Why North united against Jonathan in 2015 – Ozichukwu Chukwu - The Naija Weekly

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Sunday, October 6, 2019

Why North united against Jonathan in 2015 – Ozichukwu Chukwu


Until recently, Nze Ozichukwu Chukwu was the chairman of the Duke of Edinburgh International Award in Nigeria. Currently, he is the president of the Nigerian Netball Federation, chairman of Imo State Elders’ Council, Abuja and chairman, Board of Trustee, Okigwe Zonal Development Association, Abuja. 
The former national vice chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has been off media glare a while until this interview with Sunday Sun where he barred his mind on various issues in the country, including restructuring, agitation for Biafra and many more.  Excerpt:
You have somewhat been off public glare for a while and Nigerians are wont to ask; where has this Souteast PDP leader been?
In our early days, sometime when you go out to the shops, you will notice a banner running from one end of the shop to the other with the words, “Stocktaking, No sales.” There is always a need, once in a while to sit back, reflect, review, resolve and reposition. I was reading excerpts from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s Book, “Preparation for Death,” edited by Norman J. Muckerman and came across this fact of life: “When Saint Camillus passed a cemetery and saw the graves of those who had died, he said to himself; ‘If these people could somehow return to life, what would they not do to get to heaven, to experience the beatific vision, enjoy eternal bliss and life.’ For those of us alive, we have a rare privilege and must maximize it. I have been in politics for sometime and experienced the murky waters. As expected, of all worldly and human enterprises, there are lots of conflicts and contradictions, challenge of values. I always recall an interaction I had many years ago, at the home of His Grace, Most Rev Fortunatus Nwachukwu, in Ntigha. I met one of our best in the Seminary, Rev. Fr. Prof John Egbulefu. He first teased me, “007, I have been reading you in the press and have been hearing very good news about you. Please keep it up. We are proud of you.” Then being the genius he is, he delivered his punch without emotions, “Do I take it that we will have a Saint in politics.” I pretended I didn’t hear him. He didn’t press further. He believes that he had delivered his message and left me to dialogue with my conscience and agonise with his challenge. So, at the end, the questions I should be expecting will include what fruits have you produced; among the challenges and modalities, will include, soil test, soil rehabilitation and providing the appropriate environment for fruitful harvest. St. Bernard, according to Muckerman, says, that the Lord seeks not only flowers, but fruits. That is, not only good desires and promises, but also holy deeds, deeds done while there is still time. It’s been quite challenging, but we thank God for His grace, His faithfulness and love.
What’s your impression of PDP today compared to your era in the party? 
You know that in PDP, the leaders’ times and values have changed. President Obasanjo had the guts and gravitas, had charisma, always exuded confidence and combined his broad experiences and depth of knowledge with the dictates of contingency management. He was native to controversy and more often ended up as the utmost beneficiary. However, he was very respectful of superior opinion and acknowledged excellence wherever it existed. Yar’Adua had an exceptional pedigree and was a rare blend and uncommon breed. His aristocratic mien was properly flavoured and balanced with his socialist inclinations. Duty, diligence and decorum were his guiding principles. He was a contented technocrat and had no stomach for cronyism and prebendalism.
President Jonathan’s circumstances were radically different and diametrically opposite. Don’t forget that for every leader, his philosophy, skills and attitudes in practice play defining roles in his management of public trust.  Unfortunately, for President Jonathan, his role perceptions clashed with public expectations, which left him at the crossroads. Every discerning observer, will, however, at all times give President Jonathan the credits he dutifully earned.
What do you think the party could have done better or where did it get it wrong to the point of losing power to the APC?
If you talk of 2015, there was so much the party could have done better. As you are aware, President Muhammadu Buhari enjoys a near “cult” followership in the North. However, there was more to his victory than cult followership. There was an implosion in the party in the North. The Northern political elite felt deceived and betrayed with the emergence of President Jonathan for another term of office as president. Most of them felt that President Jonathan should have stepped down for someone from the North. They held strongly that it was more of a moral question than political loyalty. And that the PDP should have ensured that ‘right things are done right’, with respect to zoning and rotation which were the fundamental principles to which PDP’s claim of being a national party are derived. So, it was almost a collective resolve of the entire North to take what they felt, rightly belongs to the North, irrespective of political affiliations and religious persuasions. Honestly, for 2019, I think that PDP did extremely well. The PDP strongly believes that it won the 2019 Presidential election. It absolved itself of any blame of plural principals and multiple principles; which at a time notoriously characterised the party; 2019 was different. The party was solid and firm footed.  This is more so with the candidacy of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, whom all believe like Shakespeare would say in Julius Caesar Act 5, Scene 5, Page 5, “His life is gentle; and the elements are so mixed up in him, that nature might as well rise up to say to the world, ‘this was the man.” And you know today, the general belief is that the 2019 Presidential election was a contest against the establishment.
Nigeria is in crossroads; what do you think is the way out?
We must pray for our leaders irrespective of party alignment and learn to forgive one another. Again we must strive for justice because there can be no peace without justice. Investment in justice and peace will translate to prosperity and progress. I recall that it was His Royal Majesty, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Emir of Kano, who said in one of his public lectures that, “it is also true that this nation has the misfortune of having produced an elite whose selfishness and greed know no bounds. Unless they are able to agree on how to accommodate each other they are willing to tear this country apart and lead us into a meaningless war.” In another place, I recall him saying, that the tragedy of Nigeria does not lie in its diversity; nor in its population and in its resources. Our tragedy, according to Sanusi, lies in the lack of a truly nationalist and visionary leadership; elite that harnesses the diverse streams that flow into the melting pot called Nigeria. More importantly, is the urgent need to develop a knowledge economy to begin to speak truth to authority. It is indeed necessary that we go back to the basics. The importance of functional and qualitative education to imbibe creativity and imagination cannot be over emphasized. Our children must as of necessity acquire survival and critical thinking skills. Why can’t we revive the students’ loans scheme and bursaries? Look at all the leakages and haemorrhaging all over the place, over the years. We must help our children dream, dreams. Unfortunately, with the elite pleading table manners and the youths suffering deprivation and want, who will speak for the people and stand up for the weak and vulnerable? Unfortunately again, it’s the total absence of the sovereign individual.
What are your views on restructuring and president of Igbo extraction in 2023?
Honestly, I don’t like talking on this again because we have continued to live in denials and delusions. I listened to some Abuja professor on television and couldn’t believe my ears when he insisted that from 1963, the creation of the Mid-West region to the General Abacha’s state and local government creation; are all laudable instances of restructuring and to him the call for true federalism does not arise. He went further to argue that unitary character of the Nigerian federation as presently constituted is a necessary condition for national unity. Anyone with a basic understanding of the features of federalism will know that his postulations are fatally misleading and amount to criminal contra-culture. I experienced true federalism in the First Republic. I know that the situation we found ourselves in today was a consequence of Decree 34 of May, 1966 which was one of the prime causes of the 29th July, 1966 counter-coup. It has been said severally, that this country is founded on a very faulty foundation. It is a human mistake and will also take humans to correct it either way. The clamour for a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction is to further clear any shadow of doubt on the claim of a containment policy against the Igbo. I have this favourite quote from Steven Vichenzy’s Rule of Choas: “When so many things are taken for granted, it is next to impossible to perceive the truth.” For me, an Igbo President will be quite significant and symbolic, but will not mean a Nigerian President for the Igbo. If you look very closely, you will notice that the Igbo suffer just as much under the leadership of an Igbo as any other tribe with a native leader. In truth, the Igbo are no less broadminded and nationalistic than any other. Again, it may be necessary to remind you at this juncture that if you are talking of zoning and rotation in PDP, Northeast and the Southeast are the two zones yet to produce a president. PDP does not only talk of zoning and rotation to reflect the geopolitical character of the constituency in question, but went further to say it must alternate between the North and the South.
We hear all manner of things about actualisation of Biafra; is it the route of Eldorado for the Igbo?
The British created Nigeria for colonial purpose, the Igbo breath life and purpose into it for the mutual benefits of every Nigerian. I fought the Biafran war as an army officer. I was 16 when I passed out of School of Infantry as under officer and later 2nd Lieutenant and was a Captain in 1970 at the cessation of hostilities. We went to war to save our people from extermination and extinction. Our people ran back from Kano and all over the place. Immediately the war ended, they happily rushed back to Kano and all the places they left to meet with friends and renew acquaintances. They were well received in most of the places. But the reunion did not last. Unprovoked genocide and mass killings of the Igbo became a routine and an annual ritual. The Igbo people started to agitate that if you stop us from staying, you can’t also prevent us from going. The Igbo love Nigeria, and have sacrificed a lot for its welfare and wellbeing. It was General Gowon who in his youthful exuberance declared on August 3, 1966; “There is no basis for Nigerian unity, which has been so badly rocked, not only once, but several times.” You can see that Biafra was a child of circumstances. To every Igbo, life is sacred. And the Igbo show hospitality to strangers. It’s actually regarded as an abomination to spill the blood of strangers in Igboland. Accordingly, the Igbo share with Benjamin Franklin the notion that, “There was never a good war, or a bad peace.” They are most willing to continue as Nigerian citizens if the conditions are right. Equity, fairness and justice are all they ask for. Let the Golden Rule apply. The Igbo can always survive. They have unusual capacity and capability to manage diversity, ambiguity, adversity and absurdity. Let me recite for you one of my poems in my Spring of Life: When Love Is Gone-“When love is gone, the spirit is empty, the mind fallow, the soul wither under the strain, the heart dying a slow death, from the hangover of boyish enthusiasm.” Biafra is a metaphor of Peter Tosh’s “equal rights and justice.” Remember, his song: “Everyone is now crying for peace, none is crying out for justice…Give to Caesar what is due to Caesar.” To him, equal rights and justice will guarantee sustainable peace. That is an undeniable fact.
As elder statesman, could you talk to Governor Ihedioha in view of the current state of dilapidation and near frustration in Imo?
His Excellency, Rt Hon. Emeka Ihedioha was not drafted into politics. He went into politics as an act of deliberate volition, with vigour and purpose, breaking all barriers. When it comes to political intrigues and complexity, Ihedioha demonstrates uncommon dexterity and excels. So far, his triumphant life is star-spangled and his shrewdness ends up indistinguishable from wisdom. I believe that there is a man in Ihedioha’s quest for the torn and crown of Imo State. Fortunately again, the struggle for the leadership of Imo today looks like a messianic drama and is populated with the Marshalls of the art. I only pray that the blueprints of his administration will be as brilliant in execution as it is original in conception. This will, of course, be possible in the absence of a team of rivals, who do not inspire moral courage and triumph, but intrigue and tragedy. His greatest challenge, however, is to reinvent the Imo of the days when men were true leaders. The good news, however, is that his deputy, Hon. Gerald Irona, Chief of Staff,  Hon. Chris Okewulonu, Political Adviser, Hon. Jones Onyeriri, Hon. Prof Chudi Uwazuruike; Adviser on Diaspora;  among others, must have been personally chosen by the governor himself and are, therefore, soul mates. With this team of compatriots, I have no doubt that the current state of dilapidation and near frustration in Imo will be immediately and adequately attended to. Fortunately again, Imo has willing, able and ready political aspirants and governorship materials, who will keep His Excellency and his team always on their toes.

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