First Republic Aviation Minister and foremost nationalist, Chief Mbazulike Amechi has said that his appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari concerning the release of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu and the Igbo question, was still attainable.
In an interview with DAVID ONWUCHEKWA, the respected statesman expressed the abundant hope that Kanu would be released through political discussions and negotiations. He also spoke on other national issues.
You have been making spirited efforts to see that Nnamdi Kanu is released and you are also not happy about the actions and utterances of members of IPOB. What do you say about these issues sir?
My concern is not only about Nnamdi. When I went to see President Muhammadu Buhari, I went for two items: the position of Ndigbo in Nigeria and the case of Nnamdi Kanu. And of course, I held and still hold the view that if Nnamdi Kanu is released today, it will douse the tension in the South East. It will bring down the ill feelings of the people of the South East.
So, the case of Nnamdi Kanu is as important as the case of Ndigbo or the South East, generally. That was the matter I took to the President and the President listened very attentively and he gave me the assurance that something would be done. And so far, I’m happy to say that I’m aware that something is being done. Things are being done of which somehow in some parts. There are other parts being played by other organs of government, by other institutions and they’re all doing something positively. What made me feel bad was when I saw in the newspapers that IPOB ordered a sit- at- home from Monday to Thursday last week, that Nnamdi was having a case of accelerated hearing fixed for consecutive days. I feel that already it is affecting the economy of the Igbo to stay at home on Monday alone, how much more asking people to stay at home from Sunday to Thursday, that is five days in a week of seven days, leaving only one day, Friday that is a working day in the whole of the week.
I don’t know who ordered that. I don’t know who the leaders of the IPOB are. So, I sent a message to the lawyer of Nnamdi asking him to warn these people. They have to stop this thing. These sit -at-home orders are too much and I can understand that it was initially being observed when Kanu was appearing in court. That’s okay, but asking people to sit-at-home every week in a case that may last a year or even more unless something is done by the government and the court, unless for any reason the case is determined within a shorter period… Even making people to sit-at-home for one day in a week for a whole year or six months is bad, how much more making them to lose five days in seven days of the week. They have to stop these alleged actions here and there.
But I was relieved when the lawyer told me that it is not the true IPOB that has been doing all those things, that IPOB said only Monday (which they have even cancelled) but a group or renegade groups or whatever within the organization is doing this because they seem to be making some money out of it. And I was relieved when I saw in The Sun Newspaper front page where the IPOB denied it. They officially denied ever asking people to stay at home on Monday and exceed it for one day so, I was relieved.
Would you discontinue your effort if the agitators do not listen to your advice to stop certain actions?
I have never discontinued at all. I have just told you earlier on that arrangements are on that the discussions and negotiations, and meetings are being held at various levels and you know what that means. So, there is hope, abundant hope in the words and promise of the President. It is being arranged in such a way that the President can do that without interfering with a court process. We want to see how we can get this matter out of court process and get the problem solved.
It was reported that President Buhari said he would not release Nnamdi Kanu. How do you look at that?
He cannot order the court to release Nnamdi Kanu, neither has he the power to do so. People are asking the President to exercise his prerogative of mercy. It is inappropriate to exercise the prerogative of mercy. I’m not a lawyer but from a layman’s point of view, it’s inappropriate for the President to declare prerogative of mercy now because Nnamdi is being tried and in our jurisprudence in Nigeria, one who is being tried is presumed innocent until he is proved guilty. So, Nnamdi has not been proved guilty. And the prerogative of mercy does not apply in his case. But the President can solve the problem politically. That’s what I mean. It can be solved politically.
Solving it politically means discussing. Once in the Delta area, a problem was solved politically. The then President negotiated, discussed with meetings and so forth and then at a point, it got to a level where people were granted amnesty, that is the Niger Delta militants. Even in the protracted case of Boko Haram, there have been attempts to negotiate and when the Boko Haram insurgents stop shooting, there will be peace in that area. That is political solution.
In the case of Nnamdi Kanu and his people, it can be solved politically. We are not saying it will be solved through the judicial process because that will take a long time. So far, he is presumed innocent but the extent the court can say he is innocent or guilty is far away. But what we are saying is if it is allowed to extend to such a way, there will be bad feelings all over the place and we don’t want that. We want the Federal Government to take political action to solve the problem and the Igbo question now that I’m still around. If I leave, people may not know what I know. People may not have experienced what I experienced, people may not have all the respect I have both in Igbo land and outside Igbo land.
And so, I want to see to it. If God continues to spare my life, I want the government to help me; I want Ndigbo to use me and allow me to help find the solution. God may have continued to spare my life to continue to solve a problem and a situation like this.
Are you confident that a Nigeria President of Igbo extraction is going to be possible this time?
You see, we are approaching the year of presidential election. The South East are saying and rightly too that if it is not a conspiracy against the South East, then they should, in good conscience, be allowed to present, nominate and win the next presidential election. And of course, I have always told them that to win election, you have to work, you have to organise, you have to strategize and you have to finance it. There are so many issues involved in winning an election.
Nothing is impossible. With God, nothing is impossible. If God says peace to Nigeria, to Igbo presidency you may be surprised; you may find an unknown horse coming out from Igbo nation to be a President of Nigeria. It may not be any of the old controversial Igbo leaders or something. He may just bring up an unknown person. And I recommend it to government because that is the easiest way to send the country back to what we created when we inherited Nigeria and created Nigeria from Britain, what we desired to hand over to our children unborn until unpatriotic military people came in and took over the government and continued ruling the country for a whole 38 years.
Someone like Bola Tinubu from South West and others from other zones are preparing strongly for the 2023 presidential election against the thinking that the next president should come from Igbo land. How do you look at that?
If it is the popular wish that the Igbo should produce the next president of the country, let the political parties prove it at the convention. Tinubu is contesting from one state of Yoruba land. There are other 35 States. Let the other 35 states say no. It is left for the other 35 states to say no, that it must be an Igbo man.
With the presidential election coming up early next year, do you think that Igbo aspirants for the election are preparing the way they should?
How much are we reaching out? But we are already paving the way to lose the presidency. The Igbo are too far now, paving the way to lose the chance to produce the next President next year by the number of the Igbo declaring that they want to contest. If five or six Igbo contest, they will split the votes. They will split the Igbo votes. That is creating chances for other people. They will be splitting their votes and maybe give Tinubu the chance. They are already paving the way to lose the election.
As far back as May last year, I called a joint meeting of the PDP and APC from the South East in my house here. APC came in a good number. PDP sent only one person or two persons. But look at the multitude that is coming out from the PDP. How do they think they can get the party nomination? So, they have to start all over again. They can listen to other Igbo leaders, if they don’t want me, that’s okay. But Ohanaeze should be strong enough, other Igbo organizations should be really strong enough to bring together all the aspirants and tell them you, you, you step aside. Let one person go and contest.
I’m aware that other states in the North, South West and even in the Delta are interested to give Igbo the chance to produce the next President, to give them a sense of belonging. Because, right now, they are made to feel that they are not fully part of Nigeria. But I know that there are many states in the North, in the West, in the Delta area who are now prepared to give the Igbo a chance. But if the Igbo are given the chance and they don’t want the chance to be properly used, who will they blame? Will they blame the people who gave them the opportunity to produce the next president? So, they should come together and listen to the voice of reason or get prepared to accept the responsibility that they have failed the Igbo race and destroyed the chances of their children unborn.
What should be the barometer to choose the right candidate to run the presidential race for the Igbo?
In a party I belonged to before, when I was in politics, we did it. There were so many aspirants like that and I presided over a meeting that brought the number from 13 to three. It can be done now.