Ohanaeze Election: Igbos got it right, ready for 2023 presidency

By Tony Edike on 24/01/2021

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Professor ABC Nwosu
Professor ABC Nwosu

PROFESSOR ABC Nwosu is an astute politician, a former Minister of Health and a chieftain of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He is also a major player in the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo. He spoke with Advocate's Editor-in-Chief, Tony Edike on Nigeria's journey so far under the All Progressive Congress, APC-led Federal government, Ohanaeze election, Igbos and 2023 elections, Anambra election holding this year and COVID 19, among others

Excerpts

The State of the Nation at present is a source of concern to many. How do you see the situation?

Nigeria has not had it so bad in recent time. Even the three issues which government has chosen to tackle have deteriorated badly under their watch and instead of tackling this issues, government spent more time trying to intimidate and frighten and threaten the citizens from complaining.  First, government continues to repeat ad nauseam that security in Nigeria now is better than it was in 2013, 2014, 2015.  The truth its that it is not ,capital NOT. The truth is that insecurity has worsened greatly; Boko Haram has not been defeated technically or otherwise and internally displaced persons cannot go to their villages, and those that went back were beheaded.  That is the truth if we want to solve the problem. The second issue is the economy and Nigeria has entered into recession twice under the watch of this government. Nigerians like me believe that it has been a long unrelenting recession especially with the cost of the Dollar, now it is changing at over N460 to a Dollar.  Whether the declining economy is caused by the vagaries of the oil industry market and compounded by the COVID 19 pandemic is not the matter.  What Nigerians like me are concerned about is that the government they have elected should show their plans and strategies for dealing with challenges in the oil market and the COVID 19 pandemic.  For government to continue to lament about rise and fall of oil prices as if this is a new phenomenon is getting annoying.   It is either that they know what to do or they don’t.  They cannot bully their way through by shutting up Nigerians from complaining because it is the right of he who feels the pain to cry out about the pain. The third issue is the fight for corruption. Nigerians like me are not interested in what happen pre-2015 because that is what led to the dissatisfaction with the previous regime and the emergence  of this government.  What Nigerians are waiting to hear about are actions against the former Secretary to the Federal Government over his grass-cutting activities; the probe against the EFCC Acting Chairman;; the dismissed National Health Insurance Chief;  the over 40 million Dollars kept in a safe house in Ikoyi, the celebrated National Assembly probe of the interim management board of NDDC, the feeding of School Children at their homes which caused Nigerians hundreds of billions of Naira during the lockdown; the celebrated cases of PDP Chieftains who crossed over to the PDP and other cases of corruption which have happened during this regime.  The summary of all this is that Nigerians like me don’t feel that we are better off now than in  2015 even when I conceed that COVID 19 pandemic has compounded matters not only for Nigeria, but for the world. 

As the former Commissioner for Health  who served four regimes in old Anambra State and later Minister for Health and the lead actor in Nigeria’s Guineaworm eradication, are you satisfied with the National effort at combating COVID 19 pandemic?

Lagos State Commissioner for Health and the NCDC leadership have earned my respect.  However, the National Task Force should make sure that Nigerians are sensitized and incentivized to buy into the simple instruction of wearing face masks and sanitizing and avoiding large gatherings otherwise Nigerians will go into another lockdown.  If Nigerians don’t want lockdown, they should observe the face mask, sanitizing and social distancing directive.  This means that all these parties, crowded churches, crowded markets, crowded buses etc must reduce substantially.  I have been in the South East for the past two weeks now over the Ohanaeze elections and I was frightened by the large number of people who don’t wear face masks, in fact they look at us wearing face masks from Abuja as people causing their COVID problems. 

Igbo politics and recent Ohanaeze Ndigbo election at Owerri on January 10, 2021  have been trending...

...(Cuts in)  Yes  and I was involved both as team leader for the Imo State Ohanaeze election and as a member of the Ohanaeze Committee that supervised the emergence of the new executive led by Ambassador George Obiozor.  I am pleased that nobody has criticized the suitability of the distinguished Ambassador  George Obiozor and the distinguished Ambassador Okey Emuchay as the Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. Indeed most Nigerians and Ndigbo believe that the Igbo nation got it right this time by electing these persons as fit and proper persons to succeed the excellent performance of Chief John Nnia Nwodo. This  new Ohanaeze team trained in diplomacy signifies the change in Igbo strategy for self actualization in Nigeria as encapsulated in the opening address of Ambassador Obiozor.  It is however vital that Ndigbo must face 2023 in unity and so reconciliation becomes important and urgent in the next few months.  I have no doubt that Ndigbo will achieve this reconciliation and achieve the required unity.  I know some of the other contestants like Dr. Joe Nwaorgu who has been active  and has kept faith with igbo and Ohanaeze struggles  in the past two decades.  I also know Dr. Chris Asoluka and Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, both of them past presidents of Aka-Ikenga which is the oldest affiliate body to Ohanaeze Ndigbo and I am happy that Chief Uwazuruike participated and accepted the result of the Owerri election.  I salute him and pray that the other aspirants whose track records stand out in igbo and national politics shall accept rapprochement  in the overall  interest of Ndigbo.  

The complaint by most of these people  is that the election was hijacked by the South East governors.  How do you react?

No, No and No. I was the Secretary of the Election Committee that brought the John Nnia Nwodo executive into being.  Even that committee under Professor Anya misjudged one Chief Uche Okwukwu now Dim Uche Okwukwu, who was elected Secretary General to  Nnia Nwodo, who is now purportedly elected as Deputy President General in an inconclusive phantom Ohanaeze election that produced discredited Ohanaeze officers as the new executive.  The governors did not hijack the election.  The Ohanaeze set up a committee after Governor of Ebonyi State at the time, Chief Martins Elechi petitioned that Chief Igariwey and Joe Nwaorgu executive was elected without being consulted in an election conducted by Chief Chris Asoluka.  Ohanaeze in its wisdom set up a committee whose major recommendation was that Governors of the South East must be involved.  Thereafter the Ohanaeze executive approached the Governor of Enugu State whose turn it was to produce the President General and Mr. John Nnia Nwodo was a consensus candidate against formidable candidates like Vice Admiral Allison Madueke and former Vice Chancellor, Professor Chinweyite Ejike.   The excellent performance of John Nnia Nwodo speaks for itself on the wisdom of that Ohanaeze decision to get the governors involved.  This particular election was in no way different and we expect Ambassador George Obiozor to match the performance of John Nnia Nwodo in this new Igbo direction of rapprochement  with other Nigerians. 

So you are satisfied that the election was credible and that Ndigbo picked their best to lead them?

Yes.  From what I have said I am one of those who believe that Ambassador George Obiozor and Ambassador Chidi Emuchay belong to the Igbo first eleven.  Their track records and comments of other Nigerians attest to this and the Igbo nation waits for them to role out the strategy and root-plan for 2023. 

So you think the election of Professor Obiozor will facilitate  the South East mobilization for the presidency 2023?

Definitely and the 2023 is a DNA test for Ndigbo in Nigeria.  Put bluntly, 2023 like DNA test will prove to Ndigbo whether other Nigerians accept them as Nigerians or not.  Ndigbo have a proverb that a person rejected by others does not reject himself. So we wait on 2023 and see what it portends for Nigeria and we are confident that Ambassador Obiozor having served in Israel, a beliguered nation that epitomized determination and survival and also in the United States of America, has a clear head to see Ndigbo through the next four years.

How do you see this quest for the South East to produce the next president of Nigeria against the determination of the former Governor of Lagos State to clinch the presidency?

The former governor of Lagos State, Governor Ahmed Bola Tinubu is known to very many Ndigbo including me and people like me believe he is a very reasonable person and that he will be ready to listen when we present our case.  Let me leave it at that. It has been said that the South South is also interested and that the North is not willing to relinquish power.  The South East is not worried about the interest of the other zones in the presidency, it is primarily concerned with presenting the best case for the presidency in 2023 to come from the South East  based on equity and justice  just like the presidency in 1999 came from the South  West and the South East also gave 1000 percent support to President Goodluck Jonathan from the South South.  The South East expects reciprocity from the other zones. I am certain that when the time comes the Igbos shall be properly mobilized and the Igbo think-tank shall develop an excellent case based on equity, justice and competence to solve Nigeria’s problems. Thereafter Igbo leaders shall approach leaders of the other geopolitical zones for their support and for the necessary building of the strategic partnership required to secure the presidency.

The common criticism of the South East is that they speak with many voices and there will be numerous candidates for the presidency when the time comes. 

Of course Ndigbo are republicans by nature and it is to be expected but let nobody forget that Ndigbo have shown in the past that they are quite capable of forging a unity that becomes frightening to other Nigerians.  I believe that people have not forgotten the Igbo State Union which got banned and the unity that was forged in 1967 that led to secession.   So while Ndigbo usually exist with many voices when they become threatened, the many voices quickly coalesce  into one voice and those who always give this non-unity as their reason fail to see that as it is with Ndigbo so it is with the others, otherwise let them name which other ethnic group in Nigeria speak with one voice all the time. 

What is it that the Igbos want to offer the other Nigerians such that every Nigerian can buy into the presidency going to the South East?

The first is that the Igbo are the most peripatetic group in Nigeria who invest in other parts of Nigeria more than they invest in their zone.  Put differently, Ndigbo are nation-builders.  Ndigbo have looked at the commonalities of the problems of the ordinary Nigerian struggling with poverty and they will proffer solution to these such as education, such as unemployment, such as infrastructure, such as acquisition of technological and manufacturing skills to bring Nigeria into the 21st century and so on. Above all this, the igbo soul and igbo spirit  hate injustice and reject slavery of any sort and a South East president will catalyze the building of a just and egalitarian Nigerian society that works for every Nigerian and not just for some Nigerians.  

In your view who are those Ndi Igbo who have the above qualities you have enumerated?

Very many.  If you remember Ndigbo have always produced first class competent people both in Nigeria and in the Diaspora.  We have produced the Azikiwes, the Nwafor Orizus, the Kenneth Dikes, the Eni Njokus, the Pius Okigbos, the Chinua Achebes, the Chike Obis, the Kalu Ezeras and  in recent times, the Emeagwali, Okonjo-Iweala, the Kalu Idika Kalu and numerous others. How dare any Nigerian insinuate that competence and excellence are lacking in the South East.  The Igbo nation is not looking at the charlatans who are in the political firmament to present to Nigerians.   Ndigbo are looking to present the excellent Igbo persons in learning and in character with solid achievements to their credit to present to Nigerians as presidential candidates.  

Anambra  election  will hold this year,   as a member of the PDP Board of Trustees how does your party intend to win the state?

A good candidate is always a winner, that is why Anambra State PDP is looking for the best candidate with regards to learning, character, solid achievement  and capacity.  We believe that zoning has gone round and that defeating an incumbent requires an extra-ordinary capacity.  Also we shall begin the sensitization of the 326 Wards and 21 Local Government Areas in Anambra State  next month so as to get the formidable PDP structure, which has currently majority of National Assembly members from Anambra State primed for the election.  PDP will do everything possible at the Anambra State level to secure the seat for the party.

You have been out of power in Anambra for 16 years even when you won the majority National Assembly seats, how will you correct it this time and contain the threat of the incumbent party APGA and the ruling party, APC?

The PDP in Anambra State intends to put its house in order.  In the past anti-party activities, the towering personality of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and the good governance by Mr. Peter Obi had combined to keep the PDP out of power.  Currently only anti-party activity and disunity in PDP remain to be solved and will be solved. In my town we described the situation of PDP in Anambra State in the past as seven people pursuing a  bull from a family and seven people from the same family pursuing the seven people who are pursuing the bull.  We intend to end that situation this time. 

Posted 24/01/2021 12:06:15 PM

 

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