Press Encounter with OHO, Tuesday 3 March, February 2020
Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze is diplomat, politician, writer and public policy and governance expert. He contested for the Anambra State governorship in 2017, as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The former Secretary to the Anambra State Government under Governor Peter Obi and Governor Willie Obiano in this interview with Awka-based national media correspondents bares his mind on insecurity in Nigeria, Anambra State politics and several other national issues.
Considering the situation in the country, do you think the South East governors are doing enough to secure the zone? What is your take on the delay by the southeast Governors in establishing central security outfit like Amotekun in the southwest?
From outside looking in, it might seem that the southeast governors are not doing enough. But I am aware that they are fully engaged. I also know that the southeast people as well as Ohaneze Ndigbo are pushing them to be overtly proactive in order to reassure Ndigbo that Igboland is secure. The Southeast Security Committee is also hard at work.
From a policy perspective, one-size security arrangement will not fit every regional need. The southwest, northeast, southeast and southsouth regions all have their respective security needs and peculiarities. As such, each zone must fashion out what works best for them with a view to securing their respective zones. Whatever the states or regions plan to do, must however be done in partnership with the Federal Government to ensure synergy.
How do you compare the Southeast regional security arrangement with that by the Southwest? Do you think anything has changed from the existing security arrangement?
The core tenets of security are universal. There are hardly any novelties. As such, one should be looking at similarities instead of comparisons. Security is about collaborative teamwork. The Southwest Governors have teamed up to do their bit. The North has come up with its own model. Now it’s up to the Southeast Governors to do their part, taking into account peculiarities and needs of the southeast region. But they cannot do so unilaterally under the present circumstances.
Ultimately, the southeastern states, which by the way have their respective state vigilante outfits, will have to rally together. What might be different is that they will have better inter-state command, coordination, as well as agreed response modalities. The way I see it, since there are no regional Legislatures to pass the enabling laws, whatever the southeast states decide to do on security, must be state-based. I envisage that they will agree on common name, nomenclature and operational template.
Will the setting up of regional security outfits by geo-political zones solve the problem of insecurity in Nigeria? What do you think could be the best way to achieve regional security since South East Governors accepted Community Policing in line with the security policy of the Federal Government.
Perhaps not, but it will definitely enhance overall security and give the local populations peace of mind. The goal is to undertake measures that will enhance the efficacy of existing security architecture and solve existing problems. Whatever security arrangements we have in place presently are evidently not working efficiently. But if improving on them means each geopolitical zone or each federating unit being allowed to pick what works best for them on security, then so be it. I believe that some form of decentralization will enhance the efficient delivery of security services across board. If the ultimate and holistic answer to our national security challenges is regional policing, state policing or community policing, then each federating unit must be allowed to pick what works best for them.
What is your view concerning security situation in Anambra state.
The long-standing security regime and foundation laid in Anambra State has been improved on. Comparably, Anambra is safer than many other states. But that said you can never be ambivalent about security. Insecurity is very dynamic; it can be spontaneous or creeping. What matters most, is sustainability and eternal vigilance.
Your party, PDP is mobilizing very strongly to recover, the governorship seat of Anambra from APGA in 2021 election. Do you have the confidence that the stakeholders will not betray the party as they did in the last governorship which cost your ambition in that election?
I will use your words guardedly. If indeed, as you suggest they were PDP stakeholders that “betrayed” their party, and there may very well be; I believe they are now reaping the consequences of their action. If they did that because they were individually or collectively incentivized or compromised, or did so because they had an axe to grind; they are now suffering the consequences along with the rest of us. An Igbo adage says you “don’t cut your nose to spite your face.” Another says that when “an aged woman trips twice, the village children will count the contents of her basket.”
Ahead of the 2021 gubernatorial election, the Anambra PDP appears factionalised. How is the party going about it? How ready is your party for 2021 governorship election, knowing full well that APGA is in total control and APC not relenting?
PDP Anambra factionalized? I don’t think so. We have one chairman, Chief Ndubisi Nwobu and one State ExCo. And as far as I know, Anambra PDP is not due for a State Congress until the last quarter of 2021, actually after the governorship elections. I must admit, however, that there are some people within and on the fringes of the party, who like to create uncertainties that give impetus to “mercantile politics.” Such people believe we are yet in another “trading season.” But my personal view is that the party is supreme and must ensure discipline within its rank and file. Those who undermine the party ought to be disciplined. We witnessed such disciplinary actions in the recent past.
our party, PDP, has said it is not zoning the governorship ticket for Anambra 2021 election to any zone in the state. Since the party has thrown it open, will you be vying for governorship in 2021?
Zoning is a red herring, since it’s party-based. And what is applicable is what the party Constitution says. If the operative words here are “thrown open”, it presupposes that the party is jettisoning its extant zoning policy, which is not the case. As far as I know, PDP is not into zoning. As to my personal disposition, since 2017 I have been in the race; I remain in the race and will always be in the race, because I have been proactively engaged in the process of engendering purposeful leadership and sustainable development change in Anambra State.
Like most, I remain painfully conscious of Anambra’s need for a skilled leader that is committed to redirecting the state towards sustainable development and greatness. I’m also mindful that Anambra has experienced huge missed opportunities and loss of time, financial and material resources. That ought to be redressed urgently.
Kaduna State governor, Nasir El Rufai recently called for a power shift to the south come 2023. Do you think the northerners are ready to hand over leadership baton to the south?
I am sufficiently not to second-guess the esteemed Governor of Kaduna State. I don’t always agree with him, but I respect him. In this instance, he seems to have hit the right chord. But circumspection is called for when dealing with strangers bearing gifts. In reality, however, anyone talking about power not shifting to the south in 2023 cannot be deemed serious and indeed, does not wish Nigeria well. That said, the south as a collective, has to be strategic in handling this matter. Once you encounter an intra-south jostling and bickering, the default option will kick in, which is to maintain the status quo. That will be utterly unacceptable.
Now, let me be frank and categorical even at the risk of being controversial. If the northern elite want Nigeria to stay whole, they must voluntarily yield to reform and restructuring. Such reforms will benefit the North immensely in terms of poverty alleviation, enhanced education and development. We have a large swathe of unemployed and under educated youth population in this country.
The majority are domiciled in the North. That is a ticking time-bomb. These challenges must be addressed. If Nigeria, which has been ruled predominantly by the northerners, has not done so well even in the North, it becomes commonsensical to try other leadership alternatives. The North has an advantage they must recognize. Routinely, the number one and two positions in this country will always rotate between the North and the South.
Yet any position allotted to the Southerners will also rotate between the southeast, southwest and south-south. The upshot is that the necessary concessions will be made when the cost of not doing so outweighs the cost of doing so. As I see it, restructuring will be incremental rather than a one-off event. We already see that manifesting in the security sector reform and governance.
With the spate of killings currently experienced in the country, do you think President Buhari still has a grip and control of this country?
National security is a joint and shared responsibility. The people, the federal, state and local governments have their respective roles to play in ensuring national security. But security of the citizens is the primary responsibility of the government. And in a democracy, the buck stops on the desk of the President. I’m sure Mr. President is fully aware of the huge outcry about the spiraling insecurity in the country.
I believe he must have at his disposal, intelligence and security assessments, which we are not privy to. He alone can determine what scope of national resources he needs to deploy to mitigate the prevailing insecurity. From where I stand, I believe this nation has sufficient human and materiel resources, to totally dominate the national security environment. If the will is there, then the way is also there.
Are you nursing any fear that Nigeria is at the brink of disintegration or collapse?
I wrote an op-ed recently titled “Nigeria is Dying”, which elicited mixed reactions. While many applauded the candor and vehemence of the piece, a few considered it hysteric. I was not the one who made the intelligence assessment that Nigeria was on the brink and approaching its tipping point and might implode. Those of us, who do analysis or scream ourselves hoarse, do so to ensure that such apocalyptic assessments do not become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I don’t personally know anyone who prays for Nigeria to disintegrate or collapse. But our people want true change and discernible reform, which falls under the broad rubric of restructuring. Yet it will be the ultimate fallacy, to be complacent or think that Nigeria is too big to become a failed state. There are nations, which remain nations and only so in name, but in reality, have been internally dismembered by internecine violence and visceral sectarian or ethnic conflicts. We must work hard to avoid such fate.
What impact, consequences in your view will travel ban on Nigeria by the United States of America have on the relationship between the two countries? Recently, Mr Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information said that the country is yet to be communicated on the issue of travel ban, what’s your take on that or do you think Buhari’s administration would fold hands and allow Trump establish the ban?
Little or no impact whatsoever. But that does not mean we should fold our arms and not react. Our international system promoted globalization and still support its core values. Yet, each nation state must protect its sovereignty, national interests and security. Once a country perceives that a counterpart nation has become a weak link in the collectivized security mechanism, it will have no choice but to resort to unilateral measures.
That is what happened to Nigeria in this instant. In the post 9/11 environment, and proliferation of terrorism, we have to take our bilateral relations with the U.S. seriously and not allow matters of mutual interest to fall through the crack. It is therefore incumbent on us to address U.S. security concerns in a multi-disciplinary way; which means we must look at the foreign, domestic and enforcement dimensions. We must look at how our relations with third parties might impact on the U.S. strategic interests. In tackling U.S. concerns, we will invariably be addressing our own security shortcomings and challenges.