Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Having fought, won and lost many battles while climbing the political ladder, the President, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Peter Ameh, has become a political icon, brand and authority.
Speaking to Sunday Sun on telephone in Abuja, vantage Ameh tackled many issues, especially the chances of the Southeast geopolitical zone producing president in 2023, how the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, will be remembered when he bows out this year and the political miscalculation by the current Deputy Governor of Kogi State, Edward Onoja.
Is IPAC now a divided body?
Politics is a complicated thing. Most people in politics will always want to flex muscle to clinch power. I don’t think IPAC is divided because my office still directs affairs. I still maintain my office, which remains the national headquarters of IPAC. We have strict regulation that only through election can qualify anyone to be part of the executive for a one-year period. It will be wrong to say that IPAC is a divided body. It also stipulated how one can seize to be a national officer. There was no impeachment or suspension of my office, which expires by August this year. Good enough we are no longer eligible to contest. We made IPAC what it is today and cannot watch anyone destroy what we have laboured to build. Ordinarily, we would have looked for a way to sanction these people, but because of the situation we are in now in addition to the court inactivity. Every other party has pledged loyalty to IPAC with the exception of about seven others conspiring to frustrate the efforts and successes we have recorded. We have adopted carrot approach to neutralise their actions. Having been around for a while and have seen, fought and conquer many battles, I am not really ready to engage in any media battle with them especially as they are close to me as friends. We will continue to brainstorm to see how this problem can be resolved so that we can quietly leave the stage for others to continue where we stopped.
What is the update on deregistered political parties by the INEC?
We have served INEC the court document. It is not an interim order, but an interlocutory order, which subsumes throughout the duration of this case. Nobody can void the pronouncement of the court. INEC has acknowledged receipt of the order and has even promised to act on it.
We have no issue with anybody because we have a very valid order which stated clearly enough that an order is only invalid if it is set aside. Anything in the contrary disrespects the authority of the court pronouncement. The good thing is that should INEC fail to include the so-called deregistered political parties in any election conducted now, it will invalidate that election. The people will just head for court. In other words, if that court order is not vacated, it remains invalid.
What is the biggest lesson COVID-19 has taught political parties and leaders?
The biggest lesson is the failure of political parties and leaders of the successive governments from 1960 till date. They could not build an egalitarians society that can outlive them. They failed to build legacies other than individual acquisitions. They build houses that have become graveyards. COVID-19 has taught every political leader how to build a developed sustainable Nigerian nation, a society where equality and equity reign. They should henceforth concentrate in providing amenities like roads, electricity and quality healthcare system. The only reason we are still smiling under this pandemic is because it has not overwhelmed the country. We have no medical facilities to curtail the outbreak. If developed countries like US and Europe don’t have enough ventilators to tackle the outbreak, is it Nigeria whose hospitals are morgues that will withstand it? There are states in Nigeria with millions as populations that have only 45 or 50 medical doctors. Our political leaders have failed us. It is high time they realised that they would receive ovation if they use their four-year tenure to build a facility that can stand the test of time.
What will the political parties contribute post COVID-19?
They should embark on restructuring and reappraising the quality of persons they nominate for leadership roles. They must be people with the ability, capacity and competence to deliver on the goodies needed to project this country.
What position will you be contesting in the 2023 general election?
I definitely intend to contest because I have discovered in Nigerian politics that you cannot make any change operating from outside. What will safe Nigeria is for the intellectuals to join the political terrain to effect the changes we desired desperately. We are still consulting with our supporters to see what we will be able to do. However, I can tell you that when that time comes, I will certainly make public the position I will be contesting for.
What is your take on the clamour for shift of power, especially presidency, to the other zone of the country in 2023?
If they agree that the presidency is rotational, then it is the turn of the Southeast geopolitical zone and there should be no doubt about that. But if they agree that we should build a presidential system that will stand the test of time, then we should go for competence. With zoning, which in Nigeria means Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, what happens to the minority tribes in the country? For me, I would have preferred that the presidency is based on the model of competence and ability. Even if we adopt zoning, Southeast might still be disadvantaged because the North will adopt a candidate to truncate the political calculation. It is very important that the political parties should start to educate the electorate on voting wisely. The N2,000 or N3,000 gratification they collected during elections is too small to help them out under this harsh reality now under COVID-19. Going forward, they should not vote based on immediate gratification, but on the competent of the leaders to solve the condition we found ourselves now. The electorate must elect leaders that are responsible, capable and able to deliver the goodies.
Do you care about the geographical zone the next president will come from?
It is my aspiration, but our peculiar nature and the rotational system we have adopted; I think the Southeast should produce the next president if we want Nigeria to remain the same. It is very important that people must make sacrifice to live and let live. What Nigeria needs now is a president that can bring technological industrialisation in the Southeast, agricultural and economy revolution in the North and West for Nigeria to work. Southeast has many persons that can transform the economic fortunes of this country. You cannot judge a people by eliminating them from governance and expect Nigeria to work. The perception in most Southeast is that they are not part of the government because in reality they are not carried along in the Nigerian project. However, they should also reappraise their attitude level in politics. What is there participation interest in politics? The figures coming from the zone in the last election were extremely very poor to elect anybody. When others are collecting PVCs, they prioritise making money as billionaires, forgetting that governance affects business. If they are not coming out to vote, it becomes a problem because nobody is going to help them. The voting statistics from the Southeast is the poorest in the country. They will sit at home during election, call to ask if their preferred candidate has won the election they did not care to vote. This attitude will certainly count against the Southeast in 2023 because they approach politics with nonchalance attitude. Can you imagine a situation where a state in the Southeast with population running into millions bringing 200,000 votes?
They don’t see politics as a drive to change the lives of the people. They still rely on their personal competence in business without considering politics as the most importance instrument to channel growth.
As an Abuja-based politicians, how much of your state, Kogi politics do you know?
Political detractors accused me of working with Governor Yahaya Bello during the last governorship election. I am very much interested in what is happening in my state. I did not stop only at interest, I have also been critical of happenings there. The potential in Kogi is a very massive one.
For me, Kogi has not lived up to that potential. This is a state that shares boundaries with nine other states. There is also abundant unlimited natural resources and human capacity in the state. But Kogi State has not lived up to expectations.
How true is the accusation that you worked for Governor Bello during the last Kogi governorship election?
I was accused of doing so, but it was not the fact. I previously wanted to contest that election, but I could not get things in order. Some of those that worked for him are disappointed while others are happy. I have given him my advice and I am sure he will look at them to ensure that the lives of our people are better.
Do you see him working harmoniously with his deputy, Onoja, considering the power he wielded as Chief of Staff?
If I were the deputy governor, I would not have left the position of Chief of Staff to take up that position. He would have remained there, but he took the decision based on his little knowledge. When Abba Kyari was alive, he never looked for ministerial position or governorship because he understood the central power he was sitting on. Every person passes through you as CoS. He cannot leave that position and expect that he will still remain very influential especially as the person who occupies it is from the same constituency and even a brother to Yahaya Bello. The truth is that he made a political miscalculation leaving that position to become the deputy governor.
How will the INEC Chairman be remembered if he bows out this year?
First, it will be difficult to predict his future with the commission because of the government in power. For me, the lesson to be learnt is that he may have good intention, but the system may not have allowed it to work according to his desire. I have suggested the unbundling of INEC because the commission is too big for one person to handle. For instance, if the chairman is not around, there will be no deputy to take charge. They can only pick someone to act on his behalf while he was unavailable. There must be a deputy, preferably a woman, to stand in for him and to encourage capacity building. INEC should be unbundled into units so that the commission will be concerned with elections instead of handling party monitoring and registration, litigations, among many others. As for what he will be remembered for if he is not reappointed, it will be a mixed feelings. Those who won election will remember him for free and fair election. Those that lost will remember him differently, yet to many other Nigerians, he will be remembered for inconclusive elections.