By Dickson Okafor
Across the country, a never-before-seen interest by youths in the electoral process is spreading like a tsunami. In their millions, the youths have poured out to register to vote in the 2023 election, spurred on by the emergence of former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, as the presidential candidate of Labour Party, LP, and his choice of Baba-Ahmed Datti, a younger and competent person as his running mate. In this interview, Igwe Gerald Obunadike Mbamalu, Eze Oranyelu 1, Eze Ojoto III, the monarch of Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State bares his mind on this and other relevant issues.
With the emergence of presidential candidates, the three major tribes in Nigeria seem to have returned Nigeria to regional politics. What is you take on this?
This is a wonderful question and I’m happy you realized how backward our politicians have driven the country, with the outcome of the recent selection of the presidential candidates. From 1999 to the present time, the Southeast was kept on a waiting list of the major political parties, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). We were asked to wait for our turn, which we did until this year when the two main political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition party, PDP, reneged on the agreement of rotation of the presidency. They promised to zone their presidential ticket to the Southeast, but they did not fulfill their promise. They betrayed Igbo and selected their flag bearers from the same geopolitical zones that have been ruling Nigeria since 1960. Even the people from the South-South, where former President Goodluck Jonathan hails from, stabbed Igbo at the back also. But I thank God as many Nigerians, including the youths, across the country have decided to vote for Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of Labour Party.
Looking at the condemnation trailing APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket, should Nigerians not begin to downplay religion and choose competent people as their leaders?
Yes, it ought to be so in an organized setting where equity and justice prevail. But that is not the case with Nigeria as you see Christians being killed in their churches and Muslims too are being slaughtered in mosques. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu used the 1993 Muslim-Muslim ticket that featured Chief M.K.O. Abiola and Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, to justify his choice of Senator Kashim Shettima as his running mate. But Tinubu forgot that Nigeria of 1993 is different from Nigeria of today. Then, there was no killing of Christians and Muslims as we are witnessing today. So, this is not the right time to have a Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian presidential ticket. It won’t go down well with Nigerians. You can see what happened few days ago when APC unveiled Kashim Shettima as the running mate of its presidential candidate, most stakeholders of the party in the Southeast were absent. The party hired some people to dress like bishops and reverend fathers of the church, but the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) disowned them. To me, Muslim-Muslim ticket won’t fly in the present situation of Nigeria.
Going by the spread of the two major political parties, APC and PDP, and the capacity of their presidential candidates, do you think that LP, which is not well spread with Peter Obi as its candidate, win the presidential election in 2023?
The political consciousness of Nigerian youths has been awakened by Peter Obi’s candidacy. Nigerians are no more interested in political parties, but the pedigree and antecedents of the candidates. It is no longer the political party that matters this time around, it is the competence of the candidates that matters. That is what will determine the victory of any political party next year. Nigerians are now asking for a young candidate that possesses the qualities of a leader because they are tired of recycled old men. So, the youths will surprise the world with their votes next year. Yes, the Labour Party may not be widespread like the two major parties, but Nigerians are no more interested in these two political parties because APC and PDP have not bettered their lives. Therefore, Nigerians, especially the youths, were delighted when Peter Obi entered the presidential race. Peter Obi’s record when he was the governor of Anambra State is outstanding. His opponents may have credible antecedents as well but, they have not delivered the dividends of democracy to Nigerians through their political parties since 1999. Labour Party wasn’t popular until few months ago when it gave the presidential ticket to Peter Obi. Today, millions of youths have been queuing at INEC registration centres to get their PVC because they believe that their votes will count this time around. Peter Obi advised them to go and obtain their PVCs if they must take back their country from the old breed. That call spurred Nigerian youths to become passionate to participate in next year’s general elections. The youths have resolved to change Nigeria’s political narrative with their votes in 2023.
You have been an advocate of Nigerian president of Igbo extraction, but many are in doubt that Southeast can actualize this dream next year. What is you view?
As a traditional ruler in Anambra State, Peter Obi is one of my sons and I must support him in his quest to become the next president of Nigeria. Since 1960 the Southeast has continued to support people from the other geopolitical zones to become presidents of the country. Unfortunately, our brothers from the other zones have refused to reciprocate this support for Igbo to produce the president of Nigeria since the nation gained independence in 1960. Don’t forget that Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was Nigeria’s first ceremonial president. Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was the prime minister because Nigeria operated the parliamentary system of government then, which made Balewa to be ahead of Zik. So, democratically, an Igbo man has not been Executive President of Nigeria. More so, with the betrayal of Igbo, again by members of the two major political parties, APC and PDP, at the just concluded presidential primaries, the people of the Southeast have no option, but to throw their weight behind our own, Peter Obi. He is the only alternative Southeast has to clinch the presidency in 2023 with the support of Nigerian youths in the six geopolitical zones. The people of Southeast are not only behind Peter Obi because he is from the zone, but they are behind him because he has better plans, policies and programmes that can transform Nigeria into the real giant of Africa.
What is the level of involvement of traditional rulers in the security of the country as terrorists and kidnappers seem to be having a field day recently?
Once again, I call on the government to empower traditional institutions by giving us constitutional role to help fight insecurity as chief security officers in our domains and it behooves us to secure our communities. Traditional rulers are the chief security officers of their communities and we are completely in charge of security in our domain. The only thing the Federal Government needs to do is to officially recognize the traditional institution as the fourth tier of government. This is necessary because by so doing traditional rulers can have direct allocation from the Federation Account because you can’t talk about security without money. If as the chief security officer and you don’t have money to secure life and property of your subjects, there is no need arrogating to yourself as the chief security officer of your kingdom.