Hon. Eddie Mbadiwe represents Ideato North/South Federal Constituency of Imo State and Deputy Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Security and Intelligence. In this interview with IGNATIUS OKOROCHA, Hon. Mbadiwe said the inability of the leadership of PDP to read the body language of their Northern supporters was responsible for its defeat at the presidential poll. He bared his mind on other matters of national interest. Excerpts…
What is your view on the attitude of PDP politicians who started defecting to the rival APC soon after the elections?
Well, I think it is very disgraceful; it is totally condemnable. You begin to wonder why people are in politics; is it for their stomach or what? I am not saying that people should be fixed in a party but the way they are doing it now is so shameful. That’s why I brought a bill in the life of this Parliament to remove Section 68(g) of the Electoral Act, which allows people to change their party if there is a split. But that bill was defeated. And as people told me after the meeting, they said it was like shooting ourselves in the foot. That’s why they defeated it. But that amendment I brought, which I am still canvassing, is in the best interest of the country. Anybody who changes his party should go back to the electorate. If you are very popular and confident, go back and let them bring you back. Until we do that, we are not going to have any sensible representation or democracy because people just flop in to collect money and nothing more. The PDP has lost, yes but the PDP has to rebuild itself, rebrand itself, and be a new party; and sell itself to the electorate, that is how it is done. When Labour was in opposition for more than fifteen years in England, what did they do, they set up new Labour; new Labour, new programmes. You have to find out what the people need. So, what the PDP has to do now is to build a new PDP with programmes that could sell to the people. And that will be in the interest of the whole country because you now have the APC in the central government and have a strong PDP in opposition, which will be good for the country.
Are you saying that anybody who defects from his/her party to another party should lose their seat?
The moment you are resigning, it means you are vacating your seat, that is the amendment I think we should do, so that you know the full implication of what you are doing. As you are resigning, you vacate your seat and go back to the electorate. If the people like you, they bring you back.
Nigeria has just come out of the 2015 general elections. What are your expectations for the incoming administration?
My expectations are not different from the expectations of many other Nigerians. The expectation is that the country should move forward. There is no doubt that it got to a point where it looked as if we are stagnant. So, the change mantra caught up with many people. We wish the new government a lot of luck because they need it. You see Nigerians who have been in this thing for eight years. It is not going to change overnight. So, it requires a lot of work to get people to be able to change their habits. But it can be done; it has been done in a lot of places. The best thing one can do is lead by example. Those who follow you should look at your lifestyle, what you are doing; and that helps transform them. The government also has to see how it can work on the psychology of people voluntarily, not by force. That can be done because there are studies. So, once you can get people to believe in what you are doing, then the rest of the story is simple. But the corruption thing is definitely massive, and there is no doubt that everybody in Nigeria wants it killed. But corruption is in every facet of our life. It is in civil service, it is everywhere, and it is open. It is no longer hidden which is really a shame to the nation.
This is the first time an incumbent President has lost an election in Nigeria. Do you see this as a weakness on the part of the PDP?
No, it is not a failure on the part of the PDP as such. I think it is the inability of the PDP to read the signs. The signals were all there, the PDP did not read the signals. Personally I knew that this country wanted a change for the President to go to the North; there was no doubt about that. I even knew that even the PDP people from the North had that craving. So, if the party read the signs properly initially and said okay, let’s get a northern candidate to compete with anybody, we might have a different result. So, you must flow with the tide. That’s what leadership is all about; you must watch the tide. The tide was for change to the North. Am not saying it is right but that was the tide. You refused to flow with the tide and you are doing three times the work you should have done. That was the problem of the PDP. PDP was flowing against the tide, that is the truth of the matter.
You have said that the corruption in the system is massive. Do you think that the incoming government can tackle it, and how do you want this to be achieved in view of the fact that a lot of times there is conspiracy and connivance between and among citizens to commit wrongs?
I don’t know about the conspiracy theory, I don’t agree with that. You see, what I said at the beginning is that a lot will depend on the lifestyle of who leads you. It has been shown in a lot of places. As a governor of Rotary Club, for instance, you can get your district to work just by being punctual to meetings. That’s just one example. If the people know that if you schedule meeting at eight O’clock, you will get there at one minute to eight, you change people automatically; they will come. They may not come that first time but after that they will start coming but it all depends on the lifestyle of the leader. Again, if your staff knows that you don’t take bribe, he/she will begin to emulate you. We know in this country that people buy employment; civil service employments are sold. It is open. In my constituency, people that I gave jobs were shouting that they didn’t believe that it was possible for them to get these jobs without paying. I asked them, who are you going to pay, do you mean to pay me? They say they will pay my staff who will now talk to me, I say no. Themselves know that they cannot do that because I won’t take the money. And if I find out that you have taken money I will sack you. This is just one simple example. So, if you can get this through the system, you can change the system very easily. And I know that the incoming President will try along these lines. There is this very bad habit most of us, Nigerian leaders, have. If I fix a meeting for two O’clock, for instance, I don’t even leave my house till about 2:30 to 3 O’clock, and people are waiting for you. It is rudeness, it’s wrong. So, these are basic things we should do. This is the way business is conducted all over the world; if you give an appointment and you don’t come until two O’clock, people will say that you are not serious and they will go away. But in Nigeria they will say, oh, he will come, let’s wait for him, give him another one hour. This is all nonsense.
There is this school of thought that the Igbo put their eggs in one basket and today they have lost it completely. Don’t you think that this is a failure on the part of Igbo elite?
The Igbo have not lost anything; I will not accept that. We have not lost anything. What we have to do as a people is to get ourselves together. Let’s meet. The Igbo are so hard-working that they can even do without government. We can generate enough money in a lot of other places. The fact that we are not in APC doesn’t mean that we have lost everything. Even government is not for one party. It doesn’t matter who is the president; he is not a sectional president because in the next election he will want our votes; and he won’t get them unless he pleases us. So, the Igbo don’t have anything to regret. We have to get ourselves together and discuss how to forge ahead irrespective of whether we voted for APC or not.
You know that the Igbo did not produce anybody in the APC who can be elected as the President of the Senate or Speaker of the House of Representatives. Doesn’t this give you concern that the Igbo nation will be missing out completely in the incoming political dispensation?
Yes, it is true, but what I am saying is that it should not bother us so much because we can still organise and move on. The Igbo are basically traders, contractors and other self-employed ventures. And you know that even if it is abroad, people reject government appointment because if you do it honestly there is no money in government appointment. This is the truth, there is no money unless you are going to government to steal. In America, for instance, people are begged to come for government appointment and they say no. So, the Igbo can adopt that style and say please, you rather come to us. We set up industries and they will come and buy our products. If our products are good they will come. So, that’s my advice to Igbo. Let us look at our core values and develop them, enhance them and we move ahead.
You defected from the APC to the PDP shortly before the general elections; do you regret leaving the party that is going to form the next government in the country?
No, I don’t regret at all. You see, for me as a person, there are people I cannot deal with. If you are insincere, if you are dishonest, I don’t want to have anything to do with you. I left because I was betrayed; I was betrayed by the Governor, Rochas Okorocha. How can somebody put people in the same party with you against you; set up people and give them money to fight against you. That’s a betrayal and I don’t have anything to do with such people in my life. So, that is the position. I was betrayed.
Your Governor appears to be the only prominent person in the APC in the South-East, do you see him giving life to the region now that it appears that the rest of the states are out of the party?
You see, as a people we must have a direction. No one is going to force his own ideas down our throats. We must sit down and discuss where we want to be. There is a saying that where ignorance is bliss it is folly to be wise. You have heard that, haven’t you? People are saying that Igbo are ignorant and foolish, whoever thinks that he is a messiah is looked at as a fool because our collective wisdom is certainly much greater than any person’s individual wisdom; they want to arrogate to themselves what they don’t have. What can they show to prove that they are better than anybody else? Nothing, apart from razzmatazz – nothing.
President Goodluck Jonathan refused to sign the amendment to the Constitution into law few weeks to his exit from the office. Don’t you think that the National Assembly did hasty job on the document?
I don’t think it was a hasty job but the National Assembly has asked him to return the submission in its original form so that they can look at it. The President raised some valid and salient points. That’s what democracy is all about; we can look at them. If it is possible we amend, if it is not we send it back to him; if he doesn’t sign it we override him and pass it. That’s the law. But I don’t want us to get to that stage where we have to start overriding the President. I think the country will be better if we all meet and agree on the way forward.
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