Senator Annie Okonkwo represented Anambra Central Senatorial Zone of Anambra State in the 6th Senate. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the politician, businessman advises the president to sack the service chiefs and scrap the anti-graft agencies. He also speaks on the 2015 presidential contest and other topical issues
Are you worried that the executive thinks that motions are not binding on them. What does this portend for our nascent democracy?
I think it is a major problem in our constitution because that has not really helped. It happened in our time and it is happening now. It is worse when important motions are moved by Nigerians through their legislators and it requires the executive to sign and it is not done. I think it requires constitutional amendment so that motions passed by the legislature will be taken seriously.
Just like inthe judiciary; when they judge gives an order, it is carried out. I think that is where the constitution is faulty; one arm of government cannot do everything. I think it must be spelt out in the constitution clearly.
Still on the legislature; were you surprised with some of the revelations that came out during the pension funds probe and the subsidy probe report?
The truth is that the fraud is endemic. People have been involved in this for a long time. That is what we have been complaining in the 6th Senate. You find out that, government brings a budget, 80% of it is recurrent and overhead. So you ask yourself, how come there is no money for capital? You see this huge amount of money and you cannot even question it.
You cannot be able to determine how many staff is there, how are they paid? You just see a lump sum for pension; you don’t know who it is being paid for. For capital you can say that, this is what is being done for, this is the particular road or building they are constructing.
The executive and the civil servants decide to hide under that to perpetuate lots of fraud. A lot of revelations are still coming out; this is just a tip of the ice berg.
What are the chances of the reports being implemented because previous reports are still lying dormant?
That is the problem we have because as far as I am concerned, once a report is turned-up by the National Assembly, it is for the executive to act on it. But the constitution did not allow it to happen. It is now left for Nigerians to act on it; they have to make the executive implement the reports.
The truth is that, all the problems we have stem from corruption.If we see that things are wrong and we do not want to go and address it and think that, it does not concern me, one day it will be your business.
Our trouble in Nigeria is corruption. This 1999 Constitution must be amended if we want to progress in our democracy. There are lots of loopholes that will not allow our democracy to thrive. It was hurriedly done by the military.
What can Nigerians do to completely eradicate corruption in our polity? Some people have advocated for capital punishment, what you would suggest?
First of all, I don’t think that, capital punishment is the best thing. I believe a lot of sacrifices to solve this problem.People must be able to come out plainly in order to start finding ways to curtail corruption. Even in civilized world, there is corruption, but it is not at the same level we are experiencing in Nigeria and the worse is that, nobody cares about it.
We have created lots of agencies to fight corruption, but I think they are just avenues to create money for the boys. Most of them are politically motivated. Even in the face of all these, the EFCC and ICPC are not working…
Are you saying they should be scrapped?
We should go back to our former system; lets straighten the police - and they have all this division is the police. If there is a crime, it is the same police that are called in, most of the people in these agencies are from the police, so why should you create an organization that will breed corruption?
It is the same police man that was drafted to EFCC that will earn more than his counterpart in the barracks. So they struggle to get a place in EFCC, and it is only the favored ones that go there. We should scrapped EFCC and ICPC because those breed corruption.
Would you subscribe to capital punishment?
I do not subscribe for capital punishment; we should put up a system that people can be imprisoned and forfeit their assets. There is a lot of punishment that can be used.
But can you say that this government is capable of fighting corruption
I have not seen it. The instrument of fighting corruption is corrupt. We must as a matter of fact go back to the basics in order to do things the way it was done before.
How would you assess the President Goodluck Jonathan administration so far?
To me, I believe Jonathan has good intentions for Nigeria from day one. But the president is a one man person; he is not in control of the whole system.
If he has good intentions and the system is bad, it is unfortunate; we must agree that the system is bad. Even if you bring a pope and the system is bad, there is nothing the pope can do alone.
Feelers from the south /south is that they want the president to contest in 2015, would you support such moves
For me, President Jonathan has not told us that he wants to contest elections and these are part of issues that each zone must do something about. We must realize that we are part of zones and the people from the south/east zone are determined more than ever to contest the presidency in 2015.
We have started consulting other zones; they should give them the opportunity. That is why we have federal character and other things so that each zone has a sense of belonging. We must be able to encourage other zones that have not been in the helm of affairs. I think that Jonathan understands that and he will give other zones opportunity to rule.
What are the chances of an Igbo man emerging president in 2015?
I think any day an Igbo man becomes president of this country, all these problems will be solved. Because we are very hard working and we are concerned about a united Nigeria.
Still on the south/east, since Dim Ojukwu passed on, there seems to be a leadership vacuum in the zone, who is the new leader?
As far as I am concerned, there is no leadership vacuum. We have leaders in the south/east, Ojukwu was a role model and he had his own style which all of us recognized and we had very deep respect for his persona and will continue to do so.
They have been complaining of marginalization for a long time, what they really want apart from the presidency?
When you talk of marginalization, it is very clear to all Nigerians because today, we are the only zone that has five states; we have the lowest local government. So we must be integrated into the whole country, we must be allowed to have the same number of states.
If the other zones are not the same, then we are marginalized. They have been talking about building second Mainland Bridge yet, up till date nothing has happened.
Are you worried about the spate of violence and destruction that is being unleashed on Nigeria by the Boko Haram sect?
Everybody is worried; it has surpassed that of June 12. We don’t expect Nigeria to go to this level. A lot of people are trying to make it look like religious war, but I don’t think so, because they are also killing Muslims. We need to find out who and who are behind them because they are Nigerians.
I think government has enough system to know who are in charge. If people tasked with the mandate to solve such problems cannot do their jobs, they should resign. They cannot be on the seat and Nigerians are being destroyed every day.
But the sect has come out clearly to say that they want Nigeria to be divided, don’t you think this is likely to happen with the way?
As far as I am concerned, no single individual or region will want to divide this country. I have said before that the worst that will happen is to convene a Sovereign National Conference…
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But you see, at a particular time, you find out that there is nothing anybody can do. We must sit down and decide how we will live in this country. It is not a question of National Assembly or not right now, the issue is that we have issues right now.
Because even if the National Assembly enacts laws or motions, it is to executed, so how do we solve the problems? We must be able to find out the people that are doing this and pursue them as a country.
What advice can you give government on how to solve these problems?
I believe that security issues are not things you will say in the papers. I might have my ideas to give but I have not been consulted.
What are your plans for 2015?
I am focusing more on a group we have formed called C-21. I am the president and it is an Igbo organization that is looking forward to Igbo empowerment, to see that the Igbo man starts redeeming their image in the country, it is so that an Igbo man can become relevant. For me, I am focusing on transforming this organization.
We are going from state to state.We have started with prayers in Owerri to seek the face of God. We want to see how we can make the Igbo people relevant in the schemes of things towards 2015.so personally, I still have two years to decide what I will like to do for 2015.