By Chinelo Obogo
Chief Ndukwe Ikoh is a prominent businessman, a chieftain of the Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA) and a former governorship and House of Representatives aspirant in Abia State. Though he is not a member of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), he has called on the leadership of the party to resolve the crisis, saying that the country needs a viable opposition as a one-party system is not good for the nation’s democracy. He also stated that without President Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress (APC) would cease to exist. He spoke on this and other issues.
What is your assessment of the two-year administration of President Muhammadu Buhari?
I would not give them a score because things are still ‘a work in progress’ at the moment. Corruption which was a very serious agenda of government at the time they were coming in is being fought, but unfortunately, a lot of people are disappointed because there hasn’t been any major prosecution. It appears to me that the government is only bent on recovery and not prosecuting suspects. Lack of definite conclusion in prosecution process has been a very low point of the fight against corruption. In the aspect of the economy, we are still struggling, but I am optimistic that with the sincerity of this government, our economy would recover.
Do you think the problem is with the prosecutors?
I am not blaming the judiciary neither am I blaming the prosecutors. We know corruption is systematic and our institutions have been seriously hurt by this systematic virus called corruption and even our anti-graft agencies have been seriously distorted by it. Consider what is happening to the confirmation controversy of Ibrahim Magu, if you are not in the good books of people in power, then you would be removed. Unlike the western countries where infiltration by external powers is almost impossible, here, all appointments are done by the same forces that are being investigated. One of the reasons why Nigerians voted Buhari is because we know that he is a person who is disciplined and can do what others can’t do. An example is the arrest of judges, and even though many criticised it, he did it to show that he was determined. Some would say he is autocratic, but in a situation such as ours, you have to go the extra mile to get things done.
In the aspect of security, the government is doing well because it has reduced the level of threats by the Boko Haram terrorists. These days, we hardly hear of villages being taken over unlike what used to happen before. The Chibok girls are being recovered and the fight against terrorism is on course.
You assessed the security situation in the country, but you didn’t mention the aspect of the constant attacks by armed Fulani herdsmen all over the country. Do you not regard their activities a security threat?
The Fulani herdsmen issue is one that I believe that there is more to it than meets the eyes. I am beginning to look towards the assertions that the government seems to be closing one eye to an issue and opening one eye to another. If a Fulani man does something, it’s not seen in a bad light as it would have been seen if another person from any other place does it. It is becoming a national embarrassment. I want to appeal to the presidency to curtail the powers that is being erroneously displayed through the actions of these armed herdsmen. It is not good for the unity of this country. They should do all that they can to pass whatever bill they want to pass to limit the activities of the herdsmen.
There have been calls for the president to resign, considering what he told late President Yar’Adua during his own predicament. What is your take?
A lot of the leadership of the civil society groups have been heavily compromised. Some of them worked with the past government and have become card carrying members of political parties. Some of them are covertly or internally working with this present government and it has silenced their voice. If you ask me about civil society groups in Nigeria today, I will tell you that none exists. There is no dispassionate civil society group that you can find again except few individuals who air their views like I usually do. They have been compromised and that is the truth.
Concerning the president’s heath, those who compare him to Yar’Adua are not being fair. Yar’Adua left the country without any formal notice. He left the country and spent months, yet there was no news coming in about his health status. In such a situation, if you were Buhari of 2008, you would make a similar call. Remember that Yar’Adua was his kinsman, so he was not doing it because he was fronting for Jonathan; he did it because he wanted things to be done rightly. In this case, Buhari has always informs the Senate of his decision to seek treatment abroad and officially hands over to his vice president. When Yar’Adua left the country, no one saw him entering the plane, but in Buhari’s case, everyone saw him walk into the plane and from where he is, he still speaks. If it gets worse that Buhari becomes so sick like we assume that Yar’Adua was when he left Nigeria, I will be in the forefront to ask him to hand over to his vice president because it is a joint ticket. But the situation has not gotten to that extent yet.
What is your view about South -east politicians who are defecting to the APC?
As a politician that has been around for a long time, I knew that the Igbo would gravitate towards APC and I also know that there would be issues of leadership. The reason for the movement is because the main opposition political party, which is the PDP, does not exist in full and it has made it very easy for people to leave. The crisis in PDP is not a good sign for Nigeria. I want to use this opportunity to ask those at the helm of affairs in PDP to put the party in order as soon as possible; otherwise we would be left with only one option. And when we are left with only one option, we are left with no option in 2019. They should learn from their mistakes and make amends. PDP’s crisis has benefited the APC immensely. There are people who are moving into the APC not because there is anything to gain, but they are afraid that the PDP may not come out of its crisis before 2019. It is not because there is anything fantastic about the APC. No one can operate with the PDP the way it is now. I look at APC as a big balloon being held with a tiny string and that string is Buhari; that is why we are praying that nothing happens to him. If anything happens to the president, APC will break into splinters and that is the truth. Some people say that with or without Buhari, APC will stand, but that is a lie.
Will you also join the APC?
Everyone in my family is an APC member now, so by adoption, I am an APC member. I have no choice than to support them and my joining is to provide leadership for the Igbo.