From Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
Member of All Progressives Congress (APC) Board of Trustees Ezekiel Izuogu has ruled out the possibility of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) winning elections in 2019. He speaks on happenings in his party, corruption and the place of the South–East in the APC.
You were missing at the recent APC stakeholders’ meeting in Owerri. Could it be interpreted that you are not happy with the party or the state government?
I am very happy with the APC and the national chairman, Chief John Odigie. He is doing a good job. I supported him during the elections and he has justified my confidence in him.
To be honest with you, Imo state normally excludes me from such meetings and I do not know why. I supported Rochas Okorocha. I was there for four months during his reelection campaign. He comes from a bigger local government, so I supported him with all my heart, but why they exclude me from APC state meetings beat my imagination.
I am not running for governor and I will never run for governor again, so why are they avoiding me? I heard in the news that there was a stakeholders’ meeting in Imo state. I said even if they took a phone and called me that there would be a meeting in two days time, I will try to go to make my contributions to my state. It even happened about three months ago. I visited the APC secretariat to greet the national chairman, and then there was a meeting of South-East stakeholders. My attention was called to it.
I went in and picked the microphone and said Mr. Chairman, I came here not for this meeting, but to greet you but am surprised there is a stakeholders’ meeting of South-East and I was not invited. I am a member of the Board of Trustees of the party and a member of the national caucus. Why would you hold a stakeholders’ meeting and refuse to invite me?
Did they explain to the Chairman reason you were not invited to the meeting?
Nobody explained to him. You know that it was not the chairman’s duty to invite me. It was the eastern people who were organizing it. The state chairman was there. I was talking to them and they did not respond. I do not know why. Why would you be afraid of somebody who is your own man, but during elections you want him to come and help you? I am not fighting for any position.
Did you later speak formally with the chairman?
Of course I did. I spoke in the open and after I made that contribution, I spoke on the genesis of the meeting, and why we have formed a party. Our party is big, but it is one thing to form a big party, it is another to unite it. We need to work on uniting the party so that it can achieve a whole lot. My general advice to the whole house is that we should not break up into factions. I am not quarreling with anybody and I am in good terms with everybody.
At the meeting, he pronounced former Senate President as the leader of APC in the South-East. What do you make of that?
Governor Okorocha knows that it is one of those political talks because people have been in this party and people suffered to form the party. I was one of those who suffered to form the APC some years ago. We suffered to support Buhari when Igbo did not want to even hear that Buhari is running. I stuck out my neck to support him. Nnamani supported Jonathan and collected money from them and worked for them. On the day he joined the party after we have won and ruled for one and a half years, you make him the leader. What about other people who have been great politicians?
If I may talk about myself, I have led the biggest political party in Nigeria that has the most membership. People like Chief Mbakwe and Abubakar Rimi were all there and they were very cooperative people. They were like fathers to me. So I am not qualified to lead APC in the East or is it because I come from the same state with you? So, I do not mean anything again? What of other leaders who have been labouring for the party and are well known people? That someone was the Senate President does not mean that he has the mantle of leadership. Immediately he joins a party, right there on the spot you pronounced him leader. That is an insult to old members who have been labouring. Perhaps, they will not have the boldness to speak out, but I am sure it pains them when such things happen. That we have only a governor from the South-East is not good. It should pain all of us. Even Chief Nnamani should be pained in the heart that the day he is joining the party someone is saying you are the leader. You will be embarrassed.
Are you saying that if Rochas insists Nnamani becomes the leader, it will scatter the APC?
He cannot even insist. The Rochas Okorocha that I know cannot insist. He was just giving a political statement. If Nnamani goes all the way from Enugu to visit Imo, the governor has to say something that will gladen his heart, but what you have to say should be manageable by other people. That is politics. You have to say something that other people can manage. If someone joins the party today, you do not make him a leader. He is not even a member of the national executive. He is not in the Board of Trustees. He is not a member of the national caucus, and then just suddenly he becomes a leader. The former governor of Anambra state, Chief Jim Nwobodo is my man. I was the chairman of his party. He supported me. He is an elder and he is a leader. He joined the party nearly two years ago. We have someone like him who governed Anambra creditably well. You do not give appointment because of position. People have held several positions before. If you do that, then the President of America would not be the president today. There are people who have governed states several times before the primaries of the Republican Party.
President Buhari has been out for four weeks now. How do you leaders of APC see his absence?
It is a problem for the country. We wish Buhari a quick recovery. I wish that God will intervene so that he will recover fast because there are some positions you hold and you should not be sick because all the eyes of the people are on you. If you are not holding the position of the President of Nigeria, you can be sick for six months, be in a hospital somewhere in the world, nobody will even mind. The moment you are number one in a country that is struggling with economy, struggling with employment, struggling with so many things, it can be painful not only to Buhari himself, but all his supporters and well wishers of Nigeria.
I supported Buhari during the campaigns. I went round all the 36 states of Nigeria with Buhari even though bombings were taking place in the North- East. We took all the risks because I was convinced that he had what it takes to bring about honesty in the leadership of Nigeria and likewise fight corruption. I found that in him and I am happy he fought corruption. Other things might not have gone the way people wanted them, but at least there is a leader who came up with boldness to fight corruption. If you are corrupt you cannot be fighting corruption, those you are fighting will rise against you immediately. To some extent, Buhari has done well for the one year he has ruled. It is my humble prayer that God will touch him and bring him back to Nigeria to continue the good work he started. The Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo is doing well. He has managed to cover the duties of Buhari, but not as good as Buhari himself has done it.
Looking at the loot recovered from NNPC and other billions, would you say the whistle blowing arrangement is yielding the desire results you want?
I love it. It makes my stomach sweet because Nigerians like the fight against corruption. If you place part of the job on Nigerians, they would do it well. They would blow the whistle, especially when they are compensated for blowing the whistle. That is fantastic. Let us do it very well. Let all Nigerians be whistle blowers. My heart bleeds. Now look at NNPC’s former managing director having $8 million at home. Can you imagine that? That is the only one that was discovered. We do not know the one he hid in Switzerland and other parts of the country. That is the person we think is serving Nigeria, but instead he is busy serving himself. Most of his colleagues were like that. They were all stealing billions. How can Nigeria economy be good when our leaders are stealing the money? That is the problem. The arguments some people have put up especially from the opposition party is that some of these discoveries are just ploys by the APC to divert the attention from President Buhari’s absence. They have been beaten hands down by the APC and they have to say something. There are some corrupt people hiding in the APC and with time, they shall be found out because God is a great God. You can continue hiding, but sooner or later you will be picked and thrown to the public. Anybody who has been stealing from Nigeria is a public enemy number one. He is an enemy of his children, children’s children and he is a killer.
APC might have done well in the issue of fighting corruption, security and others, but still Nigerians are not happy that they are dying and these things are happening and APC appears to have the solution. That is why it pains me that Buhari is sick. He came in and met almost an empty treasury and started to fight from day one so there would be money in the system. The fight against corruption was part of the reaction to that empty treasury. He needs time to fine-tune something so there would be money in the hands of Nigerians. I want Buhari to come back and let him consult people who can quickly revamp the situation of Nigeria’s economy. Obama said any country that discovers a new way of producing energy is the leader of world economy. In other words, he was saying Nigeria is the leader of world economy.
Recently, former President Olusegun Obasanjo canvassed that if the country wants stability in Nigeria, the presidency has to go to the South-East as early as 2019. How do you react to this?
Olusegun Obasanjo is a prophet. This time he spoke as a prophet that he is. It was him who made Yar’Adua the President of Nigeria. Jonathan was a governor till Obasanjo picked him and made him Vice President, then President. Obasanjo should be respected. He made a wonderful statement. If you want peace in Nigeria, give the presidency to an Igbo man who knows what to do and Nigeria will change automatically. All these agitations will stop immediately. There is no local government you go to and will not see an Igbo person. They are wonderful mixers. Igbos are not perfect, but they have what is good to apply to Nigeria. Nigeria is big and what it needs is the economic ingredient to be great. So, I am totally in support of what Olusegun Obasanjo said. It is what we can do so Nigeria would be good. President Jimmy Carter did what Obasanjo is doing now. Former President attacked Obama, then from no where, Jimmy Carter got up and said they are doing this because he is a black man. Jimmy carter’s Christian credentials stopped all the talks about Obama. Any tribe in Nigeria will be happy that a good man is the president. We need to sacrifice our tribal and religious sentiments and do that for the good of Nigeria.
At the moment, the PDP is trying to come back? What is your take on this?
When the chips are down and when all reactions have been taken into consideration, APC will win the election, especially if Buhari comes back and make the necessary changes that we expect him to make.
There are some people who never identified with APC who are now enjoying ministerial appointments. I took the risk. I left my business for four months and went round the country for Buhari. I did that for Rochas. So if I speak to Buhari, he will listen and I will speak to him when he comes back.
If Buhari refuses to listen to you, are you likely to dump the party?
Buhari will not refuse to listen to me. He knows I am very realistic and there are Igbos who are criticizing Obasanjo that he hates the Igbos and nobody should listen to him. Those people are saboteurs. Anyone who is criticizing Obasanjo for the statement he made about Igbo man’s presidency is a saboteur to the Igbos. He is not a good Igbo man at all.