party thugs and hooligans have over the period become more daring and more equipped for war by their pay masters.
The advocacy for President of South East extraction is becoming louder. Do you see it possible in 2023? If so, how?
Yes we still believe that an Igbo president in 2023 is sacrosanct. If Nigeria remains solidly united and peaceful, an Igbo man becoming president is inevitable. That will surely usher in a new era of hope, heal old wounds, restore confidence and love among Nigerians.The major threat to Igbo presidency project is the saboteurs within and among the Igbos. Again, there is the fear of likely imposition of an unpopular ‘Igbo man’ by the power brokers. Otherwise, from North to South West, the clamour and support for Igbo Presidency is gaining ground and generating public interest. Well-meaning and respectable individuals and groups from the North and South West have seen the need to work towards stronger unity of the country for justice, fairness, equity and progress.
As for how, we are working round the clock and consultations are ongoing within and outside Nigeria. Our organisation, Eastern Union, is also perfecting an arrangement for peaceful ‘selection’ of a credible and nationally acceptable candidate, to be so presented. We therefore plead and encourage other Nigerian leaders of thoughts to consider the future of our country and lend their support, as that will surely lay to rest many agitations.
NGstudents Team Cares…..