A Professor of Political Science and member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Obasi Igwe believes that with the right attitude from the Igbo leaders, President Muhammadu Buhari can freely support the quest for a president of Igbo extraction in 2023.
In this exclusive chat, the political theorist, prolific writer and author, who had also headed the Department of Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), shared his views on some nagging national issues.
Prof, can you confirm that you are now a card-carrying member of the APC?
That is correct. In fact, I have been a member of the APC since 2017 without the knowledge of many people. I did not make it manifest partly because I was still working. But, after I effectively retired from the University in 2018, I joined the party fully. After doing so much for the university system, in my own humble way, I felt it was time for me to contribute in the political space.
Many people would ask, why APC?
Good. One of my reasons was to protest against some of the ills of the PDP, in Nigeria. I never thought that I would be lucky enough to live up to a point that somebody would come and fight corruption in Nigeria. In our days as students at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, Nigeria Defence Academy and University of Nigeria (UNN), among others, we had prayed and yearned for a time when a Nigerian leader would rise to extirpate corruption from Nigeria. Muhammadu Buhari came into the show, and in the context of the corruption that PDP brought into Nigeria, we all can see what he is doing. He may not be perfect, but he is rebuilding the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway. He has completed the Zik’s Mausoleum. He is fast-forwarding the construction of the Second Niger Bridge among several other things that PDP should have done. Not a single Igbo man was able to sell to and convince former President Goodluck Jonathan that he should revive the Port Harcourt Seaport, which has been serving the Igbo nation, including Bonny, Calabar and other seaports. Just recently, Buhari, on his own, has undertaken to rebuild the Bonny Seaport and build a railway from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri. The Minister of Transport recently disclosed that the contracts had been awarded. But, you know that Bony Port cannot be used except if it is connected to Port Harcourt, Onne and other ports. So, when you build these ports, another pool of development would be created in the East. Our youths would return home and there would be less harmful, and sometimes, contentious agitations. It would also create another pool of development in the Middle Belt, and another in the North East. These would complement the pool of development in the West and North West respectively. This is what we have been advocating for long but the PDP could not bring them into the public space.
You were active at the launch of the APC’s 2019 presidential election campaign in Umuahia, and a vigorous member of the Orji Uzor Kalu’s Senatorial Campaign team; how would you rate your party’s outing at the polls?
I feel satisfied because, before the election, PDP had regarded Abia North as a forgone conclusion. But, we worked hard and God blessed our efforts. We narrowly missed the governorship victory due to certain tactical mistakes that we made. However, we are happy because we got the Senate seat and the Presidency.
You seem to be impressed with Buhari’s achievements in the South East, but don’t you think that it would be difficult for you to sell such view to the Igbo generally?
Let me tell you; we criticized the Federal Government for the lopsided appointments and total neglect, or what appears like it, of the Eastern part of the country. I criticized Buhari over the killings by Boko Haram, killer herdsmen and the rest, not just as an individual, but also in the capacity of the civil society coalition. We have consistently urged Mr. President to end the killings. We had severally urged him to change, and we now know that, in incremental steps, President Buhari is changing those things. He has become a listening president. I mentioned the Bonny Ports, which is in the papers, to be undertaken with ports to Nnewi, Onitsha and so on. At least, he has committed himself to that without the urging of the Igbo nation. I did not even mention the Enugu Airport, but I mentioned the Zik’s Mausoleum and Second Niger Bridge and so on. He had, in a speech, undertaken to correct the issue of lopsided appointment.
What is your take on the grumbling in the South East that apart from inherited projects, the Buhari administration has not initiated any virgin project in the zone almost five years since it came onboard?
If you are completing projects, good enough, be completing them. If you are starting new project, start and complete it. We are aware of that criticism that he is just completing existing projects. Let him go on and complete the Second Niger Bridge; let him go on and complete the railway from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri; let him start the seaport in Bonny, Port Harcourt, Calabar and so on and complete them. Let him complete the Takpo-Abuja railway, complete the Ajaokuta Steel Company, just as he completed the Abuja-Kaduna railway. Completion is what matters most. Mind you, I am not saying Buhari is a perfect man. I, myself, am a bundle of imperfection. Since there are some movements, it is better we urge him on than criticize him.
The National Assembly recently urged Mr. President to sack the Service Chiefs and rejig the nation’s security apparatus over worsening security challenges in parts of the country; what is your take on that?
It is a welcome development and that is the essence of what we have been saying – that we are not against Buhari, as a person; that we are true and honest Nigerians, and that we are ready to join him in building a good, secular society. Believe me, there is evidence that Mr. President is listening. Nobody will like to be remembered for something that is negative. That is the spirit and, like I said earlier, that is the essence of my membership of the APC and support for Buhari; the need to exploit that progressive element in the party’s name, all progressives congress.
What is your view on having a president of Igbo extraction?
First, my view is that we need an Igbo that would be president of Nigeria and not president of the Igbo nation. And I take this opportunity to appeal to Nigerians that we may lay to rest the ghost of the civil war by allowing a credible, honest, non-corrupt and non-occultic Igbo to become president of Nigeria. He will open the space for unity, bring our youths back home and then reduce these agitations which appear to be the concern of many Nigerians. By that single act of statesmanship, Nigerians would unlock the door for considerable peace and harmony in the country. There is something we tell Nigerians and that is that the presidency was conceded to the West, the South-South and as well, to the North. It was all by concessions. So, conceding the presidency to the Igbo would not be a new thing. Nigeria must do away with certain attitudes toward the Igbo nation. For instance, Nigerian children would be seeking admission into our institutions and anybody that scores anything would be admitted elsewhere. But, Igbo children would be expected to bring down the moon or Jupiter before getting the same consideration. Believe me, a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction would build a bridge between our frustrated youths and other Nigerian youths and there would be considerable peace. That way, the international community would see that we are serious because we have never had a true reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation since after the war. An Igbo becoming president will not bring Biafra; so, they should not continue to blackmail us with Biafra. Biafra was a consequence of series of contradictions that we are now trying to overcome. Therefore, a credible Igbo, who would demonstrate the energy required to build the country, characteristic of the Igbo, should be brought into the fore by the various parties to be president of Nigeria.
From your calculation and observation as a political scientist, do you think Buhari can support Igbo presidency in 2023?
Believe me, Buhari can support an Igbo becoming president of Nigeria; go and write it down. In fact, given a choice, an Igboman would be his first choice. However, it will depend on Ndigbo. Why can’t the Igbo send a high-powered delegation to Mr. President and say, please, Sir, we have heard that you want to build the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Railway, passing through Igboland; we have heard that you want to build the Bonny Seaport. We have seen the Enugu Airport, Zik’s Mausoleum and the Second Niger Bridge. Please, help us in this quest to have an Igbo as President of Nigeria; we cannot achieve it alone. When you explain to him, it would douse the tensions in the East and be a final signature for the end of the civil war; that he should mellow down in his attitude towards our young boys agitating for various things, and that Igbo youths have been dehumanized; and that we have thousands of them in Asia facing execution, and that they are being killed all over Africa and so on. The Buhari that I see would not ignore such high-powered delegation.