Monday, 26 June 2017

No PG can perform the responsibility of a Monarch

Chief Alex Onukwe is the National President, Anambra State Association of Town Unions (ASATU), and President General, Eziagulu-Otu Aguleri Town Union. He is also the Deputy President, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Anambra State Chapter. In this interview with Okechukwu Onuegbu and Gabriel Alonta, he cleared airs on the responsibility of Traditional Rulers and President Generals.

We understand that you were recently elected and sworn-in to pilot affairs of ASATU for the next three years. Can you please share your manifestoes with us?
The basic thing people should anticipate from my administration as National President of ASATU is that we are doing everything possible to move Anambra State forward. We are going to assist the government in power to reach out to people in the grassroots. We are going to make sure that people feel the impact of Governor Willie Obiano across the 21 local government areas and 177 communities and beyond. ASATU stands to help their communities enjoy the dividends of democracy. ASATU exist to get people involved in the governance of the state so that between the people and government, there will be perfect synergy.

Are there plans by ASATU to form a similar forum for all President Generals of Igbo extraction within and outside the shore of Igbo land?
The truth is that ASATU is becoming a model and pace setter for states in the South East because all states are now interested in learning from Anambra how to effectively run their governance to get to those at the hinterland. Anambra State Association of Town Unions is a veritable tool for participatory democracy and grassroots development. So, there is serious effort for us to unite with other President Generals of Igbo extraction living in Nigeria and abroad. This will help us to raise consciousness at the grassroots.

Since ASATU stands to help the government achieve its aims and objectives, could it be said to be independence?
ASATU is perfectly independent in the sense that it is a non-governmental organisation established by the communities and to be recognised by the government. So, when the town unions are recognised by the government for them to be functional, it is then pertinent to recognise the need for the synergy between the government and the town unions. All the town unions are supposed to be autonomous and recognised by government. Everything we do must follow government laws and directives because of this recognition.

Could that be the reason the group is accused of lobbying government for selfish ends?
There is no truth in that. As we speak, ASATU is making progress everyday in the sense of bringing the people and government closer. Our role is to ensure that all the town unions in the state perform their primary duty which is to protect the interest of their various communities. This is what ASATU stands for, so if a person says that ASATU lobby the government for selfish interest, he/she should be able to explain better.

Considering the allegations of power tussle between President Generals and Traditional Rulers, how could you distinguish the roles of these important personalities in our society?
The relationship between the traditional ruler and the PGs could liken to parliamentary system of government. The monarchs are the customary heads of the various communities while the PGs serve as the prime minister. The PGs are statutory empowered by to do certain things as stipulates in their community constitutions and the vice versa.
However, I am aware that in some communities, that there are rifts between traditional rulers and president generals. The root causes of these breed out from the communities but what I want to say is that the town unions headed by the PGs have their part to play and the Igwes also have their own separate roles to play. I think the problems would be minimised when the traditional rulers do their jobs and then allow the PGs to do theirs and vice-versa. A PG is the head of the community and it is wrong for the PG to be seen doing the job of the traditional ruler. So, these problems will go by the time we understand our various duties and ensuring that we do not trespass from those functions.
The PGs are the administrative heads of the community according to the Anambra State law established by the town unions, while the traditional rulers function as number one citizens of the community. So, every PG represents his community before the government in their capacity as the PG, and in some way, the traditional rulers represents their community before the government in form of the traditional chiefs and custodian of the traditions. The basic problem is when the PGs and the traditional rulers cross their delineated functions.

How could link what you just said now to the news generated by the rift during the recent distribution of N20 million projects?
I don’t see any reason why there should be a problem in the community between the Igwe and the PG while executing the N20 million community project. The state government made it clear that the traditional ruler and the PG should work in tandem to make sure that the project is executed. The government said that each contractor to execute those projects must come from the communities involved, and mandated two of the public figures to help form a committee to oversee its proper implementation. Again, the traditional ruler and the PG of every community were inundated to approve the contractor that will carry out the project by way of recommendation to the government. If the common interest is in the execution of the project, then, there is no reason for a rife because all stakeholders in every community were charged to join in getting the jobs done.

Could that be the reason some communities still parade two Security organisations otherwise known as Anambra Vigilante Group (AVG)?
The law made by the Anambra State house of Assembly says that the traditional ruler should be the chairman of the security committee of their community, while the PG should be the secretary. I don’t think any PG is clamouring for the chairmanship spot in the committee even when we know that the PG should be in the management of the securities in their communities because they are the ones on their toes whenever the Igwe as the father of the land, call on them to respond to a security challenge or emergency in the community as the case may be. Whenever there is a need for amendment of this law, I will suggest that the PG should be the head of the administrative outfit of the AVG so that they can have more to do in seeing that security is maintained across communities. That is why I don’t know why a community has to elect a PG living outside of that community.

How true is this allegation that ASATU enjoy the company of PGs that even refused to conduct election and stepdown towards termination of their tenure?
I don’t think that any PG could deliberately refuse to conduct election at the expiration of his tenure in a community because no PG owns a community. Every town union election is conducted according to the constitution of a community. I am also aware that in any case where it appears that PGs violate such law, the government usually calls the affected PG to order. ASATU as a body recognises only the PGs the government issues a letter of authority. It is the government that handles the election of PGs on invitation of communities involved.

The trending news is the calls some Arewa youth and elders made urging the Igbos to vacate northern part of the country. What is the stand of ASATU on that?
ASATU stands on the positions of the President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr. Nnia Nwodo on this matter. He has already advised our people and government, and we shall abide by that because we are part of that apex Igbo group. But as ASATU national president, I will advise everyone to give peace a chance. It is not yet time to start spreading news that will not help anybody. If we must leave the North as the Northern Youth has advised, we must not let anybody push us to say whatever we don’t want to say or do, but every Igbo man should adhere to the think home call. We must understand that this is our land. Therefore, those of us living at Lagos, Kaduna and other states of the federation and worldwide must imbibe the habit of bringing home our wealth and experiences home bit by bit.

What are your final words to the youths?
As we are approaching the 2017 gubernatorial poll, I am calling on the youth of Anambra state not allow themselves to be used as instrument of destabilisation of Anambra State. The youths of Anambra State are peaceful and they should continue to remain law abiding and peaceful and avoid anything that will take Anambra State back to dark days of insecurity.




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