Former Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba fielded questions from journalists, including TNN Correspondent, David Odey, in Calabar on various issues ranging from his desire to return to the senate, his relationship with Senator Owan Enoh, the issue of zoning in the state, the rancour in APC, among others
We heard that nomination forms were bought for you to return to the Senate. Is it true?
Let me once again welcome you. I prefer to refer to you as my colleagues even though I am a failed journalist. But whether a failed journalist or a successful journalist, a journalist is a journalist. Let me thank you for this time out. I was here with the Vice President a few days ago and we left from here to Port Harcourt. While in Port Harcourt, I got information from the national headquarters of the APC that some people had purchased nomination forms in my name. Hitherto my position was that I was done with elections. I had had too many elections in one's lifetime. My attitude was whoever it was that was buying the form I would have to see the forms. The forms were returned. Last Saturday I was screened. So, as it were, I have my hands on the plough. And what does the Bible say, when you have your hands on the plough, you don't look back.
There is the clamour by Old Obubra in the central Senatorial district to produce the next senator. What is your view about zoning?
Let me start with the rumour that the presidency is returning me to the senate to make me senate president. I have no evidence of that. As far as I am concerned, it is just a rumour. This is political season so everybody is free to peddle the kind of stories or rumour he or she wants to peddle. The one about the zoning arrangement, yes I agree that it should be respected. But what is the situation that we have on ground? In old Obubra, where in my view and I think the senate should now go to, we have a candidate running for governor from Yakurr, not so? You have two candidates running for senate from Yakurr. There is a possibility of a situation where you will have a governor from Yakurr and a senator from Yakurr. And Yakurr has produced a governor before. Then you take Etung. You have somebody running for governor from Etung. And you have somebody from Etung also in APC running for senate. And you have another one in PDP running for senate. So you also have a possibility of having a governor and a senator from the same local government. I think these details complicate their entitlements. If they were all running for senate, yes it makes sense. But when you are running for senate and governor, it waters down the argument.
There is rancour in APC with some court cases still pending. How is your party going to win when you are going into an election with a divided house?
I don't have details of the court matter in Abuja, neither do I have the details of the court matter that was instituted here in Calabar. Remember there were some earlier court orders. There was a court order in Abuja. So, there were two court orders as it were. At some point these court orders needed to be resolved. But I do know for certain that those orders were made ex-parte without putting the other party on notice. So, it cannot be a final judgement. So, both sides still have a long way to go in these cases. It is a pre-election matter and not an election matter. So, it's going to drag up to the Supreme Court and before you know it, four years have come and gone. Having said so, if you recall, I was secretary of the national convention that produced the current national executive. So, I was part of the process that led to the emergence of the current executive. So I recognize the national executive, including the national chairman that emerged from the process I was secretary of. So, I recognize them. They are legitimate. And if they have directed lawfully that we could have direct primaries in Cross River, the reason is simple, because we have litigations in Cross River. So, in order to navigate through these litigations, we have to go directly to members of the party for them to vote. It becomes a problem doing indirect primaries and the court eventually rules that it is one faction or one group that is legitimate and the candidate that emerged from the process by the other group then it means that you have no candidate. But this one, the national working committee of the party insisted and decided to avoid the issue of factions and go straight to the members of the party and said, look, go and choose your candidates. So, I don't see how the outcome of either litigations will impact on the outcome of this exercise. I hear one group is going by the directives of national, they are going for direct primaries and the other group are going for indirect primaries. I don't know where they will be submitting the outcome of the primaries. Who will they submit to? Because by law, it is the national chairman and the national secretary that can communicate the names of candidates of the party to INEC. So, that resolves the issue that it is only the group that are complying with the directives of the national working committee of the party that will be recognized in the field.
What is your view about the feud between Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke?
Friends must quarrel. Friends must disagree. There is a saying amongst the Yoruba that twenty children cannot play for 20 years together. For me, I think those disclosures are even healthy so that Cross Riverians can even know the details of what took place. It will help our future conduct in public office.
You said there was a directive from the party's NWC that there should be direct primaries. We had a chat with one of the governorship aspirants and minister for Niger Delta and he said that the NWC also provided a proviso,that states can go back, looking at their peculiarities and either take direct primaries, indirect primaries or consensus. And they have looked at Cross River and discovered that they do not have an authentic membership register that would call for direct primaries. And at the stakeholders' meeting, they all agreed that they should adopt indirect primaries. I don't know how you will look at that?
Well, I have told you that I was part of the process that produced Adams Oshiomhole as national chairman. In law you cannot approbate and reprobate. I approbated by taking part in the process at the national convention and it produced a national executive for the APC and that national executive is led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. So, it is the directives from Comrade Adams Oshiomhole that I take as authentic. And what came out from Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led national working committee was that Cross River state was to do direct primaries.
Do you really subscribe to what the national working committee directed?
Well, you know the June 12, 1993 election has remained a watershed in not only our electoral but also our political history as a country. Why was June 12 a watershed? For those who were around, I was around, every member of the party voted and it produced that most authentic election that we still talk about till today. The biggest problem with our politics in this country is that political parties are supposed to be the vehicles to political power but those vehicles have been appropriated by big men. If you recall, when I was in PDP I said at a point that you no longer have government of the people by the people for the people but government of governors by governors for governors. So they appropriate the political parties. That is the biggest challenge of party politics today. The challenge of party politics is ownership of the party. Do political parties belong to individuals or they belong to members of the party? Direct primaries confirm that the ordinary members of the party are the true owners of the party. So, it addresses that fundamental question of ownership of political parties and the political process rather than allow the big man appropriate the parties and the process on our behalf against our personal wishes and desires. Let the common man be the one to decide the direction of the party and I think that is the benefit of direct primaries.
What will you be telling the central senatorial district, that as chairman of NDDC, you have been able to do? The second question is, having been part of the present APC administration, what is your view about the administration in Cross River state. Are you happy that once there is a road being constructed, the next thing you see is a signboard “Ayade is Working”?
I think at my age and my level, I should be discussing national and international issues. The younger ones are the ones who should have views about Cross River. When I was young, for those of you who were here, I had very strong views about issues of governance in this state. And if you recall, as chairman of NBA, I took on military regimes and even got a military governor changed in this state. But you get to a certain age where you yield ground for younger people. So let the younger people be discussing Cross River state. For NDDC, I think in less than two years that I have been there I have done quite a lot. If you remember, when we just went in, Calabar/Itu and Calabar/Ikom roads were virtually impassable. We intervened and they are so many things we have done and soon we will commission projects we have done so that people can see what we have done in less than two years.
Four years ago, when you attempted to return to the senate for the fourth time, it appeared you were blocked. And it appeared you were unhappy. Now, no doubt it seems you have the confidence that this time around you will return to the senate. Knowing that there are other big wigs who are also aspiring for the senate, is it true that certainly you will get there?
Well, it's only God that can see the next minute. As we speak, I can't tell you what will happen the next minute. For me as a human being is to read the situation and take my chances. I am taking my chances. But I am confident that I will make it. What is the basis of the confidence? My records. When I was in the senate we were forever going round inspecting projects. Do you still inspect projects?
What is your relationship with Senator Owan Enoh who is running for governorship? Are you likely to work with him? What about your relationship with Liyel Imoke? Are you still close?
The second question I won't bother answering. Senator Owan Enoh is now in APC. We are now in the same party. We are working together to ensure the victory of the party at every level. And so we are obliged to work together. We want to ensure the victory of our party at every level. But let me say this, in spite of the very painful experience in 2014 I never made any public comment. I took it as God's will. You must have pain, sorrow and joy in life. Life is duality. It is not always that you will be happy. There are times you must be sad. And what makes you a man is your ability to accept things as they come. I am a man of very great faith. I have never had a gun in my life and I have never fired a gun in my life. My father was a lover of guns. There were guns all over the house but I avoided them. My weapon is my prayer. So I accepted everything I went through and it's in the past. And if it didn't happen, I lost six local government areas and got nine states.
You are aspiring to go back to the senate. What fresh ideas are you taking back there?
Let's go back to verified and verifiable history. I was in the senate for three terms. Out of those three terms, two terms I was in leadership, first as deputy senate leader and as senate leader. For the two terms, eight years that I was in leadership under the senate presidency of Senator David Mark, there wasn't a scandal in that senate if you remember. There was no rancour that became public. And at some point in the history of this country and the history of those two senates, the senate had to provide the needed stability in the country, especially when President Yar'Adua, may God bless his soul, was ill and was absent. We were on the precipice of a major constitutional crisis. It was the senate that held the balance. And historically that is the role of the senate. The senate is not supposed to descend into the arena. The senate is supposed to hold the balance for the country when the country is in crisis. Yes, the national assembly is an independent arm of government but it's still an arm of one government and the three arms need to work in synergy, with some cooperation, with checks and balances for certain things to happen. I think that to move the nation forward, the legislature and the executive must work out a system of promoting the interest of the nation. So, it's a delicate balance. But let me say this, the presidential system of government is designed with conflict inbuilt, because without the conflicts you cannot trigger off the checks and balances. So the answer is constant dialogue and finding ways round problems. So, what difference will I make? The senate oversights the executive but at the same time know when it needs to work with the executive. In any case, I have so many bills that were not passed. I will revisit them and introduce new ones.
What is your opinion about the attempt to change the leadership of the senate?
Where the leadership of either house of the national assembly is home grown, elected by the members themselves, it is difficult to change that leadership. It is easier to change the leadership that was foisted on the house by external forces. Secondly, having said that, the legislature in plenary is said to be a legislature on display. A legislature in committees is a legislature at work. The committees are actually where the work of parliament is done. Plenary is just the show part. Members of the legislature were sponsored to parliament by political parties. And one of the reasons why you have the stability you had in the eight years of David Mark is that caucuses were very strong. Then the PDP was in the majority. We used to have the PDP caucus meeting twice a month. It was a fixture of our calendar. The only person who didn't attend was the senate president because he ought to be seen as neutral. So, things were thrashed at that level. So by the time it came to the floor, all the frills would have been dealt with. I think one of the weaknesses I see now is that those caucuses have ceased to function. And even at the state level, we used to have a strong Cross River state national assembly caucus and we met regularly to discuss Cross River position, Cross River interest, what strategy to identify such interest and even at some point, the governor joined us. I remember Donald Duke attended and Senator Liyel Imoke attended a few. That was why while I was in the senate, there was no Cross Riverian that was brought for screening that was rejected, because we would have done the work first at that Cross River state caucus level and then take it to party level and appeal to your colleagues. I think the causes may be the key.
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