In this brief interview with our Weekend Editor, OKEY MUOGBO and correspondent, ABBANOBI-EKU ONYEKA in Abuja, senior lawyer and prominent Igbo leader, Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu speaks on why the choice of Mr Peter Obi as running mate by the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Wazirin Adamawa was an excellent decision. Excerpts:
Could you comment on the controversies being generated by the choice of Mr Peter Obi by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as his running mate?
The issue of nomination of Obi can simply be categorized into two. The first is the nomination of his person and the procedure leading to his nomination. His nomination is good and it is a welcome development. I don’t want to agree with those Igbo who are kicking that Igbo are not united. I want to tell Nigerians that the Igbo are more united than most of the races. Who is not opposing who? Who sent Awolowo to prison and who prosecuted him? Are they not all Yoruba and is it not (late Justice) Sowemimo? Who sent him to prison, is it not Adetokunbo Ademola?
There is nothing like Igbo not being together. During the politics of 1979, didn’t the north bring in three presidential candidates and the Igbo brought only one? Now we call the north to go and do their presidency; didn’t the All Progressives Congress (APC) alone bring 13 aspirants? If it is Igbo, they say they are not united. People can have their divergent views and it is very straight forward.
The basic thing people are protesting about Obi’s nomination is question of Obi’s nomination procedures. For me, there is nothing wrong with the procedure and I am competent enough to say today, look, the last interview by Dr Alex Ekwueme, he said he was nominated as a vice president by (late) Dr A.A. Nwafor-Orizu to Shagari, not by the (defunct) National Party of Nigeria (NPN) of a zone. There was no meeting of the south west APC zone to nominate Osinbajo to Buhari. It may have been done by Tinubu. If the constitution is of the view that there should be consultation, they could have left the office of vice president to be voted for.
The issue is that the presidential system is the government set up in such a way that at the executive level, you get those who are your own friends and those who will help your achieve your programme. You can nominate anybody. Ekwueme was a technocrat; an architect likewise Osinbajo, a lawyer. Did the south south zone of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) sit together to nominate Jonathan as vice president to Ya’radua? So the question of consulting a zone before a nomination is wrong.
I am not saying that there is no case in the protest by those protesting in the south east.They are saying that at the time of Obi’s nomination, they were already talking with Atiku on the choice of Vice presidential candidate. that Atiku … There is another strong argument. The nomination was done by people outside the south east as if we are slaves. So what Atiku and his group should do is to assuage the south easterners, but let us stop talking about it, because there is nothing we can do.
You said that Nwafor-Orizu nominated Ekwueme for Shagari. The leaders of south east then could have also risen up the same way without knowing that somebody from their zone nominated Ekwueme. How are we sure that somebody from the south east did not nominate Obi as was done for Ekwueme?
The answer is that south west did not rise on Osinbajo; nobody rose on Ekwueme, Namadi Sambo as in the Jonathan time, among others and that is how it should be. The Igbo are rising because they are saying that there was a prearrangement. If it is a breach of their prearrangement. But it does not make the nomination of Obi a non-issue. He has been nominated.
The argument from some is that Obi is new in the PDP and has not even contributed enough to the party in the south east; how do you see that?
Obi as a governor welcomed the presidential candidate of the PDP and went to do campaign with them; as the leader or the APGA, he never put the APGA presidential candidate so that the PDP could win. The Constitution of the PDP is people-oriented. What was the contribution of Osinbajo to the APC before he became a vice president? Alex Ekwueme who was an architect, going from one country to another, did he know how the NPN was formed and was there any criteria in the party that he must do this or that before holding public office?
From a non partisan point of and taking the interest of Nigeria as a nation, do you think the Atiku-Obi combination can do well?
The set up is already doing well, because what they will produce for us is ‘Atipetacemol’ or Atikulated Rock of Ages, because Atiku will be busy going from one country to another in discharge of his national duties and Obi will be here to do the expected in managing the Nigerian economy as he did in Anambra state where emerged the best governor ever produced in this country for the past 100 years.
Are you saying this is the best combination for Nigeria?
Obi ran Anambra with its poor revenue and took no loan either internal or external. He ran the state for eight years, paid salaries, pensions and was recommended by the World Bank as the only government that kept account up to international standard. Intercity roads is 100℅; the roads are very good. After his government, nobody called in the EFCC against him. Peter Obi is more anti corruption than Buhari. He is more zero corruption than Muhammad Buhari. I think that we shall all say, “hail Peter Obi.” Let him work with Atiku for eight years and become Nigeria’s next president. The south east say they want a presidential candidate. To me, among those who say they want to be Nigeria’s president from the south east, we are yet to get any of them who performed like Obi. I put it as a challenge. If there is any, let him or her come up and prove it.