Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju was governor of Anambra State from 1999 to 2003 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with reporters in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), he faults the antagonistic posture of the Igbo to the Buhari administration and enjoins the Southeast to vote objectively in future elections. Assistant Editor GBADE OGUNWALE was there.
You were in the PDP for about 16 years, but you defected to the APC recently. How would you assess the two parties?
Your question is lopsided, given the fact that PDP has been a party on the ground for about 16 years, and the APC is just about a year. But, the issue I think is “performance” and not necessarily the number of years each party has been in existence. Defection from a political party to another in a democratic setting is not new to politicians. But this was rare in the Shagari era. But since the Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, and Jonathan years, there have been incessant defections from one party to another, and unless the APC’s slogan of change takes root and cuts down drastically, the number of defections will continue to increase unless the judiciary intervenes. In my case of defection from PDP to APC, it was not for fun that I did it. It was from a new angle that I began to tell my friends that I didn’t defect but that PDP defected. I said this having in mind the question of performance as between the PDP and the APC. The PDP was a party destined to save Nigerian’s democracy but it failed. And because nature abhors vacuum, the PDP was no longer able to take care of its members, and I became one of its victims. PDP became a party of the past not party of today and tomorrow. It also became a party of “use and dump” according to its National Chairman. From this point on, what I did was “to keep moving” from PDP’s injustice to justice; from PDP’s rigging machine to winning election by rule of engagement; from PDP’s godfatherism to cheating and to avarice, greed, corruption, waste, and ostentation. That was not the PDP I helped to nurture from 1999 when the PDP faithful gathered at the Jos convention. Instead of Chief (Dr) Alex Ekwueme clinching the presidential ticket after working very hard for it, he accepted the wrong done to him by his party (PDP). For this, all Nigerians owe him a debt of gratitude. So the PDP began from the Jos Convention in 1999. Anyone who said he would remain in PDP with all the load of insincerity, greed, corruption, killing and more, the person will know he is also an accomplice. The PDP of 60 years to come has become a dream and a PDP that could hardly manage a PDP of 16 years and thus the APC has gone ahead.
President Buhari will soon clock 100 days in office. How would you access the administration so far?
I don’t really know which visible accomplishments will be authentic more than the other. All I know is that political opponents from PDP never gave Buhari any chance or any hope that APC will ever win the last election. But these elections have come and gone, and whereas Buhari was to them an “under-dog”, they now have seen after the elections that indeed Buhari remains the man to successfully pilot the ship of the Nigerian state. But what I didn’t understand was the opposition view that Buhari was not in line to win, perhaps relying on their rigging machine. Some even said that the candidate was looking “fragile” and may not be able to conclude the election campaign nationwide. All the opponent’s speculations failed as they kept seeing the same Buhari growing stronger, virile, and traveling all over from Europe to America, to G7 and ECOWAS nations and many places both at home and beyond. Many Nigerians have not yet seen the type of zeal the President has displayed, which has put shame on the face of opponents who see nothing good, even with his accomplishments everywhere.
Buhari has not appointed Igbo people into his government. Is it that he hates them, or that they didn’t vote for him in the last election?
Answer is none of the above. As for appointments, some Igbos across the Niger are also complaining. Even Jonathan whom Igbo gave almost all their votes did not deliver. So what did Igbo get from Jonathan? Nothing. Is it the 2nd Niger bridge or Onitsha to Enugu to Abia to Port-Harcourt roads? I’m not holding brief for President Buhari but truth is that the President still has a lot of appointments to make running into hundreds if not thousands. Should Igbo need to antagonize the President at this early stage? There’s no evidence yet to show that the President hates Igbo. If Igbo had given their votes to Buhari, obviously Igbo will have gotten their own fair share of appointments. But I’m saying that appointments are not yet done and over, but it’s still a reward of what was done. It is not by antagonizing the President, or by force that he’ll give Igbo the said appointments. Rather, Igbo should find a way to reach out to the President and plead, not by force. It should be a friendly encounter. So as Jonathan failed Igbo, we must try and see the best way to reach and relate with the President and relate with him properly. President Shehu Shagari worked well with Chief Alex Ekwueme as Vice President, and through Ekwueme, Igbo got more than anticipated. Such can still be repeated. To get more appointments for Igbo, they must vote for candidates that can win and be useful as one sage said, “he whose bread I eat, his song I will sing”. This means a lot for Igbo. During the campaigns, Buhari visited the South-East several times, up to seven visits to Igboland. Still Igbo believed that Jonathan would win. But he lost. Was that because Buhari hated Igbo? Our people should not eat their cake and have it.
There are too many abandoned projects left behind by Jonathan, but which were budgeted for. What is your reaction?
Your question on this subject is the same question right-thinking Nigerians have been asking too. The question is where is the money? Nigerian money belonging to Nigerians? As we ask for the missing Chibok girls, so also Nigerians are asking about their monies which are on flight to different parts of the world. This is the dilemma President Buhari has been confronted with. One man alone cannot handle this problem. There is need to expect Nigerians to help in this national dilemma of “monkey dey work baboon dey chop”
The President has encouraged Nigerians to know that most of the funds stashed abroad must be found wheresoever they are hidden in foreign banks. This problem is not academic. It is not one we can fold our hands and ask government alone to do the job. This is the job for everyone; all hands must be on deck. It is hard for a common man to handle issues of billion of dollars and pounds or Naira missing in this country which President Buhari is labouring with his assistants and advisers to fish out. But we know that with God, nothing shall be impossible. This is the target, but it won’t be over-night. There may be initial resistance but “it shall be well” as Nigeria keeps working.
What can you say about politics in your state, Anambra. How would you assess the present government in the state?
I have the feeling that the Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano is an easy-going gentleman who came to Anambra to do a job and will not be distracted from that mission. I welcomed him on the day of his inauguration and I took space in the newspaper to congratulate him. I visited him at his lodge only once and I noticed a passion in him to transform Anambra. In the course of our discussion, I mentioned a few problems unsettled by former Governor Peter Obi since 2003. But Governor Willie Obiano promised to look into the matters. When I went to Awka during my tenure as governor, there was not much on the ground. The military just went back to the barracks and left nothing in the treasury. There were times revenue allocation gave Anambra N200 million for a monthly salary of 483 workers in the state. Nobody could believe it. With good management, we started paying workers as when due, and cleared the three months salary owed workers and began to pay them Christmas bonus which no other government did till today. I went to Umuleri Aguleri and Umuoba-Anam where natives fought for 50 years and buried their dead in wheel-barrows. I invited the then President Obasanjo to visit us and he did. After that, I developed a blue print for the community, and nobody had fought there till I left. As for security, Anambra was very secured under my watch throughout my four years in the state. It remained the most peaceful state and in a national competition I took first position on security and welfare and in the competition of 36 states, I was awarded a gold cup, first position. I can go on and on but time and space will not allow me. The present Anambra state governor is from Aguleri and he never neglected doing everything for God and for his people and for the state as a whole. As for the oil, I was the first governor to begin exploitation before others after me. Anybody entering Awka now will see things differently in road and bridge constructions. The slogan at Awka now is “Willie is working” and I agree. The politics of Anambra remains what it shall be. For example, I was the person who established the Anambra State University for the first time. But, the governor after me, Dr. Chris Ngige, took the university away and tried to put it in his own town, but it failed. He then returned the university to where it was. Peter Obi took his turn and carried the burden of removing the university again and putting it in a place nearer his local government area. Perhaps, another governor may arise any time and may still return the university where I kept it from the start.
What will be your advice to the President Buhari in his effort to ensure that the impact of governance is felt by ordinary Nigerians?
Well, President Buhari must first bake the cake before sharing. The President does not even need advice as to what he has already done, what he is doing, and what he will do. The Buhari-Idiagbon period worked well but was short-lived. So, what Buhari did before, he will surely do again. I believe that perhaps with some modifications. Nigerians will see what will develop as the years roll by. President Buhari has a good vision of what he wants Nigeria to be and this is where the concept of change will be more useful. Buhari is the architect of change and he will carry it to its logical conclusion. For him, this is just a start where first thing should be first. Buhari will raise an army to lead in the direction of what is, what was, and what is to come.