Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko is the founder of Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) and Secretary, Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA). In this interview, he speaks on the state of the nation, especially as it concerns the South- East geo-political zone, and outcome of the 2023 general election.
You’ve been quiet for a while. How do you see the state of the nation with regards to the South East and the recent general election?
There’s time and season for everything; time to be vociferous and a time to be quiet; time to watch and say nothing and a time to mobilise; a time to act and a time to prepare. For everything, there’s time and sea- son. Moreover, this is electioneering season of campaigning, elections and election tribunals. I usually stay away from partisan politics.
I allow politicians to do their thing. I dedicated my life to speaking the truth and the truth only in the hope that I may inspire the younger generation to stand on the truth, thereby initiating a better tomorrow. My activism is anchored on the truth that Nigeria needs to restructure the polity along the lines of true federalism and power devolution.
I’ve been standing on this truth for decades now. I refused to get involved with partisan politics, but I can tell you that the just concluded elections should teach us all certain lessons and that the awareness in the land today is commendable. In all humility, I played through the benevolence and mercy of God Almighty, a role in watering the ground for the new consciousness in the land through my over a hundred Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) seminars and conferences through the 1980s and 1990s.
I committed my adult life to opening the eyes of the younger generation to the reality of our existence as a people and encouraged them to interrogate our situation and condition but I usually leave partisan politics to politicians.
In your estimation, how is the South- East faring politically in present Nigeria?
My region has been trying to get the message across to other Nigerians that we want to be treated fairly, treated right and treated as equals. We’ve also remained good Nigerians over the years in hope that the injustices meted out to Ndigbo will be ameliorated through affirmative action and by getting the chance to govern Nigeria.
We believe that equity demands Nigeria gets it right. The just concluded elections went the way of previous elections; the usual verifiable incidents of voter suppression, votes inflation, violence and citizens chased away from polling stations in certain regions of the country.
These sad developments seem to validate the agitation and create discontent. But all these things happen because of the suffocating unitary structure that has created a domineering all- powerful centre, turning the federating units into helpless entities, depending entirely on the centre for survival, which is why Nigeria must be restructured without delay.
The overall outcome of the election in the South-East left many dissatisfied and disappointed. What’s your take on the outcome of gubernatorial elections in Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu states?
I normally do not like commenting on elections, but like everyone else, I noted the emotions and sentiments in the air. So many factors were at play, including the awareness as a result of the agitation.
Even though people do not like to give the agitators any credit, the truth is the anger in the land as represented by the agitation, inspired the mood of the people and also the voting pattern.
Our people are awake now and very conscious of the precarious situation of the country. People are tired of the post- civil war political culture and are more ready to hold the political class accountable, unlike three decades ago. The awareness today is huge. The contest was keen in Enugu and Abia. In Ebonyi, Dave Umahi bulldozed his way.
In Enugu the 24 year old PDP structure was almost toppled. In Abia, it was overwhelmed and replaced by a new political party. What’s interesting is the reaction of the political leaders affected. Governor Okezie Ikpeazu showed commendable statesmanship and humility by congratulating Alex Otti hours after the announcement of the final results.
He also advised against litigations, pledging a smooth transition of power by saying he was looking forward to a seamless handing over. That is so beautiful. In Enugu the other party refused to accept the result. I think the South-East political culture is maturing in an interesting way and 2027 promises deeper maturity, with the heightened level of consciousness and awareness in the land.
The elections have come and gone and I think we should concentrate on moving the region forward.
How would you rate the outgoing governors and governments of Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu states?
I try all I can to avoid political comments. I leave that to professional critics, who attack leaders on behalf of political opponents and praise singers and cheerleaders who survive through that.
The governors are not my friends; they resent my guts. They don’t understand why Elliot should not bow down and say only what they want him to say and be a good boy like everyone else. I disagree with their handling of the agitation and said so publicly. I don’t agree with them. There’s no love lost between us. I call them out always and ask them to do the right thing. They can keep all their love for their wives and girlfriends. I don’t think I need their love. I disagree with their fear of Abuja.
They are all scared of offending the centre and they failed to push restructuring as strongly as they should. I tell them so and they aren’t fond of me. They should have united the region and upped the demand for re- structuring of Nigeria. They should have also engaged the agitators constructively. They know I disagree with their error of judgement in the handling of the agitators. Having said that, I can tell you that Umahi cleverly struggled to drive the narra- tive that eye-catching infrastructure like flyovers, shopping centres and airport are more important than manpower development, which isn’t true. I give Umahi thumps up for the schools and roads, but what is the performance of Ebonyi students in the Joint and unity schools entrance examinations as well skills acquisition. Human development is zero. Moreover, he introduced politics of intimidation and suppression in Ebonyi.
Hope Uzodinma in Imo State hasn’t been able to key in with the people of Imo. He is still struggling to legitimise his reign. Chukwuma Soludo disappointed the people of Anambra in less than one year. He’ll need series of miracles to regain his pre-election popularity. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s case is funny. He is not pilloried as Ikpeazu of Abia, but he disconnected from the people of Enugu somewhere along the way. Ikpeazu should be pitied. He has received more flacks than any governor ever.
First, litigations made his first term hell. Next, a powerful and well-oiled opposition managed to drown all he has done in a gale of anti Ikpeazu propaganda that has been sustained for years now. The strange thing is that his traducers are those who ruined Abia. They now present themselves as angels and saints, painting Ikpeazu as the devil. I wonder how and if Alex Otti will survive and escape their tentacles. Ninety per cent of Ikpeazu’s critics today, were part and parcel of the gang that raped Abia ruthlessly. They only became Ikpeazu’s critics when they fell out of favour.
I commend Ikpeazu for congratulating Otti and suing for peace. That’s the behaviour of a humble man, who has the fear of God. Ikpeazu is no angel but the morass in Abia predates him; that is the truth. A ruthless cabal seized Abia and I think the right thing to do now, would be to move forward, learning from past mistakes and correcting errors of yesterday. Our region needs healing. Our leaders must push for the restructuring of Nigeria. That’s the only way to heal the land. The South-East must work as a team.
What advice do you have for the incoming leaders?
The only route to progress and real development is through restructuring the polity. The unitary structure is responsible for over 80 per cent of our miseries. So, Nigeria needs to devolve powers to the federating units and see the country explode, economically. The unitary structure is retarding the growth of the country. We are only delaying the greatness of our country by delaying the restructuring of Nigeria. Therein lies the roadmap to greater Nigeria.
The presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) is challenging the outcome of the election. What is your take on his action?
I am sorry that I don’t want to talk about the election. I warned him face to face that dethroning and replacing the deity you have all worshipped and benefited from over the decades won’t be a piece of cake. I don’t want to be dragged into the election and the politics of it; my message to all is that a restructured Nigeria will make it impossible for these impunity to thrive. So, Nigeria has to be restructured without delay.