Ahead of the 2019 general elections, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Prince Richard Ozobu, tells MIKE UBANI, in this interview that Igbos should align themselves with the ruling government at the centre, and advises delegates from the South-East to vote for credible candidates in Saturday’s National Convention of the party, to represent the zone.
Igbos doesn’t seem to be following a clear cut direction as the 2019 general election approaches. What do you think is responsible for this state-of affair?
The reason is that many people in politics in Igbo land today do not subscribe to the idea of political tutelage or period of apprenticeship. Politics is a game governed by rules, and you cannot play politics if you don’t understand the rules. Many people here are aspiring to become governors, senators without knowing how the system worked before, and how our forbears had related well with their people so that they were able to represent them well when they got their nod to represent them at various levels. That’s why we are having problems. We haven’t really sat down to establish a think-tank that would determine what we want in the context of one Nigeria, and how to realize those objectives. For instance, the think-tank should be able to tell us what political alliance will be in the best interest of Ndi Igbo. Many of our people who joined politics have become so selfish. We have not tried to establish those kinds of alliances entered into with other parts of the country or political parties as was done by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dr. Michael Okpara, in the defunct Eastern Nigeria. This is because we haven’t realized that we cannot get power at the centre without aligning with one political party or one section of the country. And don’t forget that those alliances are forged to get political offices at the centre, and as you can see, the Igbos had in the past aligned with the North.
So, what kind of politics do politicians of Igbo extraction play today?
They are playing solo politics. Everybody seems to be on his own. I read an online report the other day that Western Obas have agreed to support the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari, because the president is fighting corruption. Those people know what they want from the federal government, but I haven’t seen that kind of thing happening in Igbo land.
So, what direction should Igbos take as we approach 2019?
This time around we have to go back and look at how we did it in the past. We should ensure that the vote we cast in 2019 should be part of the victory that will certainly come to the APC during the 2019 presidential election. We should put in more efforts to make the presence of the APC felt in Igbo towns and villages enable our people appreciate the need to vote for the party that would guarantee them more democracy dividends. Also, we need to make some changes in the party leadership in the South-East in the forthcoming Convention of the APC, particularly in those states controlled by the PDP. We need to put experienced people in control of the party in the South-East this time around.
Why are you optimistic of Buhari’s victory in the next Presidential election?
President Buhari has done very well within the limits of the resources at his disposal. He has done well especially in the area of security. These skirmishes between herdsmen and farmers didn’t start today. Also, the problems of banditry and cattle rustling didn’t start today. I remember that as a member of the governing council of the University of Maiduguri those days, we found out that there were high level of cattle rustling and banditry in that area which were not even reported by the media. We understood then that these criminal acts were perpetrated by soldiers from Chad and Niger Republic, who were not paid salaries as at then. These soldiers came into Nigeria to cause havoc In fact; the then federal government gave these two countries money to pay their security forces, and warned that if the criminal acts continued, Nigeria would invade those two countries. The administration of President Buhari, has been able to identify the causes of these banditry and killings, especially in the Benue area – and you know that there are always some people behind these kinds of criminal acts – and the administration is doing a lot to put an end to the banditry, and killings in the land. It cannot be the government in power that is sponsoring these criminal acts. I believe some people are doing all these to destabllse the federal government.
Don’t you agree like some people say that the killings are happening because a Fulani man is the President, and Fulanis are trying to Islamize the country, especially Igbo land?
Didn’t you see Shitte Muslims demonstrating against President Buhari in Abuja recently? They are asking for the release of their leader who is also a Muslim. So, why are we talking about Islamizing the country, when the President is also being accused of victimizing his own people? How can it be an attempt to Islamize the country, when Shitte Muslim is also fighting the same government?
What is your view on the lingering clamour in some quarters for the establishment of State Police Force?
Speaking from the perspective of an Igbo man, I will say No to the establishment of State Police Force?
The Igbos needs Federal Police Force more than any other tribe in the country. This is because more than fifty percent Igbos live outside Igbo land; they are predominantly Christians as well, and so will be better protected by the Federal Police Force than the State Police Force. When you establish State Police Force, the tendency is for that police force to be made up of officers and men from that that particular state. So, if an Igbo man living in Kano for instance, has a problem that requires police intervention, he goes to a police station manned by entirely officers and men from that state, who may act in accordance with directives from that state government. If he is dissatisfied with the treatment given him, he may not have any other police force to report to. But that is not the case with a Federal Police Force which is not only made up of officers and men from various parts of the country, but which is also structured in such a way that allows complainants to get justice if they are not satisfied with the treatment they receive at one level of the Federal Police Force. You know that during the First and perhaps Second Republics, opposition parties were not allowed by local police men to campaign in most parts of northern Nigeria. The same is likely to happy today if you establish State Police. The issue is that some politicians are bound to use State Police to harass, intimidate, and even imprison their perceived enemies..
If State Police have worked in some countries, why can’t they work in Nigeria?
In the United States of America for instance, where you live becomes your permanent home, and not where you were born. For instance, if you were born in Florida, but you live permanently and work in the State of Ohio, you are entitled to all the benefits available in that State, So, if 50% of Igbos who reside outside Igbo land, are regarded as indigenes of that place, then when you talk about State Police Force, the Igbos living in such places are free to join the Police Force of the states they reside and work, because they are regarded as indigenes of those states. That’s the way it works in those countries that have State Police, especially the US. And so under this arrangement, the police force in Sabon Gari, Kano, where majority of Igbos reside, will be made up of mainly Igbos. So, if we have reached that point in Nigeria, where residency is used to determine your status, then you can talk about State Police Force.