Why we want presidency to come to South East in 2023, by Ezeife
Chukwuemeka Ezeife (Okwadike) was born at Igbo-Ukwu Anambra State on 20th November 1939. He did not attend secondary school but taught himself through correspondence courses, qualifying for university admission. He gained a BSc in Economics from the University College Ibadan, attended Harvard University on a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship where he obtained a Masters and PhD degrees in 1972. A teacher, educationist, businessman and politician, he was a teaching Fellow at Harvard University, Permanent Secretary and later governor of Anambra State from 1992 to 1993 as well as Special Adviser on Political Matters to former President Olusegun Obasanjo. In this no-holds-barred interview, he shares his thoughts on national issues with OBINNA NWACHUKWU in Abuja.
Your Excellency, recently, a group called Igbo Elders Council headed by you made a statement that it was time for the South East to produce the next president of Nigeria, and that anything short of it was not acceptable; what informed that decision?
First, it must be noted that we the south easterners were key to the achievement of independence in Nigeria. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who was called Zik of Africa, played a major role in the independence of Nigeria. All of us Igbos make Nigeria look like a nation, if you go anywhere in Nigeria, after the indigenes, the next major population are the Igbos. Ifyoun look at the development that has taken place, at least 65percent of the modern buildings in the whole country belong to people of the Southeast. And we do it with our whole heart, because, an ancient principle of Ndigbo is that ‘where a person lives, he mends, he develops’, so we deserve to be recognised. In the beginning, it was said that Nigeria was standing on a tripod; Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa, today, there is no place you find the Igbos in the scheme of things in Nigeria to the extent that the National Security Council, the highest security organisation in Nigeria doesn’t have a Southeast representation. Since independence the North has dominated leadership of Nigeria. Then in the Southwest, Olusegun Obasanjo was head of state for three years, thereafter served for 8 years as president making a total of 11 years as president of Nigeria. Goodluck Jonathan from the south-South has also been elected president, the north, the West; and when it came to the south, south-south filed the position of elected president, and only the Igbos has not. Is that fair? Zik was a ceremonial president; he did not have powers of the executive. Then, when the coup to install Obafemi Awolowo as Prime Minister failed, Aguiyi Ironsi, the highest person in the Army took over. He only lasted for six months and then he was killed like a rat. So, if you talk about equity, fairness, and all those ideas of justice you find that the Igbos should be the right people to take the presidency in 2023. So, it’s a not a matter of privilege but of right, people say they don’t give you political post, you go and take it, now we have come out to take it and some people are saying we are giving ultimatum, that we are giving a threat. What nonsense! My brother, the truth is, I am one of the leaders that believe in one Nigeria. It’s not a matter of nationalism; it is a matter of my understanding of God’s gift to the Igbo man. God gave us the Igbos success, destiny, but, the success and destiny requires large space, large market, large business area to work. That is why we are everywhere. Anywhere you go, you will find some Igbos there. There is something I wrote, ‘managing Igbo success’. So, this is the ordinary reason, I will say the main reason for the first time; why did God make us the largest concentration of blacks on earth? Why did Nigeria become the largest concentration of black people? And why did God decide to give unending resources that no country other in the world has?With the way our country isendowed I think God has a purpose for that, he wants us to develop into a super power and thereby lift the respect and dignity of all blacks on earth. Unfortunately, today, what Nigeria is doing is generating shame on the faces of all blacks. But that is going to be in the past, Nigeria will no longer be the poverty capital of the world, no more!
It appears the two major parties; APC and PDP, have no plan of zoning or micro-zoning the presidency to the southeast. In this situation, what should the Igbos do? What are the options?
We the Igbos believe in the almightiness of God like most of other people. In my particular case, I have found out that the Almighty God answers prayers even for simple people like me. The major proof of it was the November 6th 2021 Anambra governorship election, many things happened to me that I could not explain. I saw two people wearing white while I was with my friends, we started talking, and when it was the turn of one of the young men wearing white, he started crying; the other person had talked, then we started talking to the person crying, eventually he stopped and told me the difficulty of the assignment that was given to him and his brother. He told me that some of the people who were then acting in the field have lost their brothers, their sisters, that how would he advise those people? It happened that the next day, I was going to DSS to see whether I can see Nnamdi Kanu, I would have liked to take a photograph with him and would have come out and said Nnamdi Kanu told me IPOB must stop the sit-at-home. I went to DSS and stayed three hours, I couldn’t see Kanu, I had called the young men, told them where I was going to and that they should come in the night to see the result of my trip so that I can publicise it among their people. I told them the result of my trip and begged them to see what they could do, that I had done all I could do, but they left for Awka. Then gradually, they called to say they are succeeding and eventually the announcement was made, no sit-at-home, I thanked my God. Now, do you think that the Igbo man should be begging to be president of Nigeria? Its ignorance that would make an Igbo man beg to be president of Nigeria. What are we bringing to Nigeria, a dynamic Igbo becoming president of Nigeria will fix Nigeria, not only just fix Nigeria, he will lead Nigeria to explosive economic development. And every part of the world would see what is happening, that Nigeria has changed, a new Nigeria is born. The black man would no longer need the campaign they’re doing in America “Black Lives Matter”. Today, we don’t make progress at all, we go out there, at the frontiers of technology in the rest of the world, Igbo men are everywhere, developing new technologies so what are we talking about? No Man was given by God a destiny of poverty, no! But in Nigeria some people are made to accept poverty as their destiny. The urban Talakawa will in the morning take his plate to beg for breakfast. In the afternoon, he will beg for lunch and in the evening to go and beg. But the Igbo man believes in egalitarianism, and the God who makes us the egalitarian, can spread it to the rest of Nigeria. Who is enjoying poverty in Nigeria, who is enjoying Almajiris, who is enjoying urban Talakawas? Some people want to feel bigger than others. End to poverty! End to urban Talakawas! End to those people who were born and threw into the world! No school, nothing!
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But in a situation where the two dominant parties the PDP and APC refuse to zone their presidency to the southeast, what plan does the Igbos have to clinch that position?
From every indication, our Almighty in heaven has approved that after the 2023 election an Easterner will lead Nigeria. It doesn’t matter what APC or PDP does. If we are wise in Nigeria, should we be voting for those parties? APC has failed woefully, PDP has failed woefully and in the case of PDP, they have a constitution that says there should be zoning and rotation. Without amending the constitution that should be governing the action of PDP, PDP is saying no zoning. Constitution is meant to guide the organisation and operation of the party. We will go to court, but whether we go to court or not, all that is necessary is that Nigerians should open their eyes and stop been cheated. We should end politics of no conscience, the old politicians have lost conscience, what they are doing is just sharing money and building houses, they don’t care whether we survive or not. Look at NNPC owing money; the more the price of oil goes up internationally, the worse it is for us Nigerians. Now they talk about subsidy, the money they’re sharing among themselves, they call it subsidy. So a time has come for new Nigeria, the new Nigeria will manifest itself under the leadership of a south easterner. It doesn’t matter whether APC or PDP bring out their candidate from North or anywhere. We will be waiting, the worst is over, enough of failure, enough of insecurity, enough of corruption, enough of all the negatives in this country, Nigeria has to wake up and rise up and join the world in controlling the world. Today, we are not anywhere near, and what is happening? Look at Putin’s face, the face of wickedness. Look at how people are being killed in Ukraine. If a black man takes part in controlling the world affairs, this must stop, and that is God’s intention for Nigeria. God’s intention is for Nigeria to be a superpower and to be involved in the management of world affairs. But we are indolent, drinking beer and looking at people who are wasting us, smiling at them if they give us one cup. Today, no money will determine the outcome of 2023 elections, Nigerians will wake up and use their own mind to put the right man there, nobody can buy that position.
Your group issued what one can call a threat, saying that if the Southeast does not produce president in 2023, you may consider leaving the country. You also placed a ban on any Igbo man or woman campaigning for a non-Igbo as president of Nigeria. How do you think this can be achieved?
Some of what you said is correct, some are not. We said we don’t want anybody from southeast going for vice president, therefore, we said no to campaign for anybody who is not from the southeast to be President. We cursed anybody doing so and we try to find a way to deal with the person’s family, not just the person alone. Look at the role we are playing in this country, we have never been president by election, we have never held executive office in Nigeria except for six months of Ironsi and he was tied to a truck, driven around until he died. Now is the time, 2023 will end it, we are doing everything we can to lift Nigeria, Nigeria is doing everything to push us out of Nigeria. It seems Muhammadu Buhari’s intention is to push us out of Nigeria because he has embarked on many activities to dehumanise us, to marginalise us, to exclude us from the nation, to exclude us from projects. If you get the list of people who are being retired from government, you’ll see a dominance of Ndigbo. If you see a list of new appointments to federal government, you’ll see total absence of Ndigbo. Our boys and girls are treated very badly. Ibeto Industries was number one in cement manufacturing in Nigeria, eventually he was pulled down. Ifeanyi Uba had more storage capacity for petroleum products than anybody else, and he got involved with NNPC who came to use his facility and eventually insulted him and dragged him to the EFCC and he suffered there. Innoson motors is massively producing great cars, one of which Governor Soludo has taken as his official car. But they took Innoson and insulted him; later on the Supreme Court showed that Innoson was right. Our woman who was producing pharmaceuticals at Emzor, they closed the shop for weeks. The railway they are building has not passed through our region. The Niger Bridge, some people who were born at the beginning of the time they started talks about building a second Niger Bridge may have finished University education by now. When our traders bring containers, the containers are seized and sold to the favoured people, and they come back and sell to our people. Igbos have no representation at the National Security Council, no representation whatsoever. Remember the military exercise “Python dance”? Do you see our young men in dressing mode and dying in the process and then, of course, the ones they carried away. After that, the military went and attacked Nnamdi Kanu’s house, the family is dead, Nnamdi is still alive. There is nothing you can pin on Nnamdi kanu as a criminal or terrorist activity, it’s freedom he was asking for. Now, what we don’t want to be is slave here; me I am a “one Nigerian man,” but instead of being slaves, we end up no more “one Nigeria”. So, not giving us presidency in 2023 means the following- that the other Nigerians have decided to deny us citizenship right in Nigeria, in other words, they have rejected us. A person rejected does not reject himself, does he? So, if this time, they say we don’t get this thing, we the older ones who have been advising IPOB to take it easy, advising young men, young women to take it easy, let’s stay in Nigeria, will have no mouth, it will be clear that we are declared slaves in Nigeria. If you don’t have citizenship rights, you are a slave. That is why if they refuse us 2023, they should be saying goodbye to us, we say goodbye to them too, we don’t want any war, we will look for all the constitutional ways of getting independence.
The Civil War was fought because of injustice to the Igbo nation; do you see the current happening as having resemblance to the civil war?
Well, we were rejected and there was pogrom because many people were massively killed. Some people have apologised, the middle belt has apologised that they were used by the North to kill us. All the military exercises they are doing in the southeast are just to eliminate our people and decimate our population. What they do is to go to a house and if there is any able-bodied young man there, they take him away; his people may never see him again. They are preparing for war, and want to remove all those who are qualified, who are able to fight on our behalf, take them and waste them. We do have one power, one strong power, the Almighty God of Abraham. He is our great defender. A German professor was writing a book about the most achieving groups in the world, he listed four groups and Igbo is one of them. This is what God gave us, this is what we want to translate in Nigeria and we are doing it. Before the problem of civil war, we were developing and everything we did, we did in the open, our trading is in the open, manufacturing is in the open, every economic activity we do, we do in the open. So the other Nigeria’s copy us and therefore rise. So, God has said enough is enough, and no matter what people do, whatever man does, no man’s will can dominate God’s will. Whatever anybody is doing, when 2023 comes, an Igbo president is there.
Considering the unrest in the south east, especially the menace of the so called “unknown gunmen,” is there any strategy being put in place to checkmate their activities before the 2023 election?
We don’t know, the military is supposed to know; the government is supposed to do that. Unknown gunmen are becoming known, because we arrest them, we find out that some of them are DSS operatives. The reason for the unknown gunmen was federal government’s interest in trying to give a bad name to IPOB. You know the first activity was in Owerri, when they attacked Owerri prison; the camera caught them, eventually it was discovered that more than 75percent of those men were non easterners who could not speak Igbo. That was the beginning of unknown gunmen; so, if we pretend that we don’t know, well there may be some people in the southeast who are even helping to fuel it, because some people are poor and sometimes they kidnap people and get money from them. But the main point is that the bandits in the North, a friend of mine came to my house for condolence and told me that 31 of his communities were taken over by bandits, and the bandits were imposing taxes on them and collecting ransom. This country is a failed country, failed beyond repairs, but God created Nigeria for a purpose and that purpose must dominate the purpose of man.