Posted by Pamela Eboh, Awka | 16 March 2015 | 3,803 times
Chief Chris Eluemunoh is the Anambra State President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and chairman, Forum of State Presidents of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, comprising the seven presiding officers from Igbo-speaking states.
In this interview with News Express, Eluemunoh, who is passionate about Igbo unity, spoke on the importance of implementing the report of the National Conference held last year in Abuja, and solution to the drastic drop in oil price on the international market, among other issues. Excerpt:
Unlike other socio-ethnic bodies in the country, it took Ohanaeze Ndigbo quite a while to throw its weight behind President Goodluck Jonathan’s second term bid. Why was that?
Well, the reason is very obvious: the national body of Ohanaeze wanted to make sure that their line of action will go down well with the Igbo, and they have been in negotiations with Jonathan. Recently, the President held a meeting with Igbo leaders and stakeholders in Abuja; and when he came to Onitsha, he had another meeting with Igbo leaders at the Ime-obi and I was there. So, I wonder why anybody should be saying he should come and negotiate with the Igbo. He has already negotiated with them and we are happy with his explanations. In fact, since the advent of that meeting with Igbo stakeholders in Abuja, we are satisfied. Nigeria is a very large country with a population of 170 million people. When you are doing something in this country, it will look as if you are doing nothing and there is no way you can cover the 36 states and make a lasting impression that something has happened but with time, things will begin to change. It’s a dynamic process and with time, we will begin to see things change. If he is doing a project of more than one hundred billion dollars, which is the second Niger Bridge, somebody may say it is nothing; but it’s a very big project in the South-East. If you happen to come across some of the projects in the states, it will look small, but if you check the size of the states, you will find out that it is not easy for everything to go round like that, but by the time you give somebody eight years, he will do a lot better.
The truth of the matter is that Jonathan faced the North in his first tenure, no doubt. This time, he will shift to the south. It is turn-by-turn, so, we must be patient. At the meeting we held with him, we tried to find out what his plans for the South-East are; after explaining, we were satisfied. How can you say he abandoned the Igbo when he is doing a massive project like the second Niger Bridge in the South-East? No doubt, he invested more in the north in his first tenure, but this time he will face our zone. That’s why Ohanaeze – comprising seven state presidents from the seven Igbo-speaking states in the country: Anambra, Imo, Abia, Enugu, Ebonyi, Rivers and Delta states – met and decided to endorse him. We are the grassroots leaders of the Igbo. They are looking up to us for pronouncements. The national body is also talking with him, so, we are satisfied judging from the discussions we’ve had with him.
I want to use this opportunity to condemn the recent pronouncement of one Chief Ralph Obiora, who calls himself chairman of caretaker committee of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. His activities are laughable. There is nothing like a care taker committee of Ohanaeze Ndigbo as purported by him. The Ohanaeze is only managed and run by Chief Garry Igariwey-Enwo, with Dr Joe as the Secretary-General. They are very strong capable hands working closely with the President for the coming election. This man they call Obiorah is nothing but nabob of negative clown. That is the way I can describe him. He is looking for recognition and importance. He is a man who does not appreciate anything good and is being sponsored by the opposition to destabilise Ohanaeze Ndigbo so that Ohanaeze will not endorse President Jonathan’s second term bid. He forgot that the Ohanaeze national body is only coordinating the state leaders and the seven state leaders have come out openly to support Jonathan as well all the states where Igbos reside. We urge Igbos, wherever they are, to come and vote for President Jonathan for the good of the Igbo.
Promises come very cheap during political campaigns, how are you sure that all the promises made by President Jonathan in the course of the meetings he held with Igbo stakeholders will be fulfilled to the letter?
There is a document called the National Conference resolution. That document is the beginning and end to the unity of this country. He convoked that conference and the result is there with him. I, or the Igbo, do not expect anything other than the implementation of that report. Afenifere group endorsed him because of that conference report and we, the Igbo, also endorsed him based of the conference report. That conference report is the beginning of a new Nigeria. It is that report that will make this nation be what it is supposed to be; and without that report: to your tent Oh Israel. This country will cease to exist. So, I want to say that our endorsement of President Jonathan is based on the fact that he convoked that National Conference and is the only one who can implement it. APC (All Progressives Congress) boycotted the conference. Buhari did not support the conference and, therefore, he is not in the position to implement it. If he comes into office, he will dump it and maybe pretend he will set up another one. But I tell you, our endorsement is based on the fact that President Jonathan will implement the report. He gave us assurance that he will implement it. I don’t want us to begin to sing songs of: he will build roads, build airports…fine, he has done that. Like the Enugu International Airport; he has assured us that in the next six months the international terminal will be ready and all international airlines will be coming to Enugu, which is fantastic. They are doing it and we have seen that one, if you go down to Onitsha, Julius Berger is busy on the second Niger Bridge. It’s there for anybody to see. I passed through there yesterday from Asaba Airport and I saw the activities. When he was in Onitsha for campaign, he first of all went there and told them to hasten up action; and they said that in 48 months, the bridge will be ready. These are the things we want to hear from him and we have heard. Other things are inconsequential because these are the major things that will bring economic development to the South-east. The airport, the bridge and the seaport, which he also promised that in no distant time, it will be fully ready. Other infrastructural things, the state governments can provide those ones. He is doing well in the South-east as well as in the South-West and with all his promises, he will do more. Last week, he had a meeting with notable Igbo stakeholders at Aso Rock and there is no need for anybody to say he should come and negotiate with the Igbo. He has already done that and there is nothing more to negotiate with him. The document he has on National Conference report is all we want him to implement and, if he does that in the next four years, the Igbo will forever remain grateful to him.
What happens if the conference report is not implemented to the letter by the President in his second tenure?
If he doesn’t, then we’ll hold it against him. There is nothing we can do but am sure he will implement it. He will do it.
We have two major parties and two presidential candidates: the incumbent President Jonathan and former military Head of State, Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd). Some believe that Buhari stands as a better candidate out of the two. What is your opinion?
What makes him a better candidate? There is nothing he has done in this country to show for it or is the Idiagbon War Against Indiscipline? He was a military man that was why he was able to do whatever he did. Being a democratic leader is not same as military leadership, they are two very different types of leadership. A military leader runs his administration by decrees and once the decree is promulgated, that is the end. In democracy, it is a different ball game. Besides, that a person was a good military man does not make him a good democratic leader. His standard of education was good for him as a military man but it cannot be good for him in a democratic setting. We are talking of school certificate man who was in the military and rose through the ranks coming to be the president of Nigeria. No, it is a different ball game. If he thinks the way he ran the military administration is the way he will run a democratic setting, he is missing it. OK, since he left the army as the Head of State, what has he been able to achieve? What has he been able to contribute to this nation, apart from making some very careless statements. He said in 2011 that if Jonathan won, he will make the country ungovernable and he did that through Boko Haram. When Jonathan wanted to attack Boko Haram, he warned that any attack on the sect was an attack on the Hausas. When he was a military man, he used his military fiat to execute people unnecessarily. We have always said it that the Igbo will never forget the killing of an innocent man, Batholomew Owoh, who committed and Indian hemp offence of six months imprisonment, but they executed him under military fiat; or is it the one he detained former vice president Ekwueme in the maximum prison, a whole vice president of a nation: he arrested him and put him in a prison where they put criminals, and then put Shagari under house arrest. So, what has he done? Absolutely nothing!
We have three major tribes in Nigeria and two out of these three have held sway as presidents of the country. When do you think an Igbo President will be possible?
You know, as a delegate at the National Conference, I try to tow the line of our stand there. Following the decisions reached there, we agreed that the presidency, governorship, national, up to the local and zonal level; all of them will be rotational. So, right now, we will rather say that since the presidency is from the South, it is zoned to the South-South and if it leaves the South and go back to the north, the North-West and North-East has already taken up leadership so, if it goes back to the North, it goes to another zone. There are six geo-political zones in the country and the six geo-political zones will experience leadership in this country, which was what we agreed to at the National Conference. Now, if it goes back to the North after Jonathan has done his eight years the North will keep it for eight years and it goes back to the South. South-West and South-South has gone. So, automatically, it becomes the turn of the South-East. But the question is: Are we ready? We still have a long period of 12 years to get ready. The President will do another four years; hand over to the North for eight years. Then, it will come to the South again. The report of the National Conference is what will guide us.
Do you think the Igbo will be well-prepared in 12 years?
I just hope that, by then, we will put our house in order because right now we are not ready.
Why do you say the Igbo are not ready?
Sincerely speaking, the Igbo are not ready. I just hope they will put their house in order but. What platforms are they going to use? The Yorubas have created a platform for themselves, ANC to APC and then they got alliance with the North and a section of the North is using the same alliance to project their presidential candidate. If it comes North, South-West is already there with APC. South-South is already there on the platform of the PDP. Now, which platform is the Igbo going to use: PDP or APC platform?
What of the acclaimed Igbo party, APGA?
That is if APGA will be ready for it, because with what is happening at the moment, APGA is in a serious mess.
What do you think brought about the mess?
What else? Bad leadership!
Where is the bad leadership emanating from, in your view?
The bad leadership is coming from the government side and from the party’s leadership. The government’s interference is causing a lot of problems, because: he who pays the piper dictates the tune. Right now, it appears like the government is sponsoring APGA, so, government is dictating what happens in the party. I just hope that APGA will come out of this election better; but if it comes out worse, too bad.
Are you saying that if they don’t do well, it may spell the end of APGA as a political party?
Yes, if APGA does not do well in this election, I will support the formation of another party by the Igbo and I will spearhead it. We will launch another party that will lead us into the era of Igbo presidency.
Do you think that formation of another party will work if APGA didn’t work?
Of course, it depends largely on the focus and strength of the front runners. If Ojukwu was still alive, APGA would not have been in the mess it is in today. If APGA is serious, they should be able to win more states. They cannot remain in one state and be laying claim to being an Igbo party. At least, we have seven Igbo speaking states in this country: Rivers, Delta, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo and Abia states. APGA cannot even win an election in Ikwerre, Rivers State rather it is a PDP domain, Delta State is controlled by PDP, where then is APGA?
Those areas you have mentioned, like Rivers and Delta, do they really see themselves as Igbo?
Of course, they are members of Ohanaeze. The last president of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Ambassador Uwechue was from Delta and the four-year tenure, which the Ohanaeze is following today, was started by Ambassador Uwechue. As a matter of fact, Chief Iwuanyanwu was the constitutional Review Committee Chairman who recommended four years for the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, instead of the earlier two years tenure.
What is your overview of Governor Obiano’s administration?
Governor Obiano is a technocrat, not a politician. He is doing well, no doubt. But I will advise him to look for good politicians to surround himself. He should not keep criminals around, but politicians who are respected by the Igbo in politics to work with politically. He is doing well as a technocrat and governor, not as a politician.
Does it mean a technocrat cannot work well as a politician? What difference does it make?
A technocrat is someone who can manage the affairs of the government very well, but a politician is one who can play around with people, dance around with people, mingle with people and know their problems; be able to know the best candidate for an elective post in your party. You have to be able to identify candidates who are the best in the flock and listen to people. You don’t just sit in the Government House and take decisions. If you do that, you will fail.
Do you think this is part of the reasons for the drama that played out during the party’s primary elections?
Of course, the party’s primaries were a mess and I pray it will not affect the fortunes of the party. This is the same reason why PDP has not won elections in the state for a long time. It has affected the party largely in the state, where you have three people contesting for one position at the same time and nobody wants to step down for the other. Then at the end of the day, people vote and they give it to one person and nobody is talking.
This is an era when politicians come out with all manner of promises, both vain and real, to woo the electorates to their side. Do you think we have the right crop of candidates?
This is democracy. If you think you are good enough to represent your people, you come out. You don’t force people to come out, that’s why it is democracy. But, most times, you find out that it is the bad people that come out. The good ones are scared, because they don’t want their names soiled or character smeared, so they rather remain where they are and, as a result, the bad ones will come out.
What do you think should be done to encourage good people to come out and contest?
It all depends on our system. But I’m using this opportunity to call on good people who know they have something to offer this country to come out for the development of our nation and also help move this country forward. Sometimes, monetary restrictions play a role in their reasons. In this country, money plays a very strong role when it comes to election. If not for the fact that Peter Obi spent so much, Obiano wouldn’t have won the election, even though he was a banker and a technocrat and that was the basis why Obi chose him. He felt, as a banker and technocrat, he would be able to manage the resources of the state very well. Obiano was not part of the screening I conducted with others but, because, he stood out of the rest of the candidates in Obi’s calculation, he presented him to us as the best choice based on his pedigree. He is a good statesman and he is doing well but, politically, he is not. He should not allow bad politicians mislead him, because at the end of the day, he will be held accountable.
How do you see the major opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), and the character it portrays?
The characters in APC are characters that will not do this country any good: they are radicals. They behave like people who are protesting against themselves, people who feel that they are marginalised. Look at the kind of statement Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State has been making against the President; insults the President at will and nobody is taking cognizance of that. Then you look at the sort of comment the party’s (publicity) secretary, (Lai) Mohammed is making, nobody is talking about that. Then, ordinary irrelevant militants, Tompolo and Dokubo, said if Jonathan does not win, there will be war, you say they should be arrested. Is it because he has immunity? The chairman of Arewa sometime ago said that it is the North or nothing for the presidency, and nobody talks about it; it is normal. It doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t support careless talks, no matter what quarter it may come from. We should be guided by our words, so we don’t put this country in trouble. Remember, 2015 is the year they (United States) said Nigeria will break up. So, we have to be very careful. Nigeria is too large for anybody to break.
There is a global fall in the price of crude oil and Nigeria’s economy is chiefly dependent upon it. What is your take on that?
During the course of the National Conference, we said that there are many natural resources in this country that will even surpass oil income in international market; forget about oil. We have gold, diamond, emeralds, limes stones, etc. We have them in abundance, but nobody wants to talk about it because of oil. In our recommendations, we suggested that they should devote five per cent of the revenue to these resources. And, if they do that, nobody will talk about oil again. Mineral resources are littered all over the North, but they are waiting till the oil finishes, then they will look for alternative. Maybe, we will start exploring them now. There is no state in this country that does not have up to 30 or 40 mineral resource, none. So, why are we destroying ourselves by neglecting those resources? Look at coal; coal is the one major resources of South Africa. It is what sustains them. Coal can give you more than 250 by-products, including drugs. We know it, but we don’t want to exploit it because of the oil money we are stealing. Now that we still have oil money, use it to develop these products so that when these products come, oil will be subdued and with that states will become financially up-to-date on their own.
What is your advice to the electorate as they go to the polls in March and April?
My advice to the electorate is that they should vote in the man who will implement the report of the National Conference. I don’t want to use the statement: ‘The devil you know is better than the one you don’t know.’ We have entered into a new amalgamation and it is only that National Conference report that will consolidate this amalgamation. Without the amalgamation of that report, I’m telling you, this country is doomed. It is the only thing that will set this country in the right path. The other amalgamation was imposed on us by the colonial masters, we did not bargain for it. But this time, the amalgamation is anchored on the report of the National Conference and the man who can do it is the man who convoked the National Conference, President Goodluck Jonathan. Unfortunately for APC, they boycotted the conference and called it a waste of time. So, they can never be in the position to implement it. The report is the only key to the infrastructural development of this country.
•Photo shows Eluemunoh.
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