The problem with Ndigbo —Emeka Ojukwu Jnr •Also speaks on why Jonathan failed and what Buhari should do

Posted by Pamela Eboh, Awka | 17 June 2015 | 6,519 times

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Scion of late Igbo leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, and currently Sole Administrator, Nnewi North Local Government Area of Anambra State, Chief Emeka Ojukwu Jnr in this interview speaks on his late father’s attitude to life, the 2015 elections which he contested on the platform of APGA, among other burning issues. He expresses regret over the Igbo third-class syndrome, which he attributes to the people’s sell-out attitude. Please read on . . .

News Express: What vacuum in Igbo land do you think exists since the death of your father?

Emeka Ojukwu Jnr: It’s definitely a huge vacuum, you know. If you look at what is happening in the country now, we Igbo need a strong voice that will stand up for us, stand up against injustice, encourage and lead us. There are many excesses since he died where we can see that he is solely missed. I do believe that we do have leaders amongst us, but the opportunity has not come for them to rise up. I wouldn’t want to believe that men like my father and late Senator Uche Chukwumerije lived their lives and set the examples they set in vain. I would like to believe that they were able to impact on the younger generation some useful ideas that will help to groom new leaders that would lead by example. So, I’m hopeful that such leaders would emerge.

Why do you think it is taking this long and difficult for a leader to emerge to lead the Igbo?

Nigeria is a strange society. As you go through us, the younger ones who are trying to make a living, make a contribution or have an impact, you find out that those who have been in leadership positions for decades are still around struggling for the same positions. It’s a thing that is maybe not unique to Nigeria, but certainly not in the Nigerian system. You find out that you are struggling with your fathers and grandfathers for the same opportunity. That has been an issue. Of course, we have ours, which is about respect for the elders and what have you. When you find yourself in such position, perhaps you will not be aggressive as you will normally be because of the context. I think that has been the problem. There’s need for a change. When the out-going President Goodluck Jonathan took over the mantle of leadership, there was a lot of hope in Nigeria that there would be a change and he would usher in new blood, and I remember how disappointed people were when he decided to use the old guard. For me, that was the beginning of an end. Hopefully, President Buhari would think outside the box and select young blood, fresh thinkers, people that can come up with new ideas. We were disappointed in the previous regime when he (Jonathan) did not do that.

Some people believe that the Igbo nation has always been taken for granted in the polity. Why so?  

I hear such things a lot. I think we have to take ourselves seriously before other people can take us serious. If we continue selling ourselves out and continue undermining ourselves and future for personal interest, then, what do we expect? We expect every person, every group to struggle for self-actualisation, for power, for survival, longevity and so on. And, then, there are some lessons we haven’t learnt. Igbo people, historically, have been like a bucket of crabs: everytime somebody tries to rise to the top, we would pull him down. We have people thinking only for themselves and not for the greater good of the masses. And everybody has come to know that when they device their formulas and strategies for success, the fact is that we would still let ourselves down. So, I think we have to look inwards first before we start pointing fingers outside. We have to look at ourselves and change. There are things in this world that are greater than money. We have to sacrifice for the greater good of the people.

What role do you think the Igbo nation should play in Buhari’s administration?

There was a lot of talk that the Igbo people were not represented in APC; that maybe because of the different roles people played. So be it, they have emerged winners; the incoming president is APC, the party to be in control would be APC, and there is a wind of change blowing. PDP, which had been in power for decades in Nigeria, seems to be imploding. We have to find a niche within the next dispensation; whether Buhari’s administration, APC administration, it needs to be inclusive in nature for them to be able to succeed. It has to reach out to all quarters of Nigeria. So, it behooves on them to reach out to everybody from all divides. It would be beneficial not only to them but to us. We also have to think beyond the traditional ways we have been thinking. We have to look for new alliances, new relationships and, perhaps, also look inwards to change some of the norms that we have been living with.

Whatever worked yesterday, by this I mean whatever formula that worked yesterday, must not necessarily be the formula that will work today. So, we have to adapt, change and above all think on the long-term for our own survival and well-being. We have to be flexible and do what it takes as a group to grow and prosper. Again, I repeat, individuals who have access to power and wealth tend to think for themselves only. This has been the bane of the Igbo people. If we can change from that attitude and begin to take collective decisions for the good of many, then I think we would get out of that picture. But, if we don’t, we will continue to be third class citizens. It is left for us to make ourselves better. I don’t believe in the idea that someone is victimising us; no, we the Igbo people are the ones victimising ourselves.

Do you think a typical Hausa/Fulani man would be comfortable working with the Igbo people closely rather than other tribes in the country?

Why not? I don’t see the reason why not. Historically, the relationship between the Hausa and the Igbo has been good, but beyond that, we have to find ways to get along with each other. Hausa people need Igbo people, Igbo people need Hausa people, so, we have to find a common ground to get things work for the good of all concerned. I don’t really look at things in that way: because you are this, then this or that is not possible. It all has to do with individual relationships and beyond that group relationship.

Are you ready and do you think you have the capacity and capability to fit into your late father’s shoes?

People ask me that question a lot. My late father was someone who was a hero, someone who left his mark in the history of the world. You don’t try to fit into his shoes, you just try to learn from what he has taught you; what experience has equally taught you and try to do the best you can do, which was what he did. When my father was growing up, he had a father who was larger than life but he carved a niche for himself, which was different from what Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu, his father, chose. It behooves on us the younger generation to carve our own niche and choose our own part. We don’t have to be like him and on top of that, I always say, times have changed. The Nigeria in which he grew up is not the Nigeria in which we are living now. So, what is needed is a different scale of tools. What is important is to survive and prosper and whatever you need to do, to achieve that is what you need to do. You don’t have to look back and try to do what they did. They did what they needed to do in their time, with different scenario and conditions. So, we have to do what we need to do.

What do you miss most about him?

He was a steady and constant factor, somebody you could rely on. He was a source of wisdom, source of knowledge, history, facts, figures, great adviser and he was an honest person. I remember when I was getting married for the first time. I went to him for advice and while I was alone with him, he said: ‘Listen, this is my third marriage. So, I don’t think I’m the right person to give you advice. I suggest you look for someone else to advise you….’ This is the type of person he was. But quite frankly, he was right because obviously, he had failed twice and on the third one. That was an honest advice and he was the kind of person that would do that. Somebody else may want to concoct stories, but he was quite frank about it. So, I sought advice elsewhere.

What was the best advice you got in that instance?

Well, it wouldn’t be the best advice because that first marriage didn’t work.

When do you think Nigeria will be ripe for an Igbo president?

It has been ripe for Igbo president, but the calculations, permutations and mistakes we have made as Igbo people have not allowed us to attain that particular goal. I think we need to be more strategic thinkers. Sometimes, when I look around, I see Igbo people as people playing draught while the rest of the country is playing chess. Draught is a game of three, four, five moves, while chess is a game of 15, 16, 20 moves ahead. We are not long-term strategic thinkers. It’s always in the expediency of the moment that we try to solve the problem as they come. We don’t plan, we don’t plan for tomorrow. We only strategise and make decisions for now instead of the greater good down the road and we continue to suffer for it. Igbo people need to stop playing draught and start playing chess.

Who do you think will be able to boldly and honestly lead the way without fanning his personal interest or ambition?

I don’t know. Like I said earlier, I believe that we have leaders among us and I don’t know if those leaders will be able to take the forefront and take the rightful place.

What of the Pan-Igbo organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo? I recall, in an interview, First Republic Minister, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, in New Telgraph of 24th May, 2015: he accused Ohanaeze Ndigbo of misleading the Igbo during the presidential election. Do you have faith in Ohanaeze’s capability to lead Ndigbo?

There has been a lot of trouble in that organisation, but I wouldn’t want to go into that; it’s not also wise to wash our dirty linens in public. But, certainly, there have been issues there. My father had issues with that organisation; others like the one you just mentioned had issues with them. You know, there’s no organisation of that type that will not make mistakes. They have made mistakes along the way unwittingly, but at the end of the day, we have the prerogative to choose those that would represent us: be it Ohanaeze, or whatever other group that may come up. If that group is not represented as one body, then the opportunity is there for us to make a change. In any case, what is the membership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and what stops some of the younger ones and some of the critics from joining the ranks of Ohanaeze and introducing the change they are talking about into the system? The bottomline is for Igbo people . . . just remember that the needs are many, but what is paramount is the need of the few. I continue saying that it is the downfall of Ndigbo. If we get beyond that, then we will have the wherewithal: economic, intellectual resources to succeed and be leaders in Nigeria, West Africa and beyond.

You contested the House of Representatives seat for Nnewi North/South/Ekwusigo Federal Constituency. You believe you won, but the PDP candidate was declared the winner. Do you have confidence that the Election Tribunal can restore your mandate?

Totally, we are very hopeful. We have our facts and figures. I mean, it was clear what happened. I had a landslide victory; even those that purportedly won, if you look at them, they are not carrying themselves like people that won. We have the evidence that showed that we won and I believe in the judiciary. There are many examples in Nigeria that show that once legal matters are handled properly, they will make the right decision. So, I am confident that there, we would be victorious. The election was won by APGA candidates and it was very obvious.

How was your mandate stolen?

What happened was that at the dying hours of the night, those who claimed to be supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan and claimed to be acting under the orders from Villa came, took over the collation centres with armed thugs and with other security personnel – whether they were on legal or illegal duty, I don’t know. They chased away the police that were there, chased people away, including myself, and rewrote the results completely. But, thank God, we have our polling booth results that we would take to court and contest what they wrote. Unfortunately, they were such in a hurry that they made lot of mistakes. We know who won, everybody knows who won. In fact, we threw a victory party even after they did what they did because we were convinced we won, regardless of what they announced. We know we shall be vindicated, but even if things don’t go right, as we know the country we live in, it will not change the truth. I know there would be other opportunities. The change at the top gives us hope also because those that in essence took over PDP, because some of these things were not done by PDP stalwarts – there was a group of people that essentially took over claiming that they could deliver Mr. President. But they were not able to do that. They were so engrossed in petty vendetta, so engrossed in trying to flex their muscle at the local level to show they were kingpins in their localities that they forgot their primary objective of delivering Mr President. When they couldn’t do that, every other thing fell like a pack of cards; that is what they are suffering now. If they had kept their eyes on the goal and delivered their president, then, all things would have flown naturally. Bullies and people who believe they have the mandate to act with impunity tend to make mistakes and that is what has happened.

That was your first experience of contesting any elective political position. How would you describe it?

Yes, that was my first experience and I enjoyed every bit of it: the campaigns, the entire process. It is also in a sense a good thing that this thing happened. I am also now going through the tribunal process. It’s all part of it. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that you are right and I know that I won, everybody knows I won. The court has the opportunity to do the right thing and if we are able to present our case well, I think, we will pull through. But, if not, tomorrow is another day. The bottom line is that those who tried to perpetrate fraud lost at the higher level; they are suffering from it now and running helter-skelter. That in itself is a success. I thank God that two weeks later in the State House of Assembly elections, and with the boasting of those folks that came to perpetrate fraud that APGA would lose and Governor Obiano would be impeached, they failed woefully. I am much more satisfied with that result than mine. If I were to choose, I would rather lose my election and the State Assembly goes in the way of Governor Willie Obiano. I would rather that happen. Let me lose and let him win, because it is better for Anambra.

With the outcome of the presidential election, especially in the area of vote spread, do you think Buhari is a Pan-Nigeria President?

Honestly, I think so. You have to remember that there was a concerted effort to deliver him beyond PDP and APGA alliance, and still it was not achieved. It shows somebody that has a lot of respect in Nigeria. He is also feared and respected and there is a sense amongst Nigerians that he is somebody that stands for the right. Yes, some people worry that he may be a bit rigid but at the same time, we also yearn for that type of discipline. Nigerians feel that we need strong men, people that can take a position and stand by it and stay the course. He reminds us of those days when he was there. Of course, we have to be mindful that this is now a democratic system and he may not have such powers that he had then when he was a military Head of State and made pronouncements and wrote decrees. It may be difficult for him but, at least, he has more rectitude from his antecedents. He has the experience and leadership qualities. He has training and discipline that comes with the military background; he has age and wisdom on his side. I would like to think that some of the things he had done as a young man, he could reason differently now. And the country he is leading has grown and matured as he has, so, I think it’s an opportunity for us to move this country forward. I like to think that if he looks beyond tribe, party and those sentiments, even beyond any historical issues that may be colouring his outlook, then Nigeria stands to benefit immensely from this change. First of all, the fact, I think, says a lot for our democracy, that we have grown to a point where it is possible for that to happen. The issue now is what are you going to do with this opportunity? When the out-going president came in, there was that hope also with a lot of expectation but, unfortunately, it didn’t come to pass. We have yet another opportunity and I, for one, am hopeful that Nigerians will see something different this time around.

What do you think is the best way to tackle Boko Haram?

First of all, as I always say, the sitting government has a responsibility and duty to protect lives and property. So, they have to do that: when there are groups that are undermining the rule of law, then they have to act and act decisively. Some time, you have to look beyond that; I think the government has to look beyond military and police action and look at the root cause, societal issues, religious issues and open a dialogue with a view to understanding why this type of ideology is able to take root and able to grow in our society. If they can take a look at that and perhaps at education, empowerment of the youths, etc., maybe, they can give people alternative to this kind of indoctrination.

Would you say Nigeria is truly a united country where equity and justice prevail?

No, it is not. Many countries in the world are not either. We are a young country. I remember an interview I watched hosted by Mike Wallace and in that programme, he interviewed Loius Pharakon and he made  a comment about Nigeria being the most corrupt country in the world . . . I wish that you looked through the archives and see the answer that Louis Farrakhan gave him. Nigeria is a young country in the scheme of things and if you look at where we have gotten, I think we have done quite well. We don’t have to clap for ourselves or slap ourselves on the back because we have so much that we need to still do, but we should not condemn ourselves either. If you talk of Nigeria, you talk of corruption, but there are many countries that are even more corrupt than Nigeria. There are many countries that have even done a lot worse to others than Nigeria. Yes, we have issues but I believe we are not the worst.

Why then is Nigeria in the limelight for corruption all over the world?

I think more than five of every black person in the world is from Nigeria. Nigeria is a big country and I think that it’s part of the reason we attract a lot of attention. It is a difficult country economically and security-wise. We also have a leadership role in Africa, especially in West Africa, so, certainly, we are under the spotlight. But, like I said, we are relatively a young country with a relatively young democracy and we would make mistakes along the way. The essence is to learn from the mistakes and move on.

Do you think Nigeria has lived up to the ‘No victor, no vanquished’ declaration made after the civil war?

It was a noble idea. The leadership didn’t have to make that statement, so, you cannot take that away. It is not easy after having won a war to show any form of magnanimity at all. Human beings are what they are. Of course, there were victors and there were vanquished. It doesn’t take much; you can look around and see it. But, certainly, Igbo people have been third class citizens in this society but we have had to climb up again. But, we have not helped ourselves either like I said earlier. So, in response to your question, in reality, there is no such thing as no victor, no vanquished. The reality is that if you lose a war, you lose it and there are consequences that come with it.

APGA is in the process of selecting new leadership at the ward, local, state and national levels. Do you think they are taking a step in the right direction with the new crop of executives emerging?

I am a BOT member of APGA but in this instance, my focus is to make the party more reachable here in Nnewi North. I think we are getting it right. We are opening our doors to new blood, welcoming younger people into leadership positions. We are not looking at how long you have been in APGA. We are looking at what value you bring to the party and what results you bring to the table in terms of promotion within the ranks. I think that it is a formula for success. We are also taking decisions in strategic places that would ensure our long-term survival. So, I think we are getting it right.

What can you tell us about your second marriage? Have you finally found your soul mate?

It’s been a wonderful experience. I don’t usually talk about private things but the truth is that if you find somebody who is your soul mate, it makes things a lot easier; somebody you can talk to and rely on, it makes the world a lovely place to be. And, believe it or not, in the midst of hundreds or thousands, you can still be lonely. But when you have someone who is truly your own, whom you can trust a hundred per cent – when you have lost your parents – then you are blessed.

So, no going back ….

(Laughs) Yes, I believe so.

•Photo shows Emeka Ojukwu Jnr.

Source: News Express

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