A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and former national chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, in this interview with our Correspondent, KENNETH OFOMA, spoke on the recent meeting of Igbo political leaders at Camp Neya, Igbere, Abia State, country home of the Chief Whip of the Senate, Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu. He noted that it was a political movement that would champion the cause of producing a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023. Excerpts…
One of your resolutions at the Igbere meeting was a call on the two major political parties in Nigeria, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to cede their presidential ticket to South East. What are the steps you have outlined to achieve this objective and what actions will you take if that doesn’t happen?
First of all, I was a part and parcel of that meeting at Igbere and I also joined five others in signing the communiqué. So I’m a major stakeholder in that effort. Let me start with the fact that it’s like a movement; it is an unprecedented show of unity of purpose by Igbo political leaders. It has never happened before, not even in the First Republic that political leaders who are Igbo people across various lines will come under one roof and make a resolution on overall Igbo political interest.
So that is an unprecedented thing that happened and it’s a success on its own and it’s a milestone. Now going forward, we agreed that there is a need to sensitise and mobilise the very large Igbo population across the country for what is expected ahead.
There is no doubt that Igbo people have been politically apathetic since the return to democracy in 1999. The type of enthusiasm they showed in the Second Republic when Zik was the standard bearer of the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) and most Igbo people voted for the parry at that time is yet to be re-enacted. It was almost going to be re-enacted when Ikemba became the candidate, that’s the late Odumegwu Ojukwu, of APGA, but that was short-lived because of the leadership crisis. So here we are trying to mobilise, sensitise Igbo because Igbo say you first of all secure the floor before you begin to look for where you lay your mat. So based on that, that is one aspect that is going to be done in the future because this meeting is not a one off event, it’s just the beginning of a movement.
So in the next meeting we should be looking at setting up the machinery for this mobilisation and sensitisation as well as the lobbying group. The lobbying group may likely be two major lobbying groups. One will be to lobby the leadership of the PDP to look in the direction of the South E a s t .
And only PDP leaders in the movement will be qualified to do that and the same thing in the case of APC because there will be a lot of give and take for other political blocs to be able to collaborate and cooperate with us. That’s what we are looking at. We have not started looking at what we will do in the alternative because we are still optimistic that based on equity, justice and fair play South East stands a good chance of being considered. But when we are approaching, for instance, APC and PDP have not made official statement with regard to what their zoning attitude will be notwithstanding the fact that even PDP has it in its constitution under what they called rotation. But APC doesn’t have it in their constitution but after eight years as we expect that President Muhammadu Buhari will complete his two terms, after eight years of Buhari administration, it becomes a moral burden for the party not to look southward in continuation of its hold on the national power equation.
Maybe at the stage of consultation and sensitisation, the governors from the South East who apparently were no part of the meeting will be brought in because on the day of that meeting at Igbere, Ebonyi State Governor and Chairman of South East Governors Forum, Chief David Umahi, issued a statement distancing the governors from the meeting over what he called non-consultation?
Yes, perhaps the consultation was not sufficient, because there were conveners. If you look, I’m not one of the conveners so the convener and the host may be able to respond to that. But it’s all part of what we are talking about; we are going to lobby outsiders, political blocs, we have to start by lobbying those who probably didn’t understand what the whole thing was about. I read the advert distancing some people from that meeting and they were saying that they didn’t know the agenda of the meeting. And I know it’s typical of our people to always attach a message to the messenger. So because the Chief Whip of the Senate, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, is the host or was the host for that meeting, some people around him have started drumming up his presidential ambition, not him particularly, so there’s no doubt that some people may think that it is some subtle way of promoting that aspiration. But I’m sure that the communiqué and the content and its thrust, the focus would have cleared that doubt. But there is no doubt that subsequent ones will be better and I also anticipate that since we have started this very, very important movement from Abia State as it were, subsequent ones will also get to other states of South East. Igbo people say that to start the process of crying is usually difficult but once you start crying the tears will start flowing.