By Dickson Okafor
Igwe Gerald Obunadike Mbamalu, is the traditional ruler of Ojoto in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State. He said the supremacy clash rocking the Apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo may ruin the chances of South-East to actualise the quest of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023. He spoke on other issues.
You recently celebrated your maiden Ofala festival amid the COVID-19 restriction protocol, how were you able to manage the situation?
The essence of life is good health and without good health, life is meaningless. Therefore, as a traditional ruler, the lives of my subjects and guests are paramount to me. I tuned down the Ofala instead of total cancellation by inviting few guests and I ensured that COVID-19 protocol was adhered to. The highlight of the Ofala festival was the elevation of some cabinet members, presentation of N1million cheque to one Obinna Okafor for graduating with first-class honours and conferment of chieftaincy title on some prominent sons of Ojoto.
As an advocate of zoning which major political parties in Anambra State have shunned ahead of the forthcoming governorship election, are you not worried that the governorship slot may elude Anambra South?
As a traditional ruler, I’m not supposed to be involved in political matters, but as a stakeholder in the state, my opinion is sought. The problem at hand is the same problem we have in Nigeria which is not adhering to equity and justice in governance. Anambra State has been peaceful politically because of the principle of zoning which has been in force since 1999. Chief Chinwoke Mbadinuju from Anambra South was elected governor in 1999 and in 2003, Dr Chris Ngige from Anambra Central became governor. When Ngige was removed by the court, Peter Obi from Anambra Central took over. When Obi was impeached Virgy Etiaba became governor for few months until Obi’s mandate was restored by court. The incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano is from Anambra North. Now that power had rotated among the three senatorial zones, it is expected that power should go around again for equity and justice starting from Anambra South.
But candidates from other zones contested against these governors when they were elected. Why should it be different this time?
What I’m saying is that the major political parties should zone their governorship ticket to Anambra South for the sake of equity and fairness. Yes, people like Sen. Andy Uba, Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu and others contested the governorship against candidates where it was zoned to, but we rejected them in the spirit of zoning. The reason I’m advocating for zoning to be maintained is for the sake of political peace in Anambra State. We cannot be against the principle of zoning or power shift in the South-East and you expect the same at the federal level.
Traditional rulers advocate for community policing which led to establishment of groups like Amotekun in the South-West and the Eastern Security Network (ESN), don’t you think these regional security outfits are dangerous given the recent clash between ESN and the Army in Orlu, Imo State?
Let me correct an impression; traditional rulers in the South-East have not formed any community security outfit and it is not within our powers to do so. The South-West governors formed Amotekun by legislation through the House of Assembly in the six states. We are not part of the so-called Eastern Security Network. I was not consulted and I believe most of my colleagues were not consulted as well. I had always called on government to empower traditional rulers by giving us constitutional role not only to help fight insecurity, as chief security officers in our domain, but to also ensure that there is peace in our communities.
The recent election of Prof George Obiozor as President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo has raised some resentment in the group, do you think the brewing crisis in Ohanaeze will affect the quest for a president of Igbo extraction in 2023?
It is a pity that whenever a general election approaches, external forces fan the embers of disunity among the Igbo. Afenifere, Arewa Consultative Forum and other regional groups conduct their election peacefully but when it comes to the turn of Igbo, we will attract national and global attention in a negative manner. I want to appeal to all aggrieved persons to sheathe their sword and join hands with Prof George Obiozor to achieve our common goal which is for the South-East to produce the next Nigerian President. Failure to come together and speak with one voice may cost us the Presidency in 2023.
It seems President Muhammadu Buhari has again sidelined the South-East in the recent appointment of new Service chiefs, what is your take?
The Igbo must rally around Ohanaeze and support the present leadership as a voice of the region. Our leaders were fighting over who will become the President General of Ohanaeze and were not available when leaders from the other regions were lobbying for the position of Service chiefs. Every position in government is lobbied for and not given on a platter.
Gov Hope Uzodimma of Imo State has been appointed leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the South-East just as Gov Dave Umahi of Ebonyi dumped the Peoples Democratic Party and joined the APC. Do you think this will boost the chance of Igbo Presidency in 2023?
Yes, they are added advantage and a means to launch Igbo back to the mainstream of the nation’s politics. But it will make more sense if we join hands with Ohanaeze as a platform to bargain for power. Governors Uzodimma and David Umahi as leaders of APC in South-East should go beyond party line to woo other Igbo leaders into the party; that is one of the ways APC in the South-East can bargain for power in 2023.