PETER Obi, vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in 2019 general elections, is a delight to interview when discussing the challenges facing the nation. His succinct views on the economy, insecurity, poverty, education can help to lift the nation to greater heights should the leadership of Nigeria at all levels heed his suggestions. Unlike many Nigerians, who are arm chair critics, Obi had the chance to implement his preachments when he was the governor of Anambra State for eight years and harvested good yields. This made his tenure to be adjudged as one of the best moments of governance in the history of the State. His stupendous successes could be easily seen in how he changed the face of education in the State with practical and implementable educational polices and infrastructural development. He was prudent in managing the resources of Anambra and refrained from plunging the state into debt and saved a whopping sum for the State.
After politics at the State level, Obi has moved to national politics and has been very proactive in keep touch with base and doing what he loves most, visiting schools and inspiring young people to do their best to be able to take over as the leaders of tomorrow. Given his busy schedule and ubiquitous travels, it was very difficult for Realnews to pin Obi down for interview for more than one year. However, luck smiled on Realnews when he spared less than 30 minutes early June to grant an exclusive but concise interview to Maureen Chigbo, editor of Realnews while rushing for another meeting where he was to take part in a conference in Lagos. It was vintage Obi at his best suggesting way forward out of the leadership and security morass Nigeria is in. Also, who is he supporting in the forthcoming PDP primary in the State and what is his assessment of South East governors’ handling of insecurity in the region? plans of PDP to recapture Anambra, presidency of South East extraction, are among other topical issues that he dealt with in this thought-provoking interview. It is a must read. Enjoy! Excerpts.
Realnews: There is so much tension in the land. The South East States used to be regarded as very peaceful but not anymore. Now everything is topsy-turvy. What do you think is happening? Is it a case of federal government doing everything to cause chaos in the states and give a dog a bad name in order to invade the states and destroy it?
Obi: Well, for me, it is a combination of all sorts of things. First, I will say that the general insecurity in Nigeria is the cumulative effect of leadership failure over the years; not addressing the issues that we need to address, ie, education, health and the economy. And that cumulative effect has reached where it is affecting all sections of Nigeria, compounded with the fact that right now the South East as you know, whenever the cry about marginalization and everything, people are like oh, it is not true. But as you can see today, it is obvious. It is there. Everybody can see it. And then we have a situation where they live in a system where there is a sense of not being wanted. And that has worsened the situation. And you have a situation of economic problem where you have millions of young people unemployed. You have also a situation where the South East feel a sense of marginalization, a sense of not being wanted. So it is a combination of all sorts of things.
Realnews: The situation that exists in the South East is not as bad as what obtains in Katsina, Zamfara, Maiduguri, Bornu or Kaduna where you have cases of kidnap of school children or killings going on a daily basis. Such did not happen in the South East until recently when there has been burning of police stations and INEC offices and correctional facilities in Imo. Why is South East being singled out for special operations unlike what obtains in other crisis prone areas?
Obi: It is a case of dealing with people in different situation. A case of this people must be dealt with in a different way. If you are talking about special operations where they were in the North before coming to the South East. In the South East, there is the peculiarity, a sense of you are not really wanted. You could see it. It is not a hidden thing. When you are talking about marginalization, it is not something people are trying to imagine. It exists. It is there. You could see it. You could feel it. It begins to creep into other areas and that’s why people are beginning to talk about issue of dealing with all this as a nation in terms of restructuring. Let’s deal with it as a nation for every zone to be more accommodated; so that every zone will feel a sense of belonging; every zone to be more productive to be able to deal with the economic problem.
Realnews: Part of the problem in the South East is that there has been a leadership vacuum which has been filled by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, which now has more followership than any other leader in the South East since the era of Chukwuemeka Ojukwu. How do you view this? Is it because the current leadership we have in the South East States is not doing what they are supposed to do?
Obi: You know I am not there any longer. So I won’t be able to blame anybody for anything. In the circumstance the governors found themselves, they are doing their best.
Realnews: You really think so?
Obi: … It depends on the support you are getting from the centre. I can tell you they are doing their best. There might be need for them to do more.
Realnews: What exactly are they doing that made you think they are doing their best?
Obi: None of them will you say that they have abandoned what they were elected to do. None of them. Really, the approaches are different. Some have engaged more. Some have, like I said, I am not there. It is when you are in the saddle that you can be able to expatiate more as to what is happening in Nigeria. It is all about the country. There is more followership, like when you go to the South West, Sunday Igboho has more followership. Go to South South, you see this happens when issues are not addressed properly.
Realnews: What is happening in Imo State right now is worrisome. Are you worried about the situation in Imo where people are being arrested at random and people are being shot?
Obi: I am very worried. I have followed it. It is not just in Imo, it is all over the South East where people are being subjected to all manner of arrests. Yes, we want things to be done properly. If people have problem, investigate the people, make the arrest and follow the law; follow due process. These are our brothers, our sisters and all of us have to be involved.
Realnews: You have talked so much about the economy, stating that if we get the economy right we can reduce the poverty in the country. How do we achieve that?
Obi: Just focused on the economy. It is not sophisticated. Start investing the resources of government genuinely in education, in health and that can pull people out of poverty.
Realnews: Are you saying for more than 50 years of our independence that we have not genuinely invested in education, health…?
Obi: Not at all.
Realnews: So what have we been doing all these years?
Obi: We have been preaching. I will not say it wasn’t done well in the 1960s when we had an economy and even in the 1970s when the economy was doing better than most countries we celebrate today in the world. Can you go and compare our reserve, our GDP with China in the 1980s. I am going to a conference today for Lateef Jakande, when he was in government in 1980, the GDP of Nigeria was more than China while the reverse is the case today.
Realnews: Election is coming up in Anambra State in November. How is PDP, your party preparing? Do you think your party can wrestle power from APGA?
Obi: We are not talking about wrestling power. We are talking about let the best person win. More importantly, let the best candidate win the election. It is not about power. It’s about party in the sense, look at what the party is there for. Look at their sincerity of purpose, what do they do? In looking at that you also look at persons. You know, let’s look at antecedents of person, who are saying I will do this, I will do that. If a man says to you, yesterday that everything is okay, when you know that everything is broken, will you trust him tomorrow to do the same thing again, that is the question.
Realnews: Of all the aspirants in your political party, who do you think is the best?
Obi: Let the best person emerge.
Realnews: PDP primaries is always rancorous. How are you going to manage the fall out of the primaries to ensure it does not affect the fortunes of the party during the guber election?
Obi: Everybody says that about PDP. It is the same thing about other parties. It is not just PDP, it is in every other party, I am telling you.
Realnews: How are you going to managing the crisis… PDP is peculiar. Already, it has about 15 candidates.
Obi: There is nothing we can do. One person has to win and others will have to support the winner. That’s why people like me is preaching every day, free and fair primary. I have never asked anybody to vote for anybody. Never. And I try whenever the party says to me get involved in doing this and that I ensure that the process is fair to everybody. The most important thing is the delegates, whoever they vote for we follow.
Realnews: There is something sensitive I want to ask. Have you ever met or discussed with Nnamdi Kanu to convince him to tone down his rhetoric?
Obi: No, I don’t have the privilege. I wish I have that privilege.
Realnews: I was thinking that he should have tremendous respect for you given that you attended his parents’ burial.
Obi: Well, I went to his parent’s burial because I and Nnamdi used to be in the same party. He used to be the chairman of APGA in London. So we used to know each other very well. But we lost touch to the extent that we don’t talk. So I won’t be able to but I would be able to make suggestions in different areas of the struggle.
Realnews: There has been attempts to provide infrastructure in Anambra State. The height of it came with the building of the Airport in the State. How do you see the airport? Is it something that is going to enhance the economy of Anambra State?
Obi: You know I avoid making comments on Anambra State as much as I can because where ever I go people say it is because you brought this man. Or because he doesn’t like him. And because I felt I have also left that space. Let the people of Anambra State make their choice and I respect their choice. My politics now is at the center. Like somebody who has joined a division two or division one and now you are in a premier league, you let the players there do their matches.
Realnews: Are you going to contest for the presidential race in 2023?
Obi: It is left for the party to decide. The party will decide. I am a party person.
Realnews: How do you see this bid for presidency of South East extraction in 2023?
Obi: The only reason Igbos are clamouring for this is because we have seen a sense of being marginalization; everything is being done to make us feel we are not part of it. We are saying since we are part of this we will be in it. The other zones one way or the other have had a feeling of being in this whether during the military or now. You know, somebody can say it has not been from the central, but you can see that during the military, it was from the centre and they served for a long time. There might be others who are feeling they have not been part of it so let us come together to see how we can accommodate those who have not had the chance at all. It is now a DNA issue.
Realnews: Do you think Igbos will get it?
Obi: I do not know. What Igbos require now is for the whole place to be restructured now and make it work more than the presidency. Let’s make the place work and it can work. And even those who are now agitating against restructuring will benefit more. I can tell you, and you can quote me anywhere, I can see a brighter future for them than those who are even clamouring for it.
Realnews: Is there any other information you will like to share with us?
Obi: Well for me, the leaders have to reflect and sacrifice for the country. The country has tremendous opportunity if the leaders can walk the talk. It is time to do that.
– June 21, 2021 @ 11:58 GMT |