By Wilfred Eya
Former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim is one of those aspiring to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023. He believes that Nigeria requires a man of his experience and antecedents at this time of her history. In this interaction with journalists in Lagos, the former Secretary to the Federal Government, speaks on his ambition among other issues.
Your party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), just had a successful national convention. The newly elected chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, said its success signals the party has come back. Do you share that sentiment?
Of course, I do. The last national convention has actually marked a rebirth of the party and the new leadership is properly elected and properly composed to take the party to a new height.
There are some people who say that while it is true that you succeeded in having a successful national convention, the big elephant in the room still remains not the zoning of party offices but the presidential ticket. Don’t they have a point?
Well, let me answer you the way I said it recently. Zoning or no zoning for me is really not a matter of politics but a matter of equity.
And for someone like me who has come forward to aspire, zoning or no zoning, I will run. So, I don’t see zoning or no zoning being a challenge to the party.
The candidates should run on their own steam but for purposes of equity, we should know that constitutionally, we recognize the fact that there should be Federal Character.
However, let me say that when the PDP set up a zoning committee, the party was specific that the mandate of the committee was restricted to zoning the party offices. So, the issue of zoning the elective offices could come later. So, whether the party will still zone or not, I don’t think it is any issue whatsoever. It wouldn’t affect the fortunes of the party in any way whatsoever.
I decided to contest the 2023 presidential election not because I am from the Southeast but because, first, I am a Nigerian politician who has been in government and who understands what the problems are and so can find solutions to them. I am also that Nigerian politician that is at home in every part of the country – North, East, West and South.
So, it is really not a matter of zoning. I think for 2023, Nigerians should look forward to the best that can refocus the country, reposition the country and build consensus and heal the wounds. So, I think certainly, zoning wouldn’t be a serious challenge.
In other words, you agree with those who are saying that come 2023, competence, rather than zoning should be the watchword?
Sure! I do, because if zoning promotes mediocrity, it is not helping the system. It doesn’t certainly help the nation. However, that is not to say that when you zone, you won’t get competent people from wherever you zone to.
The first issue to resolve and agree on is competence, capacity, capability and ability to run an effective, efficient and inclusive government. And what we are saying is that even when you zone, you should be able to find such a person from where you are zoning to.
You took most people by surprise when you declared your intention to vie for the PDP presidential ticket at the convention ground in Abuja. What informed your decision to travel that route?
I have been in government and I have been around for some good number of years. I have followed the political processes in the country and I have played active roles and I believe that most Nigerians know me very well. So, it is the time I decided to step forward to declare my intention but that is not the time I started to nurse the aspiration.
But it is strategic to come out at a time best suited for the move. Remember that sometime early last year, my posters were all over the internet and I issued a press release disclaiming the posters. I said I did not authorise them. And the reason why I didn’t authorise them, which is true, is that it was too early into the life of the new administration to distract them with campaigns for a new tenure. And I did say that less than two years into the new administration, it will be a distraction for the governance of the country for anybody to talk about aspiration to succeed a government that had just been elected.
So, I think the time I stepped to the plate is the due time. It is the appropriate time to declare that intention.
Why do you want to be president of Nigeria? What should Nigerians expect from an Anyim Presidency?
I aspire to be president of Nigeria because I believe that by my experience, what I know about Nigeria, my very deep knowledge of the country, I will be able to run an inclusive government that will build consensus, restore peace, refocus Nigeria and make the country a place that all of us will be proud of.
So, I believe that the challenges of today are actually a matter of leadership and I will provide that leadership. I will give every segment of this country comfort. I will provide a leadership that will understand how to wield our diversities into an asset. I think that management of our diversities is actually central to the success of the country and I have interacted with various segments of the country. I have participated in running government that affected every part of the country and I know the needs of our diverse groups and I know how to put it together and do a policy thrust that will build a Nigeria of our dream.
But you will admit that your aspiration will remain a pipe dream if the PDP deliberately zones the presidential ticket to any other zone other than the South East. Some people believe that the body language of the PDP tends to suggest that it is looking towards the North.
When we get to the bridge, we will cross it.
You have talked about your being in government, which is true. You were a Senate President and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). Whenever the APC government talks about the “16 ruinous years” of the PDP, you should be part of that alleged dubious legacy. Has the APC any merit in their claim that the PDP misgoverned this country?
I am sure they are no longer saying so. They are rather wooing PDP members to join them. And whenever they succeed in getting any PDP member to join their party, they celebrate it. So, they have reversed themselves and I don’t have anything to add other than to say that they have effectively reversed themselves.
If I join APC today, they will be happy and they will celebrate it. If the former president, Goodluck Jonathan, joins APC today, they will celebrate it to the moon. So, they have reversed themselves and I don’t have anything to add.
Are they wooing you already?
That is very personal. We don’t need to talk about that. Suffice it to say that when my state governor, Dave Umahi, joined them, they celebrated it. When the former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, the spokesman of the last PDP presidential campaign, joined them, they celebrated it and a whole lot of other people.
There is this perception out there that when it comes to politics, Ndigbo are naïve, disunited and cannot present a common front. Is that a correct characterization?
It is not a region or an ethnic group that brings forth candidates for an election. That is the responsibility of a political party. And it is the purpose of primary elections to weed the aspirants and produce a candidate. So, I don’t think anyone should transfer that responsibility to the regions or ethnic groups. It is not any disadvantage whatsoever to any region that a number of people are aspiring.
In fact, it is an advantage for a number of people from a region to aspire because the implication of that is that the political awareness is high and capable people are in their numbers. So, it is the responsibility of the party through their primary election mechanism to prune down the number of aspirants and produce a candidate. So, I don’t think it is anything to blame the Igbo for or shift the responsibility to them.
A PDP chieftain, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, recently penned an opinion article in which he marshalled out points why Ndigbo should not be given the presidency yet, at least not in 2023. He dredged up the issue of the January 15, 1966 coup and the agitation by IPOB. What do you say to that?
I really do not think that that argument deserves my comment. But what I can say is that the insecurity in the land today is across the country, not only in the South East. To my knowledge, the first armed militancy against the government of Nigeria was from the Niger Delta. I also know that the second was from Boko Haram from the North.
I also know that even MASSOB did not get as militant as these other groups until recently when it transmuted to IPOB. I also know that there is extreme armed banditry in the greater part of Northwest and I know that in Katsina State today, you can hardly walk the streets in about 14 local governments. I know that in Kaduna State today, even school children are abducted in their hundreds and released in piecemeal. I know that in Zamfara State, may be, it is only in a few local governments that you can walk about freely. I know that in Niger State, some non-state actors have taken over some local governments.
I know there are agitations in the Southwest for an Oduduwa nation. So, for me, I don’t have anything to say by way of reacting to Raymond Dokpesi’s letter. However, I and my generation are neither part of the 1966 coup nor are we part of the war and so should not be limited by it. But if it is said that the insecurity in the South-East is the reason why an Igbo is not qualified to be president, it means that no Nigerian is qualified to be president because no part of Nigeria is safe today.
Some time ago, I wrote an open letter to the president stating my position on the agitations across the country. And my central recommendation was that the insecurity in the country is becoming unmanageable and I urged the president to empanel a commission of enquiry to ascertain the long and short-term causes of the agitations across the country.
But don’t you see a contradiction in your aspiration and the position of IPOB for a sovereign state of Biafra?
But the Boko Haram is also asking for an Islamic State and Sunday Igboho is also agitating for a sovereign Yoruba nation. I am not supporting that but what I am saying is that as far as I am concerned, security of lives and properties is the responsibility of government. And I know that the first-time armed insurgency started in this dispensation in the Niger Delta, President Olusegun Obasanjo met with them day and night. He had meetings day and night and he was able to extinguish the flames of the agitation to a very large extent by discussion and dialogue.
Where he stopped, President Umaru Yar’Adua continued through amnesty and today, those people are true citizens, living productive lives. Some of them are politicians, some are civil servants and professionals in diverse fields. And for me, you don’t waste your citizens because they are your assets.
As far as I am concerned, it is the responsibility of the government to manage insecurity. So, the government should tell us why they are helpless.
How would you assess the APC government under President Muhammadu Buihari’s watch?
Your guess is as good as mine.
I don’t have a guess.
Maybe, I don’t have either.
Some people have given them pass mark.
Good luck to them.
You seem to be optimistic about Nigeria. What buoys your optimism?
I am optimistic because the challenges that Nigeria faces all boil down to leadership. We have had several governments – military and civilian. In this dispensation, we have had Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan and now we have President Buhari. Compare all of them and you will find out that the problem is leadership. Nigeria was not as bad as it is today under Obasanjo. Nigeria was not as bad as it is today under Goodluck (Jonathan) and I have just given you an instance of how different issues could be managed and different results achieved.
Obasanjo had armed militancy on his hands and he decided to negotiate with them and it was resolved to the point that today, even an effort to reignite the insurgency by another group was rebuffed by the same militants. It couldn’t work.
Now, the other person has a different approach and the situation is as it is today. So, the problem is leadership and once that leadership is improved upon, then we really have little or no problem.
What do you say to people who say that Pius Anyim is corrupt and therefore does not deserve to be president of Nigeria?
Well, I don’t know what you mean by corruption in this context but I want to say that as at today, I do not have any charge in any court of law for any crime whatsoever. So, if people wake up this morning and decide to throw mud because they think that I have the prospects, well good luck to them but I have no criminal charge, I have no corruption charge whatsoever against me anywhere in the world.
What then led to your recent arrest by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)?
Let me emphasize this point, I was neither arrested nor even invited by the EFCC. I went there on my own volition and I clarified that in my press statement after the incident.
However, the EFCC was set up to do a specific job and they are doing their work. So, the fact that EFCC invited you to ask what you know about something and you give them a satisfactory answer, what has it cost you? What has it done to you? It is their work that they are doing.
So, if they find anything, of course, they will take the next step.
What in your own opinion is the most compelling reason why other Nigerians should look towards the Southeast when recruiting the president in 2023?
For purposes of equity, it is necessary that we have all recognized the fact of Federal Character, so the Southeasterners are saying, look this thing has to go round, we are also part of Nigeria and we should be part of it, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, that is not the reason why I am running. I want to be a Nigerian president and like I told you earlier, I can find a home in any part of the country. For me as a person, I am saying that I have a deep knowledge of what the problems are and I have deep ideas of what the solutions could be. And I have relationships across the country and I am comfortable in any part of the country. I will run an inclusive government and I will be sure that I will build consensus that will recognize our diversities and provide the needs of each section of the country.
Nigerians have never been as divided as they are today in the last half of this century. Building the trust that will leapfrog development will be difficult. How do you intend to do that?
Well, I will not share in your pessimism, may be because your ideas of Nigeria may not be exactly mine but I can say that I have been a central player in the affairs of Nigeria in the last two decades and I understand what the challenges are. It is a matter of purposeful leadership and we will have a new direction.
You are aspiring for the PDP ticket. Do you see your party ever beating the APC in 2023?
APGA is beating the APC in the Anambra governorship election as we talk. So, why not PDP in 2023.
But that is at the subnational level. Moreover, APGA is winning the election, not PDP.
It doesn’t matter that it is at the state level. States make up the nation. So, the beating has started and the beating will continue. APC will continue to lose elections because on what basis will they continue to be in power? Why would Nigerians reward them with another mandate in 2023?
Yes, I have been told that the APGA candidate is leading in the polls. That is okay by me. I am pleased that the APC is losing. Even though the PDP didn’t win the election, but I am more elated that the APC lost.
Apparently, your state governor, Dave Umahi, is not enamoured with the PDP as you seem to be. That was why he left to join the APC and ever since then, the state has turned APC. Considering the oversized role governors play, are you not worried that such a man is no longer in the PDP column?
People should make more findings before coming to certain assumptions. Yes, my governor moved, yes as the head of government you cannot say he is a nobody. No! He is somebody. The head of government in Ebonyi moved but the people of Ebonyi did not move. I didn’t move. Senator Sam Egwu, (former governor of the state) did not move, all the National Assembly members did not move. The leaders and elders of the party in the state didn’t move. So, is democracy no longer a matter of numbers anymore? As long as democracy is a matter of numbers, Ebonyi State is PDP.
You are going to receive the ZiK Leadership Award today, how does that make you feel? How did it come about?
I don’t know how it came about except that it was communicated to me that I was nominated for that award in recognition of my past services to the country. And I was delighted. And that is why I accepted to receive the award. I am pleased.
Nigeria seems to have lost its prime position in the committee of nations. Does that bother you? How do you intend to reverse that trend if you become president?
Of course, no well-meaning Nigerian will be comfortable with that situation and that is why I am aspiring to be president in order to bring back Nigeria to its rightful place in the committee of nations. If you make Nigeria functional again through quality leadership, the respect will come back. And it is this quality leadership that I promise to bring on board.
If the PDP does not give you ticket, then what happens?
Again, when we get to the bridge, we cross it. But I will not leave my party. I must make that point very clear. I am a loyal party man and I will remain in the party, work for the party and I will retire from active politics from the PDP. So, I will never change party.
Some people use their presidential aspiration to bargain for the vice presidency. So, if you don’t get the presidential ticket, will you agree to pair with anyone as the running mate?
I am not going for the vice presidency, I am going for the presidency. So, I don’t know how people will jump from one to the other and I am quite clear about my aspiration – it is the presidency. If I don’t get it, I return to my farm and support my party.
Why will you not go for the second best if you miss the best?
I will not go for it because that is not what I am aspiring for.
You have spoken about your being at home in any part of the country. But how are you building the consensus that will prop your aspiration?
It is a matter of strategy which I should not share with the media. But you can make your own findings. I think my candidacy is accepted across the country because I am not just waking up from sleep to say I want to be president of Nigeria. It is a matter of what people think you stand for. It is a matter of what you represent to people over time. And over time, judging from my past records in the Senate and as SGF, I think most Nigerians have come to appreciate the kind of leadership I can provide.
And I can tell you with every sense of humility that before I became Senate President, the Senate was in trouble. It was a very troubled institution and the simple solution I deployed was inclusive administration and the whole place calmed down.
And today, looking back, I am proud to say that I ran a Senate where nobody cared about where you come from or which faith you profess. Whatever was due to you, you got it without any extra effort and everybody had the confidence in me and everybody was part of the administration and everybody was comfortable. The consequence was that people focused on their job and we were productive.
How were you able to survive the famous banana peels of the Obasanjo presidency?
I am always reluctant to talk about Obasanjo. But all I know and what I say to people is that whatever you see happening in the National Assembly is a function of the character of the person in the Villa (Aso Rock).
So, if you have a calm and peaceful National Assembly, may be the source of that peace is the character of the person in the Villa but for me, I think that I did my job with total commitment to the country. Obasanjo also did his job with due commitment to the country. Whatever that was between us was a matter of official relationship.
Is it not possible for the legislature to be as independent as the Constitution envisages?
The legislature was independent under my leadership.
But it seems not to be quite so now.
I don’t know.
How were you able to achieve that independence?
If you are trying to compare, I will not go into that because the factors, the situations and the circumstances may not be the same and I don’t give in to comparing my time with any other person’s time because, first, the presidents are not the same, the circumstances are not the same and the political actors, are not the same. All I know is that I managed the challenges of my time and I ran a very productive Senate.
The problem of insecurity is getting out of hand in the North. The situation there typifies the Hobbesian state of nature where life is nasty, short and brutish. Why is it so?
It is not only in the North that we have the problem of insecurity. There is insecurity across the country.
But it is more there
No part of the country is spared. There is insecurity in the country and I insist that security of lives and properties is the primary responsibility of government and the APC government should tell us why they are helpless.
But the APC counters such argument when they say the PDP-led governments in 16 years frittered away petrol dollars that accrued to this country but even with less, they are building legacy projects.
But, like I said earlier, they are celebrating PDP people now. They are bringing PDP people to come and run the government for them. Do you know how many PDP members that are now ministers in the APC government? Can you count them?
The Southern Governors Forum is insisting that the presidency should come to the South in 2023. Are you in agreement?
As far as I am concerned, I am aspiring and I am contesting as a Nigerian. And I have told you before that the clamour for the presidency of Nigeria, one way or the other has a whole lot in its basket, people approach it from various perspectives.
But for me, I am aspiring as a Nigerian who has been part of the system and understand the problems and who has clarity of what solutions to deploy in solving the problems.
If someone addresses it from the point of rotation which is a principle even in our party Constitution, of course, it should be North and South. If somebody addresses it from the perspective of equity, of course, it makes sense. So, I do not need to agree or disagree with anyone. All I know is that I am running for the presidency.
Some Nigerians are not comfortable with the country’s indebtedness but the government insists it is borrowing for infrastructure which the PDP refused to do in 16 years. Are you comfortable with the borrowing?
Without saying so much, my question will be, have you felt the impact of this borrowed money? If you have not, then why are we borrowing? Have you felt the impact of the borrowed money on infrastructure?
In any case, go back and check how many of the projects were done by the PDP before APC came on board. The Abuja-Kaduna rail project, for instance, was ready before APC came into office. Even the locomotives had been ordered for. So, what are we talking about?
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
document.getElementById( “ak_js” ).setAttribute( “value”, ( new Date() ).getTime() );
By Wilfred Eya Former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim is one of those aspiring to succeed President…
Fill the forms below to register
Please enter your username or email address to reset your password.
– Select Visibility -PublicPrivate