Former President General Of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Dozie Ikedife, Believes That Only Equity And Fairness Will Address The Various Contentious Issues In Nigeria’s Polity. He Also Speaks, In This Interview With FELIX NWANERI, On The Clamour For Igbo Presidency In 2019
What is your take on former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s recent support for an Igbo presidency in 2019, and how feasible is it?
Yes! It is possible, why not? If you have heard the expression: ‘Man proposes but God disposes,’ you will know that there is nothing impossible in life.
But Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State has asked Ndigbo to support President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term and work towards succeeding him in 2023. What do you make of that?
Anybody can have a contrary opinion. You cannot kill someone for having an opinion that is not in tandem with yours. We are in a democracy, and people do have freedom of expression, they talk the way they want and according to how they see things. You cannot take anyone to court for having any opinion.
Don’t forget, this is supposed to be a religious country with a lot of credit to God, so my earlier statement is still very valid. Who would have believed that Donald Trump will be the president of United States today?
Do you think that Obasanjo was really sincere with his support for Igbo presidency?
All I can say in respect to what Obasanjo said is that we have noted it.
Don’t you envisage that an attempt by an Igbo man to contest the 2019 presidency may pitch the South-East and the North given the belief that the latter should be allowed to have the presidency for two terms before it comes to the South?
Those who are aspiring for the presidency from the different political parties must be pitched against each other, but in a normal circumstance, you will know that there is time that is auspicious, a time that is favourable and unfavourable. That, notwithstanding, I still stand by what I said: Man proposes but God disposes.
Don’t you think that the race for 2019 started too early and may distract the present administration?
That has always been the practice. Any sitting government is always thinking about the next election and it is natural. If you don’t start thinking about it now and 2018 comes, people will say that you are not serious.
Even those who are projecting for the 2023 elections have started to sharpen their weapons, writing speeches and rehearsing in front of their mirrors.
What does Ndigbo want; the presidency or restructuring of Nigeria to ensure true federalism?
I used to be the spokesman of Ndigbo but not now, but to the best of my understanding, I can tell you that Ndigbo have talked about the presidency for long and I don’t think that it is the uppermost in their minds for now.
I think what is uppermost in their minds is self-determination, let the system be restructured so that there will be equity and fairness.
But, some people are apprehensive of self-determination over the belief that it will dismember Nigeria…
It is a matter of opinion as others think that it is overdue. Some may think that we may never have it, while some think that this is the right time. These are various shades of opinion and point of view.
That means you are aligning yourself with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB)…
Why not and what is wrong with that?
Of course I am in agreement with that, and like I said, Ndigbo are not really talking about the presidency, they are talking about equity and fairness in the country’s polity.
Some people are of the view that Ndigbo should coalesce under a political party they control its national leadership, produce a presidential candidate and enter into alliance with other parts of the country. Where do you stand on this?
They are talking like politicians but I am not a politician.
But many believe that some of the issues you raised can be resolved politically…
The problem of Nigeria can be resolved through dialogue and legality, what is proper, with a sense of equity and fairness. Even if you go political and you don’t have sense of fairness, you will not find any solution.
If you allow dialogue to take place, with sincerity of mind on both sides, sense of consideration of other peoples’ interest and a sense that nothing is sacrosanct, you are bound to resolve the issues.
Nigeria is a matter of convenience as some of past leaders have said. You will recall that late former Premier of the defunct Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, did say that Nigeria is a mere geographical expression.
You will also recall that former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, at a time said the elements that make for one Nigeria do not exist.
You will equally recall that the North was at a time shouting ‘Araba,’ meaning let’s go our separate ways. These were opinions expressed at one time or the other. They are not strange opinions and no one was crucified for expressing such views.
Are you calling for the implementation of the report of the 2014 National Conference, which addressed some these contentious issues?
I will tell you that the conference did not even go far enough because there were issues that were no-goareas. As far as I am concerned, in discussing honestly, there should be no-go-areas; we should go to every area because the solutions to Nigeria’s problems may be found in those areas you consider as no-go-areas.
The issue of no-go-areas flaws the report of the conference. Nevertheless, they made some recommendations that are worthwhile and should be implemented. Some could be implemented by presidential fiat, while some could be by legislative action.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo recently elected a new executive led by Chief John Nwodo. What do you make of the new leadership of the apex Igbo body?
Looking at the calibre of people elected to lead Ohanaeze, the group may be turning a new leaf of relevance, but we have to wait and see how they perform because as the saying goes: ‘The taste of the pudding is in the eating.’ You don’t judge the capability of someone, when he has not performed.
We will watch them as they carry on with their duties, but I will be the first person to shout if the put the wrong foot forward.
Nwodo recently declared that Ndigbo will no longer fold their hands and watch their sons being killed by federal security operatives. Will such assertion not further heat up the polity?
If the Federal Government had done something that is not acceptable under a democratic dispensation, people should not be afraid to condemn it.
The people own the government and the government owns the people. It is not a one-way traffic. Those in government are human beings, so they can take right or wrong decisions. It is left for us to commend them when they take the right decision and shout when they take the wrong one.
Anambra State governorship election is billed for later in the year and there are back and forth movements among politicians at the moment. What are your thoughts on the poll given the present power equation in the country?
Power equation is dynamic. If you are talking about APC in Anambra State a year ago, nobody will listen to you, but today, people are jumping into the party from all the political parties.
The change is continuing, but nobody will predict what will happen in the next three or six months. As you very well know, things can change very dramatically and rapidly, so we have to watch events. So many things are possible and it requires the power of clairvoyance to predict with certainty.
Even the people you credit with the power of prophesy are sometimes proved wrong. For example, nobody believed that Donald Trump will win the US election, but he did and has been sworn in. That ought to teach politicians some political lessons.