•Says govt’s preferred option is to shoot pro-Biafra agitators and not to dialogue
•On elections: South-East has become a cash and carry zone
Professor Alphonsius Nwosu was Minister of Health during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. In this interview, Nwosu says the agitation by pro-Biafra groups is a product of injustice to the Igbo people. He also warns Ndigbo not to expect much from the APC-led government as it dislikes them. He faults the killing of Igbo youths by security agencies.
What is your assessment of the position of Ndigbo in the present day Nigeria politics?
The present political situation of Ndigbo in Nigeria troubles me a lot. We are a significant part of Nigeria. To use the popular word, we are a major ethnic group that played a significant part in achieving independence for Nigeria and in developing Nigeria. But Nigeria is intent on minoritizing Ndigbo. It is not healthy for Nigeria. Ndigbo have adjusted to the situation and their response is that a person rejected does not reject himself. It is in the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians that Ndigbo are given their rightful place in Nigeria if truly Nigeria has to develop. Ndigbo will not beg for it and will rather turn inwards and focus on Igboland.
Why do you say that Ndigbo are not being carried along in Nigeria?
I know that Ndigbo are not being carried along. I was at the University of Ibadan when the coup of January 16, 1966 took place. So, I know that Ndigbo before were being carried along in the Nigeria of that time. I abandoned my studies as a final year undergraduate to join the Biafran army and I was an officer in that bitterly fought war and I know that while some of us have since moved on, many are still filled with the bitterness of that war and regard Ndigbo as secessionists. That is their business. What I know is that all Ndigbo want is to have a say appropriate to their population and their contributions in their country, no more, no less.“Some people talk of Igbo presidency as if it is being conceded to us and many of us regard it as an insult. My attitude is that we are entitled to the full exercise of our citizenship in Nigeria and nobody can concede our right to us. So, it is either that we are citizens or we are not.
You played a prominent role in the election of the new President General of Ohaneze. What are the expectations from him?
On the role you said I played in the emergence of the President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, I did not play a prominent role. Enugu State just by consensus, gave Ndigbo their best candidate and that is good enough for Ndigbo. I merely carried out the duty assigned to me in the election.“On our expectations, Ndigbo expect Ohaneze Ndigbo to lead them and not rule over them. Ndigbo expect the President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo to be steadfast in the pursuit of Igbo objectives.“Ndigbo expect the President General of Ohaneze to hold“the hands of some who may stumble in pursuit of these objectives so that they may not fall. We know Chief John Nnia Nwodo very well and he fits the bill, he fits into these roles. All of us pray that God will help him to be the best PG that we have had in a long while.
What do you mean by Igbo objectives?
The Igbo objectives have not changed. Since the independence of Nigeria, Ndigbo have always wanted a fair society, a society which works for all Nigerians not some Nigerians only. Ndigbo expect a society where anybody with his God-given talents should be able to actualise those talents and reap the benefits. Ndigbo want a say and presence in the exercise of federal power in Nigeria. A situation where Ndigbo are completely excluded from important decision taken organs of the Federal Government is immoral, it is wrong before God and man and it is totally unacceptable to Ndigbo. In other words, Igbo objectives are engrained in the Nigerian Constitution which enshrines fairness, equity, rights of the citizens including security of lives and property, etc. Therefore, the recent situation where a citizen of Nigeria, over 70 years of age, Mrs. Bridget Agbalume, was brutally killed in front of the husband and an Attorney General entered a nolle prosequi is not the Nigeria of Igbo dream.
There is this gale of defection by politicians in the South-East. Is it healthy?
There is a presumption here, there is no gale of of defection. I am still in the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) and many of us are still in the PDP. Chief Iwuanyanwu (Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu), people said he had defected, he came out to say he has not. So, it is a handful of people that are going into APC. It is their constitutional right to go to any party they desire to go into. So, I have no harsh words for them because we are all in politics for different objectives. The objectives for which I joined politics, contested governorship under PDP, became minister under PDP are still being met by the PDP even when it has lost the presidency. We are in the process of repositioning the PDP. I will stay in the PDP as we try to achieve these objectives.
But some people have said that PDP is in coma
I am not in coma certainly and I am in the PDP. The Bible says that by their fruit you shall know them. As time goes on, Nigerians will be able to see the fruit of APC and compare it with the fruit of democracy dividends from the PDP and they will be able to judge by themselves. In my part of the country (South-East), the flame may not be there, but the fire still burns very hot. So, as time passes and events unravel, it will be clear that many people who are where they are for the wrong reasons may begin to have a rethink. So, let us wait and see.
You said as an undergraduate you joined the Biafran army. What happened to the technology the Biafrans came up with then?
At over 70 now, some of us were in senior secondary school when Nigeria got independence in 1960. So, we are not new to Nigeria, we also joined the Biafran army voluntarily and enthusiastically, happily because unless you were not a man, the brutality dished out to our people was intolerable, but all that is gone largely because of the way the war ended in 1970 and I can assure you that, on our part, there is no bitterness. We only hoped that everybody learnt the required lesson of that period.“As for the technology, it was up to Nigeria to use them or not. Nigeria chose to use them the way it wanted and most of them found themselves reverting back to their regular job of teaching and researching in the universities, physics, chemistry, engineering, etc. One of them ended up as a Director General, Ministry of Science and Technology and the most prominent became the Minister of Science and Technology.
What have been the role of prominent Igbo sons and daughters to ameliorate the plight of Ndigbo?
Igbo elites have done their best in their various areas to advance the cause of Ndigbo. I will just mention few people who are alive. One of them is Prof. Ben Nwabueze. Not only is he a foremost constitutional lawyer, his patriotism is palpable and he has done his very best to give direction. I will also mention Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Prof. Joe Irukwu and Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe who have also done their best to promote Igbo unity of purpose. In 1994, I was the Chairman of the Organising Committee of Mkpoki Igbo and, since then, Aka Ikenga, Izu Ummunna and various organs under the aegis of Ohaneze Ndigbo have done their best in making Igbo coherence. I think the Igbo elites generally understand that nobody can become so great that he is above the Igbo group in Nigeria.
What is the position of Igbo elites on the agitation by IPOB and MASSOB?
I have said it so many times that the agitations of MASSOB and IPOB and Lower Niger Congress and Bilie etc have been very misunderstood by Nigeria and Nigerians. I regard these agitations as cries of anguish from the Igbo soul about the gross injustice of the Nigeria system especially towards Ndigbo. The Igbo soul rebels and continues to rebel against injustice. These cries of anguish are best solved through dialogue and it is important for the Nigeria government to understand this.“On the killing of the Igbo youths on solidarity with the inauguration of the American President, Donald Trump, the response of the Nigeria security forces against the IPOB rally in Port Harcourt speaks or rather illustrates the injustice very clearly to Igbo protest. During the period, I saw front pages of newspapers showing Shiite members wrestling policemen to the ground, but non-violent IPOB protesters had to be shot. I don’t want to say more.
What actions are the Igbo leaders taking to that effect?
The only action that the Igbo leaders are taking is the only action that they can take so as not to exacerbate the issue. When you see somebody with his hands on the trigger, you don’t rush to grab the gun. I am aware that approaches have been made for dialogue to be entered into in resolving the matter but it seems that the preferred option of government is to shoot not to talk in the case of IPOB and MASSOB.
Any plan to drag the government to the International Court of Justice for crime against humanity?
It appears that money plays a prominent role in determining who becomes what during elections in the South-East, especially in Anambra State. Why?
The answer to your question sadly is in the affirmative. The South-East has come to be regarded in Nigeria politics as a cash and carry zone. In the zone too, local politics has been dominated by all manners of people whose only qualification is that they have large pockets. It is sad indeed. It is a job that must be faced squarely by the elites, especially the churches and all well-people in the South-East and especially in Anambra State. And to say Anambra State is the state of the great Zik and the rev-erred and unmatchable M. I. Power (Dr. Mike Okpara) where this is happening is most painful. In the National Assembly now, the leading voices are not from the South-East because many of the people we have elected there are below the national average. We can only stop this through a movement involving youths that ensure that people stop buying senatorial, House of Representatives, House of Assembly and gubernatorial seats. If we don’t do this, all of us in the South-East are heading for deeper waters.
How prepared is the PDP for the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra?
Anambra PDP members are prepared for the election. It is in the interest of the PDP to produce the next governor of Anambra because that is the only way they can enter into national power equation. Whether they will do it or rather, how they will do it in an APGA (All Progressive Grand Alliance) controlled state shall depend on the skills of Anambra politicians but it is clearly in the interest of Anambra that it should be connected to the national grid politically.
But PDP is not the party in power at the federal level, it is the APC
No, the national consists of the government in power and the opposition. In the National Assembly, you have majority and minority leaders. I shall not speak for other Igbo people but my Igbo spirit and Igboness in me rejects the APC completely the way they have rejected me completely. In my opinion, the APC government dislikes Ndigbo and the South-East and I also reject them completely.
Assuming you are called to come and serve in the APC government, won’t you accept it?
No, because my principles are different. I believe in inclusiveness of all persons, I believe this country belongs to everybody and not a particular group. Beyond this, I believe that the APC government is yet to show its capacity to govern and improve the living conditions of Nigerians.