Former President of the Senate, Anyim Pius Anyim has expressed commitment to rebuild the country if given the opportunity in the 2023 presidential election.
In an interview on Arise TV, the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) spoke on his presidential ambition, how to tackle problems facing the nation among other issues.
You aspire to be Nigeria’s president, what are you bringing to the table if elected?
I will start by saying that I know what Nigeria’s problems are and what the solutions are. I will say briefly that it is going to be my commitment to rebuild the country and when I talk about rebuilding the country, we have a whole lot of things to talk about, some people will get up and say they will re-calibrate the security architecture, I think they are missing the point. For me, I believe we have some fundamental issues that we need to address. We need to have a consensus on the structure of the country, we also need a consensus on the dream of the country, the ideals and we also need to have a consensus on developmental systems that will work for us. So for me, the first step I will take is to build concept consensus. People have to understand that it is not a matter of generating policies and throwing it at the people; the success of any policy will depend on how much the people were able to buy into it, and to buy into it, you need to harvest the perspectives of the various segments of the society to a point that there is a consensus. I want to say that the idea of the consultations which I’m presently doing is to harvest the perspectives of the different stakeholders in this country and I want to say that if I’m elected as president, this consensus will work for all of us. I’m convinced that the 21st century, particularly in the second half of the 21st century we are moving into, the drivers of the economy will be on industralisation and manufacturing, talent and innovation and technology. These will be the key drivers of the second half of the 21st century and I will develop these and prepare Nigeria to fit into the fourth industrial revolution. That will make the economy more dynamic and competitive and it will diversify the economy. I will also focus on the enablers of development, those things that promote development, like security, education, governance issues and by this I mean consistent policies, regulatory issues and the legal framework. These issues are critical to make the economic pillars work. If I become President of Nigeria, I will approach rebuilding Nigeria from these perspectives. The doubts people have on why many administrations have failed is because they just wake up and throw a policy on the people; it doesn’t and I can say that from my experience in government, I have seen how various governments approached these issues, the ones that worked and the ones that didn’t.
Talking about consensus, are we going to have another constitutional conference? Again, why should Nigerians trust you, they know you as a senator from Ebonyi State, who became president of the Senate and then Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), what have you to offer the people?
Whether we are going to have another national conference is not the issue; I think Nigeria has had enough, however, if that is the desire of the Nigerian people, no problem about that, but I think we have enough documents. The problem is getting everybody to agree that the way to go is acceptable to all. It is not really about organising another conference, but about saying okay this is your perspective as you have presented it; this your own perspective as you presented it, can we reach any compromise, so it is not about what anybody feels but about what we agree to do. My commitment is to do the will of the Nigerian people.
When you ask why the people should trust me, if you know my history that question will not arise. I was President of the Senate, I inherited a very troubled Senate and was able to bring stability there and I want to say I will bring stability to the country. I was SGF and was able to help the president through issues that actually brought a balance to the federation, that is something Nigerians are missing today. I assisted President Goodluck Jonathan to bring what Nigerians are missing today. I think I am that one Nigerian that can find home any where in the country. I started my career in Sokoto when I served, there is no part of the country that I go to that I am not at ease. If I earned the trust of Nigerians as president of the senate, earned their trust as SGF, I think I will be better as president of Nigeria.
Being President of Nigeria requires a lot of decision making, what are the parameters that will influence how you as an individual will make your decisions? What will inform your decision to trust people and what informs your decision to go with them even when they have done wrong?
What I can tell you is that nobody is a saint, but the parameter of choosing who to work with will be competence, capacity and experience; there are characters you can see, the other ones you cannot see and you will be diligent to monitor the performance of each person; when any person moves away from your vision, you should be able to call him to order or make a change. In decision making, I want to emphasise that it is not a mater of one man rule but collective will of the people, that is the governance I want to put on the table. The buck stops at my table but there must be enough consultation, it is my duty to ensure that I have enough buy-in from the people before deploying any policy; I want to believe those are the demands of democracy, I want to believe that is what a country as diverse as Nigeria requires.
You have been going around the country consulting certain leaders; Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide is quoted to have said that when the time is right, it will invite all of you from the South East and perhaps see if some of you will step down. There are already three of you from the South East that are prominent; will you be willing to step down for any other aspirant?
In my consultations, I discovered that some past leaders share concern on the future of the country and it was necessary that I share views with them, harvest their perspective and see how I can use their views to forge ahead. I will not call them the owners of Nigeria but I can call them concerned former leaders. My consultations so far are encouraging, what I discovered is that everybody wants the best for the country. There are few issues of where one comes from, but we all want what is best for Nigeria.
On what Ohanaeze Ndigbo said, it is not to my knowledge, I didn’t have that communication. We may come from the South East, but we are looking to rule Nigeria so whoever must be the President of Nigeria must not be somebody hand-picked by the South East. My concern is to make myself acceptable to South East, North East, South West, South South, North West and North Central because I am seeking to be President of Nigeria. I can say straight away that a candidate will emerge at the primary and I don’t see how any ethnic group can come to the primary to decide who will be their candidate or ask somebody they would have preferred to be their candidate to step down, I don’t know how that will work.
Many people call for a president of Igbo extraction, they say it has happened before in 1999 when both candidates at the election then were from the South West? They also call for equity, fairness and justice, especially as they feel the South East is marginalised in the current political dispensation, what do you say to that?
I will say that the issue of equity, fairness and justice is a fundamental issue. The fundamental issue of equity is captured in chapter two of the constitution and section 13 mandates every government agency to commit to applying the principles of equity. It also says that every aspect of national governance must reflect federal character, that is what we are saying. We are saying the presidency has been to the North, it is the turn of the South and that makes sense. In the PDP, which is my party, it is also in their constitution. Section 7 (3) (c) is clear on rotational zoning, it is fundamental principle of the PDP. When in 1999 the two presidential candidates were from the South West and President Olusegun Obasanjo eventually won, he was president of Nigeria not president of the South West and much of his votes were from outside South West; in fact, the South West didn’t vote for him and that is why anybody aspiring should know he ought to be a candidate of the country and not of any ethnic group.
You were former Senate president and the complaint every year is budget padding, in fact, this year there are reports of over 400 duplicated budgets to the tune of over N300 billion, what is your take on this and what is your greatest fear regarding Nigeria?
I really do not have much fears regarding Nigeria because I believe the challenges we have are leadership challenges and once we have the right leadership, things will reverse. If I have any fears at all, it is just the re-commitment of Nigerians to realise that we have no other country and because we are diverse in our composition we must be fair, equitable and just. Once we are able to apply that, we will progress as a nation.
In 1999, I was in the National Assembly, and I always said that whatever you say in the National Assembly is a function of the character in the Villa, so I don’t discuss the National assembly outside my own National Assembly because the challenges may be different. I know that during my time, we had no budget issues. When President Obasanjo was there, the National Assembly had peculiar issues of its own, when President Jonathan was there, it was different. The summary of my position is that whatever you see happening in the National Assembly is a function of the character in the Villa.
The issue of Nnamdi Kanu is in the court and as you know the wheel of justice grinds slowly in Nigeria. If you were to win the presidential election and the Nnamdi Kanu matter is still there, how would you handle it, what aspects of the President Buhari administration will you retain and what will you scrap?
On Nnamdi Kanu, I don’t like situations where a national problem is treated as a regional problem. The insecurity in the South East or the role of Nnamdi Kanu should be treated as a national problem, just as Sunday Igboho in the South West should be treated as a national problem, just as Mohammed Yusuf of blessed memory should be treated as a national problem. The reason I say this is that no part of Nigeria today is spared of insecurity or one form of challenge or the other and it is national resources that are deployed to contain them. If you ask me what I will do? I will put together all the challenges in different parts of the country and devise a strategy in tackling them. Containing the insecurity in the land will be my focus; as I said earlier, security is one of the pillars of development, so I will put together a security strategy that will secure Nigeria.
What will I do differently from this administration? I will say that what has held us back is a situation where when a new government comes in, it will sweep everything, good or bad of the predecessor. When President Umaru Yar’Adua took over from President Obasanjo, he continued with Obasanjo’s Niger Delta policy and today we have peace in the Niger Delta. Every attempt to recreate the Niger Delta problem has not worked because it was managed properly from President Yar’Adua to President Jonathan. Another example is President Jonathan’s management of Boko Haram and President Buhari’s management of Boko Haram. When President Buhari came to power, the first thing he did was to sweep away all the security architecture that President Jonathan put in place and what did we get? The matter escalated beyond control. I want to believe that if we had continued from where Jonathan stopped, the matter would have been different. So, I am not going to take a sweep, I will look at what is on ground, what is proper and progressive, understand it and advance it where necessary.
What is your take on the Steve Orosanye report which has come up again and the Federal Government says it will not sack workers as it rationalises the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and what is your plan on the war against corruption?
When we did the Orosanye report, we left no stone unturned, it was under my supervision. We did a white paper, of course, we could not implement it before the administration of Jonathan came to an end. The government of President Buhari didn’t see reason to implement the report when it came on board and now they are considering it. I stand by the white paper we did, but things are continually changing. If I become president, I will bring it up for review, where it is necessary to keep, we will keep and where it is necessary not to, we will not. The critical thing will be to ensure national interest.
On issues of corruption, the first bill Obasanjo submitted to us was the ICPC bill, it was a contentious bill then and Obasanjo was in a hurry for the bill to be passed; it was eventually passed under the leadership of then Senate president, Chuba Okadigbo. The last bill I did in the Senate before I left was also the ICPC bill; at that time, the international task force on money laundering blacklisted Nigeria as a non cooperating country on money laundering, so we needed an institution that monitors money laundering. The danger if we didn’t pass the bill was that the banking industry will run into a hitch, we had to stay extra hours to make sure that bill was passed and Nuhu Ribadu confirmed as EFCC chairman. One way or the other, the two agencies have come to stay. The acts have also gone through some amendments which may have expanded the scope. If I’m president of the country, corruption will still remain a focus. We should allow the two agencies to do their work.
If you get the opportunity to lead Nigeria, you will be inhering a debt burden of over N40 trillion, 15 per cent inflation rate, close to 40 per cent unemployment rate and many more economic challenges. What would you do about the challenges?
I will help you present it in a more frightening manner. Last year, the country earned N5.5 trillion as revenue and out of this N4.2 trillion went into debt servicing and repayment leaving about N1.3 trillion to run the country and of course when the administration realised they could not run the country on N1.3 trillion, they went for borrowing and the debt burden continued to pile. I want to believe that as a matter of rule, you are not permitted to borrow more than 40 per cent of your GDP and our borrowing rate now is about 36.9 per cent. That will look frightening for anybody coming in but it doesn’t scare me. I’ve said that the challenges are temporary and has to do with leadership and that what we need is to refocus the leadership. If I’m to refocus the economy, I will focus it on the contemporary world economic direction, manufacturing, talent and innovation, science and technology. The whole idea is that job will multiply on their own different from what we are doing presently. (The Sun Nigeria)
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