National Coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group, Comrade Joseph Evah has said that Nigerians should support a president of Igbo extraction in 2023. In this interview with TUNDE THOMAS, he also decried the insecurity situation in the country.
Former Minister for Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi’s comments in an interview penultimate week saying that the Igbo should forget 2023 Presidency because the South-East geo-political zone didn’t vote for All Progressives Congress, APC, and President Muhammadu Buhari during the last presidential election has been generating a lot of reactions; what’s your take on his comments?
It is unfortunate that Amaechi, an Igbo man is making that kind of statement. Amaechi is an Igbo man, so I don’t expect him to make that kind of statement. However, I’m not surprised about Amaechi’s comments. It shows that he is not experienced in Nigerian politics. Amaechi only has experience in Rivers State politics and not Nigerian politics. He is also not a student of political history of Nigeria.
For those of us who are students of political history of Nigeria, those of us who are involved in Niger-Delta struggle, and are involved in the Nigerian struggle who confronted the military, and were part of the NADECO struggle, who fought for the hard-earned democracy that Amaechi and others are enjoying today will not make those kind of comments he made. We need to educate Amaechi to show him that he is only inexperienced in Nigerian politics but also very wrong in his remarks on Igbo and 2023 Presidency. In 1999, the Yoruba were not part of the mainstream politics but they produced a Yoruba man in the person of Olusegun Obasanjo as the nation’s President. The South West’s dominant party then was Alliance for Democracy, a regional political party that was not in the mainstream yet the Yoruba produced the president.
What I expect the Igbo to do is to put pressure on other geo-political zones in the country and insist that everybody and all zones and ethnic groups are equal in this country. The Yoruba insisted in 1999 that the annulment of June 12, 1993 election which a Yoruba man won must be reversed, and that if not that, there will be no Nigeria again, and the whole country bowed to the Yoruba wish under pressure.
In 1999, the two major presidential candidates emerged from Yorubaland, and they got the Presidency by putting pressure on other geo-political zones. If the Igbo insist that there will be no Nigeria if the South-East geo-political zone is not given the Presidency in 2023, the whole nation will bow to their wish. If the Igbo insisted that since after the civil war they are being treated like second class citizens, and that they won’t take it anymore, other parts of the country will bow to their demand and Nigeria will kneel down before Igbo. I believe Igbo can have it in 2023 if they apply the right strategies, except they decide to sell their birthright. For the sake of their children and coming generations, Igbo leaders must stand up and say that they are also equal partners with other ethnic groups in the country.
Amaechi should not look at today but tomorrow. In this country, you must know how to fight for your rights and the Yoruba have shown others how to do it. When June 12 election was annulled, Yoruba stood up and said there would be no peace in Nigeria, and that doesn’t mean that they would be throwing bombs; it is a psychological warfare, and this the Yoruba did successfully. They organised series of protests and seminars. They also put up other means of applying pressure on other parts of the country, and eventually they had their way as other parts of the country including the then nation’s leaders succumbed, and this was how Obasanjo, a Yoruba man became the President in 1999.
In fact, the Yoruba insisted on having a political party of their own which led to the formation of AD. Not only that, it was agreed in 1999 that all political parties must field a Yoruba man as the party’s presidential candidate. Is that not an honour for the Yoruba?. This was an honour that money can’t buy. So, what’s Amaechi talking about?
What do you advise him to do now?
Amaechi should withdraw that statement. Not only that, he should also apologise to the Igbo. Nobody is above mistake. Even in the Bible, God said he regretted making Saul a king over Israel. It is not too much for Amaechi to say sorry to the Igbo over the comments. Amaechi should know that in this country, you must look for ways to take care of the interest of your people. In 1999, the Yoruba insisted that in this country, everybody is equal whether you are an Idoma man, Fulani man or an Efik man. Amaechi should forget about whether the Igbo voted for APC or not. What I expect Igbo to do is to apply pressure on other parts of the country; if they can do that, I believe they will have presidency in 2023.
If we are talking about national unity and cohesion, if we are talking about equity and justice, then it is very unfair that the Igbo have not been able to produce an elected president of Nigeria. It is a shame that a major ethnic region like the Igbo can’t produce a president of Nigeria. For the sake of unity of this country, the Igbo should have it in 2023. I don’t think President Buhari will work against the emergence of an Igbo president in 2023. When he toured the country during the campaign, Buhari publicly stated that he regards all parts of Nigeria, and the entire country as his constituency. He said no part of the country is more important than the other, so why is Amaechi deviating from what his boss and principal, President Muhammadu Buhari has publicly stated?
I don’t expect Amaechi to make that kind of statement not only because he is an Igbo man but he is also a political leader. He should not be seen to be working against the interests of his own people. Amaechi has been engaged in provincial politics, but here we are talking about national politics, so he should learn how to play national politics, otherwise he would be tagged a betrayer of his own people. What I expect him to do now is to apologise to the Igbo. He should also say that the statement credited to him was a slip of tongue, and henceforth, he should be part of the team that will work for the actualisation of Igbo Presidency in 2023.
As one of the activists that took part in the June 12 struggle, what’s your reaction to the Federal Government’s decision to celebrate the maiden June 12 Democracy Day by inviting world leaders to grace the ceremony?
It is a good step in the right direction. We have to commend President Buhari for having the courage to do the right thing by honouring the memory of the late M.K.O. Abiola and others who lost their lives during the June 12 struggle. By doing this, Buhari is strengthening national unity. Those of us who are part of the struggle for June 12 that are still alive are happy with the decision of the Federal Government to celebrate maiden June 12 Democracy Day by inviting world leaders to Nigeria for the event. Forces of darkness behind the annulment of June 12 have now been put to shame.
Some Nigerians are suggesting that the Federal Government should change June 12 Democracy Day to M.K.O. Abiola Day, what’s your take on that?
June 12 is still okay. When you talk of June 12, everybody knows you are talking about M.K.O. Abiola. If you change it from June 12, you will create confusion. What we should demand for is that a national monument like the Eagle Square in Abuja should be named after M.K.O. Abiola. When you talk about June 12, you are talking about Abiola. What I expect us to do now is that M.K.O. Abiola should be recognised as one of the nation’s former presidents. His picture should be in Aso Rock with that of the other past presidents of Nigeria because Abiola won an election. Also as a symbol of the nation’s democracy, the National Assembly Complex in Abuja should be named after Abiola.
Declaring June 12 Democracy Day as a public holiday is not enough without officially declaring Abiola as a former President of Nigeria. Abiola won an election, and it is for that reason that June 12 was born. President Buhari should just send a bill to the National Assembly which should be passed by the Senate, and this will make it possible. It is not that Abiola is coming from the grave to become President of Nigeria but it will just be a symbolic gesture. I know that with the June 12 Democracy Day declaration as a public holiday by President Buhari, I know that some enemies of June 12 like former President Ibrahim Babangida will be crying and weeping in his house. I’m sure that he would by now be saying that if he had known, he would have done what was right on June 12 when he was in power.
You just mentioned now that former President Babangida would be regretting for failing to do the right thing over June 12, but some Nigerians are also saying that former President Olusegun Obasanjo also should apologise to Nigerians for failing not only to honour late M.K.O. Abiola, but also for not recognising June 12 as Democracy Day when he was in power
Obasanjo is a chameleon, you can’t predict him. He ought to make restitution and apologise to the nation over June 12, for failing to honour M.K.O. Abiola, and to declare the day June 12, as Democracy Day, but Obasanjo I know will never do that. If you ask Obasanjo to apologise or make restitution, he will become angry. Obasanjo is the type that will not do that because of ego. He always wants to shine above others. He sees himself as being over and above others. He always wants to be seen as somebody that has created a record that others can’t equal. We don’t need to ask him to apologise. But in fairness to Obasanjo, he has done a lot for the peace and unity of this country. He believes in one Nigeria, and he is even prepared to die for Nigeria, but he is a selfish leader.
What is the way out of the present state of insecurity?
I don’t know how President Buhari sleeps with all these things happening all over the country. But I’m expecting him to address the nation on the problem of insecurity. All Nigerians want to hear him speak on how he intends to address this festering problem of insecurity.
The comparison of Miyetti Allah with the Afenifere, Ohanaeze, and PANDEF by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media, Mallam Garba Shehu has been generating reactions, what’s your own reaction to that?
That’s an insult. You are not using Arewa Consultative Forum as a comparison to Afenifere, and Ohanaeze but Miyetti-Allah, how possible? Some of these people just want to create problems for President Buhari. I believe President Buhari must have warned him. Shehu Garba should be ignored. He needs to examine himself. Is he okay? Nigerians should ignore him. I believe President Muhammadu Buhari meant well for Nigeria but some of his overzealous aides should not create problems for him. They should watch some of their utterances.
To show you that Buhari loves Nigeria, he was recently quoted as expressing support for restructuring and return to a true practice of federalism. He however should caution some of his aides who through their actions are making enemies for him.