In this explosive interview with The News Chronicle (TNC), National Chairman of The Young Progressives Party (YPP), Bishop Amakiri bares his mind on a number of issues – how the party has contributed to the strengthening of the nation’s democracy, why Professor Kingsley Moghalu, the party’s flag bearer in the 2019 Presidential election hardly associates with the party these days, what he thinks about the clamour for restructuring- among several other issues.
TNC: Let me start by thanking you for granting us this interview despite your tight schedule. Your party achieved a major feat in the 2019 general elections by winning a senatorial seat in Anambra State. Do you think it was because the party was accepted by the people or was it because of the personality of Ifeanyi Ubah, who won the Senate seat for the party?
Amakiri: Well, it’s all-inclusive. There can’t be a child without parents. The parents will first and foremost be together and when they give birth to a child they now become one blood so YPP won the election because Ifeanyi Ubah is a personality there and Ifeanyi Ubah also won the election because he went through the platform of the Young Progressive Party. So it is a win-win thing.
TNC: The party was largely associated with Prof Kingsley Moghalu who was its flag bearer in the 2019 Presidential election. But for some time now, particularly after the election, there seems to be a disconnect between him and the party. What is happening?
Amakiri: We are not in any false relationship and the constitution of Nigeria permits that people have freedom of expression and association under section 40 of the 1999 constitution. And so for that reason, people have their right and then political movement is not religion; even religious people have the right of association. We have seen Christians converting to become Muslims and we have seen Muslims converting to Christianity so if in a political party somebody decides to leave they have the right to do so. So I don’t understand what you mean by a disconnect. Moghalu ran under the YPP, did his best. The YPP also – we did our best and after the general elections maybe he decided that he wants to take a leave – that was what he did. That doesn’t mean that we have any friction in our relationship.
TNC: Let’s talk about Nigeria; the present government seems to be overwhelmed by the litany of challenges rocking the nation – from insecurity to unemployment to poverty. What can the government do to address some of these issues?
Amakiri: We have offered our advice several times. We have led members of the party on a peaceful walk for good governance. We are the only party in Nigeria today that has done that. We have several times aired our views through democratic means and we have advised severally, we have proffered solutions even in writing; we have been to the National Assembly to submit recommendations. We will urge the federal government to carefully study the recommendations we submitted to the National Assembly for our perspectives on nation-building. We know that nation-building is an obligation of every citizen and those of us running the affairs of political parties, we are saddled with the responsibility of holding government accountable and we have done that several times. So it is not a new thing – we don’t need to begin to roll out drums again. It is left for the Federal Government to understand that they need to yield to the yearnings of the people. You can take a horse to the river but you cannot force it to drink water. My advice to the Federal Government is to please, give listening ears to the yearnings of the people, look into the recommendations made by people, not only political parties. Very reputable citizens of this country have made several recommendations and it is incumbent on the Federal Government to heed to the advice because we are all stakeholders in this country.
TNC: There has been a lot of blame game on the issue of insecurity in Northern Nigeria – Boko Haram, cattle rustling, banditry, kidnapping, etc. Do you think there is a political undertone behind the killings?
Amakiri: The issue of security in Nigeria is not peculiar to the North alone – we all know what is happening in the South and all over the country. People are being kidnapped, people are being killed, and we have had so many communities that have been sacked by bandits so the issue of insecurity is a national issue. We need to broaden our horizon on what the federal government needs to do and like I always say, leadership must be by example, leadership also must give a listening ear because a leader must be a perpetual learner, must have that listening ear so that you can look at all the solutions and strategies that people are bringing on the table. But it is unfortunate that maybe we don’t have patriotic leaders at this point in time that can drive governance in Nigeria that will take us to that citadel of utopia that we all desire to be. So I think at this point, rather than throwing punches of blame, I and you, including the media we just have to have a rethink about all these and put all good hands on them and proffer solutions to the problems – solutions to the problems are not just left for the federal government alone, the citizens also have a role to play. And that has to do with a great sense of patriotism and people having attitudinal change. We as a people we need to change our attitude.
TNC: In response to the various agitations calling on the President to either fix the country or resign and many others clamoring for restructuring, the president in a statement by Garba Shehu, on Sunday (October 4th, 2020), said the government will not bow to any pressure. What do you make of that?
Amakiri: I subscribe to the view that that the country should not be allowed to break up. The country must remain as one nation but the question we need to ask ourselves is; as a nation have we made any significant progress? In my own humble opinion, it’s a capital NO because at this point we cannot be comparing ourselves with many countries across the globe. How can Nigeria at 60, still be battling with the problem of epileptic electricity supply? – You cannot be sure that you will have power for 24 hours a day. These are just some of the challenges – I am just scratching the surface. . There are lots of issues. To me, we need to begin to give priority to leadership, including the processes of leadership recruitment. It is also important that we understand the issue of ethnic and other identities in a diverse country like ours. For me, these are the fundamental issues that we must talk about first because if we have the right leadership, I can assure you things will work better but because there is virtually no leadership that is why we are where we are today. That is why I said that the people themselves also have a role to play.
TNC: Still on that, in recent weeks, many influential individuals are adding their voices to the clamour for restructuring. For instance Pastor Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) recently added his voice to the clamour. Even the Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo has said the cracks in the nation, if not fixed, may lead to the country breaking up.. What is your take on that?
Amakiri: It depends on how they define ‘restructuring’. Restructuring is in different ramifications. I believe in the restructuring of the mind. Let’s restructure our minds including anybody who is shouting – even the Man of God – let’s restructure our minds first before we talk about the restructuring of the country. As I said, we have Nigeria; all of us are in Nigeria so we have contributions to make to restructure the country. Anybody calling for restructuring should also look at which ways he is contributing to restructuring Nigeria. We should restructure our minds first before we talk of restructuring the country.
If we must tell ourselves the truth, for us to foster national unity, for us to give people a sense of belongings, why can’t we revisit our constitution and make it a single-term tenure for both Governors and President and this will be rotational? For example, we have six geo-political zones in this country; we can say in the constitution that there must be a rotational president within the geo-political zones. If the South-east for example goes for one term, the next should be North-east. If we do this, you will see that both the people in the South-east, South-west, South-South, and every other place will all drum support for one candidate from the North-east. That will foster national unity. Let’s put it in our constitution that we should have a single term tenure and the same thing should be applicable to the states – in the state too, we should have the rotation of power going through the senatorial districts. We can only enjoy this country when we have the right leadership
TNC: Nigeria at 60 is still adjudged a developing country. Where are we getting it wrong and how can we right the wrongs? What is your assessment of Nigeria at 60?
Amakiri: As I said, Nigeria is a great nation, well endowed with enormous resources – Be it natural or human but we are bedeviled with bad leadership. For me, leadership is the key. Let’s do something about leadership otherwise, we will continue to talk till 100 years. Let’s restructure leadership, restructure our minds, give priority to the leadership recruitment process because it’s the key and it starts from me and you – the young people of this country. Are the youths ready to break away from mental poverty which is more injurious than economic poverty? Mental poverty is the reason why a young man will say he is just okay to be a P.A to a Local Government Chairman when he probably has the capacity to be the Local Government Chairman and bring about needed reforms and change. Mental poverty is the reason why a young person who is supposed to contest for election and be in the parliament to bring up vibrant ideas in the parliament will rather prefer to be a tool to be used by the same old people. Remember, whether we like it or not the parliament is the citadel of every democracy. If we can give the parliament a priority where we have young men and women that are thinking about nation-building and patriotism, then I can tell you that we can make appreciable progress. Whether Nigeria has made significant progress or not, I believe we have reasons to celebrate. For instance, 21 years of an uninterrupted liberal democracy since 1999 for me is a cause to celebrate; 60 years of staying together as one Nigeria is something to celebrate.
TNC: Coming down to the state level, do you think the various state governors are doing enough for their various states in addressing the plight of the masses?
Amakiri: No they are not. No state governor is doing anything in the states. Travel out of this country and you will see how some countries are being developed with the little resources they have. Here you see states that are getting billions of Naira from the Federation Account and you can barely see what they do with the money. For instance if you go to Delta State, in Warri where they have refineries, there are no roads there and Delta State is one of the main beneficiaries of the allocations from the Federation Accounts. There is no significant development there. It is just lip services that these people are rendering and because Nigerians – most of us are so myopic, we cannot question the excesses of government. That is why I said we need to look into our mindset. The citizens are contributing to the problems because people are not ready to ask questions, people are not ready to hold the government accountable – we must hold our leadership accountable if we must have a befitting nation.
TNC: Talking about your party, they say action speaks louder than words, how has your party contributed to nation-building?
Amakiri: It depends on the angle you are looking at, if it is by advising the government, contributing our quota with the little resources we have, I think our records are there to speak for us. You have seen what our Senator is doing at the National Assembly down to his community, his constituency where he is leading his team, building health centers for that community, it has never happened before in the history of Anambra State – that is just a little testimony I will give to you about YPP. And we at the National level, several times, we have visited the national hospital to donate blood to people who are in need of blood, we have visited the IDP camps several times to also give palliative measures to people in the IDP camps and we have been doing some other things quietly just because we believe that we have our own quota to contribute to nation-building.
TNC: Finally, as a young people-oriented party, how has the party helped to provide succor for the youths, and what are your current plans for the youths?
Amakiri: Passion is one thing in life that one must have before you can even have the desire to do anything. We have provided a platform for them, educated them – the 2019 election was a case study. We provided a platform, we asked the young people to come around and some came and there were some who still followed the same old cargoes. You can’t take a horse to the river and force it to drink water. We have provided a platform for every young progressive-minded person. But like I said, it is a work in progress and we will continue to educate them.