The plot by some Northern elements of Nigeria to hold on to power after the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari has drawn the anger of former Anambra State governor, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife. He tell OKEY MADUFORO at his country home Igwo-Ukwu Aguata Local Government Area that the nation’s unity depends on genuine rotational presidency
Stories have it that the North is positioning one of their own for 2023 presidential election at a time the Igbos of the South-East are making a case for their zone. What are your views?
Well, fairness is fairness, justice is justice. The three largest tribes in Nigeria are the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. No Igbo man has been elected president of Nigeria since independence. Yoruba man has been; Hausa Fulani man and even, an individual from the minority South-South has also been elected President.
The North has been dominating the leadership of Nigeria and the West has had a fair share, up to 11 years. That is if you add the military and the civilian administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. If we are still citizens if Nigeria with equal rights, it makes sense for the South-East to assume that they automatically should succeed President Buhari, not even 2023 but any time he leaves. The South-Easterners are determined.
Somehow, the Buhari government has been pushing the Igbo out of Nigeria as if they don’t want us here and the young men in IPOB are reacting to this push from government against the Igbos. The other Nigerians have not joined IPOB in their push because of their conservatism and the attraction of the large market and the hope that if Nigeria is restructured and returned to the structure that worked when the World Bank said some parts of Nigeria was growing faster than the rest of the world.
If restructuring is possible and fast coming, the older Igbos are not anxious to leave Nigeria. Personally, I wrote a paper sometime ago praising the permanence of one Nigeria, the economy, and all kinds of factors that make one Nigeria more important.
Can you elaborate further on what you mean by Buhari pushing Igbos out of Nigeria?
I am not sure it’s only Buhari. Every effort to put Igbos down started long before Buhari. Instances abound. Jim Nwobodo had Savanah Bank which was closed down by the Federal Government but in Buhari’s administration, it became too much. An Igboman was the biggest cement importer in Nigeria but for some reasons, the Federal Government pulled him down. Now, he is getting back but he can never measure up to the likes of Dangote. That’s not all, this man called Ifeanyi Uba, Capital Oil was the person who made Nigerians get petrol back because he has more than 30 per cent of the capacity. He pumped petrol out when his colleagues refused and eventually, we got petrol.
Capital Oil was owed heavy money by NNPC and somehow the government of Nigeria alleged something on Capital Oil and detained him, first for two week. Set him free, then picked him again.
Everything is being done to pull Igbos down. There is one man who is doing what one man can do alone and that is INNOSON. He has built automobile industry, building cars. One of the latest one is a jeep called Ikenga. You know what Ikenga means in Igbo land. INNOSON was arrested at his plant by EFCC and taken to Abuja for whatever we don’t know. What we do know is that the Supreme Court has decided the case between INNOSON and GTB and the decision was in favour of INNOSON with billions of naira to be paid to him, but that was the man Federal Government wants to pull down.
Then you may be aware of EMZOR Pharmaceuticals. They were said to be producing codeine and this drug had been in this country before I was born and I am 81 years old. It was alleged that the northern youths were sniffing codeine and for that, EMZOR Pharmaceuticals was closed down for some time and re-opened eventually.
Indeed, the Federal Government of the Buhari seems to have decided to pull the Igbo down.
Air Peace’s Chairman, Chief Allen Onyema, at the height of xenophobia decided to go and air lift Nigerians in South Africa with his own plane, Air Peace and we were all praising him. Then suddenly, the US raised some points we don’t understand and Nigeria jumped on it with the humiliating act of seizing his international passport-humiliation in the extreme.
Yet, as we are now beginning to learn that things are not as bad and he is not known to have done something definitely wrong. We are known as traders; it’s our major occupation. Our people will import and Customs will seize the containers and auction the containers to other Nigerians who are not Igbos.
A group of Igbo importers came to me, pleading with me to go and plead their case with the Customs saying that they are ready to buy back their containers instead of them importing and it will be auctioned to other people and they will go to them to buy it. So, in business, it is as if they want us out.
Then look at employment. If there is a list of people being laid off, especially the military, since Buhari came on board, he has been knocking down on the military. If you take a list of those being laid off, the Igbos are most dominant, followed closely by the South.
The most recent one is the same. If it is new appointment; if you make a list people who are newly appointed, Igbo people are absent. Recently, there was an appointment of 27 judiciary staff. The list had two people from the South, two from the West, two from the South-South and zero from the South-East. The remaining 23 persons that made the list were from the North. Recently there was promotion of police commissioners in Nigeria. The North-West had 12, other northern states had high numbers but not up to 12. Well in the case of Igbo people, only one was promoted. Anywhere you look at it, you will find humiliation, pulling down, marginalisation. The ultimate of the bad thing anybody can do to you is to remove you from the earth, that is, kill you. Our young ones wanted to have a memorial for the people who were killed during the Nigerian Civil War. They went to both Owerri and Onitsha to do it and what happened? They were arrested and killed off.
The most surprising one is that some Igbo people were rejoicing in Port Harcourt when Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America, but they were mowed down, killed. What offence will you call that? Well, you know about Operation Python Dance, our young men were kept in the mud and eventually they were killed. You can imagine that type of humiliation. You look at your people, they are in the mud, swallowing it. Everything has been done to make our people get out of Nigeria.
IPOB is reacting but we the older ones are praying that God will remember us and cause a change, but of course, there is something that may be the final push. However, we don’t want it again. If they want it that way, the South-East will kneel down to the North, West, South, Middle Belt as part of lobbying for the presidency. We will unite ourselves and we will prune it and make sure we get people who will work for Nigeria.
We will do anything anybody considers necessary for us to get presidency come 2023. But, if at the end of it because we are Igbos, our own is not elected, we will take it that everybody will know that we have been rejected as citizens of Nigeria. In our tradition, when a person is rejected, he does not reject himself. One rejected does not reject himself. So we will take it as the final push. It doesn’t matter if we are old or young.
Do you think the Igbos at this moment have a political party that is sympathetic to their course for the 2023 presidential ambition?
We want every political party that is serious to pick Igbo man as their flag bearer for presidency. That is the way it is done. Like the Obasanjo, Chief Olu Falae era in 1999.
Do you think the adoption of an Igbo candidate is plausible for the two major political parties, PDP and APC when the Igbos are not dominantly positioned in both parties, especially the party at the center, APC?
We expect them to adopt a South-Easterner as a candidate come 2023, knowing that the candidate would be elected. We expect them to consider justice, fairness and equity. We are not going to impose any candidate they want; we are not going to impose any candidate on them.
We believe that we will not have that kind of problem. In fact, some youths from the North came here on December 1, 2019. They came from Kano and they told that they are organising for other youths to support Igbo for presidency. Some old men like Balarabe Musa is saying same thing. Afenifere has come out to declare same support for Igbo presidency. Edwin Clark has been shouting from roof top that if we want Nigeria to be stable and progress, Igbos should be allowed their turn. Former President Ibrahim Babangida and the rest of them too.
As long as the government continues to keep Igbos down politically, Nigeria will continue to remain down politically, economically and so on. I believe it is time for Nigeria to make progress. Look at the Igbos, anywhere they go, they make progress. They have devoted their feet for one Nigeria and anywhere they go, they progress.
Igbo people want their children to be bigger than them. We don’t want a place or mind for people to stay and remain poor, we don’t have such place. We don’t want Talakawa and the issue of Talakawa will disappear with Igbo leadership in Nigeria. We don’t want the issue of almajaris, we will build and equip schools and everybody will go to school. Nigeria will better off because of our egalitarianism. God gave us egalitarianism and we are promoting it. Some of the problems we have is that people have learnt trade from us and they want us to go so they can monopolies the space but we come on board, it will not be about trading, we will ensure that education for all is number one and with education, there’s nowhere the country cannot go. We believe that good reason will prevail in the West among the Yourubas, in the North, among the Hausas and Hausa Fulani, in the middle belt, the South-South. With good reason, president of Igbo extraction will emerge. Good reason of fairness, justice and equity.
Per adventure this good reasoning fails to play out come 2023, are the Igbo elders, which include you, going to align with the IPOB to call for a pullout from the country Nigeria?
In such case, IPOB will join forces with the elders to move to an Igbo country, whatever it may be called.
Next year another governorship election take place to herald a change in the leadership of Anambra State. The state government has announced that power will shift from the North to the south. Being the father of Anambra South since the demise of Alex Ekwuene, are you not worried about that factions springing up in the South, the Ihiala, Nnewi and Old Aguate Union, OAU political block. Don’t you think it will impede on the zone having a consensus candidate?
Why should I be worried. There’s an agreement that the next governor should come from Anambra South. If there is no agreement to that effect, then I should be worried. All we are saying is, please keep the agreement, whether, you are from the central or North. So, we have no problem. Nnewi is in the South, Ihiala is South, as well as OAU, So, anybody that eventually emerges will be from the South. All we are saying is, let everybody respect the agreement.