Former Secretary of Ebonyi State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Chaka Nweze, in this interview with UCHENNA INYA, speaks on the the 2023 presidency, the clamour by the South-East to produce the next president and agitations in the zone, among other issues
There is the belief in some political quarters that the APC will zone its 2023 presidential ticket to the South. Do you share this view and what makes you think that the party will take such position?
The APC is a party founded on justice and equity. It strives to meet the yearnings of Nigerians and knows that the only way to assuage the feelings of people presently is to zone the presidency to the South. It also knows that that this is the only way to douse the lingering socio-political tension in the land. The northern oligarchs within the party wants to use zoning of the presidency to the South to douse this tension but however, achieve their aim of reclaiming the position soonest by enticing former President Goodluck Jonathan whom it had been romancing with of late, for him to serve four years and return power to the North. From all indications, it is clear that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has no plans to zone the presidency to the South. The recent crisis within its fold was caused by the ambition of a South- South governor to forcefully remove the party’s national chairman to pave the way for him to become a running mate to a northern candidate. The APC on the other hand has shown a body language which suggests that its ticket will go to the South. Recently, a former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, visited Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State to inform him of his plans to contest for the APC national chairmanship position. Sherriff is a seasoned politician. From his experience in the game, it would be fool-hardy of him to commence consultations to become the APC national chairman if he has not gotten the signal that the party’s presidential candidate will come from the South.
What do you suggest that Ndigbo should do to realize their dream of producing the next president?
Igbo political leaders within the APC should unite and commence immediate consultations with all power blocs and brokers within the party and entire country to sell the idea of zoning the party’s presidential slot to the South-East. They might not stop Jonathan’s defection to the APC but they should make it known to the northern oligarchs within the party that the only way to return Nigeria to the path of stability is to zone its presidential slot to the South-East. The APC had preached peace, unity, fairness and equity and this is an ample opportunity to show that it truly believes in the oneness of the country and confound those who posit that the present government had greatly marginalized Ndigbo in several ramifications. The most proactive way for the Igbo leaders to achieve this is to be united, sort all contending issues amicably and purge themselves of all divisiveness among other acts capable of truncating the Igbo presidency dream. Igbo leaders aspiring for the office should be sensible and apply utmost caution towards their ambitions so that when it is needed that they come together to take a united, common front, they would not be found wanting. They should eschew all personal considerations and place the interest of the zone above all other interests, to ensure that this opportunity does not elude them. Though we should give the presidential slot our best push, it will even be better to get a vice presidential slot than to allow former President Jonathan to rule for another four years. This is so because it will be better to wait for eight years to intensify the presidential bid with increased gusto than waiting for 12 years or even more that we are not sure of.
But the move by some members of your party to get Jonathan to join the APC is gaining momentum by the day. What is your take on that?
Ordinarily, I should not have been concerned over the defection because it is his alienable political right to defect from a party to another of his choice. The point for concern, however, is that it will affect the chances of the Ndigbo to lay claim to the presidency of the country if it finally becomes true. I was one of those who alerted the public, especially, Ndigbo when the plan was still being hatched. However, it has become an open secret. I want to state categorically that such defection would amount to perpetual enslavement of Ndigbo politically if it materializes. The game plan is to give Jonathan the party’s ticket and if he wins, will surrender the presidential slot back to the North in 2027, having served his first tenure before losing to President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. This will potentially mean that the North will rule Nigeria again for another eight years (2027 to 2035) before the issue of Igbo presidency will come up again and would probably have lost complete steam by then.
Do you feel that political actors from other zones of the country will support the Igbo presidency project?
They have to accede to the yearnings of south easterners by voluntarily supporting moves to zone the presidency to the zone as was done to the South-West in 1999. Nigerians should remember that all political power brokers unanimously agreed to zone the presidential slot to the South- West to assuage the pains of the Yoruba over the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. The major political parties then zoned their presidential slots to the South-West and this has ensured the uninterrupted practice of democracy in the country since then. The other geo-political zones can still use the notion of assuaging the Yoruba hurt to the present case, where the issue of secession and marginalisation can still be adduced as reasons for unanimously allowing the South-East to rule the country. It will smack the highest level of injustice for someone from the South-West or South-South to rule the country again after Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan had ruled the country while no Igbo man had ruled.
Some people feel that Ndigbo have not accepted the APC as a veritable vehicle to actualize the presidency project…
Ndigbo are wise people and I am sure they would be wise enough to realise that the APC remains the only national vehicle to achieve the elusive presidential ambition. It is glaring to all that the impasse in the PDP is because some political gladiators, especially, from the South-South zone removed Uche Secondus for them to realise their vice presidential ambitions. Now that they have succeeded, the gladiators will facilitate the zoning of the party’s presidential ticket to the North, so that a governor in one of the states in South-South will actualise his vice presidential ambition. You can also see that the party’s former presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has revived his campaign structure and this glaringly shows that the PDP has no plans for the South-East. The APC has however shown through its actions, that it is desirous to enshrine equity in the country by allowing a south easterner stand a chance of succeeding President Muhammadu Buhari. The massive defection of bigwigs from other parties in the South-East to the party is a pointer and hopeful indication that its acceptance in the zone is total. Forget the seeming resentment in some sections of the zone. There are bound to be resentments when peoples’ interests are at stake but the majority would always have their way. The mass exodus to the party in Anambra, especially, a serving senator, members of the state House of Assembly, among other top shots shows that the people, being business oriented know what the gains from the centre are, and that APC has become a veritable tool to connect Ndigbo. The recent visit of President Buhari to Imo State despite the inconsequential issues of people staying at home on that day also shows that the APC is gaining grounds in the zone. Several doubting Thomases believed that Buhari will not come but he came and shamed skeptics. And with his statements about Ndigbo being the most enterprising and tenacious race, especially, in trade and commerce, shows that we are certainly going to have a look-in by the APC.
Invariably, you are hopeful that the dream of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction will materialize in 2023…
There is no Igbo man, who does not desire an Igbo presidency. Even those making case for secession will go into their shells once Ndigbo produce the next president in 2023. It is the desire of Ndigbo but the first obstacle to cross is the Jonathan’s challenge. We should commence immediate consultations and resistance and convince the North that we would gladly relinquish power to them after eight years. They should be made to jettison the idea of fielding Jonathan as the presidential candidate due to pecuniary interests. What they are searching in Jonathan, an Igbo man will produce better. Jonathan is our neighbour and carried Ndigbo along when he ruled the country. This is the time for him to see reason and not be used to truncate the Igbo cause. An Igbo presidency will douse all political tension and other forms of agitations in the country. Nigeria deserves peace, especially, this period of rising tensions and political implosions. So, our leaders should use justice, fairness and equity to douse such and reposition the country to the path of greatness. Buhari’s successor just has to be an Igbo man or we forget about ruling this country forever.