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NORTH CAN'T BE TRUSTED – SENATOR ANNIE OKONKWO

By NBF News
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Jonathan and zoning
Those with such views are selfish, because since the inception of Nigeria, whenever the president emerges from the North, his deputy comes from the South and vice versa. The reason for this is to balance power. But because of personal interest, some people from the North are now trying to stop a geo-political zone from aspiring for the presidency because of zoning. However, President Goodluck Jonathan has the right to contest. And come to think of it, the South-South geopolitical zone where Jonathan comes from never tasted power for over 50 years of our nationhood. So, it is injustice to the people of the Niger Delta. Having declared his intention to run for the presidency, I think he will emerge president of this country next year.

Amendment of electoral act
We, in the National Assembly especially the senate will try as much as we can to give everybody a level playing field. That's why we don't want to give undue advantage to anyone and I believe that with the level of support the president enjoys across the country whether the political appointees vote or not, he will emerge winner at the party's primaries. As I talk to you, he has a tremendous goodwill and has demonstrated within the few months he has piloted the affairs of the nation that he is capable to lead this country to a greater height. His opponents are intimidated by his achievements. That is the reason they are doing everything possible to stop him from contesting. But I am glad he will contest.

PDP's loss of three states
Former President, late Umaru Musa Yar'Adua emphasized when he came on board, that there were great irregularities in the 2007 elections that brought him to power, and promised to overhaul the electoral process which led to the inauguration of justice Uwais panel. President Jonathan decided to implement the panel's recommendation towards ensuring free and fair election next year. So once there is credible election, corruption will reduce drastically. Of course, PDP won't have to win the whole states in Nigeria, but can still win the majority of states that can keep us in power.

South-East and Igbo presidency in 2015
The South-East has agreed to support Jonathan's candidacy, and that is why you have not seen any credible person from the zone that has shown interest to run for the presidency. The South-East will give Jonathan bloc votes. I want to correct the impression that if Jonathan wins and stays till 2015, power will move to the North. No, it doesn't work that way. After Jonathan, it is the turn of the South-East to produce the president in 2015. If you cast your mind back, you will recall the North has made failed political promises to the South-East. In 1999, at the Jos convention of PDP, the North asked Dr. Alex Ekwueme to contest for the presidential primaries and at the end, they supported Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. They repeated it in 2003.

The North
The days of tribal politics has gone. Today, What we have in Nigeria is politics of ideas. I want to let you know that majority of Northerners are in firm support of Jonathan, because in the past, their leaders use tribe and religion to take advantage of them. An average Northerner does not reason along side tribe or religion but good governance which Jonathan has provided. Again, the North does not belong to one party. They belong to different political parties and it is expected to give different opinions and affiliations yet Jonathan is the beautiful bride, and he will win next year's presidential election.

Consensus candidate
Consensus or not, that will not stop Jonathan from being the president next year. Lawmakers decamping from PDP? it is the beauty of democracy as alignment and realignment is normal in politics. Yet, inspite of the fact that some senators left PDP recently, the party still controls 90 per cent of the members. Therefore, one thing is clear, and that is ensuring that the vehicle that will bring you to an elective office will remain the ruling party in Nigeria.

PDP as a problem
It is not true. Opposition could not come together with the so-called mega-party. Instead, they move from one party to another and they find it difficult to unite. However, since the opposition could not come up with a better alternative, PDP will continue to win.

Coming back to senate
In a democratic setting, the more the aspirants the merrier. People must show interest. The challenge before my opponents is to match my achievements. It will be difficult for any of them to beat me at the poll especially the fresh contenders. Recently, an opinion poll was conducted in my senatorial zone, and I got 90 per cent of the peoples support. How can anyone defeat me? The secret is that I have touched their lives not only as their representative, but also before my election, and that is why they want me back in the Senate. I have given quality and effective representation to my people. I listen and treat them well. Yes, my opponents are talking about change, but you don't change what is good. It is not advisable to change a wining team, even though change is constant. Don't forget that people had represented my people at the level I am now, yet they never felt the impact of governance till I came on board. So, you cannot tell the people to change a person that is affecting their lives positively, because they will mock you.

Congress and primaries in Anambra State
Whatever challenges Anambra State PDP is facing can be said not to be overwhelming, because the party is stable at the national level with a national chairman Chief Nwodo who believes in internal democracy. Meanwhile, a lot of members still believe in the old order, when the party has moved away from it. The National Chairman understands that the South-East geo-political zone and Anambra State PDP political crisis will be resolved and the party will come up stronger.

Senate as retiring ground for ex- governors
In advanced nations, the Senate is for mature minds, people with experience. Therefore, the senate requires such people to enact laws that will have positive impact on the people. So, I won't agree with you that the senate is a place for retired government officials especially ex-governors. But it is made up of independent minded individuals who cannot be pushed around by anybody. The present senate as you know is an improvement on the previous ones.

Court judgment that president must append his signature before the amended constitution becomes a law

It's not true. It is the judgment of the lower court and the senate has appealed the judgment. However, whether the president appends his signature or not, the amended constitution is functional. Remember we are practising American system, and the system does not say that unless the president signs, it cannot be operational. We have appealed the judgment of the lower court for the higher court to interpret.

The present senate
The senate leadership has done wonderfully well under the leadership of David Mark compared to what we had before. The fact that the senate was able to amend the constitution and Electoral Act to accommodate the interest of Nigerians, and also ensure credible election next year is a welcome development and it shows that the senate has done well.

Your expectation of 2011 general election
Whenever it is election year, there is always apprehension all over the land, as everybody wants his or her candidate to win. If you remember, that was the case in 2007 as some prophets of doom even prophesized that there was going to be no election in 2007. But by the grace of God, we had for the very first time transition from civilian to civilian administration.

Advice to the electorate
My advice is to all Nigerians. The South-East in particular. They should vote with their conscience rather than sell their votes, because if the wrong person emerges president, governors or representatives, they will suffer for another four years. But if the right people win, they will enjoy. That is the reason they must be careful and vote Jonathan for a better Nigeria. And this starts with voters' registration. However, I encourage Nigerians to go out and register, for that is the first step in reshaping the country because their votes must count.