Buhari is harbouring corrupt politicians, says Odoemenam

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Mr. Callistus Uwazie Odoemenam (Cally) is the African Democratic Congress’ (ADC) candidate for the House of Representatives for the Ikeja Federal Constituency for the 2019 general election. The Chartered Banker cum politician was a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos. Odoemenam, who did his undergraduate studies at Imo State but earned post-graduate degree in Financial Management from Lagos State University, in this interview with Valentine Amanze, unveils his agenda for his constituency, carpets the federal government for poor performance and other national issues.
Excerpts:

What is your view on the current plight of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) with President Muhammadu Buhari?

It’s rather unfortunate that the Chief Justice of the Federation will be in such a mess. A mess in the sense that as the Head of the Judiciary the constitution and what the demands of his office are should not be strange to him. The office deserves the greatest level of integrity, honesty and adherence to the rules but he has found himself wanting. Unfortunately, again, President Muhammadu Buhari did not help matters by resorting to sort of knee-jack practice, a hard man’s tactics of going ahead to suspend the head of another branch of government entirely.
We all preach the Rule of Law, we all preach democracy which is anchored on constitutionalism. If the CJN has erred, with what I heard he has made a written confession or an admission of either forgetting to render some of his accounts as required by law. I think the honorable thing for him to have done was to step aside from his position. That lack of honour is inexcusable. In the case of the President there is a procedure. The constitution is quite clear on it for the removal of the CJN on the recommendation of the National Judicial Commission (NJC) sent to the President of the Senate and two/third of the Senate will have to pass a resolution demanding that the President should remove the CJN. That breach has occurred because the President did not get any recommendation from the Senate and neither the NJC make any recommendation to the Senate for the suspension or removal of the CJN.

President Buhari simply went to the court through the back door to obtain the so-called injunction issued by the Chairman of Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on which basis he suspended the CJN.
Two wrongs cannot make a right. Justice Onnoghen acted wrongly by not disclosing all his accounts and Buhari also acted wrongly by not following the position of the law, following due process. That is the crisis we are facing.

The solution is simple: Buhari should rescind that order on the suspension of the CJN. Then the CJN as a mark of honour should step down from the office. Let the law be complied with.

It’s as if there is renewed effort on the fight against corruption by the Presidency. Is it because election is around the corner to curry favour or what?

I don’t see any renewed war on corruption. As a matter of fact, the statistics emerging from the office of Transparency International indicates that Nigeria is virtually not making progress. The statistics released indicated that on a score of 100 percent, Nigeria scored 28 percent on anti-corruption and 28 percent cannot be pass mark anywhere in the world. I think we moved from the position of 148 to 144; for me this is insignificant. I do not see any renewed vigour in the drive by the President. What we are seeing is probably a make-belief. There is deadly corruption in the government and President Buhari with all his claims on integrity is harbouring some of those guys that the public know are clearly corrupt. We all saw the Abdullahi Ganduje (Governor of Kano state) video. He has immunity, yes; but the law says he can be probed, investigated. The attempt by the Kano state House of Assembly to probe him was ambushed and everything was stopped. Ganduje is still there for the APC, going back for re-election with that kind of humongous evidence against him.
The party’s National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, has a strong petition against him from a citizen of Edo state, his state. It was sent to the EFCC since 2016 and till today that petition has not been heard; it has been swept under the carpet and somebody is now telling us that Buhari is fighting corruption. The evidence does not show that the President is fighting corruption. Former Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF), Babachair Lawal, till today is not in court. They have been foot-dragging on it among other cases that have glaring evidence of corruption and the president is harbouring them. It doesn’t speak well of him. What we see most times is a camouflage.

Do you have confidence in the electoral body, INEC, on preparation for the conduct of the 2019 elections?

I think I have confidence in INEC. The INEC chairman is at the threshold of history, his ability to conduct a free, fair and credible election will be a testimonial for him to either brandish for the rest of his life or it will smear him for the rest of his life and his generation too. But as an institution of government created by the constitution, I have confidence in INEC and I believe that the INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yahaya, has every responsibility to ensure that he does not disappoint Nigerians. His predecessor, Prof Attahiru Jega, did an excellent job. He conducted an election that was not disputed and the incumbent President then had course to concede defeat even before the final results were announced. It was the integrity that Jega brought to the job that we are expecting Yahaya to replicate and even improve upon it. I mean the credibility that Jega brought to the electoral process. If he does not do that posterity will not forgive him.

What drove you into politics?

You know Ikeja as it were is the capital of Lagos state and as the capital of Lagos state the constituency should be a torch bearer to other constituencies across the federation, both in terms of representation at the National Assembly and in terms of the services that people in Ikeja constituency receive from their representatives. Unfortunately, that is not happening. Hardly will you see a bill sponsored by the representative of our (Ikeja) constituency in the current dispensation and he has been there for eight years. I want to go to the National Assembly to be a torch bearer, both in terms of initiating bills that will impact not only members of the constituency but across the federation because Ikeja is the capital of Lagos State and by extension the capital of Nigeria in terms of the economy.
The current policies that the federal government will articulate can also emanate from the quality of representation in the National Assembly. I am a banker and economist by training and I know that the hardship that the people are facing today is because government has not come up with policies to address poverty, government has not come up with policies that will encourage businesses to thrive. With my experience in finance management, in banking and in economy, I know that there are legislation; bills that I will sponsor that will spur economic growth, that will cause the banking industry to be supportive to the economy, those things I have already articulated for use as soon as I get elected. Unfortunately, the incumbent has not done anything except to service his pay master, the God father. He has not represented the interest of Ikeja residents. In his eight years of representation of the Ikeja constituency he is yet to have a constituency office where if you have a complain you go there. You can’t access him even in his neighbourhood where he lives. We have it on good reports that he does not attend even his estate meetings in Ojodu where he lives. That is not the attitude of a representative. You must be accountable to the people; you must be there for the people to give you their complaints.
For me, winning the election by the special grace of God and coming on board, I will be accessible to the people, I will provide quality entrepreneurship skills. This is not giving people Okada (motorcycle) because that is recycling poverty. Software development can take out 2,000 young boys from the streets of Ikeja and I will build centres to train young boys and girls to software development and if you see them some years after training, they will explode.

What is your idea of Trader moni which the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is giving mostly to market women?

That is the worst thing that has happened to this administration. You don’t go to the market and be distributing ten thousand naira (N10,000) and you call it trader moni. You don’t alleviate poverty by such gift; rather you alleviate poverty by encouraging people to be productive. You have to create a productive economy that people can fit into. If you don’t create jobs you cannot alleviate poverty. They are simply buying votes with the money, let’s stop deceiving ourselves.

What is your take on the security situation in the country?

The fight in making sure that Boko Haram does not put their flags across any local government in any part of the country is worth deserving kudos by President Buhari. We know that about 14 LGAs in the North East were under siege; that today is no longer the situation. But that does not mean the security challenges are not there again. In some occasions Boko Haram has entered the streets, invade military barracks, waylay a whole battalion, the casualty rate in the Army has been astronomical. I sympathize and mourn with the soldiers and their families. But beyond the threat of insurgency are other security aspects like kidnapping that is still striving in most parts of the country, herdsmen crisis is still there because government has not properly addressed it. Rape is on the increase likewise armed robbery. We saw how a former Chief of Defence Staff was brutally murdered on the express road. So, if that kind of personality is not secured then you can imagine the fate of the rest of us.
On the solution, government should overhaul the security architecture. We have a situation whereby President Buhari has centralized the entire security apparatus in the hands of people from a section of the country. He needs to spread the positions, talents are available all over the country. He was in Enugu and was telling them that he couldn’t find qualified candidates in the South East to man senior security positions in his administration. That is a slap on the entire people of the South East. You can’t tell me that South East doesn’t have qualified people. It is not possible. So, President Buhari should spread the positions in the security forces, get more credible people from other tribes, the North does not have monopoly of security, knowledge of security should be spread across the country. Let him tap into the talent available in other sectors of other parts of the country and you will see there will be changes. Some parts of the country feel alienated with the situation on ground. He must be seen in action, and in everything as the President of Nigeria, unlike what we have today.

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