Prince Richard Ozobu, a chieftain of Ohanaeze, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, slams former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on alleged Islamisation/Fulanisation of the country. He also raises hope of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023, but advises the Igbo to forge an alliance with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). He spoke with Deputy Editor, MIKE UBANI. EXCERPTS
What are your expectations from President Muhammadu Buhari, as he begins a second term in office?
You know that the President Buhari-led APC administration has a clear-cut agenda. The president made it clear during his 2015 and 2019 electioneering campaigns that the main thrusts of his administration will be: fighting corruption, reviving the economy, and providing security for lives and property. I will like him to continue with that agenda, and improve on his programmes, especially the war against corruption. If as a country we fail to kill corruption, corruption will kill the country. Nigerians should understand that fighting corruption is not an easy task, and so must exercise patience with the administration. I will expect the administration to step up the fight against insecurity occasioned by the activities of Boko Haram, herdsmen and bandits. But you must understand that the issue of insecurity predates the Buhari administration. It is important to say that the war against insecurity should not be left to the government alone. Everybody should be a watchman within the area he or she lives. You can never deploy enough police men to police the country; neither can you deploy enough soldiers to maintain security. The members of the public should assist the government in the fight against insecurity by giving credible intelligence to security agencies.
Do you agree with the alleged skewing of the corruption war against members of the opposition PDP, whereas alleged corrupt APC members are not touched by the EFCC?
Those who ran the affairs of this country for 16 years should account for their activities in government for those 16 years. Are the PDP people trying to protect the alleged thieves among them? If they think there are also thieves among APC members they should report such people to the right quarters. The PDP government presided over billions of dollars during those 16 years, and there is nothing on the ground to show for that stupendous amount of money. So, it’s only natural that those who ran the affairs of the country then should tell us how they spent public funds put in their custody.
Do you agree with former President Olusegun Obasanjo that the present federal government wants to Islamise/Fulanise the country?
I have great respect and regards for former President Obasanjo. But today, following the statement credited to him, I am compelled to think that his thinking process is on recess. He was the commander of the Third Marine Commando of the Nigerian Army during the civil war. At the end of that war in 1970, the Gen. Yakubu Gowon-led military administration introduced the ‘No victor, No vanquished’ policy, and the 3 R’s – Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation. Also, recall that at the end of the war, there was this propaganda that the North, and indeed the Hausa/Fulani were bent on dipping the Koran into the Atlantic Ocean. But that never happened. If the intention of the North is to Islamise/Fulanise the country, they would have started in 1970 with the Igbos who lost the civil war. Instead, immediately after the war ended, the Igbos went back to the North and reclaimed the property they left behind, and also revived their businesses. And within a short period of time, the Igbos across the country were able to recover their lost grounds in commerce and education. By l979, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, an Igbo from Anambra state, became the vice president of Nigeria. And in the same 1979, an Igbo man became the Speaker of House of Representatives in the person of Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke. And that same year too, Dr. Joseph Wayas, who hails from the former Eastern Nigeria, became the Senate President. Those major positions were given to the people who lost the civil war. No society that experienced civil war has recovered as fast as the people of former Eastern Nigeria did. The provisions in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 as amended), makes it difficult for anybody to Islamize or Fulanise the country? Having said that let me assume that Obasanjo was part of those who formulated the 3 R’s. If he loves Nigeria, especially the Igbos, he ought to have implemented those aspects of the 3 R’s that were not implemented by Gen. Gowon, when he became military head of state in 1976 following the assassination of then head of state Gen. Murtala Mohammed? I know that Obasanjo wrote a book in 1988 entitled Constitution for national integration and development. On page 75 of that book, Obasanjo suggested the introduction of a one-party system of government in the country. In that book, he regretted the things he did not do while he was military head of state for four years, and said that if he had another opportunity to become head of state in the future, he will accomplish those things he didn’t do while he was military head of state. The question is: Why didn’t Obasanjo introduce one-party system of government when he was president for eight years between 1999 and 2007? Has he forgotten that under his watch as a democratically elected president, the military massacred 300 innocent civilians at Odi. Why didn’t he describe the wanton killings of innocent Odi people as an attempt to Islamise/Fulanise the country? What kind of Islamization/ Fulanization is he talking about? The statement credited to him is highly unexpected and mischievous. I don’t want people to believe him. Is Obasanjo saying the national wealth is not being distributed according to the provisions of the constitution? Is he saying that the appointments so far made by President Buhari are lopsided? Is it not within the prerogative of whoever is the president to appoint his chief of staff, or security chiefs whom in his opinion will help him secure the country? Didn’t the president appoint a minister from each of the 36 states of the federation as provided for in the constitution? So, how can anyone say that there is an attempt to Islamise/Fulanise the country? That’s impossible. We know that there are cattle rustlings in the North. We also know that some of the cattle rearers are involved in banditry. But you should know that in every field, you have criminals, and we are beginning to notice criminal elements among the cattle rearers.
Don’t you think the existence of the criminal elements among the cattle rearers prompted Obasanjo to conclude that there is a plan to Islamize/Fulanize the country?
The issue of banditry did not start today. When I was on the governing council of the University of Maiduguri, we were forced to travel by road to Maiduguri, because the Maiduguri airport was not functioning properly. I knew that there was banditry on the highway from Bauchi to Maiduguri, and the banditry was not even carried out by Nigerians. We learnt that those involved in this banditry were disgruntled soldiers from neighbouring Niger and Chad Republics. We learnt also that they were actually not paid salaries in their respective countries, so they came to Maiduguri, and indeed Nigeria to forcefully steal from our people. And this banditry one is talking about happened under Obasanjo’s government. Nobody said the action of the soldiers from Niger and Chad Republics were an attempt to Islamize or Fulanize the country. Many of the Boko Haram terrorists are Fulani, yet they are attacking and killing fellow Fulani. So, how will anybody describe the killings of fellow Fulani as an attempt to Fulanise/Islamise that part of the country or the entire country?
Is a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction achievable in 2023?
I don’t know of anybody who will say that it is not achievable. However, what we need to do is to make the right alliances, because there is no way an Igbo man can become a president without striking the right alliances, and those alliances should be with the North. I think the present crop of politicians from Igboland seem to have totally abandoned the foundation laid by our forebears like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the greatest Igbo man that ever lived, and Michael Okpara, and the rest. These alliances have been with the North. At the end of the civil war, we had the NPN/NPP alliance. The West won’t get the presidency without an alliance. The APC has the capacity to produce the next president in 2023. So, if you want an Igbo man as president in 2023, you should support the present APC federal government to implement its programmes. We must correct the errors of the past. But if we don’t, we are getting nowhere. If the Igbos should continue supporting the opposition PDP, we are getting nowhere in our quest to produce a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023 or beyond. The Igbos must be part of the progressive movement, which is the APC.