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S’East Presidency’ll be beginning of restructuring –Prof Ibe

Prof. Gregory Ibeh is a Development Consultant with UN, ECOWAS and he is the Founder and Chancellor of Gregory University, Uturu, Abia State. In this interview with some journalists Ibeh looks at the present challenges and proffers ways to solve the problems. JOHNCHUKS ONUANYIM was there

Some people believe that the presidency should remain in the North in 2023. They argue that since the return to democratic rule, the South has enjoyed it more…

Let’s look at it this way, remove this argument of North and South to an extent. Someone says that power had been in the South, who accepted zoning, is it not zoning that everyone is using? Which zone had it at which time? But you ask when it was in the South, did only one zone take? Was it not South West and eventually South South? And imagine, South East has never produced anybody. If Nigerians want to respect ourselves, if Nigerians feel we are brothers, we are from one country, they should allow us to lead. They should support us. The power will return to them but they should support us to heal this country. We have the capacity, and the ability as well as the sagacity to deliver development to Nigeria and Nigerians.

This support, are you seeing it from the point of the big parties zoning their presidential ticket to the South East zone?

I have said it several times that the parties should zone everything to the South East, and when this is done, they have cemented the relationship, they have cemented one country. And what will be left is joining hands together to fight the troubles and ills of the society. Somebody has a good idea of how to solve a problem but because he is not recognized, he keeps calm. But when Nigeria is one, you sing the anthem, the song comes from the heart and motivates positive action. Today you see agitations over the constitution of Nigeria, is that not true? People are agitating seriously. If a president is a listening president the best thing to do is to say there is merit in all the agitations irrespective of party line. It will be a credit to whoever is leading Nigeria to revisit this issue and say people’s constitution should be so clearly written: “We the People of Nigeria”. The consent will be clear.

What advantages do you think your party PDP has over the ruling party since 1999 to effect needed changes?

I don’t know how to differentiate the ruling party from the people who are inside now. Everybody in the ruling party is a PDP man previously. Only few were from the other parties. A majority of them were in PDP, it is like they have emptied PDP into APC. So you now ask the question, how do you judge PDP and this one? The same ills that brought down PDP will also bring down APC. They need to think about it, our approach is the same. No research, nobody is thinking, nobody is looking for alternative ways. If you want to do something different go under the connotation of creating destruction. Let’s destroy this constitution that’s causing trouble, let’s weld Nigeria together by destroying and creating a new Nigeria. You will be acknowledged, you will be the father of new Nigeria, and that will be the beginning of a new, prosperous Nigeria. So how do I see who is in PDP? Almost all my friends that I had known in PDP had gone to APC. That I should draw a line with them, I’m not going to draw a line with them, they remain my friends and brothers. We are in PDP and our PDP is remaining strong by the day because it is the largest party that ruled Nigeria and brought stability into the polity. APC is playing their first role. If l do a comparison, what was the money for fuel from this time to this time. That’s a yardstick to measure – the revenue you got, the decisions you took along the line. You can get researchers to calibrate how you are doing. The only thing I think is not working, as a U.N intern and consultant to ECOWAS on best practices is that we jettisoned the National Development Plans and we came up with simple agenda – ego-tripping decisions and policies that take the essence of Nigeria and its development out of the tables.

How do we proceed to correct the problem?

In the next 50 years Nigeria ought to have a National Planning document domiciled in the National Planning Office. Each year or every two years you update that and it continues to go. Every 10 years you can do another relaunch and make additional impute considering that every eight years, all the troubles associated with the two tenure, all the trials and errors can now be imputed into the new development plan to make sure that the areas the outgoing government erred are not repeated going forward. But we are not doing it, we just sit down, somebody tells you my agenda is 10 points, 20 points, 100 points agenda and so on. And if you just analyse it, it may just be food security, agriculture and development but this is what you can put down into four or five places, repeating the same thing. This is some of the things we can talk about in terms of consultancy that we do.

You once had the ambition to govern Abia State, What’s the outlook now.

Abia State is my state. I had made a move to becoming the governor in 2014 but in politics you must learn to obey, to have a leader and be responsive. You must learn to be a team player in the political family. The governor then told me that the zoning must take effect and that the position would be zoned to Southern part of Abia State, and told me point blank that I should drop my ambition and wait till 2023, that I’m still a young man. Whereas others continued and got their fingers burned, I withdrew. I wrote to the party to inform them of my withdrawal, wrote to the governor that I will wait for the time it will be zoned to us in Abia North. So I have been enduring for the last six years the administration has been there until it finishes. I will be happy when he (Ikpeazu) finishes, then I will return to make my contribution. I have very strong feelings that I should serve my state come 2023.

Talking about serving your state, the Senate President was in Imo State where he went to commission some projects and he said Abia, Anambra are going to APC. How would you respond to that vis-a-vis your ambition for 2023?

Anambra, Abia? You see one thing you know with politicians is such talk. Have you played Pool before, I mean Pool, Dundee Vs Liverpool, Exeter Vs Man Utd? You know Pool, that one you perm three from four, betting. A governor comes and in order to feel good and make his speech worthy, he will strike on us. A governor once said that Nigeria will be a one party state, and that he expects 12 PDP governors to come into his party. He is entitled to his own opinion. If he said political gladiators in Abia State are moving to APC, let’s welcome them. Let’s welcome the shock and replan because after a shock there is a moment to re-plan. We are not afraid. They should also be worried the way we are deepening and keep deepening the net of the PDP in most of the regions they are controlling.

Would you say the events that led to the implosion in the PDP post 2015 have changed to warrant your confidence?

Again, what has actually worked against Nigerian political groups is “Aguu butere ajuchaa anara.” If a party’s ideology is strong and everyone is involved in SME development, in making their money and getting involved in private sector led economy, like in USA, if you are a democrat you are a Democrat and if you are a Republican, you are a republican but it is one country. When you offend them, they come as one country and fight you but when it comes to politics, they toe their lines. They have not killed nor maimed anybody for belonging anywhere but our timidity is leading us to injury. What drives our politics is poverty. They have made politics an impoverished system. Must politics be the system that gives money in Nigeria? Must politics be the avenue for people to be rich? It is becoming worrisome. How can a politician be richer than a business man now just because you went to Senate, Reps or House of Assembly? The life of service is now turned to money making venture. We must change our perception to get things working.

You said your party zoned the coming governorship election in Anambra State to Anambra South but we still see aspirants from other parts picking forms. Obiora Okonkwo is from Anambra Central but he picked form recently…

I read that my friend Obiora Okonkwo has picked form, he’s from Central and he was in Enugu where the governors and the party zoned the ticket to South. I’m not speaking for them, I even heard all the aspirants were there. Even Senator Uche Ekwunife was there. They came and PDP said it is zoned to Southern Anambra. If the party said so, you should expect what will happen when they start clearing the aspirants. The first criteria for clearance would be the zoning. It means Obiora and others should be getting ready for shock or go to another party. Even if they clear him they may not vote for him during the primary. The PDP in Anambra is not a caretaker exco. So everybody is watching what is going on. If the party comes against them he might go to another party but if he is a good party man he will toe the line and that may give him opportunity to aspire to go to Senate.

If you are given opportunity to choose between Igbo presidency and restructuring, which would you go for?

Does it go without? Why must you give me option to choose? As if they are mutually exclusive. All of them go together. The first restructuring is to restructure for South East to produce the President. That is the first restructuring. If we continue on this way it means that all other issues we are talking about in restructuring will remain the same, we maintain the status quo, and that is the danger in the agitations that people are making now. So the first restructuring is to give opportunity to those who have not produced and those that have worked hard and have a lot of investments in this country, who believe in the country. One of them should be given opportunity.

You must be worried about insecurity. If you are to advise the government on how to tackle the security challenges of the country what would be your advice?

When you have a population boom that nobody planned for… nobody did any form of thinking regarding their education, welfare, housing and the population keeps increasing, this is what you get. It will get to a point where that population will begin to ask questions and when you fall to give answers they’ll fight you to a standstill. It is important that every leader knows that as I am in the midst of my people, constituency or state, the opportunity given to them must be well harnessed, people must be carried along otherwise when without means of livelihoods they could become kidnappers, bandits, or armed robbers if subjected to the level of neglect we’ve seen. It means that if I’m in government or I am to advise, I will make concerted efforts to sit with them to see where development has met their own fathers and mothers so that everyone can be helped to come out in a position of strength.

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