Time for Igbo to be united and pursue restructuring, says Ugbochukwu-Uko
Founder of Igbo Youth Movement (IYM), Secretary, Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA) and Deputy Secretary, Igbo Leaders of Thought (ILT) Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko, spoke to newsmen on the outcome of the 2023 general elections and why Igbo should be united to agitate for restructuring of Nigeria. SAKA ADEDAMOLA was there.
How do you see the state of the nation with regards to the South East and especially the recently concluded elections?
I usually stay away from partisan politics. I allow politicians to do their thing. I dedicated my life to speaking 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 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. I usually leave partisan politics to politicians.
In your estimation, how’s the Southeast faring politically after the recent elections?
My region has been trying to get across the message 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, vote 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.
What’s your take on the outcome of gubernatorial 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, but the truth is that there is anger in the land, as represented by the agitation, inspired the mood of the people and also the vote 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, Governor 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, 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 Southeast political culture is maturing in an interesting way. 2027 promises deeper maturity, what with the heightened level of consciousness and awareness in the land. The elections have come and gone, I think we all should concentrate on moving the region forward.
How do you rate the outgoing governors 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, cheerleaders and different shades of ndi otinkpu, 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. 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 restructuring of Nigeria and also they should have engaged the agitators constructively. They know I disagree with their error of judgment in the handling of the agitators.
Having said that, I can tell you that Umahi cleverly struggled to drive the narrative 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 etc, but what is the performance of Ebonyi students in JAMB, Unity schools entrance exams and skills acquisition etc. Human development is zero. Moreover, he introduced politics of intimidation and suppression in Ebonyi. Governor Hope Uzodinma in Imo State hasn’t been able to key in with the people of the state. He is still struggling to legitimise his reign. Governor Charles Soludo disappointed the people of Anambra in less than one year.
He’ll need series of miracles to regain his pre-election popularity. 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 of Abia should be pitied. He has received more flack than any governor ever. First, litigations made his first term hell, next a powerful, well-oiled opposition managed to drown and promote anti Ikpeazu propaganda that has been sustained for years now. The strange thing is: his traducers are those who ruined Abia from 1999 moving forward. They present themselves now as angels and saints, painting Ikpeazu as the devil. Abia’s troubles began 24 years ago, when peeling egusi at Mother Excellency’s Aba residence opened doors to political office. This cabal of mamatocracy has held Abia hostage ever since. I wonder how and if Alex Otti will survive and escape their tentacles.
90 per cent of Ikpeazu’s critics today, were part and parcel of the gang that raped Abia ruthlessly since 1999. They only become Ikpeazu’s critics if they fall 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 since 1999.
I think the right thing to do now, will 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 Southeast must work as a team.
How will you advice 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. 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 Mr Peter Obi has gone to the tribunal…?
(Cuts in) I am sorry 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 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 this impunity to thrive. Nigeria has to be restructured without delay.