Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu
Renowned engineer, politician and foremost philanthropist, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu has identified selfishness as the bane of Nigeria’s politics.
The Septuagenarian in an exclusive interview with Sunday Sun called on Nigerians to see the country as belonging to all and to bring fairness and equity to bear in 2023, by rallying round the Igbo to produce the next Nigerian president.
Iwuanyanwu spoke on his experiences in Nigerian politics, why Igbo should produce the next president, his belief in Nigeria and why restructuring is the only option for Nigeria’s survival. Excerpts:
You’ve been a great politician and sometime in the past, you nursed the ambition of ruling Nigeria. Can you tell us your experience in Nigerian politics?
Well, it’s quite a volume telling my experience in Nigerian politics. Unfortunately, I have a busy time now, but I’ll give you briefly. Nigerian politics is a very difficult terrain. I went into it out of my patriotic zeal because I know I have the capacity. I have the intellectual capacity, the strength of character to be able to handle that job of presiding over the affairs of this country and, of course, I presented by credentials and desire to Nigerians. I must tell you that I was received, very overwhelmingly everywhere; in the North, in the West, in the East. I want to tell you frankly that my first experience in this is that Nigerians are good people. My forage into politics and running for presidency of Nigeria made me to have confidence in this country and that is why I ran for it three times. I lost the first one; the first one was that we were all banned by the military fiat, then later on again. But you see, I did all that because of my faith and confidence in the country and the people. When I went round, I saw that this people would require support. Then, there are a lot of intrigues, for example, I lost one of the primaries in Kaduna due to intrigues at that time. That time, there were two major parties, that was in 1999, I was in APP, Ekwueme was in PDP and I was the front runner in APP, Ekwueme was the front runner in PDP, but you see, there was a decision unknown to us that they wanted a Yoruba person to be president and because of that decision that was unknown to us; I was the front runner in Kaduna, the PDP primaries was in Jos and Ekwueme was the front runner. Well, they came to Jos and they sabotaged Ekwueme. I did everything in my own case. I even won my own, but they sabotaged it. When they sabotaged it, I was very annoyed and, in fact, that was when I transferred over to PDP, early in 1999 before the elections and then, Obasanjo was my friend. So, I had to support him because he has been my friend before the elections. I had to support him and that was how I joined PDP at that time. The decision was taken that it should be a Yoruba person. It was generally believed that Abiola won the election and that the Yoruba were not treated well. So, it was like compensation. They wanted to compensate the Yoruba, that was the point, but you see, we have been telling Nigerians too that the Igbo also have not been well treated. We have been treated badly at various times and even now, the presidency; we have an agreement. It may not have been written, but it’s an agreement, mutually know by all the political parties, that presidency should rotate North and South. This is an agreement reached by patriotic Nigerians who believe in the unity of this country, who believe in peace, who believe in stability, who believe in happiness and unity of this country. That presidency will reside eight years in the North and then eight years in the South. Now, by the time Buhari will finish his present tenure, it should have resided eight years in the North. It will come to South and if it comes to the South, the Igbo are saying that it is in the Southeast. The Yoruba have taken their turn. The whole country helped them to take it. South-south has taken their turn; we helped them to take it. Now, we want them to help us, the Igbo (Southeast) to take our own. People are rising and talking.
Do you still have interest to run?
I cannot run at the moment because of my age. At my age, I have retired from appointments and elections, but I want in my own life time, that even though I didn’t succeed, that an Igbo man succeeds. We are not making frivolous demand. We are demanding what we think is our due. I have even seen some Igbo being negative about it because they won’t be the person. Myself, I know I won’t be the person, I don’t even know who the person is, but I know that there are so many Igbo in all political parties, even in APC, who can be president of Nigeria. There are Igbo in APC who can be president of Nigeria. There are Igbo in PDP who can be president of Nigeria. There are Igbo in other political parties who can be president of Nigeria. All we want is let Nigerians know that we are part of this country. You see, the Igbo will have a sense of fulfilment, a sense of belonging if one of them is helped to be the president of this country. Nobody can become the president from any part of Nigeria without the other people supporting you. It is very clear that if the others don’t support the Igbo, we cannot be president, but others have been president because other people supported them. So, that is the point. One cannot say the Igbo want to be present, we know but we are appealing to Nigerians that we need your support because it’s a matter of fairness and equity. That’s what we are asking for.
So, what could you say is the bane of Nigerian politics?
Well, the bane of Nigerian politics, to be honest with you, is selfishness. It’s selfishness, some people are very selfish. It’s also tribalism. Some people have failed to outgrow tribalism and there is also religious bigotry up to a point because you see, that of religious bigotry is quite a serious problem too. Some people seem to see Nigeria or interpret Nigerian opportunities in terms of their own tribe, ethnicity and religion and that is very dangerous. I think at this time, after many years of independence, after coming together; we have come together, so closely together, that at this point in time, we have intermarried, we have lived and worked together. We should be able to have outlived this, but the most important thing is for us to recognise the fact and it is the fact that Nigeria comprises so many tribes. All these tribes have got their peculiar idiosyncrasies in culture, customs and traditions. So, one cannot wish it away and say oh, Nigerians are one and talk about elections being by means of the majority. A federation, a multi-federation like this survives when the majority, the major tribes consider the smaller tribes and know that they have a right to leadership, but if a group feels that they are large in number and because of the largeness in number, they will win all the time, I think it doesn’t help because what they can do is for them to use their numbers and then if they decide an Igbo person, they feel is the person who is capable, who can give the leadership, fine. Let them support the person. All we want is to have an Igbo person in PDP, have an Igbo person in APC, and have an Igbo person in other parties, the same way it was done in 1999. That is exactly what we want and that is the only way Nigerians can help the Igbo to get to the presidency. We are appealing to them and they know that the Igbo have played a lot of parts in building Nigeria. The difficulty is that even Igbo leaders, most of them were born in the North. Nnamdi Azikiwe was born in the North, Ojukwu was born in the North; it’s just ironic. All of them were born in the North and most of the Igbo today have lived in the North and traded in the North, most of them had their education in the North, we have integrated so much in the North and in the West too. There’s hardly any big Igbo man who hasn’t got a base in Lagos. So, you can see that we have a lot in common. So, we are appealing to Nigerians to support us.
Do you see hope in today’s Nigeria and what is the way forward?
I have hope in Nigeria. Nigeria has a lot of potentials. Very few countries in the world are lucky to be endowed the way Nigeria is. We have the brightest human resources, we have a very wonderful climate. We’ve never had the type of climate you have in many places. Nigerians can work all year round, the climate is good. We have the best vegetation, we have crops. We can plant crops so many times in a year. Every crop in the world can grow in Nigeria, from the Equatorial South to Savannah North. There is no crop you can’t get here. God has equally given us a lot of mineral deposits. There is no mineral deposit you have in the world that you can’t find in Nigeria. You have gold, you have diamond, you have everything and above all, of course, you know, you have oil, which has been sustaining the economy for a very long time and even, more oil is being discovered in the Chad Basin. So, Nigeria is blessed. The only problem we have is for a leadership to be able to resolve the conflicts in the various groups that form this federation. These conflicts were not resolved at the time of formation. The best solution to this is this thing; we’ve been talking of restructuring. People don’t seem to understand restructuring. What we require is restructuring because restructuring is very important. It is going to help to solve most of these problems Nigeria have today. Many people think restructuring is going to make some people be denied of resources. I don’t think so. Restructuring will create more development in various places even in local governments, including the autonomous communities. So, I strongly support the restructuring of this country and I want our leaders to take it very seriously and know that it is important to restructure Nigeria. Without restructuring, they will have problems.