By Tony Nwankwo
Chief Goddy Anayo Uwazurike, lawyer, member, National Conference is President, Aka Ikenga, the apex Igbo socio-political group. In this interview, he discusses the Igbo position on the election of February 14 among other national issues. Excerpts:
The Igbo is consistent on the support for President Goodluck Jonathan as he seeks re-election. And the man is not even Igbo?
The Igbo are people looking for a level playing ground and once somebody assures that confidence that there is a level playing ground, once somebody gives them the impression that he is clannish, shows them that he has a free mind, Igbo get to him. It is whenever we hear stories that you are not supporting this, or you hate people, that Igbo now run away from you.
Remember people make their impression not when they are in office, you make impression even before you begin to seek office. If for instance, you are known to be an expansive person, you fret and jive all over the world, they see you. If you are coming to us now that you want to be voted for, we say, after we have voted for you you go away. That is why the Igbo are very careful on who they support. And I will tell you so you can go and check the history. Once the Igbo regard you as their friend, they never go against you. Go and ask the Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya family. Till today, the daughter is called Ada Igbo. Infact she will be the first person to tell you ‘I am Ada Igbo’.
When Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya died, he was given an Igbo burial. Yoruba were just standing there watching. Markets in Lagos were closed in his honour. Something you cannot do for any other person. When he was alive, I remember meeting him a couple of occasions. You come and see all of us rushing out to go and greet ‘Nnanyi Ukwu’. You will stop your vehicle just to go and greet ‘Nnanyi Ukwu’. And you will always hear people say, I am a member of the Ogunsanya family, please come and help! It was like a magic expression. We don’t joke with our friendship and loyalty. If you betray it, you are out. When Chief TOS Benson died, we gave him the same spectacular treatment. Just to give you some examples. Mallam Aminu Kano, till today, we still have him in high regards.
Can we seriously say Jonathan merits all this support?
Igbo are not looking for people who give Naira and Kobo. We only look for that person who gives you the feeling that ‘yes, you are welcome’. That is how he merits it. If he had, I will tell you straight away. He has not done anything to destroy that relationship.. Not because he is an Ijaw man, but because as President he is yet to do something targeted against the Igbo.
Muhammadu Buhari is contesting for the fourth time. And he is said to have these baggages?
He is now going round. Some people are getting to see who Buhari is. Even the governor of Imo State gave him an Igbo name and gave the impression that his mother came from Igbo land, which I know he will not say in Katsina. If he says that he will know what will happen to him. Those are things you do in order to win election. And that is wrong. Igbo are not easily carried away by cosmetic effects. They look for real substance. They watch you say things and how you say them. And they take what you say to the heart.
Most of those who attend the rallies, if they come back, ten years hence, they will repeat every word you said. And Buhari words have been very few. ‘We will fight corruption, we will give employment’. This is what he says everywhere and no more. Whereas the Igbo man wants to know whether you are aware that this road leading from this place is a federal road and is crying for repairs. So, if he had not said that, then we just watch and see. That somebody is writing a statement saying he will do this or that, that is not what people want. That is the reason this TV debate will be paramount, because that is where he will be able to address issues himself.
Has he an obligation to participate in the debates?
Well, that TV debate is actually a time you are expected to really address the people frontally. Not what somebody has written down for you. So far we can remember ‘I’ll fight corruption, I’ll give employment’. When you are there, it means you will address issues like electricity. If there is problem with electricity, what do you do? If there is a problem with food, what do you do? Its not sufficient to say I will do this. Yes, but how do you do it? We want macro-details, bigger details not in three sentences.
Is the Yoruba support for Buhari’s candidacy total?
Well, I know of Press support among Yoruba. That does not translate into Yoruba support. The man who lives in Ilesha, the man who lives in Ado Ekiti is a Yoruba man. He has his own views which he will show during elections. The fact that if there is a campaign rally in Ogun State, those from Lagos will go, does not mean that Ogun State is voting. Look at a state like Oyo, where it is deeply divided. Sen. Abiola Ajimobi, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, Sen. Rasheed Ladoja, and then Sen. Teslim Folarin. So, how do you judge the strength of each? Those four parties are very strong and three of them are for Mr. President.
As a practicing senior lawyer, what do you make of the Buhari certificate issue?
Well, I know that for me to go to read law I had to present my certificate. Without it, I couldn’t have been admitted. So, if you see my CV you will see all those things because I still have my own. If I don’t have it, I know what to do. I will take steps before now to go and remedy the situation. So, the argument still remains whether he actually took the exams or not? INEC has no power yet to disqualify anybody, but time will tell whether he really had it. And I wish the courts can look at the argument. Going to court over it now is of no use. Let the candidates battle it out. Then let the judiciary decide.