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WE SHOULDN'T BE TALKING ABOUT ZONING BUT ABOUT WHO WILL LEAD NIGERIA WELL

By NBF NEWS
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At a time Nigerians are talking about the zoning arrangement in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a chieftain of the party from Enugu State, Prince Sam Ejiofor, has said that the country should be concerned about who occupies the presidency instead of laying emphasis on where he comes from.

He said that zoning brings about mediocrity, adding that, in the true sense of it, no election, since 1999, has seen only people from one particular zone contesting for the presidency.

Ejiofor, a former commissioner of local government affairs in Enugu, also talked about political development in the state, explaining that almost all the political actors in the state are products of Ebeano political family, headed by former governor of the state and now serving senator, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani.

He spoke on these and many other things.
With the way things are going in Enugu, some people say that Ebeano political structure is dead. What is the true position?

The problem in our society is that we do not have a proper culture. We believe in ideas but sometimes our reasoning is on the surface or periphery. In Igboland, we answer Afamefuna, Obiechina and Ikemefuna, among others. This shows true creation and continuation of family lineage. That is why people in Igboland marry and make the family continue. How can you say a full grown man is dead? Is it possible that everything about a man who has children and family would be dead? Though my father is dead can you say that the name I bear is dead? Anyone who sees me still remembers Ejiofor Ogbodo. The name is alive, still in existence.

For one to say that Ebeano structure is dead, when Governor Sullivan Chime, produced by Ebeano, is there, is funny. The group has created a political record and has put the name of Enugu State in the Nigerian political record. Two members of PDP, Okwesilieze Nwodo, was national secretary of PDP, while Chief Bernard Eze also held national office. The Ebeano group produced people for the post of national auditor. They are Architect Inno Agbo, and Barrister Ray Nnaji. Outside that, the Ebeano produced former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani and the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu. Ebeano equally produced deputy national leader, House of Representatives, in the person of Hon. Gilbert Nnaji. It also produced the current chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Senator, Ayogu Eze. None of these people attained that height by themselves, but Ebeano made them.

Ebeano is still very much alive. There is no other political structure in Enugu State PDP except Ebeano. Legitimately, the leadership of Ebeano, under Barrister Ray Nnaji, is the PDP leadership in Enugu. They were elected through approved national convention. There has not been any other convention. These executives are functional in all the 260 electoral wards in Enugu State and in all the 17 local government areas of Enugu State. They are having their meetings. No other meeting goes on, except that of Ebeano.

Sullivan Chime, the Enugu State governor, said he conducted local government election on December 5 last year. Up till now, they have not given Enugu people details of the election they conducted. Why? It is because they did not conduct any election. They deceived people and announced election. There were afraid of Ebeano. I challenge them to conduct any election in Enugu State and know that Ebeano is still very much alive.

If they are in control, why are they worried about Ebeano? Today, they say Ebeano is dead; tomorrow they say it has joined the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA). I wonder how the PPA story came about. Dr Orji Uzor Kalu is my personal friend. I go to his house and he comes to my house. I have never been invited to Abuja to answer questions about belonging to PPA. I do not play politics of antagonism. I do not know what they are afraid of. Ebeano is still in PDP and believes in party discipline. Ebeano believes in absolute democracy. When you form a government, it is no longer party affair, but that of people elected by the entirety of the electorate. We in Ebeano still recognise Sullivan Chime as governor of Enugu State until the time of election. Those who we elected are serving Enugu people.

On the issue of our joining PPA, there is no truth in that. The Ebeano family is still firmly in PDP. Those peddling those rumours are only out to spoil our image. It's all propaganda. If we join PPA, who then owns PDP?

When the names of new ministers were announced, some people said government is re-cycling the same people. Do you see it that way?

I cannot call the appointment of ministers re-cycling. Continuity in Nigeria politics is lacking because of people's selfish interest. For people to make impact, it takes time. The time left for the Acting President is too short, for him to take fresh people. People are calling it recycling because they were not appointed. What the Acting President did is right and that is what I will do if I were the one in charge. We need experienced people and not people who have not done it before.

There were rumours that you were penciled down for appointment but schemed out?

I am not aware that I was penciled down for any ministerial appointment. Those peddling such rumours are detractors who wanted to spoil my reputation. How are ministers recommended? It is a party affair. The party makes recommendation. Members of the party sit together and recommend who they want. I never even aspire for ministerial appointment and was never recommended by anyone. How can I get what I did not ask for? Those who wrote in the papers that I was schemed out did not bother to meet me or phone me to confirm whatever story they heard or were doing. I did not aspire to be minister and did not ask to be nominated either.

I read the story of one newspaper, with headline: 'Tension In Enugu. Sometimes I think of how journalists feel when they publish false stories.

What are the plans of the Ebeano family for 2011 elections?

We believe that power belongs to the people. Meanwhile, we are marketing our progamme, and ourselves to ensure that when it comes to election we should be accepted. We do not believe in falsehood, propaganda or hijacking votes. If you do it, one man one vote, the PDP Ebeano will make it from the primaries to the main election.

The acting presidency arrangement has been on for many months. Is this really good?

Those who make it personal are making mistakes. The law is clear over it. We have a political party that installed the government. The political party has leadership. What are they doing? Do they lack the political power to act? Are they blindfolded by falsehood or do they want anybody to tell them that it is a national shame that they should be alive to their responsibilities. There are certain things that are lacking in party politics. People should meet and take joint decisions. Has the PDP done that? Have our elected representatives in the National Assembly done something? They have some roles to play. Thank God they saved Nigeria, but it is still remaining.

If elected officers are not doing what they should do, then the legislative arm should rise to their responsibility. The Constitution provided for the situation we find ourselves, that the Federal Executive Council has a role to play. If after five months someone, who should preside over their meeting, is not there, not seen, not heard of, who are they waiting for? Isn't Nigeria higher than one single person? Nobody should blame the Acting President because he is a factor. There is no constitutional provision for him to act as a person. The onus lies on the PDP that installed the government. Jonathan and Yar'Adua are all PDP members. Why can't there be trust? For the Federal Executive Council … law is no respecter of persons, why can't they act?

One wonders why even the National Assembly and other agencies will stay and allow Nigeria to perish. Any genuine leader worth his salt should be alive to his responsibilities. Those who assume the leadership of political parties are selfish. They only embark on what will benefit them, not the society. A failure of any government in power is a failure of the party that installed that government, not minding the individual at the helm of affairs. Yar'Adua is a single person. You don't blame him. Their family should occupy their mind on how he will survive. The institutions are not helping Yar'Adua. If you want him to resign, are you sure he can write? It can't be done by proxy.

What are your views about PDP zoning arrangement?
If they do the right thing, people should not shy away from their responsibilities. Playing safe unnecessarily is not it. The aspect of highlighting the issue of zoning formula of PDP is nonsense. PDP is a political party. The question is, did the entire Nigeria respect that zoning formula? The answer is No. When former President Olusegun Obasanjo contested, Buhari also contested, both are South and North. In 2007, not only North contested. Dr Orji Kalu contested, among others. Proper zoning formula is when contestants come from one zone and not from different ones. At this time that Nigeria is claiming to be the giant of Africa we are still talking about the zoning of the Presidency instead of who will deliver the goods? Which society in the world are we copying? What we want is who can bail us out.

In America, the Bush family has produced two presidents, but here we are talking about zoning. Zoning is a mediocre formula of achieving cheap political power. It does not call for proper and effective political marketing.

Is the Presidency for the zone or the federators? If you were to be a president you should be acceptable in all the zones. We are talking of who will deliver the goods, not where you come from.

What is your take on the Electoral Reforms
In Nigeria, we pursue shadow, talk about system, one reform or another. No programme will work in Nigeria except when we Nigerians have reformed ourselves. Since independence, we have been experimenting. Are you talking about electoral reform and INEC? INEC put perfect electoral laws, but when it comes to enforcement and implementation we fumble. Who is responsible? Is it one man? Implementation involves the police, INEC people, INEC ad hoc workers, who are Nigerians, other security bodies, like the SSS, the Road Transport Workers Union, Nigerian Airways, Federal Airport Authority, PHCN and NNPC. It also involves those elected, who swear an oath to protect the constitution of the land. At the end of the day, it also involves the Judiciary. Now, how can we blame it on one person? Have we checked the roles of the other people?

INEC can be likened to computer and words. It's garbage in, garbage out. It's what you command the computer that it produces. So, what you give INEC is what it does. Every electoral process that is faulty, in any of the constituencies in the process, is bound to fail. Besides, the issue at the centre of every process is the people. What do they want? It is a vicious circle. What happens in one end affects the other end.

The question is, have we politicians decided to have democracy? To me, we should start reforming political parties before every other thing. For many politicians, the moment they win election and assume office, they will abandon the electorate. Instead of using their money and wealth to meet up their electoral promises, they rather use it to perpetuate themselves in office by hijacking all the processes and systems that is involved in the entire electoral process.

The electoral law, to them, means noting. What they are after is to be declared winners in an election and they dare you to go to court. In going to court, how many years will you stay in court? The judiciary that is our last hope throws the entire thing to the dust, dashing the hope.

What about political parties?
They do not allow internal democracy in the parties; that is where the problem of our electoral process lies. How can you imagine a party, like PDP going to Abuja for primaries of their party and hopes to win? The primary is for a select few. If the selection and nomination of a candidate are not democratically done, the process does not represent the popular wish of the people. When candidates are imposed on the people, on internal arrangement, you do not expect such candidates to win. The party should not start hijacking the electoral process because they all want to install a government.

It is the lack of internal party discipline that is causing the problem we have in our electoral process. It's not INEC. We are giving INEC a bad name in order to hang it. Our politicians do not work hard, but go for technicalities. This is because Nigeria does not play politics to effect a change or make a mark, but to make sure food is on their table, which is why we do not have opposition. People want to be elected, whether qualified or not.

You can't rig election, unless you are popular. They will lynch you. During the last election, only the PDP went from state to state to campaign because they have facilities on the ground. Other parties did not have much on the ground but collected money from INEC. Nigerians should change their attitude towards politics and elections.