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Friday, May 14, 2021

2023: Leadership problems dimming Igbo chances

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Igbo chances

.APC has never been a political party
.Only a revolution will save Nigeria

By Chioma Gabriel, Editor Special Features

Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, former national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, a former governor of Enugu State and currently, a member
of the National Executive Committee and Board of Trustees of the party , in this encounter, answers questions on a myriad of issues going on in the country. Excerpts:


What is your take on the Igbos and their politics in Nigeria? Many are already talking about 2023 but Igbos are loudely silent.

I think the President of Ohanaeze, Chief Nnia Nwodo has been putting our case very clearly. We don’t need to make it a family affair.

A lot of Igbo groups that have sprang up and are agitating for Igbo presidency 2023 are making the point. Others have had it and it should come to the south especially the South East.


Many Igbo seem to have taken it for granted that Presidency will just come to them but that is not how it works. One is not even sure whether the Igbo want Presidency, restructuring or Biafra.

We have to fight for it. If we get our President, then the problem of restructuring will be addressed. Nigeria is like this because as long as the far North is president, they will not agree for restructuring because the current structure favours them. They will not abandon what favours them so easily. Just like if someone from the South becomes president, the possibility of restructuring will become easier which is what Nigeria needs more than anything now to survive, economically or otherwise.


Are Igbos still agitating for Presidency?

For now, what is important is awareness. As long as awareness is being created, people are being made to understand that for us to continue to have a Nigeria, we need a presence of the Igbo as president to reunite Nigeria and then, we have had two Yorubas compete for president, Obasanjo and Olu Falae. We have had Atiku and Buhari in the North. Why can’t we have the major parties zone their president to the South East and let us pick the best? If we think we are one country, then you should not isolate a group of people for 50 years and you are still killing them and then you tell them that they cannot be Biafra and that they must remain here and you still continue to kill them and tell them they cannot be president. Is it fair? Which other part of the country have they treated like that?


Is this not treating Igbos as defeated people?

Of course, I think there are two major problems. They still feel that we lost the war and should be treated as those who lost the war and they should be treated as those who won. The second is that Nigerians are afraid of the Igbos. If you give a people 20 pounds after the civil war and they survived and you go to Onitsha, Nnewi, Aba, Enugu, you’ll see development more than you’ll see in any other city in Nigeria, then you would know these are not people to toy with. If you now give the Igbos presidency, nobody will see their back. So, it is partly fear and “oh, we have injured these people so much and if they become president, they may decide to take revenge”. So, I think it is all part of a phobia as well as “we conquered them, so we can do anything we like”.


Is the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, helping the Igbo cause?

Well, you see, if you are in a fight, you don’t start from where you want the fight to end. The Igbo leaders know that what the Igbos want is a united Nigeria in which they are recognized and given their rightful position and they need Nigeria because Igbos are the only ones who are everywhere in Nigeria doing business and surviving and therefore, that is what is good for the Igbos. However,we won’t stop the Indigenous People of Biafra from bringing out all the maltreatments, marginalization, killings, rapings and everything that is going on in Igboland against out people. We can’t stop them from saying so and their saying so has brought the whole thing out in the open, both to Igbos and other Nigerians. So, they have created massive awareness of what is actually going on.


What do you think should be their approach to these issues?

What can you do about youths? Youths will always talk the way they do. They will fight, they will talk. It is their style of doing things. It is not that we think it is the best but as fathers, we can appreciate where they are coming from and caution them not to abuse their elders and all. But we know that it is youthful exuberance. It is not a reason to kill them.

There is this strange invasion of south-east and south-south by northern youths. Nobody knows their intention but in the South West, there is Amotekun. Do you think the governors of southeast are handling the invasion well?

I think from the beginning of your statement, everybody in the South East and South South are worried because at a time that the Federal Government and many State Governments said that there should be no inter-state travel to contain the corona virus, it becomes a time that young people are being smuggled into the South East and South South with cattle and rice and beans and all that hiding them. It calls for the questions: where are they going? Who is waiting to receive them? Who is waiting to house them? What is their mission? So, this is a very big question and we are worried for two reasons. One, the number of patients of corona virus in the north compared to the south-east and south-south is more and with these people coming in now, you can see the figures are rising. Two, before now, we were complaining that herdsmen are destroying our farms, raping our women, killing our people and so on and forth. And anyone who is coming into our place and doesn’t have a mission will possibly join those who are doing this kind of thing. Therefore, we have reason to be apprehensive. You can see what happened and how they raided Katsina State. The President called all the security chiefs and now put the national security chief adviser in charge to co-ordinate their efforts to stop these bandits. But for 5 years, they have been killing us and no one has been arrested. Nobody has been prosecuted. Nobody has been jailed or punished for all the killings that have been going on in our part of the country. So, it is interesting to know that some people can be pained when their own people are killed but when other people are killed, you are the leader of everybody and you don’t give a damn.

So, that means that we should defend ourselves and Danjuma made it very clear that if you are waiting for the Nigerian Army to defend you, you are wasting your time. So the Yorubas have organized themselves. The South East governors met and said they were going to do something similar and that their state Houses of Assembly should pass laws that will makes the region to have a common service that will defend our people but they have not been able to do so.

Now, I think that what our people need to do, in Enugu, for example, our governor created a neighbourhood watch and empowered them with a lot of vehicles, motorcycles and so on and forth and the state House of Assembly passed a law to establish them and at least, give them some small arms that they can use to do their work.It is for traditional rulers and local government chairmen to make sure that in every local government, these people are actually working and leaders in every community should do everything to encourage them to do the work. They are being paid every month, they have vehicles to carry out their duties. If we go into the outskirts of the communities and make enquiries on whether those kind of people causing trouble have been seen, whether they are destroying crops anywhere or whether women are being raped by them anywhere or being killed; then the police is alerted so they can be arrested. So, if we can do this is every state, then we can co-ordinate information and work together like they are doing now in the south west.


These killings are not just in the south east but all over Nigeria. The carnage happening in the North is indescribable…

The truth is that when you allow something to happen somewhere, you don’t even know that by allowing it to happen elsewhere, you are making it possible to happen in your own place because if they had nipped this in the bud from the moment we started shouting about it for five years in Southern Nigeria, then it wouldn’t have started in their place. But while they were busy enjoying what was happening in the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria, they can’t even contain Boko Haram. The next thing now is that the herdsmen began to attack Christian communities and to sack them and take their land. Then came the bandits who feel that there is a field day and ask themselves what they are sitting down for. They too, moved into a village, kidnapped people. When they don’t kidnap people who can pay the ransom, they sack the village, burn everywhere and steal whatever they can. So, if insecurity is allowed to germinate in one place, it will eventually spread everywhere and then the leadership in our country has made it possible for the entire country to be engulfed in insecurity because they didn’t act early enough to nip it in the bud.


When the President said the best of the service chiefs, is not enough, shouldn’t it be a green light to them to start resigning or even have then all changed.

I don’t even know whether the government should wait for them to resign. These people’s tenure expired 2, 3 years ago and they are still being kept in service. Well, the country will understand if they are still being kept in service because they are doing a great job but every day, the insecurity in this country is crying to high heavens. They are not providing the security that they are supposed to provide. Why are you keeping them in office? The National Assembly has cried out. People in Southern Nigeria have cried out. Now, their own people are crying out and asking why those people are still there. The whole country is asking the President; when somebody is not performing, why are you leaving him there? The President has not been able to explain to the country why they must remain there and the younger people who should have attained that position 3 years ago have been frustrated out and have been retired without achieving their aim of getting to the highest position in their profession. It is not that the country is satisfied by what these people are doing, so it is a paradox as we don’t know why the President is keeping them and none of us can sack or retire them except the President.


Many people are asking whether the President is even still there. Look at what is happening in Aso Rock, gun shots between the aides of the wife of the President and the aides of the President himself. It has never happened before and many people are disappointed that such a thing is happening.

That is not the first time the wife of the President has challenged Nigerians saying, “millions of you voted for my husband but only four of the men are running this country.” She has always raised alarm about what is happening in the Villa but she has no executive power. She is like a woman in a family where things are not happening the way she wants it to. The only thing she can do is to raise alarm and then the men will stand up and say “yes, our wife is saying the right thing, so let us do the right thing” but every time she raised an alarm, nothing happened. In this particular incident, if what we are hearing is true, we hear they are still investigating. They haven’t told us exactly what is going on. But we will pray for Nigeria. We don’t have another country. So they better get it right or they get out.


When you look at APC as a political party now, what do you foresee? Do you think it will survive with four national chairmen and with what is happening in Edo State?

Well, those of us in PDP are very happy with what is happening in APC. APC was never really a party. There were various political parties that came together to form APC. They have never merged into one party. Two, the President has not been a party man because when the President is involved in the party, most of the time when there is a crisis and the president steps in, everybody will sit up and he will be able to reconcile everybody. Look at Obaseki, Oshiomole and the National Working Committee of the APC went to the Villa. When they got to the Villa, they saw the Chief of Staff. When Obaseki went there, he saw the Chief of Staff. Where is the President? This is a party that lost elections in Rivers State, lost elections in Zamfara. They have been having this problem everywhere and losing election, so why can’t they get their acts together? But the more they don’t present candidates, the better for us. But in trying to address the problem, I believe that democracy has been slipping through our fingers and if we allow it to continue like this, we will just be enjoying dictatorship. Democracy has rules and regulations which should be observed and because of the way it is being observed, both parties bring up wrong candidates and then, we end up with the wrong leaderships. But if we do internal democracy and organize transparent primaries, each party will come out with credible candidates and Nigeria will end up electing quality leaders in a free and fair election but we practise godfatherism. We use all sorts of considerations to present our candidates and these candidates are not representing the party because they were not selected by the party and then, they go to general election and the security agencies and INEC will connive and write results for whomever they like. We cannot produce first class leadership using these kind of methods. So, until we do things right, we cannot expect correct answers. Let there be revolution that will enable us produce quality leaders for the country.

What is your idea of revolution?

Revolution is when people are tired of the wrong things, that is, when it is biting into their skin and they say no because they cannot take it again and they decide to do the right thing. You revolt against something that is wrong to bring about something that is good and pure. The people are the ones who revolt because the people suffer and not the politicians. The people should partake in the selection of their leaders.


In 2023, what do you think is the future of PDP?

Our future depends on us being able to choose the right candidates. If we choose the right candidates, Nigeria is waiting for us. If we do the wrong thing, we leave Nigeria where it is. I don’t see APC leaving Nigeria in a better place than it is now. They don’t have the capacity or the organization. They don’t have a party. If PDP can just get its acts together, Nigeria is waiting for us. We will just do the right thing and bring out the right candidate and they will vote for him


In Nigeria, many believe corona virus has become politicised. As a Medical Doctor, what do you think?

I think corona virus is real. What is making people say it is politics is because are not seeing people having severe symptoms like in Asia and other places. So they don’t see why you should isolate someone who is well because he tested positive. They feel there is no treatment because he isn’t even sick. Or they give him malaria tablets. So if people are seeing the severity like they are seeing in other countries, maybe they will believe that it is real but then when you now see the people dying of covid-19 in Nigeria, you see it is killing more of the elderly people who have health problems like hypertension. Those who have these diseases have been managing them for years but once they get covid-19, within one week, they are dead. Now you see health workers who are exposed testing positive and you see doctors and nurses dying. So definitely there is covid-19 here and if measures are not taken, more and more people will be infected and no one knows whose own will be serious or who will die from it. I think that the government is doing the right thing in trying to educate people to protect themselves and to protect others. We shouldn’t take it as something that is not severe here and so therefore, everyone should go about their business.


You were once the national chairman of PDP and you are not heading anything about the leadership of PDP anymore. What is happening to the man from Rivers?

Of course, before the shutdown caused by covid-19, we had started our reorganization of the party because the executives have done their… (30:00)  for 4 years so we had done the elections in the…, the local governments and just when we were about to do the state elections, the country was shut down so when people don’t know their fate,… (30:30) because of covid-19 what we normally do in a situation like this in politics is that you go underground and do your campaign. And so far, we don’t seem to have our candidates creating too much trouble in Edo and… so there is no reason for too much noise. We are an opposition government and the government in power is not doing well. The voice of the opposition should be heard loud and clear. Even though the elections are still far away, when the party in government is not doing well, it is the best for the opposition to begin to win the conscience of the people. You don’t wait for the election time to approach. And that is one place that I think that we are not doing well. The people that won that we expect to say more are the governors who have immunity. Let’s say that the government decides to clamps down on critics, whether it is a press person or a person who is there, injured and demanding for justice, they have not been fair to the people. They go to the church and kill reverend fathers and kill worshippers and then they will complain. When these complains are coming from governors protecting their people who voted them in to protect them, it is more weighty. So one would have expected the governors to be speaking more but I don’t know why. If I am a governor, the only people I owe my allegiance to are my people and my house of assembly that can impeach me and if I am saying something that will protect the people who voted me, anybody who wants to remove me can come and remove me.


I think some governors are afraid because of when they leave office, EFCC will come after them or some people will start making some allegations and before you know it, they will lose their freedom.

A clear conscience fears no accusation. If your hands are clean, you don’t need to fear the EFCC. I was governor for 20 months. Before I became the governor, I said I wanted to become the first governor in Nigeria to be probed after serving. When Abacha did the coup, the press said “this thing you told us, are you ready to be probed now?”  And so from this time you are asking this question, until I die, I don’t need more than 1 hour notice for my government to be probed. So we can have more governors say that kind of thing and if they are not there, embezzling the people’s money, what will the EFCC do to you? You’ll say your mind.


You have not retired from active policies, right?

Well, there is nothing to be active about now. If we start elections again, we’ll hit the road with our candidates and help them and campaign with them. I have not retired. I am still a member of the PDP, member of the board of trustees, a member of the national executive committee.


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