Prince Richard Ozobu, an American-trained accountant, chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Enugu state is a dogged supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari. In this interview with CHUKS NWAEZE, he pushes for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023, saying the PDP political structure in the South-east should be collapsed into the APC for that to be realised.
Several months before the last presidential election, you urged the Igbo to vote massively for the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari. Do you still feel justified in making that appeal?
Yes I do. I asked my people of the South-east to vote massively for the re-election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, for a second term in office because I realised then that he had done very well in office especially concerning the needs of every region of the country most importantly in the areas of providing infrastructure; securing lives and property and in fighting corruption. I knew that he needed more time to do an extensive job in many areas before the system can produce another person to take over from him.
What are those areas?
One area is the railway sector which had become comatose before the present regime came into office in 2015. President Buhari, during his first tenure, got the railway system working again especially in the north and some parts of the west. You can also look at the second Niger Bridge which had been in the works for so long and nothing was done about it until this administration came into office. I am sure that before the president leaves office in 2023, that project would be completed. Also, the other abandoned project is the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe Mausoleum in Onitsha in Anambra state which was started by the military administration and abandoned by successive administrations. For instance, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) controlled power for 16 years, yet the project was not completed, but today, that project has been completed by the government of President Buhari. In the area of corruption, he dealt with and has been dealing with those who stole the resources of this country ended up putting our young ones into the unemployment market, and penury.
Are you satisfied with the outcome of the recent visit by Igbo leaders to the president in Aso Rock Villa?
The Igbo leaders did not visit the president; rather, the visit was undertaken by Igbo leaders of PDP extraction led by PDP governors. You know that by the time they arrived Aso Rock, all the things they went there to demand from the president had already been approved by the president. Many of their demands were already in the 2020 budget, and by the time they got there on October 10, some funds had been released to undertake some projects in the South-east. Let’s take the issue of Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu as an example. The president did not release N10 billion for repair work at Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu because the PDP leaders from the zone visited the villa. It’s a pity that the senators who were part of the delegation didn’t go through the 2020 appropriation bill to find out the projects proposed for the South-east before going to the villa to make their requests.
Some people are of the views that Chief John Nnia Nwodo, president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo should not have accompanied the delegation to Aso Rock because of his opposition to Buhari’s government. Do you agree?
I heard that Nnia Nwodo was there and my question is: What did he go there to do? Has he accepted the fact the Buhari won the 2019 presidential election? After all he said about the president, he still had the temerity to visit the villa. Before the election, he claimed that Ohanaeze gave him the mandate to publicly endorse Atiku Abubakar for the presidential race when nobody gave him such mandate. And there is nothing to show that his comments before and after the elections were approved by Ohanaeze ‘Ime Obi (Elders Council) and the General Assembly of Ohanaeze. I keep on saying that Ohanaeze has a constitution and before any policy statement is made on behalf of Ndigbo by the president-general, secretary-general or any of its officials, it must be approved by the general assembly. Ohanaeze has not had a general assembly meeting in the past two years. Though the ‘Elders Council’ has met few times, 50% per cent of members of that council never attended such meetings because they were not invited. Nwodo has practically turned Ohanaeze Ndigbo into a political snipper.
Whatever Nwodo does is always in favour of candidates of political parties. I expected the South-east governors to rebuke him, but they kept quiet. I feel that was wrong, but they still have a chance to do so.
Do you still disagree with those who say that the anti-graft war of the federal government is one-sided?
If anybody has evidence to prove that the anti-graft war is one sided, let him come forward with such evidence. Perhaps, such people have forgotten so soon that the PDP was in government for 16 years from 1999 to 2015, and if the present administration is looking for people who stole government money, majority of such people would be found within the PDP. If you argue that some corrupt former members of the PDP have crossed over to the APC and have not been investigated or prosecuted, there is no evidence to show that you are making a valid claim. In Igboland, some people seem to be protecting their own thieves as if they distributed their loot to every Igbo man. The money they stole was money meant for the development of Igbo land, yet some people are protecting them. What is their problem? Why are they protecting their tribal thieves who looted the funds meant for the infrastructural development of Igbo land and for the creation of jobs for our teeming unemployed youths?
Given the way the South-east voted during the last presidential election, do you think Ndigbo can still lay claim to the presidency in 2023?
The necessary political alliances past Igbo leaders entered into with the north and south-west have been thrown away by the present day modern politicians in PDP from Igbo land. And to make matters worse, Igbos are not in full control of the present-day PDP. If PDP meets today to decide where their next presidential candidate would come from, do you think they would pick a presidential candidate from Igbo land? The Igbos are nowhere in the PDP in terms of effective control and contribution to the success of the party. Unfortunately, Igbos are nowhere to be found in the APC structure. Have you forgotten that late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Michael Okpara built political alliances with the north and south-west respectively? How else can the Igbo get the presidential seat without revalidating those alliances? It was through political alliance with the north that we got the position of vice president nine years after the civil war. It was also through this same political alliance that we got the position of speaker of House of Representatives courtesy of NPN/NPP accord. Today, people like Nwodo are trying to break such relationships. And to thwart such efforts, some of us had to go down to Lagos before the last general elections to talk to Ndigbo resident in Lagos and elsewhere in the south-west to queue behind the Bola Tinubu factor. Today, if you go to Lagos, you will see Igbos occupying positions of chairmen of local government chapters of APC. That to me is true federalism in terms of party politics.
So what in your opinion should the Igbo do to produce the next president in 2023?
The proper thing to do is for the South-east PDP to collapse its structures into the APC. You know under our present constitution, only a political party can produce a presidential candidate. And from the look of things, PDP cannot nominate an Igbo as its presidential candidate in 2023. Even if it does, that candidate may not stand the chance of winning the election; therefore, I believe the best thing for Ndigbo to do is to seek alliance with the APC. We must move in large numbers into APC if we are serious about producing a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023.