By Chinelo Obogo
Chief Ndukwe Iko is a prominent business man, and a former governorship aspirant in Abia State. In this interview, he said that the movement of former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu to the All Progressives Congress (APC), was borne out of his desire to speak for Ndigbo at the national level.
You have been a chieftain of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) for a long time, but recently, the party’s founder, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, moved to the All Progressives Congress (APC). What is your reaction to this?
I would want to be very realistic by saying that those who have that impression that Orji moved to APC because of his EFCC case are just speculating. If you know the character of Kalu, and you have been close to him, you would understand that he is a very courageous person and can to face up any challenge that comes his way. In fact, that is one of his best attributes. The EFCC case on the other hand has been on for almost 11 years, yet, Orji did not chicken out; he is a very strong spirited individual that is able to handle any situation that comes his way.
On his movement from PPA to APC, I will say, you will get the best answer from him on why he did it and not through speculation. Orji is very emotional about the Igbo and their lack of voice that has been on throughout the third republic. He has not played the role he had always wanted to play – being the voice of the Igbo people. He is very passionate about it and he has always wanted to be at the centre. So, moving to APC is for him to be able to fight for the rights of Ndigbo.
Orji has been in the opposition facing the EFCC for close to eleven years, and the agency has EFCC has not come out to say Orji’s trial has commenced and we’ve found him guilty and all that. Of course EFCC is not a court. Can he go to a political party because the EFCC will take him to court and the court will influence the judgement that will come out of such trial? No! So let us remove our mindset from all those things. Orji went in because he wanted to play at the centre of Nigerian politics. He has governed the state; he has been a two-time governor. He would have gone to the Senate but the Senate didn’t come his way because of the infraction in Abia state.
We know of what befell him in the state, and how his prodigy, T.A. Orji in connivance with a lot of forces are bent on making him irrelevant. Several meetings were held with former President Goodluck Jonathan for him to return to the PDP, but these meetings at every point were frustrated by Patience Jonathan and T.A. Orji. That is the clear story.
People are saying that since he formed the PPA, he should have remained…
There is no political party in Nigeria that was founded by anybody that is standing, that is the truth. The APC, PDP, were all founded by a group of people, but PPA is still standing today. Kalu is the only living Nigerian that founded a political party that still exists, so that should be a credit to him.
Nigeria is a very complex country, so you cannot start a party in a region and expect it to play a national role. Take back your minds to the history of Nigeria. Even the great NCNC, the great Action Group, could not form a government at the centre without a merger. So it should be a credit to Kalu for having a party that is still relevant. You can’t mention ten political parties in Nigeria today without mentioning PPA. I will tell you the role of PPA as against the major political parties if you ask me.
What has been the reaction of the PPA top hierarchy to this development?
If you recall, this is not the first that Kalu is leaving the PPA. In 2011, OUK made an attempt to go back to the PDP after he has used the party’s platform, the PPA to bring in Ikedi Ohakim and Theodore Orji in Imo state and Abia state in 2007 general elections. Kalu made attempts up till 2011 to come back to the main stream, but that attempt was frustrated as I said. PPA has remained very strong because of the foundational principle of the party.
Orji continued to nurture the party with some contribution from people like me and other people to make sure that the party stood. And as I said, the reason why we have PPA is to act like a spare tyre. You can’t run your vehicle with four good tyres and not have a spare because anything can happen with one of the four.
Now, the PPA stands in the gap when we are short-changed or there is no opportunity to present a candidate that we feel strongly that should run for an election. So, if the major political parties field all their candidates and somebody feels okay, I should have contested, and there is no platform, then you come back to PPA. So, we are trying to push that to the consciousness of everybody that in PPA, you have an alternative platform. If you come as a first instance candidate, the PPA picks you to run in an election; but if for any reason, there is a candidate who believes strongly that he should run for an election and that candidate doesn’t find a good platform to do that, you come down to PPA and do it and that is why PPA cannot go under like other political parties.
Are you still a member of the PPA?
There is a very important reason for me to excuse myself and step out of PPA. But like I said, it is a family party, and if I go out, it doesn’t mean I no longer have interest in PPA. No! But I want to do is to follow people of like minds and get a platform that is strong enough to push my political ambition forward and that is why I stepped out of PPA. It is not necessarily because the party has issues, no.
My decision to move is personal, and I have not openly come out to say I have joined APC because I need to look at certain other options before i make my decision.
I have a lot of followers in Abia state, so before I make any major movement to APC or wherever, my followers must be involved and we would weigh a lot of factors before we move in. APC is an option, but I didn’t say it is absolute. I have not gone to APC yet but I am still contemplating on my movement.
What is your reaction to the tussle between Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, and his rival, Uche Ogah ?
Ogah is a very good fighter, and Dr. Ikpeazu, is a very good guy in his own right. But you see, this is ambition that borders on somebody feeling short-changed, and that is what we face daily in politics. The impact on the state wouldn’t have been very bad if not that the system is very corrupt that people don’t go to do things the right way.
We didn’t know Ikpeazu very well until he became a governor, but so far, he has not done badly. On the other hand, Ogah came out like whirlwind into Abia politics, and everybody loved him. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the ticket to run and now he is in the court.
You talked about Kalu being the voice of the Igbo, do you think they are marginalised?
Of course, the Igbo are greatly marginalised. One of the things you people look at when you mention the issue of marginalisation is infrastructure and psychological marginalisation. There are places you go, you can’t declare to be Igbo except you have the courage to do so.
Even in the Southern part of Nigeria, people still refer to rogues as ‘Omo Igbo’ (Igbo person) you know. I don’t know if you experience it, but when law enforcement officers apprehend you and you can’t speak the local language, they assume you are an Igbo guy. Then the penalty is usually heavier, so that is marginalisation on itself.
So because they are Igbo, they are likely to pay a heavier fine?
Of course! They will tell you to pay all the fines. They do fine for such offences or even more at times. But, if you speak a certain language, somebody will tell you okay, go, don’t do it again or just give us something to do what we want to do. That is marginalisation; it is even deeper than what you see physically. Even those of us that married from outside our tribe, you still see that attitude in your in-laws. You go the extra mile trying to please them because you don’t want them to call you by your tribe. So that is marginalisation.
Do you support the call for Biafra?
After the civil war, the government of the day said there was ‘no victor no vanquished’; that people should come together and love each other. That means somebody like me, instead of going to Abia to contest for Federal House of Representatives, I would have done it easily in Lagos or Osun State or wherever I lived or I was born. That was the intent of Yakubu Gowon then. But as we drifted from the original intention, we began to see new faces of marginalisation.
Now, nobody supports the break of the country, but , you must learn to respect each other’s tribe, and religion, I think that is what the Igbo are talking about, and not necessarily breaking up.
Does that mean you don’t support it?
I personally wouldn’t support any idea to break the country, but I will fight to make sure that justice is established at every corner of the country. We want justice that respects humanity, rights of religion, ethnicity, and all those things that are identifiable to the people.
People should not reduce us to championing a cause that an individual embarked on, and then found himself in trouble. The Igbo cannot support things that will bring them down;. We can’t do things that will take us back to where we never wanted to be. We want to move forward and continue to move forward. Nobody is against anybody’s individual pursuit. But there is no time the Igbo sat down and encouraged everybody to go and fight to separate us from Nigeria.