No politicians in S’East, just businessmen–Oscar Onwudiwe
Sunday, April 29,  2012

•Oscar Onwudiwe

In life, there are those you meet just once and they leave a permanent impression on you. They are men, who indeed, believe that ideas rule the world. Material things hardly matter to such people. One man who belongs that category of people is Oscar Onwudiwe, a lawyer and social commentator. He is an interesting personality to behold.
Sunday Sun engaged him recently on the politics of the South East zone and he was in his best. Here are the excerpts…

What is your impression of the politics of the South East zone?
What I would say to you is that there is no politics in the South East zone. I have mentioned it in several places that it is not original to me. Late Nnamdi Azikiwe said it clearly that there is poverty of politics and once you have poverty of politics, it is so very natural that the next thing you get is politics of poverty. In other words, it is cash and carry.

That is what is happening. There are no politicians in the South East as we speak today. What we have is a group of businessmen who certainly discovered that the next best business is politics. And as such, they thought the best they could do is to move in to it and see how they can first of all earn themselves a living and for those who have money, that is not a problem, the next of course is status. So, the truth is that in the South East today, there are no politicians. But it is not possible that a society can exist without some form of politics or the other.

What we have is the politics of slaves. You cannot become governor in the South East if Abuja says you cannot be. You can get it if, while Abuja is struggling to anoint one person or the other and in the confusion, you can then slip in from another political party or you probably win because the people are not impressed with whosoever Abuja wants to bring. And then you go to court to go and retrieve your mandate if you kept your documents well. This is the politics of the South East.

For a people who introduced the lexicon marginalization into Nigeria, you would have expected that these people would sit back, take a proper look at the country called Nigeria and say to themselves how do we as a people survive within this clime. But unfortunately, there was a grand design at the end of the war. It was how do you defeat the spirit of the Igbo man and not just the body. And what was the smartest thing to do? Look out for the clowns among them; the ones that the Igbo man does not like.

We were very class-conscious in Igbo land. So those other ones that look like they are nobody and their fathers were also nobody, bring them close and empower them financially and then unleash them on their people. Make them the leaders of their people. Naturally what would happen is that they would introduce new values. And most times, the values would not be very different from the kind you get in the gutter. That is the confusion the rest of the country is seeing about the Igbo but it has not always been so.

I give you an example. In Anambra State, if you go and ask any man of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) whether he is warming up for the next election, they say yes and you ask them who is the man that is leading unofficially? They would tell you he is Chris Uba and that the structure has been handed over to him. Then the question is: who is Chris Uba? Remove his three naira and President Olusegun Obasanjo then, who is Chris Uba? If Igbo elders, the intelligentsia, politicians, sportsmen, technocrats, anything or really Igbo businessmen were to discuss, where would Chris Uba fit in. But he owns the structure and remains relevant in Anambra politics. When you go to Imo, there is confusion. What you hear is that there is one thing called Imo formula.

The so-called Imo formula are a group of faceless people who negotiate with Abuja on who gets into their Government House and it has been working. You go to Abia, the situation is not different. Go to Enugu, they do not joke with Abuja. What did Abuja say? It is the most important thing that is happening in Enugu. Their own formula is called the Enugu formula. Jim Nwobodo installed Chimaroke Nnamani and six months after, they were at war with each other. Then Chimaroke Nnamani installed Sullivan Chime and six months after, they had war with each other. It never ends. I am giving you state by state. In Ebonyi State, the current governor there is so state-conscious.

You cannot believe it. If you ask him where are you from, he would say I am from Ebonyi than to tell you I am an Igbo man. He refers to others as Ndigbo. Clearly, what does it tell you? None of these people is a politician. This is because, if they were politicians, they would understand, it is a game of numbers. You need all your brothers. The template is that we need one another. And secondly, when you are going to be killed in the North, nobody is going to ask you whether you are from Ebonyi, Imo or any of the Igbo states.

If you were going to be discriminated against at Abuja like in not getting one promotion or the other in one Federal Government appointment, nobody is going to ask you the state you come from. If your landlord in Lagos is going to give you discriminatory rent, he does not care to know the Igbo state you come from. The point is that you are an Igbo man and he would go on and do what he wants to do. It is as simple as that. Despite what the Igbos suffer as a people, it hurts that they find it difficult to build that consciousness that their number one interest is security for their people, the right to express themselves and get what is due to them within the political Nigeria.

But the clowns you have today who claim to be politicians, what they have is, ‘Onye Igbo’ interest which is different from Ndigbo interest. Such a person believes that his interest is that of the larger group. I am preaching against Sovereign National Conference (SNC) because my people are not ready for it. They are not ready for it. If you set up an SNC, you would be surprised how some elders, people older than me and supposed to be more intelligent including those who are professors would be telling you that we need another state in Igbo land. How does creating a new state in Igbo land change the economy of the zone?

This is because the new state is dependent on Abuja giving you handouts. Then you have another governor and you have all the other people who would line up with that governor. How does a new state change the economy of Igbo land because a new state would still depend on Abuja giving it handouts. Then other people would come and tell you if we have an SNC, we need a president. But all the presidents we have had in the North, how has it transformed the North? Now they all now agree that the poverty indices in the North are too high. What do you think Jonathan can do for the Ijaw man? Nothing, except psychological succour that the president is from their area.

It does not mean anything. The people who are poor in Ijaw are still poor. Unemployment in the area is still there. Nothing is going to change. We have a constitution that ties any president to fail. What can you really do? If tomorrow, the Boko Haram decides they want to be killing every Ijaw man, Jonathan being the president would not change anything. They have been killing Igbos since 1949 in northern Nigeria. If an Igbo man becomes president tomorrow, it would increase rather than decrease.

This is because the fear of the Igbo is what has kept Nigeria to be conflict-prone. I will give you a quotation by Nnamdi Azikiwe. He said ‘Ndigbo, a people mostly talked about but hardly understood not even by themselves’. How many of our professors have bothered to say let us come together and take this as a challenge. Let us understand what makes the Igbo man react in this manner. If you look at the culture of the Igbo man, it is founded on spiritual righteousness. If you check their cardinal principles, live and let live, you work, you eat. The Elohim of Ndigbo never meant for them to thrive with unrighteousness. But there are new things. The values of Ndigbo traveled.

Where they traveled to, we do not know, when they would come back, we do not know. And is there any attempt to want to bring back the values? The answer is no. This is because every other group is looking for their own small group power. And those who can think seriously about the good of Ndigbo do not have the financial wherewithal to advertise their thinking and embark on social evangelism that is most needed. And if you understand that there is a very big disconnect among the so-called moneybags and the intelligentsia, then you would understand the reason for the confusion in the area.

There is no place you go to and you see professors, the intelligentsia mixing with the moneybags. The moneybags are on their own drinking their champagne and these other people are also on their own. It is very wrong because you need that connect. Bring what you have to the table because that is the way it used to be. In the good old days, Odumegwu Ojukwu, Green Mbadiwe brought their money and Nnamdi Azikiwe brought his brain and the Igbos progressed. Okpara did not have money. Akanu Ibiam was not a rich man. All the people that gave Igbo land true leadership were not rich people. Chukwuemeka Ojukwu that died the other day was not a rich man.

In the light of your analysis, when would Ndigbo have a leader that would serve as a rallying point for the zone?
It is easy but first of all, the true leader would never emerge except what I said to you happens. There would be social evangelism to clear and totally cleanse the land with the wrong thinking. What is killing the Igbo today is the wrong thinking. When you start that social evangelism, if some people would listen to what we are saying now and say I am interested in this, let us fund it. I would be prepared to drop everything I am doing and go back home, sit down and start the work. I have a template for that.

Making Igbos understand what is most important. Number one, teach them the meaning of the word success. The word success is not what you have but what you do with what you have. There are so many things we have to bring back to them and it would not be new. It is a question of reminding them of their core culture. What made them thrive in those days? What made them succeed to the extent that the entire world particularly the British feared them? That fear is still subsisting because individually, we are still showing marks of stardom but as a group, we are gone. Individually, we are still strong but not as a group any longer.

The blood of the great one still runs in our veins. But as a group, it has been difficult. Why? Because a vacuum in leadership has been created. And I can tell you honestly that I would fight against an Igbo man being president of Nigeria. I cannot support any Igbo man until that Igbo man shows that he can organize the place that God chose for him as your place. I believe that until Igbo land begins to stand on its own with its own economy and become an economic zone like Lagos, any Igbo man that stands up to contest for presidency is a fool. First of all, anybody who is president of Nigeria seems to be hated by the rest of Nigeria.

We have a constitution that traps and makes you not to work. You have a constitution that encourages corruption. And if an Igbo man fails, it becomes worse. If an Igbo man was president in place of Jonathan, I would not be too surprised that Boko Haram would have entered his bedroom and probably killed him. This is because for anything they now suffer, they now say it is the Igbo man that caused it. You must understand the way it is. We are too visible. The game to play is the game of the Jews.

You have to go back because nobody can be president without Igbo votes. We have the population. Forget the lie of the British that told us that the population is in the North. Everybody knows it is a lie. Otherwise, let us do the national identity card. Why are they stopping it? Let us use biometrics and do it and you would be shocked that the largest population is among Ndigbo. But Nigeria was built on a lie. The census issue was changed by the British in 1953 because there was an agreement to handover power. The history is long.

But many from the South East still believe that Jonathan would handover to an Igbo man when he leaves office. Former governor of Anambra State and one of the elders in the South East zone, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife recently was quoted in the media as having said that the understanding is that Jonathan would handover to Ndigbo.
Ezeife is my friend and he is playing politics. The politics he is playing is that it is good to give an impression. Let it not look like we are dead. But Ezeife also knows that that is where it ends. No matter how much all the Igbos live and play with Yorubas, they are not dreaming of voting an Igbo man as president.

And now that we have raised religious consciousness to the level where it is with the Boko Haram bombings and all the inflammatory statements we have been making in the media, please let an Igbo man go and campaign in the North, I want to see him do it and come back alive. Are we stupid? Is Jonathan going to handover by fiat or by election? Or we just believe all we have to do is go there and take money and then you spread the money. The country has been structured and totally trapped by a group of power brokers and when they have their meetings, there is no single Igbo man that comes near there. If there is a junior partner, may be once in a while, they open the door to make it look national, then a Yoruba man comes in.

Why should we be interested in that? Is that really the Igbo interest? The Igbo man is the one man that does not understand tribal politics. If an Hausa man would rule Nigeria for the rest of their lives as long as he is ruling fairly and people are able to do their business and free the economy and people can achieve their dream, the Igbo man would continue to support him. They know so. If a Yoruba man would rule forever fairly, the Igbo man does not care. In other words, the Igbo man does not depend on political power for survival. Let us understand our strength. We want political power debate because we feel there is injustice believing that if we go there, we can right the wrongs. But we cannot right the wrongs because if you go there, you would be president of Nigeria and not president of Ndigbo.

So, it is unnecessary and a waste of time. Spend that energy and money in campaigning to re-educate your people. Let us have governors who have a sense of history. Look at all of them. There is not one governor in the whole of Igbo land today that is below 40. But look at what Ojukwu could do in his 30s. Gowon ruled Nigeria in his 30s. Do we still have such men any more in Nigeria? Where is the quality of the men? The man who first of all must have the quality of altruism flowing in his blood and not a businessman in government.

A man who has passion for public service. He must have knowledge, courage, carriage, character, consistency in that character and above all, commitment to the cause. I believe that we need to create that template and say this is the man’s specification for the job we are talking about. When I meet an Igbo man who wants to remind me of the state he comes from, I get angry with him and I abuse him. I say there is ‘Onye Igbo’ and not ‘Onye Imo’ and so on. And if because your state which you did not create but was dashed from Abuja gets into your head, you are a fool. This is because you are supposed to be my brother. I have a lot of friends and many of them, I do not know where they come from. What are the Yorubas doing today to ensure that they continue to keep the Yoruba kingdom together?

If Bola Tinubu is a hero, it is not because he achieved much in Lagos but simply because Tinubu has decided that his mission is to put the Yoruba race together. You can say Tinubu is a hero and to a major extent, he succeeded. There is no North. You and I know. Today, when Tanko Yakassi wants to talk, he would tell you the North has said. Junaid Muhammed would tell you the North would not take it. Where is the North? Is it Benue? Is Plateau State no longer part of the North that they are bombing everyday and killing people? Is Kano where they are bombing no longer part of the North? It is a state that is supposed to be the commercial nerve centre of the North. You are bombing Kano and discouraging investors.

So, where is the North? But they would continue to play this game called the North. The truth is that we need to sit down and talk but I am happy for those who are delaying it because my people are not ready. They would go and discuss state creation and Igbo presidency but the number one Igbo interest is safety of an Igbo man in every corner of Nigeria. How do you do it? There is only one way to do it. Your home where you are coming from must be solid. There must be a think home policy that would make the Igbo man develop his place with his energy. Then those who can fight at Abuja must fight that the Federal Government has no business holding unto the coal mine in Enugu. That we want to create jobs for our people because God wasn’t stupid when he kept it there and as such you bloody take your hands off there. There are a lot of businessmen who can bring in people to start mining coal again and use it for so many things including generation of electricity.

This would help to create employment so that people from the zone would not be going to Abuja, Lagos and other places to look for jobs. There is oil in Anambra but it was capped. Between Anambra and a part of Enugu called Ugwuoba, you have the third world largest deposit also capped. In other words, there is an economy waiting to be tapped. This was after the boundary adjustment and they moved all the oil into Rivers State and every other place to ensure they are moved away from Igbo land. Those Igbos who do not know the history of the Igbos and do not know what has happened to the Igbos since 1966 till now and you claim you are a politician, you are a fool.

People like us would only be laughing at you because all you are doing is to minister to your ego. What do you really know and what can you fight for? What would you be remembered for? A lot of them would die and nobody would remember them. Except in the little brochure they prepare when somebody dies and they would write all the silly things you have listed as your own achievements-end of story. Nobody reads them. People are more interested in the rice and the drinks. They go home, if they like the photograph, they dump it in one corner, the matter ends and you are forgotten.

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