From Judex Okoro, Calabar
Senior Special Adviser to the Anambra State Governor on Community Liaison, Emeka Egwuonwu in this interview, speaks on Igbo Presidency, dismisses insinuation in some quarters that Igbo are not united and argues that it would be total injustice for anybody to deny the zone the number one seat in the country in 2023.
Ahead of 2023, there have been calls for and against Igbo Presidency. Do you think Nigerians have been fair to South East on the issue of Presidency?
Without mincing words, Nigeria has not been in any way fair to Ndi Igbo with regard to leading the country from Aso rock. Igbo Presidency is overdue and that is the only way to reintegrate Ndi Igbo into the mainstream of governance of this country. Besides, it will really mark an end to the civil war that was fought and the no-victor-and-no vanquished pronouncement. Furthermore, the South East has supported other zones to produce the President. So what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Therefore, denying Igbo Presidency is a tacit admittance that the civil war has not ended. Since we have entrusted the same power to other zones and they never disintegrated Nigeria, I will want other zones to equally entrust the leadership of this country to an Igbo man. I make bold to say that only Igbo man sees himself and every sector of this country as his primary constituency.
Only an Igbo man will find himself in Borno or Katsina State and builds a befitting edifice to show that he wants comfort even at remote areas of any state. Igbo have exhibited this sense that we are one and are not losing sleep over our investments across the country. We have forgotten whatever we have suffered during the civil war and therefore call on other zones in this country to give us the opportunity to prove once again that we mean well for the generality of this country.
But there are fears that if you give political power to the Igbo they will take over everything considering the fact that they are in control of business and economy?
The spurious and contrived allegation that if Igbo man becomes a President, Nigeria would be divided is nonsensical and cheap blackmail. Every region has what they are known for just like every tribe have their language. Igbo are not even conventional traders. They are into commerce. I should consider the Yoruba as more into conventional in terms of trading business, into banking and holding every sensitive position.
The North is equally in business and in the area of supply of general goods and consumables. So, why are Nigerians not afraid that Hausa/Fulani would monopolise exportation of produce, especially in the area of hides and skins. The Northerners are great farmers. Farmers contribute to the growth of the economy and they get government support. Igbo are not looking at what others have, rather others look at what Igbo have even when we are not getting any support for our trading businesses. How can you then be afraid of just five states in the South East?
So, people should not see Ndigbo as the problem of Nigeria, but the leadership which we can offer if given the opportunity to lead this country. Why not entrust us with political power first and then see if we would try to secede, then you can say you don’t trust them. You must lend a trust to somebody before you can say I trust him or I don’t trust him; that’s the truth.
There is also this argument that Igbo are not united and so cannot lead Nigeria aright.
It is simply giving a dog bad name in order to hang it. It is the highest level of insult on our sensibilities for somebody to just make such a wild allegation that we are not united and therefore cannot be given the opportunity to produce the President. Even if Igbo parade I000 candidates, it is left for Nigerians to choose one person among the lot and at the end of it, Igbo will produce a leader. I see 2023 as a struggle for every tribe of Igbo.
Besides, let me say here that it does not matter which state in Igbo land produces it first. What I can say is that we have quality leaders across Igbo speaking states and who have contributed to national development. We have candidates from Igbo land that can lead Nigeria out of the economic doldrums. We have Dr Peter Obi, former Senate President and former Secretary to Federal Government, Sen Ayim Pius Ayim, David Umahi and Dr Orji Uzor Kalu. I also admire the qualities of Osita Chidoka, the former Corps Marshal, when he went into that organisation even when he is not a trained Marshall. But like Chris Uba used to say that power is in the oven and it is only when you arm yourself with anti-fire that you put your hand and struggle for it.
Besides, power is a spiritual thing and can fall on somebody outside these big names I have listed above. For instance, in 1979, the defunct National party of Nigeria, NPN, was looking for late Shehu Shagari’s running mate and the party leaders from the East went for a meeting at Concord Hotel Owerri to pick the running mate since it has been zoned to Imo state then. The finest man then for the job was K.O Mbadiwe but the party never wanted him because he is more exposed, wiser and influential than Shagari. So, they gave Imo three days and by 11:59pm that night, Imo couldn’t come up with a consensus candidate and they now said Imo we foreclose you. Then they zeroed it to Anambra and then M.I.N. Ugochukwu (Ugo foam) now said no need to go outside, I have Dr Alex Ekwueme here to present to you. Ugochukwu then was almost the richest Anambra man and nobody uttered a word. That is how Dr Alex Ekwueme, who lost governorship of Anambra became the finest Vice President of Nigerian in 1979. So you now see that the man who lost governorship became Vice President because it had been destined, that’s why I say power is spiritual.
In other words, having an Igbo president will be the solution to the country’s challenges?
Yea, an Igbo President will be one of the solutions because it will eliminate fear of uncertainties of every tribe. I am an advocate of true Nigeria because Igbo are scattered everywhere. Giving Igbo man the opportunity will neutralise and bring up a healthy nation once again. Giving Igbo presidency means you have made them true citizens of Nigeria. Before now, my people see North as their villages because they settle down there; today they think home and thinking home is a statement of uncertainty and fear. Have you seen any person that is a citizen of America that is afraid of America? That is the kind of thing that giving an Igbo man the opportunity will give birth to. Yoruba will now know that after all, we have given Peter Obi the opportunity he never divided Nigeria, we have given Anyim, he never divided Nigeria. And Hausa man will say shikena, everything is okay. So that is the aspect I am looking at it from.