From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
In the run-up to the 2023 general elections, a leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South East, Chief Kodilichukwu Okelekwe, has said Ndigbo must approach the election strategically. Okelekwe, who is also the APC senatorial candidate for Anambra Central zone, in an interview with a select group of journalists, in Abuja, stated that there is need for Ndigbo to look critically at the political realities in the country, and weigh their options carefully.
Former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, last week emerged the APC 2023 presidential candidate. What does that portend for the party?
First, let me start by congratulating Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for his doggedness, tenacity. It is a victory well deserved. Having said that, if you look at his chances in the main election, it is obvious that APC is the party to beat. You know why? Because we have a good candidate in Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Love him or hate him but one thing you can’t take away from him is that he is a leader gifted with the characteristics, the major ingredients that make for good leadership. God has endowed him with those characteristics and what are those characteristics? You talk of determination. You talk of self-confidence. You talk of good judgment and finally, we talk of far sightedness. You can agree with me that he is endowed with these four major characteristics that make for success in leadership. Therefore, I have no doubt in my mind that he will emerge victorious. Again, if you look at the political permutations on ground, it is also in his favour. This is apart from the fact that he is a very good and sellable candidate.
A lot of people expected delegates from the South East to vote for aspirants from the zone at the last APC national convention, but what we saw was a far cry from that.
To be honest with you, I would have loved it if a person from South East had emerged as the APC candidate. That would have been my first choice. But I was not a delegate. I can’t really say what happened. But I wouldn’t want us to really dwell on that now. I want us to focus on the fact that a candidate has emerged. So, as South easterners, as Igbos, how do we key in? Because I can tell you, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a president in waiting.
So, the question as an Igbo man is, what does an Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu presidency portend for the Igbo? I think that’s what I want us to dwell on. As for the behaviour of delegates from the South East, it leaves so much to be desired. But let’s not focus more on it.
Let’s focus on the future. How can the Igbo key in? How can the Igbo be part of the Tinubu presidency, what does it portend, what will be the place of the Igbo in his presidency, these are the areas, we need to focus on, to talk about, and not to dwell on the past.
You are from the South East where the APC is seen as “Hausa or northern” party, what hope for the APC in the South east in the coming election? Secondly, why do you think Ndigbo should key into the Tinubu project?
You talked about the perception of APC as “Hausa or northern party”. Well, now that there’s a southern person as the presidential candidate, is it right to still call it a “Hausa or northern party”? I don’t think so. So, if I may, without conceding, assuming it used to be, right now with the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the presidential candidate, the APC has come of age. APC is a Nigerian party, we have demonstrated that by electing a southerner as the flag bearer of the party.
Secondly, I would have loved to see a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction, no doubt about that. I am not making pretense about that, I’m a proud Igbo man. There’s no way you can be a proud Nigerian without first of all being proud of your heritage, of where you are coming from. So, I am a proud Igbo man, that is why I am also a proud Nigerian.
Having said that, the question is, as Ndigbo, what do we do? How do we key in? The emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the standard flag bearer of APC calls for strategic thinking among the Igbo. That is what it calls for. I had spoken about the inevitability of Tinubu’s presidency come 2023. As Igbo, we need to be strategic in our thinking. How can we be part of it.
What do we really, as Igbo want in Nigeria, since getting a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction is no longer feasible in 2023, what can we do? How can we position ourselves to be part of birthing the Nigeria of our dreams- a Nigeria where justice, equity and fairness reign, a Nigeria where there is no glass ceiling on account of ethnicity, religion or tribe, a Nigeria, where merit is the order of today, a Nigeria where how far you can get to is determined not by your tribe, not by accident but mainly by your capacity and ability. That is the question that stare every Igbo man in the face, so what am I talking about?
We are talking about restructuring. Going back to true federalism; having true federalism, not in name as we have at the moment. But in practice, so that each region or state can develop at their own pace. And who is best suited to genuinely restructure Nigeria into a true federation? There is no other person other than Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
If an Igbo man were to be president today, he won’t be able to restructure Nigeria. You know why? Because of suspicion. We fought the civil war and there is the agitation by IPOB. So, every move of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction, no matter how well attention will be viewed with utmost suspicion by other tribes in Nigeria.
But a Yoruba man, will be able to generate the needed and necessary cooperation of other tribes to restructure Nigeria because there will be no suspicion of him trying to balkanize and break away.
So, I expect the Igbo, I expect our elite to sit down with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and have an understanding that we will follow, so that by the grace of God when he becomes president in 2023 and Nigeria will be restructured into a true federation, where one’s ability can determine how far he or she can go in life, I think that’s what we need to focus on.
Restructuring into a true federation or true federalism in name and in practice, is a win win for every section of the country. Because every section of this country is endowed with human and material resources; just that’s we have not taken time, taken the pain to look inward and be the best that God has made us to be. So I believe that Igbo should key in and be part of making the Tinubu presidency.
So, that’s why I said, given the reality on the ground, again, I prefer an Igbo man becoming a Nigerian president in a restructured Nigeria. If we can rally surround Tinubu and get him to restructure this country not just for the interest of Igbo, but for the interest of every section of this country, then if an Igbo man becomes president, he will make so much impact. I know Igbo are transformational leaders. I am not saying this because I am an Igbo man, that is the fact.
But the system has to be right. We can’t do much in an atmosphere of suspicion, where every of your step is suspected, we cannot do much. So, that’s why we need to be strategic on what we really want. And I can tell you as an Igbo man; an Igbo man wants a level playing field, he doesn’t need any other thing, that is what an Igbo man needs, a level playing field, don’t favour me, don’t favour another person; just create a level playing field and the Igbo man will use all his full potentials, he doesn’t need any other thing.
You are aspiring to represent Anambra senatorial zone in the National Assembly in 2023, what are you offering the zone?
I am assuring my constituents people-centered presentation and optimal results. I will do things differently? Those that were there before, they have done their best. I don’t believe in politics of calumny. I believe in issue based politics. They have done their best. But you know where better is possible, you don’t look at good, where best is possible, you don’t look at better.
That’s why I said optimum, which means to the zenith, highest result possible. You know, when you represent a people, representing a people, you symbolise their wishes and aspirations as a people. So, representation is much more than physical things that we see. There are also intangible things but also very important.
I know that basically, the job of the lawmaker, there are three basic functions; you have representation, you have lawmaking and you have oversight. But there are other things. Attracting physical infrastructure is good. But there is much more than that. In Anambra Central, our primary occupation is trading. We are traders. That is what we are.
As a senator representing them, what can I do? What laws can I initiate to ensure that every obstacle to the trader is removed? These are intangible things; you may not see them. It’s not like if you have attracted a road, people can see the road, but you can also initiate laws that can remove every obstacle to their business. Look at the current insecurity ravaging the whole of South East particularly Anambra. I must commend the new Governor, Prof. Charles Soludo. He is tackling it head on and I’m sure that if he sustains the momentum, the way he’s going now, in the next three, six months, Anambra will be calm, there will be peace.
So, as a senator, it is incumbent on me to work with the governor regardless of party differences to ensure that there is security, because if there is no security, my people cannot trade because trading is their primary occupation. What are the impediments, administrative, political, legal and otherwise to their trading? What do I do to ensure that every obstacle to their trading is removed? That’s what the representation is all about.