2023: Nothing wrong with political parties zoning presidential ticket to South-East — Uwazuruike, ex-president, Aka Ikenga
Posted by News Express | 5 January 2022 | 600 times
A chieftain of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and former president of Aka Ikenga, Goddy Uwazuruike, has said there is nothing wrong if all the political parties concede their presidential tickets to the people of South East zone. In this interview culed from Daily Sun, he spoke on what should be done to enthrone justice in Nigeria, 2023 general election and other national issues.
What are your expectations this year, 2022?
Well, Mr. President has addressed the nation and made several promises; we will give him the benefit of the doubt on those promises and hope that this country will be better. Every President makes a New Year speech and gives confidence to the people, that is exactly what Mr. President has done.
However, as a person, what I expect is that the governors of the 36 states of the federation must sit up because they are all part of the federation. It will be a mistake on our part as Nigerians to concentrate too much at the centre and the man in Aso Rock while ignoring those closest to us. I believe all the governors have all made their speeches and we expect them to live up to their promises.
We also expect all the ministers and everyone in a position of public power to sit up; this country belongs to all of us. For instance, if the Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola, can complete work on the Lagos-Ibadan express road or the second Niger Bridge, that will be a national achievement, not just the minister. People from every part of Nigeria will ply that road and the bridge. Don’t forget that bridge leads to the economic hub of this country. So, we all, whether in the public or private sector, need to do our best so that the sum of all our efforts will translate to success for the country.
Mr. President, in his New Year speech, noted that the path to nationhood is fraught with difficulties but, with a concerted commitment to the unity of the country, we would be successful. Achieving unity has, however, proved difficult for Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities, why is that so?
It has been a problem because if, for instance, you ask the Hausa today who their problem is they will likely point at the Fulani; if you ask the Igbo the same question, he will point at the Yoruba, and when you ask the Yoruba the same question, he will point at the Igbo and so on. If the ethnic nationalities can unite for one purpose, Nigeria will move to greater heights.
Once upon a time, Nigeria was called the giant of Africa. I’m no longer sure of that or even if anyone still considers Nigeria as the giant of Africa.
I will give you an example: when in 1993, Chief MKO Abiola’s election victory was annulled, Rev. Jessy Jackson, from the United States, noted that Nigeria was one of the frontline states that led the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, yet, physically, Nigeria was nowhere near South Africa, which was a frontline country.
Once upon a time, too, no decision was taken then by Great Britain or the United States of America without first asking what Nigeria’s position on the subject was. The lack of unity makes us take a microcosm approach to everything. We look at that tiny picture as our area of comfort, forgetting the larger picture. I completely agree with Mr. President that we need to unite because we can achieve more that way and, when we achieve more, it will be to the benefit of everyone.
How do we go about this unity when there is so much animosity and distrust?
There are four key steps that we must take as Nigerians, if we want to achieve unity among us. The first thing is that we must ensure there is fair play for everyone. Secondly, there must be a level playing ground; thirdly, we must ensure justice for all and, fourthly, we must respect the fundamental human rights of everyone.
But in all these things, we must believe that God is watching us. However, the problem is that when some people are appointed into power they see themselves as demigods and want to believe that everyone in their community is their subject.
They forget that their appointment is for a while after which they will come down. I call them apostles of the here and now. It is this myopic view of power that is keeping us down.
Talking about fair play, the South-East geopolitical zone believes that it has not been fully integrated into governance in Nigeria. The zone is also the only part of the country that has yet to produce the President since the return to civil rule in 1999. They have also agitated for a Nigerian President of South-East extraction in 2023. What do you say to that?
After the civil war ended in 1970 and elections were about to be held in 1979, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe came out to contest for the presidency. Some people questioned why and said that the Igbo took Nigeria to war and that they were a defeated people. Dr. Azikiwe said, no, that he didn’t see himself like that and stood his ground and contested.
In 1998/1999, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, who was credited for being at the head of the fight against Gen. Sani Abacha, and who formed the G34 that metamorphosed into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he was also the first chairman of the party and stepped down for Chief Solomon Lar to become chairman of the party in order to contest. Yet, when he came out, some people questioned why he was coming out to contest.
As for 2023, several prominent Igbo want to contest. They include: Senator Anyim Pius Anyim and Mazi Sam Ohabunwa, both of who have already thrown his hat into the ring, Peter Obi and Dr. Chris Ngige, who are expected to come out, the Chief Whip of the Senate, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, is also there but we are not sure whether he is coming out. I can tell you that all these men have the same rights as everyone has and they are not intimidated.
At the end of the day, who among these eminent Igbo sons that will contest will depend on where the political parties zone their presidential ticket, have Igbo leaders considered this factor, as Ohanaeze Ndigbo has been of the view that each of the political parties should zone their presidential slot to the South East?
There is nothing wrong with that. It is not the first time, and it is not the second time.
In 1998, two candidates, both from the South West, both named Olu, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Olu Falae, contested the election. You must remember that it was Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu that stepped down for Olu Falae to emerge and the whole essence was to assuage the South West over June 12, 1993, and it worked.
In 2007, the current President ran against Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and both of them were Fulani from Katsina State. If you count Atiku Abubakar, he is also Fulani from Adamawa State and the purpose was to return power to the North, nobody ever said anything against that.
So, there is nothing wrong with all the parties zoning their presidential ticket to the South East. Some things need to be done and when they are done, justice will reign in Nigeria.
How do you see the security situation in the country?
My problem with security in Nigeria is how serious the people in charge of the security architecture are. Many people didn’t expect the Igbo to travel home for Christmas because of kidnappers and gunmen, but they did and they suffered for it.
There were checkpoints every 200 kilometres in the whole of Ogun State, Ondo State and Imo State. The travellers suffered on the way to the Niger Bridge, some people spent 24 hours from Asaba, Delta State capital to the bridgehead a space of a few kilometres.
The North-East part of the country has become a no-go area. I believe the day the people in charge decide to move against those behind the problem insecurity will stop, that is why I question the determination of those in charge to end insecurity.
Another aspect of the president’s speech was where he said, to fully win the war against insecurity, we must first win the hearts and minds of the citizens; what do you think?
In Latin America, Che Guevara once said that it is difficult to fight a war without the support of the local population and what he said came to pass because it was a herder in the community he was fighting for that reported him to the authorities and his reason was that the shooting by Guevara and his men disturbed his animals.
What is happening today in Nigeria is that some communities are more comfortable under the control of Boko Haram than the control of the Federal Government and that is sad. How can you fight a war when the local community is reluctant to support you?
To cripple Boko Haram, all you need is to cut off their supply lines and they will crumble but some of these communities are the ones smuggling supplies for Boko Haram.
Why would someone, perhaps in a village in Borno State, be more comfortable under Boko Haram reign than the Federal Government?
A farmer in the local community is very simple by nature and his daily life revolves around his farm. If, when he wants to take his produce to market, all sorts of security men harass him and extort money from him, he will feel bitter. But if Boko Haram tells him to just pay a fraction of his products as tax and carry on with his business, the farmer will support Boko Haram. He may not be an active member of the group, but he will be happy.
From the peaceful atmosphere in the South East just before the Anambra State governorship election, Imo State has suddenly come into the news again for all the wrong reasons, kidnapping of traditional rulers and other sorts of violence, what are your thoughts?
Before the Anambra State election, right from April 2021, there were widespread cases of violence all over Igboland with killings and destruction of property everywhere. Now, fast-forward to the governorship election in November, every day it was like the election would not hold and I kept telling people that the violence was synchronised killings.
Unknown gunmen were imported into Igboland for one purpose, to create an atmosphere of insecurity so that the election would not hold. I was granted an interview then where I said that the election would hold and the unknown gunmen would go back to where they came from; it came to pass.
After the election, Dr. Mbazuluike Amaechi led us to visit Mr. President to discuss the release of Nnamdi Kanu, within one week that we came back, those unknown gunmen resurfaced. What is happening today in the Orlu senatorial zone is synchronised violence.
The former governor of the state is struggling for authority in that area and the present governor is saying I am the governor, that is what is going on. If, for instance, I show that I am a supporter of the former governor, I am in trouble; and if I show I am a supporter of the present governor, I am in trouble. I believe that when you leave office, you leave the authority behind.
Ahead of 2023, do you share the concerns that the insecurity in the country could mar the general election?
Nothing will stop the 2023 general election, there is always a plot by politicians to remain in power. A former Deputy Governor of Kano State under Alhaji Abubakar Rimi was asked years ago, in an interview, what he missed most about no longer being in office and he said he missed the siren, that when he was in office there was always siren announcing his arrival.
Those in power will always want to hold onto power by all means. The Constitution allows the President to issue a proclamation extending his tenure and that of the National Assembly, if there is anarchy or war, but I don’t think that will happen. Nigeria has gone through a level of sophistication.