Former Anambra State Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Tourism and Coordinator, All Progressives Congress Campaign Council in the state, Mr. Chima Okafor, told journalists in an interactive session that political leaders in the South-east have a lot to learn from former Lagos State Governor, Senator Bola Tinubu. Shola Oyeyipo brings the excerpts:
Why did you leave Governor Peter Obi’s cabinet?
I left on the grounds of principle. I saw that the direction wasn’t the direction to serve the people and if there is anything, the trend of event has justified why I left. I had to leave because I cannot work under such a situation.
No amount of monetary inducement can justify why I had to leave my young family to come down to work. If I had projects I was doing that relate with the people; if I brought my children down, I’d be able to justify why I left when I was not with them and they will know their dad is a responsible person. So, I saw a different approach and I cannot in all fairness go along with my conscience. That was why I said I resigned on principle and at the appropriate time, I will go into details. It is not easy but you can see the trend of events.
When you have principle, it is better you die on principle so that it would be said this man died on principle. If it is earning salary and all that, I will still be in Anambra perhaps but it is not that easy. Principle comes at a price. At a stage, my life was in danger. I was threatened and I made a report to my governor; he ignored it. A situation where my life was threatened over certain principle stands on issues, I decided I had to leave because it was no longer a project worth sacrificing your life for.
How realisable is the Igbo presidency in the foreseeable future?
Our permutation and projection is this, the election has exposed the underbellies of Igbo leadership and the cause for re-thinking. Where hustlers parade themselves as Igbo leaders is a tragedy for us. So, we are trying to start a new thing so that our people will see beyond porridges and have principle stand and I give you one instance. Mr. Peter Obi was in a position – I can authoritatively say that, to do the same thing Senator Bola Tinubu did in the South-west. That is the difference between vision and porridge.
When you see leadership, it comes with sacrifice and you must be focused on it. These things Asiwaju is doing, they were not a one-day thing but people have seen what he has done now. Everybody is toasting him now, even those who never believed in his principle and never cherished what he was doing. We had the opportunity to do the same thing in the South-east – that was part of why I left. When you control the five block states, it becomes a block and you’ll be able to negotiate with other power blocks. That is how it is done!
In any event, GMB came to our people how many times? They disappointed him. Yes they did, except Chuba of blessed memory, who stood by him. Emezioke ended up trading his son for position. He reached out to our people but they never appreciated him. Now, my people have been calling me, but what are they calling for? To see how they can come in, collect and move on.
That is not life! What we need is a total change. It will get worse before our people realise and we believe we are on the ground now. They have seen the folly of their actions. Even in investment. You are always told to disperse your assets so that you edge. Even our son, Dr. Alex Ekwueme who was founder of G-6, to G-12, to G-18 and to G-34 – where is he today in the scheme of things?
Is it not enough for someone who has conscience to say ‘please, enough is enough? Don’t treat us this way. We need to organise together to get the power block for Igbo presidency, but it requires hard work – coming together first and foremost so that you can speak with one voice and have credible leaders.
We are already in the process of that. The election that threw up GMB, has already started a revolution in Igbo land because it’s either they go to sleep or we force them to see so that we can follow the appropriate channel and key into the project.
Part of what we told our people, when we were selling the APC was that the party is a national party and it has shown in the election by spread. Per chance, if GMB runs eight years by rotation power comes down to South. And if you have a power block, the natural thing will be that South-west and South-south have had shots, so you tradeoff with the two other power structures to say, ‘please can we have a shot too? That is how it is done. It is concession! Nobody freely gives you, but you must have shown strength so that the other will be able to listen to you. But when we are not organised and speak with one voice, who would you speak with and who do you form alliances with?
We want to rest those who are parading themselves as leaders because they have been exposed. Even when the president of the United States, for the first time in history, addressed Nigerians directly, it didn’t strike them that some fundamentals are going on because they don’t read. They don’t even understand. Eight opposition leaders have taken over in Africa.
So, you must show strength of character and that is what the APC has done in terms of General Buhari. His lieutenant, Tinubu, what money can you give to him? What joy can he not drive from what he has done for his people?
What should Nigerians expect from the incoming administration as from May 29?
You have started seeing the changes. Even without being sworn in, his election has been able to restore confidence in the economy and you can see that foreign investors have started coming in. It is three things. He would do them: security, economy and corruption.
United States of America stopped buying our oil. It is not that they stopped importing from other countries, rather, what they were importing from us; they distributed Kuwait, Berrain, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Mexico. They stopped buying one barrel from us. Why? Because they know the money ends up in private pockets. So when you say there is no tsunami in Nigeria you are joking because the greatest tsunami is corruption – a situation where someone appropriates something his tenth generation does not even need.
With GMB and his vice-president, Prof. Osinbajo, you will see dramatic change. The manifesto will be followed and would be implemented. There is no question about that, so you will see changes in terms of infrastructure development, power generation and all that. Give him one year or thereabout, you will see. The problem has been with leadership. Once a leader takes a stand and gives direction, everybody follows suit.
So, even the change we are talking about is now on every person’s mind. It is not to do with APC again; the change now is between you and me.
Is your party not afraid of the burden of expectations?
It is not an easy task. He is on a rescue mission, so the expectation is very high, but we pray God will give him the strength and the enablement to meet our aspiration.
Do you think all these are achievable in view of the fears that the Hausa/Fulani could hijack power and fence off Buhari from the rest of the country?
I will not descend to this. Whoever knows the General knows that he has a mind of his own. The country has gone beyond myopic or ethnic infrastructure. That is global world for you. You can discuss with someone in Sokoto through phones, internet and all that. So, if you are not transparent others will pick it. So, those primordial fears, I don’t see them. If you are relating with him one-on-one, you will know who he is.
He knows very collectively everybody worked for him and the love that has been shown to him in this country, it is going to be very difficult for a section or a group to lay claim to the presidency. If there is any group that one would say could lay emphasis on the presidency, it is the South-west – Tinubu, but we believe the process that threw up Buhari, was sanctioned by God. It couldn’t have been possible without God’s doing. Could you have imagined what would have happened if the South-west traded off their support? We have to be realistic. Just like I’m saying, the South-east, people could say we didn’t vote but we worked. I was telling them in the meeting.
If you have an opportunity to serve in General Buhari’s cabinet, would you go for it?
I would be delighted to offer my services. I opted out because I believe the objective of why I came to serve was no longer being met. It is not drawing salaries or being taken care of. Once I come into something I have objective and when those objectives are longer feasible and those things are not working according to programme – that is all. So, if I’m found suitable in any position, I will contribute positively and that is the way it should be because the key thing is that he needs capable hands to drive the process to deliver democracy dividends.