By Lekan Bilesanmi
Political parties and candidates taking part in next Saturday’s gubernatorial election in Anambra State have been advised not to see the election as a do-or-die affair.
The Akudigwe of Uke in Idemili North local government area of Anambra State, Hon. Ikechukwu Okosa, says stakeholders should regard the election as part of the efforts to strengthen the nation’s democracy. Okosa, who is also the President, Ivory Friends Club of Nigeria, in this interview, also speaks on other issues of national importance.
The Anambra election is here. How do you think it will go?
My hope is that we will have a peaceful election.
Anambra people are peaceful. Therefore the expectation of all including myself is that everybody in the state, regardless of political affiliation, must strive to uphold the values of peace, unity and brotherliness we are known for. We should not allow the election to cause acrimony or division among us. It must not be a do-or-die affair. All the stakeholders, including INEC, the political parties and the candidates must play the roles expected of them very well. If they can do this, there will be no cause to fear.
At a time, Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB threatened that there would be no election in Anambra but the Federal Government and Ohanaeze countered the threat. Meanwhile, some people are still worried that there may be trouble. How do you react to the situation?
IPOB’s threat should not be taken serious. I see the IPOB statement as mere threat which should not be taken serious. IPOB was only trying to wage psychological warfare. There is no cause for alarm. Just as the Federal Government and the Ohanaeze had assured, I also want to assure our people in Anambra that no individual, group or organization can stop them from exercising their fundamental human right by trooping out that day to vote for a candidate of their choice.
What is your advice to IPOB on the election?
IPOB should keep its peace. Its members should not try to create confusion. Anambra people are ready to exercise their fundamental human right; no IPOB member should try anything funny.
What is your advice to candidates and political parties taking part in the election?
I must commend the candidates and political parties taking part in the election. It is not easy to vie for political offices especially in this country where contenders have to devote a lot of their time, energy and resources to campaign.
My advice to them, however, is that they should not see the election as a do-or-die affair. They must accept the fact that many will show interest, but only one person will emerge as the winner. So if you take part, and you lose, it is not the end of the world. Don’t say because the election doesn’t favour you, you then instigate people to violence. We say no to violence.
What do you think should be the focus of the next governor of Anambra in terms of the provision of socio-infrastructural facilities?
Anambra needs foreign investors, but, first of all, infrastructural facilities like good roads and regular power supply must be in place. Then, job opportunities should be created for our teeming youths. High rate of unemployment in the country has reached such an alarming proportion that our policy planners can no longer pretend that all is well. To make matters worse, the bulk of those affected by unemployment are youths who are the future of the nation. Skill acquisition schemes should also be introduced with the aim of making more citizens self-employed.
Most of the youths following IPOB are jobless; if they are fully engaged, they won’t be involved with IPOB. It is out of frustration, hunger, and joblessness that they joined IPOB. I’m sure that if the youths are fully engaged, they won’t have time for IPOB activities or be involved in any activity that will cause social upheavals.
What’s your reaction to Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB’s agitation for an independent state of Biafra?
Why should we be talking of an independent state of Biafra? I support what our elders and Ohanaeze are calling for, that is, restructuring, to ensure that Igbo are treated fairly and are not denied their rights within Nigeria.
I don’t think the break-up of Nigeria and a return of the Igbo to their native homeland is the solution. The solution is for the Igbo to be accorded justice, fairness and equity. The marginalization of the Igbo should stop. The Igbo should not be treated as second class citizens of Nigeria.
I believe that with restructuring, issues relating to the marginalization of the Igbo would be addressed. Imagine, while some geopolitical zones have six states, and North- East has seven, only the South-East has five. I’m not against Nnamdi Kanu but I disagree with his approach to fighting Igbo cause.
Nnamdi Kanu is right in crying out against the oppression of the Igbo, but he should adopt a more mature approach. He should have listened more to the advice of elders and Ohanaeze.
Are you saying restructuring is the solution to the agitations here and there?
I do strongly believe that it is the solution. Restructuring will help to address so many issues that have been a source of concern to all.
We should also return to true federalism, devolve power to the states, and promote fiscal federalism. This is how it was in the First Republic and Nigeria made progress.
In Nigeria today, too much power is concentrated in the hands of the federal government; why should all the 36 states be going to Abuja to collect allocation every month?
While the debate on restructuring rages, some Nigerians say one of the ways to stop agitations here and there is for the federal government to implement some of the recommendations of the 2014 National Confab.
I agree with the suggestion. As long as doing so will help to move Nigeria forward, the federal government should not waste time in taking action on the 2014 Confab recommendations.
Government should set up a panel to look into those aspects of the Confab report that can be put into use for Nigeria’s development.
President Buhari should not to listen to those saying he should dump the Confab report. He should implement parts of it that can be of benefit to the nation.
What’s your assessment of the APC government since 2015?
APC should try to fulfil some of its electoral promises. Before the party came into power, the party and its leaders promised to transform Nigeria, but more than two years down the line, we are still waiting. But I’m praying for the administration to succeed. Nigerians are not asking for much from their leaders, what Nigerians need to thrive is for them to have access to regular power supply, good infrastructure, good health facilities, among others.
What’s your advice to President Buhari?
He should be a listening president. Millions of Nigerians are suffering. He should try to make sure that his party fulfils its electoral promises to Nigerians. So far, it has been promises upon promises; the President should go beyond mere promises and ensure that his administration lives up to the expectation of Nigerians.