Chief Chikezie Nwogu is the President General, Igbo Delegate Assembly in the 19 Northern states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
A few weeks ago, he was elected as the President, Elders Community Leaders Association in Kano State. In this interview, the renowned statesman dropped hints on the challenges of non – indigenes in the state.
He also spoke on how Igbo in the North will vote in the 2023 elections, saying they would mostly settle for efficiency and not tribalism or religion. He also commented on Peter Obi’s candidacy in the present race to Aso Rock and the failure of APC and PDP to present an Igbo presidential candidate. He spoke to DESMOND MGBOH.
You have just been elected as the President of the Elders Community Leaders Association of Kano State. How do you feel about your new responsibilities?
I feel highly challenged by this new assignment and happy also that I have been chosen for this role. The truth is that I was the Vice President of the association for the past six years. Dr Jimpat Ayalangbe, the renowned medical doctor, was its President for the last eight years and after his time, I was elected to step in. So, for me, the post is an appointment to serve the people of different nationalities in the state and I look forward to providing a mature and elderly voice to better the lots of all non-indigenes in the state. As you already know, the association comprises elders and the leaders of all other ethnic nationalities and tribes resident in the state. The leaders of the Yoruba are there, the Igbo are there, the leaders of the South- South Assembly are there and there are leaders from the Northern Ethnic Association. The immediate leaders at the community would do their part, but we would complement their efforts, surely.
What is your vision for these people of different backgrounds?
Honestly, I think there is a lot on the ground to be done and there is a lot we can achieve together as a people. And I am sure that my background story may have inspired them to rest their trust on me. I have held various positions in the past in the state and beyond. I was the President General of the Igbo people in Kano for six years. I am the President of the OdimaAbia, an assembly of Abia people in the 19 Northern states and I am also the President, Igbo Delegates Assembly in the North and FCT Abuja. I take this responsibility very seriously and by the grace of God, my tenure would be rewarding in many ways to all of us.
Specifically, what is your agenda for them?
First, let me remind you that we are elders and by that we are more of stabilisers of the system than operators. You may not expect us to adopt the same approach to issues like the younger ones. We have our ways of persuasion and I am sure that those in governance would have no reason to ignore us when we engage them. First, we plan to reach out to those in governance to have a second look at the quality of infrastructure in our immediate residential areas. For example, roads in places like Dakata, Sabon garri and even Jaba, where most of the non-indigenes reside are in very deplorable conditions. We have no water supply too, no light in many cases. We would find mature ways to call the attention of the state government, especially as we are also taxpayers and supporters of the state government policies. And I may add this, most of us were born here, many among us got married in the state and most of our children were equally born here in the state. So, we are not just residents, but in the ideal sense of it, we are all indigenous to the state. I also believe that if the opportunity presents itself, we would lobby the state government to support our children with better access to public education, employment and of course, periodic empowerment. The truth is that the present government can do a lot better in these areas and our challenge as elders is how to put up the subject matter and to get the government to see reasons and think in this direction. It is also not about what we want only; it is also about what we would and must do to support our host community and the state government. We assure all that we are agents of peace and unity. In fact, in the past, this association of elders had played an excellent role in fostering peace in troubled times in the state. We have been the quickest reach to the state government in moments of crisis and I can assure you that we would continue to mobilise our people towards the promotion of peace and stability in Kano State. We have a duty to grow the state together. This I can assure you on behalf of all these elders.
Many times, the government often says that there is no “No indigene” in Kano State. How true is this statement in the face of this not too comfortable reality?
We thank our governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje for one thing. He has been outspoken about the fact that there is nobody in the state that is not an indigene. During his various interactions and engagements with these nationalities and communities in the state- Igbo, Yoruba and others, he tells us repeatedly that we are not settlers, that we are one. But what we are appealing is that there should be more than the saying. He should concretely go beyond saying it to acting it out. Roads, water, access to public education and so on, they all can be improved. We need to feel these assurances in the reality that we see before us.
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Arising from your position as the President General of the Igbo Delegates Assembly, what is the direction of Ndigbo in the North in the 2023 general elections?
First, let me say that we are studying carefully the leading political parties in the country, their candidates and their manifestos. Every Igbo man outside Igboland, especially those who are resident in the North, wants a better Nigeria for all, a Nigeria where justice and peace are the driving factors- because under this climate, his business will thrive better. So, we are open to all parties and all candidates. Igbo in the North have not decided on any candidate yet- be him Obi, Atiku or Tinubu or even Kwankwaso. We are watching carefully. Read me well, it means we are looking for competence and not tribe, we are looking for effectiveness, not his religion and our vote would go for the best candidate, the candidate who feels that we are a part of the Nigerian state and will treat us well if he comes to power. If you say we are important, we would say that you important too. And let me say this, unlike in previous elections where most of the Igbo were subtly disenfranchised or disenfranchised themselves by running to their home states, Igbo in the North today are going nowhere. We are staying and voting in our states of residence. Most of us have collected our PVCs and I assure you that we would make efforts to vote on that day. It is interesting to note that going by our own internal census; we have over 10 million Igbo resident in different states of the North.
Are you assuring me that the Igbo people in the North are not going to go playing football on election day like they are used to doing?
No, no. All those things are no more. We are politically alive today. There is not going to be anything like playing football or going to open shops on election day or hiding inside our homes to watch Nollywood films. We are using this opportunity to encourage every Igbo man in the North, who has registered for the forth-coming elections, to go out and peacefully cast his votes on Election Day. I want to assure that the Igbo Delegates Assembly is a grassroots organization in the region. It can be found in all the local governments of the North and in all the states of the North, including Abuja and we have been advocating and mobilising against the habit of our people going home during elections and not participating in the elections. And this time around, the feedback is positive.
The APC and PDP edged out the Igbo man in their respective conventions, despite the fact that under their zoning arrangements, the Igbo ought to have been given a priority position. How does this affect your stance that you will give fair hearing to all the parties?
Let me state that we are not happy that an Igbo man has not been elected to the position of Nigerian’s President since after the civil war. I think this dream is something that any Igbo man would want to happen in his lifetime. And we pray that Nigerians will elect an Igbo man into the Presidency in due course. But I may say this too- and it is my personal opinion- it was only nine years after the war that the Igbo man emerged as the Vice President of Nigeria and even in the military, the Igbo man was Babangida’s Chief of Staff at some point. And so yes, it is not good enough, but the solution is not in confrontation or in being fanatical about what has happened, but in moving forward, in continuing to build the kind of trust and friendship that would inspire other regions to repose their trust in the leadership of an Igbo man. I am sure that one day soon, a Nigeria President of Igbo extraction would be possible. Certainly it is realisable. On the other hand, what we are truly more concerned about is that the forthcoming general elections should be peaceful. We the Igbo people in the North are the most peace loving Nigerians. Everything we do is dependent on the fact that there is peace. And so for us, our greatest expectation is peace and whoever wins the polls should be announced as the winner.
What do you think of the candidacy of Peter Obi of the Labour Party? How do you see his efforts so far and what are his prospects like?
Well, I really don’t want to zero down on any of the presidential candidates, but since you have asked the question, I will say that we know Obi and what he can do in government, right from his days as governor. He is a leader who has Nigeria at heart, and the good thing is that Peter Obi did not come into the race as an Igbo man but as a Nigerian who wants to proffer solutions to our collective problems. He has done well for his aspiration and I must say that we are watching all the candidates, for that person who will give the greatest good to all Nigerians. When the time comes, we will look at the manifestoes, we will look at their characters and we will decide.
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