Only Igbo presidency would heal the wound of Biafra war – Okechukwu, DG, VON

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Director-General of Voice of Nigeria, VON and APC chieftain, Mr. Osita Okechukwu has detailed some of the sins of the embattled national chairman of the ruling party, Adams Oshiomhole, including how he allegedly betrayed the party’s national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. He concluded that removing the former Edo governor as helmsman is in APC’s best interest. He spoke with TUNDE THOMAS on this and more.

What’s your take on the recent declaration by a former governor of Anambra state, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife that Igbo may cease to be Nigerians if denied the presidency in 2023?

We should tread with caution. Please let’s not use anger or threat to push our case for Nigeria president of Igbo extraction. That will be a great disservice to our collective goal. My understanding is that my elder statesman, Dr Ezeife is talking out of the abundance of his heart in that interview. Otherwise can he compulsorily move millions of Ndigbo who reside and invest in all the nooks and crannies of our dear country out of the nation? For some of us, we take pride that Ndigbo are the foremost patriots, as we live and invest in other geopolitical zones more than any other ethnic group.

Our position is that the rotation convention midwifed in 1999 at the inception of the fourth republic, beginning with the rotation from the South to North, to South and back to the North should be allowed to continue. Now that it is coming back South in 2023, and going by equity, natural justice and good conscience upon which the rotation convention is anchored, it is only the Southeast that is the only geopolitical zone in the Southern belt that has not presided over Nigeria. Therefore, it is our turn. This is our appeal, not threat or intimidation, for no geo-political zone can win the presidency alone. We the Buharists didn’t win the general election in 2015 until we gained traction and built bridge across the Niger. This is the persuasion path to follow.

Following last week declaration by a former Head of State, Gen Yakubu Gowon that Igbo have been marginalised for long, some Nigerians have suggested that one of the best ways to address this is for the two major political parties, APC and PDP to zone 2023 presidency to the South-East, do you think that would work?

I commend Gen. Gowon sincerely for adding his eminent voice to our agitation. It is our considered view that Nigeria president of Igbo extraction will be a healing balm and the final end to the scars of the civil war. It will silence fringe elements and enhance unprecedented development of Nigeria. Yes, it can only work if the two dominant political parties – APC and PDP nominate their candidates from Southeast or Ndigbo of South- South. This is what we dubbed the Falae/Obasanjo model adopted in 1999. We may recall that at that point in time, aspirants like Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Dr Olusola Saraki, Umaru Shinkafi of blessed memory and Dr Ogbonaya Onu, the present Minister of Science and Technology were all persuaded to step down for Falae and Obasanjo who were both from the South West for the collective interest of our dear fatherland.

Some Nigerians have described former President Olusegun Obasanjo as a hypocrite following his call for restructuring of Nigeria. He was accused of failing to do it when he was in power for eight years but others have hailed him for having the courage to eventually make the call, what’s your stand on this?

The fact that one didn’t execute certain policies while in office does not actually preclude the person from supporting the idea because he is out of power. This is my position. Yes, it could have been better if Chief Obasanjo had devoted the energy he unleashed on 3rd term to restructuring. However, this does not make him a hypocrite, it may be a mistake of the heart.

We must bear in mind that the greatest hindrance to restructuring Nigeria is the hangover on oil money. As long as most states depend on the monthly Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC), as the only means of survival, as long as it becomes difficult to wean them off such largesse, there will continue to be opposition to restructuring in some quarters.

Why has APC been unable to restructure Nigeria despite the fact that restructuring was part of the party’s manifesto during the campaigns? Some are even saying that APC is not showing that commitment because President Buhari’s body language doesn’t seem to support restructuring

Restructuring is a work in progress. It is is not a one day event. Accordingly, the foremost leader of my great party and President of Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari has already embarked on restructuring by other means. One, he has started the first line charge of releasing federal accrued revenue directly to all the 774 local councils in Nigeria. This is a major plank of restructuring. This means that all the money accruing to local councils are paid directly to them. We need to urge the governors to forget the practice of holding joint account with local councils and give effect to this fiscal restructuring.

Another commitment to restructuring is Buhari’s agrarian revolution. It is on record that Mr President has invested more than any Head of State or president post- 1970 in agriculture. The agrarian revolution will water the ground for restructuring. As I said earlier that until we appreciate that every square meter of land space in Nigeria is blessed abundantly with wealth, there will be no consensus on restructuring. For example, it is easier today for the successful rice farmer in Kebbi and Ebonyi States to support restructuring than those who have not keyed into Buhari’s agrarian revolution.

On the present state of insecurity across the country, some have expressed concern over the deteriorating situation ….

Cuts in…. The truth is that Mr President is worried like most of us about the present state of things especially insecurity , the only thing is that he is not the talking type, who will shout on top of the roof, otherwise a lot is covertly taking place to contain the insecurity imbroglio. That’s why contrary to the expectations of traducers, he accommodates salient views from both local and international community.

Operation Amotekun, the regional security outfit recently established by South-West governors has been described as a form of community policing and a model which other geo-political zones should emulate but there are some divergent views on the outfit…..

To me whether it is Amotekun, or forest guards or any other similar organizations ,they are all welcomed, and it doesn’t matter whether they are Local Government Council, or state based. The unintended changes in the security challenges in our fatherland require all manner of solutions. And Amotekun and Co are part of the solutions. Whether you call it local, community or regional police, the most important thing is that we are secured. There should be no controversy over Operation Amotekun. It is part of the security architecture designed to secure lives ad properties of citizens.

The recent suspension of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as the APC national chairman has become a subject of debate with some saying that his removal will create further problems for the party,while others are saying that it is a good riddance to bad rubbish, what’s your stand on the issue?

Without being immodest or writing off Comrade Adams Oshiomhole entirely, I belong to the group that proposed that his urgent removal as chairman would be good for the immediate repositioning of our great party. His exit will stem the gross mismanagement of our dear party and help us to pick the broken pieces.

Why do you subscribe to the removal of Oshiomhole who some party leaders, including those from the South East recently publicly commended for making it possible for APC to secure majority in the National Assembly and in particular made the South-East geo-political zone secure national and state assembly seats, plus a governor?

I read the advertorial and I’m conversant with my leaders, I have great respect for them but no sincere APC member will deny the incontrovertible fact that Oshiomhole mismanaged our great party and unintentionally resurrected PDP, a political party which was on the verge of collapse in 2019 after serious internecine intra-party crisis. There is no doubt that his narcissism and dictatorial tendency cost APC several states including Adamawa, Bauchi, Rivers, Zamfara, FCT and some legislative seats in the Southeast. Recently we lost Bayelsa due to his recklessness. Otherwise who is a sane chairman that will allow a sitting senator to go for Deputy Governor? Or that will not diligently scrutinize the credentials of candidates?

Thirdly, he breached our great party’s constitution and even the rules he enacted himself, like the choice he placed on advertorial for states to choose either direct and indirect mode of primary. Some states like Enugu chose indirect and he reversed it arbitrarily in the midst of gubernatorial primary. Lagos also chose indirect primary and he went ahead contrary to the choice of Lagos State Stakeholders of APC to print ballot papers for direct primary. In fact, Comrade nearly shunted Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a man who made him governor and chairman. If not for his sagacity, of conducting the primary with his men, Asiwaju had almost lost Lagos to his estranged godson, former governor Ambode. He quickly brushed aside the Oshiomhole primary panel and took his fate in his hand. Please cross check this fact, for I stand to be contradicted. If he can betray Asiwaju, whoelse can he spare?

But some APC members are giving him credit for making it possible for APC to win Imo state…..

Cuts in… Without delving much into this matter, I don’t agree with those who are making such claims. I would rather give the credit of our late recovery of Imo State, to Governor Hope’s sagacity rather than Comrade Oshiomhole’s input. I was part of that battle. Let’s not forget that it was Oshiomhole who further compounded the Imo state problem for APC, from where Senator Rochas Okorocha stopped.

As far back as 2018, Oshiomhole has been creating serious problems for APC in Imo state. After the gruesome congress battle for the soul of APC in Imo State, the Senator Osita Izunaso’s faction won, before the gubernatorial primary. Then rumours started flying that Oshiomhole was going to cancel the congress.

Luckily I met him on July 12, 2018 at the launch of Abuja rail line and I pleaded with him not to cancel the primary but he told me he was going to do so, that then Governor Rochas was one of his key supporters for his chairmanship bid. I pleaded that the cancellation would be akin to giving monkey back cup of water snatched from him, but he remained adamant. Few days later he canceled the congress, hence the confusion that later followed. The rest they say is history. Oshiomhole created serious problems for APC, asking him to go will bring a lot of relief to the party.

Fears are being expressed that the lingering feud between Governor Godwin Obaseki, and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole may cost APC Edo state during the gubernatorial election coming up in the state later in the year, do you harbour such fears, and how can the crisis be resolved?

With Oshiomhole’s ’s imminent exit, one doesn’t harbour such fears. He is most likely to go before the party’s primary in the state. He was the one who publicly abolished godfatherism in Edo State, and demonized those who supported him in Edo State, like Chief Anthony Anini of blessed memory. But is it not a paradox that he now desperately bids to be a new Edo State godfather? What a contradiction. APC has got nothing to lose with Oshiomhole’s removal.

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