…Speaks on 2023 election, northern campaign for return of Jonathan to Aso Villa
The clamour for self actualization and possible independence, is gathering momentum in parts of Nigeria.
However, an elder statesman, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, who exclusively spoke with our man, Chidi Nkwopara in Owerri, not only spoke on the possibility of Igbo man becoming the next Nigeria President, but also emphasised that what will save Nigeria from imminent disintegration, is restructuring.
What are your views on Nigeria’s President of Igbo extraction?
I have always freely expressed my views about the presidency and other issues concerning Nigeria, in the past and what you just asked now, won’t be an exception.
The Nigerian Constitution, fortunately, has a federal character clause, which I think, is very good. In a federation that comprises people from different cultures, languages, creed and behaviour, it is important that every group is properly accommodated, because some are small and others are large. If there is nothing like federal character, it becomes very clear that some people will definitely be cheated.
Is it accepted by all?
Nigerians have accepted this constitutional provision, but what surprises me is that people have failed to appreciate that the presidency of Nigeria, which is the most important position in this country, should also be made to be accessible to every nation state in Nigeria. This is where I think that zoning should come in.
Somehow, we have accepted the zoning between the North and South, even as it is not captured in the Constitution. I think we should, if everyone of us is honest with the Nigerian project and if we sincerely believe in one united Nigeria, we should religiously respect the zoning formula.
We have six geo-political zones in this country, which has been working for us. I think that the presidency should be zoned. It is not impossible for the National Assembly to build the zoning formula into the Constitution, which will make it mandatory for every zone to have a go at the presidency. There is no geo-political zone that cannot produce a president for this country today, and of course, if it is zoned today, the usual avoidable tension it generates would be eliminated.
It is not in doubt that the North has served and in the South, the only geo-political zone that has not tested the office, is the South East. There is no Nigerian who will doubt the capability of South Easterners to present a credible president of Nigeria.
The South East comprises people who have played major roles in shaping the economic, social, political, industrial destiny of this country. So, there is no reason whatsoever they should not be given the opportunity to produce the president of this country. That is my position.
Will Ndigbo get the needed support from other zones?
When it beckoned on the South South, we gave them full support. I also believe they will reciprocate this when it is the turn of the South East. Doing anything other than this, will definitely send wrong signals to Ndigbo.
Have you been able to talk to your good friends up North, about Igbo presidency?
There is no doubt that I have very good friends in the 36 states of the country. My friends are honest people, who believe in one united Nigeria. They are people who believe that although the amalgamation of 1914, may have been done haphazardly, God is now using it as a symbol to march Africa to greatness.
Nigeria has got all the indices that can qualify us to be a world power. We have all the natural resources and human infrastructure.
I have consulted my friends in the 36 states and they all agree with me that for justice, equity and fairness, the presidential pendulum should swing to the South East. They also agree that we cannot have a true relationship any longer, without justice, equity and fairness. They all agree with me that it should be the turn of the South East.
But, there are people who are saying that the presidential slot should come to the South.
Yes, there is the proposition that the presidency should not only revert to the South, but that the South West should take it. Is that fair? How Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was there for eight years. The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, will be there for eight years. So, it would be most unfair to bring it to the South West in 2023.
I read somebody from North West the other day, who said they have a permanent alliance with the Yoruba. Fine. Honest Yoruba people have told me that the South East should take their shot at the presidency. These are people, who sincerely want Nigeria to survive. But today, I can see that there are people who want Nigeria to fail.
Are you thinking about IPOB?
No. The greatest threat we have in the country today, is not the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, as people think. It is not even the Niger Delta militants and it is not the group that is rising up from the Middle Belt. The threat is coming from people who believe in injustice and who believe that there should be no equity and fairness.
I have contested for the presidency thrice. I won’t contest any elections again in this country. I don’t want to see my children in a country, where they do not have a right to aspire to the highest position in the land. If this matter is not resolved peacefully now, it would be very terrible. This is why I think that we should make the presidency to rotate among the six geo-political zones.
Are you sure that it will do the magic?
I can say yes. It will even solve the problem in the North, because they have three zones. There is the possibility that nobody will know, if it is zoned to the North, whether it should go to the North West, North East or North Central. However, if it is properly zoned, everybody will know where it will go. And this will engineer peaceful coexistence.
There are talks that some Northern elements want to bring Dr. Goodluck Jonathan back
Well, when you hear certain stories, you take them with a pinch of salt. You should not take them serious. I don’t think that this is anything to worry about. Nobody becomes the president of Nigeria by the invitation of a group of people.
Before someone can become a president, he has to go through a political party. That party will bring a candidate who can win election and if it is zoned to a particular area, the candidate will come from there.
Today, we are saying that it should come from the South East and many Nigerians share the same view. So, I don’t think we should take that story serious. I prefer to describe it as a fake news.
What will be the position of Ndigbo, if it eventually plays out?
I don’t see how such a fake news will play out. Playing out means he will go through a political system. If it plays out, it will mean that he has gone through the political system, including the party primaries and national convention. It is a long process and I think most parties would probably know what majority of Nigerians have in mind and saying today, that it is South East.
What plans are on ground to fish out the Igbo candidate?
We have two major political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and All Progressives Congress, APC. The two parties have many people, of Igbo extraction that can be president of Nigeria. The same is also true of the other political parties. Many of them have capable Igbo sons and daughters that can be president of this country.
I must tell you that I am very proud of Ndigbo in politics. All we are asking is that all the parties should nominate an Igbo man as the flag bearer. When this happens, Nigerians will then make their choice.
There are fears that Ndigbo are not united in this quest for Igbo presidency
I can tell you that Ndigbo are very united in this regard. They are patriotic Nigerians. Yes, we are interested in Igbo presidency but we are more concerned about the structure of this country. The problems we have in this country today, will be controlled if it is restructured.
For example, if we have a state police and insurgency begins, the local government police will contain them. I even recommend that we should have a local government, state and federal police commands. The local police detect the presence of insurgents earlier than somebody in Abuja or Owerri. I insist that the structure of this country is not good enough. Ndigbo are more concerned about this. This is why Ndigbo have continued to say that Nigeria must be restructured.
Now, let’s talk about the vexed issue of restructuring Nigeria.
Thanks. I want the President to listen to this. The most important thing in Nigeria today, is the call for restructuring. If Nigeria is not restructured, all the problems related to agitations, unemployment and the like, will continue. Everything is getting more and more frightening now.
Now, because of the President’s unwillingness or possible refusal to embrace restructuring, some zones have started looking for zonal security and self determination. Looking for zonal security, separate from state and federal government, shows that the state has failed to protect the citizenry, a vote of no confidence of sorts.
Before the Yoruba started Amotekun, many of their people were kidnapped. Some returned alive and others did not live to tell their stories. Here in Igboland, we are also looking for our own protection. Something is really wrong with the whole country and that is why we are all calling for restructuring.
Is the President listening?
I believe that the President should take this call serious. I have a lot of respect for President Mohammadu Buhari, but he must please, listen to people.
A leader must not only listen to what he wants to hear. A leader must listen to the opposition because they may give you the panacea for some problems. But there are people around the President. Each time people make suggestions, people around the President start calling them names. They are branded anti-Buhari and I think that it is not right. Some of his aides must be careful about how they react to public opinions and views. The truth about it is that those of us in the South East say we want to restructure. The same is also true of South West, South South, the Middle Belt and some Northern elements. So, why can’t the President listen and act out the wishes of the people? The President’s advisers will be held liable, if Nigeria breaks up today!
Our founding fathers realized this problem and that was why they went to the London Conference and crafted a constitution that recognized federating units. They had the power to even have embassies in some countries of the world. So, they had some reasonable autonomy, but the Federal Government was still powerful but then, a lot was given to the regions.
Today, the Federal Government has taken over everything. Now take for example roads. How can the Federal Government take over all the roads? Is it possible to stay in Abuja and control all the roads in the country? These things should be done by the states.
Another good example is agriculture. The Federal Government does not have land. The land is owned by the states and they say they control agriculture. They should hands off some of these things and give them to the federating units.
Presidential seat notwithstanding, is the South East not short-changed with just five states?
Today, we have 36 states. They should be federating units, but the only thing I want to add is that the South East that has only five states, should be given one additional state, so that they will now have at least, six states, which is the minimum others have. I know that a zone has got seven states. The same is also true of the number of local government areas.
We need to make them federating units. When actualized, our graduates will no longer need to move to Abuja, in search of jobs. They can get these jobs from their local council or state headquarters.
When the expected restructuring is done, the local governments will be strong and not manned by small boys or learners. They should be manned by experienced technocrats, educationists, industrialists and retired civil servants.
They should ensure that monies allocated to them are judiciously used. They should be in a position to build roads, engage in agriculture and supply potable water and more.
Nigeria must be restructured so that all the three tiers of government will be very active. What it is today, is very difficult and if it continues like this, we are going to continue having problems.
There is an ongoing clamour for self determination in the South West.
Yes, I have heard it and I am honestly, worried about this development. It is a very bad signal. If I were the president, and all sections of the country is clamouring for restructuring, I will call a national stakeholders meeting and lay the issue down, before them. The National Assembly cannot solve this problem. They will be unnecessarily partisan about it.
The President must listen to the yearnings of the masses. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Professor Wole Soyinka and Bishop Matthew Hassan Kuka, are well meaning Nigerians, who are not aspiring to be presidents of Nigeria.
The Nigeria/Biafra war, which claimed several lives, could have been averted if not that Nigeria refused to restructure.
Are you serious?
Definitely. You will remember that Chief Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu went to Aburi, Ghana, not to ask for break away. In fact, Ojukwu never wanted to break away from Nigeria. He simply asked for confederation, to make the place comfortable for everybody to exist.
When General Yakubu Gowon, who headed the federal delegation returned to Nigeria, pieces of advice started flowing to his table, from very insensitive people and the pact failed. That was what made us go to war.
We have come to that situation now. Everybody is talking restructuring and people are taking it lightly. We will be keeping quiet and the clamour will hit another level and that will be most unfortunate.
Let me tell you quite frankly. Nigeria is on a precipice now. People should wake up to realities. When agitations reach a certain point, somebody must listen.
Look at the way people are being mercilessly murdered in cold blood. It is happening in several states and every incident was linked to herdsmen and kidnappers. The purpose of government is to provide security for the citizenry. People are asking for restructuring so that Nigeria can be restructured and saved. Unless it is restructured, the security will not be there. The President should please, restructure the country now and save Nigeria from disintegration.
Chief Emmanuel Iwanyanwu granted this interview just before the EndSARS protests turned bloody in Lagos and other parts of the country especially in the south