GODDY Uwazuruike, lawyer and political analyst, speaks to the Realnews team of Anayo Ezugwu and Benprince Ezeh on the state of the nation and in particular, on why he is in the race for the president general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo
Realnews: Why are you vying for the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo?
Uwazuruike: I’m vying because, one, it is zoned to Imo State indigenes only. Imo State indigenes were asked to come out and I’m responding to the call of Ohanaeze that Imo State indigenes and Imo State Indigenes only should contest for the president-general. Two, I have what it takes. Educationally, I’m a lawyer and a practicing lawyer and professionally, I’m qualified. In terms of experience in Igbo affairs, I have been President General of Aka Ikenga. In terms of national experience, I have been there at the National Conference and I know what it means. In terms of day-to-day activities, I’m known as the defender of Igbo affairs in the press. Anywhere, if you insult an Igbo person and it comes to my knowledge, I respond. I never shy away from responding. I have never tried to look good before you by pretending I’m not Igbo. I’m Igbo to the core and I’m proudly Igbo.
Realnews: Are you aware of the Imo State elder’s consensus to make Professor George Obiozor the President General of Ohanaeze?
Uwazuruike: I’m aware of it and I was there the day they announced him, but I can only smile or grin because under the Ohanaeze Constitution, there is nothing like consensus. All that is required is that you must be from Imo State. That is all, nothing more. If somebody gathers a group of 10 or 15 people and they sat down in one room and say, yes, we have decided that this man is our choice, how does it affect Ohanaeze? Or you take that person to the governor and say governor this is the man we have chosen, how does that affect Ohanaeze? That man will come out like any other candidate. All they are doing is to massage his ego, nothing more, nothing less.
Realnews: Were you invited to that meeting where the decision was taken?
Realnews: Were you also invited to that meeting where the governor was present?
Uwazuruike: We were not invited to the meeting where the governor was present. We were invited by Chief Iwuanyanwu as chairman of stakeholders to come for a meeting and I was there and so was Dr. Joe Nworgu and Prof. Chidi Osuagwu and so was Prof. George Obiozor. We sat down. Kola nut was brought, blessed, broken and we were there waiting to know why they called us and Chief Iwuanyanwu asked the secretary to read what they have decided based on our CV. And they read and said they have adopted Prof. Obiozor as their consensus candidate. One or two persons spoke and they were happy. And I noticed that most of those present are from Oru East Local Government, which is Obiozor’s local government and they clapped and clapped, then Obiozor was asked to respond and he thanked them for choosing him. No reference to his co-contestants. Thereafter, one of those present, who is not from Oru, said can we know the other contestants. That was when they read our names. When I stood up like others people were surprised and we were not asked to say something and no contestant responded. In other words, we did not know why we were there? Thereafter the meeting ended and how that affected me I don’t know. If you wanted to screen us, you will say by the powers conferred on you by the constitution of Ohanaeze, which is not so. There is no such power delegated to anybody to decide for Imo people. I could easily gather some red cap chiefs and call them stakeholders and they will adopt me as their consensus candidate. So as far as I’m concerned, those things are not real and they can’t work.
Realnews: Categorically, with the development so far, are you still in the race?
Uwazuruike: Not only am I still in the race, I’m fully ready for the election. Election into Ohanaeze is state by state delegates and it is by secret ballot. This Sunday, Ohanaeze is going to present electoral panel in Enugu. It is this electoral panel that will now give out modalities based on Ohanaeze’s Constitution. They will not bring out anything new that is not based on Ohanaeze Constitution. We know what is going on at the moment. There is a particular person, who wants to package Ohanaeze body and soul in a particular direction for the benefit of some people. There is still another person who has formed his own Ohanaeze and he is threatening to go to court to say he owns Ohanaeze. So one wants to package Ohanaeze for his own benefit, while the other person wants to claim ownership, both of them are actually working for the benefit of some people. And we the members of Ohanaeze will not be here and watch this kind of tragedy befall Ndigbo. Nwodo has done very well and we must sustain the momentum, but to now destroy everything he has done is nothing but tragic.
Realnews: Are you worried that the establishments are working to hijack Ohanaeze Ndigbo, especially some southeast governors?
Uwazuruike: I think so far it is only one person, who has actually showed interest, but as I always say, let the best person win. That is my reading of what is going on. Let the best candidate emerge because 2023 is very important for us. Are we going for presidency or not? We need the President of Ohanaeze to show the light. If we bring someone who wants to renegotiate, then 2023 will pass and the man will still be wondering what happened.
Realnews: What is so special about Ohanaeze and Ndigbo in general that interest groups like Myetti Allah is interested in who becomes the next president of Ohanaeze?
Uwazuruike: I know that some people have an obsession about Ndigbo. The obsession is essentially this, will an Igbo man be president, and they don’t want to hear about it? Will there be restructuring, they say that means Ndigbo will also benefit? Will there be a level playing ground, no, they don’t want it. So for Myetti Allah and any other group showing interest is expected because they have always focused on Ndigbo. Whenever they want to attack the south, remember they mean Ndigbo. They don’t mean Yorubas and for one reason or the other, there have been this fear that if an Igbo man becomes president of Nigeria, he will do this and that. We keep telling them that your fears are unfounded. Let me give you some examples, before the war, Igbos were very high in governmental activities. During the war, many people suffered and the Igbo that went to war is not the Igbo that came out of the war. The Igbos learnt a lesson. In 1970, Rangers Football Club sprang from nowhere. Eastern Football Academy sprang from nowhere. What about the musicians? Warrior and others were the elementary tools of unity. What about Zebrudaya and his group, they were the once sustaining us so that by 1971 the vestiges of the war were no longer visible in the Igbo person except in one area, he has no confidence in the government doing anything for him. Self-aggrandizement there, expectations there, but an average Igbo man after the war worked hard as an individual to make it in life. And this is where we saw the emergence of Nnewi business, Aba, apart from its decadent state now moved quickly. The average Igbo man started struggling for himself without looking up to the government to the extent that communities were the ones who developed their areas. Not government. I will give you an example, Imo Airport led by Sam Mbakwe, we contributed money and it is the only airport built by the people. Others are trying to learn. So, if you are now looking at the Igbos that came out of the war, personal struggle is there. And it is this struggle that still surprises people. The Yorubas have a saying that if you go to any place and you do not see an Igbo man, you better go back, nobody can live there. It is that desire to make it that makes Igbo man take all kinds of risk to survive and this is what is still outstanding. In other words, people see us and say how did you manage. There must be something you are doing I’m not aware. And it is that suspicion that has turned into obsession that says stop the Igbo man. Stop him from where? When our brother became Chief of Army Staff, Boko Haram was fought and what did they do, they petitioned the world bodies that there is genocide led by an Igbo man. Even the then Governor of Adamawa State, a retired Naval Chief, wrote an open letter that Igbos are actually the ones behind Boko Haram and that Boko Haram is an Igbo unit and stood by it. But we all know that Boko Haram is a Kanuri affair, yet it suited him as a governor to write that. So any Igbo man knows that he has to eat by the brow of his sweat. He does not believe in government doing anything for him. If government comes in, fine. So it is that suspicion that this man the way he is going, if you make him president, don’t you think he will be bigger than he is now. Igbos are not that big in terms of financial wealth. The top 10 richest Nigerians, there is no Igbo man there but move to the next 80, you will see Igbos. They say when an Igbo man comes, he brings another Igbo man. In other words, the apprenticeship system in Igboland is what they are afraid of. In Ojuelegba now, you see those small boys wearing slippers, the food they eat is the leftovers from their masters. Those boys sleeping in the shops, come back in the next six years, they have done their freedom and set-up their businesses. Come back in the next 10 years, they will be big men and that is still what is surprising people. So that suspicion that there must be something there, but we Igbos will not allow the suspicion to continue. We as leaders have worked hard to disabuse the minds of the doubting Thomas about us. At the National Conference, we made everything clear. In Igboland everywhere is free. I remembered my friend, former minister of police affairs, he is from Yobe. When he contested for governor of the state under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, he was saying that Igbos own more shops in Damaturu than the northerners own all over Igboland. I laughed and said did you dash them the shops? He said no that they paid for it. I asked again, is anybody stopping you from buying land in Igboland and he said no. What is your problem? If I can buy from you, come and buy from me as well. We have our problem. We invest more outside than inside, which is negative. After the war, we learnt that lesson. We invested more at home up to 1990. From the year 1995, we expanded to Africa. That is why in most parts of Africa, when you hear of Nigerian business, they mean Igbos. We moved to the world, what are we doing in America now, we are moving. Yorubas are moving. Nobody is stopping anybody. So Igbos are forward looking, make any of them president of Nigeria. Let me give you an example, if you make Peter Obi the President of Nigeria today, you can’t go to Peter and say let us arrange to share some money, he will not listen to you. He will rather use the money to build a road that you and I will pass. His children will also pass there. Peter Obi will meet opposition, yes, because they don’t understand why he should not be sharing the money, but he will succeed at the end of the day. Make him a president of Nigeria and see how things will turn.
Realnews: If you become the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, what will be your first target as an Igbo man?
Uwazuruike: My first target is called public relations. Second one, is motivation. Of course, third one is proper direction for our youths because without the youths you are wasting your time. And finally, the government, there are many things we can do and there are many things we cannot do. But the state governments, we have to work hard on them. I will give you an example, in 2007, C.C. Onoh, Prof. Okonjo, Dr. Dozie Ikedife, all of us were in a big room in Nike Lake Hotel with the five governors and so many other people. We spent two nights and all the heads of government, commissioners, everybody was out and we talked and looked into Igbo affairs.
One of the things we agreed was, what is wrong with us coming down to that place where the
five Igbo states actually met and have a city there. We agreed, but over time we lost our sense of
direction essentially because Governor Ikedi Ohakim lost re-election, so decision making became
a problem just like it is a problem now. But we have to work on the governors to realize that they
can’t be a governor forever because it is what you have produced that you and your children will live on. Those who pioneered Imo Airport, have they stopped other people from using it? A good man builds for posterity. A bad person thinks of here and now. So as president of Ohanaeze, I’m going to be forward looking, knowing that I have only four years to make impact and let it stick. Our women are anxious to have a very good voice, a visible voice that will give them courage. If you have someone like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala or Onyeka Onwenu, why can’t we give them the entire support? I remembered what I told Oby Ezekwesili some years ago even before she became minister; she was special adviser to Obasanjo. She came to visit us in Aka Ikenga, I told her one thing. I said look, the women are making us proud, but we are not so sure of the men. She just looked at me. For me, it does not matter the religion or denomination you belong, but think home. Igbo first, Igbo middle and Igbo last.
Realnews: When you consider your position of think Igbo first, there is a serious concern in the southeast over insecurity. The herdsmen have invaded the region and what will Ohanaeze of your leadership do differently if elected to deal with the situation?
Uwazuruike: Well, there is this slogan that was in Radio Biafra, I was very small during the war too young to do anything except hang around. Radio Biafra was a source of news and at the time for news everybody must suspend whatever he was doing. One of the things that preceded every news is: “Onye ndi iro gbara gburugburu n’eche nde ya nche mgbe nile, Umu Biafra onye arahuna ura.” In simple language, if your home is surrounded by hostile forces, you don’t go to sleep. So as President General of Ohanaeze, I must work with the governors to let them understand that today you are surrounded by security, tomorrow when you are an ex-governor; you are just like any other person, even if you are surrounded by heavy security, what about your kits and kins. We are talking of regional security, the Inspector General of Police or the federal government is talking about community policing without any substance and we keep laughing. The Yorubas have gone for Amotekun. The state police has always been there in the north called Sharia Police. The Yorubas didn’t consult the federal government before setting up Amotekun. They launched it first and with time those states that are lukewarm about it will understand what was done by the governors of Oyo and Ondo states. With time as president-general of Ohanaeze, we will involve the youths. Fulanis cannot come from somewhere to know my area more than me. Yes, the Fulanis do not forget, I know they have a long memory, but the consequences of coming to invade my home will always be there. They will feel free if they come once and not challenged. See, the federal government knows the consequence of these people becoming a menace. What has just happened in Borno State means that for anybody to go for farming there in the years to come, they know what to do. If you venture into farming without their consent, you are in trouble. The food basket of Nigeria has always been Taraba, Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa states, for years now, they will farm and herdsmen will come and destroy everything. In other words, the supply of food has dwindled and the cost has increased and we ask the government, we hope you know what you are doing? All President Muhammadu Buhari has said is that we should accommodate our brothers. We knew what he meant. People have been massacred and those who massacred them should be accommodated. In Igboland, we do not behave like that, we own farms and I spent time clearing my farm, I spent time farming and when it is time to harvest, you come and destroy my farm. You have destroyed me. So if Fulani people want to settle in my home, there is no problem. You can come and live like any other person just like I can live in Kano. But I don’t live in Kano at the expense of Kano people. People must distinguish between the Hausa and Fulani. Hausa people have always lived among us. In Umuahia, where I grew up, we still have Ama-Hausa. I went to school with many of them at St. Michaels Catholic School. One of them is a lawyer practicing in Bauchi State. In different parts of Igboland, we have them, but they are not the ones doing the killings.
Realnews: Ahead of 2023, the Igbos are faced with choosing between Igbo presidency and restructuring. As a stakeholder in Igbo affairs, which direction should the Igbos go in 2023?
Uwazuruike: There are two other dimensions to it. One, things will remain as they are. The other one is for Biafra Republic. There is still another one that said restructuring and presidency. My answer is very simple, all these things are for the benefit of Ndigbo. Personally, I will ask, will a president who does not believe in restructuring do any restructuring? The answer is no. Buhari will never do any restructuring because he doesn’t believe in it. So for 2023, which is a year fixed for the next general elections, the Igbos should go for presidency and then work with other areas to restructure Nigeria. So, if we wait for restructuring first before going for presidency it means you will forego 2023. If you forego 2023, another person will be there for eight years and you don’t even know what he will do. And there is no guarantee. Somebody said restructuring first, so you have to sit down and wait for restructuring even in if it is for the next 100 years. If they don’t restructure at all, you continue to live under this situation. On presidency, I say look whatever comes around goes around. When the Yorubas were contesting, we had two Yorubas Olu Falae and Olusegun Obasanjo, nobody said Yoruba presidency. In 2007, we had Buhari and late President Yar’Adua and even Atiku, we didn’t say Fulani presidency. Now we are talking of 2023, people are emphasizing Igbo presidency. There is nothing like Igbo presidency. As far as I’m concerned, it is president of Nigeria of Igbo origin. That is the way I understand it. Others may think of any other thing else, but my understanding of it is president of Nigeria of Igbo origin.
– Dec. 11, 2020 @ 15:29| GMT |