From Chuks Onuoha, Aba
The Chancellor of Gregory University, a privately owned University, in Uturu, Isuikwuato LGA of Abia State, Professor Gregory Iyke Ibe has said that having a Nigerian president of South East extraction is very achievable in 2023, if only the South Easterners will be able to put their houses in order and work from one front.
Ibe spoke on various political and social issues that concern the wellbeing of the South East Zone among others.
Nigerian President of South East Extraction seems to be the latest issue in Nigerian political front burner. Do you think this project is achievable?
It is achievable if only the Igbo can put their house in order. I, as a South Easterner have been making various efforts to achieve that goal both in Abuja and other parts of the country for my people to be given support by non-South Easterners and non- Igbo people. I started the move in March 2019; nobody then was talking about Igbo presidency, but I spent my personal money and time to see to it that we would get support in getting a Nigerian president of South East extraction. It was after March that people started talking about it. The challenge we have now is that the rate of disunity and distrust among Igbo brethren is very high. The Igbo as a tribe and South Easterners as a people have all what it takes to lead the country to greater heights, but my fear is whether we as brothers can come together and work from a common front. Past experiences taught us that some of our brethren would know that they don’t have what it takes to be Nigerian President, yet they would come into the contest, just to create problem for those who are qualified to be in the race.
But looking at the number of states in the South-East Zone, we don’t have the same number like other zones, don’t you think that this can affect our chances?
If we do the right lobbying, nothing is impossible. Politics is about people and relationships. If we put our house in order and do the right lobbying, we are as good as being at the presidency. It is about trust; you cannot give power to somebody you did not trust, there has to be trust, before people can give you support.
I talked about South East not having the same number of states like other zones, don’t you think that it would have been an added advantage?
I personally campaigned for that, to make South East Zone six states to be at par with others, so that it will have the same number with other zones, but some selfish Igbo leaders, out of personal interests, aborted the plan. I secured an appointment with President Buhari for an additional state and he granted it. I reported this development to Imeobi, Ohanaeze, they didn’t believe me. Nonetheless, when a delegation was set up to meet Buhari over the issue, I was sidetracked, I was not included in that delegation. Whatever made them to behave that way is still surprising to me. I am sure that some of them would have said this small boy, how can we ride behind him for this venture, but they forgot that it was that small boy that secured the appointment.
Many agitations are arising from different quarters as to why the South East is not included in the plan for the recent railway master plan that traversed the entire country. What is your reaction to that?
On that issue of non-inclusion of the South East in the master plan of the railway line, the governors of South East are to blame. They were not assertive in their request for the inclusion of the South East zone in the railway master plan. I am a World Bank consultant on transportation, the initial design for the rail line project crisscrossed the length and breadth of the South East. This thing has remained a burning issue in the minds of citizens of the zone because of its of great economic importance to the people of South East, and it has caused anxiety as to whether the zone has been abandoned in this all important project . But that project may have been abandoned by those who are executing it for reasons I may not be in a position to give now. However, there is assurance that work on the existing old Port Harcourt-Enugu-Maiduguri rail line will begin soon .The reason why I mentioned that the governors of the South East should be blamed is that despite the fact that they were briefed on what to do to get the zone included in the Chinese loan for the building of rail lines across the federation, they failed to do anything to get the zone included in the loan. Then, they were told to have a meeting with the President, requesting to be included in the loan that would be obtained for that purpose, but they didn’t go for that meeting. That explained the reason why South East was not included in the planned project. However, there are still plans for the rehabilitation of the existing rail line that runs from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, passing many cities in the Igbo land, it is still on and will soon commence.
We were meant to understand that it was it was former president Obasanjo’s administration that designed that rail line project, at what point did things go wrong?
The administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo actually designed the rail line, in such a way that it covered all parts of Nigeria, and if they had done anything different when he was in power, he would have asked them to go back to the drawing board and ensure that every part is included, but how it turned out otherwise is not known to me. It may have been as a result of the governors’ refusal to attend the meeting for the Chinese loan that would be used to execute the project. If you truly know Obasanjo, he is a patriotic leader who takes decisions that are reflective of Nigeria, irrespective of whose ox is gored, but a lot of people misunderstand him.
Now, let us come home to Abia, our own state, which Senatorial zone do you think will produce the Governor of the state in 2023?
Abia North of course, that issue is a forgone conclusion. The rotation principle as enshrined in the Abia Charter of Equity is sacrosanct, the drafters of the Abia Charter of Equity did not mince words when they inserted a clause that says vital positions in the state, such as the exalted position of a governor, should rotate amongst the three senatorial districts. The seat was first held by Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North), TA Orji (Abia Central) before the incumbent, Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia South). Equity demands that by the reason of the circle being completed, the rotation will start all over again by power returning to the North in 2023; 16 years after it domiciled in the Abia Central and Abia South districts.
Feelers we are getting is that Abia South is planning to retain it, not minding what other zones will do, what do you have to say to that?
Any politician from any zone can express interest in contesting the governorship come 2023, but as a patriotic citizen of Abia State and one from Abia North, I wholeheartedly conceded to the request to withdraw when I was approached on 7th December 2014 by ex-Gov TA Orji and later some elders and leaders from Ngwa land. I did that to give easy access to an Ngwa son from Abia South to emerge as governor without stress. If I was approached and I conceded and stepped down, and was asked to wait, and I waited till now, the Ngwa elders and leaders, who are still around and alive today should not talk about governorship coming from Ngwa unless they don’t have integrity, which I so much doubt. I asked myself, why are the elders who are aware of this agreement not talking to their sons and daughters on what transpired between them and other senatorial zones. They should not keep mute, they should speak out now. Even in 2019, some elders came to me and asked me not to contest against Gov Ikpeazu and I agreed; I’m surprised some people from there are singing a different tune now, forgetting that there was an agreement reached.
Peradventure the party which is supreme in politics asks you to withdraw for any person from the South, would you want to do that?
I’m not prepared to withdraw for anybody this time around. You won’t tell me to step down again. I have all it takes to contest. I’m the highest individual investor in Abia State today and the way this thing works, people will like to invest in the state where an investor is heading, and that state is Abia and the governor is Ibe. I will take the plunge because I am prepared and qualified all round to weather the political storm of Abia and succeed. I should have support from every senatorial zone because they know that we are going in for a worthy cause.
If the party refuses to give you ticket, will you go and contest from another party?
I will contest under PDP and not any other party. I’ve been in PDP since 1999 and I can’t leave it for any other party. I’m coming with a comprehensive development package; a package that will lead to accelerated development of Abia State. When we get on board, people will know that Abia has gotten a governor that will govern with the fear of God.