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Why Igbo must produce next President of Nigeria, by Udenwa

By Obire Onakemu
20 May 2022   |   4:22 am
I am not contesting for any position. I’m only a participant to the extent that justice is done, and to see that we elect a good President for this country.

Udenwa

Former Imo State Governor, Achike Udenwa in this interview with OBIRE ONAKEMU, spoke on the cause of insecurity in the state and why the presidency should be conceded to Igbo in 2023

Do you have any aspiration for the 2023 general election?
I am not contesting for any position. I’m only a participant to the extent that justice is done, and to see that we elect a good President for this country.

How will you assess governance in Imo State and the country?
It is difficult to assess governance in Imo State. Emeka Ihedioha was elected the governor of the state in 2019. But unfortunately, for one reason or the other Supreme Court annulled that election, and brought in a new person, who was number four and that has not made things easy in the state, since that time and coupled with the general situation in the South East, as regards insecurity generated by the IPOB, presence of security agencies and the herdsmen.

So, the situation in Imo State has been so complicated. There is virtually no governance; people are just struggling to survive. Living has become very difficult; people rarely go from one place to another; most of the time, people are indoors. There is no ‘governance’ going on in Imo State.

And about the country, to a large extent, Imo State provides almost a picture of what is happening in the whole of Nigeria. We have the same type of problem – insecurity, unemployment and economic issues. Inflation is at the highest level and life generally is very difficult in Nigeria, today, and government seems not to be doing anything at all.

So, APC has become a big disappointment in this country. And all the promises they made in 2015, none has been fulfilled; everything has gone and security of lives and property is no longer there. We never had it so bad, even things were not as bad as this during the civil war. There is no constant electricity supply and other basic amenities. Everything has broken down. I didn’t know what to say. We’ll continue to look up to God for salvation.

Did you do better when you governed this state?
It is difficult for me to assess myself, let another person praise you. Definitely, if you give me the opportunity to sit for an exam and mark my papers, I will get distinction. But my period as a governor of Imo State, between 1999 and 2007, was the time we inherited a lot of debts and that was the time the Paris club debt repayment was on. Imo State repaid nearly N300million every month and that was so much money. But by and large, we’re able to stand and we left office without leaving any debts at all. We didn’t borrow money and managed the little we had to do as much as we could. We had some very good projects that we executed. A lot of roads were done throughout the three senatorial districts in the state. We set up the teaching hospital, secretariat, and housing estates, among others.

How will you rate the APC on its promises of tackling insecurity, corruption and the economy?
Undoubtedly, APC has failed woefully in the area that you have just mentioned. We are all Nigerians, one does not have to be a politician to be able to do the assessment. The best way to do an assessment is: what was the situation before they came in and what is the situation today? As at the time they came in, insecurity was not as bad as this, it was only in Borno State that Boko Haram was committing their heinous crime. But today nowhere is safe in this country. Terrorists have occupied almost all states in the Northern Nigeria. They have sacked many villages and many local government councils. And there are local councils some state governors cannot reach – and the natives in those occupied territories pay their taxes to the bandits, that means Nigeria is under siege.

They came to the South, as herdsmen rubbishing everywhere in the region and also the Middle-Belt. So, which part of the country is safe today? And when it comes to the economy, it’s nothing to comment about. Hyper inflation has taken over the economy. So, where do you start assessing them? In everything of common development, APC has failed woefully at the national level.

In the international relations, Nigeria is nowhere again. If you go to some countries and you say, you are a Nigerian, you have lost respects. I don’t know how to rate them but I wish Nigeria good luck.

Would you say that APC deceived Nigerians with promises to win elections by all means in 2015?
Definitely, in 2015, they made all sorts of promises, as at the time they came in, a US dollar was about N160 but today, a dollar is about N600. So, where does that leave us? What was our balance of payment as at that time? What was our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) like? Now, for this country to survive, we require a growth rate of about 11 to 12 per cent of GDP per annum. Now, we are hardly growing at two to three percent. They just deceived us. They gave us wrong projections of what they were able to do and none of them had been done it.

With huge foreign loans incurred by the Federal Government, do you see the possibility of implementing this year’s budget to a reasonable level?
There is no way we can implement the budget to any reasonable extent. We are already borrowing to implement the budget. At least, we are borrowing to make sure we are able to meet up with the concurrent expenditure. For the capital expenditure, we are borrowing heavily again from China and the rest of international money market. When a country borrows to finance its concurrent expenditure, that is the worst that can happen. So, we are in a terrible situation for that matter.

How do we go about achieving national cohesion in Nigeria?
If Nigeria must achieve national cohesion, first and foremost, any government coming in must be of utmost good faith with Nigeria; must tell Nigerians what the situation is; must carry along Nigerians in whatever he or she is planning and must be able to have the courage to do all that is needed to be done. These are the steps that must be taken before we can survive. I’m looking at 2023, however, any government that comes in and refuses to look at our Constitution and begin process for restructuring cannot make it.

It is a basic thing. He will take charge of a funeral, of what we call one Nigeria today, if he refuses to restructure. Yes, we are already at the bridge; it just requires a slight thing and the country will be shattered; it will be broken to pieces on its own without any agitation. Where else can you push us to; you have pushed us too far. It doesn’t require a grudge and Nigerians will carry guns and one day, Nigeria will cease to exist. So, any government that is coming now should have the courage to touch our Constitution. There are many faulty areas in it; ammend it to restructure this country in such a way that the Exclusive list can reduce considerably to give Residual list a chance to look after their internal resources and explore them. That is the only way we can survive. But the current over centralisation will lead us to nowhere.

In achieving national cohesion, we must look at all sections of this country and must make sure everybody is carried along. We must also shun ethnicity; shun religious sentiments, and make sure we go back to merit in whatever we are doing. That is how to build a nation.

God did not endow all of us with the same talents but everybody has his or her own talents. Let us explore these talents, emphasis on merit, carry everybody along and Nigeria would be good for all of us. We would be happier for it and that is what I think we need to do.  

What do you make of the quest for Igbo-presidency?
The Igbo presidency cannot be realised by the people of South East alone; it is not possible. Nigeria has six geo-political zones and for the Igbo to become the President of this country, other zones must also concede to them; just as Igbo have conceded to others in the past. Since 1960 till now, Igbo ruled this country for just six months and that was General Aguyi Ironsi from January to July 1966; Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was a ceremonial President, so, let us not mention him. We all know the truth.

We are pleading to other Nigerians, for stability, for us to have a sense of belonging, and equity, please allow the Igbo to produce the next President of Nigeria. The Igbo are not mediocre; we have people who are competent enough to rule this country. Igbo has some good qualities.

We are the only major ethnic group, who has not tested the presidency of this country. The Igbo should be kindly given a chance to become President of this country and we would make a better President; we will work for the unity of this country. Without being immodest, Igbo are creators of wealth. With the gift they have, wherever they are in this country, they contribute to their economic growth. Then, if an Igbo is made the President, he will be able to harness this and bring true unity and progress to the country.

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