Chidi Donald Amamgbo a Constitutional lawyer in this interview spoke about his ambitions to run for office in Nigeria, the nation’s flawed constitution, true fiscal federation and the reasons for the various agitation in the country. He spoke to our Correspondent in Abuja
2023 is coming faster. There have been these arguments, whether they should return the presidency to south or not. And this clamour for the restructuring of the country, before the election, what is your impression about Zoning or rotational presidency?
The fact that we are talking about zoning of presidency to regions, highlights the failure of Nigeria. If we are a country where we are truly one nation, if we are truly one nation, we are brothers and sisters, where merit as opposed to ethnocentric politics rises to the top, then you wouldn’t be clamouring for zoning of the presidency. Rather, you will be clamouring for the best person win. Why? Because you know, that person is a patriot. And he has the best interest of the nation at heart. Unfortunately, our politics is very regional and it started in the 60s. And it’s still so and because it’s regional, a lot of people have been marginalized. And there is the belief that if your zone the presidency to a particular region, then the benefits of governance will come to that region, they feel empowered, they feel they can bring development to the region, because now the guy or the man or the woman at the top is from that region. That is the irony of the Nigerian politics. Having said that we live in Nigeria of today and we cannot have one region, have monopoly of power. It has to devolved to other regions, that is the reality of Nigeria until we get to that point in our national development, where it doesn’t matter where you come from. The reality today is that if you live it the way it is, power will remain in one region. And that’s not fair to the rest of the region
You typically referred to the Nigerian constitution as a flawed document. And now there is a process to review it. We don’t know whether they have finished the review or not what would you specifically want to draw attention of the National Assembly that needs urgent change in the construction.
You know, if we start going through it, it will be all day. First of all, you say there is a constitutional amendment on-going? How many people know about it? Very few, every aspect of our national endeavour, that’s the document that governs it. All he key parts of the Constitution requires an amendment, for example are we a federation? Or is this something else, a mixture of unitary government and federalism. If we truly believe that this is, then the key thing we must do is empower the constituent states to become not just independent, economically, financially but thriving, you cannot have a situation where everything flows to the centre, and then you hand out money to the constituent states. If anything has to change on that, that’s the one that really takes me off, why do we call it a federation, the oil producing states should control everything and let everybody pay tax to the centre for defence. We know the things we all need. But every state must be a mini nation able to thrive on its own and not depend on the monies contributed to the centre to survive. You know that there are states in this country that have no business being called a state; they were just created for political reasons. So that’s one, if we’re truly serious about changing the Constitution, then we should address that. Why would you go to River State, collect all the oil and bring it to the centre and then give them 3% as derivation. Are you kidding me? You know, this is how much you pay to the centre for our national defence, security, all of that. And there’s a formula, you work out the formula that’s the same way it’s done in the US. It has oil in Texas, do you hear them sending the money from the oil to Washington, You don’t just monopolize everything as a federal government and then our judiciary needs to be strengthened. I mean, they are not an independent arm of government. You must make the judiciary a co-equal arm of government to the executive and the legislative, because until the judiciary can call the shots because they are the referee.
On November 6, there will governorship elections in Anambra, your home state, what are the qualities you are looking for in the next governor?
Anybody but Willy Obiano, he is a failed governor. That’s my opinion. Anamabra was seen as an example, a in model road networks, industrious people, lots of capacity for IGR internally generated revenue, lots of human capacity and everything. Today, if you go to Anambra State, all those routes, network of roads, they are gone. It is a network of pot holes instead of roads, and people might underestimate the value of roads. But if a road passes in front of my village, the price on land goes up. I build houses by road, hotels will come. The first thing America did after the Second World War was a Marshall Plan to build network of roads everywhere in America, connect it is called interstate commerce. These things will not fly if I produce something in Ihiala, I have to transport it to everywhere, it has to get to Zamfara and other parts of the country. Everywhere I go in Anambra you see the signboard Willie is working, he is my friend, but I feel like stopping my car any time I see that and put an OT, Willie is not working. Every time I see that sign is working, I feel like getting a paintbrush, and write Willie is not working. Because he’s not, you know. So the question is, what kind of person I expect. First of all, I am expecting somebody who’s not first and first, somebody who is not there, to steal money, if you decided you wanted to be the governor, or you are willing to put up your one billion or two billion to run. We don’t owe you anything. That is your charitable contribution to Anambra because you decided to use that money to contest to win doesn’t mean after you win, the first thing you do is to collect your two billion. That’s what I say by faith.
Also, what is your take on the secessionist agitations in the country right now?
I was old enough when the civil war happened in 1967. I remember things as a five year old will remember things. I lost uncle’s, some of them, we didn’t even have the honour of burying them. We just know never came back from the battlefield, right. The reason for the session will always be there. Until Nigeria addresses those issues, we will always have agitation. It will be an Nnamdi Kalu today, it will be an Okafor tomorrow. And the reason for the agitation for secession is because of the real or perceived marginalization of the Igbo, when Gowon came to Aba back in 1971, I believe or 70 we were, I was in primary school, we all carried Nigerian flag. They lined us up on the street, and we had a song We salute to General Gowon, great commander, you are welcome. Welcome, Welcome to our state by the grace of God. We are one nation, the question is, are we are one? No, so a lot of things were said to make everybody feel good, then subsequent policies and governments made sure that you realize that you are a conquered people until you change that perception you will always have the agitation of secession. And we all contribute to the centre so people are free. The governor of California for Christ’s sake is one of the most powerful people in the world is in a part of the United States. Is California threatening? Biden? Of course not, but California is the seventh largest economy in the world. Why? Because they practice federalism. They are in control of their resources, and their leader is accountable to them. So you can have a Biafra within a Nigeria, if you understand what I mean, but as long as you’re talking about zoning, you can’t even be recognized as a constituent part of this nation. But if we sit here, and we are one, and we agree on an agenda, and we build together, and we say, we are going to remain on this, at this table, a lot of people will do that.
Talking about your vision, let’s go back local, how prepared are you to adapt to our own political system. So America is your standard. But for both for us here politics is like a war zone, you must have a lot of resources to enter and win the party primaries, as you rightly observed with the PDP. So getting a ticket of a political party is a serious task. So how prepared are you to mingle structures?
To me politics is not do or die. I am not prepared to eliminate anybody so I can have power. That is total nonsense. The power of the ideas should always be what is on the table. You know, sometimes we fight fire with fire. But what does that mean? It means, you know, you have to protect yourself at all times. You sometimes, if you know who you are true to yourself, then the issue is why do I want power? Okay, I might stoop to your level to get the power. But after I get the power, I will have to stand up and teach you a lesson. Because if I have to play at your level and play the dirty politics, right, which I may have to do to get power. But when I get power, I will use that power to clean up your mess. I will make sure you understand that I now have power. And I have it for four years. And that nonsense you pull is not going to happen. I am from diaspora, they are paying 2000 Naira to people to vote. I am not going to do it. The question you ask yourself is well, okay, I will pay 3000 now and get the profit after I get the power will I continue to sustain? Or do I go on a mission to educate the people find a way to change the conversation? It’s not gonna happen with one person. It’s not going to happen in one for you. But can you cut down a tree with one blow of the axe? Of course not.