Chief Charles Akintoye is a former acting National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a chieftain of the party in Lagos State. In this interview, he speaks on states of insecurity in the country, 2023 general elections, among others. WALE ELEGBEDE reports
What is your assessment of the current security situation in Nigeria?
The security situation of Nigeria at the moment is really very bad and if we are not careful it may get worse. But I believe that the issue of security is primarily the concern of the administration in power especially when our president is the Commander- in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He should be able to use his prerogative to ensure that our military does its best in the area of national security. That is the duty of the military. The other organs of the security apparatus in the country, the Department of State Security (DSS), the police, name them, they should be empowered in such a manner and characteristic to ensure that they can protect lives and properties of individuals. Now the lives and properties of individuals are not worth a dime because at any moment anytime, you can lose your life in this country and that is the end of it, even if you are a multibillionaire that is the finality once you die. I believe the government should do more to ensure that lives and properties should be actually protected. It is a situation that should be apolitical. It is not because it is All Progressives Congress, APC, PDP or any other political party, it is a national interest. It is when people are alive that they can say I’m in the ruling party or the other party. So I believe the present administration needs to do more in terms of national security.
With the growing disaffection towards APC in the country, do you think that PDP is ready to provide an alternative in the 2023 general elections?
PDP will always be ready for any election, what I have always told people in the past is that we don’t have election in Nigeria. We have selections, we have pretenders, we have real contenders and at the end of the day to me, it is he who rig pass that becomes the winner. Everybody rigs election in this country, mostly right from the ward, selection or election to even the presidency. There are a lot of pretenders that will come and say they want to be president only for them to say I’m only diving. Some people really want to be president but what is important is that, should we not be getting to the stage where votes count? It is not like people hijacking ballot boxes or people importing thugs to other states to come and cause violence. That is what we should be looking at, how do we address elections so that people’s votes count and matter? The example was in Edo State in the last governorship election when the people stood and said we want our voice to be heard and our votes to be counted. It was counted and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was in a position to do its best because the people too did their part. INEC was not arm-tied to undo the truth but where our nation still allow thugs to snatch ballot boxes and the governors will pay them handsomely, then we don’t have true elections in Nigeria. We have true rigging and he who rigs the best wins the race, it should change. PDP will always be ready to win elections because they will follow the pact of people wishes. It is the only party in Nigeria that is open to everybody. No opposition in PDP as of today. If you look seriously at the other parties, they have oppositions within the parties. If PDP can adopt that position that means they want people’s votes to count. If PDP loses, then they will say we fought a good fight but where you vote and your vote does not count, then there is no election. It is not only about PDP getting ready, is the country getting ready to make sure that elections are truly the voices and wishes of the people.
INEC chairman has promised to ensure electric voting in 2023, do you see that as a solution to rigging and election malpractices in Nigeria?
It will create a better situation than what we have now. It may not be 100 per cent perfect because information technology and artificial intelligence can even tamper with electronics these days. But it will reduce rigging. It will give people the opportunity to vote online and things like that. Thug-gery, ballot boxes snatching and vote-buying will be eliminated to the barest minimum. They may still come and buy your vote in your house but not at the polling stations again. And before 6 pm we will know the result of the election and a lot of people will vote online because it is electronically controlled. So I believe it will reduce a lot of the problems of elections in Nigeria to a minimum. I support it absolutely.
The campaign for 2023 has started in earnest, but there is growing clamour both in APC and PDP for the presidency to be zoned to southern Nigeria, do you support such a call?
Yes, I’m in support because even in party PDP, there is a zoning arrangement. I know that APC has a zoning arrangement as well but it may not be as strong as in PDP. Both parties have a zoning arrangement and part of the zoning agreement is that two terms in the north, reverse back to the south. Now we are not talking about southwest, southeast or south-south but southern Nigeria. If it comes to the south, then the micro-zoning will be left for the leaders of the party to micro-zone. So, one believes that after eight years for north, south, after south then north again and so also the important positions of the federal government. I think they are about five of them, Vice-President, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Senate President and Chief of Staff to the President. I believed that if zoning, which had helped the country in the past because when you zone every member of the six geo-political zones have something to take back home. If the president comes from the north, the speaker comes from the southeast, senate president from south-south etc everybody will be happy until the next time. I will be part of that body to say yes let the zoning principle be adopted.
If it comes to the south, do you support the call for Igbo presidency?
I wouldn’t say I support the call for Igbo presidency, what I will absolutely support is that let it come to the south initially. The south will now micro-zone and appropriately, leaders of the south know truly whose turn it will be. And it will be done at that time. The important thing is for it to be zoned to the south. A lot of people said the Igbos has not had it for a long time, so it is logical that they are the offer of the first choice. But for political stability, let it come to the south first and the southern leaders will do the right thing. Even some Igbos themselves are preempting the fact that they don’t want the presidency that they want to restructure. That is an option. Everybody has a say but it is the majority that carries the day. So that is democracy. To me let it be zoned according to the plan.
You talked about some Nigerians calling for restructuring, what is your opinion on restructuring and what kind of restructuring should Nigeria undertake?
To restructure Nigeria, the first aim and aspiration will be to restructure the unity of the country. If restructuring means breaking Nigeria then we have defeated ourselves and shot ourselves on the foot right from the start. Restructuring, let me give you an example, the American constitution was done 200 years ago and they keep restructuring. But they never said they are cancelling the constitution and re-writing it. They amend it because the foundations that make it America is entrenched in that constitution. But because of development and economic situation, the two world wars, they start amending. I think they have done over 100 amendments to the same constitution. Where a lot of people are saying that our constitution is not the right for our kind of society, for now, let it be amended and if it gets to changing it let it be changed. It is part of the restructuring. The economic situation of the country can be restructured in such a way that resources are equitably adjusted; that is restructuring. Take education out of the ambit of the government; let the private sector face it. That is restructuring. Let us look at all the sectors of governance and restructure them, remodel them, whatever name we want to call it, to ensure that there is fairness, justice and equity. That is restructuring. But where restructuring involving Biafra wants to go, Amotekun has just come, we are deceiving ourselves. If Nigeria breaks, then there is no more Nigeria and like the Yoruba adage will say, ‘You know the beginning of something but you will not know the end of it.’ To me, our leaders should be amenable to restructuring the country in unity. It is Nigeria that we want to restructure but let us look at the fabrics, sector by sector, what to do to make sure that everybody and every part of Nigeria are equitably represented, benefited and cared for. That is my option for restructuring.