Prof ABC Nwosu is a former minister of Health and a member of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT). In this interview with CHIBUZO UKAIBE, he speaks about the state of the nation, his party’s presidential candidate and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), ahead of the general elections next year
The parties primaries have held and the candidates have emerged, for the benefit of hindsight what is your impression of the processes and the polity?
I think the primaries were major in the light of what is happening in the country. However my main concern in this country is not just the poverty or the minimum wage or second or the third or fourth Niger bridge. My main concern in this country is that we are descending rapidly into the same period of tyranny that some of us struggled to free ourselves from. I was part of all politicians’ summit in Eko Holiday Inn.
I am aware that some of our colleagues got jailed- members of G-34 especially Abubakar Rimi and Sule Lamido in the process of fighting the tyranny of Gen Abacha. In those days, our freedom and rights were curtailed because there was no democracy. It was God that saved us from that tyranny. But I am frightened at the speed with which we are descending with our eyes wide open. Three examples will suffice. Court grants bail, gives court orders and they are not obeyed, it is not done in a democracy.
Two, the Unity Fountain was a beehive of civil protests in the recent past especially the Bring Back Our Chibok Girls who were sitting out there on a daily basis. They were not molested by security agencies. One of the female presidential aspirants today was very active then. She has tried it recently and her on the ground. You should now see that there is a basic difference. Go there now, it is occupied by police dogs, armoured cars and a lot of policemen.
The third one is that it is now dangerous to get on the street to protest. You saw even how high ranking members of the PDP were tear-gassed because they tried to express their dissatisfaction with the handling of the Osun State governorship election which, by the way, was a disgrace. But during the PDP administration, the opposition could occupy Nigeria. I want to tell Nigerians that that is the major danger that we face. The major danger that we face is not food on our table, it’s not electric power supply; it is the fact that you don’t have your God-given human rights and freedoms are being curtailed by human beings who you have put in charge.
If you don’t realise this, you are making a major mistake. Now on the primaries, everybody saw that APC had no presidential primaries. In many local governments, it was by acclamation, raising of hands which translated into millions of votes. How did they count them- the raising of hands? PDP tried to do that-affirmation for Jonathan and we saw where it left us. The concern now is whether you like it or not, that affirmation will be made to be the real thing because the APC will want to force it down our throats whether we like it or not and since we have lost your basic freedoms, it will go. Compare that with the PDP, there was fire on the mountain before Port Harcourt was accepted as venue for the convention. Everybody thought that PDP will shatter into numerous pieces after the primaries. But PDP cloned the 1998 primaries, a very transparent election where late Chief Alex Ekwueme conceded.
In 2018, it was as transparent as ever. Governor Wike was there with his colleagues laughing but still voting for who his mind told him to vote for and when the candidate emerged, all of the aspirants in unison went to embrace the candidate, Atiku Abubakar even before the result was declared. This is the difference between the PDP and the APC. The PDP brought democracy out of Abacha’s regime to Nigeria, maintained it for 16 years and even before the results were announced , peacefully handed it over to the opposition.
That is what people with democratic credentials do. Some people can argue that authoritarian regimes also provide roads and railways and other infrastructure. But the difference is always that rule of law and respect for human rights and dignity remain the principal attributes of a civilised democratic government and Nigeria under the APC government is matching , descending rapidly into what professor Snider of Yell university calls “the road to un-freedom.”
While some will perceive your views as partisan, it is believed that the difference between PDP and APC is that of six and half a dozen because apart from few individuals, the people that form the bulk of APC were former PDP members?
I am a member of the PDP Board of Trustees so everything I will say is partisan, you can see it that way. But I am also Prof ABC Nwosu with a soul, not just a body and spirit. I have a soul that cares about Nigeria. I took school certificate just a year after president Buhari in 1962. I am not a young man; I went to school when our anthem was “God Save Our Queen” , I mean senior secondary school. I went to the University of Ibadan but fled to the University of Nigeria because of the crisis. The set before me graduated in 1967 by 9pm because of Biafra. Instead of graduating in 1968, I had to wait till 1971 to graduate and in between that, I was a commissioned officer and fought as an officer in the Biafran army. No excuses, I wasn’t conscripted; many of my mates were not conscripted at all, we volunteered. At the end of the war, we dropped our weapons. We were not demobilised; we dropped our weapons, went back to the University of Nigeria, I became a Commonwealth scholar, came back to teach in Nigeria, became a professor in Nigeria, served as commissioner and minister in Nigeria.
To me Biafra was dead once it became clear to me that I was safe in Nigeria. My first son is married to a Yoruba woman and daughter is married to a Benin man. I love being a Nigerian but what am I seeing now? I am now questioning whether really I am wanted in Nigeria by the actions of the APC government. That is dangerous. It hasn’t happened before. These are problems that are being exacerbated by the nonsensical 97, 5 per cent policy. For a person who has made up his mind that anywhere he finds himself in Nigeria he will give his best and you are labelling him 97, per cent, 5per cent. You are excluding him from the security. How do you think the people there will feel, both the elite and the commoners? Any minister from the South-east who says he is happy in the APC government is deceiving himself and deceiving the government.
He knows he’s not, they are our brethren, we see them. But when you have been out in the storm for too long and rain has beaten you for too long and you can’t endure the rain any further, they put you in a shelter, you tend to tolerate the things which the majority of your people will not tolerate. I won’t go beyond that. So I am also likely to be partisan because I am PDP; I am also likely to be truthful and tell how I feel because I am Prof ABC Nwosu with this background because I have a soul and because I desire to be a Nigerian.
What’s your take on the division of the Igbo leaders on who to support in the 2019 presidential election. While some favour Buhari/Osinbajo ticket, others prefer Atiku/Obi candidacy?
There’s no division. The Igbo People met in Enugu, the Enugu State capital. You can check, every Igbo man who is an Igbo man was there. It’s the right of anybody to support whoever he wants. Let the other groups go and summon a meeting in the same Enugu, the venue is available; let them summon it in Onitsha or Umuahia. We have a saying, when somebody does not like you, in Igbo, you don’t like that person back. You even show that person that it is one-one, it’s draw. Igbos are known for daring people to do their worse, that the land is owned by both your father and his father. I came back from Nnewi, my town to Enugu to board an aircraft recently.
The minister for work said the Enugu-Onitsha road is done. But I didn’t drive on a federal road because of it’s state. We had to sneak in through a good road to Awka built by governor Obi and others. We joined the one built by the Sullivan Chime and Governor Ugwuanyi to Enugu. Everybody from the eastern part knows that is the road, everybody knows that you can’t go from Aba to Port Harcourt and yet the minister of works is telling us these roads are going on. Why hasn’t it pricked your conscience that nobody from the South-east extraction is in your security council and yet python is dancing everyday in the east. So when you dislike somebody, why should the person like you? So there is no division in the South-east. Anywhere you like, you can get people to pay courtesy call and declare. My challenge to them is to call Igbos. The meeting at Enugu was not Ohaneze. But in attendance were traditional rulers, Igbo elders, including, retired chief of Army staff, Gen Azubuike Ihejirika, Commodore Alison Madueke, chief of naval staff and Gen Ike Nwachukwu. Prof Anya O. Anya was there, the communique was read by Olisa Agbakoba and keynote address was given by Goddy Uwazuruike. All Igbo leaders of note were there. So how could there be division in Igboland?
What about APC South-east leaders?
Nobody stopped them from attending the Igbo meeting. I have told you that in any society everybody does not think alike. But I have challenged them to call a meeting and go into the field. I am not saying they can’t. We are all contending for the Igbo heart and soul. If they think that the Igbo people will follow them to APC because the party is the road to salvation let it be.
But there was opposition against the candidacy of Peter Obi as the vice presidential candidate, where did it come from?
Have you heard anything about it again? Have you not seen the vice presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi with the people who had raised that? It’s normal in a family. When something is coming and you may think it may come to you or go to another person, then it goes to somebody. If you are dissatisfied and it becomes clear to you that this cannot go on, you stop. The Igbo have since moved far away from that. Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo was not nationally known before he assumed his current position? Wasn’t everybody expecting Fashola to be the vice president? Has the west not moved away from it a long time? When Atiku emerged Vice President, wasn’t it Abubakar Rimi that was expecting to be? It is the prerogative of the candidate to choose whom he wants to work with.
Were Ndigbo consulted in any form on the choice of Obi?
Were the Northerners consulted in any form before Atiku was chosen by Obasanjo? You forget I was Obasanjo’s first political adviser. I was there right from the beginning. Were the Yorubas consulted when it was Osinbajo? How many governors consult the entire state before they choose their deputies? People raise all kinds of questions I don’t know where they are coming from except that the people are just unhappy that the PDP has decided you can’t have exclusion politics and have brought the South-east that people don’t want to play at the centre to come and play at the centre. All these questions are neither here nor there. It is the prerogative of the candidate, once he has emerged to choose who he can work with based on his programmes and the direction he wants to take the country. In this case, Atiku himself said to Ndigbo, that he took a look at the candidates available and chose Peter Obi. That’s what he said to us at a private meeting in Enugu.
You earlier painted a picture that APC seems poised to force their candidate down the throat of Nigerians. Are you saying that 2019 will not be free and fair ?
Even a goat in Nigeria knows it will not be free and fair ; we have been shouting it will not be free and fair. Edo showed it will not be free and fair, the most glaringly unfair was Osun where INEC completely announced results and went back and said there were cancelled votes. Cancelled by who? By you INEC. Was it PDP that cancelled the votes? Then you go back negotiate and do the abracadabra. It cannot be fair. Meanwhile, you flood the place with Army and Police. Who does that? Contrast it with PDP. PDP had an election that was judged not to be free and fair in 2007 and we saw what the President that came in, Late President Umaru Musa Yar Adua, God bless him, did. I believe he is the best President Nigeria didn’t have for too long. He is only the President who declared his asset fully. Yar Adua admitted that “the election that brought me was flawed”. What did he do? He set up a committee headed by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Uwais and the electoral reforms immediately began. The PDP dominated National Assembly transformed it into Electoral Act. It is that Electoral Act that made it possible for the opposition to come into power. That is what you do. So it will not be free and fair
What should Nigerians do?
It is not a PDP problem. PDP cannot save Nigerians from tyranny, Nigerians will save themselves from tyranny and there are three things Nigerians can demand. All these PVCs that have been collected, who owns them? Are you sure that they are actually owned by individuals? Why can’t we demand that these things be audited. That is you select randomly from the PVCs in any state. You get them and say these PVCs can we see the faces?
But who will do this?
I don’t know, let me finish before asking me who will do it, it is not PDP. Nigerians like to see a problem when it’s faced, you want to push somebody to die so that you will live a better life. That is the difference between you and South Africans and other nations. When other nations are confronted with a problem they see it as a national problem. They don’t see it as somebody’s problem, it’s like who will bail the cat? Look at the Senator Dino Melaye recall. Didn’t it teach you a lesson? If we didn’t have that proviso that you have to verify Senator Melaye was gone, they had more than enough signature to recall him. When they audited, how many did they get? Less than 10 per cent. Disgraceful! You may find the same with this PV
In 2015, I was the one who was shouting that about the fraud that took place. Yobe State had less than 1.01million registered voters. They collected over 800, 000 PVCs and there was Boko Haram insurgency there. Enugu on the other hand had 1.5 million registered voters but over 700,000 PVCs collected and there was no Boko Haram insurgency in Enugu. I kept saying he is a professor like me and professors are known for logic. How could a place with less number of registered voters in an insurgency area collect more than a place with more registered voters and no insurgency? I needed a rational explanation. I didn’t get it. So it looked to me like you knew certain catchment areas where you didn’t want people to vote.
The second one go and look at INEC report of 2015, the 774 local governments of Nigeria, there were results entered. How come that Boko Haram was in charge of some local governments. Was it Boko Haram that conducted the elections? I have the figures from INEC. For example in Borno, there were 10 members of House of Reps, nine were male, one was female, all APC. The APC won 100 per cent. Yet it was that same Borno that was the centre of Boko Haram. How come you were able to conduct the elections, delineate constituencies or is there any place in Nigeria that was not registered? The same thing is about to happen again.
Restructuring is one of the key reasons the South-east endorsed Atiku. But what kind of commitment did the South-east extract from him that he will follow through with it. This question comes in light of series of previous failed promises by candidates who emerge president?
You never know an individual completely. But Atiku has taken various steps in the past that shows that his commitment to restructuring is not because of this election. Atiku sent a memo to us during the national conference in 2014. He had started making speeches about restructuring even before then. He even wrote a book on it. He can change his mind but he believes in it. Many of us have talked to him and he believes in it.
What kind of restructuring are you talking about?
I have heard all kinds of nonsense about restructuring. The main thing in restructuring is devolution of power, resources and responsibilities from the centre to the federating units that is what it is all about. I have heard the Vice President talk of geographical restructuring, I don’t know where that is coming from. That is trying to confuse issues. It means absolutely nothing. The talk about state police is embedded in the devolution of powers, resources and responsibilities. State police is power, resources and responsiblity. There is no need to isolate it from the discussion of restructuring.
Campaign narratives from those opposed to PDP’S return is that it means a return of corruption and looters. What’s your response to this?
That is propaganda. A fake anti-corruption campaign is the best deceit to retain power. Let me put how PDP institutionalised the process of fighting corruption in this country. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo hired me on May 29, 1999. He didn’t leave the Eagle Square before my name was announced. I was announced alongside the former CBN governor, Joseph Sanusi, the then Police Inspector General, Musiliu Smith and the then NNPC Group Managing Director, Giaus Obaseki. I, Prof ABC Nwosu, who never studied political science became Obasanjo’s political adviser and he hadn’t met me before. In the evening after inauguration, as people were congratulating him as he passed by I also greeted him and introduced myself. He turned and looked at me and said are you Prof ABC Nwosu and I said yes.
He took me to the small room. On his right hand pocket as God is my witness, Obasanjo had the draft NDDC bill. I don’t know why he took it to his inauguration. On his left pocket, he had the draft ICPC bill. He asked me to study the Hong Kong Model. Eventually when we submitted our report. The incorruptible Justice from Kwara State, Justice Akanbi, chaired the ICPC. Two years into his administration, ICPC was not working as he wanted it. So he formed EFCC. The current chairman, Magu was in the original team headed by Nuhu Ribadu. Are these not the same institutions? What value has APC added to these institutions? But you are accusing the person who set up the institution that you are using to fight corruption that he was a corrupt man. However, Obasanjo looked at the situation after he had been advised in his first term and realised that the leakages were in government contracts. He now set up the due process office.
The same Dr Oby Ezekwesili and Steven Oronsaye as Permanent Secretary, were running the due process office before it became elevated as Public Procurement Act. That is the greatest source of leakage. So we had ICPC as an institution to check civil service corruption, EFCC as an institution to check societal corruption and an institution to check the major thing which is contracts in Public Procurement. None was set up by APC. It is to their credit that they are using them. But for APC to be calling the person who set it up as the man who didn’t want the issue of corruption to be looked at baffles me. Second, every body who had a case as soon as they moved into APC the case went cold.
But examine one fact, name one person who has been charged to court for any action he has committed from May 29, 2015. How many has been prosecuted. In their case a committee is setup and they say it’s when the committee finishes they will send them to EFCC but the houses of the judges that had no committee were broken down at 1am. These are the frightening things. They are not partisan. When you do the proper things everybody will accept that they are proper things. If you jail the person he will accept that it is a proper thing.