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Elder statesman, and a chieftain of the defunct National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Chief Ralph Obioha has said that President Muhammadu Buhari may get a second term, if he amends the manner he is running the country. Speaking with VINCENT KALU, the ormer member of the House of Representatives asked the Igbo to exercise patience till 2023, which is the litmus test for Nigeria on Igbo presidency.
There seems to be confusion, and cacophony of voices in the country; what is the reason for this?
Things are happening not only in Nigeria, but also the world over, but that of Nigeria seems to be pointed. Maybe, advancement and development had thrown up so many of the issues that had been allowed to lie unattended to for years.
Among them is the corruption that has become so pervasive in Nigeria; the unemployment exacerbated the youth restlessness; the lack of equity in conformity to even written norms like Federal Character became so obvious.
Added to all of these, is the economic recession, in which for the first time, Nigerians saw poverty in its true nakedness. Yes, we have problems. There is a saying in Igbo that, ‘it takes a great man to conform to sudden development’.
You have identified some of the problems, what is the way out to achieve the Nigeria of your dreams, which some of you statesmen had envisaged?
When former President Olusegun Obasanjo came out with what might be acclaimed to be speaking the minds of most Nigerians, on the first day of its release, there were exclamations by many and sundry that he has spoken our minds. I read that letter twice and there was a lot of hyperbole in it, in the sense that what he wrote about was even known by the market women to be the ills of Nigeria.
One would have even expected that talking from both sides of the mouth about forming a coalition or a third force, and then addressing the constitutional issues that he practised himself; that the way to change a government is through a political process. I took issues with that because that is not the answer even though he said that if the movement turns into a political party that he would opt out.
He condemned the ruling party and the viable opposition, which is the PDP, he also wrote off. So, he left me in a situation that I was asking what is this all about?
I was among those who left the shores of this country; who were grossly offended over the outcome of Abiola’s election, and proved it by abandoning so many things I was doing in Nigeria to go on exile to fight the restoration of democracy in Nigeria under NADECO, and we succeeded.When this democracy came, we were all very happy and the first beneficiary of it was the same Obasanjo, who was also one of those who sabotaged our efforts by declaring that Abiola wasn’t the messiah Nigeria was looking for.

Abiola wasn’t my tribe’s man, but the consideration I gave was that I believe firmly then and I also believe firmly now that it is through democratic process that changes can happen in Nigeria.
Still on the solutions, let us start with the remedial, which is that, there is a sitting president, who is the constituted authority.

I want Nigerians to join voices to ask him to take a second look at the way his policies are being run. One, on the issue of security, where some armed men, who may claim to be conducting their legitimate business, but being a herdsman, is not a license for the person to carry guns, and at the slightest provocation, start mowing people down.
There is no way it could be practiced or tolerated.
This provocation if they claimed, it is; somebody starts a provocation – a farmer who had toiled, planted and wakes one morning to see that  a herd of cattle have destroyed all those efforts, no human being would tolerate it.
In that sector about security, the government must implement a policy that can arrest that immediately, and is not something to be postponed tomorrow or next week.
The economy of Nigeria when you look at it against the world economy, a lot of bumps happened last five years that affected the world economy, but serious governments around rose up to the challenge, and are doing something about that, but in the case of Nigeria, the absence of energy which wasn’t tackled, had thrown a lot of youth into joblessness, that also impact on security.
The father of equity is justice. If the president believes that the manner and way he makes appointment is equitable, then he is in another planet. The appointment he makes today is skewed to favour only one section of the country; and it happens with such frequency you start to wonder whether the person we gave the mandate to be the father of all is truly the father of all.
Let us talk of what he might claim to be his mark in his coming to power, which is fighting corruption.
If we must be honest with ourselves, the issue of corruption seems to have been totally unattended to, and it is raging in almost all sectors of our society, whether in the Judiciary, religious bodies, police, Legislature, Executive, it is like the corruption thing has risen to a crescendo.

The truth of the matter is that the government must make an inward move and find alternative policies to tackle this monster; the policies they are implementing are simply not working; they should look at it again and confront it in an alternative manner.

Following the clamour for restructuring, the ruling party, APC set up a committee, and the committee chaired by the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai has submitted its report, highlighting how to restructure the country. What is your position on this?
The truth is that Nigeria is one curious country, where what you think is a forgone conclusion is still allowed to be debatable.  A vast majority of Nigeria is done on restructuring, and the people that we thought were holding back are the APC members. Now that the party has come to say that they are supporting restructuring, the government should then set up a serious commission to find ways and means to tackle this restructuring and present it to the Nigerian people.  Restructuring is a done deal, if it doesn’t happen, Nigeria will crash; it is like it is on a top speed for implosion.
But some people have dismissed the APC report, saying that it was a ploy for 2019, and to buy time; more so, that it was hurriedly packaged to douse the tension in the country following the massacre in the Middle Belt by herdsmen?
Whenever anybody has already made up his or her mind to puncture anything, they would always find excuses. I’m not persuaded in the above argument.
They should put the proposal to test, and the best way to do it is now that it is a forgone conclusion that the people have accepted restructuring.
The government should set up a commission to put the modalities in carrying out this restructuring. It will not just come if we all say it by our lips; it has to have a platform, a process in which this restructuring should take place.
There are schools of thoughts that are calling for military intervention; that the constitution we are using is a military concursion.
I’m afraid whether that is the answer. You invite them, you won’t know what the outcome of the invitation would be.
We are in a democracy, and we have institutions that carry this thing out. I fought for this democracy and I would not be a party for anybody disrupting it. Nigerians should be patient and give the democracy time to work. Some democracies are still growing after 100 years, this one we have is just less that 20 years.
Now that Nigerians are hooked on restructuring, then the government should not give room for speculations, for innuendos and for all sorts of things; let us focus on getting a commission for that, as everybody can now agree that Nigeria can’t move forward in the pattern it is going.
Justice has a father, which is equity, and if you don’t have these two ingredients in dealing with human beings, you are bound to fail.I remember the late Maitama Sule, when he led the leaders of the North to congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari; the entire speech he gave to Buhari was premised on justice, justice, and justice. If the President has forgotten, he should call for that tape and listen to it again. It is the surest way for him to succeed.
Many of us really supported him at his election on the firmest belief that he was the answer to putting Nigeria right. We believed that he was an agent that will bring sanity back to public affairs; we also believed that he would lead Nigeria to the path of recovery and path to good governance.

Still on the APC report that recommended fiscal federalism, state police, and scrapping of the local government, some argue that State police is a recipe for anarchy as some governors would use it to oppress opponents?
That is why I was calling for a commission that would collate, harmonise and get all these views. I believe the commission will invite opinions. I will be very active in putting up written proposals, after I have sought the opinions of others. Nobody can claim to have a monopoly of either wisdom or the best way to a solution of an issue. You may be surprised that you can get the solution from a market woman, when you want to talk about trading because she is the one that practices it on a daily basis.
 I’m opposed to State police; my fears are about the behaviours of present occupiers of that office, but in other federations like the United States, there are state police, there are even county police, and there is a federal police.
Even when we are having State police, we should also have a federal police, as a kind of ombudsman to supervise the activities of the state police. The commission set up should be able to take submission from Nigerians, look at them, and balance them to find the best solution for our problems. There are many things that would be involved in restructuring.
The 2019 general elections are just around, what do you think are the shapes of things to come?
If APC doesn’t buckle up, it will be voted out of power. A lot of people are saying that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is not organised. Why are they restricting just two political parties. There may be a rising star somewhere in Nigeria, who may come and hit the cord of the Nigerians’ sensibilities, and it would become a movement, as Obasanjo wanted to present it, rather at a very primordial level, but it could just be somebody somewhere asking Nigerians to give him or her the mandate to change things. You might be surprised, 48 hours in politics is like eternity.
If tomorrow Buhari wakes up and says, ‘I didn’t know that things have really got this bad, now watch my actions, I’m really going out on blazing actions of really fighting corruption’, and even apologizing to Nigerians, by saying,  ‘look I did this thing wrong because of information available to me’, and probably review his appointments and make it an all inclusive one, you would be surprised that Nigerians will say, ‘maybe, we give him another mandate.’  There is still time for him.
The Igbo for long have been clamouring to produce the president; some of their leaders say it’s only possible in 2023, what is your position on this?
A convention has been rooted in Nigeria where the six geo-political zones have by affirmation evolved. I have got that perception that every zone must be allowed eight years to give a stewardship. I’m a firm supporter of that.
I have also cautioned in certain circles we meet that the Igbo should set their eyes on 2023. We should pursue that as a strategy and prepare the person the Igbo should present. It might sound simplistic, but it will work if we put our minds to it.
If there is a change and Buhari or APC is voted out of power, how can the 2023 presidency project for the Igbo be realised?
The important thing is the region. If eight years convention has been been agreed for by  a region  to demonstrate leadership, it doesn’t matter whether they split it into four, four by different persons.

The core issue is the eight years for a region. That is the way we should address our minds.
If Buhari doesn’t buckle up and change his way, I will never support him again.
Like I said earlier, I don’t know whether he gets the reports of how Nigerians are feeling today.
APC, whether formally or informally doesn’t believe in rotation, and if it wins again without huge support from Southeast, do you think the Igbo have the moral right to say it is their turn to field the president in APC for 2023?

Don’t forget that in 2015, the efforts some of us made on behalf of APC were dismissed. At each occasion, I tried to amplify these efforts.
We studied the issue of the sensibilities of the Igbo viz-a-vis Jonathan. For some reason, Jonathan had marketed himself as an Igbo son. We said we should be hitting the wall if we get to campaign that Buhari should be considered.
So, we  adopted a strategy to suppress the Igbo votes, so that they would not vote for Jonathan as they did in 2011. That strategy worked in the sense that we denied Jonathan over two million votes, and that made the difference. If Igbo gave Jonathan the votes they gave him in 2011, Buhari couldn’t have won the 2015 election. The Igbo who were in the vanguard of this were totally forgotten by Buhari because he was told mistakenly that the Igbo didn’t vote for him.
What anybody should focus on is victory, not on who voted because it made people who worked and fought for the votes to look as if they were goats. There were many of us in that vanguard – people like Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, but they have been forgotten, not that if you work for democracy you expect something, but of course, the whole thing for working for a party is patronage, so let’s not ignore that factor.
2023 is the litmus test for Nigeria about Igbo presidency. I’m urging Nigerians not to toy with this. I will never be a candidate because my age will not permit me.

The Southeast has supported PDP for 16 years; some APC supporters say there was nothing to show for that in terms of infrastructure, that the roads got worse within that period. What will the ruling party use to market itself in that region?
The main thrust of our campaigns against Jonathan was the neglect of those two major roads, including the third one that runs from Oba to Okigwe. The combined total of the roads I have mentioned is less than 330 kilometres.
The stretch of a brand new road that Jonathan constructed from Kano to Maiduguri was more than 800 kilometres.
Work is ongoing on these two roads, Enugu/Onitsha, and Enugu/ Port Harcourt roads, but nothing is going on the Oba- Okigwe axis.
If this thing could reach the presidency and they double their efforts on these roads, Igbo are right thinking people, they think on what they see and not on what they are told.
Even when their sons and daughters were campaigning for Jonathan in 2015, and saying that those roads were under construction, Ndigbo were seeing that it was a lie, and that more than anything actually kept them at home, and they didn’t come out to vote on that election day.

So, the APC should buckle up and go for practical solution and not getting about three people to be on the social media talking that the roads are under construction. I can confirm that some works are actually going on there because I just came from there.

The government should also take a look at the appointments it has made in the almost three years, and try to balance it, then, he would go for another term.

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