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Why is the APGA crisis irresolvable? Well, I will say that I have on my own done what I consider as my best to resolve the APGA crisis out of court. It is on record that there have been about 15 peace initiatives, some from my side and some from the other side.
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Why is the APGA crisis irresolvable?
Well, I will say that I have on my own done what I consider as my best to resolve the APGA crisis out of court. It is on record that there have been about 15 peace initiatives, some from my side and some from the other side.
Also some from the Christian Association of Nigeria (South East), Catholic Bishops of the South East, the Ohanaeze Nidgbo, the World Igbo Congress, the Igbo associations representing the 19 northern states, youth organizations; 15 attempts.
There was also one initiated by Dr. Tim Menakaya, who was originally on their side, but later on decided that as an elder statesman, it was his responsibility to be an arbiter, instead of taking sides. So, he initiated one of such peace initiatives.
I had strong reasons not to go to his house, because of his partisanship in the matter, but as somebody who wants peace, I took my own men and went there. Surprisingly, the other side on whose side he could be said to be on, did not turn up. So, as it is now, it looks to me that it is the court that finally resolve the issue. And good a thing, all the parties have submitted themselves to the court processes. So, we will allow the matter play out in the court.
Why can’t the matter be resolved as a family issue?
That is what I have been telling you. We have tried to resolve the matter 15 good times out of court. It takes two to reconcile. I have always been there but the other side never turned up.
You have been having a running battle with dim Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu. What is the real story?
I told Dim Odimegwu Ojukwu in July 2004, that he will not be nominated again for the presidential ticket on the platform of APGA. And I was speaking to him frankly like son to father.
We were one on one and he asked the question on what would be his role in the party in the future. I gave him reasons why he could not run. I gave him reasons of age, of health and of the suspicion of other Nigerians of him. That, if he has a foot hold in Igboland, he will cause trouble again. I gave him reason of not having the support of the Igbo elite. And all these manifested in the outcome of the 2003 elections.
I also said to him, we have used APGA to break a jinx, to prove to Nigerians that you could contest for the highest office in the land. And having come third and garnered about 1.4 million votes in 2003, it was time to bow out while the ovation was loudest. He accepted it in my presence, but I didn’t know he was not happy. It was later I found out that he felt that my suggestion to him to retire honourably was rather an insult. That formed part of his grouse against me.
Did you offer him an alternative to being the APGA presidential candidate?
Yes, of course. I offered him the chairmanship of the Board of Trustees of APGA. Beyond that, because of my near idolization of him, I told him that, beyond being chairman of BOT, we will be clearing every candidate from him. Every candidate will receive his blessing. These were quiet things we did discreetly. But he was not satisfied even with that.
Did you give him an alternative presidential candidate?
Definitely! I told him that we will present Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu. Then he began to say I sold out. But he didn’t say that to my face. I told him that we will present a younger candidate, that the Igbo people were yearning to see their presidential candidate, the person flying the APGA flag.
So, you offered Kalu APGA ticket?
Even before meeting Kalu, I discussed it with Ojukwu. I gave him reasons, just like I gave him reasons why he would not run.
He (Kalu) is less suspected; in fact, he is not suspected by other Nigerians to cause mischief. He is young, he has the resources, the outreach, and based on our performance in 2003, that he is the person we require, to consolidate. For example, we could have cleared the entire South East, we could have made penetration in the South South and other parts of the country.
It was actually that suggestion that triggered off Dim Ojukwu’s anger, because, he believed that since Igbo people have accepted APGA as their own, whoever is (its) presidential candidate is the de facto leader of Ndigbo, and he didn’t see that happening in his life time; for another person to take over from him.
Orji Kalu and Ojukwu are big Igbo personalities. What is the closeness between the two leaders?
When Orji Kalu was governor of Abia State, he deferred to Odimegwu Ojukwu, and Odimegwu Ojukwu also answered any call from Kalu. In fact, it was that knowledge that made us to propose Dr Kalu, believing that he will be happy with his choice. But it was the other way round. He became rather envious. I thought he would have been happier. I could not have proposed somebody who was not his friend. I thought he had a friend in him.
How do you also see the relationship between former information Minister, John Nnia Nwodo, and Ojukwu?
Well, honestly, I don’t want to go into that issue.
But I can tell you that my own impression of Nnia Nwodo is that, he is a political prostitute. I knew what opinion he had about Ojukwu. I have been with Ojukwu for over two decades. So, there is no friend of his I don’t know. I also know his enemies.
Nnia Nwodo had a very terrible opinion of Ojukwu. To turn around and be fraternizing with the man now, it amazes me. So, whatever they are doing now, they are just trying to see who cheats the other. There is no sincerity in that relationship. It is a relationship that is not bound together on any altruistic reasons.
Can the PPA and APGA work together, being the two leading parties in the South East?
I remember when Dr Orji Uzor Kalu was being presented as the PPA presidential candidate at the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja. I had the opportunity of addressing that gathering and I remember saying the PPA and APGA are siblings of the same parents, but one is older than the other.
And I have not changed my opinion about that. I also remember that, when I paid solidarity visit to Chief Theodore Orji, the Abia governor, I said the PPA and APGA working together will be the best thing to happen to our people.
Who do you think can best represent the Igbo between Ken Nnamani, Adolphus Wabara and others without any bias?
(Laughs) One would have thought you would mention other personages with Igbo profile. Ken Nnamani doesn’t have an Igbo profile; Wabara doesn’t have an Igbo profile. If you were talking of people like Senator Uche Chukwumerije and a few others, then there would have been basis for comparison. In terms of outreach, in terms of accessibility…these (Nnamani and Wabara) are people who happened on the scene. Ken Nnamani becoming Senate President was a happen stance; the same with Wabara.
So, who is the Igbo leader as of today?
Oh no, Igbo people don’t have a leader right now.
There are leaders. We still hope that with time an Igbo leader will emerge. The issue of Igbo leader is not by appointment; you can’t assume it like answering Gburugburu. It is a nickname; it doesn’t confer Igbo leadership on you. Igbo leadership emerges. Zik was a Nigerian statesman and rallied Igbo people. Okpara was a Nigerian statesman but more of an Igbo leader. These things happen. You earn leadership, you don’t acquire (it) by nickname.
Can’t someone like Ken Nnamani become Igbo leader?
He doesn’t have an Igbo profile. I want to believe that there is no Igbo interest that Ken Nnamani has championed, or where has he ever represented Igbo view? He doesn’t have an Igbo profile. He did well as Senate President.
That is it. When we talk about Igbo profile, you must take risk for the Igbo. You can decide to put your life on the line for the Igbo. You must have been doing it for people to see, not by propaganda. You can’t compare these people with someone like Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, who has suffered tribulation and has put his life on the line for Ndigbo.
What is your relationship with Gen. Ibrahim Babangida?
I respect him as an elder statesman, a former (military) president, very articulate, very resilient, he has a thick skin. He is prepared to stand alone for what he believes in. He has called to encourage me in the upright fight I am fighting.
What will be Ojukwu’s place in Igbo and Nigerian history, as someone who has related with him for over two decades?
His major role is that he led Ndigbo into a civil war. If we accept the propaganda that there was a plot to annihilate the Igbo people, then you can credit him with the fact that he led the war, because, that was the propaganda. But we were not annihilated. But outside of that, his over 40 years’ presence in Igbo public life is laced with tragedy and pain. He has been a political liability. Igbo people have nothing much to show for that brand of leadership, I can tell you.
His threatening war all the time has not led us anywhere. Zik didn’t have to throw punches. He was a sportsman in politics. Okpara (former Premier of Eastern region) didn’t threaten war to make all his achievements. So, his (Ojukwu’s) style has not changed. To think that in all the time I have known him, he has never associated himself with any peace initiative, whether in Nnewi, in Igboland or Nigeria, will tell you the kind of leader he is.
Recently, Anambra elders converged to resolve the budget impasse between the Assembly and the executive, he was not there. Even in his own state, he could not be reckoned with as a leader. I did my best to protect the Ojukwu myth, to elevate him to his highest political ladder and he would have taken that opportunity to bow out honourably from the scene. But his role in the APGA crisis has stripped him of whatever honour he has left.
Are you not saying all these because you do not have his support in the APGA crisis?
He is not supposed to be supporting any faction as a father. I am not talking about APGA alone. I am talking about what happened in Nnewi, Anambra and Igboland. I was part of those who tried to reconcile him with (Alex) Ekwueme, with (Ben) Nwabueze, with all manner of persons. I have been there in all of these cases.
Was the statement credited to Gen. Theophilus Danjuma about late Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi fair to his family and Ndigbo?
Danjuma committed sacrilege. For him to have made that statement about Ironsi, I am not of the military stock; it did not reflect the saying that officers are also gentlemen. For him to talk of his (former) commander-in-chief in those derogatory terms, I know that nemesis will deal with him squarely. I tell you, the god of Igbo people, the god of Nigeria will punish him. And whenever he leaves this earth, he is proceeding to hell.
But many Nigerians see Danjuma as forthright?
I used to think so until he made this blunder. Danjuma is a miserable…Let me reserve my words. I am very hurt.
Can an Igbo man ever be president of this country?
Very, very easy. Simple.
But there is disunity. Look at APGA, you have had internal crisis for a long time, the longest in this dispensation?
We are almost at the end of APGA crisis. The Supreme Court has spoken, the High Court will soon conclude its work and my recognition by the INEC and Yar’Adua has not been tampered with…Many Igbo people are waiting to join APGA once these crises are over.
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