Obinna Odogwu, Awka
Lawmakers of Igbo origin in the National Assembly would need to work extra hard, build bridges, and of course, lobby their colleagues if the all-important South East Development Commission Bill would be passed. This was the submission of the former representative of Awka North and South in the House of Representatives, Chukwuemeke Nwogbo.
Nwogbo said that it would take the skills of the presenters of the bill to get their colleagues on board and that they need to seek help from other allied constituencies to pass the bill without which it would not scale through.
In this interview, the former lawmaker also spoke on other issues of national importance including Igbo presidency and restructuring.
Ndigbo have been making a case for Nigerian president of Igbo extraction. On the other hand, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere, PANDEF, Middle Belt, and others are making a serious case for restructuring. What are your thoughts on restructuring and Igbo presidency?
The truth is, I think that rightfully, the Igbo deserve a good shot at the presidency. But also, we should learn that we do not put all our eggs in one basket. Whilst we are looking for presidency, we should have a fallback position. What structure do we have out there that will best empower the people even if we do not have presidency? What structure do we have out there? What vehicle are we following to put us in the scheme of things? There are several parties. If you look at the parties, you will know who and whom owns what. You understand? If the Igbo man’s position is not best protected by party A and it is better for the Igbo man to follow party B, that will best protect our interest even if we do not have the presidential candidate. So, it is very important that we x-ray the Nigerian polity and see which vehicle best suits the Igbo man’s position even if it is not for the presidency. The structure is very important. Which party will give us the platform that will bring about an inclusive terrain that will make us compete with every other person on equal footing; where we have comparative advantage over most other tribes or zones in Nigeria? So, we know that we will do very well if we are given equal opportunity as other zones. Which party will best present that? So, whilst we are looking for Igbo presidency, we should have a fallback position. The Igbo man knows today that various political parties present different fate for the Igbo man, whilst we are looking for the presidency who should also know that it is a game of numbers. If we don’t get it, we will have to ensure that we latch unto a platform where the Igbo man gets his due in the national cake.
A prominent senator lamented on a national television that years after the civil war, the Federal Government especially this current one is still acting as if Nigeria is still at war with Ndigbo. Do you agree with him? What is the situation of the Igbo in the present day Nigeria years after the civil war?
Our situation is not good. It has never been good. The Igbo man is seen as a threat by the other tribes in Nigeria. We also have failed to be strategic as a people. I can tell you that it will not be for long because a lot of things are playing out in the polity today. Any man who holds the other down stays there with him. Nigeria can no longer be held down; the Igbo can no longer be held down because like water, we will find our level. So, we have to in all things try to be strategic. We are usually very emotional in our politics. We are a very emotional people. Whilst that is a natural attribute, we can also afford to try and be strategic. That is one thing that is happening with the promotion of Ohanaeze Ndigbo as an avenue for the Igbo people and I respect that. For the first time, people are lining up under one umbrella. There are few distractions but today majority of the Igbo are saying the same thing at the same time and that is a good thing. You see, with what is happening in Nigeria, when it goes full circle, the Igbo man will be emancipated but not without our efforts; not without strategy.
What is wrong with the South East Development Commission Bill? I know that, that bill has stayed for a long time in the National Assembly, and perhaps, you met that bill there? Why hasn’t it been passed? What’s wrong?
How many people do you have in the National Assembly who are supposed to benefit from the bill? How many legislators do you have? How many people do you have who can support the bill and ensure its passage? Look, it takes the skills of the presenters to get people on board. You need help from other allied constituencies to pass the bill. The promoters of the bill will need to build the bridge. If you don’t get enough help, the bill will never pass. And you know that you are perceived as a threat in the Nigerian polity. Everybody feels that you have what it takes to do it on your own. So, we must develop a skill to ensure that you get enough allies. That’s why I am saying that we need to be strategic as a people.
Looking at Buhari’s presidency for more than four years now, are you impressed with his leadership?
Whilst we know that there are certain things that we ought to have been doing that is not being done, whilst we also know that so many things that we have done which we ought not to have done yesterday, we also have to bear in mind that the problem of Nigeria today is not only a problem that is peculiar with Nigeria. It is a problem that has been long coming but we did not do much to stem it. The insecurity in the whole of this sub region is costing the government a lot of money; it is costing them a lot of sleepless nights. But I tell you, we are paying for the sins that are almost as old as over 50 years when politicians and people from various climes seek to do things which they ordinarily should not do for one mundane reason or the other. These things are coming to heads now. Our borders have remained unprotected. Today, most places are being taken over by insurgents. These are very trying times in Nigeria and I do not envy Mr President. Despite that the roads in the South East are currently being built, despite that the long outstanding Second Niger Bridge is going very well, Nigerians are still crying because of insecurity of lives and property. And that is sacrosanct. In fact, it is the number one thing. So, if you say to me that it is only dependent on Muhammadu Buhari, I will say to you that I don’t think so. You know why? These problems were created long ago. Things have come to heads now. Whether we will survive it, is a matter for another day. We need to be prayerful. We need to individually do whatever we can do to help this polity because these are trying times. There are policies being instituted. The country is borrowing money left, right, and centre to make sure that they do certain things but what portends the worst situation in Nigeria is insecurity.
Governorship election will take place in Anambra State in 2021. Lately, some persons are promoting the idea of zoning which is alien to our people. Would you want a competent governor who comes from any zone but has the ability to develop the state or any person who must come from a particular zone whether competent or not?
Initially, when I contested for governorship under APGA, I was one of the persons who were shouting themselves hoarse about balkanising the polity, zoning governorship. I actually stood for primaries under APGA against Willie Obiano and that was in defiance of the zoning thing. But in truth, I have come to realise that there is wisdom in zoning. Anambra North has had their shot at governorship. They will no longer say okay, we never did. In the spirit of fairness, Dr Peter Obi felt that it was sacrosanct that every zone felt included in the scheme of things. That argument you can’t fault. Today, the wisdom is becoming clearer. If like right now, the governorship is zoned to the South by some political parties, apparently, I cannot fault that wisdom because it will stem the competition. You may come up with an argument that it may likely throw up persons who are less than ready to take up that mantle but on the other hand, you will also see that in Anambra, whatever zone you go to, there are competent people who will be able to handle the affairs of the state. So, I think that there is reason in determining that Anambra State governorship seat should be zoned. One is to stem the rancour; two is to actually clearly x-ray the candidates very well and be able to make informed decisions as to who will best carry the flag from that zone.
What quality or kind of person would you want as next governor of Anambra?
Having served with Dr Peter Obi and under him, both as the President-General of Awka Development Union and as the member representing Awka North and South in the National Assembly, I can tell you that Anambra now and yesterday is always desirous of a servant, not a ruler. The governance of Anambra State is that of servitude; complete servitude and humility which was the face that made Dr Peter Obi succeed as Anambra State governor. What we are looking for now in a governor and what we should be looking for in a governor is someone without airs who is committed to service and who has a proven track record of service; someone who has a record of interacting well with people; who is not always struggling for presence. Anambra is filled with billionaires and men of means. And also men who have been round the world. Sometimes, we have too many egoistic people. So, we don’t need a governor with a large ego. We need a governor who is committed to service and who will in all things toe the path of humility and have a conciliatory spirit. Anambra needs a governor who is not easy to anger; a governor who is psychologically ready to make peace under most situations. A governor who does not have ego problems; who understands that he is the servant of the people and that governorship is just a passing phase and that what matters about governance is the legacy you live behind. That is who we are looking for and that is who we should be looking for.
How would you rate the performance of Governor Willie Obiano?
He came to power almost seven years ago. He has done what he can do for Anambra. And what is important is that after Governor Willie Obiano, we will have another government. We know today, what Obiano is doing and how he is doing it. What is important is that in the next one year plus, Obiano is going to leave. Willie is doing what he can do for Anambra State. There are few policies that are good; others are not so good. We are urging him to stem security, give us road, stable polity. But beyond that, Obiano’s term is petering out. What is important is that if there are deficiencies, we will look for governorship in a person that will correct the errors or continue the good things that the current government is doing.