PROFESSOR Anya. O. Anya, is a man of many parts. A renowned former lecturer in the University of Nsukka, he has chaired many national committees that came up with recommendations that contributed immensely to the development of the nation. Apart from being the first director general of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, NESG, Anya’s latest national assignment was as a member of the presidential advisory committee on National Conference which held in 2014. He is also the president of the Ndigbo Lagos. In this interview with Maureen Chigbo, editor, Realnews, Anya takes a hard look at the meddlesomeness of foreign powers in 2015 elections, and expressed worry at the shallowness of intellectual debate on national issues. He however, believes that the 2015 elections will hold although he was disappointed in the way Attahiru Jega has mismanaged affairs of the Independent National Electoral Commission. He says that the 2015 Elections will redefine Nigeria and if all goes well no one will recognise the Nigeria that will become a power to be reckoned with in global affairs. Excerpts:
Realnews: Why are we still concerned about the issue of security now in the country with the elections coming in March.
Anya: I think to answer that question, we have to take a step backwards and have an overview of what is going on. The truth of the matter is that this election is not like any other. There are only two other elections in the history of Nigeria that are as important as this. The election in 1959 that brought in independence in 1960, election four years, later 1964 that set off some of the crisis in the western region that ultimately led to the civil war. Because I always like to remind people, the civil war was a product of a crisis in Nigeria involving the North and the West. The East was not part of it. But by the time, the dust settled, either because we are not diplomatic enough to manage ourselves that is the East, we ended up being the one to carry the burden.
This election will redefine Nigeria. Let me also say this. What do I mean by redefining Nigeria, one of the parties is said to the progressives. The other party is supposed to be where the conservatives are. But in fact that’s not true. In fact, if you go back to 1998 when the parties were merging, you will find that what became the PDP was the first effort to build a really national party in which all sections – moderates, not so moderates even the leftists or what you may call the authentic progressives were represented. In fact, people forget that late Bola Ige, who was my personal friend, was the one who actually drew up the constitution in the PDP. When you talk about the progressives, they were the fathers of the progressives in the West.
But because some northerners were not comfortable with that they didn’t think it will give them the scope to do things the way they have done in the past, they formed the APP which later became the ANPP. And later on, after Buhari was dissatisfied with the APP which became ANPP, he then formed his CPC. These were extreme right parties, more extreme than PDP could ever be. Now take Bola Tinubu, who belonged to the Yar’ Adua PDM and so he was really part of to the mainstream progressives in the West. But because of the NADECO movement, he joined, and incidentally, I am a founding member of NADECO, if you go to the list when it was announced I was the only public officer holding a public office who was on that list. And it was at the most senior level. What am I saying; what has now happened is that some of the right wing elements of PDP are infact they ones that have moved out to join what has now become the APC. If anything, the APC cannot be the bastion of progressives in Nigeria. In fact it is contrary. What is left of the progressives is in fact in the PDP which is why a person like Lamido, the governor of Jigawa, a person like Tanko Yakassai, these were the revolutionaries of the North, the people who are in NEPU and you could not be more progressives than those. They are the ones who remained in PDP.
But the other ones have moved away. It is now mislabeling what is not progressive we are now calling progressive. What is in fact now the remnants of what is progressives but are now more progressives we are now saying are not progressives. But part of the problem is that Nigerians don’t think deeply enough, even this situation here has demonstrated how shallow our public intellectuals can be.. I don’t want to name names but at times I feel not only disappointed but ashamed of what very intelligent people have during this period.
Aganist that background, you will now see that what you have is a progressive propaganda in which you have things being labeled in a different way. I mean, until the government started saying what they have done in four years, they said that Jonathan was clueless, he didn’t know what he was doing, yet this is the most dedicated of every Nigerian head of state. Now in four years he has done more than Obasanjo did in eight years and yet people don’t see the sign. But the reason is simple.
Nigeria is responding not only to the circumstances in Nigeria but also to the circumstance in the international media. And because we are shallow we are not even looking at the changes and the shift that are taking place. Foreign interest and foreign forces have been more meddlesome in Nigerian affairs in this last two, three years than they have been since independence. Take the United States, every other American official think they can lecture Nigeria.
My generation was brought up under the colonial rule and we saw the early years of independence. We were proud to be Nigerians. Take the example, the American secretary of state, John Kerry, flies into Lagos and he expects the president of Nigeria to come and see him in Lagos. And I was ashamed that that happened. The American ambassador arranges for the two important contestants, Ambode and Agbaje in Lagos. He calls them and they all go running after him to sign whatever it is. And nobody sees anything wrong. Now we here just this week, Buhari has flown to London. He has had a meeting with Blair and because of that Blair is going to come to Nigeria to see our president. Why is this unprecedented interest? It is because Nigeria is about to shift. And that shift will probably make us independent for the first time. And that shift may mean that Nigeria can start building the modern African power that could be. And there are people inside who don’t want it and there are people outside who don’t want it and both forces are collapsing. But our people are not seeing it.
It is against that background that you will now see why everything is blown out of proportion, everything is propaganda, everything is politicised. Let me give you an example. If you take the vanguard edition the day after Jega had announced the postponement of the election. In the front page, there are 11 boxes of the things that Jega/INEC should have been done that have not been done including the fact that the permanent voters card, PVCs, are still being printing outside the country, including the fact that one third that of voters have not got their PVC, including the fact that 700 ad hoc staff that were to be recruited to run the election had not been recruited. The presiding officers that will supervise the election had not been trained and the list goes on. So what kind of election will we have had on the February 14 when the machineries for an election were not in place were not ready. And people are busy shifting blames instead of recognising that INEC failed itself and failed us. We are saying that it was the security people who they won’t do this, who planned a coup. And these are things being said by very intelligent people.
So in the process, nothing is sacred. Even the military that we all respect, everybody wants to drag it into politics. And that is where the myth of insecurity comes from. Let’s be honest. Nigeria as Chidi Odinkalu, director general, Human Rights Commission reminded us, I saw him on TV yesterday, saying that major international bodies has pronounced that Nigeria is in a state of War. What is war? Insecurity magnified, so why are we pretending. We are in denial. So when people say that the three states in the North East, which have under emergency for more than one year, that it may not be secure to have elections and people shout and say we must have election. And you then ask yourself do people know the logistics to hold election in normal situation. That’s one side of it.
It is now clear that games are being played by even Jega. The Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly have documented the things he has done which under normal circumstances should have enough for him to disqualify himself. But he has not done so and will not do so because he has his own personal agenda. And instead people focus on this and see how can we correct all these anomalies people are still shouting. As we speak, I do not have my own voter’s card. I have gone and have even seen the resident commissioner of Lagos State, I am told one story or another.. But what has been documented is that there is a deliberate plan to disenfranchise a large segment of the population in Lagos particularly non indigenes. If you see the Source magazine of this week, you will see Comfort Obi’s story that in her household of 18 people, only her mai guard who is a Northerner has got his PVC. The other 17 don’t. You know I am President of Ndigbo Lagos, we have reports of PVCs that have been destroyed. We have reports of PVCs that were picked up in a major drainage in the Ajegunle area and despite all these abuses people think that we can have a normal election.
But God has a sense of humour and that is why suddenly the Nigerian military is doing better than it has done in the past. Why? Because it has become quite clear that America is not on the side of Nigeria. They are our normal suppliers of military material. They refused to give us any. Now the equipment have come in and we can see the difference. Now instead of building on that and cheering the soldiers, people are saying soldiers should not be deployed for the election. Soldiers have been part of Nigerian election since 1960. But their duty is not to participate but to make sure that there is peace and security for all citizens to discharge their responsibility.
Realnews: Don’t soldiers vote?
Anya: They vote but not on duty. Usually, what they you organize beforehand go to their cantonment and they vote and INEC will take away their votes and keep it until after the election their vote will be counted along with other people.
Realnews: If soldiers have been participating in elections since 1960 and there was no obvious crisis as a result of that and no part of Nigeria is at war as we are witnessing now. Why is their so much hulla-baloo now over the deployment of the military now?
Anya: It is because people have their own agenda. And their agenda is power at all cost. And it doesn’t matter whether in the process of getting that power they put the country on fire. As I said, it was in the interview I gave to you earlier, there is no other serious country where the leaders speak so negatively and act so negatively about the country as we have in Nigeria. It is a misfortune we have but also a misfortune that is about to change. That is why this election becomes critical. If this election goes off smoothly, the days of impunity will go.
I mean Obasanjo has left the PDP. Some people in PDP has said good riddance. The truth of the matter is that when PDP started, it started as a patriotic national movement that brought all parts, east, west, north and south together. But it’s Obasanjo that polluted it because he came in and wanted to remake everything in his own image. And the result is what we have now. Now he has moved out. That is why I say, what is left of the PDP, if the re-organise, may be for the first time, we will have a truly national party because as the bible will put it you who have troubled Israel… Those who have troubled Nigeria has got into their own boat. May be after that we will then have some peace.
Realnews: From what Odinkalu, the director general, DG, of National Human Rights Commission, said, citing the Geneva Convention. Do you think Nigeria will be bound by the Geneva Convention he cited….
Anya: If there is war, you don’t have a choice. Geneva Convention is what international law recognises in a state of war. So it is not a matter of what you like or don’t. And when that happens, it means that there are things government in power can do that it cannot do under any normal circumstances. When people talk they don’t realise that at times we are fortunate to have somebody like Jonathan who really has not used the powers that a president of Nigeria can constitutionaly use. The president of Nigeria is one of the most powerful in the world. And that’s the man they say he is weak. The day he turns to start using those awesome powers, the same people will cry.
Realnews: Nigeria is signatory to some international conventions just like the Geneva convention. But then the sovereignty is supreme to those other conventions. The Constitution is also supreme to such conventions. And there is a court case now stopping the president from deploying the military for election. How…
Anya: (Cuts in) Listen! Listen! The judiciary is part of our problem as the current chief justice of Nigeria has hd to say. As the past chief justice, Miriam Muktar has had to say. She struggled to clean up the place. Much of the problem we had and have had over elections have been the kind of decision taken by the appeal courts. It is important not to discredit the judiciary but we should not pretend that the judiciary is okay. It is part of the problem. As people say, even my SAN friends tell me, with the right money you can procure whatever judgement. But what happens thereafter is what matters later. You go to the high levels of the court. That is where patriotism comes to play at the Supreme Court because there you have more patriotic, more experienced judges. So when you have secured your jankara judgement at the lower courts are thrown out. But they should not stop at that. There are certain judgement that if you give when I is reversed you should no longer seat on the bench.
So I am not worried about using the military. What is my business is about how you run the country. So long as it is constitutional, and the role of the military is well stated in the Constitution. If you are using the military in the way that is specified by the Constitution, what is the business of the judge to that? What does any judge know about the security of the nation? So let’s not be deceived.
Realnews: The Court has ruled…
Anya: Which court?
Realnews: The High Court, Sokoto and the federal court in Abuja
Anya: So let’s wait for the next court. There is no way that decisionwill stand because it is unconstitutional. I am not a lawyer but luckily the national conference forced me to read all the Constitution. The role of the military is spelt out in the Constitution.
Realnews: Are you suggesting that the federal government should go to the Court of Appeal to repeal the ruling? Or the government should ignore it and go ahead to deploy the military. Won’t that be in contempt of court?
Anya: Which court? If a court decides to be contemptible why do you have to bother yourself. It is the same court if the president acts constitutionally, it is the same court that will say he acted constitutionally and that’s it.
Realnews: But which one comes first – for the president to ignore the court ruling or for him to get a repeal…
Anya: If I were the president I will ignore it because that is what Chief Justice Kutigi who chaired the national conference said that the courts can be busybody. He uses the term busybody. This is a case where the court is a busybody dealing with matter which don’t concern it.
Realnews: How do you see this election that is fixed for March 28. Do you think it will hold?
Anya: I don’t see why it should not hold. But my worry really is now that all the shenanigans of INEC and of Jega have been exposed, the deficit in confidence will be low, no matter how it turns out because nobody will have confidence what comes of it. But Nigeria must continue as we go ahead we sort out the details as we go on.
Realnews: A school of thought thinks that INEC is trying to rig the election in favour of a candidate…
Anya: The evidence is there. I mean, when Jega creates the extra polling units he wanted to and made it as lopsided as it was, where Zamfara had the kind of allocation it had, does it make sense. When you have states that is in State of war under a state of war, under emergency where more PVCs have been collected even more than what is collected even in Lagos. These are facts that have come out. Lawyers say that when you go to equity you go with clean hands. Can INEC say they are going to equity with clean hands with all these details. All he has had to say is that he won’t resign but he has not addressed any of the issues raised. I am not one of those who says he must resign. The reason is simple, that the confusion that will create may be more than the confusion if we manage him, you know, when you have a bull in China’s shop which you will have to manage till he goes out without doing so much damage. That’s how we will have to manage Jega.
Realnews: Managing him, he is the one to announce the result. Supposing that now with the postponement of the elections more people have collected their PVCs and the election is held and the candidate he was supposed to rig election for fails to emerge winner. And he goes on air to announce his own preferred candidate as the winner. What happens?
Anya: He has no alternative. I know Jega personally. And what I am saying pains me because what is emerging is a different person from Jega that we all knew. I belonged to the Academic Staff Union of Universities when Jega was president and he used to come to Nsukka and we meet. I was a respected senior professor. And most of the people who worked with him, Asobie, Maurice Iwu, they were all my boys so we had a good relationship. And I presumed he had integrity. But I don’t know what forces that are impelling him now. But the Jega that we are seeing is not the Jega I knew.
Realnews: Won’t it be better for him to just leave or the president to use his powers….
Anya: Keep the president out of this. You see, Jega if he wants to leave with what is left of his integrity, I will encourage him to leave but it should be a decision for him and him alone to reach. Nobody should be involved in it. Because whichever way it goes, he will live with his conscience for the rest of his life. And when matter comes to that of conscience, it is him alone because he will be interrogated by his God and vice versa.
Realnews: That is presuming that he has conscience
Anya: Every major religion gives conscience to all of us. There is a way people act and you will know that there is still a modicum of conscience. You can’t presume that any human has no conscience.
Realnews: Don’t you think that the stakes are too high to just leave him? With what you said that depending the way election turns out there will be a shift in thinking, change in the way we think, in the society, impunity. What we are seeing right now is impunity at its height.
Anya: Nigeria will survive this and history book will report what has happened. When that time comes history will be the judge of all of us including Jega. What we must resist is human beings setting themselves up as if we were God. There are things we cannot do. Even this election will surprise people and it will surprise people because God has its agenda which is not all this running around is about.
Realnews: What is your final advise to Nigerians so that despite all the security and logistics challenges we are having, they should have faith that the elections will hold?
Anya: Three things. First, perform your function as a good citizen, as a patriotic citizen. Report people doing the wrong thing. Third, be on your knees intervening before God for Nigeria.
Let me tell you part of the reason I have this confidence is because of the national conference will hold but it held. People thought they will fight but they did not fight. People thought some people will walk out but they did not. The last day every single thing was approved unanimously. And people including those who did not want the conference to hold were dancing. I believe the same thing will happen. We will fear the worst but the worst will not happen. At the end we will know that we have been hostage to our fears rather than the reality because everybody in this country needs each other. So when the chips come down people will stop at the brink. Even those, whether it is Jega or whoever, threatening fire and brimstone, when the chips come down and the reality of what will happen dawns on them they will calm down not beause they are responsible but because events have shaped them. You know, there was what used to be called mutually assured destruction which was during the days of the cold war. The fear of the US destroying Russia or the reciprocal fear of Russia destroying US made it possible for them not to do so because they both have nuclear arsenal. And that made them not to do so because it was a chance they could not take because nobody will survive to tell the story. In all this posturing, neither north nor south can afford for Nigeria not to continue. But after this we would have learnt a lesson to find a way of accommodation. And the national conference has already provided the root for the accommodation. There are people who don’t want it. And this is there last ditch battles. After this last ditch battle in three years it would be different to believe that this is the same country. Because all the things that needs to be done for Nigeria to start flying has been done. You have seen what is happening to electricity, power to start with. We have seen what has happened to agriculture. For 30 good years farmers could not get fertilizer. Simple technology, they get fertilizer, no middlemen again and all kinds of initiatives that are creating young entrepreneurs. The future belongs to young Nigerians. Not to Buhari, even Jonathan is becoming an old man in terms of the ones that will run.
Realnews: What is the place of Britain in all these?. Being our former colonial master, it’s like they have been keeping quiet.
Anya: They are not been keeping quiet. It’s just that they are more sophisticated than the Americans. You know they Americans are brash. Britain is in the same programme with the Americans. None of them can take a chance on the kind of Nigeria that can emerge. Two things have happened. America tried to squeeze us by suddenly deciding not to take Nigerian oil. Suddenly, so that there will be chaos. It didn’t happen because China and others came and took the oil. America put pressure lets embrace homosexualism, we will be excommunicated. Well, they can come and take all the homosexuals in Nigeria and accommodate them in the US. On those two issues Nigeria has called their bluff. And that is why they are frightened that as Nigeria gets stronger what effect will it have in Africa? What effect will it have in the world? Because Nigeria is the only African country that has the potential to be able to affect world affairs. And that is why they are more comfortable with those who will say, yes, we need help. We need help. What help can we need at this time in the 21st century. Nigerians are one of the most tech savvy people in the US.
Realnews: What are the British doing? We know what the Americans are doing. Are they operating underground?
Anya: Why would Blair meet Buhari?
Realnews: Blair was the former Labour prime minister.
Anya: You don’t understand the British establishment. Whether it is Labour or Conservatives in the Britain, once a matter is of national interest, the politicians do not disagree. When it suits them Britain is a country I admire much. I was trained there. I have friends from all levels of the society. But that is also in a way some of us prefer them. They are more subtle. But that makes them also more dangerous (laughs). So don’t think that in this issue of handling Nigeria that America and Britain are disagreeing. No, don’t think that.
Realnews: I know that they always work together. But you can’t pin down on what they are doing?
Anya: You are looking at the surface. With the British come below the surface and you will find that they are also very active. They have also told us what we can or not do. but they are more polite about it. Their interest and American interest are not far apart. You know, Britain is just a people you will finish telling a long story and he will just say really. That one word really depending on the tone and it you understand the nuances of the British society depending on the tone, it could be complimentary or condemnation. It is the same word but it is the tone that says the story. And that’s why they don’t have a Constitution. There is no Constitution in Britain. They have a king or queen and they all swear loyalty to them. What passes for Constitution is what they have done over the years. Every British leader knows that there are things you do and things you cannot do. And if you do it there are things that will happen to you. And that is why you see them on TV at the parliament, on the things that matter there is no disagreement.
Realnews: So they are working behind the scenes?
Anya: They will always work behind the scenes. I said that this country in the next five years you will not recognise it but that depends on what happens in the next one year.
Realnews: Is there any likelihood that they will succeed to undermine the government?
Anya: Likelihood or no likelihood, I can only say that there is a spiritual dimension to what is happening in the country at this point in time.
Realnews: What’s that spiritual dimension? Can you explain it a bit?
Anya: I am not God. That’s why God is Sovereign. All these we are killing ourselves God already knows what will happen. And whatever is God’s will, will be good for Nigeria.
— Mar. 16, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT