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JONATHAN REPRESENTS PARADIGM SHIFT – EJINIMA

By NBF News

In 2003, Chief Mike Ejinima, former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Director of banking supervision contested the governorship election in Enugu State and lost. Now he is the state vice chairman of the People's Democratic Party (PDP).

He is one of those who believe in the need for internal democracy in political parties including the ruling party. In this interview, he speaks on a wide range of issues including why the Enugu State governor, Sullivan Chime and President Goodluck Jonathan must contest the 2011 general election, the monetory polices of the current CBN governor, Lamido Sanusi, among others.

Politics and banking are not related. Bankers are perceived to be more honest than politicians. How did you leave banking for politics?

You know when I came to Enugu to serve as Director general, you know that in government, there are some elements of politics in whatever you want to do. So, may be I got attracted, so as soon as I retired, I said okay let me go and try my hands in politics.

I know that the banking profession and politics are not really related but this is because of the type of politics of deceit we play in this country. In the real sense of the word, there is not much difference between politics and banking. Bankers are expected to be very straight forward just like politicians. When bankers say no, it means no but in politics, yes could mean no in a different way. However, this yes meaning no can only be obtained in a developing country like Nigeria.

In developed countries, politics does not turn people to liars. But in any case, I am coping because when an issue crops up and I make my own stand known, my colleagues will say, my friend you are not a politician. I will then tell them that I will learn how to be a politician. But my politics will not make me lie. I will not deviate from the truth because I am in politics. I will continue to say what I know to be the truth at all times.

There is this allegation by some aspirants that the governor has endorsed some legislators or those who would go back into their various positions in 2011. How true is the allegation?

No, the governor never said such a thing. It is all rumour. Governor Chime said on so many occasions that he has never said that anybody or those who are occupying various positions will go back. He has never said anything like that. In fact, the governor told us that all the positions are vacant and that anybody who wants to contest should come out and contest; that he has not endorsed anybody.

The governor has repeated it. We have met with him on a number of occasions and he has never talked about automatic ticket for anybody. In fact, the governor has advised anybody who wants to re-contest election to go back to his people for re-nomination. He told us that anybody who is rejected by his people would not go back to his/her former office. He told us that we are in a democracy and that we have to observe the tenets of internal democracy.

The people of Enugu north senatorial district where you are the chairman recently endorsed Governor sullivan chime for a second term in office and advised their sons and daughters who have gubernatorial ambition not to challenge chime in 2011 as any of them who does so will not be supported by the zone. Why did your zone take this type of decision when you are talking of internal democracy?

Well, we believe that the governor has been doing very well and when you compare him with past governors, you will actually rate him very high. He is an action governor. The party has not actually barred anybody from contesting against him. But we believe that the governor has done well enough for us to give him a second chance to complete his statutory tenure of eight years. He has first tenure of four years and a second tenure of four years after which he is no longer qualified to contest the same position again.

So, personally I endorse the same position of Nsukka people because of his performance. Our people believe that you will recognize a ripe corn when you see one. You do not need to open it before you know that the maize is actually ripe. In terms of infrastructure, security, agriculture, health, education among others, Chime has done well and our people believe that he is like the biblical Daniel that has come to judgment. We believe that he deserves a second term and we have been appealing to our people to give him the chance to go for another term.

Can you mention his specific achievements in all the areas you have mentioned?

In the area of education, he has renovated several school buildings which are dilapidated. Most of the buildings which had fallen off have been fixed. Also, new schools have been constructed and children are being encouraged to go to school. In fact, in some of these schools, they have free meals apart from the equipment which government had supplied. Schools are being fully equipped to ensure that our children get value for their education. There are so many things happening in the school system that have shown a complete departure from the past. Our people are getting the best in terms of quality education now unlike in the past.

As one of the PDP stakeholders in the state, how would you describe the coming on board of the former governor of the state and first national secretary of the PDP, Okwesilieze Nwodo as national chairman of the party?

Well, since the resignation of Prince Vincent Ogbulafor as the national chairman of the party, a lot of names were not only paraded but touted as the possible candidate to replace Ogbulafor. But of all the names that were mentioned, Nwodo's name has remained the most prominent because he is the most qualified. Why do I say this? He was the founding national secretary of the party.

From the word go, he has been with the party. Nobody knows the intricacies in the party more than Nwodo, so I think it is about the best decision Nigerians have taken in terms of appointing him as the national chairman. He is the most qualified, a gentle man and somebody whose no is no and his yes is also, yes. Apart from the experiences he has gained as the national secretary, there is also his background as the son of the former minister in the defunct Eastern Region; a reputed minister during the period, late Igwe John Nwodo.

Late Nwodo served in both the governments of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and late Dr. Michael Okpara respectively and distinguished himself very well. This is the type of family that Okwesilieze Nwodo comes from, so he has a solid background in terms of administrative competence, particularly as the first national secretary of the PDP.

What is your take on the circumstances that brought President Goodluck Jonathan, the Vice President, Mohammed Namadi Sambo and Okwesilieze Nwodo into their various

positions?
Well, if Nigerians and members of the PDP in particular do not see the development as divine intervention, then we have not seen anything. I believe that this is the way God wants to execute his plan for the good of the country. In a way, Jonathan was destined to be President just as the Vice President Namadi Sambo. I am sure that none of these three people dreamt that they would be in their present positions some years back. President Jonathan was deputy governor, governor; vice president, acting president and president within a period of about five years just as Sambo was governor and Vice President within a period of three years.

In all, none of them including Nwodo lobbied for the various positions. It is God's way to rescue his people who had gone astray. The country had started sliding to a failed state before God decided to rescue it from the brink; we were going towards the way of a failed nation when God decided to intervene on our behalf, and this is in the case of President Jonathan. I want to say that even the emergence of Vice President is the same. God works in a very wonderful way. While I believe that Okwesilieze Nwodo is the most qualified for the party chairmanship, there were so many things or forces against him that people even went to court to stop him but because God wanted to remove Nigeria from the status of a failed state, he has brought in these people.

Are you then saying that Jonathan should contest the next presidential election?

Yes, this is a democracy and in a democracy, everybody has the right to contest. That is the general belief. I want to add that if we wish this country well, let President Jonathan contest. He is a young man and if you see him outside the country, like when he traveled to the United States of America, we saw his demeanor. In fact, if we want this country to move forward or to develop economically and politically, we should allow him to contest. I have been wondering why some few privileged people in the north have been opposing those asking the President to run for the 2011 election.

He is young and energetic, and this is a clear departure from the past, when we only allowed older people to be on the driving seat of the power block. Age is on the side of Jonathan and he will do wonderfully well with the wealth of his experience. He should be allowed to have a full tenure of four years as President so that Nigerians will be in a position to judge him based on his achievements but I am sure that Nigeria will see a lot of positive changes if he contests. That is my feeling.

You were a very top official of the CBN. Do you support the new monetary policies of the apex bank especially as it affects bank directors being asked to serve a specific tenure? Is it proper for CBN to fix tenure for private banks?

Well, I believe that some of the policies are very necessary. You know, before a monitory policy or any policy at all is formulated, you take into consideration what happens within the environment. In our own situation, if you leave somebody for so long on the same position, there is the tendency that the person will abuse such position particularly, if he knows that nothing will happen to him if he introduces certain policies that are not in the interest of the institution he is heading.

I believe that some of the new CBN policies are designed to be short term measures and until we start advancing, or cultivate the habit of adopting standard corporate behavior as obtained in developed countries, these measures will be necessary to check certain excesses, so that the banking industry will grow. These short term measures will reduce corruption in the banks and other financial institutions. You know that you cannot have a strong economy if you do not have a strong banking system and what Sanusi, the CBN governor is doing is to ensure that the banking industry is solid, with its operations transparent, in order to help the economy grow.

On the issue of categorization of banks; in fact even the former CBN governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo felt that some of our banks have not met the standards set by developed countries, but you know, in America, we have very big banks and very small ones; unit banks and they are all operating. You have banks that carter for small and such banks are also operating.

So, to say that every bank must be of the same size; maybe Soludo had good intentions because he wanted us to have mega banks but it is not the correct thing. We must have mega banks and we must also have smaller banks because, smaller banks or regional banks or if you like neighborhood banks carter for certain areas. These are the type of things that happen in developed countries.