Chief (Deacon) Austin Umahi is the National Vice Chairman (South East) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with our Correspondent, Obinna Odogwu, in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital, he spoke on the aspiration of the people of the South-east geo-political zone to be president by the year 2023 and the best way to achieve it. Excerpts.
The Ohanaeze Ndigbo has rekindled hope for the Igbo to be president by the year 2023. How can this be realized?
Well, it is God that actually gives life and the year 2023 is still very, very far. But our hope and our strong belief is that we are integral part of this country. It is a sub-system in a system of the Nigerian nation and for fairness and equity to prevail and to be seen to prevail, the aspiration is not a bad one. It is something that is realizable. But we the Igbo have a task; a task of unity, a task of love, oneness; a task of identifying with ourselves, a task of not pulling ourselves down once it is not you. So, the onus lies on us.
Are you saying in essence that the 2023 aspiration of the Igbo to be president is not something that you people can pull yourselves together and work strategically towards achieving?
No, you did not get me right. I said that it is something realizable; something we can achieve by coming together with unity of purpose, love and then shun this attitude of pull-him-down-syndrome. It is something achievable and we have all it takes to achieve it. But most importantly, we must have to come together because the Bible queried in Amos chapter 3 verse 3: ‘can two work together except they agree?’ The most important thing is the agreement; and agreement is all about unity and unity is all about love.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is making spirited efforts to sack President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from power. Now, if PDP succeeds in its quest, there is likelihood that whoever that emerges will gun for second tenure. That would threaten the Igbo aspiration by 2023. But if Buhari returns, the Igbo have fair chance of realizing their aspiration. What would you make of this?
Well, the truth remains that you can’t negotiate some of these things. It is not a straight jacket thing. It is something that can be done not by war but by jaw jaw. In a round table discussion, we can agree on the way forward. And the way forward is all about fairness, equity; it is to recognize a geopolitical zone like the South-east as a major entity of this country. The South-east is a formidable entity for that matter. For that, the issue of the PDP comes on board in 2019, whether it will jeopardize the Igbo aspiration for 2023, everything is in the hands of God. And I believe that these things we can sit down and negotiate. This is because the PDP is the party that has the depth, and understanding of this country and the politics of Nigeria.
Recently, the Chairman of the South East Governors Forum who also is the Governor of Ebonyi State, Chief David Umahi, said that whoever the Igbo would support must spell out in clear terms what he has for the people. Do you agree with him?
I agree with him 100 per cent. I agree with him as the true son of the soil, Igbo. I agree with him because we are part and parcel of this great country. The era of following sheepishly has to be discarded. As a geopolitical zone, there is need for us to know the cake that is on top of the table and how we are going to share it. What is the take of the South East? It is not a question of you become a ‘follow follow.’ You should be able to identify because any mistake we make now will affect our children. It will affect the younger generation. And so, I stand by him. Whatever you are discussing that you don’t factor the South East interest, my brother, I will personally as the zonal chairman of the PDP fight it. I won’t support it. And that is why, even the emergence of the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, we made it clear that we as a geopolitical zone must be factored in.
Since you agree with your brother, does it mean that if President Muhammadu Buhari who is in the All Progressives Congress (APC) presents a better offer for the people of the South-east; that you and your brother, being members of the PDP, will work for Buhari’s re-election?
No! You are not talking like a politician. I am a zonal Chairman of the PDP and my greatest desire is that we come on board in 2019 as a party 100 per cent. So, the issue of anti-party is completely out of it. But I will speak for my people. I am here to speak for my people. I will stand firmly for my people. I can never have it better, and the Igbo can never have it better in any other party than the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Let us be realistic with ourselves. So, it is not a question of propaganda or fake promises. It must have to be concrete. And I believe that the PDP is a party we can negotiate our tomorrow with and then it will stand.
Sir, I don’t think you got my question… (cuts in)
I got you 100 per cent right. You said assuming Buhari decides to make a better offer to us and I say that there can never be a better offer in the All Progressives Congress (APC). And I stand bold to say it. I am a PDP man blood, flesh and in spirit and I don’t have any fear about that. I stand firm to declare it. And there is no place the Igbo can have it better other than the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). So, we stand by the PDP. We will negotiate what will be our better stake and I assure you that we will get it. As a geopolitical zone, we can never be deceived by lies.
What practical steps are the South-east leaders which you’re one of them taking to realize your aspiration of presidency come 2023? Are there modalities being put in place ahead of the time?
The Bible, in the book of Lamentation said who is he that sayeth to pass when the Lord has not commanded. We can only make efforts as mortals. All powers belong to God. But most importantly, if this is the agitation of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, I stand by them 101 per cent. And as a party leader, I will work very hard to ensure that our party respects that.
What if by 2023, the people of the South-east begin to champion this cause and the northerners and perhaps some other regions begins to kick against this aspiration, what are you people going to do?
My brother, power is not given; power is taken. That is the simple truth. You should go for it because the Bible says that whatsoever our feet should tread upon, we should posses it. And that implies motion; it implies movement. We have to move to posses that land. And by doing that, we must have to appeal to the conscience of other geopolitical zones. We must have to make them to see reasons. If we belong to this project together in Nigeria, that is right and fair; that this is all about equity. We must have to work very hard for it. Nobody dashes power. Nobody gives power except the Almighty God.