Posted by News Express | 21 February 2021 | 563 times
Although the 2023 General Election is still more than a year away, how would you describe the political scenario in Nigeria today?
Like you rightly observed the election year, 2023, is still more than a year from now, but we can already feel the political tension all over the country, heightened by economic realities. A lot of politicians are already jostling for position. We believe and trust God that come 2023, we will remain united as a country and that our people will be able to withstand the pressures and tension that come with general elections in Nigeria. So my first prayers would be that God, in His infinite mercy, will keep us stable and will throw up for us leaders, not rulers for this country called Nigeria. So, 2023 will mark another litmus test for the survival of democracy in Nigeria. No matter who is grandstanding, we believe that by the prayers of the saints, only those who are good at heart will emerge as the leader in 2023.
Many argue that it is the turn of the South to produce the president of Nigeria in 2023 since President Muhammadu Buhari, from the North, would be completing his eight years tenure of two terms that year. Also, many people from the Southeast say it should be specifically the turn of the Southeast to produce the next president. What is your view on this matter and why do you hold such a position?
First, I am an Igbo man, a proud one at that. But my position is not based on the fact that I am Igbo from the Southeast. My view is born out of the need for fairness and for justice. If you look at the political history of Nigeria since the country became independent, apart from General Aguiyi Ironsi, who was a military Head of State for a few months and was assassinated, no Igbo man has been Nigeria’s Head of Government, the Chief Executive of Nigeria. You can ask what of Nigeria’s First President, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe; the answer is simple, he was only a ceremonial President in the Parliamentary arrangement then. He was not the Head of the Government of the First Republic. So, no Igbo man has ascended the position of the Executive President of Nigeria. Historically, Nigeria has three major ethnic regions or components: the Hause/Fulani, the Igbo and the Yoruba. The Hausa/Fulani North have produced many military and civilian presidents and Heads of Government. The Yoruba in the West have produced both military and civilian Presidents and Heads of Government. Even the minority in the South-south region has produced an executive civilian president. So, the only region; the only component part left out is the Igbo of the Southeast.
So, come 2023, there is a justified expectation that the presidency should be zoned to the South, since the North would by then have completed eight years two terms and when it comes to the South, we must acknowledge that the Southwest have produced a civilian President, Obasanjo, the South-south has also produced Jonathan; so it is only Southeast that is left. It is therefore fair and just to demand that the Southeast should be given a chance to produce the next president. So, as we prepare for the 2023 General Elections, I appeal to all the major political parties, including the APC and the PDP, to field candidates of Igbo extraction. It will make sense considering the makeup of this country. It will bring genuine healing to the country Nigeria because continuous denial of Ndigbo from emerging Nigeria’s president is akin to telling the world that we are still on the trenches of the civil war.
You are from Abia State and you once contested for a seat at the House of Representatives. So, you are a stakeholder in the state. How will you describe the politics of Abia State from 1999 till date?
The politics of Abia State from 1999 till date has been less than savory. It has been far below standard, far below what we may call Nigerian standard. If you look at the foundations that other states like Lagos, Rivers, Enugu had within 1999, you will agree with me that Abia is a far cry. Among the five states in the Southeast, only Imo and Abia have been oil producing states since then. Only recently did we hear of Anambra having oil. Besides oil, which other state in the region has a city like Aba, with an unmatched entrepreneurial spirit anywhere? Everybody knows of Aba, of Ariaria and so on, that is a major trading city far above even Onitsha before. It was because of the importance of the town, Aba, to the Igbo course, that made our leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, to say that any time he dies; his body should be taken to Aba before it would be taken to his home in Nnewi, Anambra State, for burial.
It is tearful to see that the same state that has this great socio-economic city has been brought down to be the least state in the Southeast zone if not in Nigeria. If you go to Aba, you will cry for yourself. If you go to Abia, you will weep for our people. You will be forced to ask yourself what has been happening to all the resources, to all the allocations, to all the oil funds. What has been happening? You won’t find good roads; you won’t see good schools, you won’t see good hospitals built by the state government; you can’t see any evidence of human capacity development. In fact, all the known development indices are zero in Abia. Even workers are being owed till date. So from 1999 till date, Abia is a sorry case.
So what would you advance as the way out?
The solution is change. We have to do a paradigm shift. We have to change the way we select or accept those who throw up themselves for leadership in Abia State. What has been happening is that a few leaders put in their loyalists, most of whom do not merit the positions they eventually occupy with the understanding that they are there just to share resources. No society develops that way. We need a change of perception of public office.
As an insider, can you explain how our political leaders in Abia have emerged in the past, which you will want us to change, moving forward?
One of the things that made me go into politics to contest for a seat at the House of Representatives in 2011 is what I saw as the injustice in PDP. The arrogance with which they do things, it was built into something like a cult; if you are not one of us, you are out. We learnt in 2010 that they were doing ‘return, return.’ That was the language. If you were a counsellor, you are automatically returned. If you were in the house, you are automatically returned. It was the same for all the elective positions. It’s not about anybody; it’s just about them. They shut the door even against their members in PDP. So, I said, does it mean we are no longer part of the state? So, I said, well, I will join the race, contest and make sure they fail in my area where I have influence. First I went to the Labour Party. Later we migrated to ACN, where Paul Ikonne was contesting to be the party’s governorship candidate. I contested for the party’s ticket for the House of Representatives with other aspirants and I won. Though I didn’t win the election proper, I was happy that PDP lost elections in the area I came from.
Since 2015, that PDP’s impunity has been put under tremendous pressure. In 2015, Abia APC saw strong opposition in the hands of APGA which fielded Dr. Alex Otti. The bold entrance of Otti and his tenacity have helped to break PDP’s impunity in Abia. Today, people’s mindsets are changing and PDP is running helter scatter.
To change the paradigm shift and entrench the right opposition that will usher in responsible governance in Abia, we have resolved to galvanize people of like minds to come together. We have looked at the political scene and realized there is a lacuna. We need a situation where well-meaning Abians can come together and say no, we no longer want the way things are being run in the state. So, we came up with this movement, Abia Freedom Alliance (AFA). The aim of AFA is to help break the chain of political slavery in Abia State and cause people to see the light. We believe that if we are able to break the ranks and galvanise the majority of the people, who are not happy at all but have been quiet to unite against the few unpatriotic leaders who have been raping our resources. If this majority is galvanized enough to say no, enough is enough, the economic rapists will ultimately run away, because they are just human beings even though they think they are principalities. If we work together they people would liberate themselves and be able to elect for themselves the kind of leaders they want.
AFA is a political movement, a support structure that will support other political structures. We believe the structure that will ultimately break this slavish system in Abia must involve progressive minded majority coming together and telling the evil people enough is enough. Our aim is to help sensitise our people so that wherever Abians are, in Nigeria and in Diaspora, they will be able to say, enough is enough. It shall no longer be said that our state is the least in the Southeast or in Nigeria. We are insisting on a change on leadership. We are changing on the way our leaders emerge. In AFA, we have realised that there is a lacuna between the people on the ground fighting at the local level who do not have the financial capacity to withstand pressure or intimidation and Abia elites who may not be on ground, who feel they do not have the time to be involved but who have the resources and the needed contacts and capacity to fight and win freedom for our people. Our mission is to bring all together to contribute in their different ways to liberate Abia.
AFA is not about a political party. It is a political movement that will help sensitize Abians, both the grassroots and the elite, identify the right leaders and mobilise massive support for the right candidates with the aim of effecting the right change in Abia, So far, for the governorship seat in 2023, we have identified Dr Alex Otti. From 2015 till today, he has demonstrated capacity and strength of character.
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