Elder statesman and former Minister of Health, Prof ABC Nwosu believes that 2023 general elections will provide the best opportunity for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction. He said so and more in this interview.
Insecurity in South East has been on the increase and many are worried. What is the decision of the Ohanaeze Council of Elders about it?
The Ohanaeze Council of Elders meeting, which was attended by two of the South East governors and members of the National Assembly, urged the South East Governors, town unions and traditional rulers to give a common name and have common uniform for the South East Security formations which are already in existence in the five South East states without delay. They also affirmed that South East has no land for development because of population density and so none of the five South East states can give out land for Ruga or any of such contraptions.
Ebonyi has suffered serious security breaches even when the state governor, David Umahi, was present at the Ohanaeze Council of Elders meeting…
Yes, he was there and he spoke at length on this matter. What happened thereafter in Ebonyi State is regarded by Igbo elders and leaders as a wake up call on the urgency of protecting Ndigbo, not only in their home states, but in the entire Nigeria. Ndigbo are fully conscious of the fact that it was indiscriminate; killing of Ndigbo in 1966 that led to the Nigerian – Biafran war and they are determined that once is enough.
What is your comment on the wave of insecurity nationwide and the state of the nation?
The insecurity has never been as bad as this. Even in 1966, the insecurity was directed only at Ndigbo; currently every geopolitical zone feels the insecurity. It is ridiculous when the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC says insecurity should not be politicized and turns round to compare security in 2014 with the current situation. They make matters worse by saying that Boko Haram controlled the Local Governments in the North East geopolitical zone and flew their flags. Yet they won elections in all constituencies in the North East. Who ran the elections in the North East in 2015 if Boko Haram was in charge of the whole place including the governorship election and declared APC winner in all without exception? Since then, insecurity has spread to North West and North Central and indeed all six geopolitical zones. Even North East, Nigerians watched gruesome killing of farmers who went back to their farms. Every issue got compounded with the Covid pandemic such that nobody can make any prediction on the economy.
With regards to the anti-corruption fight, Nigerians await the release of the report on Ibrahim Magu (former acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC) with bated breadth. Even the celebrated body language of the president has disappeared and now we see public servants with even more posh Sports Utility Vehicles, SUVs than was used in previous governments like Range Rovers zooming past traffic lights with reckless abandon. So what indeed has changed if not for the worse, especially with the current national debt overhang?
Some have suggested that escalation of violence in South East is to create a condition for declaration of a state of emergency in the zone. What is your view on this?
One does not doubt anything people say about insecurity now but a state of emergency in the South East, however contrived, will be a blunder and a tragedy considering what has happened and are still happening in other parts of Nigeria especially the North East and North West. Furthermore, state of emergency is not declared by fiat or executive order but with the approval of the National Assembly. It will be like pouring fuel instead of water or foam on a raging fire.
Anambra election is around the corner. How prepared is the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the election?
The PDP Anambra State is determined to win that election. Anambra has always been a PDP state and consequently has always produced two or three senators and majority of National Assembly members without fail while APGA has always produced the governor for the past 15 years in Mr. Peter Obi and the current governor. So PDP is working at reclaiming the governorship which it lost after Chinwoke Mbadinuju (PDP). The records show that Anambra State is PDP at heart and will do its utmost to win.
There is a lot of discussion about zoning of the governorship slot to Anambra South. What is your position on the zoning issue?
My position is in tandem with the leadership of PDP Anambra State that winning is everything. If zoning contributes to winning so be it, but you can’t zone what you don’t have. Currently, it is All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, that has the governor of Anambra State and we are more interested in any candidate that has capacity and charisma and overall acceptance in Anambra State. So in summary, my position has been that PDP needed to win and win and win all 21 local governments in the state.
In 1999 PDP won 19 out of 21 Local Governments. In 2017, PDP won zero and we know why and how that happened. We are therefore determined that it will not happen again. So, our priority remains winning and zoning, and not zoning becomes secondary. To clarify further, in 1999 Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju from the South had the ticket. He won. In 2003, Dr. Chris Ngige from the Central had the PDP ticket. He lost and Mr. Peter Obi from APGA became governor. In 2010, Professor Chukwuma Soludo from the South had the PDP ticket to unseat Mr. Peter Obi of the APGA. He lost. I have given this brief detail of zoning and winning in PDP for people to understand my strong position on winning and quest for any candidate who has the capacity to win the election and not just the capacity to be PDP candidate who will fail the general election.
So, what are the chances of PDP in the election?
The PDP will give winning the Anambra governorship election its best shot and believes that it has no option but to win. Losing the election is not considered because Mr. Peter Obi has since become the leader of PDP in Anambra State following his selection as PDP Vice Presidential candidate in the 2019 election. Furthermore, PDP does not have to labour under over-arching godlike aura of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu as leader of APGA. So, what we are interested in is to stop anti-party activities, which we hope to do starting with conducting free, fair and credible primary to elect a PDP candidate for the election.
So, you believe that the next president must be from the South East?
Yes, yes, yes and for so many reasons. First, on basis of equity and justice, the South East and South East only should be given the opportunity to produce the next president. Those who allude to incompetence when it comes to matters such as appointment of Judges, Defense Chiefs and the Presidency know that they are talking nonsense and the South East will not respond to gratuitous insult. It is either that the South East is regarded as Nigerians or they are not. For us in the South East, we shall prepare to contest the 2023 presidency as if our lives depend on it because they do.
For Ndigbo as a people, the 2023 presidency is regarded as a DNA test to prove whether we belong to the same fatherland, Nigeria. The old and new Ohanaeze Presidents-General, Chief Nnia Nwodo and Ambassador George Obiozor have said this much before.
Many have wondered whether what the South East desire is restructuring or presidency of Nigeria in 2023 or Biafra. What is your opinion?
Biafra as I keep saying ended in January 1970 when those of us who left universities to join Biafra returned to same universities to graduate because we had successfully proved that we could defend ourselves or albeit at enormous cost. The current agitation which I call Neo-Biafra Movement are the consequences of what is generally called the Igbo marginalization. This is also real. My view is that what Nigeria needs to address is the key issue of restructuring and thereafter the matter of equity and justice by completing the circle of South East zone for presidency. It is strange to hear very educated Nigerians saying that restructuring means different thing. The same Nigerians will agree that structure means the same thing but then restructure means different things. As Chinua Achebe would write that when people who agree that structure can only mean structure and restructure means different thing then “cunning has entered into the talk”. And when you examine this comment from where they are coming you will find that it is from beneficiaries of the current untenable structure. As the current President-General of Ohanaeze has stated to Council of Elders, the two – that is restructuring and presidency to South East zone in 2023 do not conflict at all. Nigeria must restructure or face the consequence.
How is the South East preparing to convince the other part of Nigeria who are clamouring for the same presidency to support the South East as was done in 1999?
The basic roadmap to achieve this was discussed at the last Council of Elders meeting. Neither the South East nor Ndigbo are in conflict or at war with any one. It was agreed that our approach should be rapprochement and the convincing of other parts of Nigeria that nations are built on equity and justice and any people who are denied justice are not interested in peace. Peace and justice always go together and for Nigeria to become a nation, it must accept that the nation shall be built on equity, peace and justice.
With the nation dancing on the precipice, what must be done to restore confidence of the ordinary people in government?
The first thing is to send an executive bill to the National Assembly on restructuring. No further conferencing is required. In this process, devolution of power from the centre to the federating units is critical. For example, without state police, not this nonsense of community policing that nobody knows what it means, nobody can solve the security situation. Another example is that you cannot stay at the federal and feed the school children in 774 local governments as well as employ people in 774 local governments. That is a proper recipe for inefficiency and corruption. The central government in Nigeria has too much money, too many responsibilities and too many parastatals to be efficient. Restructuring will end all that. Restructuring will also end this question of resource control – whether the resource is in gaseous, liquid or solid form. Our founding fathers were clear on federalism. They were also clear that whatever is on top and below the soil belong to the area. So, let’s go back to what our founding fathers negotiated at independence.