By Daniel Kanu
Hon. Chris Ejike Uche is the former deputy national chairman, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), two-time ex—commissioner (Housing/ Urban development and public utility), and Imo State chairman, New Nigeria Group (NNG).
In this encounter with Sunday Sun, he speaks on the type of leadership that would take Nigeria out of the present danger and why Ndigbo deserve a chance in 2023, PIB, among other national issues. Excerpt:
How do you react when some people say that the Igbo presidency is not feasible in 2023?
You see in politics you don’t have a fixed mindset. To believe that is a wrong mindset. When somebody is telling you that the Igbo presidency is not feasible in 2023 you have already concluded even if God is coming down from heaven to tell you that this or that man will be the president in 2023, you say God no, it’s not possible. It is like in a football match before the match starts you have awarded a particular team the match, it’s not done. Why will anybody say Igbo presidency is not possible? Did the Igbo not take a critical part in the history of Nigeria from colonialism to its independence? The Igbo were and are still major actors. From the time of the Sardaunas, Awolowos, Balewas etc, and mind you the Igbo have suffered more than any other group in this country and I say so without any apology. You know by their nature, you can say the Igbo are capitalists, they want to invest, they want return on investment and in return on investment capitalism does not favour disorderliness, violence, because nobody will want to invest where there is violence. That is why the country is being isolated by international investors. You see what Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa is doing now, for instance; he has touched the entire states of the federation building bridges. It is what you can call, a handshake across the Niger. I have been in politics for over 25 years , I don’t think any president of Nigeria has done what Mazi Sam has done. He has been travelling the entire country and the day he came to Owerri and it was during the violence, but he still came without any security. I have not seen anybody who says he is not a good material, so when you have such good material and if that is the consensus, why will anybody say the Igbo cannot produce president in 2023? Is the person God? People will be doing their permutations, but only God has the final say. Let me tell you something, quote me, if the Igboman becomes the president today in Nigeria, Nigeria will not only develop, but the country will be a haven of investment and people will come down to invest. There will be peace, there will be stability and all these gory things happening everywhere in the country, this insecurity mess will disappear on its own. An Igbo presidency will repair Nigeria; fix Nigeria to work, for the joy of all.
Some critics say the Igbo are their own worst enemy and that it is one of their own that will scuttle the Igbo presidency agenda?
Most of these things are impressions, perceptions some of these views too are being sponsored to paint the Igbo black. People blow some of this things out of proportion. Tell me which community or which ethnic group that does not have disagreements? Are the Yoruba closer to each other more? Did you not hear Chief Bode George the other day talking about the APC national leader and former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Which damning report will be worse than that? Did Obasanjo not contest the presidency with Chief Olu Falae running on another party platform? That allegation is not common with Ndigbo alone, so nobody should make it an issue. Has the North not been contesting against themselves? People should stop blowing things out of proportion as if it is only the trade mark for Ndigbo, no. Do you not hear Buba Galadima speaking against the North and the rest of them? The only thing I will agree with you is that the Igbo people, part of the problem that they are having is that they don’t seem to properly synthesize, and scrutinize who is coming into the public office and this has to do again with their republican nature, don’t forget. They are not feudal, they are not traditional. The Igbo are behaving the way they are behaving and why it appears they have more crisis is because of their republican nature, some will agree, some will disagree. The North is patterned along feudalism, the Southwest is embedded in traditionalism, the Obas, more strengthened traditional culture and institution. But the Igbo are cosmopolitan, republicans and when you allow people to express themselves fully, you have different versions of expression, but that does not mean they are not united. I challenge anybody to disagree on this: Igbo groups in the Southeast are still more progressive than all other groups. Let anybody come and prove me wrong. If you go to the North you see what poverty is. When you talk of the Southwest, the population of Ndigbo doing business in Lagos is massive and they are generating huge revenue for them too, so why won’t there be development there? I happen to serve in Lagos (NYSC) and worked there too for many years, so I know what is on the ground. Do you know aside from my language, I speak Hausa, Yoruba and some other Nigerian languages? Which ethnic groups invest like the Igbo or have invested in this Nigerian project like the Igbo? You cannot change the narrative overnight. Allow the Igbo to provide their divine leadership magic and you will see Nigeria working again, even better than before.
Recently, it was as if the Southeast was under siege…?
(Cuts in) It is not as if, the Southeast was truly under siege, but it boils down again to what I told you about the Igbo republicanism. Maybe now that Prof Obiozor is the Ohanaeze Ndigbo leader worldwide we can be getting information. You know that when you want to cage a people, especially people like Ndigbo that have a republican nature you will find it difficult, more so when you apply injustice. There is no ethnic group that does not love money. Show me that ethnic group? The only difference is that the Igbo man in pursuit of money is craftier than others. Capitalism makes for craftiness, ingenuity, to outsmart others. Of course, hard work is the first thing, the key. They can sponsor people to come and disorganize and destabilize the place (Southeast) and most of the people doing this are the ones that do not have good education. I must suggest here that Ndigbo should become more conscious of those that want to rule them. What is their pedigree, their leadership recruitment process, their mindset, their education background, family background etc. I am sorry to say this, but if you look at the records of some of our leaders in the Southeast, especially in recent times, most of them are products of broken homes, no good education, some area boys and when you have these Agberos (Area boys) as leaders what do you expect? It is sad, but it is only in the Southeast you see somebody who never had good education answering a Dr, Prof, etc and he will not know his boundary when it comes to leadership. We will continue to witness the invasion we are experiencing because of the quality of neophytes we have here. But there are those that stands out too, we must look for them like Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa.
What is your view on the PIB controversy although the President (Buhari) has signed it into law?
There is so much politics that went into it. Remember Ken Saro-Wiwa why he was executed. It is one death that is still hunting Nigeria . As a journalist, of course, you know how much Shell Oil Company is to pay to the host community and the mess experienced in the zone. When you say you are giving three per cent to the people and you are giving more per cent to those that oil pipe passed through their place and even more, to some areas for oil exploration. And we know the condition of those areas in terms of getting oil. Does what is given to the Niger Delta region make for justice? You see these agitations can be nipped from in the bud with transparency, honesty and justice and that is what Mazi Sam is preaching. When you inject injustice into the political system, you create problem that may even consume you at the end. The late Bob Marley said it in his song that: If you want peace ensure there is justice. It is a universal law. Where there is injustice, no fairness etc, you create problem. There is no peace without justice. It is a timeless truth. If you think you can cage people, cow and gag them, you are wasting your time. It’s only a matter of time you will get the explosion. I had my university education in ABU, Zaria and most of the guys in government now were my school mates and I know their thinking. Come to think of it, when you say leadership (Presidency) should not come to the Southeast, but the government has existed for so long and there is no development. Why not bring out somebody who has worked with people from different background, somebody very honest, very transparent, somebody who is sincere, who you can trust who can provide the needed bridge. Look, if Nigeria stops a person like Mazi Sam from leading this country, we will have a long rough way to go.
You were the former Deputy National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), but now with the New Nigeria Group (NNG) what really went wrong?
I do not think I want to talk about the issue again; one has to move on in life as you get more facts on your vision. The truth is that APGA is a regional party, but more importantly is the way they are handling the party. It was the APGA experience that made me to no longer accept or be interested in any regional party. It is better to be in a party that is national in outlook and in content. Anything that does not have good foundation, where the truth is sidetracked does not stand the test of time. Ndigbo were so passionate, so attached to APGA, but those sentiments were bungled. You know the rip off that has been trailing the party in the last elections, from Imo, Abia etc, you can see how they collected money from this and that person promising them ticket. This is why I say that our judiciary system is gone. Those people that took their case to court most of them are still in court now, after many years, why? The people APGA collected money from are still using money to fight for their case, even when the judiciary knows the truth, the police know the truth and nothing is being done. My feeling is that the way Chief Chekwas Okorie was treated and edged out of the party was bad. He founded APGA. They should go and beg him to reverse the curse he placed on the party out of anger. But that is a story for another day. For now, I have pitched tent with the New Nigeria Group. I am presently the Imo State chairman and we are doing well in the state. Even our leader Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa did not mince words to acknowledge what we are doing. Mazi said at our stakeholders meeting and at the inauguration of the Lagos State chapter of the NNG this August that Owerri chapter was the best organised. I am solidly behind the presidential ambition of Mazi Sam; he has all it takes to take this country out of poverty and to make Nigeria work for all.