Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzo is the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council (OYC). In this interview with EMMANUEL IFEANYI, he speaks on the Igbo presidency project, governance in the South-East and insecurity, among other issues
2023 is not too far from now; what’s the take of OYC on the Igbo presidency project?
We’re fully in support of the project. However, there are two types of political agitations being clamoured by Igbo groups; one is South-East presidency in 2023 and the other is 2023 Igbo presidency project. Proponents of South- East presidency want all political parties to zone their presidential tickets exclusively to the South-East, while proponents of Igbo presidency project want all the presidential tickets of the political parties to be open to all Igbos from the seven Igbo speaking states.
Traditionally, the constitution and structure of Ohanaeze Ndigbo identifies Igbos in the seven Igbo speaking states, including Anioma in Delta State and Ikwerre in Rivers State. So, it will be an idiotic and selfish behaviour for any Igbo group to champion South- East presidency in 2023 and exclude Igbos in Niger Delta.
Are you saying that Igbo presidency as far as OYC is concerned is not just a South- East affair?
South-East presidency is not feasible and will surely divide Igbos and reopen the distrust between Igbos in the South-South and South-East. That is why the 2023 Igbo presidency project was initiated by OYC diaspora coordinators in 2019 with certified roadmaps and realisable steps. OYC had carefully dismantled the restructuring agenda of those supporting a northerner for 2023 with the hope of a vice presidential ticket for South-East, and had through persuasive approaches, since 2019 reached out to all the ethnic nationalities youth groups across Nigeria to influence their opinion leaders and groups to drum support for the Igbo presidency project. Most significantly, a pan Nigerian National Movement – ‘NatDev’ had been launched.
Are there visible challenges against the Igbo presidency project?
Evidently, there are many more bridges to cross. Also there had been sponsored campaigns to use Biafra agitation as an excuse to thwart 2023 Igbo presidency project. There are also attempts to deny Igbos the opportunity to get the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). There was a political meeting in Anambra State recently, where a former president from the South-West was brought in by a former Igbo governor eyeing PDP vice presidential slot and a former PDP minister from the South- West as well to deceive Igbos that they shouldn’t trust the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2023 for its presidential ticket. But that former president didn’t tell us if PDP was ready to give Igbos its ticket in 2023. We are equally aware that some Yoruba politicians are pretending to be supportive of Biafra agitation morally and systematically. Some Yoruba politicians are pretending to be friends of Biafra agitators and fighting for Igbo cause, but definitely they are secretly cutting the chances of Igbos in 2023. A former PDP governor and ex-minister are the ringleaders of these rogue assignments to divide Igbos ahead of 2023 but we will surely not allow them.
What impact do you think achieving Igbo presidency project will have on Nigeria and Ndigbo?
The 2023 Igbo presidency project is the only project that will strengthen the unity of Nigeria. It’s the most equitable project that will guarantee the future of Nigeria through addressing the crisis in North-East, bringing succor to all Igbos scattered in the 774 lo-cal government areas in Nigeria, and restore confidence amongst Nigerians. There will be inevitably introduction of Igbo entrepreneurial vigour and spirit in governance if an Igbo emerges as President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor in 2023. We believe that no amount of weapons can stop an idea whose time has come. For the Igbos, they believe that Igbo presidency will not solve all that bedeviled them, but an Igbo president will assuage and comfort all those ill-feelings of marginalisation that fuels Biafra agitation. It will offer that sense of belonging to the Igbos to pursue industrialisation. The Igbo man in Aba, Zungeru, Lagos, Potiskum or Yenagou has invested his faith in Nigeria. All he wants from Nigeria is the sense of belonging of a first son; a shared sense of belonging with the Fulani and the Yoruba. He wants a platform for the maximisation of his God’s given potentials. So, in summary, the difference a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction can make on the current state of Nigeria are very enormous. One, it will help to revamp the economy through industrialisation with good economic policies that will blow up Nigeria potentials to regain her prideful place as the giant of Africa. Secondly it will address the issues of Biafra agitation and perceived feelings of marginalisation. You know that there are over N22 trillion worth of investments and properties of Igbos in the 19 Northern states.
Should the Igbo presidency project fail, what do you think is likely to play out?
There might be increased pressure from Biafra agitators and it is likely to make the Niger Delta militants to see reasons to fight alongside Biafra agitators against whoever that emerges that is not Igbo. The effects of the failure to have a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction on the country post 2023 election will be catastrophic and it’s better avoided than witnessed. You have heard from prominent Igbo elder statesmen threatening to join the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) should the conspiracy to deny Ndigbo the presidency sail through. That’s why OYC is pleading with Nigerians to avert the crisis of post 2023 elections by supporting the Igbo.
How would you assess the policies of the Buhari administration in terms of infrastructural development in the South-East?
The Buhari government has been fair to Ndigbo through visible evidence of infrastructural developmental strides in the South-East irrespective of the obvious rejection by the Igbo during the 2015 and 2019 elections. Sincerely, President Buhari’s harmonious relationship with the South-East Governors Forum has paid off for the zone. We can now verify that there are night landing facilities at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu. It now accommodates more international flights and one can now connect Igboland from any part of the world. There’s also evidence and hope that the Second Niger Bridge might be commissioned before 2023. We appreciate most projects sited in the South-East but insist that the railway project financed with Chinese loans should be extended to the South-East. We are in dire need of Eastern Railway lines that will connect to all capital and commercial cities in the zone for increased economic activities.
Is OYC comfortable with the calibre of governors in the South-East?
OYC, at different fora, has commended the maturity exhibited by the South-East Governors Forum in the face to insecurity challenges and projections of the zone. Collectively, the governors are not weak as being portrayed by some Igbo elders. In the absence of the South-East at the centre, especially with no Igbo man as president, vice president, Senate president, Deputy Senate president, Speaker of House of Representatives, Chief Justice of Nigeria or even Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the mantle of political leadership lies on the shoulders of the governors and you know that four out of five of them, belong to the opposition parties of PDP and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Many expect them to become antagonists of President Buhari’s government and they will be applauded as heroes and fighters like one unproductive Igbo senator portrays himself at the floor of the Senate without visible evidence of attracting projects to the South-East. So, the South-East Governors Forum led by Governor Dave Umahi has successfully attracted enough infrastructural development through the harmonious relationship with President Buhari. We applaud their foresightedness and their humility should not be mistaken as weakness, because to kneel is to win.
Cities in the South-East are linked to each other; do you see a regional economic framework as the way to develop the zone?
We are putting pressure on South- East governors on the need for a regional economic framework that will develop Igboland for the next 30 years. With the unity amongst the governors, OYC proposes ‘Alaigbo Vision 2050,’ which will surely guarantee the development of our region.
How do you see the fight against insecurity; is the Federal Government doing enough?
The Federal Government has been battling with the issues of insecurity challenges in the North since 2015, which was one of the cardinal reasons why Nigerians voted for APC. Nigerians rejoiced when President Buhari relocated the Force Headquarters to the North-East to deal with the Boko Haram insurgents. Afterwards, there were many proclamations at different times by military chiefs claiming victory over Boko Haram insurgents, but unfortunately, Boko Haram insurgents remained undefeated. Instead of victory we were made to believe, violence escalated, before you know it a twin sister terrorist organisation emerged, the dreadful bandits, who have held North-West in captivity have become more ruthless and sophisticated in their modus of operandi more than Boko Haram insurgents. We believe that Northern leaders have failed the North and their silence in the face of this calamities are the affirmative evidences that they’re guilty, having failed to secure lives and properties of Northerners. We are aware of the success of Chadian troops at the Lake Chad border region. We equally saw leaked video clips, where top Nigerian military officers complained the army is ill-equipped and are fighting with obsolete ammunitions. The Federal Government without any further delay should do the needful. It should purchase and equip the military with modern and sophisticated weapons. Again, they should investigate if the alleged sabotage in the military by some corrupt officers to continue to milk nation’s huge budgetary allocation under the guise of fighting insurgency without evidence of tangible results is true. We also expect President Buhari to consider the recommendations and suggestions of the Senate and notable Nigerians to sack the service chiefs, which have become inevitable. Sincerely, there’s a school of thought that believes that only service chiefs from Southern Nigeria will end the conflict and insecurity challenges in the North. So, President Buhari should try service chiefs from the South and see if insurgency will not disappear in the North within six months as service chiefs of northern extraction have tactically failed to defeat Boko Haram insurgents.