• Saturday, July 20, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Citizens not ready to stand another eight years of hell in Nigeria – Umunna

Citizens not ready to stand another eight years of hell in Nigeria – Umunna

Leonard Umunna is a commentator on political matters, the presiding Bishop of the Bible Life Church and a philanthropist. In this interview with ZEBULON AGOMUO on state of the nation, he urged Nigerians to vote wisely in the next round of general election in 2023. He also advised prospective voters to strive to get their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs), shun double registration and to conduct themselves in the most civil manner as they file out to vote to enable their votes count. He also spoke on the role of the Church in the enthronement of responsible leaders, among other issues. Excerpts:

Nigeria is at the verge of general election in 2023; with all that are happening in society, do you see any threat to the election?

This question calls for an answer that befits it. A young man once approached a wise man with two chickens in folded hands. He asked the wise man, which of these chickens is alive? The wise man pulsed and answered – it all depends on you. The young man asked, how do you mean sir? The wise man said, if I should say, it is the one on your right hand, it could be the one you’ll decide to kill by pressing it harder; the same thing goes if I should say it is the other one. Remember that I have often told you that we have never elected a president; but what we have been having is selection; and then asking the people to vote. The coming election is the time to do right, if I am to use that word. It is an opportunity to get it right. But a decision might have been made behind the door; what do you expect me now to say? When you are not sure of the referee; how do you say this is going to be the result of the match? Look at the rising case of voter apathy. When the people now realised that with the way some primaries are going on in some parties, they end up throwing up people that are not being expected as candidates. So, when people see these candidates, they begin to lose interest in the process. The whole thing has been compounded now. INEC has told us that in some states, it recorded as high as 60 percent of multiple registrations and it is too late for correction.

What we are saying is that we are not depending on indices, machinery, proven way of doing the right thing but on the oligarchy – powers that be; those that determine whether the election will hold or not.

Many people have already declared their ambition to contest the presidency; who among them do you consider most suitable from what you can see? Do you see any of them that can take Nigeria out of the mire of hopelessness she is at the moment?

I had told the media repeatedly that there is no region, no part of Nigeria that you cannot get good presidential candidates. They have them. Nigeria is many nations in one. So, to tell you I am going to recommend one; I would do no such thing. Let me give you two names each from the three regions, starting from the North. I am talking about people who have proven track records; who have visions; who have evidently performed. You may not like them or their characters, but I am talking about their track records and what the people are looking for. These are people who have in different ways fought the things we are fighting now – either in state; in business life, among others.

Let us start from the North– Governor Babagana Zulum and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. This people have track record and integrity to the tasks they are assigned to. For the West, I tip Bola Ahmed Tinubu; from the East, I will pick Peter Obi and Nyesom Wike base on the criteria I have given.

I hope the oligarchy will allow any of them and things to go the proper way. Nigeria is not as it should be. We are being ruled by powers beyond us, spiritually and physically. God is never left without a man. The point is we are over-shadowing the correct ones by our wrong constitutional framework. I have said it severally that the constitution we are operating does not need this patch -patch amendment but a totally brand new Constitution. God always raises a leader, but when he does that we scuttle it through our criminal acts, bad justice system, occult practices and all the evils going on.

Read also: 2023: It’s payback time, Wike tells PDP leaders

Why don’t they in fighting corruption, recruit people according to merit as they are recruiting people into the Nigeria Police; why don’t they raise joint task force to monitor the expenditure on the money released to the military and track how it is being spent? They know what to do but they are not doing that because of selfishness and other factors beyond the physical. I believe that the issue we are treating is beyond the physical. It is spiritual. Only God gives a true saviour in any area, but it is only when his condition is met; then he fulfils it. The whole nation of Nigeria must repent like the people of Nineveh. It is not about sending people to go and pray while you stay behind. No; but the leader and the led must pray to God for forgiveness and healing of our nation.

The PDP appears confused on the zoning issue. What advice do you have for the leadership of the party at the moment?

They have two big problems. PDP is facing the problem of voting a person that will be according to their constitution and losing the general election. So, they don’t want to necessarily put the right foot forward and lose the election. If they follow strictly their constitution that says rotate between north and south, which should be taken into consideration more by the ruling party, the APC, because they have ruled for eight years and should now return to the South; but PDP may not put the right person that will win vote from the East because the North has to strictly bargain with the South because they say power is not served ala carte. You have to fight for it, which is so in many cases. Number two; PDP is facing vicious cycle which happens to many other parties. If they put this person, will the corresponding person not come from the other side of the divide? And if that person does not win the vote for them – let’s say, rotate it to the South, specifically South East; if they choose somebody there which is good and according to the yearning of many people, but the corresponding person comes from the North; it is not enough to win the vote of the North. There is a challenge. I think this is what is putting PDP in this quagmire. I have a little advice for them. PDP should be thinking of fighting rigging now before they take a decision on who is going to be their flag bearer. They should think of fighting what should be the result if they win; because if they choose somebody who does not have political sagacity, a juggernaut and structure, the other side that may feel marginalised may fight them through a better candidate in the APC and they will lose. So, that’s why I am saying they should put all these things into consideration; they can also decide to go into alignment with other parties. They can consider merger and decide on power sharing formula. If the PDP decides to put a northerner as its flag bearer, it should strike a deal with South East and let them know the reason for taking that hard decision.

Something tells me that PDP would not ordinarily want to deny the South East the slot, but because of the exigency of the moment, that’s why it appears the party is in a dilemma, but it should be sorted out in the interest of the party and the country at large.

Could you please comment on the implication of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s declaration for the nation?

Professor Yemi Osinbajo was very close, a mentee of Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I am not saying that if God told him to go and vie for it, he should disobey God. I am saying that they should check very well. What is the motivation, the decision of the APC to zone the chairmanship to the North; it means that the Presidential ticket should come to the South. So, you come to the West which is part of the south, Tinubu has already declared his ambition. Professor Osinbajo knows that his mentor had declared interest. Would his vying for this position not split the vote that should have gone to Tinubu whether at primary or general election? If that happens, the people that Tinubu raised up with him, what is he telling them? Suppose some people come tomorrow to say he (Osinbajo) has the approval of the powers that be in the APC to do this so that they silence him (Tinubu); what would he say? How would he extricate himself from such things? Don’t forget that Tinubu was the one to contest along Buhari in 2015 but was dropped because of Moslem/Moslem ticket that was not allowed. I am talking about moral question.

If it is for national interest – forget about it; because we have others who have gone there; who have more and better track records; who could do better. Some are even asking Professor Osinbajo, since he has been there, is he not part of the administration? He wants to extend the administration? Why shouldn’t he give his master the opportunity? I am just giving you the moral question both as a politician, his future, and as a Christian – his testimony. So, the implications weigh more on him; on his spirituality and his believability tomorrow; because once people cannot trust you, everything is furnished. If by tomorrow it emerges that some politicians ganged up with him against his mentor; that would be a serious dent on him. This is where my mind is going. If God told him to go, I would very much be happy to see it materialise and then Nigeria will be brought to its normal place in the comity of nations. Like I have already said, the implications weigh more on Osinbajo than on Nigerians.

What is the role of the church in the enthronement of a responsible government?

The church is an authority on its own. It is Christ’s agency on earth. Government is a different arm also. On election matter, the church’s role is to educate the members, urge them to go and vote with their conscience, vote in the will of God and do their part for that will of God to be done. The church’s role is effective prayers. But I have observed that for years that many government officials go for prayers in those places they demand money for candle. There are also church leaders that refuse to tell government the truth and they go to them for the kind of prayers and prophecies they like. God has put the church there to preach the good news; prayer for secular leaders, prayer for their well being and the peace of the land.

If the church is doing all these things in reality; God is well pleased. But if they do not on the other hand, teach the people the kingdom values that make for good governance, so that those among their members who vie for these elective offices, unbelievers will be using them for bad example. So, the thing goes beyond prayer and teaching to practising. The church role is clear; it is a salt of the society. Every church is expected to depict holiness. Every Church leader should be the father to all members, providing counseling and guiding them, not being partisan in politics, should guide their members in taking good decisions. If the church plays its role well and the leaders do not give themselves to gluttony, then God will be well-pleased and heal the land if they pray. The slumbering church should wake-up because Nigeria is at the edge of precipice. We can’t afford to get it wrong this time.

What advice do you have for Nigerians as they prepare for the next round of election?

Nigerians must get it right this time. We are at war in different sectors. The only thing is that it is not official war. This is not the issue of ethnicity; religion, my; my that. A lot of people are fleeing the country. They are just want to go anywhere else, even to smaller nations. It is just about getting out of Nigeria – that is what is on people’s mind right now. Nigerians must not allow voter apathy or indifference (it-does-not-concern-me attitude).

No; people must go out and vote wisely. Do not negotiate your vote. It is your future; it is your children’s future; it is your ticket when you get to other nations; it is your identity; that you elected a good and responsible government that is respected outside the country. Nigeria should know it that we have more at stake than our leaders. While we pray for God to give us a good leader, we must play our own part because angels are not coming to vote for you; we will pray and also do our part. Nigerians must vote with their conscience.

The conscience must be educated on the need of the hour. Look at where we are – Naira is over devalued; health is undervalued. Even a chicken price is better than that of a Nigerian. Thank God INEC is trying to get the electronic system of uploading results and to make the process a little bit transparent; our own role is to get to the polling booth and cast our votes. Do not allow anybody to push you into double registration because it won’t count. If we don’t get it right this time around, who is ready to stand another round of four to eight years of hell on earth? I don’t know.