At the 14th Zik Memorial Symposium Lecture organised by Ndigbo Lagos, last May 11, the cream of the Igbo gathered to celebrate the late Pan Africanist, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. They also took time to speak with UDUMA KALU on Igbo chances of becoming President of the Nigeria, in view of the perceived plan by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to contest for the top job next year, even though the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) says the presidency must rotate between the North and South. EXCERPTS:
Chief Ralph Uwechue, President General General Ohanaeze Ndigbo
The truth of the matter is that your question is very speculative. People have not yet declared who is running, or who is not running. Weâ€™ll cross the bridge when we get there. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has actually become President of Nigeria through good luck. Now, ourÂ job is to support him as he copes with the tasks confronting our country. Then the things he should rightly do? Take the position seriously. All Nigerians, including Ndigbo should support him, support him to make sure that our country succeeds.
He has already done one thing which indicates that he understands the base of our problems: power. No industry in Nigeria can survive with generators. What we produce is not enough for country. That is why we are importing cheap Chinese products. So, that by that action alone, he seems to know the base of our difficulties. All we need to do is to give him support in the direction that will lead to him succeeding and making Nigeria successful.
Disunity of Igbo: What we are doing today is extended in that direction. When we begin to know that we are one people, to honour those who sacrificed to bring the people together and fight for Ndigbo, we are on the path to coming together, thinking together and being united.Â We are working very hard to ensure that the Igbos begin to think together, and develop one legitimate master plan for the protection and projection of Igbo interest in Nigeria.
Until we achieve that, it does not matter how many people want to be to be president, not one of them will arrive there. Well, there will be programmes to ensure that we are united. For example, Yoruba did not vote Obasanjo. They preferred Falae.
They said all sorts of things against Obasanjo but he won with the support of other Nigerians. In 2003, Obasanjo whom they thought was a bad man in 1999, he was not opposed at all. AD, which was obviously a Yoruba based party, did not present a presidential candidate, not to spoil the chance of a man they thought was not good enough for presidency in 1999.
What does it show? Unity of the people. Unity of an ethnic group. Igbo have got to do the same. We are focused to get Igbo united. That is the expression: unity is strength…
Another Igbo State:Â Whatever happens, Igbo are the largest ethnic group in Nigeria. If they get their acts together and have one legitimate agenda for Ndigbo, no group in Nigeria will ignore it politically.
Prof. Anya O. Anya: Retired University don
People should stop talking â€˜when is my turn?â€™ Nobody gives you any turn. You organise yourself and you take it. So, itâ€™s not a question of when is my turn. The zoning as many people have pointed out is not in the Nigerian constitution. To that extent, itâ€™s a gentlemanâ€™s arrangement. A gentlemanâ€™s arrangement without consultation with the people who own the land.
Who are the people? Me and you. We are the ones who own the land. If you donâ€™t consult us, the zoning is of no effect. In any case, it is undemocratic.Â If you open up the place, a competition will throw up the best candidate and there are good candidates in Kanuriland as they are good candidates in Hausaland. Competition between them will decide who is the best.
That is how democracy should be about. You need to create a competitive society in which there is opportunity for everybody.
Jonathanâ€™s Focus:Â He has already named his focus. He is dealing with power. He is committed to electoral reform. Security situation and the Niger Delta. If he deals with those four problems, Nigeria will be a different place.
Kalu Onuma, Ndigbo Lagos
We should support Jonathan
It should be South East, eight years. The point Iâ€™am saying is that technically, it is still a Northern ticket, then after, it should South East. But my worry is not who takes the goal. My worry is the whole structure in the system. Because now that we have a Southern president, are we going to be any better,Â taking into consideration the way the country is structured?
My own submitted answer is no. Because we need to totally overhaul and restructure Nigeria. Because if Nigeria is not restructured, nobody you put there, with all the technical supports all over the world, will perform. The presidency is a big monolith that has the life of its own. But he must seriously get down to the issue of Nigeria. And the only issue concerning Nigeria now is the structure of Nigeria. He cannot tackle development if he cannot tackle structure of Nigerria. They are tied together.
Mbazulike Amechi, Ex Zikist, ex minister and Nationalist
Ndigbo are like a group of talented dancers who studiously and painstakingly learnt a dance and after intensive practices and rehearsing, premiered the dance only to stand aside to watch others take over the dance and enjoy its dividends.
Fifty years ago, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and other nationalists gave Nigeria sovereign status and opportunity to develop into a great nation. Fifty years after, Nigeria has not developed beyond the level that dividends of democracy are still shared among those that are in power or the corridors of power. Therefore in order to have a share of the cake, Ndigbo must find a way to get into power or effectively in the corridors of power.
To do this, Ndigbo must get into a true conclave and map out an unselfish, realistic programme and strategy, devoid of individual selfish interest. Today, I hear some Igbos talk of zoning and rotation of presidency.
Good; but if the Presidency must be zoned and rotated, whose turn is it in equity and justice come 2011?
The true position of zoning or rotation is that the North has ruled Nigeria at the highest level for a total of 38 years, 6 months between Tafawa Balewa, Gowon, Murtala Muhamned, Shagari, Buhari , Babangida, Abacha, Abubakar and Yarâ€™Adua.
The West has ruled for 12 years 3 months between Obasanjo and Shonekan; the South-East for six months under Ironsi and South-South from February 2010 to date by Jonathan. Therefore true rotation in equity and justice dictates that rotation should now stop at the door of the South- East or South-South. And these two cheated zones should work out a basis and modus for co-operation and collaboration.
That is as far as we can go with government. But apart from that, Ndigbo should really begin to think home. Igbo investment in real properties outside Igboland is enormous. The capital we invest in trading and other areas of business outside Igboland is staggering. Can we not do what Nnewi did after the civil war? They decided that any Nnewi man who would go outside the town for any business must first of all establish a branch at home.
Severe sanctions were to be imposed on any body who broke the law. Today Nnewi is transforming into Dubai and China put together. To regain our lost position in politics and business, Ndigbo must learn to think less of ME and think more of US.
Dr. Uma Eleazu, political scientist
I donâ€™t even accept the zoning formula. Thatâ€™s Iâ€™m not in PDP because if we are for looking for competence, somebody who can run this country, we should spread our net wide and find somebody who can do it. I think we should have true federalism based on the ethnic nationality.
SenatorÂ Ben Obi: Ex Vice Presidential Candidate, AC
I am not yet a member of the PDP to decide what the PDP intends to do. But if there is a zoning in the PDP, members of the PDP should know. If they feel that zoning is not the right thing, then they should consider it and do the right thing. Ohanaeze should pursue electoral reforms.
Without an electoral reform , we may find out we have no nation or country when we get to 2011. Jonathanâ€™s agenda should be electoral reforms. Heâ€™s job is just to make sure that he conducts a credible election. Simple.