Sunday Magazine

Nnamani: APC Convention was the governors’ game, no election

Sequel to his declaration to run for the presidency of Nigeria in 2023 on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) former Senate President, Ken Nnamani in this interview with our correspondent KENNETH OFOMA, speaks about why he wants to contest, his role in stopping the thirdterm agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, among other things

 

You just declared to run for the presidency of Nigeria. Why do you want to be President of Nigeria?

I feel that I have the skill; I have something to offer, because in 2005 when I came to the Senate, it was in a crisis situation. Crisis in the sense that not many Nigerians had fate in our National Assembly because it was riddled with all kinds of complaints, corruption; what they call banana peels and everything.

 

There were a lot of problems there. But soon after I took over in a popular vote, where many senators voted for me and I became the Senate President, because it’s not by appointment, it’s by election, we went to work.

We selected the best, those we considered the best to man various committees, marching such offices with the training of the senators because in the Senate you have people from all walks of life, all backgrounds were found. So we tried to put square pegs in square holes.

And we operated what I may call open government; every person knew what was going on. And I told them in a close session that if there was going to be any banana peels, every person would be involved and there would be no manipulative tendency at all. I wanted every person to know as much as the other, so all hands were on deck. We developed what we called mutual trust.

 

Today in Nigeria and from all I can see, it appears to me that that unity of action and unity of purpose is not there.

 

There is disharmony everywhere and that is the reason why we have what I may describe as unknown gunmen. Unknown gunmen are they spirits, there must be a place they come out from, and nobody is courageous enough to make reports because everybody is suspicious of the other.

 

And in the case of this situation, it’s not only the President that we look up to, to solve it, it’s supposed to be a total Nigerian problem. If there is enough harmony, enough cooperation, we will not be where we are today. We no longer see ourselves as people from one nation.

 

There is a kind of disunity here and there. So this is why I feel I can enact the same thing we did in the Senate because the Senate is a mini Nigeria. A lot of my friends whom I served with are saying ‘Nnamani, you are still physically fit, why won’t you come    and replicate the things you did in the National Assembly in 2005, 2006 and part of 2007?’

And since we left, there has not been any banana peels in the National Assembly, not by my efforts alone but I had quality senators and we worked together as I said. We were a team, a strong team and it doesn’t matter where you come from. My Chief of Staff, Salihu Bello, a medical doctor, was from Adamawa, but he did a wonderful job. We had people from all walks of life.

 

One of my Special Assistants, Dogowa, is today the Majority Leader in the House of Representatives. He was in my team as one of my SSAs from Kano. I had people from all over Nigeria; Yorubas, Igbos, Hausas and everybody. So people are wishing that the type of thing we did, we can do it on a national scale.

 

Talking about your role at the National Assembly as the presiding officer at that time, many people still remember till today the role you played in stopping former President Obasanjo’s third-term bid. What are your reflections of events at that time and how do you feel playing that role?

 

Well, it was a collective effort. As I said I had quality senators, guys with second address. I feel good for whatever we did. I’m using the pronoun we, and not I, not that I’m afraid to say I, but the truth of the matter is that it was a collective effort and I feel very happy about it, and that is why many of them have continued to call me even now.

 

They said ‘Nnamani, you are watching this thing. What if this zoning or no zoning arrangement comes to the South-East, you will be folding your hands and not be counted? It’s the pressure from my colleagues and my conviction that I still have something to offer to Nigerians.

 

I’m still answering your question, why do you want to contest, because it’s very cogent, why not go on vacation and enjoy yourself.

 

So my reflection there is that it gives me, I believe that almost all problems in Nigeria is surmountable, almost all, if you work as a team and we love ourselves as a nation and you don’t mind whether you are from Zamfara, Sokoto or Enugu, you are from anywhere; as long as you are a Nigerian you will be your brother’s keeper, we can solve a lot of problem because we have a number of intelligent people in Nigeria, very sharp people. So that is the case I would like to make at the national level.

 

There has been clamour more than ever before for a Nigerian president of South-East extraction. How possible do you think this could be now?

 

It appears to me that there is now what looks like a national consensus that a number of people are saying, ‘ah ah, Yorubas have served for eight years as number one, and now serving another eight years as number two; the South-South people have served its six years as president and since our brothers in the North have deemed it necessary to support the presidency to come South, why won’t our brothers in the South do the same thing , show the same benevolence and the same kindness to the South-East?

 

Our brothers in the North, given their numerical strength, (they are 19 states, we South are 17), now, if the 19 states people say okay, we have now had it for eight years, let it go down South for another eight years, then we come down, we will now be talking about micro zoning.’

 

Now if we are talking about micro zoning, our brothers from the South -West and our brothers from the South- South will say ‘ah, we have handled this thing, other brothers, the other five states called South-East they have not done that,’ equity, fairness and justice demand that South-East should have a shot at it.

 

That’s the way I look at it. It’s not a thing to quarrel about; we just go through some moral suasion and convince others and why they should be magnanimous and why we should copy our brothers from the North.

 

Many people are aware that you wanted to contest for the position of National Deputy Chairman (South) of the APC in the last convention but eventually you withdrew from the race. What happened?

There was a lot of pressure on me; they said ‘Nnamani, yes we know you will serve as a stabilizing block in the party administration but having been number three citizen, why not bother about number two or number one?’

 

There was a lot of pressure on me, from here and there but personally I wanted to say that if indeed it’s the service that we are all talking about, I can even be a councilor, if it is service.

 

But because of the pressure and people calling from here and there and you know do this do that and again in our party, you know the game in Eagle Square was the game of governors, the governors had a field day they decided who went where and who did what.

 

There was no election; there was no ballot cast for anybody, just whether it’s consensus or they talk you into withdrawing or whatever but it wasn’t because of the number of votes cast because there was none.

 

So given all these, I wasn’t desperate for anything. I told them please go ahead and give the younger generation the opportunity. So I withdrew and there was no election.

 

APC seems to be tending towards the South-West and with the likes of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in the race. So the question is how do you hope to overcome them?

 

You said that APC is tilting towards South -West, you see, if they tilt towards South-West, I have already said something that if our brothers in the North with all their numerical superiority or strength, deem it necessary to see justice and fairness and say having occupied the seat for eight years let’s try our Southern brothers, rotation so that every person feels a sense of belonging to this country. Then you come down to the South, South-West has had it not too long ago for eight years under President Obasanjo,

 

I was the third Nigerian citizen at that time. And currently they are having a very intellectual minded and sound individual as number two. If they deem it necessary they will say okay, let’s try our brothers in the South- East because South -South had it under Goodluck Jonathan; South-East has not featured.

 

Let’s show them that we are the same country, we are one. But if my party after going through all these smaller issues, fairness, justice and equity, they think it’s South -West, we have qualified people there. My interest is to let APC continue and stir Nigeria in the right direction.

 

As I said in my opening remarks, to put Nigeria into a higher level of performance where our productivity will be high with fair distribution, let every person participate and get a sense of being a Nigerian. My interest is for my party to win and nobody should see it as either do-or-die affair, no. It’s not a do-or-die affair if it is a service the person is coming to render.

 

. Talking about winning, many people are saying that with insecurity, poor economy, what they perceived to be failed anti-corruption, how would APC  convince Nigerians to retain APC in power?

A very powerful question you are throwing. If the issue of, I think there was a time when Chief Gabriel Igbenedion, there is an answer he gave when somebody said, ‘ah your son has not done every well,’ he said ‘ah, if a student does not do so well in a class work what do you do? You give the student the chance to repeat class and he can do well (laughter), he could do better.

The issue of security I already implied in what I told you in my opening remarks. That if all Nigerians care for Nigeria like we used to do before, that the issue of security will not be left for one party or one president alone, that it is all our responsibility as all Nigerians. Unknown gunmen, you remember when I used it, they are no spirits, they live somewhere, they carry their guns. People see them enter their motor, go and cause trouble and come back.

 

How many people have tried to puncture that ‘unknownness’ that is unknown gunmen? Unknown gun spirit, is that what it means? There is no unknown gun spirit. They are human beings. Nobody is an island; they live in a community somewhere.

 

So, people should take responsibility equally in reporting unknown faces, in reporting people, who are doing things that are irregular. You don’t do any work , in the night you disappear, in the morning you come and sleep. What is going on? Are you doing night duty somewhere?

 

Where is your address? What do you do? People should ask questions. So, look, APC is not just about the party, let’s talk about Nigerians because we make the party. Party is important as a platform, but how about the people? Let us face the challenge facing all of us.

 

The party should be able to pilot us very properly. I agree, there is no question about that but we have a role to play too. I think the issue of the security situation in Nigeria, may be if we give us a chance and we are able to unite Ni-  geria, you find out that we are able to surmount the issue of insecurity easily.

And the issue of IPOB cannot be an obstacle to South-East quest for the presidency?

There is no part of Nigeria that doesn’t have a pressure group. I see IPOB guys, if they understand that Igbos stand to benefit if Nigeria is stable and there is a level playing field for everybody; Igbos have investment across the country, everywhere.

There is no tribe in Nigeria that serves as cement like the Igbos. Cement in the sense that trying to build one Nigeria, because Igbos go to places and make direct investment.

Direct investment in the sense that they build factories, big buildings, hotels and everything, that is called direct investment.

 

There is no way they  can carry it to Igbo land. It’s not just having portfolio investment, portfolio investment in the sense where you buy stocks and shares and you have money in treasury and all that, if you are going you can sell your share certificate and go. In your briefcase you open it and sell, make money and go. But direct investment, how do you carry your factory and buildings?

 

Some of us have some little buildings in Abuja, some in Lagos, how do we repatriate all those structures to Ala Igbo? How do you do it?

So the Igbo stand, in my view oh, we stand a chance because we are people who like to compete. We are entrepreneurial in spirit and action. If we have a good opportunity to compete we will survive, our business will grow. If you want to buy spare parts today for any vehicle, the chances that you will buy it from an Igbo man are very high. If you are buying pharmaceuticals it doesn’t matter where you go to, majority of the people that are in this transaction are Igbos.

 

Go to Alaba, I returned from the United States as a student when that place was bush, hick bush, hick forest. It’s now an international market. Go and see it, 90 per cent of people there are Igbos.

 

So my good friend, if I’m to spend time with you here I can tell you why I feel very optimistic that Nigeria is not yet a failure, only that we should give everybody the opportunity to demonstrate the ability to deepen our democracy, to unify Nigeria, unity is very, very critical.

Go to any family that is not together, there cannot be any progress, any advancement of any type without unity. Unity is very crucial. If there is peace, you have peace of mind, you can act better.

 

Those of you who are journalists, you don’t write when you are troubled so much. You now talked about insecurity, how many people can go from here to Kaduna by road anymore? Very few; people are panicking, you can’t blame them.

 

 

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