Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, erstwhile president of the senate, is presently the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF with oversight over preparations for the country's centenary celebrations. Ahead of next month's flag-off of the 22 month long celebrations, Senator Anyim alongside the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Chief Edem Duke unfolded plans to commemorate the proclamation during an interactive session with journalists in Lagos.
The plans, he said as at last week, were still tentative with inputs still being received from critical stakeholders. One of the poignant points raised in the course of the interaction was on the role of some past leaders who have today coalesced into the political opposition. Senator Anyim, whose wits and wisdom helped him in navigating through the once slippery corridors of power in the Senate responded to those issues and many more in the course of the session. Excerpts:
On the role of the political opposition during the celebrations
The time I was leaving the senate I was getting to 42 and I didn't think about what I would be tomorrow. I walked away. Why wouldn't people also think that the country should be above them? I had become chairman of the National Assembly and I said I had no business here again and I walked away and I had no plan about what I was going to do except that my father was a farmer and I had a farmland. It is as simple and straight as that. We must join hands to promote the country above every selfish interest. I think the duty is for us to elevate the corporate wellbeing of Nigeria because it is all our collective well being over and above every narrow and parochial feeling. Honestly and I think so.
Let me again empahsise about this issue of perception. If I were Jonathan, if I were him, I ordinarily try to simplify my life, (but) I have never seen a man humble with power as Jonathan. I wouldn't be as humble as that with power, I can tell you that I was not. I have never seen anybody that is as tolerant with power as he. I have never seen any leader in Nigeria and I have been around, that has managed power the way Jonathan has and that is why everybody thinks we can rubbish him, 'that one, what can he do? He wont do anything. We can step on him!'
We haven't had it that way before. And I have told people, we have wonderful opportunity under Jonathan to deepen democracy because he will not interfere with anything, he will not interfere with what you are doing. He will not even challenge you. What you want to do, do! Those working with him, he doesn't manipulate, he doesn't control, just run your office. That is the basic principle that will advance our democracy. But we turn it otherwise to say, it is weakness. We have to choose between the principles of democracy or a peculiar type of democracy that is peculiar to Nigeria .
We have measured civilian regimes and military regimes. How would Abacha have done it? How would Murtala have done it? How did Obasanjo do it (no I don't want to talk about that one o!) But the truth is that the principle of democracy is universal. So you have to compare what he is doing is what should be or how the other people did it. Somebody told me that the kind of president Nigeria needs is the one with iron hand. When he comes you know he has come.
We shouldn't take it for granted because instead of maximising the opportunity of the kind of person Jonathan is we are abusing it. I wont be as soft, as humble, as tolerant as he is in power. I will not be, I! I am saying so. You know I am saying the truth, if you step on me, I step on you!
Let's get it right this is the duty we have to perform together, the country should be above every personal interest. You mustn't rule. People will come and tell me it is the turn of the Southeast, it is the turn of this.... Who zoned it to South-south now? Who zoned it to them? God! Who gave it to Jonathan? This is a man nobody ever gave any chance. Who didn't even want.
He wanted to remain in his small Bayelsa, they dragged him out overnight and you cannot see the hand of God in it? You think you can throw him away like that? It is not possible. It is because we do not believe in God that is why you cannot see God in anything. We should get it right. God has so pampered me in my life that I don't sleep and worry about tomorrow. I don't think about tomorrow, because I think my tomorrow is secured in God's hand and I sleep very well.
On the role of the states
One of the major arguments we had in the senate was people from Kogi saying that Lokoja should host most of the activities, but that is why we said that states can come up with their own programmes and align with us. Lagos State can come up and tell us, this and this can be in Lagos, then we will now meet with Lagos, work it out and work out the funding plans because the states may have their own projects that they want to sponsor and others we may want to raise funds from alternative sources. So, it is not exclusive.
The role of former Heads of State
The programme we are doing is not fragmented on the basis of parties or on the basis of regions. At any level which ever programme that concerns anybody we will reach the person. We are interviewing people on what they say about Nigeria . Buhari has been interviewed, Babangida has been interviewed. They are yet to get Obasanjo, they haven't interviewed him. On the flag off day, Gowon has a role to play, Abdulsalami has a role to play, Obasanjo has a role to play.
Why the centenary would not be manipulated to help 2015 agenda
If we do it party by party we would not even take off because political interests is not what you just resolve overnight because in this part of the world politics is life. So we don't want to bring politics into this, we are talking about Nigeria .
We will not because if any party wants government, it is for INEC and the Nigerian electorate. It is different from what we are doing. The truth is that Nigeria is 100 years under Jonathan. It is not Jonathan that put 2014 neither is it Jonathan that put 2014 close to 2015! These issues will arise, but it is for you to put it right.