Dickson Okafor

The mention of Daniel Kanu will make the ear to tingle, especially those who followed political activities during the era of late Head of state, General Sani Abacha.  He organised the largest gathering of youths in the history of Nigeria under the aegis “Youths Earnestly Ask for Abacha” (YEAA) which had over two million youths as members.

In this interview, the Imo State born politician, entrepreneur and philanthropist debunked insinuation that he went under after his fruitless attempt to actualise Abacha’s presidency, noting that Imo State deserves a better leader and that he is that better leader the state needs in 2019.

You led a youth movement, “Youth Earnestly Ask for Abacha” (YEAA) which urged Abacha to transit from military Head of state to a civilian president; can you throw more light on what informed that move? 

My action was futuristic in nature. You may recall that at that point there was National Constitutional Conference which produced a document called Vision 2010. That vision was to make Nigeria a developed country and also address youth restiveness, address core values, industrialisation and uninterrupted electricity. In fact, there were 20 things the conference recommended. One of which we know today as the six geo political zones which came out of Vision 2010. So, all these things were billed to make Nigeria a better and a great country.

And I did what I did for that regime because I bought into that vision, unfortunately, few people or what I will call vocal minority were against that vision and at the end of the day they obstructed the regime and since then many of the things I predicated have come to pass. I recall during the Abacha era, in one of my interviews, I declared that if they didn’t implement that vision, the youths of Nigeria will make the country ungovernable. I was merely making prophecy, if you don’t take care of the youths, provide for them, they will become uneducated and restive and that will in turn make the country ungovernable. Many didn’t see reason in what I was saying as some people misconstrued my statement. Be that as it may, what has happened since then? The Niger Delta youths rose up and made the country ungovernable at a time, youths from the North formed Boko Haram and made and are still making the country ungovernable, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) rose up against the country due to injustice and marginalisation issues. Today, no doubt hunger is a huge problem; unemployment is a huge problem to the country.

I believe in uplifting the society through visionary leadership. The Scripture itself said, ‘without vision, the people perish, but he that obey the law will prosper’ and the law means vision. Unfortunately, in Nigeria people are disillusioned because of lack of vision. Our leaders must identify this and address it.

If you have another opportunity, will you do what you did under the military regime?  

It was not about the military, it is about making Nigeria better. I believe that no matter the circumstance you find yourself, you should always try to do the best you can to be the best you can. I’m not propagating military rule, I’m a democrat and I’m propagating democracy. If people want to be honest to themselves, they should understand that the vision 2010 was democracy because there was a transition from military rule to democracy in place. So, when people talk about my support for Abacha, they misconstrue it because we had a democracy coming in the year 1998 and 1999. There was a political transition in place with five political parties. So, why did people fail to understand this but decide to fabricate lies and we ended up throwing away the baby with the bath water? The same people who opposed me for supporting a military leader are the same people that brought to us former President, Olusegun Obasanjo and President Muhammadu Buhari who transited from military Heads of state to civilian presidents. So, what did I do wrong? To me, that was the height of hypocrisy.

At what point did you summon courage to bounce back into politics having stayed away since 1999?

I never actually left the political scene. If you remember in 2003 I contested for the House of Representatives seat to represent Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) and Bwari on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and won the party’s primary, but my ticket was annulled by Chief Audu Ogbeh, now Minister of agriculture on the claim of unverifiable certificates and unclear antecedents. So, I did suffer under democracy as well. In 2011, I was appointed Senior Special Assistant to Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha on Agriculture and Water Resources. He later made me Special Adviser in 2012. So, since then I have been doing charitable job.

What is the name of your charity organisation?

Among them are, Daniel Kanu Youth Foundation (DKYF) with the aim to promote the course of youths through education and sports which include the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Football Association League in Abuja. New Deal Organisation (NDO) and it has two cardinal programmes which include, Parents Against Crime Together (PACT) and Youths Against Crime Together (YACT). All are geared towards fostering youth development and reduction of crime. I’m also the founder of Body Builders Association of Nigeria (BBAN). The whole idea is to catch them young and teach them core values and when they grow with it they won’t depart from it that is the only way we can get a better society. When I say young, I mean below the age of ten.

Recently you declared intention to contest for the governorship of Imo State and as a friend of Governor Rochas Okorocha who has already made up his mind to support his son in-law and Chief of Staff, Uche Nwosu , what are your chances?  

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Okorocha is the governor not God and only God will choose who will be governor of Imo State in 2019 and not Okorocha. At this moment the people wants to make their choice and I urged Okorocha to toe the part of honour that is if there is any left in him and allow the people choose who will govern them in 2019. He should not lord his will on the people because it is morally wrong. As for my chances to emerge governor in 2019, my chances are bright.

Before now have you as a friend advised him to allow the people choose who will govern them?
I stopped seeing Okorocha before he took the decision for his son in-law to succeed him. So, we did not sit down and discuss such matter. But my statements in the press speak volumes which show that we have parted ways.

Why do you choose APGA that is almost dead in Imo as a platform to contest?

I beg to disagree with you that the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is dead in Imo. I do recall that Rochas Okorocha in 2011 won the governorship of Imo State on the platform of APGA and then stole our mandate and left for another party. All we need to do is present a strong and popular candidate to fly the party’s flag in 2019 and the party will win. We need somebody who can take the mandate back to the people. So, I choose to run on the platform of APGA because it is strong in Imo. It is only APGA that can reduce poverty, create employment and guarantee welfare of the people. Presently, the state government under Okorocha has not done anything to alleviate sufferings and hunger in state.

At what point did you fall out with Okorocha having served in his administration?
I believe in party loyalty. If you win election on the platform of a political party you must remain there. And if you chose to leave the party, you must surrender the mandate before leaving for another party.  So, I fall out with Okorocha when he left APGA with our mandate to the All Progressives Congress (APC)

Do you believe in the Imo Charter of Equity which supports rotation of power among the three zones?
Where is the charter? Can you show it to me? I have not seen it and I will like to see one.

So, you don’t believe in zoning?
I believe in merit and not zoning. We should strive to be one nation that cares for each other. To me, Imo State is small. It is equivalent to a small city in the United States and things like zoning tend to tear us apart, as such they are unnecessary.

You are from Orlu zone?

You mean you still want be governor after the zone has held on to power for 16years?
Can I ask you a question? Didn’t APGA give its ticket to Owerri? We gave the ticket to Captain Iheanacho and he lost. For those who wish to use that as their ticket to Douglas House, that won’t work. What APGA needs to do to win the governorship seat is to field a credible candidate no matter the zone the person comes from.

What are you bringing to the table if elected governor?
I will bring a vision that will uplift the state. The scripture says ‘where there is no vision, the people perish.’ What is needed in Imo is visionary leadership and to invest in young people, bringing the fundamentals that brings about change. I don’t believe in fire service approach and eye service that we do in this country. So, I will introduce quality and affordable education. I will introduce a welfare programme to cushion hunger in the state. I’m coming with medium, intermediate and long term plan and the immediate plan is to arrest hunger and transportation challenges facing the state. We don’t have enough taxi and the issue of compensation as the current administration has destroyed people’s properties. My government will compensate land owners for the destruction of their properties. I will address the issues of injustice as we rebuild what Okorocha destroyed in the state.

How do you rate President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration?
To some, President Buhari has performed abysmally but to me, Buhari need more time to stabilise the economy which was already bad before he came to power.

Are you among those canvassing for change of guard in the presidency?   
The problem of the present administration at the centre is vindictive, payback tendencies and depriving people of legal rights and I’m one of the victims. Government supposed to encourage businesses, unfortunately; this government so far, has discouraged businesses through its economic policies and lack of basic infrastructure. They should come up with great ideas that can grow businesses and get the people employed.

What advice do you have for Imo electorate?
I appeal to eligible voters in Imo State to get their Permanent Voter‘s Card (PVC) to vote for APGA.

Do you regret campaigning for Abacha?
I have no regret because Nigeria is not better now than it was under Abacha’s era.