By Chukwudi Nweje
Former president of Aka Ikenga and an aspirant for the seat of the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Goddy Uwazuruike, has berated the near-collapse of governance in the country. He also spoke on the forthcoming election of the apex Igbo organisation and why the group must ensure fair-play.
Imeobi of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide has constituted a 40-member committee to oversee the election of a new exco scheduled to hold in January 2021, are you satisfied with the composition of that committee?
For now, I think we should all keep our fingers crossed. As things are right now, we can only rely on the reputation of the members of the committee as men of integrity. There are certain concerns some of us are not comfortable with, for instance, who compiled the names and how were they chosen and so on? There was a list, yes or no and some people said no, we were not consulted and others were begging them, just let it go. The taste of the pudding is in the eating, so let us wait and see what they will do. Ohanaeze is greater than any manipulation or any individual’s aspiration. For now, we want the best for the Igbo, So let’s give them that benefit of the doubt that Ohanaeze Ndigbo will not be sold to any group. Never in the history of Ohanaeze Ndigbo have we been afraid like we are of those who will constitute the electoral panel. This is the first time because there are lots of underground movements. Right now, Ohanaeze Ndigbo is at the crossroads and that list is at the centre of the whole thing.
You are contesting in the scheduled election, you indicated an interest in the position of President-General…
(Cuts in) Yes, I am contesting.
How do you feel about the endorsement of Ambassador George Obiozor for that position?
All of us are aspirants, when we purchase the form, we become candidates, so endorsing anybody at this stage is actually a frivolous action because you don’t know how many people will buy the form, you don’t know anybody’s reach; you, therefore, can’t stay in your bedroom and endorse anybody. Gov Hope Uzodimma of Imo State will be a delegate that day, he will vote, but he is not sure of who else will vote or who they will vote for. Imo State is just one state out of the seven states, so even if all the delegates from Imo State are people the governor has endorsed, it is still meaningless, we are talking about equal rights, not Imo State.
Who and who are eligible to vote, what is the criteria used in choosing eligible voters?
Those coming to vote are delegates elected from the member-states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo, who have 30 delegates each. Delta and Rivers States will have 15 delegates each; then, there are some affiliate bodies, some of them have five delegates, some have two. So, it is preposterous for somebody to say this is our man. In any case, this is not the first time a governor endorsed a candidate and the person lost and what was the consequence? The governor lost the confidence reposed in him. There are things you do and people begin to wonder whether you know what you are talking about.
The 40-member committee seemed to have raised some concern, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige and Senator Rochas Okorocha, former governor of Imo State said they were not consulted before the lists from their respective states were compiled, what is your take?
They are entitled to air their grievances and they are correctly annoyed. I can tell you without any fear of contradiction that members were not consulted; it was just a case of coming to read a list of names. They are naturally suspicious because if you were not there when the list was drawn, how do they expect you to just endorse it? It doesn’t make sense. So, as it is today, they must reach out to them and reassure them that they will be fair and independent. Those of us aspiring are asking for free and fair playing ground; we want justice to be done, and justice cannot be done if some persons are not carried along. So, justice must not just be done but seen to have been done. As it is today, Ohanaeze Ndigbo is facing a lot of threat. There are some power brokers who are questioning the list of the electoral panel and these are genuine grievances and everything possible must be done to ensure that Ohanaeze Ndigbo, which has been in existence for decades survive. We are at crossroads and how we address the grievances will determine how we stay.
There is this letter purportedly written by Miyetti Allah and addressed to Chief Nnia Nwodo, suggesting that the cattle breeders association hand-picked Obiozor as Nwodo’s successor. What do you make of that?
I don’t make anything out of it. The only thing I know is that the President-General of Ohanaeze has said the letter is fake, and I believe him. Once he has spoken, that is it. I take him by his word. Unfortunately, however, the writers of the said letter have not come out to say it is fake, Miyetti Allah has not come out to say that somebody forged their letterhead. Let those who are purported to have written the letter come out to say it is fake; it is not the recipient that will say that a letter is fake. If for instance, I write a letter in the name of your company to Mr X, Mr X cannot say the letter is fake when your company has not said anything. That is the only thing I can say. But right now, there is a lot of suspicion on what is going on; the entire Igbo people are watching with wrapped attention and it will be sad if things do not go well. Chief Nnia Nwodo has done very well. It is like reaching the crescendo and then crash-land, it doesn’t make sense.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo is a non-partisan body, what threats do these seeming political manipulations pose to the body?
I can tell you that Ohanaeze Ndigbo is in the midst of a war between those who want to possess its body and soul. There are those trying to do it through the court, some want to do it through manipulation, others want to do it through intimidation. But whichever, we the real people will make sure Ohanaeze is protected. Once in a while, we have such people and such encumbrances come up, but we always overcome. In 2007, governors of the five Igbo states and representatives from Delta and Rivers States, met at Nike Lake Hotel, Enugu for days to revive Ohanaeze, I was there. Govs Peter Obi, Theodore Orji, Martin Elechi, Ikedi Ohakim and Sullivan Chime were also there; we advised them to leave Ohanaeze to be non-partisan. Ohanaeze must remain non-partisan and in the interest of the Igbo.
How do you see the current situations in the country, particularly regarding the economy and security?
The economy and security are fragile. President Muhammadu Buhari came to power on three areas, economy, security and anti-corruption. If you take the economy, I will tell you that Nigeria is galloping in the wrong direction and we have not even realised it. Nigeria is like a horse with the horse-man moving in the wrong direction, and where the horse-man is moving in the wrong direction, there is nothing the horse can do. The dollar right now is about N500. In terms of security, in law we say, Res Ipss Loquitor, meaning the Facts Speak for itself. If you think we are secure, try driving a luxury car on the highway and see what will happen to you. Still, on security, the call for the sack of the service chiefs is in order, in the first place, their service tenure has expired and in the second place we need to re-jig the security architecture, nobody is irreplaceable. Look at all the people slaughtered in Borno State and the president’s spokesman is telling us that President Buhari is satisfied with the service chiefs.
We can also see how far we have gone on corruption, we are in a quagmire. Right now, even the right to freedom of assembly and right to gather and express your views have been taken away. Right now, the situation is not good and the worst of it is that we have a president who just sits in Aso Rock and does not say anything. I am not satisfied with what is going on.
The National Assembly, particularly the Senate has severally asked that the service chiefs be replaced…
(Cuts in) Our present National Assembly can only bark occasionally but can nerver bite. The president of the Senate had said that anything the president brings will be approved and the speaker of the House of Representatives toed the same line and as long as both of them are on the same page, nothing will happen. We all know the importance of the legislature. When Bukola Saraki was there, they did everything possible to make sure the executive toed the right path, but they were branded saboteurs, but these ones claiming loyalty, what have they done?
What is the place of the Igbo in the affairs of the country today?
They call the Igbo World Citizens and it is not far from the truth. We look for anywhere that there is level playing ground and because there is no level playing ground in Nigeria, we look for options. By nature, the Igbo struggle and it is what helped us come out of the Civil War. The Igbo that went into the war is different from the one that came out of the war. It is the determination of the Igbo that helped them weather the storm. This 2020 had a lot of downsides but we have not let go because we know that the sun will still rise and that darkness is temporary. The Igbo don’t depend on the government, we are good in personal struggle, the Igbo will survive.
Some eminent Nigerians have called for a return to the 1963 constitution and a uni-camera legislature, what is your take?
We discussed some of these things during the 2014 national conference, but unfortunately, President Buhari said he has not read the report and will not read i; in other words, he knows that there is something in the report but is afraid to see it. We have a president who does not interact with the people. The United States of America practices the presidential system and every day, their president is talking to the people on issues, sometimes multiple times a day. During the COVID 19 and EndSARS, it took a lot of agitation for President Buhari to address Nigerians.
There are agitations that 2023 should be more about a president that can unite the country rather than rotation. What is your take?
I always like a rotating ball, if it moves around, it comes around. In simple language, we say that whatever goes around comes around. Power has been moving around, let it move around. As it is today, power has been in the North, we must respect agreement whether written or unwritten; if we respect agreements, things will be alright, but if we go with the rule of brawl, we will all perish.
What do you advise the Igbo(now I’m talking about the Oha in Ohanaeze Ndigbo) to do to avert the impending implosion in the association?
People should speak up because if the election is seen to be rigged, Ohanaeze Ndigbo will go into hibernation. When the president-general of Ohanaeze speaks, everybody listens, but if he speaks and we see him as an imposed president-general, nobody will listen. He will be afraid to meet with the people without heavy security. Oha na Eze is the people and their king, in which case the president of Ohanaeze must interact with the people. If you are interacting with your people, you are a man of the people, but when the people are blocked from coming to you, then you are a tyrant.