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NIGERIA: Anambra 2014, There was no consensus on zoning – Etiaba

MR. EMEKA EtiabaMR. EMEKA Etiaba sought, albeit unsuccessfully to contest the 2010 governorship election in Anambra State. A lawyer and son of a former governor of the state, Dame Virgy Etiaba, Mr. Etiaba in an interview said among other things that there was never a time a consensus was reached that Governor Peter Obi’s successor would come from Anambra North Senatorial zone. Exerpts:

You have been at the background since the last governorship election in the state, which you participated in as an aspirant. Why the silence?

Basically much could not have been heard from me because politics is not a full time job. I am a practicing lawyer. So if a lawyer contests an election and it does not go well, he will go back to his practice and that is what I have done. And I am enjoying what I am doing. So I couldn’t have been out there shouting and crying for political or other reasons. The problem we have in Nigeria is that most people, who do not have any known vocation, who found themselves in politics always hang around the corridors of power.

They do that in order to earn a living because they don’t have a vocation, but when you have a vocation, you go back to it when it is necessary. The Next Level Campaign Organisation which I founded is alive and well. And it is an organisation that goes beyond elections and electioneering campaign.

What do you think are the needs of the state at this time?
It is about the well-being of the people of the state. It is also about identifying the needs of the state and trying to make sure that they are brought to the purview, so that even if we did not win elections to govern the state, we will be in a position to let the people in power know that a couple of things are not going on well in the state. So we are alive and present in all the local government areas in the state.

Are you contesting the 2014 governorship elections in your state?
Every Anambarian is interested in participating. You can participate by contesting or by making sure that a credible candidate occupies the governorship seat in Awka. What I will assure you is that very shortly the answer to the question of whether Emeka Etiaba will contest the 2014 governorship election in Anambra State will be answered. But whether my campaign organisation is going to participate is a forgone conclusion. My campaign organisation is very interested in the well-being of Anambra people, so we will always ensure that the best goes to the people. That is why I am assuring you that we will be involved in the next elections, but I am not telling the role we are going to play now. The answer to that will be made known to you very soon.

What is your position on the promise by the incumbent Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, that the Northern Senatorial zone would produce his successor?

I don’t think it is right to blame the governor for making the promise that the next governor will be from the northern part of the state. That is his wish, but that is not the wish of Ndi Anambra. Anambra people are very distinct from the governor. The governor may have made the promise then because of his re-election. And if he wants to live up to it, that it very good but that is as it relates to him. Anambra state is different from the governor.

Zoning formula
The people of Anambra state have not agreed on any zoning formula and when they agree, it will be respected. You can not elevate the governor’s position above the people of Anambra. I make bold to say that there is no where a consensus was reached that the North will produce the next governor. It is a free for all fight and I have always encouraged every part, even the North to bring out their best candidate.

Do you think that current efforts by some opposition parties to merge would yield results in view of past failed attempts?

Unfortunately it will not not work because in Nigeria people tend to kick against the person in power and not the system. It is the right step in the right direction if you want to have a credible opposition but in Nigeria people kick against the person in power instead of the status quo because they want to be in power. A situation where the people who are in opposition see themselves as the only solution to the nation’s problem, they will always have difficulties coming together.

If you look at the major parties you have mentioned in these merger talks, their leaders are not those, who will take the back seat while others selflessly wrestle power from the ruling party. They will always want to remain at the centre at the expense of what they ought to have achieved as a strong and virile opposition. So, I know that they will make efforts as they are making currently, but I doubt if it would yield results.

In 2011, it happened between ACN CPC, ANPP and others, but because the vision is not to solve the problem of one party state in the country, it failed. It happened like that because they all want to be people who call the shots. So in any endeavour in life, vision determines the success. So there are two things, it is either they are driven by the vision to take over power from the PDP and offer a credible leadership or the vision to just grab power for individual or sectional interests.

Nigerians behave like warlords and the opposition act like that also. Every political party has a war lord, the question now to ask is if the various warlords in these parties are willing to give way for the emergence of the best among all the parties?  It is very difficult because some people would insist that they would produce or emerge the candidate for the party at the presidential elections. Much I know is that there is need for a virile opposition the prospects of the merger producing good result is difficult because of the type of politics we play.

At a time during the last governorship elections in the state, you collapsed your campaign organisation into Andy Ubah’s structure, citing irreconcilable differences in PPA, can we know the party you belong to now or have you gone back to APGA?

We started with APGA but the party refused to conduct primaries by insisting that the governor was its candidate without primaries. We did not find that okay because it negates every known principle of democracy. At that time I said I don’t mind if a wishy-washy primary is organised and the governor emerges as APGA candidate. But to foreclose the issue of primaries was something I was against because I am a democrat. We had to leave the party and joined PPA. And you know PPA does not exist anymore.

The PPA died the day it came to Anambara. After begging us to come into the party, they came to Anambra State and did an abracadabra in the name of party primaries. I also tell people that PPA did better than APGA. So I find them a better party democratically. Unfortunately they are no longer existing because they ate their cake and thought they could have it. They buried their party in Anambra thinking they were undoing Emeka Etaiba. At that point we looked at the scenario and against the background that I was not in that race for just contesting sake, we were itching to win and we had little or no time then to cultivate another party. We then concluded that we were not contesting anymore.

So all these was not because of Emeka Etiaba himself, it was for Anambra people. We had to look at the frontline contestants then and looked at the person, who had a programme that will benefit the people and the people, who have plans to carry our interest along. We also considered the platform that will allow us to be part of governance in the state, if they win the elections, and Andy Uba’s campaign team offered us what we felt was the option we needed. And we teamed up with him, but that was for that election. Like I said, people will know were we stand ahead the next elections, but we are not making any commitment to anybody now, but our structure is bigger than Emeka Etiaba.

Even though you are keeping your plans to your chest now, are you in any way working in consonance with other political heavyweights in the state ahead the elections?

If I was not in touch with stakeholders in my state, I would not be saying that an announcement will be be made very soon on whether I will contest or not. It is because I am in touch that is why I am saying very shortly. But At the moment we are talking with the people, indigines of the state and other stakeholders on ahead the elections. That will allow us to make us our minds on what to do but we are really in touch with our people. My relationship with governor Peter Obi that you talked about belongs to history and it is one part of history that I don’t want to revisit.

Anambra state goes beyond Obi. In 2010 the gubernatorial elections was because of the governorship slot and the person, who was occupying the governorship seat. This year’s election is not about Peter Obi because he is on his way out. So, the focus is to find how the state can continue from where Obi will stop. I would not want to make Obi an issue in my discourse, campaigns and whatever I decided to do. He is actually not relevant anymore, because his tenure is defined and he will leave office at the expiration of his tenure on March 16, 2014.

Though you said you don’t want to make the governor an issue, but there are claims that the governor is preparing an anointed candidate, specifically the Secretary to the State Government, there are also some people, who believes he also has a top banker in Fidelity Bank, who he wants as his successor, don’t you think that such development would not guarantee a free level playing ground in the days ahead?

In 2003 when he ran as a candidate of APGA and won, there was a governor in place. The then governor, Dr. Mbadinuju anointed himself but he did not make it. I don’t see why after seeing that, any person will think that a governor has the power to anoint any candidate. I would not know whether he wants to anoint any body. But all I can tell you is that when I think about the governorship of Anambra State, I don’t consider any anointed aspirants because it has never worked in the state and will not work this time.

Do you think the current crisis in APGA between Obi and the party National Chairman, Victor Umeh, would in any way affect the forthcoming polls in the state?

If you look at the last elections, you will discover that the governor was returned with a total of ninety one thousand votes. And the population of Anambra State is is over that figure, so Anambra can not and does not personify APGA. The crisis that has bedeviled APGA has an answer in the Biblical saying that if you sow the wind, you will reap a whirlwind. APGA has refused to operate along democratic principles, so there will always come the time when they will get the result of that absence of internal squabbles.

Much as I am not a student of that squabbles, I have always known that when the chips are down, especially when the joint interest that holds people together begin to fizzle out, there would be a problem. That is what is happening to APGA today. I am not unmindful of the fact that no party remains the same after experiencing what APGA is going through now. So, I am still saying that I dont want to make Obi an issue. He had his first term and is rounding up his second term but a lot needs to be done. Those issues that I raised when I was running for the position in 210 are still there. So quite a lot needs to be done.

From your knowledge of the mood and political calculations of the voters and the stakeholders in Anambra, do you think the people of the state still want an APGA governor?

The politics of Anambra is not the politics of any political party. It is peculiar and depends on the candidate. A good candidate form Labour Party,LP, can win the election. A good candidate from APGA can also do same. Also a good candidate from the PDP will win the election. Note that I am not saying that a good candidate from PDP can win the election . It is not about the party but the people. In 2003 PDP was on ground in the state, Peter Obi came, he made promises and Anambra people followed him.

Presently the opposition in Nigeria are coming together to form one political party, in view of the history of failed attempts in this regard in the past, do you think anything good can come out of this?

Unfortunately it will not not work because in Nigeria people tend to kick against the person in power and not the system. It is the it the right step in the right direction if you want to have a credible opposition but in Nigeria people kick against the person in power instead of the status quo because they want to be in power. A situation were the people who are in opposition see themselves as the only solution to the nation’s problem, they will always have difficulties coming together.

If you look at the major parties you have mentioned in this merger talks, their leaders are not those, who will take the back seat while others selflessly wrestle power from the ruling party. They will always want to remain at the centre at the expense of what they ought to have achieved as a strong and virile opposition. So, I know that they will make efforts as they are making currently, but I doubt if it would yield results. In 2011, it happened between ACN CPC, ANPP and others, but because the vision is not to solve the problem of one party state in the country, it failed. It happened like that because they all want to be people who call the shots.

So in any endeavour in life, vision determines the success. So there are two things, it is either they are driven by the vision to take over power from the PDP and offer a credible leadership or the vision to just grab power for individual or sectional interests. Nigerians behave like warlords and the opposition act like that also. Every political party has a war lord, the question now to ask is if the various warlords in these parties are willing to give way for the emergence of the best among all the parties?  It is very difficult because some people would insist that they would produce or emerge the candidate for the party at the presidential elections and it will not not. Much I know is that there is need for a virile opposition the prospects of the merger producing good result is difficult because of the type of politics we play.

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