Chief Chaka Nweze is a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ebonyi State. In this interview with UCHENNA INYA, he says a president of Igbo extraction in 2023, will address complaints of imbalance by the South-East
seems that most people in the South-East are divided over seeking for the presidency of the country in 2023 or opting for secession as being propagated by some groups. What is your take on that?
In all fairness, I will advise the Ndigbo to go for the presidency of the country under a united Nigeria. I have maintained at various fora that an Igbo presidency will provide the locus for the correction of all cases of imbalance the race complains under the existing entity of Nigeria. The wait has been long, so Ndigbo should not consider any other option. There have been complaints of marginalization ranging from political leadership, civil service, regional infrastructural development up to the entire security architecture of the country. These issues are glaring. It can, however, be corrected with an Igbo presidency under a united Nigeria. There is definitely, no other option.
Why do you think that the issue of secession arose?
The truth is that most Igbos feel vulnerable within the Nigerian nation. This assertion may be plausible and apt but I do not think secession is the best for the Igbos considering their huge investment scattered all over the country. There is no part of the country and beyond that you will not see an Igbo man, productively engaged with investments that impact positively to the economy and social life of such place. Besides, more than 70 per cent of the over 70 million Igbos are not living within the South-East geopolitical zone. This, in itself, poses a huge burden that will be very difficult to manage if the people secede. You do not create another problem while trying to solve an existing one. It is only seeking the presidency under the existing entity called Nigeria that will resolve all agitations.
Can you throw more light on this?
Igbos do not have the prerequisite technological know-how to manage the high density settlement that will be orchestrated by secession. They will definitely see themselves grappling with high-density challenges and integration instead of the marginalization- related issues that are the bedrock of the agitation. The people should therefore demand for the presidency of the country for proper national cohesion and integration in the country’s scheme. They are a major bloc in the country and if others could have a shot at the coveted presidency, why should a race that have produced notable personalities that influenced and are still calling the shots in all areas of national life, not have shot at the presidency. The people should however be united in achieving this aim, while shunning distractive and divisive tendencies.
Do you think the Igbos can achieve this goal?
The Igbos should realise that nobody gives presidency to anyone or zone as those seeking the position need to play the necessary politics of becoming the president of a country. Nigeria is a complex country and attaining the highest position in the land is even more complex. That’s why I said earlier that the Igbos must be united and shun divisive tendencies in fighting this cause. There are certainly several obstacles on the way but with unity and sense of purpose, we will triumph. We should immediately commence high-level dialogue, negotiations and building bridges of confidence across the other geopolitical zones. Above all, we must identify and embrace the right political platform and belong to the right national political party of the moment.
What do you mean by the right political platform?
Let us go back to history. At the inception of the Fourth Republic, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was dominated by the Igbos and the late former Vice President of the country, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, was poised to become its presidential candidate, which would have culminated in him becoming the president. We will recall that it was obvious that the then military junta was willing to hand over to PDP and not All Peoples Party (APP) as it were. Ekwueme’s aspiration did not however materialise because he lost in a dramatic circumstance which buttresses the fact that power is not given but taken. The PDP then ruled the country from 1999 to 2015.
We will recall that the highest position attained by the Igbos within the 16 year rule was a tumultuous reign of Senate presidency between 1999 and 2007 in which all the five Igbo states produced the Senate president, while other zones maintained absolute decorum in the various positions they held.
By sheer providence and divine intervention, the APC took over the reins of affairs in the country in 2015 and has offered a new hope of integrating and connecting the Igbos properly into national politics. The Igbos therefore, should not continue ‘foot-dragging’ in any other party but fully embrace the ideals of the APC.
The Igbos should in that respect start searching for a candidate that will turn these aspirations into reality and make the other segments of the country, regret not having given the presidency chance to the Igbos all along.
The governors of the South-East ably led by Engr. David Umahi of Ebonyi State should immediately commence structural confidence building and dialogue among relevant political, social and economic stakeholders across the zone to nominate a candidate, who will lead the front and achieve all objectives of the zone. Umahi, having wittingly built confidence with the centre (Federal Government) over time, should lead his colleagues from the South-East to work out modalities to integrate the Igbos in the main stream national politics.
This will be through answering the clarion call of well-meaning Igbos to join APC, so that God forbid, if president eludes us in 2023, we can be sure of it in eight years after and Nigeria will be better for it.
You are a known critic of Umahi, but recently, you seem to be seeing things differently. What is truly happening?
I was never a critic of Umahi. I would rather say I never supported or worked for his emergence as a governor for no substantiated reason whatsoever. It was a mere peer group rivalry which made me see him as a would-be nonperformer and as such, I simply walked away and didn’t support him. However, he has consistently proved me wrong with his performance since 2015 and that made me to speak out. I don’t sing peoples’ praises but my conscience will not allow me hide the phenomenal transformation of my state under the governor.
The governor has suddenly turned Ebonyi into the Dubai of Nigerian with infrastructural strides that will be difficult to see elsewhere. He has completed over eight standard, world class ‘flyovers’ and is on the verge of completing several others. An interesting aspect is that the trans-Saharan Abakaliki-Enugu high way has a large chunk of the flyover projects and this has strategically connected Ebonyi nay Nigeria with neighbouring countries such as Cameroon among others; improving trade, investments and other business opportunities in the process.
This is the type of infrastructural innovation the country needs to ensure free trade, massive economic transformation, enhance business ties with its neighbours, to wriggle it from economic quagmire and become an economic hub sub-regionally, continentally and internationally.
The governor’s creative and passionate flair for infrastructural transformation made him rehabilitate all Federal Government owned roads in the state, making them models among such projects across the country. The fact still remains that Ndigbo should be united in the quest for the presidency and revel in the growing clamour being generated by the deserved aspiration across the country.