By Dirisu Yakubu
Kodilichukwu Okelekwe is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC in the South-East geo-political zone. Deeply connected with a history of a number of charity works, it wasn’t surprising to many of his admirers the ease with which he beat other contestants to emerge APC Senatorial candidate for Anambra Central Senatorial District in the forthcoming 2023 polls.
In this interview with the Vanguard, Okelekwe gives reasons APC Presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu would be elected President to succeed Muhammadu Buhari, his chances at the parliamentary election, amongst sundry issues.
What is your assessment of the APC Presidential convention won by former Lagos state governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu?
First, let me start by congratulating Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for his doggedness, tenacity, never-say-die attitude. It is a victory richly deserved, so I send my warmest felicitations to him on the victory.
Having said that, he should look at his chances in the main election. It is obvious that APC is the party to beat. You know why? We have a very good candidate in Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. You can love or hate him but one thing you can’t take away from him is that he is a leader and he’s gifted with the characteristics, the major traits required for good leadership. God has endowed you with those characteristics and what are those characteristics?Determination, self confidence, good judgment and foresight. I have no doubt in my mind that he will emerge victorious.
Again, if you look at the political permutations, they are also in his favour apart from the fact that he is a very good, sellable and marketable candidate.
Many Nigerians ar still rooting for a President from the South-East but it appears you are okay with Tinubu
To be honest with you, I would have loved a person from South East to emerge as APC Presidential candidate. I was not a delegate. I can’t really say what happened. I am as surprised as you are but I wouldn’t want us to really dwell on that now. I want us to focus on the fact that we have a candidate. As South-Easterners, how do we key in, because I can tell you that Asiwaju Tinubu is a President in waiting.
Let’s focus on the solution on the future. How can the Igbos key in, how can the Igbos be part of the Tinubu presidency, what does it portend, what will be the place of the Igbo in his Presidency? These are the things we should he talking about now.
You have have just described Tinubu as a President in waiting. Do you think he has a nationwide acceptance to win the 2023 poll?
We must give huge credit to our Northern governors whom I will like to call the heroes of the cult convention. By insisting on power shift to the South, they demonstrated their unflinching commitment to the unity and oneness of this country. That is a pointer to the acceptance of Tinubu to our both Northern and Southern Nigerians.
But there were protests by some northern groups who described the governors are betrayals.
No, no, no! That’s democracy in action. Democracy means minority will have their say, majority will have their way. You cannot have 100 per cent consensus in any society on any issue under the sun. Majority of the northerners as represented by the governors are genuinely committed to power shift, but for them, Tinubu wouldn’t have emerged.That is a pointer to the acceptance of Tinubu to our both Northern and Southern Nigerians.
Remember that the governors control the delegates. The fact that they spoke with one voice is a testament to their genuine commitment to the unity and oneness of this country. I commend them for that exemplary show of leadership and love for Nigeria.
The South-East has not particularly warmed up to the APC. Do you expect the zone to benefit from a party they do not support?
First, let me talk about the perception of APC as “Hausa party”. Well, now that there’s a southern person as the presidential candidate, is it right to still call it a Hausa party? I don’t think so. So if I may, without conceding, assuming it used to be, right now with the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the presidential candidate, the APC has come of age.
So that perception of it as Hausa party is no longer there. It has now gravitated to a Nigerian, party, a national party.
On the issue of the Igbos benefiting from a party that they didn’t support, or may not want to support, you know, again, like I said, I would have loved to see a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction, no doubt about it. I am not making pretence about that, I’m a proud Igbo man. There’s no way you can be a proud Nigeria without first of all being proud of your heritage, of where you’re coming from.
The question is, as Igbos, what do we do, how do we key in? The political situation of today, the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the standard flag bearer of APC calls for strategic thinking among the Igbos.
Like I said, I had spoken about the inevitability of Tinubu’s presidency come 2023, as Igbos, we need to be strategic in our thinking. How can we be part of it. What do we really, as Igbos, what we want in Nigeria? Since getting a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction is no longer feasible in 2023, what can we do? How can we position ourselves to be part of birthing the Nigeria of our dreams, a Nigeria where justice, equity and fairness reign, a Nigeria where there is not glass ceiling on account of ethnicity, religion or tribe?
We are talking about restructuring, going back to true federalism, having true federalism, not in name as we have at the moment but in practice so that each region or state can develop at their own pace. And who is best suited to genuinely restructure Nigeria into a true federation? There is no other person other than Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
If an Igbo man were to be President today, he won’t be able to restructure Nigeria. You know why? Because of suspicion, the fact that we fought the Civil War and there is the agitation by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB. So every move of the Igbo president, no matter how well intentioned, will he viewed with utmost suspicion by other tribes in Nigeria.
But a Yoruba man, will be able to generate the needed and necessary cooperation of other tribes to restructure Nigeria and if he does, there will be no suspicion of plotting to balkanize and breakaway from the country.
So I expect the Igbos, our elites to sit down with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and have an understanding that we will follow, so that by the grace of God when he becomes President in 2023, Nigeria will be restructured into a true federation, where one’s ability can determine how far he or she can go in life.
Restructuring does not favour one section of the country against the other but a win-win for all sections. Restructuring means that each section will be looking inward and tapping into that God’s given potential to the fullest.
But because we all depend on the federation, nobody is looking inward. It’s like you have a child. The best way to bring up your children, no matter how wealthy you are, is to train them to be independent so that even when you are not there, they can stand on their own anywhere.
Your former governor Peter Obi is running for Presidency and here you are asking Ndigbo to sit down with Bola Tinubu to discuss their political future. You earlier said you would have preferred an Igbo man to be the presidential candidate. Isn’t this contradictory?
There’s no contradiction whatsoever in my position. His Excellency, Governor Peter Obi is a very good man, a great man, endowed with all the qualities that make for great leadership in public office. To become the President of this country, you need support from at least four regions, four geopolitical zones. You need to win 25 per cent of votes in two-thirds of the 36 states. So, it’s something we’ll have to look carefully look at and weigh our chances so that we don’t make the mistake we made in the past of putting all our eggs in one basket which is still hunting us till date. I believe that Peter Obi has given momentum to Labour Party, but momentum is one thing, voting on election day is quite another.
I believe the Labour Party has a great future under Mr. Peter Obi, but what I cannot say is whether that great future is 2023 or 2027.
You need time to prepare for the Presidency and Tinubu has been on this for a long time. He didn’t happen overnight.
What is your motivation to represent your people of Anambra Central in the Senate come 2023?
Mine will be a people-centric representation. It will he people-centred with emphasis on optimum results. I will do things differently. Those that were there before have done their best, I am here to talk about myself as I do not believe in campaigns of calumny. I believe in issue-based politics. Those who have been there have done their best, but you know where better is possible, you don’t look at good, where best is possible you don’t look at better.
I know that basically the job of a lawmaker are three: Law making, representation and oversight. But there are other things. Attracting physical infrastructure is good but there is much more than that.
Take for instance I am from Anambra central where our primary occupation is trading. As a Senator representing them, what can I do? What laws can I initiate to ensure that every obstacle to their trade is removed? These are intangible things you may not see but which are very important. It’s not like if you have attracted a road people can see the road but you can also initiate laws that can remove every obstacle to their business.
Look at the current insecurity ravaging the whole of South-East particularly Anambra state. I must commend Governor Charles Soludo who is addressing the situation very well. I’m sure that if he sustains the momentum the way he’s going now, in the next three to six months, Anambra will be calm, there will be peace.
So as a Senator, it will be incumbent on me to work with the governor regardless of party differences to ensure that there is security because if there is no security, my people cannot trade because trading is their primary occupation.
What are your chances in this election against people like Uche Ekwunife from PDP, Victor Umeh from LP and Dozie Nwankwo from APGA?
My chances are very bright. I believe in the primacy of God in the affairs of men. I believe that if God will a thing, he will bring it to pass. God has done greater things in my life. Seeing me through this quest cannot be bigger that what he has done in the past.