Insecurity, one of the Key Issues in 2023 Elections - Dr. Okwenna

By Starrys Obazei | January 27, 2023

Dr. Ifedi Okwenna is a former Commissioner of Environment in Anambra State and is currently the Head of Intervention, at Peter Obi Presidential Campaign Organization. In this interview with our Correspondent, Paschal Emeka in Abuja, he bared his mind on various national issues, especially as they concern the forthcoming 2023 general elections and other sundry issues. Excerpts:

Do you think that the politicians and political parties are complying with the Peace Pact they signed before the kick-off of the campaigns?

 I think to a certain extent they have complied. But I think it should be better. There were some challenges we noticed in a number of places, especially in some of these two big parties who are in control of some state apparatus; trying to deny other parties the use of some facilities to campaign; in most cases stopping people from effectively campaigning. 

Billboards and posters are not allowed in some states. You put your billboard; they throw it down or deface your posters even when you have paid. Of course, there are a few other challenges in terms of thuggery and the rest of them. All the same, I think we are making some progress, but not as bad in terms of the number of deaths, and the number of people who are wounded as the case may be. Apart from that it is going on well. Though, there is still room for improvement, especially from the parties that control state governments.

 The PDP and the APC keep doing this to other parties in their areas of control. In most cases, when you go to some APC controlled states, they try to bully the other parties. If you go to PDP controlled states, it is the same. So, I think both of them are guilty.

Despite the assurances of President Buhari’s administration, insecurity persists in different parts of the country. Do you think insecurity being witnessed in various parts of the country can affect the forthcoming general elections?

I think basically, insecurity is one of the key issues to that election because it will definitely affect the turn-out of voters. It may even lead to apathy. A number of people may not go out to vote because of fear for their lives. You will recall that in 2015, the president, Goodluck Jonathan had to postpone elections for security to improve. I think within two weeks there were tremendous improvements because apparently, mercenaries were brought in, who helped to fight the situation. 

I believe that the President should go beyond mere postulations and directives to improve security in the North and the Southeast where unknown gunmen keep killing people. Some of them have been bribed externally to say they don’t want elections, whereas they should be asking for elections. What will a Southeasterner, for instance, regret about having elections, if it is not induced? So, these are induced demands. The Commander-in-Chief should do something about this. The same thing is what we see in the Kaduna area, where they continuously kill the Southern Kaduna people. This is unfortunate.

It seems insecurity has defied solutions. What do you think is the way to curb insecurity?

The top levels are not sincere. You see, the sincerity of the Commander-in-Chief means a lot. The sincerity of the top echelons of security architecture is very important. You see, no matter the number of drones you deployed, if there is no punishment for criminality, then criminality will continue. In some cases, you arrest some of these terrorists and then you treat them with kid gloves, and release them on the principles of trying to rehabilitate them. Do you rehabilitate terrorists? 

Terrorists are hardened criminals. Somebody who wants to overthrow a legitimate government cannot be treated with kid gloves. You see, the other day, they went to Kuje prison. Do you think it was a coincidence that the whole security architecture went to sleep? They were in Abuja prison for complete two hours, closer to all we have – the Airforce, Navy, and Army and nobody could do anything in those two hours and they finished and left. 

So, there are accomplices in these things. Until the Commander-in-Chief rises and says I want to fight insecurity, insecurity will continue. It is just like in the Southeast, if the security architecture wants to stop those bad boys, they will stop them. But if you feel that it is in the Southeast to let them kill themselves, it doesn’t concern me. They do sit at home on Monday, oh it concerns them, let them sit at home, the economy of Nigeria is going down, the economy of Southeast is going down. And when you leave the economy of Nigeria to go down, the economy of Nigeria is affected. It is as simple as that. 

The safety of every citizen in the state is the number one duty of a governor, but because of the way we are structured here, it is the president. Governors don’t control anything as far as insecurity is concerned. And come to think about it, the heads of the entire security architecture of the country are in one region. They could have done something better. I think basically it is not that it is impossible to checkmate, but they have not decided to checkmate it. Maybe when we get a new president, a new president will stand up; and fight insecurity, because these ones have failed.

I believe your party has plans to tackle insecurity if they win the elections. Can you hint to us about the plans?

That is number one in the manifesto of the Labour Party. A Peter Obi government will do everything possible to fight insecurity. We have no safe place for keeping criminals and definitely, and we must fight them with all we have so that in the first year Nigeria will be free. You can’t talk about an economy where there is insecurity. So that has come to our minds and we must fight it very seriously and because we have no reservation, we are not preserving anybody. 

We will give it all it takes and we will get it right. Nigeria has one of the most organized and trained armed forces. We have good Police Command and each time we go on foreign missions, we excel. So, what is wrong? Something is wrong here; something is wrong somewhere. Definitely, those accomplices will be tracked and moved, and there will be clear directions on that. We retrain the Police and increase their numbers. We will have different layers of the police; state police and local government police, so that we can tame insecurity. We will retrain the best hands. We will create jobs so that criminals will find jobs. It will be a holistic mass attack.

It seems the collection of Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs, is easier in the North, than in the South. What’s your take?

Well, I don’t know the parameters you are using. If they have acquired more PVCs, maybe they have a more favorable environment. But I still know that most of our friends in the North are complaining of difficulty in collecting their PVCs. Even in the North, I have seen where INEC is being accused of collecting bribes before giving people their PVCs, the same way it is in the South. So, be that as it may, it is the civic responsibility of every Nigerian to go and get their PVCs and nobody will deny any Nigerian the opportunity of getting their PVCs. 

We are still hoping that the collection of the PVCs will improve before the INEC window closes unless they are telling us the owners of the PVCS are fictitious people. Every Obedient is being urged to go and get their PVCs because that is the only way we can remove the corrupt system currently in place.

INEC’s offices are being attacked in some states. What’s your reaction?

Very unfortunate! They are people being sponsored. Remember that there were people being sponsored to limit the number of people that will come out to vote on Election Day, especially in the Southeast. The implication is that they want to reduce the volume of people who will come out to vote and they believe that destroying INEC’s offices is a way they can reduce the number of people who are willing to vote on election day. But really it is unfortunate that it is happening. What is the essence of burning an INEC office when there is no ballot paper there? It is just putting insecurity on the front burner.

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