Director General of the Voice of Nigeria, and APC chieftain, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, in this interview with IHUOMA CHIEDOZIE, says former President Olusegun Obasanjo is not sincere with his call for an Igbo president in 2019
Can you say the Igbo have benefited under the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress government?
Without being immodest and irrespective of the nature of appointments so far, the Ndigbo has benefited and in the fullness of time, we will benefit from President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime. As hard-working and entrepreneurial people, we are one of the ethnic nationalities that will benefit from the solid foundation being laid by President Buhari. I am talking of a foundation of transparency and the revamping of decayed and dilapidated infrastructure. Don’t forget that, in the past, Ndigbo held major positions like Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Minister of Finance, who coordinated the economy; Deputy Senate President; and Deputy Speaker among others, with nothing to show for it except dilapidated infrastructure and gross unemployment.
Between an Igbo becoming president and achieving Biafra, which do you prefer?
Definitely, I prefer having an Igbo man as president of Nigeria rather than agitating for a sovereign state of Biafra. I am a Zikist (an apostle of late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe). I am for a united, prosperous and progressive country. My experience in Eke, my hometown, which is today more divided than Nigeria, tells me that happiness, prosperity and better welfare are not dependent on kinship, but on a transparent, equitable, just and well-ordered society.
Do you think an Igbo man will ever become president in the country?
Yes! My optimism is anchored on the maxim that in the political domain, there is the law with its legal teeth and the convention with its moral weight; the political convention today in Nigeria states that the office of the president should, every eight years, be rotated between the South and the North. Eight years for the South and eight years for the North. We stand by that convention. Since our entry into the Fourth Republic in 1999, we supported (former President Olusegun) Obasanjo – the South-West by extension; we supported Jonathan – the South-South by extension. Now that Ndigbo has resolved to support Buhari, we are hopeful of 2023. All we need to do is to support Mr. President and when 2023 comes, we appeal to our brothers and sisters in the South-West, South-South and indeed the whole country and remind them that going by rotation convention, that it’s our turn. Since our return to civil rule in 1999, we are the only group in the South that has not tasted the office.
The former Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Joe Nwaorgu, recently said the organisation backed Jonathan against Buhari in the 2015 presidential election because Buhari had always been unfair to Igbo. Isn’t that correct?
I have great respect for Dr. (Joe) Nwaorgu. However, I don’t know where he picked his assertion from. Is he the Buhari that picked an Igbo attorney general and a south-southerner as Petroleum Minister, when he was a military Head of State? Or, is he the one that rehabilitated roads, hospitals, educational institutions in the South-East as Petroleum Trust Fund chairman or another Buhari?
Do you see the Igbo supporting Buhari in 2019?
Ndigbo that I know appreciate performance, so I sincerely believe that the infrastructural development going on in the region will attract commensurate votes for Mr. President. In addition, those who were carried away by the vile propaganda that Buhari would Islamise Nigeria are returning to their senses. In actual fact, one doesn’t think that the surge into the All Progressives Congress in the South-East is a fluke.
How do you think Buhari can pacify the Igbo ahead of 2019?
There are over 2,000 board appointments waiting as low-hanging fruits, plus Enugu coal, the Second Niger Bridge, and the federal roads in the zone that were all abandoned by Obasanjo and Jonathan administrations.
There have been reports of the formation of a mega party owing to the crisis in the APC. Where do you see the Igbo in this new alignment?
I am an apostle of multi-party system, especially with two dominant political parties, like in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Brazil; so the more, the merrier. I am of the candid view that no matter how benevolent the leadership of a one-party system, dictatorship must feature prominently in its affairs. You can’t talk of internal democracy in a one-party system. So, we are not scared about any mega party. We welcome the mega party with both arms – variety is the spice of life.
On matters relating to Igbo cause, Igbo leaders have not been united in their quest to be treated properly in the country. What is responsible for this and what do you see as the way out?
Which ethnic nationality is united? Did the Yoruba vote for Obasanjo in 1999? Was it a northerner that made Aliko Dangote the richest man in Africa? No group is a monolith; that’s why we canvass like minds across the line. That is the survival of diverse and multi-ethnic groups throughout history. I have Hausa and Yoruba friends who are more intimate to me than some of my Igbo brothers. An Eke (hometown) brother whose business I invested in cheated me; an Udi brother cheated me. It is not only kinship that catapults man.
What obstacles stand in the way of an Igbo emerging the country’s president?
Our greatest obstacle is ethnic merchants who misinform our youths that unemployment is only prevalent in our region, that poverty is as a result of marginalisation, and that the underdevelopment of our country is because we are big. They dish out lies on a daily basis, as if they love their neighbours. They do not want our brothers and sisters to appreciate that gross unemployment exists in every region; poverty and squalor are the trademark of our fatherland. When you tell them that America is more diverse, more racial and more segregated than Nigeria, they will cry foul. When you tell them that corruption is the bane of our development, they shout.
How will Nnamdi Kanu’s continued detention and prosecution affect the outcome of the 2019 presidential election in Igboland?
I pray for him (Nnamdi Kanu) to have a rethink; because Kanu, as a young chap, did not pass through the horrors of the Civil War. I doubt if he had read the primary army infantry tactics book, where he could have learnt lessons of how to first assemble the military arsenal to confront the Nigerian Army, before declaration. I doubt also that he took note that Ebonyi and Enugu states voted against regionalisation in the (Gen. Sani) Abacha and Jonathan constitutional conferences. The outcome of the constitutional conferences could have served as an indication that majority of Ndigbo are not for secession. He will not influence any vote. Let’s pray as I said that he is released before 2019, otherwise he will be almost forgotten.
Do you believe that former President Olusegun Obasanjo was sincere in his call for Igbo presidency in 2019?
Chief Obasanjo sounded more like an agent provocateur. What did he do for Ndigbo in his eight years in power, except to mess up senate presidents of Igbo extraction under his watch, hence subverting democracy? He is neither a member of the APC nor the Peoples Democratic Party; or, to the best of my knowledge any other political party of note. Yet, he arrogates to himself the powers to determine who gets what, when and how.
Ken Nnamani is now the leader of the APC in the South-East. He has called on Igbo to support Buhari’s second term. Do you agree with him?
I agree with him 100 per cent.
Source : punch