Chief Tobby Anumaka, a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Patron of Pan-Igbo socio cultural group, Okpoko Igbo, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the APC to zone the Presidency to the South-East in 2023, saying it is the only way Buhari could prove his love for the Igbo.
He congratulated the three APC Senators from the South-East whose elections were affirmed by the Court of Appeal recently, adding, that it is a sign that the ruling party has gained ground in the zone.
He speaks about ongoing infrastructural development embarked upon in the South-East by the present administration among other issues.
The elections of some of your political associates which include Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu were upheld by the Appeal Court recently and the verdicts have been greeted with kudos and knocks, would you say the judiciary has lived up to its expectation in the nation’s democracy?
First of all, I will use this medium to congratulate Senators Orji Uzor Kalu, Benjamin Uwajumogu and Rochas Okorocha on their victory at the appellate court. It did not come to me as a surprise especially that of the Senate Chief Whip, Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu because he is not only loved by the people of Abia North; he is also cherished by Abians right from when he was governor of the state. However, with the verdict, there is no doubt that the voice of Ndigbo will continue to be heard in the Upper legislative chamber of the 9th Assembly. On whether the judiciary has lived up to expectation in our democracy, I will say yes. The verdicts so far delivered by the courts in the country have been applauded by Nigerians even though there is room for improvement.
Do you agree with some people who said that the Supreme Court was in a hurry to favour President Muhammadu Buhari against Atiku Abubakar in its recent judgement?
Anytime we begin to run down the judiciary, that will mark the end of democracy in Nigeria. Any society that does not have confidence in its judiciary, is doomed. This arm of government is important because it is the last hope of the common man. Before someone attains the position of a Judge of the Supreme Court, he or she must have passed some tests both locally and internationally. A Judge of the Supreme Court cannot for whatever reason compromise the standard of the Apex Court because the judiciary is the referee in the democratic contest. That is why it is referred to as the last hope of the common man. And when that hope is dashed, there will be breakdown of law and order and that nation may collapse. Having said that, the verdict of the Supreme Court in the case of the former Vice President and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar against President Muhammadu Buhari and candidate of the APC is final and there is nothing anybody can do about it. As a layman, what I understand is that the PDP and its Presidential candidate brought an appeal to the Supreme Court and because it was not a fresh case, the judges studied the judgment of the lower court for three months and saw that it was in order and they affirmed the victory of President Buhari. So, to me, the judgment was not hasty.
Many doubt the sincerity of the judiciary; are you saying that the judiciary is above board and incorruptible considering some of the landmark judgements it had given on some election matters in the country? Some are worried that it had been a harvest of favourable judgements for your party.
No, I take exception to the word beneficiary or a period of harvest of victory for APC. It is a period of harvest of victory for PDP too. If you recall, APC lost one of its Senators for Ondo Central State in the recent Appeal Court judgment, Sen. Olusola Adeyeye to Sen. Abiodun Olujimi of PDP. So, PDP is losing seats as well as APC. Therefore, you cannot say only the ruling party has benefited from the electoral verdicts so far delivered by the judiciary. In case of Kalu and Uwajumogu, we were on ground during their elections and we knew that the people voted for them. I even advised their opponents against going to the tribunal to challenge their results, but they didn’t take my advice because it is their right to seek redress at the election tribunal. However, at last, the Appeal Court has affirmed the verdict of the tribunal both in the case of Kalu, Uwajumogu and Okorocha.
Again, the former governor of Anambra State, Dr, Chukwuemeka Ezeife in a recent interview declared that if the Presidency is not zoned to the South-East in 2023, Ndigbo will cease to be Nigerians, would you say he spoke the mind of people of the South East?
No, that is not the position of Igbo ahead of 2023 Presidency. Dr. Ezeife is entitled to his opinion. I am an Igbo man before being a Nigerian and in everything I do, I must protect the interest Igbo. Nigeria is a configuration of three major tribes and different ethnic groups and Igbo is part of the tripod that is holding the country. Basically, I’m an advocate of Nigerian President of Igbo extraction because it is our right and we need to work to achieve it. Ezeife ought to know that power is not given, but taken, hence no amount of threat will make the other Nigerians surrender power to Igbo. But we can negotiate and dialogue with the other geo political zones in order for them to trust and support us. You cannot sit in your bedroom and expect the Presidency to be served you on a platter. However, since the beginning of this political dispensation, the South West has taken a shot at the Presidency through former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the South-South ruled through Goodluck Jonathan and the late Umaru Yar’Adua and President Muhammadu Buhari took the turn of the North. What is wrong in allowing Igbo to take their turn? Because it is only the Igbo that have not tested the position and it will be unfair if the South-East is deprived the presidency in 2023.
Many are of the view that because the South-East has not embraced APC, the ruling party may not zone the Presidency to the region; do you share the same view?
The present government cannot say Ndigbo did not embrace it, am I not an Igbo man? I’m a member of the ruling party and there are a lot of Ndigbo in the APC. The two major political parties in Nigeria, APC and PDP are national parties. And these two parties are dominated by Igbo, hence it does not necessarily mean that we all must belong to the ruling party before the Presidency can be zoned to the area. The only problem we have is that Igbo follow the tide politically while the other tribes sometimes play against the tide. At least, APC has four Senators from the South-East and they include, Senators Orji Uzor Kalu, Benjamin Uwajumogu, Rochas Okorocha and Ifeanyi Ubah. My good friend Sen. Ifeanyi Ubah is indirectly a member of APC because very soon, he will officially defect to the ruling party. So, what are we talking about?
The ruling party may not view it from your perceptive considering the fact that the South West gave greater support to APC, are you not concerned that the ruling party may decide to zone the Presidency to the South West?
All I’m saying is that for the sake of equity and fairness, power should shift to the South-East in 2023. We have capable people that can take over from President Buhari. So, I suggest PDP and APC zone their Presidential candidate’s slot to South-East in 2023. After all, in 1999, the two major presidential candidates, Olusegun Obasanjo and Olu Falae were from the South West zone and in 2019, the two major contenders for the position are Hausa Fulani, President Buhari and Atiku Abubakar. Therefore, I don’t see why APC and PDP cannot zone the position this time to the South-East.
Even when some people from the zone are agitating for Biafra?
The major reason some of us are agitating for Biafra is because the Igbo are marginalised. If we are treated well, there won’t be agitation for Biafra. To most Igbo people, Biafra is in the mind, not marching on the street disturbing other people. The caliber of people you see on the street agitating for Biafra are people who are angry because the zone is marginalised. We have men whose voices can be heard internationally and they have never at any time supported that Biafra should be carved out of Nigeria rather; they have been preaching peace and one Nigeria. People like Prof Ben Nwabueze, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Prof Anya O. Anya and major Igbo groups such as Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the Imeobi, Okpoko Igbo are not in support of Biafra. So, the agitation for Biafra has nothing to do with Igbo Presidency in 2023.
When you say marginalisation, in what area are the people of South-East marginalised?
Before the coming of President Buhari, the Igbo were marginalised virtually in all aspects. We were promised second Niger Bridge several times by successive governments, but they never fulfilled that promise until now that President Buhari commenced and about to complete the second Niger Bridge. You will agree with me that before now, all the federal roads in the South-East were death traps, but today as I speak to you, most of these roads are under construction and about to be completed. For instance, rehabilitation of Enugu Airport is almost completed and it will be open for public use before April next year. Work is ongoing in Onitsha/Enugu Expressway, Enugu/Aba/Umuahia/Port Harcourt Expressway, Enugu/Owerri/Aba Expressway. Work is also ongoing in Owerri/Elele/ Port Harcourt road. So, like Oliver Twist, we will never stop to ask for more. I will say the only area Igbo is being marginalised by the Buhari government is in the area of power and if Mr. President can correct it by handing over power to an Igbo person in 2023, that will be an indication that Buhari loves Ndigbo as he claims.
There are indications that Nigerians may vote out APC in 2023 because of poor economic management that has brought untold hardship on the people, don’t you feel the pulse of Nigerians?
I disagree with you or anyone who says Nigerians will vote out APC in 2023. So far, the people can see the progress made by the administration in terms of accountability, probity and openness. The fight against corruption embarked upon by this administration is yielding positive result as all the leakages and drain pipes have been blocked and looted public funds are recovered on daily basis. There is no doubt that most Nigerians are facing hardship and like I have always explained, it is due to drop in the price of only commodity the nation exports, crude oil and mismanagement of the nation’s resources by past administrations. Any nation that fails to plan automatically has planned to fail and that is the case of Nigeria. Notwithstanding, things have started improving and I believe very soon, Nigerians will heave a sigh of relief.