One-time spokesman of the House of Representatives and currently Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on National Assembly Matters, Hon. Chijioke Edeoga weekend spoke with selected journalists on various national issues. Excerpts:
Some people like Orji Uzor Kalu claim President Goodluck Jonathan will truncate the chances of the Igbo presidency if he contests in 2015. Do you agree?
They are entitled to their opinions so far they fall within the ambit of the law. Orji Kalu and people who share his views can also test their popularity.
Orji Kalu can speak for himself or any platform of his, but not on behalf of Igbo people neither can I speak for the rest of the Igbo people. The Igbo are wise enough to cast their votes where they feel they are best protected.
I sincerely believe that if Jonathan declares an interest to contest for the presidency in 2015, a majority of the Igbo will vote for him based on his scorecard in office and for the sake of continuity. It is also in the strategic interest of Nigeria that Jonathan seeks second term.
How strategic is it?
A convention of rotational presidency is emerging. From 1999, for instance, it started with the South-West, where Olusegun Obasanjo did two tenures. It rotated to the North-West. Unfortunately Musa Yar’Adua died in office. The power automatically by law devolved to Jonathan.
He completed the tenure and ran on his own and won. The important thing that has happened is that the presidency moved from the South-West to the North-West and then to the South-South.
Rotational presidency is a necessary Nigerian invention to address Nigeria’s differences. It seeks to build a homogenous national entity. If the contest is left for numerical strength as it is claimed, it might not have gone to the South-West.
Obasanjo would not have qualified because he did not even win in his ward as the PDP constitution stipulates. These are sacrifices that we have to make for the national unity. When Yar’adua died, the rotation went to the South-South which is in tandem with the rotational principle.
When Jonathan serves his second term, it will go to any other zone where it has not gone at least in the current democratic dispensation. It can go to the South-East or the North-East. If rotational presidency is adopted, the acrimony that goes with the contest will be eliminated.
Rotational presidency will also address the issue of some people who feel that they are entitled to some political offices in this country. There are also some people who feel alienated from Nigeria because they feel there is a particular limit they can aspire in the Nigerian polity. Rotational presidency will create a conducive atmosphere where every Nigerian can aspire to become president.
You are a lawyer. Can’t rotational presidency be enshrined in the Nigerian constitution?
It is an evolving convention. A convention is also a legal precept. A convention practised overtime becomes not really a law in terms of written, but acceptable by everybody.
Law-making has various stages. If something happens overtime and it is not resisted, it becomes a convention. There are people in this country, mainly from the North-West and the South-West, who want to truncate the emergence of this convention.
The position of the South-West in this matter is understandable but not excusable. The South-West, under Obasanjo, had its turn of eight years. The South-West governors, under the platform of the Alliance for Democracy, created an enabling environment for Obasanjo to complete his second term.
If the rotation endures, it will return to the South-West when other zones had done theirs. There are elements in the South-West who will not allow this scenario to play out. They were the same people who relinquished their gubernatorial positions for Obasanjo.
Today they have evolved from the Action Congress of Nigeria to the All Progressives Congress. They now agitate that the presidency is up for grabs.
They are the same persons who are putting pressures on Rivers state governor Chibuike Amaechi to do unto Jonathan what they refused to do unto Obasanjo.
That is the duplicity in Nigeria’s political situation. But if they help in truncating it, it will create a situation of fluidity. The most important thing for them is that the system has been truncated, then other factors will come into it.
Even the attack of religious politics that the APC levelled against Jonathan is something that is in ACN or the APC as it is now called. The APC is now trying to zone the position of the vice president to either the South-South or the South-East.
Recall also that the days when the Igbo aligned with the North and accepted the position of vice president, the South-West media kept attacking the Igbo as taking the crumbs from the northern table.
Remembering our history
But now it is the same South-West that plans to zone to the South-East or South-West the same position which they derided the Igbo. We must remember our history.
What is your take in the recent deportation of the Igbo by the Lagos state government?
I have a lot of soft spot for Tunde Fashola, so I don’t want to make negative comments about him, more so with some restraints he has shown in this matter. It is evident that he has realised that he has erred.
There is nothing in his history that indicates that he is headed in that direction, so people are entitled to their mistakes once in a while. It is not a reason why we should create loopholes for rabble-rousers to begin to build mountains out of a molehill.
It is not only in the South-West that the Igbo have become migrants, they have become migrants all over the world because the home environment is no longer in consonance with their entrepreneurial abilities and drives.
Where are the cashew industries, Niger Gas, Golden Guinea, Premier Breweries and a host of them? They have been destroyed. Our leaders have failed to move things to the next level.
However, some of them, like Sullivan Chime of Enugu state, are doing well in the provision of infrastructure. We have to build on that. We must thank Jonathan for creating an international airport in the South-East. It will boost the economy once again. The Igbo’s movement outside home is a result of home not being conducive for self-actualisation.
Conducive for self actualisation
Even the entrepreneurs who now throw their resources towards political contests should redirect them. It is not only in Lagos, the Igbo are also being hounded in the North. Where is the home to run to? It is the dilemma of the Igbo people in Nigeria. The South-East region has buried the industries that Azikiwe and Okpara created.
What is your reaction to the declaration of Governor Sullivan Chime that an Nsukka man will succeed him as governor of Enugu State?
There is also in Enugu State an emerging convention about rotation of the gubernatorial position. It started from Chimaroke Nnamani who did two terms for the Enugu-East senatorial district and then Sullivan Chime, who is currently the incumbent, and about to round off his two terms in office. He is from the Enugu-West senatorial zone.
The next place that it has not gone to is Enugu-North. It is also in tandem with what I am saying that we should follow this emerging convention. Things evolve. Personally the Nsukka cultural zone is being short-changed because it constitutes over 50% of the population of the state. Nsukka should be the one to give because they have the numerical strength to determine where the pendulum of the state should swing. It was done in the early 90s during the Babaginda transition.