Charles Anike, a political activist, is the National President of Eastern Union (EU), a political pressure group for the people of Old Eastern Region. In this interview with SIMPLE IKEM, he spoke on the controversies surrounding the Supreme Court judgments on Imo and Bayelsa states governorship elections, among other crucial issues. Excerpt:
TNE: How do you see the demands for the review of the Supreme Court judgment on the Imo State governorship election?
The protests against the Supreme Court ruling on the Imo State governorship election and the demand for its review was justifiable, however, the demands are no longer necessary. It was necessary and justifiable at the early stage because every institution of governance is subject to correction, especially in a democratic society like ours. Every well-meaning citizen and even the Apex Court Justices knew that they erred on the Imo State governorship election verdict. I can tell you that since then, it has been struggling to redeem itself and its image. But, the truth is that a reversal is the only way out. Otherwise, it will remain a reference against the panel of justices and the Supreme Court. However, the continued protests are no longer necessary, else it will turn out to be a child’s play. Since the abuse and impurity has been exposed, the follow up should be the duty of the legal team to avoid exposing anybody to any deadly counter.
TNE: What is your take on the upturning of the election of David Lyon as the Bayelsa State governor by the Supreme Court and the return of the state to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
The turn of event in Bayelsa is a welcome development, considering the fact that the elections in both Kogi and Bayelsa states were nothing, but bloodletting exercises. In fact, outright cancellation should have been better. Also, we just said the Supreme Court is presently battling to save its soul because in the eyes of many Nigerians and even the international community it has considerably lost its sacredness due to its ruling on the presidential election petition and the Imo State governorship election. However, the Bayelsa case is necessary to serve as a deterrent to those who are presenting falsified documents for public services. How we wish the apex court was courageous enough to do same on presidential election petition against the incumbent president.
TNE: The South-West Houses of Assembly are at the state of passing the bills to legalise the South-West Security Network, aka Amotekun. How do you see this development?
The steps of the Assemblies of the South-West states are in the right direction. We wish other state Assemblies can emulate them. You must understand that the first law of nature is self-defence. Any responsible government must not toy or joke with security because you cannot talk of development in a state of insecurity as we are currently witnessing across the country. We can tell you categorically that the development is a good omen. We commend the governors and leaders of South-West for the commitment and courage to lead the way for the gradual restructuring of the country.
TNE: What is your take on the emergence of a regional security outfit in the North immediately after the launching of the Amotekun by the South-West states?
The regional security outfit in the North is a welcome development, if only it was formed in good faith. The north should have taken the lead with respect to such formations, considering the loss of lives in the region for about a decade now. That is why many still believe that most of the northern leaders have hands and are benefiting from all the forms of killings in the region, call it Boko Haram, banditry or herdsmen attacks. Otherwise, how can these rate of killings be going on in the region for years and the leaders are just watching. We still believe that if they take a decisive stand, the killings will surely come to an end. Thank God that the South-West leaders have led the way. Unfortunately, the northern ‘Operation Shege Ka Fasa’ already has a question mark, going by the denial of the group by the Northern governors and some northern leaders. Nevertheless, the Northern leaders should come out clear and take a stand against the activities of Boko Haram, bandits, herdsmen attacks, kidnapping and other crimes. That will help to dispel the doubts of their patronage to the deadly groups. The courageous moves by the South-West leaders should be the pointer. They should shun hypocrisy and propaganda to face the reality, after all, it is no longer Goodluck Jonathan on the saddle. The known history of Boko Haram, banditry and other such deadly groups are traceable to northern leaders and their total leadership failure at all levels.
TNE: The South-East governors and Ohanaeze Ndigbo are said to be divided on the form the region’s security outfit should take. What is your view on this, bearing in mind that it was first mooted that the region had established its outfit with headquarters in Ebonyi State?
The South-East governors are not courageous enough to take a cue from their South-West counterparts. Their stand is betrayal and sabotage of the security and well-being of our people. The present set of governors in the South East lack courage and capacity to protect the people. This can be confirmed by the inaction of the Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, during series of attacks on the citizens. His only response was to pay condolence visits and then join the people to weep and that ends it. We hear they joined force with the Ohanaeze Ndigbo to reject the community policing arrangement. We must not allow our governors, some of who have been bought over, to create any loophole that will warrant further attacks on our people. We cannot afford to waste the life of anybody or mortgage the interest of our people due to selfish ambition. The same community policing that people of North Central rejected is what our South East governors are advocating for. We vehemently reject that and urge our people to reject it the same way our forefathers rejected Warranted Chiefs created by the colonial masters.
THE: With the killing of Nigerians by the Boko Haram, herdsmen, bandits as well as high wave of kidnapping, how do you see the calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare state of emergency on security?
The call on the President to declare state of emergency is a waste of time. Any meaningful call for now should be that the President should throw in the towel and honorably resign from office. We can tell you categorically that in a civilised society, where people treasure integrity, the President would have on his own accord resigned, having tried all his strategies to no avail. Remember that his first strategy immediately after his inauguration in 2015 was to relocate the Service Chiefs. The call is therefore unnecessary because the President is already overwhelmed. The only option left for the President, if truly he is a man of integrity as always claimed, is to honorably resign from office and hand over to his Vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
TNE: The President has continued to ignore the calls to sack the Security Chiefs and re-jig the nation’s security architecture. How do you see this development?
As we said earlier, the President has been overwhelmed by the level of insecurity in the country. We can assure you he has completely ran out of ideas on what to do. Moreover, he would not use or trust people from other tribes, except his Fulani kinsmen. That explains largely why he has been ignoring such calls. The President and the APC have always tried to compare the rate of killings under the previous administration and present government. This is among the reasons the President has not seen the need to sack the security chiefs or try to re-organise the national security. Therefore, the call should be well directed to the extent that the President himself should tow the path of honour for posterity and resign, to prove to Nigerians in particular and the world at large that he is indeed Mr. Integrity as he claimed to be. There is no doubt that his resignation will usher in a new era of hope and prosperity for the entire nation and make him a hero, like his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan.
TNE: Tension is mounting in Edo State following the crisis between the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, and the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, to the extent that the house of a factional APC Secretary was bombed. What is your view on the situation bearing in mind that the state will soon go for the governorship election?
The Edo crisis is very unfortunate and requires the urgent intervention of well-meaning citizens across the country. The available information shows that the APC National Chairman is at the centre of the crisis. That is very unfortunate because for a man like that to fuel crisis in his home state does not show any sense of statesmanship. Mr. Oshiomhole’s actions and activities since he assumed position as a governor and then national chairmanship of the ruling APC have really taught a lot of Nigerians some lessons. He has really shown that leadership is not for the smooth talkers and the braggadocio.
If the Edo crisis is not urgently attended to by the leaders of the party in South-South, it may lead to a lot of bloodletting as was witnessed in the old Ondo State during the Second Republic. If this is allowed, the carnage at the recent Kogi governorship election would be child’s place.
The APC National Chairman should be advised to concentrate on building his party and allow the Edo governor to concentrate on bringing dividends of democracy to the people. Mr. Oshiomhole should understand that the era of godfatherism is gone. Afterall, he did not tolerate godfathers during his reign in Edo State. Maybe, he has forgotten that whatsoever a man sows, he must also reap. The Edo governor is not obliged to take his instructions. It will be better he goes the way of his Lagos State associate (Tinubu vs Ambode). But, he must also understand that the terrain is entirely not the same.
TNE::Would you say the current tilting of security on regional lines would not be an easier way to restructuring of the federation since everyone seems to be thinking on regional lines?
Let me tell you, the only way out of our present quagmire is to go back to the 1959 Independence Constitution. That was the constitution that brought us together and everything about our coming together was discussed and agreed upon. Every other constitution after that was characterized by falsehood and will continue to keep us under tension, hatred and suspicion of one another. The 1979 Constitution and all the amended constitutions are nothing but military creation and cannot be sustained. Mind you, if our leaders keep pretending and continue to deceive themselves, something more than restructuring will happen. By then, their eyes will be clear. We have clamoured for restructuring and now something more than restructuring is on the way. That time, the things they are afraid of today will swallow them up. We must go back to the regional arrangement, if we still love to be together as one nation. We expect the present day leaders to keep selfishness aside and face the realities on ground. Once we go back to the 1959 Constitution, all the security challenges and tension will disappear. Those who are afraid of restructuring of the country are shortsighted and lazy because every part of this country is blessed and well endowed. But, if they refuse, they should be ready to lose everything soon. Amotekun is the first step towards restructuring.
TNE: What is your view on the setting up of a Constitution Review Committee by the Senate and the disclosure that the committee will consider both the 2014 National Conference Report and the El-Rufai committee Reports?
The Constitutional Review Committee, as far as we are concerned, is a waste of time and resources. We can sincerely tell you that this 9th Assembly lack capacity to effect any meaningful changes. The way and manner it was constituted and their ‘Bow and Go’ method during the Ministerial nominees screening and many more has left a lot of doubts on their capability and sincerity of purpose. Since inception the 9th Assembly, especially the senate has not proven to be independent of the executive, for example the controversial Hate Speech Bill being debated, was clearly an Executive Bill. Therefore, how can Nigerians trust the Senate Constitutional Review Committee to deal with issues holistically. The foundation of the 9th Assembly is faulty. So, it will be highly difficult, if not impossible, for a bad tree to bare good fruits.
We recommend the review of the Independence Constitution. That is the constitution that will bring us back on track and guarantee our mutual love for one another once more and the corporate existence of the country. Through it, the current imbalances, marginalisation and corruption will be addressed.
TNE: How do you see the delisting of 74 political parties by INEC?
That action of the INEC is an excise in futility. They delisted 74 parties and have received over 100 new applications. So, very soon you will hear that they have registered another 74 or more parties? Who is fooling who? We must understand that everything that has merits also has demerits. If we are ready to practice democracy, then, we must be ready to accommodate all the excess that are associated with the practice. We have watched some political stalwarts whose parties’ are favoured coming to the public to say things that are comfortable to them. But, if their parties were affected, they would have come out to spit fire. Democracy is an opportunity for the best to rule the rest, irrespective of platform. You don’t have to narrow people’s chances of offering themselves for elections. There should even be opportunity for people to emerge as independent candidates for any position, if really we mean to practice real and unfettered democracy. By limiting people’s chances, you give room to corruption and extortion by the political parties henchmen.
The only thing INEC can do is not to fund political parties in any form. But, the Freedom of Association of Nigerian citizens, as contained in our constitution, should and must be respected by the INEC. We, therefore in strong terms, condemn the action of the INEC.
TNE::Bearing in mind the recent botched impeachment of Donald Trump, could you compare the impeachment processes in Nigeria and that of United States of America? Do you think Nigeria should adopt the US model?
We must recognise the fact that America society is sophisticated and respects the views and opinions of every American. This is unlike here, where everything is based on tribe, religion and wealth. Everything in America is based on merit and justice, while Nigeria is the direct opposite. America is a society where almost all the citizens are literate, unlike Nigeria where even the educated ones are enslaved by tribal and religious sentiments.
Nigeria is not a stable society and does not have a well defined political system. We borrow from both American Presidential system and the British Cabinet system. So, there is no clear political arrangement. Our system is more of a Unitary system. But, we pretend to be running American federal system. Our system is still seriously influenced by the long military experiences. Therefore, it will be difficult to adopt the American model under the present false foundation and imbalances that characterise our political space. We need to go back to where we were coming from because it is obvious we don’t know where we are going. Otherwise, there will be no peace, not to talk of progress.