Chief Charles Amilo is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, former Member of House of Assembly in the Old Anambra State, Enugu and former Hon. Commissioner for Information and Culture in Anambra state and an ex-student activist. He is also a member of the Enugwu-Ukwu Traditional chieftancy Institution. Hon. Amilo spoke with the Orient Daily Features Editor, Polycarp Onwubiko in this interview.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress, APC, had strong views on the restructuring of the existing federal government system and promised to enact true fiscal federalism, even in its 2015 election manifesto. President Buhari does not appear about to keep that promise. What is your take on this?
I believe it is a pointer to the enormous challenges that faced Nigeria at the exit of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. Up to four states, namely Bornu, Yobe, Adamawa and Gombe had large portions of them over-taken by Boko Haram terrorists. Even Bauchi, Kano, Jigawa and Kaduna were threatened by the insurgents and Nigeria was lying virtually helpless.
The military commanders blamed each other and the rank-and-file were at each other’s throats. Our men refused to fight due to low morale. There was general failure of governance. When Buhari came, we realized that 21 states owed their workers several months arrears of salaries and allowances and workers were passing through privation.
The nation was neck-deep in debt to the extent that the $58 billion external reserve left by President Olusegun Obasanjo got drawn down to $25 billion. That was when Nigeria, under Jonathan, acquired the reputation of being one of the most corrupt nations in the world with many developed nations skeptical about helping her at the time of the crises. When Buhari came to power, he decided to re-order the priorities. You can agree with me that, given this analysis, there was no room for restructuring because of the monumental problems Buhari met on ground.
It is ironical that president Goodluck Jonathan, with abundant resources [earning over $100 – $147 from crude oil sales], could not kick-start and complete the process of restructuring, in line with the 2014 National Conference.
Going by the principles undergirding federal system, do you believe that the federal government’s policy of diversification of the economy in only agriculture and solid minerals can bail the country out of recession?
It will be myopic for any Nigerian to say that the federal government relies only on agriculture and solid minerals to create wealth. It has the export of crude oil from 900,000 barrels per day to 2 million bpd above the OPEC quota due to the abatement of militancy in the Niger Delta. The crude oil price has risen from$38 to $52 which has created the cushion that will enable us to spend ourselves out of recession.
Now, all the federal roads all over the country are being reconstructed. In the South-East geo-political zone for instance, construction companies are busy on the Enugu/Onitsha, Oba/Nnewi/Uga/Okigwe and Enugu/Port-Harcourt roads. Julius Berger is mobilizing on the second Niger Bridge as substantial fund has been released. It is the same with the air-ports, railways and water-ways.
Chris Ngige lost to governor Peter Obi in the 2013 governorship election; what chances has APC of successfully confronting the incumbent governor in the 2017 election?
Let me say this, the APC is a rightful successor of ACN on the same road. The ACN had always been the deprived group from Olusegun Obasanjo era to Goodluck Jonathan. Under Obasanjo, during the 2010 governorship election, the ACN won the governorship in Anambra state but was deprived by the Professor Maurice Iwu INEC. During the 2010 polls, they had to decide not to hold election in 475 polling booths including the whole of Idemmili north local government where everybody knew was Dr. Ngige’s strong-hold with over 155,000 votes for Willie Obiano to be declared winner!
Thank God, this time around, a level playing field will be created as APGA will find it difficult to perform dirty tricks with the expected reformed INEC due to the ferocious war being waged against corruption in the facets of the national life by Buhari. Consequently, an APC government in Anambra state will march Anambra people into the sanctum sanctorum of political power in Nigeria. This was the admonition which our forefathers, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. M. I. Okpara, Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu and others had wanted us to be conscious of; complete integration into the mainstream of governance at the federal level to stop the perennial cries of marginalisation and alienation.
How do you feel about the electoral jinx in Anambra Central senatorial zone and what do you think has delayed the resolution of that matter?
Let me say this. It was an act of gross injustice for the judge who wrote that judgment that nullified Uche Ekwunife’s election. He delved into an area which the Supreme Court had earlier said they should not do because it is not within their jurisdiction to question a party nomination in an election petition, particularly where the fellow challenging the election was not a member of the other political party where the fellow he is challenging emerged from.
Not just the above, the Judge went further to exclude the political party from presenting any other candidate. This is despite the fact that he had ordered a fresh election as part of that judgment. My independent understanding of a fresh election is that the whole process of election including replacement of candidate should be allowed because it is legal and constitutional.
To give a ruling allowing only one party and excluding every other party is not just unfair but unacceptable to the people of Anambra state. Various political parties who have been so unfairly treated and unjustly treated, particularly in the sphere of replacement of candidates, must and should ventilate their grievances to the Supreme Court where a final position will be taken on this matter and election thereby rescheduled.
Don’t you think that Buhari is laying a dangerous precedent by not relieving Ibrahim Magu of his acting appointment following his rejection by the Senate?
Ibrahim Magu had been adjudged an incorruptible man and the corrupt people who prospered from 1999 – 2015 have taken it upon themselves to go after that epitome of transparency and honesty in public office. If you have read all they have written about Magu, particularly from the Senate and the DSS, you can see that they never alleged that Magu was corrupt but that he keeps a few corrupt friends which according to them does not do good to his integrity.
In one case, they alleged that he hired a building where he lived with enormous amount in furnishing. On investigation, it was discovered that the particular allegation was false. We have been asking where is one such area where they have proven that Magu is corrupt or stolen public fund. It is my belief that Magu is the appropriate man at the appropriate time.
See how Magu is unearthing the enormous amount of money that have been hidden in houses all over Nigeria, a nation that is short of cash to administer the country.
Why has the Nigerian Police apparently chosen to handle the matter of Fulani herdsmen-related unrests with such lackadaisical attitude?
The Fulani herdsmen have been with us since the First Republic in the south, without causing harm to anybody. Since the upsurge of militancy in the northern part of Nigeria and Magreb region of West Africa, boys who have become part of Fulani herdsmen who migrated to the Savannah region in Nigeria because of the rampaging and advancing Sahara Desert, have become war-like and armed with AK-47 which they acquired from Libya, Mali and the Boko Haram zone; and using them for protection of cattle rustlers.
The federal government has ordered the police to disarm the herdsmen but the police appear to be incapable to do that. Some of us have suggested a more robust challenge by the police to rid the various herdsmen who have a very short fuse in firing at civilians without provocation. The violent armed herdsmen should be arrested and prosecuted while the foreigners should be deported to stop giving the president bad name.
In spite of wide spread objections, even in the National Assembly, on carving out of grazing routes, the federal government has created an agency in the ministry of agriculture to cater for the herdsmen. What’s your take on this?
I believe that whatever the country will do to douse tension which will not infringe on the rights of individuals and states ought to be done. If that includes creating grazing reserves and cattle track ways in states, it is well and good. This ought to be done in consultation with the various states of the federation. If this country will survive and realize its enormous potentials, we must look at all issues from the broader perspectives of national harmony and progress; not from the myopic view of ethno-centrism.
Ranches can be seen in developed countries of the world but there were times when those countries had cattle track ways and cow boys guiding the cattle. Ranches will represent the next stage we will graduate into; from track ways and grazing areas into ranches. After all, the premier of Eastern region, Dr. M I Okpara established Obudu cattle ranch in 1960 and produced fresh milk and marbled beef sold in super markets all over the region. The fact remains that if such civilized venture could be done in the 1960’s, there is no reason why cattle owners should not establish ranches in the northern part of the country to accord with civilisation.
What is your message to the Igbo and Nigerians generally?
It is my belief that this country will be better off united. What we need in Nigeria today is a leader who will see the whole country as one and work hard to develop it wholeheartedly, relying on dispensing equity and justice to all sections of the country.