Member, Board Of Trustees (BOT) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr Ezekiel Izuogu has said there are more prospects for Ndigbo in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of next year’s general elections. In this interview with WILLY EYA, he speaks on various issues.
With the primaries of the political parties over, what are your expectations ahead of the 2019 general elections?
I think the most credible one is the National Convention of the PDP which I watched on television. It was very credible and the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the PDP presidential candidate was very momentous. In the National Convention of the PDP, it was transparent and there could have been no fraud at all. I totally advocate that parties especially the big ones should use the indirect method of nomination because I feel that the system checks fraud. Anything that has to do with direct primaries is prone to fraudulent manipulation because there are so many members of the party. The figures can be manipulated somewhere along the line. But if it is indirect, all the delegates are in the convention. You can monitor it. Everybody is there while the votes are being counted.
As a member of the APC, it is surprising that you are commending the convention of the opposition party.
That of the APC was direct primaries. It was free and fair because it was only President Muhammadu Buhari that was endorsed as a consensus candidate. If there were more than one candidate, the convention could have been rigged. I have been in the field for over 30 years and I know how these things are done.
The state congresses have put your party into a major crisis. How do you feel about the development?
The crisis is because of the way they manipulated the nominations. To say that you either do it direct or indirect does not make sense. That is a fraud. It is what led to the confusion.
The primary election of your state, Imo was very contentious. Are you not worried about the level of crisis in the Imo APC?
I really condemn the governor bringing out the son in-law to be the governorship candidate of our party. That is very bad and I will continue to condemn it. Secondly, his son in-law, Uche Nwosu comes from the same zone with the governor. I am from Orlu senatorial zone and we are not supposed to maltreat other people. We should not maltreat Orlu or Okigwe. We should allow them to rule. Whichever way you look at what the governor did, it is very bad. And the Imo people will not vote for the son-in-law. Imo people are very educated and you cannot deceive them like that. You cannot after completing eight years as governor, take your son in-law to succeed you. Imo people will not accept that. After that, you take the Senate seat and the House of Representatives. Imo people are too civilised to tolerate that kind of arrangement.
From your calculations, do you think it would affect the chances of the APC in your state in 2019 poll?
Definitely. It would affect it too much. But I understand they are in the court and that they have not taken a final decision.
Governor Okorocha once said why he wants to handover to Nwosu, his son in-law was because most other aspirants for the Imo Government House were just gearing up to loot the treasury of the state.
That is propaganda number one. What of his deputy, Prince Madumere? Did he loot anything? Why did he not handover to Madumere? This is somebody who has served him for 25 years faithfully. Madumere is from Owerri zone and what has he looted. So, let us stop deceiving ourselves.
So, ahead of the governorship election in Imo, what are your expectations?
When the time comes, I will come out to say something. Let us watch them first. Let us see how they get on with the campaigns and if I have any observation to make, I will make it.
Looking at the APC presidential candidate, Buhari and Atiku of the PDP, how do you see their chances.
Atiku is my old friend. We started politics together when he ran for the governorship seat of Gongola State. That was when I started running to be Imo governor too. We were colleagues in the Progressives Party. I want Nigerians to have a better part of life. Even though I am still in the APC but whoever is a better candidate of the two major parties, Nigerians should vote for him. My politics is not the kind played by most Nigerians. I have traveled far and wide and I know how they play politics in the United States and other developed countries. Some from the Democratic Party in the US can support a Republican candidate. My attitude in politics is even-handed; I am not looking for ministerial or whatever appointments. Between Atiku and Buhari, whoever would be a better president for all Nigerians, let him emerge. That is my attitude.
Do you agree with those who argue that the combination of Atiku and his running mate and former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi would open up the economy and reposition the country?
They are capable and it is possible to achieve that. I wish them the best of luck just as I wish everybody the best of luck in the election.
There is renewed killings in Kaduna State and there are also pockets of violence in Borno recently; how do you feel about the resurgence of violence in the country especially the North? Do you think the situation has a connection with the 2019 elections?
Honestly, I do not know what is causing the killings. I believe that only God would deliver us from the situation. I felt worried when I saw it on television. I hope they can contain these things for the sake of all Nigerians. You know there is hardship in the country. So, if you now begin to witness insecurity in addition to the hardship, the situation would become unbearable. I just hope that the situation would be brought under control.
Between the APC and the PDP, where do you think the interest of the Igbo would be more protected.
You are asking me an obvious question which you know the answer. If there are two parties and one party gives the Igbo the position of the vice president, of course they would feel more protected in that party. It is as simple as that.
But the APC seems to suggest that President Buhari would handover to the Igbo in 2023. Those who hold this view believe that such offer is more juicy than the vice presidency slot.
Are you going to stop the former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu from running for presidency in 2023. He is seen as the leader of the party nationwide and you do not know the promises that Buhari has made to him. It was reported that Buhari made a promise to him sometime ago. Do you know if Buhari promised him that when he finishes, he would handover to him? A lot of speculations are going on. You do not know which is correct and which one is not correct. So, I leave everything in the hands of God. When it is time for Igbo to be president, it would happen and that is my attitude.
What is your take on the contentious Executive Order 6 and the controversial banning of some Nigerians from traveling abroad.
A lot of people have condemned it especially as it is an action taken few months to the general elections. Many believe it is a political action from the president. A lot of people have said that. I do not know which is which, frankly speaking. I believe in fighting corruption but I do not think that it means fighting your opponents. Let us take a look at it again and see how it can be modified.
How did the reaction of the South East governors and some other Igbo elite against Peter Obi’s appointment as Atiku’s running mate come to you.
I was very uncomfortable with that. Obi is a friend of mine and I think he can play the role of the vice president very well. He may not be a saint just like most people but I think he has some experience having been governor of Anambra State for eight years. I do not begrudge him at all. I was surprised that some Igbo people were kicking against his appointment. Ndigbo should purge themselves of that self-destructive mentality. When Professor Yemi Osinbajo was chosen as running mate to Buhari, no Yoruba man opposed it. So, why should the Igbo be opposing themselves. It goes down to the issue of self-centredness among us which is very bad. Let him be the vice president and let us see how he would perform.
The issue of IPOB is rearing its ugly head again, are you not worried over the development considering that this is coming just few months ahead of the general elections?
If you look at the issues involved, it is neither here nor there. The idea of using IPOB to make the Igbo man not to vote, I do not think the Igbo should agree with that. The Igbo are poised for the election but the point that IPOB or some Igbo are making for a separate state for the Igbo, that has to be looked at seriously. Let us see, what points do they have; if they have valid points, they should be considered. That is my attitude. You cannot just be sweeping everything off all the time.
Do you agree with those who believe that Buhari caused the challenges he is facing. The argument is that he takes loyalty for granted.
I am number one person that President Buhari ignored. I brought out my nearly forty years of experience and worked for him from one state to the other. I took all the risks and all that for his election in 2015. What is the compensation for that. I am a member of the Board of Trustees and not from the president. I was a BOT member before he became the presidential candidate. I am a member of the national caucus of the party and what have I got from all that. Am I in any federal directorate? Am I not supposed to be a minister in this administration? I am more experienced than all those appointed ministers here and there.