Reason Igbo presidency will be a difficult in Nigeria by Kadiri

Senator Alex Usman Kadiri
Senator Alex Usman Kadiri
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Senator Alex Usman Kadiri, an stalwart, represented Kogi East from 1999 to 2003. In this interview with JOHN AKUBO, he examines the challenges facing the quest for Igbo presidency unlikely in 2023

Do you believe in the current agitation for Igbo presidency?
My belief is that power cannot remain in the north forever. Power has resided in the north for too long. I must be frank with you. Nobody gives you power. You go in search of it and fight for it, just like late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola did. Abiola had a long-term plan for the presidency. People did not understand him. He established Concord, but people from different parts of the country in charge. That’s how Yakubu Mohammed became Editor of Concord. Dele Giwa became the Editor of Sunday Concord, and so on.

If you were a friend of Abiola living in Kano or Sokoto, Abiola would fly there if you have a naming ceremony, in spite of the inconveniences and the bad weather or he will send a ram for the naming ceremony. He formed a football club, Abiola Babes, and was basically funding Football Association (NFA). So, his name was being sung among all the players throughout the country, through acts of philanthropy, through acts of employment. He was giving people money to establish their own businesses. He didn’t care if you were Yoruba from Egba or Yoruba from Ekiti or Fulani from Sokoto; he patronised most people in the country.

So when it was time for him to ask for the presidency, his job was easy. He even challenged Nigerians by picking another Muslim from Borno, Babagana Kingibe, in a country where we pretend to be more religious than the Pope. Yes, people voted for him; I voted for him. 

But now, whether the presidency goes to Igbo, in the south or the Ijaw, who is also in the south, or the Bini, who are also in the south, only God knows. I hate this idea of people saying the presidency is now for one man. I was surprised that a man like Okwesilieze Nwodo, former chairman of a party like the PDP, was saying that if they don’t give the Igbo people the presidency, he would ask Igbo to go and join Nnamdi Kanu in IPOB. That is almost a treasonable statement. 

Look, I don’t know if you watched the interview with late Ismaila Isa Funtua on Channels television. It must have been a recorded programme they showed after he died. And he said things that I believe in. Any Igbo man who wants to be the president of must come out and work for it. 

NO Igbo man is going to sit in Umuahia, Enugu or Awka and Nigerians would say, it’s your turn. When will it be the turn of the Bini? As you know, there are the other tribes, very many in this country, who believe that, as I mentioned the Ijaw moments ago, the Tiv, who also want to be president. When will it be the turn of these people? Those of us from the Middle Belt, we are beginning to think that in the schemes of affairs, nobody is thinking of the Middle Belt anymore. Reason being that we are small tribes scattered all over the place; so, nobody thinks of us anymore. 

And they now feel that maybe the only way an Igala man or a Tive man or a Berom man can ever ascend the leadership of this country is through a military coup because when it comes to the party, nobody takes us seriously. The Igbo man believes that the Hausa-Fulani has held this position for too long. The Yoruba, too, have used it, but the Igbo man is the greatest enemy of himself.

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Why?
They are very, very disorganised. Atiku Abubakar picked Peter Obi, as his running mate at the last election. Do you know that Peter Obi could not harvest votes from Igbo land to help Atiku win the presidency? The complaints about Peter Obi in the Southeast were very vociferous, maybe because the other people made a promise; they were promised that the next president of would be an Igbo man. 

I don’t know what powers the president has to appoint somebody else from the Southeast without persons from the Southeast fighting for this position. 

When Ndigbo in the north visited President Ibrahim Babangida, he said the Igbo were in every nook and cranny of . They should use their presence in every village to network for votes, in addition to the quest for money in those places. 

What Abiola used his own personal wealth to do, the Igbo, who are scattered all over , can do it effortlessly, if they really mean well for themselves, but they’re not doing this.
What could be responsible for this? 

Well, I don’t know. I’ve tried to look at it but I cannot understand it. My wife is Igbo. So, I have nothing against Igbo people; the fact of the matter is, they don’t mean well for themselves. Their republican, unrealistic approach to issues is not helping them. And, in a complex country like Nigeria, you need to network.  Do not wait until the month or the week of the year of the election before you start making friends, hoping to be nominated. Before you can become a presidential candidate, a party must field you. 

Like Ismaila funtua said in that interview, a party will field the candidates it believes may win the election. Not just field Alex Kadiri, because I talk too much. How many people will vote for me? It will field somebody who can win votes from Sokoto, votes from Borno, votes from Rivers, votes from Akwa Ibom, votes from Ogun, and so on and so forth. That’s the only way. How many Igbo politicians have that kind of spread right now? They are running back into their enclave, chanting that on the presidency, 2023 is for the Igbo man. That’s wishful thinking. I can’t see them with any strength in . I can’t see them with any strength PDP. All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has been boxed into Anambra State. 

Former Governor of Imo State, Senator Rochas Okorocha, said that the leadership of the Igbo race had fallen on his shoulder and that of the Chief Whip of the Senate and former Governor of Abia Orji Uzor Kalu. Now, which of them in your estimation can garner votes from across Nigeria as you just postulated? 

It is one thing to be known as an individual in politics. It’s another thing to be liked by people in politics. Take Rochas, for example, has schools here and there. Okay. If you meet some Igbo people, they will tell you he cannot be the representative of Ndigbo. They have their reasons. I don’t know. You take Orji Kalu. Whether we like it or not, he has been to prison and has come out, not for political reasons, do you get my point?
MANY of their presidents in Pakistan have been to prison and come back to become presidents. They did it because of political reasons. They were not accused of embezzling anything. I hope you can see the difference. Some of these people have commas and full-stops in their profile. Why can’t we have somebody who does not have a skeleton in his cupboard from the Southeast? Someone has mentioned former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Professor Chukwuma Soludo. He is a nice man, but where is his political base, Nsukka or Awka? He is not a politician. He is a technocrat; he is a professor. He is an economist. For all these marks of excellence, I clap for him. 

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Any Igbo man who wants to be president of Nigeria, including Orji Uzor Kalu, Rochas Okorocha, even Arthur Eze, or Ifeanyi Uba, all of them cannot sell themselves even in the states where they reside. They can’t.

Let me tell you a funny story. When we were in the senate, we zoned the Senate Presidency to the Southeast. Evans Enwerem became our president. There were all kinds of problems due to issues of certificate or no certificate. Even on performance, we put him aside. And picked Chuba Okadigbo, who was intellectually sound but he was sleeping on the job. We decided to remove Chuba. We were now left with Ifeanyi Ararume, Arthur Nzeribe and Adolphus Wabara, Nnamdi Oreagbuna and some others; we were faced with these choices.

When you need to know more about each of them, go and meet their Igbo brothers. They know more than you and I will ever know about them. So this presidency that everybody is clamouring for, we’re heading in the same direction. 

Are Imo people clapping for Roachas today? Abia people, are they clapping for Orji Uzor Kalu today? Anambra people, are they clapping for Ifeanyi Uba?

So there are a lot of problems. They have to go back home to sort themselves out first. The ones that have good names and credibility outside have no political tripod on which to stand like I just mentioned. That is the problem. So, to say that the Igbo man must become president: who is this Igbo man that will become president and under which political party?

So where does that leave the Igbo man in the 2023 presidential quest?
I can’t see the way through. You tell me how. Like I just mentioned to you, there is no serious Igbo man in . The only person to me is Chris Ngige. To me, Ngige is the one that has the experience. He has been a governor, a senator and now he has been a minister twice. So in terms of experience, he has it, but has he got the backing at home? These are the issues. Maybe somebody may drop from America or from Europe or India that we don’t know yet.
Can you say the same thing about the 2019 presidential candidate for Young Progressive Party (YPP), Prof. Kingsley Mhoghalu?

His case is almost the same as that of Soludo.

Are you saying that no other political party can produce a president outside and PDP?
IT is possible. You saw Ghali Na’Aba, Usman Bugaje, and so on floating a movement now. Normally, when they start this kind of thing, they used to inform me. Do you see any Igbo man there? Have you heard of any serious Igbo man in their midst? That front is basically being pushed by people of northern extraction, who have fallen out of favour with the current people in power. Quote me.

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Do you think they will still be relevant politically in 2023? 
Well, with the way things are going in this country, if they are able to play their cards well, by trying to build a party like the Chinese, which they said is what they are trying to do, then maybe. I have read Bugaje’s position paper. They are building from towns and wards. If this thing works and is not sabotaged by the powers-that-be, if it sails through, that may be a successful outing for everybody. As they are molding this thing now, I don’t see any serious Igbo person participating right now. Can they finish what they are doing now, and because they want to bring Nigeria together, they then go and look for somebody who is unknown and give it to him or her to become president? It is not possible; it is never done in any country.

What is your honest advice for the Igbo nation?
What they need do is to widen the scope of their political participation. This mentality of ‘I’m richer than you’ is what is killing them and it has led to many sections of this country hating them. You want to be richer than your neighbour – money all the time. If they can spread out their net, catch more fishes when the time comes people would now look at the characters involved. When Dr. Alex Ekweme was the vice president, all the criticisms about Igbo people, nobody could point accusing fingers at him. Nobody that I know appeared in the media to say Alex Ekweme is a corrupt person. Why can’t somebody like that come out of the Southeast? This is the issue. But because of their pursuit of money, they do so many things and people have doubts about them.

For an Igbo person to aspire to be president of Nigeria, he must spread out, make friends from other places, not just make money from Nguru, Sokoto, from Idah. And where they make these monies, what is their relationship with the host communities?

So the money they are making is not going to be good enough for them to attract votes for an Igbo man. Anything short of that, and since we are practising democracy, the Igbo man wanting to be president must belong to a party that is likely to win an election. No party will put up a candidate that it feels may not win any election. It’s as simple as that. I wish a woman like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was a politician; at least, Nigerians now know who she is. She has shown us her worth and she is a worthy person across the globe; she needs no introduction. She may not have the funds to play the type of politics we play in Nigeria now, but if that type of person can standout among the Igbo, whether she is Asaba Igbo, Ika Igbo, or Orlu Igbo, whatever, it doesn’t matter. When the chips are down, you will start hearing from among the things that you would not want to hear a second time, like who is proper Igbo or who is an osu.

I worry about them. No human being, dead or alive, can take the presidency of Nigeria and give it to the Igbo man. The Igbo man must find space in the existing parties or he can form his own and attract membership to be able to campaign and win the election.

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