Former Chairman, Police Service Commission, PSC, and President Pan-Ndigbo Foundation, PNF, Chief Simon Okeke, in this exclusive interview at his Amichi, Nnewi South Local Council, Anambra State home, spoke on many national issues, including the Biafra secession agitation by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, tackling insecurity, 2023 polls and production of Nigerian President of Igbo extraction among others.

Chief Simon Okeke

By Chimaobi Nwaiwu

On Igbo leaders’ appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to release Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and call for dialogue and political solution

First of all, agitation by IPOB arose as a result of injustice, failure to have a level playing ground for all Nigerians, free and fair treatment of everybody.

The agitation is equally fuelled by inequality, lack of equity and treatment of some sections of the country as if they are slaves while their counterparts are pampered and never believe that they can do anything wrong.

However, negotiating Nnamdi Kanu out of detention is a good move. It is better to negotiate than to fight or do it by force of arms. I am aware that at one occasion, it was somebody from the Presidency, precisely the Attorney-General, who was asked about the negotiation and he said that they are open to it.

That was commendable from the Federal Government, it shows that Mr. President wants peace to reign in his country. We must commend him for that. I am also aware that the process of negotiation is being discussed at certain level at Ohanaeze Ndigbo.

Do you see IPOB agreeing and supporting the dialogue and negotiation plan?

Yes, they will agree, IPOB has shown responsibility with Anambra State governorship election.

IPOB will not be said to be unyielding, the Anambra governorship election is example of IPOB’s responsibility.

With time, people will know that what they are made to know about IPOB may not be correct. As far as I know, a peaceful agitation or protest is not an offence in Nigeria and all over the world.

There is no law prohibiting peaceful agitations in Nigeria or anywhere across the world, as far as they are not violent.

Protesters should not be shot. #EndSARS was peaceful; they did not carry arms but they were hounded. All over the world, protest is an asset to governance.

What is your take on Nigerian President of Igbo extraction?

One thing I know that is clear is that if there is no Nigerian president of Igbo extraction, as long as there is restructuring, Igbo do not mind.

However, there is a genuine move for Nigerian President of Igbo extraction.

The South-East geopolitical zone has never been given the chance to produce the president of this country and anybody who says the Igbo man is not ripe to ascend the seat of the president of this country is not being fair and honest.

Denying an Igbo man the opportunity to ascend the seat of the president will be the highest level of marginalisation against Ndigbo.

The idea that the Igbo should be given the chance in 2023 to produce the president of Nigeria is an honest and rightful demand. It is imperative for all hands to be on deck to ensure that an Igbo man emerges the Nigerian president in 2023 so that all the tension and agitations associated with marginalisation of South-East people in the scheme of things in the country can abate.

The South-East geo-political zone is blessed with eminently qualified personalities who can give the country a responsible and responsive leadership. However, there is urgent need for the political class in the zone to discuss with stakeholders in other zones.

It is not just the Northerners that are showing interest in the 2023 presidency. South-West, Middle Belt and even the South-South zones are all showing interest. However, there is a genuine demand by Ndigbo for the exalted office if we go by the fact that the South-East has never been given the chance to head the presidency. It is the highest level of marginalisation. What is good is good, what is bad is bad. Chief Ayo Adebanjo of Afenifere has been consistent on Igbo presidency so also are some other people from other zones, including some people from the North, so any Igbo man saying the contrary must have his DNA checked.
Another thing that is clear is that the calibre of people in government, today, who are supposed to show interest in the presidency are lilliputs. We have not got that calibre of people who speak with authority among them, the edge associated with Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu is gone.

It is unfortunate the golden age of the die-hard Igbo character is gone. Look at the governors, members of the National Assembly jumping from one political party to the other without any sign of doing that on the basis of any ideological leaning.

Every age has its own warriors. The warriors of this age are not as strong as past leaders but I am optimistic that the next crop of leaders would be vibrant. I reject the claim that the Igbo are not together. Look at the issue of sit-at-home, many Igbo are not observing it out of fear, many are observing it in protest against perceived marginalisation.

So, the claims that Igbo are never together is a fallacy being drummed by those in charge of the media because in Nigeria, honestly, no ethnic group can be as together as Ndigbo.

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The Nigerian President of Igbo extraction project should not be seen as the exclusive preserve or prerogative of the ruling class, there are so many high flying individuals who have distinguished themselves but the problem in the present reality is monetary politics being practised in Nigeria today. Zik borrowed to support his presidency.

But today, it is people who have money that go into politics as if once you have money, you have the brain to govern. A person like Prof. Kingsley Moghalu is a very good presidential material.

Ndigbo should make more efforts to galvanize other interests and geo-political zones to key into Nigerian President of Igbo extraction.

Mr. Peter Obi, Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo and many others spread across Igboland, are capable of giving Nigeria quality leadership, but some of them are not forthcoming because they lack the wherewithal. In the past, people appealed and sponsored good political materials, but it is no longer the case today.

On claim that the Igbo cannot come with a consensus candidate if the need arises

That is not true. Moreover, there is no geopolitical zone that you have one consensus candidate. It does not exist. During the time that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo contested, there was no consensus from Yoruba land; a Yoruba man, Olu Falae, contested against him.
Even if you tell the South-South or the North to produce the candidate, they will still fight, there can never be one single candidate. So the issue that Igbo are never together is pure fallacy, IPOB issued sit-at-home and it was obeyed to the last letter.

So, I still maintain that there is no question of leaving the Nigerian President of Igbo extraction project to the governors and members of the two chambers of the National Assembly – the Senators and members of House of Representatives. Zik did not have money when he contested, he was supported by Sir Odumegwu Ojukwu, the father of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. So you must not be governor or senator to be president of Nigeria.

On the inability of the elite to tell leaders that they are doing well

To some extent, you are right, but there are people who are in the upper class yet they see what is wrong with the upper class and say it boldly. Take people of my age and Professor Wole Soyinka, people like Ayo Adebanjo.

There are many hot heads even among the educated in Nigeria who say it the way they see it and you cannot fault them; although the educated of the past are more brave than the ones of today.

Parents of these days over-pamper their children and they grow up not being brave, especially the parents after the war. Children who are below 60 years are over pampered.

I didn’t over-pamper my children. I made it a rule that no child of mine will graduate outside Nigeria. Before you leave Nigeria for anything, you must graduate here in Nigeria and I maintained that rule. Children who are pampered with oversea training hardly come home, it is not working out well for our society and parents who do that. You even find out that even the child you are providing for turns against you.

On the Anambra election and emergence of Professor Soludo as Governor-elect

First of all, I must congratulate the people of Anambra State for the peaceful and hitch-free election which has proved once again that the state is truly the Light of the Nation.

I must congratulate the winner of the November 6, 2021 polls, Prof. Soludo who possesses all the qualities to make the light of Anambra State shine brighter. People, including me, are expectant of Soludo’s good performance, he has worked with me, he is a gifted person. He did well as the CBN Governor and today, Nigerians and Nigeria are better for it. He is a practical person, very talented and intelligent, and I believe that he will use what he has to take Anambra State to the next level.

By and large, Anambra has been lucky, each succeeding governor has always performed better than his predecessor or come close to performing better than his predecessor. On that premise, we believe that he will do well.

I do not agree that Willie Obiano is going to leave any debt as being rumoured, for Soludo. As a member of Anambra Elders Council, Obiano said to my hearing and others like Chief Emeka Anyaoku and Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife that he never borrowed any money for the three legacy projects he is doing – the airport, international conference center and stadium.

Who should Prof. Soludo avoid in his administration?

If you ask me people he should avoid, I will say greedy and avaricious politicians who will ask him to bring the state’s money to share. He has said that he has been blessed so he will work for Anambra and not enrich himself with Anambra’s common wealth. He is rich already, so we expect performance for the state.

I want to use this opportunity to congratulate Professor Soludo and Obiano for fighting decent battle without arms.

I am really pleased with Anambra election. No single blood was shed, it is a commendable effort, it is my belief and hope that Anambra will continue to be the light. I call on people who take laws into their hands that they should sheath their swords. It is better to listen to voice of reason and elders.

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