In this interview, national chairman of the National Democratic Party (NDP) Chudi Chukwuani, spoke on the vote buying phenomenon, the recent realignments among political parties in the country and other national issues. He spoke with CHIBUZO UKAIBE.
What do you make of the coalition that is building up against the APC and the President in 2019?
Well it is what is expected in a diverse political configuration such as the one we have in Nigeria. At least our political class are now realising that go it alone is not the best way of achieving a political objective. It must be said that the present day ruling party APC is a child of political coalition so it is all for the betterment of politics in Nigeria.
Is your party in any of the coalition arrangements so far?
Currently our party NDP (National Democratic Party) we are not engaged in any coalition agreement for now.
Are there any plans for your party to join a coalition camp because it does appear that parties are beginning to align along lines of either the PDP and APC?
Yes, there is plan for our party, NDP, to join either of the coalition of PDP and APC. But one thing our party NDP shall never do is to join the “coalition of Bandits and Treasury looters “.
Should the quality of the opposition coalition be a source of concern for the incumbent?
As it appears for now the public perception is that we are seeing for now is what is being termed as a “coalition of Bandits and Treasury looters “ and as such it is not yet a threat to the incumbent.
Talking about governance, you once advocated a cabinet shake up as a way to address some of the challenges faced by the administration and that hasn’t happened yet. What do you think?
I believe that a number of factors are mitigating against the President on embarking on cabinet reshuffle for now. One of the major mitigation factors being the frosty relationship that currently exists between the Executive Arm and the Legislative Arm especially the Senate and its Leadership. I believe that the President does not want to be embroiled in a long drawn out confirmation drama as witnessed in the confirmation/non-confirmation of the EFCC chairman.
Could the presidency have handled the relationship with the National Assembly any better or is the National Assembly totally to blame?
I believe both sides, they share on the blame. The way and manner the leadership of the National Assembly emerged is a result of the direct negative influence of the “national leader of the APC” who wanted to have total control of all the apparatus of government around the President. You will also remember that it was also at a time the President was not at full strength due to his illness. The net effect was that the President was not able at that time to assert himself as the leader of the APC to the exclusion of anybody else.
It’s more than three years into this administration and the security crisis continues to rage, what is your assessment of the situation? Why has it lingered this long?
I am completely in sync with Mr President that some of the security instability is being instigated by politicians and substantial evidence abound to support the position of Mr President. I believe that it is high time the President stop treating these political instigators of security breaches with kid gloves. These misguided politicians who threaten the national security interest of the Nigerian state must be ruthlessly dealt with.
You said substantial evidence abound to show that politicians are behind the crisis, can you share some of them?
The evidence is already in the public space. For example in Benue State the police already have in custody political officials that have been identified as sponsors of the horrible mayhem there, same as was the case in Kwara, Plateau, Rivers and others. Therefore, I am taking this opportunity to urge Mr. President to without delay and without consideration of any political favour declare immediately a state of emergency in Zamfara, Borno, Benue, Taraba, Plateau and Rivers States. And Mr President should make it clear that the Federal Government is ready and able to declare a state of emergency in any state were there’s a break down of law and order or any agitation of break-up of any constituent part of Nigeria.
What is your perception of the Executive Order 6 on asset forfeiture, amid the debate it has generated so far?
I believe that the Executive Order 6 is perfectly in order and was drawn and signed in line with the due process of the law! If anyone is against it the person is at liberty to ventilate its opposition in a court of law.
The Ekiti elections held last Saturday throwing up lots of drama and strong narratives amid allegations of assaults, what is your reaction to the events leading to and after the Ekiti State elections?
I believe that what played out in Ekiti is pure crude politics on the part of the Governor. General Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR is the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Federal Republic of Nigeria period. Simple decency and courtesy would have informed the Governor, Fayose to extend courtesy to the office of the President of Nigeria by going to the airport to receive the President. Afterwards the Governor is at liberty to inform the President good luck at your rally I am now going to my party rally too and may the best party win. It was very wrong and crude for the governor to commandeer all the transport vehicles and motorcycles in the state and lock them up in the government house! That’s economic sabotage and the Police is there to maintain enforce the law and maintain peace for all peoples in Ekiti residents and visitors alike. Can you now imagine what some of these Governors will do if we had state police and the governors are in charge of state police? We hope that the misguided agitators for state Police and the so called restructuring can learn a lesson or two from the warped politics of Ekiti. Nigeria must remain an indivisible entity with a strong central government.
What is your reaction to the outcome of the polls?
It was essentially an easy win for APC. The so called coalition which was formed prior to the election went missing and cold. The PDP can not expect to win any election in a state where the workers are being owed seven months salary and pensioners are being owed several months arrears. Therefore all the antics of neck brace, tear gas and disrespect to the office of the President has come home to roost.
The vote buying phenomenon which played out during the Anambra, Edo and Ondo elections also happened in Ekiti, signalling that it has perhaps come to stay. What does it portend for 2019?
Vote buying is illegal under our laws and gravely distorts the democratic process. INEC has gravely failed in their statutory responsibility and should be held responsible. Till date INEC has been unable to prosecute or sanction any political party for running fowl of our electoral laws. INEC has rather assumed the role of an empty barrel that makes the most noise. From reports filed by election observers in the field, agents of the two leading political parties APC and PDP were caught on video paying cash money to voters in exchange for their votes and yet INEC has not seen it fit to sanction any of the offenders. So in answer to your question, vote buying portends a clear and present danger to the 2019 general elections.
The opposition and even some leaders have expressed concerns over the 2019 general elections against the backdrop of what they fear might not be free and fair polls, do you share such view?
I believe that the security deployment for the Ekiti elections and withdrawal of security details from the political leaders on the day of election is a clear pointer that the Nigerian security forces are ready and able to ensure peaceful free and fair elections. And I salute the IGP and the DIG for their courage and wish them luck. The 2019 General Elections will be peaceful free and fair as long as our security forces draw up a strategic security plan and INEC deliver its materials on time and handles its assignment in consonance with the provisions of the law. Problems with Elections are always due to INEC not obeying the orders of court. For example, INEC has deliberately and negligently refused to obey the order of the Court of Appeal Enugu division that said that INEC deregistration of political parties is unconstitutional. INEC chairman and its commissioners are reminded that they are unelected power and must obey the Order of the second highest court of the land. We cannot have a free and fair elections as long as INEC continues to be in breach of the order of Court respecting deregistration of political parties.
Does the security architecture of Nigeria at the moment inspire confidence ahead of the 2019 polls?
Events so far has shown that both the executive and legislative arm of government have expressed serious concerns on the current security challenges facing our nation. The country has always had a good security architecture the problem has always been on implementation and adequate funding. The best security assets the country has are always deployed to protect the political leadership, bank chief executives, foreign contractor executives, and their families and most times these security assets are used for running domestic errands.
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