Dr. Alex Ekwueme, who played a pivotal role in the fight against military rule prior to 1999 having been chairman of the G34, a political platform upon which the PDP was formed, has made some revelation in an exclusive interview.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Vanguard in his Oko, Anambra State residence, Chief Alex Ekwueme, who served as Nigeria’s vice-president between October 1979 – December 1983 and played a pivotal role in the fight against military rule prior to 1999, has shared his thoughts on the state of the nation and the fate of his party, the PDP which he served among others as its first chairman.
Below are excerpts from the chat:
People attribute the state of Nigeria today to bad leadership, do you agree?
That is only partly true. My own belief is that even bad leadership should be first correcting. I can tell you from inside knowledge that our programme from 1983 to 1987 was a vast improvement from what we had in 1979 to 1983. For instance, let me mention it that when we appointed our ministers in 1983, we got all of them to sign undated letters of resignation, and I am making it public for the first time, which were lodged with the secretary to the government so that if any minister misbehaved we would not suffer the embarrassment of having to remove him and having to justify whatever he may have done wrong, we would just say that so-so and so has, for personal reasons, decided to resign from the government. Why did you do that? Were the ministers corrupt? I am not a judge so I cannot tell you who is or who is not corrupt, that can only be proven by courts, but perception is a lot of problem in any society and if there is a perception that a minister is corrupt even if he is not, it is better that you don’t leave that perception because it would corrupt the whole system if that perception is allowed to hold. So, if there is such a perception it is better that that person is eased out and say so-so and so has for personal reasons or has decided to resign his appointment as a minister of the government of the federation and that the president has graciously accepted his resignation and thanked him for the services rendered so far and that would be the end of the story.
You said some people took over the PDP, how?
I just mentioned it; Obasanjo was in Yola Prison, he had no idea how we formed the party and what it was formed for, but they foisted him on us as a president and leader of the party, and they converted the party into his personal fiefdom, and that is where the party’s destruction started.
It has been said that Obasanjo offered you the position of Senate President in 1999. Is it true?
Yes, he did.
Did you decline?
Yes, I did.
Don’t you think that if you took the position that you would have been able to mobilise the Senate to counter whatever breaches to democratic tenets that Obasanjo was accused of?
I am not immodest, but I can say that anything I put my mind to do, I try and do it well. If I had accepted and became president of Senate, I would have made the legislature something Nigerians would be proud of. But I didn’t think it was right. I was vice-president for four years and three months and under our zoning system in the NPN. Chances were high that in 1987 that I might have been the candidate of the party for the presidency. Umaru Dikko gave a press interview in London after the coup of December 31, 1983 that all the talk about corruption was just hogwash that the coup took place because they wanted to stop me from being president in 1987 and that they didn’t want to wait until it was too close that it would be too obvious.
But I know that early in December 1983 that the NPN (National Party of Nigeria) had its convention in Ibadan and President Shagari’s speech at that time was that the decision of the party to move the presidency of the country to the South was irreversible and that it was in the interest of Nigerian unity. That was part of his speech, and I think this was probably what triggered the December 31 coup according to Umaru Dikko in his press interview. So, if I was going to have a chance in 1987 to be the president, and the military stopped it in 1983, and almost twelve years after that my colleagues and I formed a party for which I was chairman from Day One until I resigned and they (military) stopped me again in Jos, why should I go and become President of the Senate?
Also, I had known Obasanjo since 1974 when he was in England at the Defence College; he and Bissala were at the wedding of Emeka Anyaoku’s younger sister and that was where I met him for the first time and I was practising as an architect. So, I invited all of them to a dinner. I know that as a President of the Senate, you could be got rid of quite easily as you have seen. So, it could have been easy to get rid of me by paying the senators to vote you out.
From what happened in the election of the first Senate President, Enwerem, it was clear that money had become part of the game, and we were there when Ghana Must Go was being moved around, and people were being moved by bus to Villa and back at Transcorp Hilton, Nicon Noga Hilton as it was then. So, in a way, if I became president of the Senate, to work with him as he suggested it would have taken only an amount of money to senators to say that they don’t want this man anymore, and that would have been the end of my political career.