Ahead of Nigeria’s 59th independence anniversary, member of the Board of Trustees of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr Ezekiel Izuogu has joined prominent Northern elders like Tanko Yakassai, Balarabe Musa and other Nigerians to make a case for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023.
Chief Izuogu, who emphatically declared that Nigeria has not fared well in her 59 years of independence, insisted that if given the opportunity to occupy the number one political office in the country after President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023, the Igbo would take Nigeria to the moon.
In this exclusive chat with Daily Sun, the APC chieftain spoke on various issues, including the 59th independence anniversary, insecurity in the country among others.
Few months into Buhari’s second tenure, some persons in the North have allegedly started scheming to retain power in the North beyond 2023. However, a couple of other Nigerians believe that for equity, justice and fairness, power should move to the East. What are your thoughts on that?
Power should move to the South East, period. It is not debatable. There are three major tribes in Nigeria and the Igbo are one of these major three tribes. So, if the Yoruba have ruled and the Hausa/Fulani have ruled several times, it is time for the Igbo to also rule; pure and simple. Anybody who is bringing debate into it does not want Nigeria to move forward. Nobody should bring any confusion about that.
Do you think your party, the APC, looking at the composition and body language of its leadership will concede the presidential ticket to a candidate from the South East in 2023?
That is the correct thing to do. I am a member of the APC Board of Trustees, as well as a member of the National Caucus. Bring it up for discussions and if we don’t have competent people from the South East, then you can go elsewhere. But, if there are over qualified people to be president of Nigeria and they are there in the South East, and you say you won’t use them, then it means you don’t want the country to move forward. I thank Tanko Yakassai, our elder and leader in the progressives, who spoke out recently, saying, it is time for the South East to produce the president of this country. He spoke our minds. I praise him for his courage. He has been a straightforward man from the beginning and I am happy that he still maintains his straightforwardness. It is time for the South East; it is our time. Everybody should support us. I have friends in the North, West, South-South, and Middle Belt; they should all support the South East. That is the only way the country can move forward. Let this country be given to an Igbo man and let us see what he will do in four years. I bet you Nigeria will change for good. Nigeria will get to the moon because so many things will happen. That is what we should do if we love Nigeria.
In less than two weeks, Nigeria will be celebrating her 59th independence anniversary; do you think we have fared well as a country, looking at where we are today?
We have not done well at all. Those countries like Malaysia, Singapore and others that were behind us in the past are now far ahead of us in science and technology, in productivity, in employment and civilisation. So, how can we have done well? I weep when this kind of issue comes up. I have tears in my eyes because I know that 50 or 60 years ago, Nigeria was much better than what it is today and I don’t know why.
What do you think the political leaders should be doing at this point in time?
The political leaders should have a vision; a vision that should be characteristic of a nation like Nigeria. We have the population. We are the largest country in Africa. We have the human being – the intellectuals, but we are not performing. We are not being empowered to perform, and you ask why? What is holding the leadership down? That is what beats my imagination. Nigeria is capable of doing so many things but we are not prepared to do that. We are just at a standstill. We are just worshipping tribalism and that is the main problem of this country.
The President last week disbanded the Economic Management Team headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and established the Economic Advisory Council without Osinbajo. This singular action has been generating mixed reactions from across the country, with some people describing it as a move by the North to take full control of both the economy and politics of Nigeria ahead of 2023 presidency. Yet, others see the move as the best way to go. What is your view on that?
Well, if the Vice President was doing a good job, why disband the economic team that he was heading for an economic advisory council. The question would be: was his role on the job good or bad? Since he was doing a good job and he is the number two man in the country, I don’t see the sense in removing him from there. He was the number two man. He represented the president. He acted as president for Mr. when President Buhari was sick in the hospital for several months and the president trusted him with all that. So, why can’t he now chair the economic advisory council? Honestly, it seems somehow. It gets me confused. I hope it is not a loss of confidence on the vice president by Mr. President.
So, you agree that the establishment of the economic advisory council was good but that the vice president should have continued to chair it?
Yes, members of the Economic Advisory Council seem to be men of integrity. One of the members, Charles Chukwuma Soludo, is well known in the economic sector. He was the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. A couple of other members also have good credentials; why remove the vice president? If you are removing the vice president, perhaps, you are not comfortable with him as the vice president again. That is the impression out there and it is not good at all.
The issue of bailout fund given to states in 2017 is in the news again. The Federal Government has said it would start deduction at source from the states’ allocation as from next month. The governors are asking for proper audit of the fund before any deduction is made. Where do you stand on all of these?
I stand with the governors. They are right because there is nothing wrong with auditing the fund. Audit the fund and they will pay. They are not saying they won’t pay; if they say they won’t pay, that will be a difficult thing. But, since they are willing to pay but that the fund must be audited first, I don’t think it is bad. When people make good suggestions, they should be accepted and the country will move forward.
Recently, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved a-two-percent increase in VAT. This is coming at a time when many Nigerians are passing through serious economic challenges; what do you think about such an economic policy?
I think it is not a reflection of the economic reality in the country now. People are having difficult time at present, and asking them to pay more doesn’t look good to me at all.
The issue of insecurity in Nigeria is clearly staring us in the face, with many calling for the sack of the country’s security chiefs and appointment of new hands to inject fresh ideas on how to tackle the problem. What are your thoughts?
I think the security lapses are very scandalous to the reputation of Nigeria in the international community. Nigeria is respected as a great nation in Africa. This type of security situation is very embarrassing. I will advise the president to do whatever he needs to do to bring about a change very fast. As an army general and former Head of State of Nigeria, let him show what he is made of. Let him stop insecurity in Nigeria completely. Whatever it takes for him to do it, he should do it. If it means changing the security chiefs, he should do that and bring in new ones, let us see if they will perform better. That is the only way to know that the president is serious. Every possible thing should be done. Whatever that is worth doing, should be done. Even if the president’s brother is one of the security chiefs, he should remove him and put a new man and let us see how the new man would perform. The security of Nigerians comes first because they need to be alive to be able to perform their duties as Nigerians. If you are not alive, what are you talking about? This is the most important thing that should be done. The president should leave every other thing and face security.