Elder statesman and Second Republic member of House of Representatives, Chief Ralph Obioha, has faulted the first celebration of June 12 as Democracy Day.
Chief Obioha who was a leader of the defunct National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) in Canada and the United States, former National Chairman, Justice Party (JP), and former Chairman, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Caretaker Committee, noted with dismay that those who were in the forefront of the struggle to actualise June 12 did not get any mention during the celebration.
The ex-NADECO chief had lost almost everything he had in Nigeria except that God was very kind that he was not hacked down during the Abacha era in their struggle to restore the June 12 presidential election won by the late Chief Moshood Abiola.
Although he said he was not going to talk about June 12 during this encounter, Sunday Sun probing questions disarmed him, making him to make insightful revelation on the genuine struggle and how it has been hijacked today, perhaps, for selfish purpose.
He also spoke on the exclusion of Southeast in the $22.7B loan, skepticism surrounding COVID-19, the Nigerian condition, and what Ndigbo should do in strategizing for the 2023 presidency, among other crucial issues. Excerpt:
Most Nigerians are kicking against the $22.7B loan that the Federal Government is excluding the Southeast zone…?
(Cuts in) The situation calls for worry. It is wrong. I stand with former Senate President Nwabara, with Chief Nnia Nwodo and others who have condemned this move. The Federal Government cannot continue with this kind of attitude where you by policy exclude one sector of the country, the Igbo. It is not right, it is morally wrong and you will be setting a wrong signal as such that when anybody from another part of the country becomes a president he will just empower the people from his catchment area, it’s not a good policy and it will never be. One is hoping that there are three years left in his presidency and that there will be a change of attitude. Sometimes you begin to wonder if Nigeria is redeemable with certain actions that we are witnessing. You see, whenever something will change you will see the sign, there is just no sign that anything will change looking at what is on the ground and what has been developing each passing day. Nigeria is everyday driving deeper into the abyss and this is sad. There was a time the late Bola Ige adopted the attitude of “Sidon look”, I don’t know whether it’s the attitude I will adopt now.
But you can’t adopt a “Sidon look” approach because you are among the Igbo first 11 today and even the democracy, the June 12 that we are celebrating today you were the point figure in Europe, America, Canada, etc and you lost almost everything…?
(Cuts in) That is part of the things that call for worry. You have just mentioned the June 12 struggle. I have stopped talking about it. Did you hear the names of some of us mentioned on that Friday that Nigerians were celebrating and reflecting on June 12, Abiola struggles and the efforts of some of us to ensure the mandate was respected and not bungled. I was at home listening to the June 12 programme that they had on that Friday, public holiday, even the mere mention of people who sacrificed so much, nobody cared. I am not talking about myself ( because I did all I did out of personal conviction for the restoration of the mandate, the fight for democracy and Justice), but I observed even people like Dan Suleiman, Oyegun, Ndubuisi Kanu who was in the home-front, etc nobody was mentioning them and you begin to wonder what is happening. I did not hear the name of late Ralph Uwechue, may his soul rest in peace, he was not only running the London office, but was financing it. What of Pa Anthony Enahoro, an old man, he was about 70 then and was there in America and Canada, he also joined in the setting up of the ground work that made it possible for Commonwealth to ban Abacha and the country from membership of the Commonwealth. It was the beginning of the fall of the Abacha regime. It’s as if some people have hijacked June 12, and some of them are those that had no active participation during the struggle. It is only by His divine grace that some of us are still alive today, given our commitment to the democratic struggles during the June 12 era. Some of the people talking now on June 12 ran away the night Abiola declared himself president. I don’t want to say certain things that may be misinterpreted, but it is only when you bend the truth that you create room for suspicion. We must at all times be ready to give the facts or say the truth as it is rather than trying to distort it. And you wonder the motive to lead astray the people, the motive behind perverting the truth, why? The truth is that the way we are going in this country calls for caution. I watched the interview Chief Nnia Nwodo (Ohanaeze Ndigbo President, World-wide) granted to Channels TV recently, I think it was on Monday, June 15, although he was cut short, perhaps by time, he made the point clear on the danger ahead given the injustice being injected into the political system. I was very happy with the Nwodo delivery because he was saying it as it is today and we have to be careful, particularly the leadership, on the type of seeds that they are sowing.
There is this alarm being raised that Northern youths, particularly the Fulani stock are all over the Southeast and there were clips in the social media where some were seen hiding inside the container carrying foodstuffs and other wares to the region?
There was an incident even recently in Oguta aside from the ones in the social media, but I think your profession, the media, is being smeared and discredited because the whole essence of journalism is that the truth must be told. There are a lot of quacks that have interfered or infiltrated into your profession making it look bad. It is a great challenge before your industry (media). I am still working on some information concerning the issue you just raised. The issue is sensitive and you need facts to back it. But I think the Southeast needs to be watchful and sensitive to the reality of the moment.
What is your take on Federal Government response to COVID-19?
A lot of people don’t believe in it, but it is real and it is killing. You know, the government has lied so much to the citizens that even critical issues like COVID-19, they are skeptical that it is not real, but it’s real and a killer. If we are not careful in handling it, in tracing carriers, when it will blow it will be very catastrophic. Look at how our reserve has run down from $85 billion to above $30 billion, that will tell you we are in great danger, and even our food security is in great jeopardy now. Nobody knows how much food we will be able to produce by the end of the year. This is the farming season and you can see that most farmers are no longer going to their farms and you know that this is a crucial season for farming. Since February farm work has been obstructed and you know the implication. It is what we do now that will determine whether we will have that food security or not. There is no money now and when the food is also not there then the few people who have money will be chasing the few foods available and it will be terrible for the masses without money without food. The pandemic has also revealed our weak health system and if you look at Nigeria in the present and future it is very bleak and calls for concern. When you see certain things that are happening you began to imagine where we are going from here. I don’t know whether you saw what I call the joke, where Adams Oshiomhole (APC National Chairman) was celebrating the disqualification of his state governor, Obaseki, it shows the lack of seriousness in our governance.
Do you think having a president of Igbo extraction is feasible in 2023?
The issue about that is that, it is in our hands. If all the Igbo are united, it is possible. For over 10 years they have been saying it’s their turn if there has been a convention that this thing should be rotating from region to region there will be no question about it that it should be the turn of the Igbo, but you know very well that most Igbo don’t even believe it is their turn. And I give you a very simple prescription. We all know that after the indigenes of any state in Nigeria the second largest group are the Igbo. So, if all the Igbo in all those states where we are number two unite, it is not without saying that they will influence the political outcome because number counts. I am also aware that Cross River, Akwa Ibom will go the Igbo way now among others that are interested to go the Igbo way, so whether they can win the presidency, they can. The challenge is for them to do real work. They have to work for it and the work has to start now. Lucky enough for us the Igbo all return home for Christmas and January meetings. In the middle of the year, August, the women all troop back home for their August meetings and this is already a platform under which the work can be spread. Those who didn’t come when those that came back home return to their stations they also have the village and town meetings wherever they are they pass on the message. Then you have some going around to tell those they feel will support their plan, you build bridges. APC almost lost Lagos State during the election without the Igbo votes. Of course, you know the rest of the story of what transpired in Lagos. It is not something you make unnecessary noise in the pages of the newspapers, you simply work for it, build bridges, and get the confidence of other groups to support you. It is not something you (Ndigbo) can do alone, so you must close ranks and go beyond our border to woo others. If you want the confidence of other people don’t abuse them, nobody will support you if the person doesn’t have a certain level of confidence in you. All along I have been letting Ndigbo know that we need to build bridges. Democracy requires a majority vote, so you must try to get all the votes that will make you win. Getting all the Igbo votes alone will not make you win. So, you need to also get votes from other geopolitical groups and that can only be done through building bridges. We need other votes and the best way they can get those other votes is letting others have your confidence. The Igbo have paid their price even in the democracy we have today, and that should be part of our talking point. The Igbo must put their house in order rather than playing the wrong type of politics.