National Publicity Secretary of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Prince Uche Achi-Okpaga, tells IHUOMA CHIEDOZIE that President Muhammadu Buhari was not fair to the Igbo in 2017
President Muhammadu Buhari’s supporters have started campaigning for his reelection. Do you support his second term bid?
l think President Muhammadu Buhari should embrace retirement because politics or the business of governance no longer looks good for him going by his earlier declaration that he wished he were younger. Recall when he said “At 72 there is a limit to what I can do.” Also recall that he recently celebrated his 75th birthday. I would encourage him to look for a younger politician from the North.
What is your assessment of President Buhari’s attitude towards the Igbo in 2017?
The President’s attitude, interest or concern for the Ndigbo is visibly cosmetic. Yes! No matter how he, or any of his political foot soldiers, may want to defend it. His last minute consideration of Ndigbo for appointments is a political gimmick to keep them in suspense in lieu of 2019. Bear in mind it is just consideration for now, not appointment yet. I have never observed any fairness from Buhari towards Ndigbo since his days as military head of state in 1983 up till now. Buhari disappointed the Igbo when he quickly deployed soldiers with armoured tanks against our youths who were exercising their fundamental human rights and yet he was reluctant to address the case of his Fulani herdsmen, who are still raping women in tens and hundreds, killing and pulverising farms and villages. Yet the Federal Government is said to be encouraging agriculture. What an antithesis! When your source of livelihood is destroyed, you are, as described in the Holy Bible in the book of Revelation, living but you are dead. The Federal Government can negotiate with the world acclaimed second deadliest terrorist group, Boko Haram, but cannot negotiate with the lgbo youths who were merely throwing tantrums and asking for a better standard of living. Is the Buhari government fair to the Ndigbo when it stopped work on the second Niger Bridge? Is the President fair to us when he looked the other way while officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission embarrassed, harassed and arrested the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Innoson Group, Chief Innocent Chukwuma, over a matter that was pending in court? What of the hurried arrest of Senator Pius Anyim while a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation like him who was said to have ‘re-grassed the desert’ was first given a clean bill by the nation’s chief law officer, before he was subsequently indicted by the Senate and the Vice President’s panel?
Is it fair to cut off the entire South-East region from the National Security Council? I can go on and on and you can call visible and observable facts hate speech, l have no apologies whatsoever. President Muhammadu Buhari has not been fair to Ndigbo.
Do you think the Igbo will vote for Buhari in 2019?
Those who would want to vote for President Buhari are free to exercise their franchise. Personally, l did not vote for him in 2015, neither will l in 2019, chiefly on the grounds of age. By now he should be an elder statesman and a veritable counsellor to his adherents.
Is it late for Buhari to change the way Igbo feel about him? What should he do to address this problem?
So long as there is life, there is hope. However, some things are better left unsaid. On the eve of Christmas a friend said we should forget about unity in Nigeria, for now, and focus on faith, peace and progress. l quite agree with him lock, stock and barrel. I sincerely identify with Atiku Abubakar’s assertion that Buhari’s government has divided the country more than ever. I would say it has divided the country even more than the civil war and unwittingly threading the verge of precipitous political peregrination. Debates on the subject aggravate the people the more. As for whether there is anything Buhari could do to change the way that the Igbo perceive him, he should appoint a service chief from the South-East or make an Igbo man, minister of the Federal Capital Territory.
How will you assess President Buhari’s performance, particularly in the fight against corruption and the economy?
The fight against corruption under this government is more like window shopping. Nobody fought corruption. Instead, they gave corruption a new dressing, so that virtually all the assumed corrupt ones under the umbrella have crossed over to embrace the broom with which to dispel the EFCC and her sister agencies. What a soft landing. Concerning the economy, by now you must have been abreast of the beer parlour slang of buharimania or buharitime. It simply means time of hardship. Even in the said corrupt and looting days of the former administration, Nigerians were adjudged among the happiest people in the whole world. Now, every mistake or deficiency of this administration is heaped on the former government.
What are the Igbo expecting from President Buhari in 2018?
We are not expecting miracles from Buhari. We are not oblivious that soldier will come and go, the barracks remain. Let me hazard optimism that the physical manifestations of President Buhari’s humane side will come very soon