President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Gary Nnachi Enwo-Igariwey, has explained why Igbo presidency is currently not on the group’s agenda. “We are not working towards an Igbo president in 2015 for very simple and obvious reasons: if you want to be president of this country, the process ought to have
started long before now and given the political platforms on ground, it does not appear to me and to my people that there is any Igbo man at the forefront of any of the political platforms to run for that office,” the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo said in an interview with today’s edition of Saturday Sun. Enwo-Igariwey (shown in photo) further spoke on the position of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) on the 2015 presidency, the just-concluded National Conference, the aftermath of its report, amongst other issues. Excerpts:
The race for the 2015 elections is already hot and it does appear that the Ohanaeze Ndigbo is not keen as regards the direction the presidential poll will take. How correct is this impression?
It is wrong to say we are not keen on the direction it will take. The office of the president of this country is serious business and the Igbo have a major role to play in the process of electing a president for this country.
Of course, we are interested in seeing that the election is properly conducted, and we are also interested that the elections are peacefully conducted. We will be a part of that process. We are interested in who wins the election also because that office will direct the affairs of all Nigerians and Igbo are part of this country. Therefore, we have a major role to play. So, we are interested in the direction it is going.
You said recently that the Igbo presidency is currently not on your agenda. Are you saying that the Igbo will not produce any candidate in the 2015 presidential election?
Put simply, what I meant by that statement is that for 2015, there is no concerted effort on our part to produce the President of Nigeria. When I said we don’t have it on our agenda, it means we are not working towards an Igbo president in 2015 for very simple and obvious reasons: if you want to be president of this country, the process ought to have started long before now and given the political platforms on ground; it does not appear to me and to my people that there is any Igbo man at the forefront of any of the political platforms to run for that office.
In your own calculation or reasoning, what do you think accounted for this?
When we gave support to President Jonathan in 2011, we made it clear that the South South and the South East were the only zones that had not produced president in modern Nigeria, and we had stated clearly that after the South South, was the turn of the South East in unbroken succession. We still hope to realise that dream and we think that at the appropriate time, my people will make that statement.
Is that to say that you are sacrificing your 2015 presidency because of President Jonathan and the South South?
I don’t know what you mean by sacrifice. All I am saying is that at the appropriate time, major stakeholders in Igbo land will meet. Our business is to convey their message and that we will do when they so decide.
How do you see the agitation of the North that it is their turn to have the presidency in 2015? And how are you sure that if Jonathan succeeds in 2015, that power will be allowed to go to the South East after his tenure?
We are all Nigerians. At the moment, there are six geo-political zones in this country. Any Nigerian is free to aspire to any office. It is not about agitations and interests. When you agitate, it doesn’t mean that you have achieved it already. So, any Nigerian is free to ask for that office.
What do you make of the Arewa Consultative Forum’s (ACF) insistence that it is either the North produces the presidency in 2015 or nothing?
Nobody talks like that. Even as we hope to produce the next president after Jonathan, we are not making any threat. So, if we are building a nation in brotherhood and to see Nigeria as a common property, nobody should be issuing threats that it is either this or that. Otherwise, there will be no country because if other people make the same threat, what do you think will start happening? I think that politics is a game of negotiations. It can only be negotiated. No zone in this country, no part of this country can force itself to become president on other Nigerians. It can only be negotiated and when you are negotiating, you don’t issue threats.
Don’t you think this extreme position of the North is helping to worsen the security situation in the country?
I find it difficult to see the relationship. But if it has anything to do with that, then it is an unfortunate development. The truth of the matter is that when there is security challenge in the country, nobody benefits. Both the North and the South will suffer the consequence of any security breach in this country.
The issue of Boko Haram, being at the moment, emphasised in the North East, does not mean that this country is completely safe. Abuja is not safe, and any other part of this country can be breached by the same people. So, Boko Haram cannot serve any person any good. First of all, you need a country to realise your goal. What Boko Haram is doing is to completely destroy this country and it cannot be in anybody’s interest.
Would you say Northern leaders have been up and doing in ensuring the end to this violence being perpetuated by Boko Haram?
I don’t have all of the security information because I am not supposed to have all of such. It is not for me to cast aspersions on people or to challenge people to their responsibilities. As I earlier said, it will serve no person any good. I am sure that they should be worried about what is happening because they are killing every person. They are killing both Muslims and Christians; they are killing innocent people. So, it cannot serve any person any good. It cannot serve the northern elders; it cannot serve any person for that matter.
Boko Haram has killed a lot of Igbos. Are you in talks with the ACF to see how this violence can be brought to an end?
We are in touch with the leadership of the ACF. In fact, before long from now, we will be meeting with them in Enugu. It is a matter of putting the votes. We have good working relationship with Arewa. In fact, I was present at the inauguration of their present executive sometime in February, and they are very responsible people who have the interest of the country at heart, too. I think that the situation on ground is a problem for all of this country.
The National Conference has come and gone. You would recall that at the time the president made the pronouncement of the convocation of the conference, many thought we will go our different ways at the end of it. Looking back, do you feel proud of being part of that conference as some people have criticised it on a number of issues?
First, I am proud of the achievements of the conference. I am happy with the composition of the conference. It was a collection of very important people in this country. I am proud also about the way they conducted themselves. As a person, I never believed the conference will go smoothly like that and achieve consensus result. It further tells me that in this country, no problem is insurmountable. We talked like brothers. It was a wonderful experience that we had not been exploiting, this arrangement of discussing with leaderships from all parts of this country.
Let me quickly say to you that the conference was extremely necessary in so many ways and I commend the president for having the courage to call for this conference. Nigerians want change. It is obvious. The conflicts we have been having in different parts of the country are results of perceived injustices. Perceived or real injustices and by getting together to talk, we were able to bare our minds. At least, it gave leaderships of the various ethnic arrangements and professional bodies, the opportunity to bare their grievances and they were discussed in the open. Now, Nigerians know how others feel; how their brothers and sisters feel and it is extremely important. Dialogue, dialogue, is usually a better option. There are so many ways of resolving some of these imbalances. The conference was just one of it and that is the most civilised way, the only peaceful way of addressing those imbalances. And the other options would do nobody any good. The other options available would be by revolt and insurgency like we have seen in some areas. I think that it was good we adopted that other peaceful option.
And the issues we agreed by reasonable consensus, I think it will serve no person any good to return to status quo. It would have been better these issues were not discussed. It is bad to bring up issues, including those so many people did not know about, scratch them up and then, not act on them. It would have been better the conference never held than to come to the conference, bring up issues to the fore, including the ones unknown to many Nigerians and then suddenly, you do not act on them. It is in the interest of both the National Assembly and the leadership of this country that those issues are treated with utmost respect and the despatch it requires. It is not in any person’s favour that change does not occur in this country. Even in businesses, you have to restructure to grow. It should be continuous processes depending on events and changes. We live in a new global order where there is competition. Nigeria must restructure and prepare itself for growth. Otherwise, it will sink to the abyss and sinking could come in different forms: disintegration and failed state status. It was only good that this conference was called to address these issues and not to act on them will be dangerous for this country.
Would you say the grievances of the Igbo were addressed?
It was not only about the grievances of the Igbo, but the grievances of other Nigerians. The conference exposed us to the knowledge that many other Nigerians are also aggrieved. The fact that we had common grounds on many serious issues showed that other Nigerians shared the same grievances on many issues. So, for me as an Igbo man and as President General of Ohanaeze, I would want to commend all delegates that came in there. And not just my own people, but to commend all Nigerians for that sense of understanding and trying to address injustice as it affected other parts of this country.
What have the Igbo taken from the conference?
It is not about what we took from the conference. I would want to say to you that the conference fairly addressed some of the issues confronting the Igbo people. And for us as Igbo people, we are satisfied with majority of the recommendations of the conference.
The fear is that the resolution may not see the light of the day and it has been further fuelled by the decision of the president to set up another committee to review the report. Are you confident that the report would see the light of the day?
The president set up the conference based on the agitation of our people. The president also has a right to adopt whatever processes he thinks will put him in proper position to take decisions on the conference results.
So, I am confident that the president also understands the enormity of the problems. He understands the thinking of Nigerians. After all, he is the president. He feels the pause. He has the security report, another fact indicating that Nigerians want change.
What is your verdict on Nigeria?
My verdict is that if we continue to dialogue, Nigeria will be a better place and we would be able to position it for growth and in the interest of all Nigerians
Source News Express