Callistus Odoemenam, a former member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and now candidate of the African Democratic Alliance (ADC) for the Ikeja Federal Constituency for the 2019 election. He spoke to SIMPLE IKEM on his mission, insecurity and the Justice Walter Onnoghen (CJN) controversy among others.
TNE: What is your take on the on-going controversy involving Justice Onnoghen, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), over his assets declaration?
It is unfortunate that the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) will be in such a mess. 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, President Buhari did not help matters by resorting to 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. So, Buhari is also wrong because he did not go through the required process stipulated by the constitution.
National Judicial Commission (NJC) must make recommendation and send to the Senate and two-third of the Senate will have to pass a resolution demanding that the President should remove 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.
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.
TNE: It seems there is renewed effort on the fight against corruption by the Presidency. Is it because the elections are around the corner, or what?
I do not see any renewed war on corruption. As a matter of fact, the statistics emerging from the office of Transparency International indicate that Nigeria is 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 vigor in the drive by the President. What we are seeing is probably a kind of make-belief. There is serious corruption in the government and President Buhari, with all his claim on integrity, is harbouring some guys that 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 his state, Edo. It was sent to the EFCC since 2016. Till date, that petition has not been heard, but has been swept under the carpet, Now, somebody is telling us that Buhari is fighting corruption. The evidence does not show that the President is fighting corruption. They have been foot dragging on the trial of former Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF), Babachair Lawal and some others. It doesn’t speak well of him. What we see most times is a camouflage
TNE: Do you have confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as Nigerians get ready for the elections?
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 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 Yakubu 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 then President had to concede defeat even before the final results were announced. It was the integrity and credibility that Jega brought to the job that we are expecting Yakubu to replicate and even improve upon. If he does not do that, posterity will not forgive him.
TNE: What is driving you into joining politics?
Ikeja is 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 of the services that people in Ikeja constituency receives 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. The hardship that the people are facing today is because government has not been able to 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 legislations, 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, he doesn’t have a constituency office where you can go if you have a complain. You can’t access him even in his neighborhood. 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.
If I win the election, I will be accessible to the people. I will provide quality entrepreneurship skills. This is not giving people Okada because that is recycling poverty. Software development can take out 2,000 young boys from the streets of Ikeja. I will build centres to train young boys and girls in software development. If you see them some years after training, they will explode
TNE: What is your idea of Tradermoni, 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 N10,000 and you call it tradermoni. You don’t alleviate poverty by such gifts. 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 public fund.. Let’s stop deceiving ourselves.