By Francis Ewherido
It has been three years since I wrote to you. Not that I forget your anniversaries, but the zeal has not been there. The spirit just told me to write on this your fourth anniversary, which is why I am writing. We are all very fine here, although we miss you sorely.
So much information to pass on, I do not know where to start. I will kick off shortly with politics, the palm oil with which you ate your yam, but let me start with another matter that is very dear to your heart. About 15 months after you passed on, your former colleagues in the Seventh Senate honoured you by passing the Corporate Manslaughter Bill into law, specifically on 23rd of September 2014.
I recalled how pained you were after the Dana Airline crash of 2012, especially those family friends we lost. This was what prompted you to come up with the bill which seeks to punish corporate negligence and dereliction of duty, leading to death of victims, something still not adequately covered by our existing laws. The bill is still waiting for presidential assent and I believe it will be done someday
Now politics, it is no longer news that our party, the party you toiled with others to form, the All Progressive Congress, APC, won the 2015 presidential elections, although we could not replicate the same victory in Delta. Even though muffled and suppressed, politicking for the 2019 general elections has started. Normally our party in Delta should have a better outing in 2019 than in 2015, but infighting, which you envisaged and put measures in place to avoid, is still ravaging the party.
Many new entrants have joined the party. Ordinarily, this should have strengthened the party in Delta State, made it more formidable and ready for 2019 governorship election. But internal wrangling is hampering the progress of the party. Elections are at least 20 months away, so we are hopeful we can put our acts together before then. But we need a lot tact and selflessness. Egos also need to be put in check, while the interest of the party should be paramount.
There is a potential landmine the party needs to carefully navigate though: who bears the governorship flag in 2019. Things have not changed, so where the candidate will come from is more important to people than the quality and competence of the candidate.
Zoning has become ingrained in the minds of our people. Currently, Delta North feels it is their turn to govern Delta State and they have the sympathy of many Delta South people, who feel their surest way to clinch the governorship in the future is through zoning. All explanations that zoning is an elitist arrangement that benefits only a few and has no bearing on the average Urhobo, Isoko, Itsekiri, Ijaw, Ndokwa, Ika person or other Deltans on the street fall on stone.
Many feel APC must field a Delta North candidate or risk its party men and women from Delta North and even many from Delta South working and voting against the party in 2019. Those opposed to zoning argue that it is cheap blackmail that the governorship in Delta state, whether PDP or APC, has never been zoned. For me what is important is that whoever wants to fly the party flag must come out and prove his/her popularity across the three senatorial zones and give a road map on how to defeat the ruling People’s Democratic Party in 2019.
The person must also have a far better deal than the PDP has offered since 1999. Anybody who has these qualities does not need to play the ethnic card to win the primaries or election. Time is running, but they say 24 hours in politics is a long time and we still have about 20 months within which anything is possible.
The other tricky issue is that since many of our people have ingrained zoning, if APC fields a Delta North candidate and wins the governorship in 2019, what will happen in 2023, when, in the minds of our people, power should move back to Delta Central? Do governors in Nigeria voluntarily do one term? Will a sitting governor in oil-rich Delta agree to do one term? You can see we need the Wisdom of Solomon to see APC in Delta through in the months ahead.
The party does have a good chance, if the party can put its house in order because Delta State can do with better governance. The state lacks vision and vision drivers. If you see Lagos, you understand what Delta is lacking. No matter who is there in Lagos, things move seamlessly because there is a guiding vision. Past governments had the opportunity to lay a firm foundation but blew it. The period from 2007 to 2015 was exceptionally disastrous.
Those were locust years characterized by a monumental lack of distinction and sincerity. So much promised, so little fulfilled. Even though this government is barely two years, many Deltans on the street, tell you nothing has changed.
APC has a very good chance in 2019, but can it come to the party? So that is basically the situation with your baby, the APC, in Delta State. Tragically, we lost one of your former your political allies, Sir Olisaemeka Akamukali, in a freak road accident on June 13. Very sad; just in case you run into him, express our love.
At the national level, the trending issue is political and economic restructuring, which means different things to different people. Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) want Igbos out of Nigeria. They organized a sit-at-home, which grounded human and economic activities in the South East on May 30, 2017. Sorry you are wondering which one is IPOB again. Okay, they are the new kids on the block in the struggle to actualise a Biafran Republic.
They have taken the sail off MASSOB, or so many people think. Anyway, the actions of IPOB angered some groups of Youths in the North and they have given all Igbos in the North till October 1 to pack their bags and baggage and get out. They also told Northerners in the South East to come home. In fact, they said they are even tired of Nigeria and want out too.
Some groups in Yoruba land have also come out to ask for the Oduduwa Republic, while Niger Delta youths, who have always provided “exemplary” leadership, have declared a Republic of Niger Delta. Everybody is talking, but you know, it has always been the same issue: we leave substance and chase shadows. The real issues of equity, fairness, justice, true federalism are not being tackled the way they should. Everybody wants a republic. So in these new republics, the killings in Southern Kaduna will automatically stop. No more clashes between farmers and killer herdsmen in Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa and others? In the South East, Nsukka and Ebonyi people will no longer be regarded as second class Igbos?
The Nwadialas will start allowing their sons and daughters to marry those God’s special creations they call Osu. They will now be allowed to break kolanuts at public gatherings and take chieftaincy titles. In the Republic of Niger Delta, the mutual suspicion between the Urhobos and the Itsekiris will end. The war between Aladja and Ogbe-Ijoh will end, also boundary disputes between communities in Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom. All controversies surrounding the names of the places where the Maritime University and EPZ are sited will end. Let us continue playing the ostrich.
But this is my take. I believe in one strong and united Nigeria. I prefer to be part of a big federation, rather than a banana republic. But I believe our federation should be built on equity, fairness and justice with very strong institutions, not individuals. I believe in a fiscal federalism. All the six geopolitical zones are well endowed and can actually strive economically if driven by people with vision.
The whole idea of converging in Abuja every month to share money kills initiative and industry. I desire a true federation where every region controls its resources and pays a portion to the centre, which will be in charge of defence, immigration, foreign affairs, a common national currency, etc., but each region should have its police. You always canvassed for that. This will deepen the concept of community policing and reduce crime.
I believe the centre is too powerful and much power should devolve to the federating units. Currently the legislature, executive and, if necessary, the judiciary are the only institutions with the legitimacy to make these things happen and they must move fast. The Nigerian people, especially the youths, are already seizing the initiative. The problem is that it is not well coordinated and that is a recipe for chaos and disaster. But I know we shall pull through this patchy period. We have been in worse situations than this.
I have to round up. Bye for now, love from all of us; I am sure I will not wait for another three years before I write another letter to you.
Francis Ewherido is a brother to the late Senator Akpor Pius Ewherido