Eze Christopher Arinze is the Eze Udo Ndigbo1 in Agbara Igbesa, Ogun State. He speaks on the state of the nation advising the political class to maintain peace during and after the election.
As the country goes into another election, what is your advice to the political class in order to ensure peaceful conduct of the exercise?
I have been advising everybody right from the beginning that the best bet for both the indigenes and non-indigenes in Agbara -Igbesa and the nation as whole is to ensure that first of all; they collect their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) because everybody’s vote counts. Instead of sitting at home and be loitering about, they should go for their PVC and be ready to use it to make statement during the election proper.
At the same time, I urge every member of any party that has visited me in recent time to ensure that they heed to my advice which is to play by the rule of the game. I want them to know that there is no life worth being lost over politics. I also told them that no matter any kind of politics we are playing, we should remain one indivisible Nigeria and have love for one another. There should be no violence. After the election, we should still relate like brothers irrespective of who wins or loses.
Is there anything that Nigeria’s political class could learn from the United Sates, UK and other advanced democracies?
Yes, we can learn a lot from the western world. In fact, any country that wants to grow and maintain peace must learn from the United States of America. When Hillary Clinton lost her election, everyone was shocked and at the same time because of the rule of democracy, and respect for rule of law, she has to congratulate President Donald Trump. Such thing happened in our country before. When Jonathan lost election in 2015, he immediately called and congratulated the incoming president at the time, Muhammadu Buhari. This gesture saved Nigerians from unnecessary bloodsheds and post-election riots. So I would advice whosoever wins or loses to support the other party so that there would be peace. Nigeria is God’s own country and for me, all hands must be on deck to ensure that peace reign now and after the poll. I also believe that nothing can divide us. If at all any part of the federation wants to go, it should be done through negotiation and referendum. We should take a cue from United Kingdom and how she is handling the BREXIT crisis. So far, most part of the problem is being solved through dialogue and robust debate on the floor of the parliament. That is why when we tell people to go and get their PVC, it is very important. Now there was BREXIT, and some British voted to leave; now others want to remain, all this crucial decision is being made by those who are qualified to vote. So in the future, voter’s card would play very important role on the future of Nigerians and Nigeria. My advice to politicians and the electorate is to shun vote buying. This is because when you are offered money for your vote, you are selling your future and that of your children. That is why I keep telling my people to vote wisely for any candidate of their choice. No one needs to tell you who to vote for. If you look at the problems we are facing today, all is as a result of our past mistakes and now we have the opportunity to right the wrong once and for all through our vote.
As a leader, you surely know the capacity of your people. Do you think Igbo vote would count in this election?
For sure I am so proud to say that we are on ground. In Agbara-Igbesa which is my own jurisdiction, I know we have 63.3 percent of the total population of the people in Agbara Igbesa. One of the things I love about my people is that they have listening ears. When I asked them to register and collect their PVC, their response was 100 percent; about 53.2 percent have already collected their PVC as I am talking to you. Again, between now and the time I became Igbo leader in Agbara-Igbesa, my people really complied and it gave me joy. I recalled the effort of one of my Ohanaeze chairmen, Prince Bright Chimezie who actively mobilised Ndigbo to get their PVCs. Today he is till educating Ndigbo in Agbara- Igbesa to exercise their civic right during the election proper.
Which of the candidates are you supporting?
Yes I quite agree with you that the Igbo follow the foot step of their king but the fact remains that for the election, with my position, I remain neutral and give my blessings to whoever recognises my people and I keep advising politician not to promise and fail. Meaning that when you fail us the first time, no second chance, look at Agbara /Igbesa Atan road, promise were made in the past nothing was done, can that fellow come and tell my people to come and vote for him or his party again? Of course no. Also, quota system is killing our education system while nepotism like canker-worm is destroying our unity as one nation. People might be silent but one may never know what could be the outcome of the silence.