[ Masterweb Reports: David Onwuchekwa reports ] - In a recent interview, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh allegedly called the former governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi an empty bag. Some journalists tracked down Obi’s aide, Mr Valentine Obienyem for an
interview with his boss, Obi. Obienyem insisted that his boss only responds to issues that would contribute to national development and does not have the time to exchange words with men he described as ‘political irritants’. After much prodding, Obienyem ended up speaking to the press himself, with the warning that the views he expressed are strictly his. Excerpts:
Welcome back to Anambra State.
Thanks. I always visited with my boss, only that it’s been more of sneaking in and out.
Why do you have to sneak in and out?
When I say sneaking in and out, I only mean coming in quietly and leaving quietly.
How has life been outside government?
Well, I think it has been busier. I was lucky to serve a man who is adjudged to have performed excellently as governor of Anambra State. We are all proud of him, because he served so well to the point that institutions that worked with him are all trying to celebrate him. We are now busier, traveling from one part of the state to another and from one part of the world to another.
In the last three months for example, we have been to the USA and the UK three times. We attended the 69th United Nations General Assembly session during which he spoke at one of the side events on the post-MDGs agenda, because he was the best governor on mainstreaming the MDGs in Nigeria. We also attended the World Bank Spring meeting. Obi also spoke in one of the sessions because they recognize his expertise in financial management. One can go on and on.
Locally, institutions beg him to come and speak to them basically by way of sharing experiences on what made him succeed as the governor of Anambra State. What is interesting is that most of these institutions offer to pay for his trips, accommodation and honorarium. He often agreed that his transportation and accommodation should be taken care of, but not honorarium, on the basis that sharing experiences is a way
of contributing to the progress of the country without demanding anything in return.
Of course he has other activities that occupy his time. He often solicits assistance from institutions with which he assists churches to set up faith-based revolving micro credit schemes and for the rehabilitation of schools, especially those in the remote parts of the state.
What can you say about his recent defection to the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP)?
As far as I am concerned, that is a non-issue. When has exercising one’s right to association become a subject of inquisition?
Some think it’s normal, others see it as betrayal. What can you say about this?
We shall soon know who betrayed who. I have watched with amusement the wry humour some people have made out of it. Some are showing videos, others visit Ojukwu’s grave to dance, others speak in tongues and I ask is it because one man decided to exercise his right of association? In fact, I celebrated the reactions, because to me, no defection elicited such reactions in Nigeria perhaps since the evolution of parties with the exception of Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s membership of NPN. It shows how important Obi is in Nigeria. To have elicited such
reactions means that the man is an institution, a colossus.
I sympathize with APGA people for crying and rolling on the ground on the loss of a man regarded as the face of APGA in Nigeria. The implication is that since this man has left, APGA is as good as dead, but it is not like that. Being his own person, he left alone and that means APGA can still reinvent itself. Moreover, they should understand that he left APGA because he was not wanted, and because the party had
since lost track of its advancement because of the greed of one man.
The chairman of APGA, Sir Victor Umeh was quoted as saying that Obi should not be called the face of APGA, because APGA made him and not the other way round. Do you agree?
If Chief Victor Umeh wants, let him declare that the sun rises from the west and people will merely laugh at him because he cannot change existential truth by mere mortal pronouncement. Why worry yourself about what Victor says when the other 99% believes that Obi was the face of APGA in the world?
As for Obi making APGA or APGA making him, Obi has not thought along that line. It’s Nigerians, based on what Obi did for APGA as a political party that submitted that he made APGA, so Victor’s point is laughable as it is baseless.
Umeh even claims that he also contributed in making Obi. He shares the faults of garrulous people everywhere. When you encounter people that talk a lot, you will see that they do so without circumspection.
Before Obi went into politics, he was chairman of many quoted companies, including two banks. Obi succeeded in APGA not because of wolves like Umeh who are perpetually after their selfish gains, but because of his inherent character which his pedigree before he became governor would substantiate. Obi is good, Obi has character , he is humble and trustworthy. He did not learn these virtues , because he was an APGA member and will certainly not depart from them because he
joined the PDP.
Each time Victor talks, his purpose is not to pass information, not to instruct, not to correct inexactitudes, but to diminish Obi. How can he say that APGA made Obi? Between him and Obi, who would we say that APGA made? The other day, I was in London with Obi, and he was trying to pack into one of his buildings in London from another one. He acquired both before he became the governor. As we were going through documents, he showed me one document that contained the amount he used to secure Victor’s first international passport for him, and the one covering
his first overseas trip. I know that his first car, a Mercedes Benz V-boot, was bought for him by Obi’s younger brother. I knew the two-room apartment where he lived before he built mansions all over the place and now living like a king. Gentlemen, you can judge who benefited from who.
He said it himself that without Obi’s faithfulness, APGA could not have reached where it is now. I remember the day he presented the Most Trustworthy Party Man Award to Obi, and said if not for his consistency in going to court and fighting his impeachment, APGA could not have succeeded. Juxtapose it with what he says today and your only conclusion will be that the man is only guided by the dictates of the time and not by truth.
In his last interview, I even read where he chronicled what he did for Obi to return to power after his impeachment. I was at the centre of it all and, I can tell you that the only man that believed in Obi was Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. If not because of Obi’s tenacity or if he depended on people like Umeh, he would not have come back. I remember during his impeachment, some people went to meet Umeh and he told them that their brother was gone for good. It was when the first judgment restoring him was delivered that Umeh started to lean towards him again.
I remember the day the Court of Appeal delivered judgment, I came back from Singapore that morning with Obi and had to board a 7 am Sosoliso flight from Lagos to Enugu to be in court. The moment the judgment was delivered, Umeh asked us to wait at Enugu that he would come there with Dim Ojukwu who was paying a condolence visit to the Akpamgbos in Enugu-Ukwu. On a second thought, Obi decided to call Ojukwu himself, who asked to know the wordings of the judgment. Obi told him the judge said he should take over immediately, and Ojukwu said if it was so, he should move to the Government House. That was how he left, contrary to Umeh’s own position, from Enugwu-Ukwu to the Government House, and that was
how Obi eventually was reinstated. So, in all his travails, the only man that followed him and not motivated by lucre, was Ojukwu. In fact that was why Obi was touched over the lamentations of Ojukwu’s wife, Ambassador Bianca and decided to explain to her what happened, and assured her that a change of platform is not change of principles. That is also why Obi said he would not reply to any other person on his
reasons for leaving APGA, because others are not sincere at all.
What would you say is APGA’s problem?
I think APGA’s problem is 90% caused by Chief Victor Umeh. He is not a good party man. APGA started dying the day he was made the chairman. We wished that Chief Chekwas Okorie continued. As Mrs Ojukwu said, the dismissal of Chekwas Okorie and the appointment of Umeh is like chasing away a cat to bring in the tiger. Dim Chukwumemka
Odumegwu Ojukwu saw this coming, because he actually advised against the
empowerment of Umeh and warned that the party should monitor the “little tiger being fed with milk closely to know when it grows teeth.” Look at the party and its history and you will discover that his idea of leadership of a political party is to expel anybody that dared question him in any way. Look at the national chairman of the PDP, he has been able to win those that left the party back and even more people for the party because he understands what party leadership is. The man is like a chief priest, appeasing different gods with what they need. On the contrary, Umeh sees himself as a god residing on the Olympian that should be appeased by many chief priests. This is why he always celebrates people leaving APGA.
When Obi was forced to leave the party, what Umeh said was that 7,000 others entered the same day. What is amazing and wicked about Nigerians is that while all attention is directed at Obi, nobody remembers those 7,000 that he boasted he received into APGA.
Umeh is the problem of the party because he has not allowed internal democracy to work. He is the chairman, the publicity secretary and everything of APGA. When the party went to the national conference, he was the delegate. As chairman, he is also the senatorial candidate. I mean, how can a party that tolerates such a circuits show survive? I am sure that deep inside him, he does not believe in APGA and whatever it
represents. He is a nihilist who only sees APGA as a means of livelihood and amassing wealth.
Since he is not contented, APGA would continue to lay on the ground under him.
Are you aware that the same Victor Umeh aspires to be a senator?
That one is not my business. If the people of Anambra Central, having known his character, feel that he is fit to represent them, so be it.
Could you comment on your boss’ successor, Chief Willie Obiano?
No word on him. He does not need to be distracted.
*Photo Caption - Chief Victor Umeh
[ Masterweb Reports: Gbenga Akinfenwa Interviews Mr. Theo Nkire ] - The burning need to promote harmony, ensure equity, fairness, and justice are some of the reasons Abia South senatorial zone should produce the next governor of Abia State in 2015. The president of Ukwa-Ngwa Professionals in Abia South, Mr. Theo Nkire stated this in an interview with Gbenga Akinfenwa. Nkire, the first Attorney-General of Abia wants the governor to come from Ukwa-Ngwa community. He says power shift is normal and natural in power sharing politics.
WHY has the Ukwa-Ngwa Professionals been silent on where the next governor of the state should come from?
It is not true. Ukwa-Ngwa people have remained united and determined in their quest for an Abia governor of Ukwa-Ngwa extraction in 2015. This is not to say there will not be dissenting voices. There surely will be. For example, there may be people to whom Ukwa-Ngwa interest is synonymous with self-interest. Such people are for Ukwa-Ngwa governor in 2015 provided they are the candidates. If they are not the candidates, then no Ukwa-Ngwa governor. Such people abound in every community and the Ukwa-Ngwa nation has her fair share of them. Luckily for us they constitute a very negligible minority; but even as we speak, we are still wooing them to our side. We have no reason to antagonise them. After all, this is a democracy and they are entitled to their opinion.
We at Ukwa-Ngwa Professionals are at the forefront of the movement for the actualisation of the dream. We lead the way even though a large majority of our members are from Abia Central. They agree that what is fair is fair. They understand it and they agree that power should shift to Abia South. Such is the nature of our struggle.
Why are so many Ngwa people opposed to the governorship being zoned to Abia South Senatorial District?
So many? It is not true. They are not many. They are very few; a negligible few. To be fair to them, quite a good number of those who at first were fizzled by the announcement are now back in our fold. They now understand that it is only fair for power to shift to Abia South. Do not forget that these are very intelligent people. As the days go by, we shall continue to plead with them and I am confident that before the party primaries, we shall all be singing with one voice again. Such is the beauty of democracy; you must respect those who disagree with you today for they may be your greatest supporters and allies tomorrow. All our people are coming together. We are not sleeping. We are working very hard to bring all dissenting voices back.
Some have argued that the division among Ngwa people on zoning could cost Ukwa-Ngwa the governorship.
No, it cannot. Ngwa people have never been as united as they are on the issue.
Why then is there confusion among Ngwa people about the zoning?
There is no confusion. It is not easy to build a consensus.
How could the Abia Charter of Equity which pre-dated the creation of the state ,still be relevant to 2015?
The beauty of the Charter is that it is eternal; it is forever. It is founded on equity, justice and fairness. So it can never grow old. This is because a cardinal principle of justice is fairness and as you know, equity follows the law. It is and so shall it remain for generations to generations. Fairness and justice are the guiding principles of all relationships; whether it is between spouses or friends, communities or nations what is fair is fair.
Those opposed to zoning say it is unconstitutional, undemocratic. Is zoning of political offices peculiar to Abia State?
Zoning is not peculiar to Abia. The governorship position in 2015 has been zoned in Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Enugu, and Ebonyi, indeed, in almost all the states of the federation. More recently, at a meeting with the President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja, Adamawa PDP leaders reached an agreement and zoned the governor in 2015 to Adamawa Central.
Why is zoning important for the 2015 governorship race in Abia State?
Zoning is important because zoning is fair; zoning is just and zoning is equity. Zoning will reassure the people of Abia South that they truly belong; that they are not second class citizens. Abia North has been governor. Abia Central has been governor. Why not Abia South. Equality is equity!
Zoning will bring harmony. Zoning will bring more understanding. Zoning will bring peace to Abia people.
Fears abound that zoning could deny the race of quality candidates.
What a shame! Those who say so do not know the stuff of which Ukwa-Ngwa people are made. Here is a short list of what we offer Abia people and indeed, the Nigerian people:
Does Governor T. A. Orji still support the ambition of Abia South producing the next governor?
Governor Oji is a gentleman. He is solid in his resolve to support Abia South. There are no doubts about his determination to ensure equity, fairness and justice in this matter. Those who doubt his resolve are unfair to him. As recently as August 27, during the Abia Day celebration, he repeated his support for Abia South to produce the governor in 2015 in line with equity, fairness and justice. We salute his steadfastness.
How is Abia South generating support for its cause in 2015?
We cannot reveal our strategy on the pages of newspapers. Be sure that we are winning more support as Abia people understand the principles of equity, fairness and justice.
*Photo Caption - Mr. Theo Nkire
[ Masterweb Reports ] - I met him in Nigeria. And it was through a friend of mine that worked together with me in my place of work and later went back to Nigeria. It happened that he was living in the same house where Kingsley lived, and he helped her. It was in that process that my friend informed me that there is a young man who saw your pictures and said he would like to talk to you. She connected us and from there we started interacting on phone until 2008 we met and got........ Read More.
*Photo Caption - Mabel Mark After Acid Attack by Husband
[ Masterweb Reports ] - Call her Misses glamour, charming, she will fit in; the presence of this bursting lady arrests the attention of her environment. She is the first Nigerian lady that gives laser treatment under beauty care in the kingdom of Spain as a professional aesthetician, cosmetologist and skin consultant. She is a role model, women leader for Nigeria and Igbo women in Spain where she resides. Recently our foreign correspondent in Spain was opportune to have an interview with her in Madrid Spain in an occasion where she provided answers with ease to questions posed to her.
Madam, could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Mrs. Jennifer Alawari Okechi Diorgu, the daughter of late chief A.W. Diorgu, held from Akwete Ukwa L. G. A. Abia state. Akwete villa is well known in the history of Nigeria for their clothes weaving being used all over the world for rich traditional weddings.
I am married to Hon. Charles Okechi from Udi L. G. A. Enugu State with four children and have produced two graduates in this kingdom of Spain. I came with my husband after my career in Nigeria and my stay in London. We are among the first Nigeria immigrants to Spain.
Please tell us about your profession?
I could say I have finally acquired what I have passion for, which are Aesthetician, Cosmetologist and skin consultant.
What are these about and how did you obtain the training and education?
These are the millennium trend that gives exit to job creations anywhere in the world. I started my first year role in cosmetics and aesthetic in 1991 at Desiree Professional Academy in Valencia Spain, where I obtained my professional national degree Diploma. I went for one year practicals and later continued intensive studies with another professional academy. Really these are off and on studies because of new research for our own good health and a healthy skin. Aestheticians must have a complete training program that is accredited by the state board of cosmetology.
Is there many aestheticians job opening available?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics ( BLS ) there are about 47,000 aestheticians and medical aestheticians employed in the United States. The BLS projects more than 11,000 new jobs to be added, which is a strong 25 percent growth rate in their country as well as here in Spain too.
What are the duties of Aestheticians?
Depending on experience and training, aestheticians provide a wide variety of services and procedures. They will meet with clients or patients by appointment, and consult on skin care needs and will examine the patient’s skin and recommend a skin care regimen and products.
Provide pre and post-operative skin care and help manage effect of diseases or skin condition such as rashes and other out breaks.
Help patients to minimize the appearance of various skin imperfections such as acne, also reduce the effect of aging on the skin.
On treatment like peelings, facial scrubs, laser treatment, Botox injections, cosmetic filler to reduce lines and wrinkles. Katie Patton, a licensed medical aesthetician says, “Be Tenacious, Believe in what you are doing”. Aesthetician career is quiet interesting but have long process. I love it with passion.
As a role model, how have you coordinated women in Spain?
Well there is a saying that where you live is where you thrive. I am proud to be an Igbo lady and a Nigerian woman, and to be precise I have contributed in my own small world. I started the meeting issue through my husband, when he was the vice president of Nigeria association and later became the president of Igbo improvement union Valencia.
So when I went to meeting, I saw a lot of women, they were like the sheep without a shepherd and I saw how uncomfortable they were in the mixt of men. The ladies saw how vibrant I am and made a clarion call to have me as their women leader and I accepted and became the pioneer president of women wing under Igbo Improvement Union Valencia. And later I was appointed as National president of Igbo General Assembly (IGA) Spain women wing. As ex-president, I still remain a board member. Then presently still the chairlady of Enugu State Association women wing Valencia.
How many dignitaries have visited during the conferences that took place in Spain?
In one of the conference hosted by my husband as the president then, I invited the former third citizen of Nigeria, Hon. Chief Adolfus Wabara and the beautiful wife. And he honored the invitation and came to Spain with the wife and the occasion was groovy. My greetings go to him and the wife for making me proud and Ndigbo as well.
Another dignitary came through Charles Oguchi. He brought Hon. Oke Nze Odu Obi and his beautiful Lolo with Hon. Shegun, all based in London. Hon Nze Odu Obi is the first Nigerian dentist, hails from Owerri. He is like a father to Ndigbo in diaspora. May God bless him and family. This occasion was first of its kind and we really felt at home and after the whole event, I was satisfied that they had lunch in my house. My thanks to all of them.
You were National Coordinator of Good luck Jonathan campaign in the last election?
That was in 2011 when I visited home, Nigeria I came back with certificate of National coordinator of Good Luck Jonathan election campaign through Hon Alabo Graham Douglas the ex-four times minister. May God bless you sir, first time to meet a down to earth man as a Nigerian man who has tasted power and still remain humble. I will explain, when a Nigeria man test corridor of power or affluence, he or she looks down on everyone, but in the case of Douglas, he is a friend of children, youths, old and young and always give you answers to your questions when needed and at any given time.
Please our Nigerian men and women learn this good behavior and stop asking who your god father is. The god father of everyone is our Lord Jesus Christ, thank you.
You have been outside Nigeria for long and may have seen a lot of the outside world?
Yes, sometimes is good for us to travel out as to have more experiences and courtesy. In my own case, I have lived outside for about 26 years and have lived and visited about 8 countries, London, Italy, Swiss, Portugal, Holland, Paris and New York, “I am done”
Are you doing any charity job?
Yes of course, life is give and take, as the Spanish people has impacted knowledge of language on me, so I ‘m giving back English class to the low (I.Q) children of age 14 to 20 years under protection of European union services. And I am happy with what I am doing, thanks.
What is your dream and future plans with all these experiences you have acquired and as a cosmetologist?
Well to accomplish my dream, I will like to have a cream and cosmetic sets in International market on my name. Also I am waiting to impact my experiences to others, when we start having steady light supply in our country Nigeria.
*Photo Caption - Mrs. Jennifer Alawari Okechi Diorgu
[ Masterweb Reports: Dr Okonjo-Iweala Interviewed by Katie Couric of Yahoo News ] – Katie Couric: Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is Nigeria’s Finance Minister named recently as one of Time’s most influential people. I know that Abuja as we are talking is hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa right now, are you concerned about how the image of Nigeria is being projected all around the world at a time when you are trying to encourage Western investors?
The WEFA has just ended and it has been a success for the girls. Over 1,000 participants were in attendance – world leaders as well as global business leaders as well as African business leaders. And they came to show that they would stand against terror. That they will not accept that people can abduct girls and stop their education.
Specific initiatives also came out of the WEFA. There is a Safe Schools Initiative where Nigerian businesses have come forward in collaboration with Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of Britain, to set up an initiative supported by business to set up safe schools for the girls and they said if the government matches them they put up 10 million dollars immediately, they will use it to launch this initiative. The president of Nigeria has announced that he will match that immediately.
That is over and above all the efforts of the government so far to try and protect the schools better. So a specific initiative, solidarity of the international community and global business, with the girls and a very large turnout. This is the second largest World Economic Forum turnout outside of Davos, according to WEF itself. So it has been a success for the girls and solidarity for Nigeria.
Katie Couric: Let’s talk about the more pressing matter of the nearly three hundred girls who are still missing. There has been a tidal wave of criticism about the Nigerian government’s response to these kidnappings, are you confident that President Jonathan’s administration has done or is doing all it can to rescue these girls?
The President has openly pledged his commitment to do everything to rescue these girls, and what I said before on CNN is accepting that the government did not communicate what it was doing previously, because there was some element of reticence so as not to cause harm to the girls. That should not have been the case, it should have been that there was communication so that the Nigerian public and the parents of these girls know that action is being taken. Since that time the government has stepped up action, has appealed to the international community for help and is accepting help from the US, France, the UK, China and they are all coming in. The government has stepped up the number of troops that are working there and is working with countries that have satellite imagery to do more.
Katie Couric: Are you confident that the girls will be found, where are they, because it’s been rumoured that many of them have been taken across the border to Chad?
Katie, no one can answer that question. There is no one who can tell you with confidence. What we can tell you is that every single possible resource will be used to track these girls. You are dealing with people who are irrational. It is unacceptable that girls should be taken anywhere in the world, and they do not represent any religion, as you have heard many muslims have rejected what they have done. You have heard Prime Minister Cameron said this is not a Nigerian problem, it is a global problem. You have heard President Obama said we should stand against these terrorists. This is a global problem, we need to come together and fight against it and Nigeria is accepting any help it can do with.
Katie Couric: How trustworthy is President Goodluck Jonathan? Why do the families seem to know where the girls are but the government does not?(Question from tweets)
I’m not sure that characterization is correct, I think we should view this in a much more complex manner. The President said they searched in the Sambisa forest, they were not using aerial surveillance, they were not able to find the girls. This is a large area and it is not clear whether they are still together in a group or whether they have been split up, and the whole idea is that nothing should be done to harm the girls. In the past, the country has used some aerial surveillance but you can’t do that because you don’t want to end up harming the girls.
So the characterization that the parents know more than the government, I don’t want to enter into that because I have to tell you I’m not a security expert. But I can only tell you that much that I know and that is to share with you the commitment of the government and the country and the solidarity of the people coming together on this issue of bringing back the girls.
Katie Couric: Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala do you have daughters?
I have a daughter, I have four children. That is why I came out to say it is unacceptable, it is unimaginable that anyone would take these children. Anyone who has children, sons or daughters, one of the most unbelievable thing is the agony of not knowing where your loved one is. My mother was kidnapped in mid December 2012, and for five agonizing days we did not know where she was. I have actually experienced it; this is not from theory, it is one of the most terrible nightmares you could dream about. So, for me, it is deep pain and depression to know that for their mothers who are waiting, these are our daughters and we have to get them back.
Katie Couric: As Finance Minister I know that this week your ambition is to promote vast growth and current economic opportunity that exists in Nigeria, in fact the nation now leads the entire African continent in terms of GDP, but an estimated 62% of the population live in extreme poverty, do you believe this income inequality and lack of resources particularly in the North is contributing to the rise and recruitment power of Boko Haram?
First of all the problem of inequality is something that the entire world is struggling with. There is this new book by Thomas Piketty Capitalism in the 21st Century. That is the whole thesis, that there is the problem of inequality all over the world. 95% of the recent growth of the US was captured by 1% of the people. So this is again a global problem that we all need to learn from each other. Inequality is a major challenge in the growth story of the whole of Africa and Nigeria. And that is what we are working at, we do not want to grow with leaving more people behind, we want to change the quality of that growth. And I think the crux of that matter is creating jobs, people here do not want handouts, they want us to create decent jobs. The government is really working hard at improving agriculture, studies have shown that if you improve agriculture you are able to tackle poverty three times better and faster.
We are working on that; we are turning around agriculture and we are launching the housing sector to create jobs. We need 1.8 milllion jobs in the country, we are still creating 1.6 million; we are still falling short plus we have the pool of the unemployed. The biggest focus in alleviating poverty in Nigeria is creating jobs. The second is improving human development indicators which are not very good. Maternal mortality, infant mortality rate, children out of school these are things we are focusing on to get our resources to the level where we use them effectively to deal with these problems.
Katie Couric: I know you also deeply believe in the importance of girls’ education. Just last year the World Bank released a study on the importance of women to the growth and vitality of the African continent in general. Though the majority is small farmers, trade merchants, healthcare workers, educators. So how are you going to stop these extremists who want women to stop going to school and getting jobs?
Katie we are going to stop the extremists with a multi-prong approach. It is not a simple thing; there is the military angle, the insurgency angle, the political angle that has to be pursued and also there is the development angle where we have to give our young people hope and make sure that their school is not interfered with, that they feel more secure. All these things have to be done. But it is not easy fighting these acts of terrorism, if it was easy you will not find them cropping up all over the world. You will not see Afghanistan, or Pakistan or even the recent bombing in the US, the Boston Marathon. You will not see two or three decades of the Irish Republican army fighting in the UK; they were not able to defeat them despite the sophistication of the UK at the time. And it took a long time and political negotiation for it to end.
This kind of warfare is not standard, it’s not the kind you move soldiers and then go and face the people face to face. It is a war of attrition and opportunity, it can crop up in any place in the world, and that is why President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron have well articulated it by saying this is a war for all of us. So we have to join hands and join resources. I think we need the help of modern technology, human insurgency and intelligence experts to also help us. This is not going to be won by conventional means.
Katie Couric: Finally, before we go, on the streets of Nigeria as you well know and all around the world, people are posting #BringBackOurGirls. As a representative of the Nigerian government and a female global leader what would you say to the millions of people who are so frustrated and upset by the situation in your country?
I would say we in Nigeria are also frustrated and upset. A friend of mine tweeted me holding #BringBackOurGirls. We need to move beyond that into more action, that is what the world is asking for.
I think we should focus on what Nigerians are asking for. We are deeply frustrated, all of us are. We have to move beyond that to not let the work of the terrorists paralyse us. What I want to say to the world is don’t let the work of the terrorists create division. Criticize, but do not let it create division.
This is a time that we need to come together as a world community to stand with Nigerians and Nigerians to stand together not apart in order to fight. This is what the terrorists want, they want criticism, they want names to be called, they want frustration, they want people to be divided and then they will win. If we stand together as a world community and focus on the girls and bringing them back and we show the terrorists that terror will not win and then they will fail.
*Photo Caption - Nigeria Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
[ Masterweb Reports: From Anambra State ] - The Immediate Governor of Anambra State, His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi left office on the 17th of March 2014, after serving as two-term Governor of Anambra State. When he was “ambushed” at the Intercontinental Hotel, Lagos, were he received the Champion Newspaper Award of the “Outstanding Igbo Personality of the Decade” , he refused to speak to the Press insisting that any issue about Anambra should be addressed by the new Governor, Chief Willie Obiano. When Journalists, including ………. insisted that he should talk to Nigerians about his legacy, life after being a Governor, APGA and other issues not connected with government, he gave up. Here are the excerpts.
Press: Sir, Congratulations on the successful handover of the reins of Government to your successor.
Obi: While thanking me, I must also thank all those that collaborated and assisted us in all that we did, especially the Press. Without your guys, it would have been difficult for us. I cherish the good relationship I enjoyed with you and I am inclined to say I was very fortunate to have a Homer (You People) as the herald as our work in the State.
Press: May we start by congratulating Your Excellency on Anambra State coming first in WASSCE and NECO examinations in the country
Obi: My attitude to news like this is that the new Governor should actually be congratulated. I have done my own part, he is now in charge. Henceforth, he should take credit for the successes and failures of the State. But our prayer is that Anambra State will never fail again.
Amen! (Chorused journalists present)
Press: Your Excellency, we believe it is right to congratulate you because it was the one of the many manifestation of your investment in education. Barley a month in office, the new Governor is even yet to settle down. May we know how you succeeded in turning education around in the State.
Obi: If you recall, ten years ago, Anambra schools were closed for over a year. At that time, things were really bad. The problems confronting education in the State were legion, from lack of teaching materials to non-payment of teachers’ salaries. When we came on board, we took time to study the factors militating against the progress of the State. At that time, many people accused us of being slow, but I argued that a person taking over the governance of the State ought to, first and foremost, understand the State before embarking on actions. I argued that it was better for a man planning to fell a tree to take time to sharpen his machete and do it in minutes than use a blunt knife and take days to do the job. I went on to say that even if it were a twig that should be felled, the need for a sharpened machete was imperative. All I was emphasising was planning. Having discovered that the State had no Ministry of Planning, I set up one.
In Education which is your specific question, we returned schools to the original Missionary owners. In doing this, we did not abdicate our responsibilities of paying the salaries of the teachers and providing needed facilities. We followed it up by granting billions of money to them to rehabilitate the schools already ran down by Government. Today, if you visit schools in the State, you will marvel at the level of transformation.
One unique thing we did was to take money directly to the schools rather than go through intermediaries with their accompanying toll gates. Contractors frowned at this, but it achieved the desired results.
We also committed billions of Naira to buying and distributing about 30,000 computers and laptops to schools in the State at various times. We connected the schools to the INTERNET, we bought generators for them, equipped their laboratories, provided them with Microsoft Academies, Sickbays, Libraries, among others.
With what I have said, you would agree with me that Anambra State coming first in 2013 WASSCE was not by accident. In fact, considering the efforts we put in to revive our schools, what we should be talking about is the margin with which we overtook other states.
In saying this, May I say with all humility that a lot still needs to be done by the present Governor. If we scored 67% in WASSCE examination, it means we still have 33% left to be conquered and he is now leading that army of conquerors.
Talking about coming first in WASSCE, may I happily let you know that it has become the same thing in all external examinations. For 2013 NECO organised National Common Entrance Examination, an Anambra indigene came first . I think her name is Agbasi Praise Chinemelum. Anambra as a State also came first among the States in Nigeria. While our cut off was the highest – 159- some states were 2. You can see for yourself that we are on the right path to regeneration.
Press: Sir, after eight years of being the Governor of Anambra State, how would you rate yourself?
Obi: I have never rated myself because I believe it will be self-indulgence. Nobody marks his papers after examination. Even in Universities, they invite external examiners now and then. For the sake of objectivity, it is better for others to do the rating.
I recall when some people came from the Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic studies on study tour to Anambra State. They asked me to convey people from the State to a particular place for interactive session with them as to know firsthand the peoples’ feeling about our Government. I insisted they should rather go to the markets with me and we did so, without security. I think what they saw marvelled them. The responses from people about activities in the State were most cheering. This is how people are assessed. If I had conveyed people to them, the chances were that it would be party supporters without respect for objectivity.
Press: Why did you place emphasis on education?
Obi: Because your question centred on education. Though we believe that education is the most viable currency for competition in the world, we did not neglect any other sector. I have often told people the story of the Philosopher Zeno, who, upon seeing an uneducated man sitting on a stone, said “behold a stone sitting on another stone.” When asked to differentiate between the educated and the uneducated, Aristotle said it was as the differences between the living and the dead. What these people said many years ago is still the truth today. Education is very important but other sectors are equally important.
We fashioned our vision for the State along the Millennium Development Goals. We came up with Anambra Integrated Development Strategy, by which we developed all sectors simultaneously and we did this faithfully. Beyond education, there is no aspect of the State that we did not touch.
In health, we built the first Teaching Hospital for the State, built new hospitals, rehabilitated selected General hospitals. We collaborated with the Church and massively rehabilitated their hospitals – St Charles Borromeo, Onitsha; Holy Rosary, Waterside, Onitsha; Our Lady of Lourdes, Ihiala; Iyienu Hospital, Ogidi; St. Joseph Hospital, Adazi-Nnukwu; Diocesan Hospital, Amichi; among others. We also bought and distributed close to 100 ambulances in 8 years. Some are life saving ambulances that cost close to N30Million Naira apiece. We did this because those hospitals are in the State and offer medical care to the people of the State. We built healthcare centres in all the communities in the State.
By the time we left, Anambra which had no accredited hospital or health institution, had about 14 accredited hospitals and health institutions.
In the area of road construction, today, without fear of contradiction, I can say that Anambra State has the best road network of roads in the entire country. We constructed over 800Kms of roads. This was collaborated by the Federal Ministry of Works. We built roads in places that had none since creation, such as at Umueze-Anamb, Nmiata. We built, completed and some on-going, about 30 bridges some of which are Odo, Oghomili, Ebenebe, Agulu lake, Okpuno.
In the area of the environment, we worked on many erosion sites and at the same time kept soliciting external assistance because of the enormity of the problem in our State.
In the area of Commerce and Industry, we worked closely with manufactures. We attracted Fortune 500 companies to Anambra State. Today SABMiller has completed their facility and is expanding. Distell is building theirs, Galxo Smith clime is building theirs, Niemeth Pharmaceutical Company is building theirs, among others. Go to Harbour Industrial Area of Onitsha and see our own contribution by way of providing infrastructure- roads. We also provided roads as a matter of policy to places where industries are located.
In the area of Agriculture, we have also done a lot. We got the Federal Government to Transfer the giant Omor Rice Mill to us. We are partnering with Rainbow Chicken to come to the State. We secured and distributed loans to farmers.
In the area of provision of public utilities, we did our best. Within our eight years in office, we bought, distributed and installed over 1000 transformers in communities in the State. We took electricity to parts of the State that had none. We are partnering with a foreign company on Independent Power project, for which we had contributed about N250 Million Naira.
There is no area that we did not touch. Beyond the tangibles, we also did a lot. We succeeded in clearing the areas of pension and gratuity owed the State workforce since 1999. We spent over N35 Billion Naira on this. As at the time I left, Anambra State did not owe arrears of pension and gratuity to any category of workers up to December 2013.
Talking about the intangibles, we made value re-orientation part of our policy. Over the years, our people’s values had been bastardized. People now take despicable things for the measure of values. People look up to characters of questionable pedigree as role models. We tried through various ways to change this. We honoured those that really merited to to be honoured, the Achebes, Chike Obis Chimamamdas, those that made first class in universities, among others. This is how it should be. People should be measured in terms of ennobling values and not in terms of how many private jets they were able to acquire, as any fool who came across money by mistake can buy those things.
Press: You keep referring to the Millennium Development Goals, how did Anambra key into that?
Obi: I said it earlier that we modelled our vision after that. For instance, the first goal is the eradication of extreme poverty. In this regard, we did Poverty Mapping and were able to determine the poorest parts of the State. This informed our intervention. Realising that most of those poor areas had the problem of access, we provided them with roads. The first road I flagged-off as Governor on the 1st of May, 2006, was the 43-Kilometre road traversing the entire Anyamelum. With that, we connected them to the rest of the State and their situation changed. Today Ogbaru area that was accessed in hours can be accessed in 15 Minutes. You can ask Prof Ben Nwabueze, he is from Atani, he can confirm this to you.
Press: Your Predecessor recently organise Security Summit. As the immediate past Governor, how would you access security situation in Anambra State.
Obi: On the 17th of March, a journalist met me at the Akanu Ibiam Airport and wanted to know the secrets of our relationship with International Development partners. I merely told him to go to the rising sun, His Excellency, Gov. Willie Obiano, as my gubernatorial sun has set. I am no longer the Governor, Obiano is and it is appropriate you go to him for such questions.
Press: Sir we ask the question because during the Summit, the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Abubakar Muhammed, advised the new Governor to follow in your footsteps on security, He went….
Obi: I also listened to the IG. He did not say you should come to me for questions on security in Anambra State. He merely commended what we did, the over 500 vehicles we purchased for security agencies in Anambra, the cordial working relationship, He linked all of them to the low crime rate in the State. I remember he talked about Anambra State not experiencing any bank robbery in five last years. I think if the same cordiality is maintained Anambra’s safety is guaranteed. I am particularly happy over the Summit. If nothing, it is early signs that the present Government in the State have security at heart.
Press: Sir, while Nigerians are applauding you for a job well done in the State, some people published in the newspapers that you did not leave the money and investment of about $86 Billion you claimed to have left. How would you react to this?
Obi: I often say that there must be the lunatic fringe in all reform movements. People told me about the publication, but the only thing is that I refused to read it because they are minor distractions intended to snare the lowly minded. As far as I am concerned, I should not comment on such inanities.
Press: Sir, pardon our disagreeing with you. It is not about the publishers of the advert, but about clarifying issues to Nigerians.
Obi: My brother, on the 8th of March, I called Nigerians from all walks of life and presented want I called my “End of Tenure Report”. I explained where I met Anambra State and where we are leaving her. I made it clear that we did not borrow a dime neither did we issue bond. I mentioned our investments and savings in Banks. For example, I mentioned that we saved $156 Million Dollars through buying local and foreign denominated bonds. The manging Directors of the banks were these money are- Fidelity, Access and Diamond Banks- were present. It baffles me that some people would come up to cast doubts on people’s mind just to pull Peter Obi down. All I can say is that what we said we did, the money we said we left and all that were properly documented and certified. With the Freedom of Information Law, one can actually apply to those institutions to know if the money are there.
Let me take this opportunity to clear one misconception, I did not say I left all cash in the banks. I made it clear that some were by way of investment. For example, Anambra State invested money in some of the companies we attracted to the State.
It is important to let you know that we were able to save money in the State because we made a law that Anambra must save the minimum of N100 Million Naira monthly and I obeyed it religiously.
As a Governor, I supported savings by the country. Look, no matter the situation, one must save even if kobo kobo every month for the rainy day. Unfortunately when one says so, one is reminded by some people that it is already raining here. The irony is that the same people saying this have private savings? When one witnesses the mindset of some of us, one shudders. Many of us are only interested in the next post and not what the future holds for us as a country.
Press: You were noted for financial prudence, “stinginess” some say, but towards the last days in office, you donated money to many organisations. Was it a strategic move …
Obi: (cuts in) Those who know me over the years will tell you that I am allergic to money being spent wrongly. It is not about being stingy. Some even have the good sense to call me “araldite” to my face. All I request is that money should be spent properly. Not just money, we have the moral obligation to do things properly. The other day, I was at the airport and a cleaner offered to carry my bag. I refused. I made it clear to her that she was paid to clean the airport and not to carry people’s bag. By carrying bags, she hoped to be given tips, but in the course of doing that, her work suffers. All I do is to insist she should do what she is expected to do. As a former Governor, I was not expected to be sharing the money of the State to people who would not utilise it to add value to the State. I am finically responsible and not stingy.
Talking about donations, I have even seen newspapers used it for cartoon. Immediately I started my second tenure, we entered into collaboration with the Churches. Having returned their schools to them in 2010, we started offering them support in the form of grant. We also supported their health institutions as well as organisations that contribute one way or the other, to the development of Anambra State. It is wrong to call those support “donations”.
I am happy that the effect of what we did has presently led the Federal Government to consider direct support to institutions, the Coordinating Minister for Education, Barr. Nyesom Wike said so when he visited Anambra State and witnessed the generators and computers we distributed to schools in the State. Even the World Bank commissioned a team of experts in education led by Prof. Paul Collier to visit Anambra and study what we were doing. They recommended other States to do the same, having taken the fruits it is yielding into cognisance.
It has become a tradition for past Governor to go to the Senate. Are you nursing such ambition?
I have said it repeatedly that I will not go to the Senate. Those aspiring to go have their reasons much as I have mine.
Press: What of taking up a Ministerial appointment as is widely rumoured?
Obi: Let me start by saying it loud and clear that I am not looking for Job. However, I believe that public service remains one of the highest callings because if one is genuine, through it one will serve humanity. Nigeria belongs to all of us and we owe it as a duty to support the President in the task of governance. If I am appointed a Minister or directed by the President to assist in any way possible, even at Local Government level, I will answer the call.
Press: How would you rate the Presidency of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan?
Obi: I Pity him
Press: Is that all?
Obi: Each time I remember him I am reminded of what Niccolo Machiavelli said about introducing a new order. He said that those introducing new orders are never popular, because they will have opposition from those that benefitted from the old order and lukewarm defenders in those not sure of his success. President Jonathan took over this country when she was laying prostrate on the ground. He is making a lot of efforts to revive her. Today, under Jonathan, our roads are changing. Our Airports have completely changed. He is particularly beholden by my people for making Enugu airport an International Airport and starting the second Niger Bridge. We today witness the commitment towards providing power to the country.
Under Jonathan, we see the rule of law in operation. We now have a democracy properly so called. Today, everybody says what he fancies without anybody harassing him. Today, we no longer link deaths to politics. Jonathan has introduced decency into governance. It is not in the best interest of the country when people criticize him unfairly.
Press: How do you mean? Perhaps he should not be criticized?
Obi: If you look at Nigeria today, one is appalled by the quality of the opposition. The aim of opposition is to make the ruling Government awake to her responsibilities and not to pull her down. In Nigeria, most of what passes for opposition are pure ill-will that end up hurting the country and not the President. China is a good example of what parties should be. During electioneering, parties in China are opposition parties, but once elections are over they become supporting parties, offering advice even if in the form of criticisms on how the State would be properly governed. In Nigeria, what we see is parties opposing the most noble of decisions because they want to be seen as the opposition. This is political recklessness and immaturity rather that encouraging political behavior.
Press: What is the situation in your party APGA? Would it support Jonathan’s bid?
Obi: APGA is much more than a party. It is a mass movement. Like all organisations founded by fallible sons of Adam, we had our challenges. At a point I disagreed with the Chairman, but following the judgment of the court, we all came together and forged ahead. There is no doubt that Chief Victor Umeh remains the Chairman of APGA. As for supporting Jonathan’s bid, it is not a decision I would take right now. All I can tell you is that our party will meet and collectively take decision on that.
Let us go off from politics and ask you what life has been outside Government.
I am one person who had never missed any post I occupied in the past. Life itself is transient so is everything else. It is those that see only permanence in appointment that are disturbed once they are relinquished of that either through efflusion of time or any other means. All I have tried to do is to leave my normal life wherever I found myself such that on leaving I will not miss anything.
When I was the Governor, I did not use Sirens, I carried my bags, checked into hotels myself, bought my tickets and did my bookings. I queued like other Nigerians and flew business and economy classes. Now I am no longer the Governor, basically the sane life style goes on. There is nothing to miss. I am one person who does not eat as if I would die tomorrow or build edifices as if I would leave forever.
Press: Recently, against your principle, you took the title of Okwute and received award from Champion newspaper. Was this change of principle or what?
Obi: First of all, let me say that no principle is cast in iron. Events dictate principles at all times. Having said this, let me set the records straight, I have never been against granting honours and dignities to people. All I said was that I would not suffer the epidemic of receiving awards whilst I was the Governor as I believe that genuine honours come when one is out of office. Thus, I had to reject hundreds of awards that came by my way. Occasionally I received some. However at the end of my tenure, all the Traditional Rulers in Anambra came together and say they would honour me with the title of “Okwute” for my service to the State. I accepted it. I also accepted the honour from Champion, because, coming after my tenure, it was evidently not informed by any consideration. This is my stand.
Press: What is your relationship with your Successor?
Obi: It is most cordial and will remain so as far as I am concerned. My only interest is in his success and I am happy he has started well. In Igboland, fathers pray that their sons surpass them and that is my prayer for him. If you do not know, I am one of his guarantors and no guarantor wants the object he guaranteed to fail, because the guarantor will be held responsible.
Press: How would you react to the “Rebasing” of the Nigerian GDP?
Obi: The problem with Nigeria, again the opposition in Nigeria, is that they do not try to understand issues at stake before commenting on them. A lot of people write on rebasing without even understanding what it meas.
Simply put the rebasing of our GDP means there were some critical factors ought to be taken into consideration to get our GDP, which we omitted. In Rebasing, those factors were put into consideration. Many countries of the world did so in the past such as the USA, UK , Australia, Canada. It will help us in turning around of our economy and attract investors to the country.
Press: What is your advice to your successor?
Obi: I will only appeal to him to remain focused on the Job. As a Governor, many tendencies would be perambulating around him. Many people will be holed up in different hotels writing one empty proposal or the other. Some will be close to him with the aim to be given an opportunity to loot the treasury. Once he remains focused, he will get it right.
*Photo Caption - Immediate Governor of Anambra State, His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi
[ Masterweb Reports ] - March 21 is the UN International Day for Elimination of Racism reminding us of our collective responsibility for promoting and protecting these ideals. Many of us Africans have chosen to study and work in India. Delhi is always a magnet being a capital city: it is known that the best education can be obtained here. We came to India not just for education, but also enlightenment! We remain particularly disturbed by racist taunts and harassment we experience. Certainly in the wake of recent attacks we feel disrespected and unsafe. So much of Africa was colonised mainly by the British who divided and exploit us as was India. We have so much in common: such experiences of racism deeply offend anger, upset and sadden us. Why is this happening and are there any solutions to these problems? We spoke with Dr Kusum Gopal in whose diverse expertise includes redressing race and ethnic tensions in the Indian subcontinent, south-east Asia, northern Europe, East and West Africa and the........ Read More.
*Photo Caption - As seen.
[ Masterweb Reports ] - The name Bianca Ojukwu may ring a bell to many Nigerians at home, but more among some Nigerians in Austria, and other parts of Europe, especially in the kingdom of Spain where she holds the ace as the Nigerian Ambassador and has become a household name among the Nigerian community in Spain because of the spectacular jobs she has done and achievements recorded during the period she has piloted affairs. As a result of what she has done and is doing to improve the lot of Nigerians in Spain, with the application of citizen diplomacy as her priority, she is wanted all over. Other Nigerians in diaspora in various parts of Europe and the world seem to be jealous of Spain and are craving for her to become their Ambassador. While those in Spain wish her tenure should not end. Others are saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us”. Many wish to relocate to Spain if not for the economic down turn. Bianca has proved that the........ Read More.
*Photo Caption - Bianca Ojukwu
[ Masterweb Reports ] - On Thursday, January 2, Nigeria Masterweb made a surprise new year visit to Abia State House and requested an interview with Governor T. A. Orji. The interview was granted after clearance with the governor and was held at the governor’s office at 7.30 pm the same day. In this interview, His Excellency , Governor T. A. Orji responds to questions by Nigeria Masterweb, and discusses the achievements of his administration in the state. Amongst the questions he addressed was his plans for Ariaria Market and Ahia Ohuru (New Market) in Aba, the proposed Abia Airport and Abia employment index. The previous........ Read More.
*Photo Caption - Governor T. A. Orji discusses the achievements of his administration during the interview.
[ Masterweb Reports ] – Chuks Ibegbu, a well known social commentator, poet/writer, President–World Igbo Leadership, Educational And Cultural Council and President–Movement For Justice And Equity In Nigeria, in this interview by Igbo Information Network looks into various local and national issues.
Q The President recently acquiesced to the National Conference many Nigerians have been calling for. What do you say to that?
A Its a right step in the right direction. Its long overdue and I hope it will bring about the desired result.
Q Some people day that its a diversionary and escapist move by Mr President to keep Nigerians arguing among themselves why he perfects his self-succession bid as past rulers of the country did. What do you say to that?.
A Well , people have the right to their opinion but I think its still better than nothing or the present drifting to the abyss of the country. Whether Jonathan is sincere or not on the Conference , the critical thing is that Nigerians can sit down and talk to each other . The National Assembly has been talking but to themselves and their pockets. If the National Assembly as the representatives of the people have been living up to their responsibilities, there may have been no need for the Conference but all they are interested since 1999 is their pockets, constituency allowances and committees to chair. Tell me one single bill these so-called Distinguished and Honorables have passed that affected the lives of Nigerians since 1999. None, but they have squandered more than five trillion naira of state funds since 1999. So you see that what Mr President did is better than nothing.
Q What do you think the Conference should address?
A The Conference should look into our nationhood in totality. Do we really want to continue living together as a people.How can we live together in peace without the kind of violence and killings going on everywhere in the country.How can Nigerians be ruled with social justice, economic justice and political justice. How should power be distributed equitably in the country. I think these should form the bedrock of the Conference. There must be no no-go-area. Even those who think we should break up must be asked why they think so. Nobody should muzzle anybody.
Q How would the decisions of the Conference be implemented?
A The decisions should be subjected to a plebiscite or taken to the National Assembly for ratification.But ofcourse the Conference should also discuss the present system of government we are running which is the costliest in the world and the status of the National Assembly, its size , and composition.
Q Some people believe the structure of the country at present is unjust to some parts of the country?
A That is what am saying . All these issues should be discussed at the Assembly. We must discuss the present structure of Nigeria which has been deeply unjust to some sections of the country.
Q How do you see the opposition parties , the crisis in the PDP, and the rumoured ambition of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015?
A Opposition parties are necessary features of any viable democracy. The coming on board of the APC is commendable. It will make the PDP to sit up. As for the PDP internal crisis , I believe it will soon be over. Its all about who controls the lever of power in 2015.They will soon solve their 'family' problem. On the rumoured ambition of Mr President, I think Jonathan has the political right to contest in 2015 . What am still not sure is his moral right. May be if he is able to address some fundamental issues in the country he may also earn the moral right. You see we have been for long running a turn-by-turn Presidency instead of Presidency by merit. If we are to go by this policy , its even the Igbos that have a more superior and moral right to clamor for the next Presidency of Nigeria. . They have been tolerant enough, but it looks as though if Jonathan address these problems am talking about , the Igbos may support him in 2015 and thereafter succeed him. Well, lets look at how it plays out. Personally , I do not think those clamoring for power shift to the North are fair to the Igbos or the South South.
Q What do you say about the recent killings at Apo village in Abuja?
A Some years ago some Igbo traders were killed by the Police in the same Apo area and those that should have shouted kept mum may be because the victims are not from their place. Now similar thing has occured in the same area and there is the argument whether they are BOKO HARAM or innocent people. I am not in the position to state whom they were but my position is that the culture of impunity is much in this country. Security agents kill innocent Nigerians at random and those that should do something keep quiet. Mr President has the constitutional duty to protect all Nigerians. I think there must be a thorough investigation into that killing. We must ascertain whom those victims were.You see what happened at EZU RIVER in Anambra state. Has Mr President and the authorities gotten to the root of that matter. Has it not been swept under carpet. You see, as long as we fail to address the culture of impunity in this country , the more this kind of horror will continue to happen. Our security agents must stop extra-judicial killing going on all over the country.
Q Chief Fani-Kayode made other claim against the Igbos insisting that they should be grateful to the Yorubas for giving them a base in Lagos over the years which the Igbos have not reciprocated?
A Again it shows how his petty mind works. Lagos owes its status tody to the Igbo industry and energy and the oil from the East. Igboss are explorers and developers. Lagos and the west should thank their God that the Igbos have spent their fortune to develop Lagos. Now let me tell you , nobody can lay claim to Lagos anymore. It may be in the west but its a Nigerians commercial centre developed by the effort of all Nigerians.Lagos status can only be contested if Nigeria breaks up but nobody wishes that unless the Fani Kayodes think so so that they will reap where they did not sow.
Q What do you advise the Igbos and the Yorubas who pitched themselves against each other following the deportation saga and Fani-Kayode's outburst?
A The Yorubas and the Igbos are intelligent people that have lived together and peacefully for decades. These two great races should not allow rabid racists like Fani -Kayode to pitch them against each other. He is a frustrated mind and trouble maker. He deserves pity and does not have the monopoly of overzealousness or dirty writing. I advice Yoruba leaders to call him to order. He should stop inciting the public and recently he shifted his tirade to the Minister of Aviation, a woman that is now healing the wound Kayode left in the Ministry.Kayode is a very confused mind and we have not forgotten his virulent activities when he was an aide of President Obasanjo. He should pray to God to forgive him or declaring his support for the unfortunate pogrom in the 60s . It clearly shows the beast in him and I believe he is not a true son of Oduduwa, a people noted for discipline , respect and diplomatic tact.
Q How do you see the apology from Governor Fashola?
A Its medicine after death and done because of Ngige gubernatorial activities in Anambra. However his apology is encouraging but I advise him to compensate the victims of the obnoxious act. I also want to advice other state governments to do enough to stop their people drifting to lagos or abuja in search of white collar jobs.
Q What do you have to say about the ASUU strike?
A I think the spate of ASUU strike is becoming embarassing. The only reason why I sympatise with ASUU, if that word is even proper is because our politicians are alloting much money to themselves for doing little or nothing. If a senator that may not have seen the forewalls of any school is given more then forty million naira every month, why would a Professor be happy. So you see, though I believe ASUU is over-reacting on this issue, they also have a reason to demand their own part of our national cake which is being shared with reckless abandon by the politicians.That goes the same to our doctors . Every body is now looking for his own share of the national cake which politicians are presently sharing among themselves. Nobody is talking about baking the cake anymore. Nobody is interestd in research in our schools tool Students are now gunea pig and are half baked. You see, the greed of the political class has spawned interminable and insatiable demand by all sectors of the society. Believe me, we are in trouble, big trouble due to the inordinate greed by our elites and political class. I have always been asking why we should have five hundred legislators at the centre and more than two thousand at the state levels. Our democracy is the costliest in the world.
Q How do you assess the BOKO HARAM WAR in the North?
A I have said and written a lot aabout BOKO HARAM. Boko Haram was a product of the past misrule in the country. Remember that this group was harmless earlier but the politicians in Borno state began to arm them against their opponents. Later, they could not control them and they went haywire. Ali Modu Sheriff of Borno then was using and funding them until they began to fight him. He quickly masterminded the death of their leader Muhammed Yusuf. Soon they got help from discredited politicians and foreign insurgents. They sent hundreds of misled Youths for training by the AL QAEDA groups in the middle East and North Africa and are today unleashing mayhem on innocent Nigerians including students. Its indeed a calamity that will continue to haunt us in years to come though the present regime is doing its best to checkmate them. Our young men in the Armed forces should be praised for the challenges they are facing in the affected areas.
Q How do you think the situation on BOKO HARAM can be solved?
A I dont know frankly speaking. Ask those that engendered them.Iam only weeping for our young men and women in uniform dying daily for a cause they can hardly explain . Am weeping for the students and innocent persons in the hot zones, the xtains, in the north, moderate moslems, security agents and other Nigerians facing this challenges in the North everyday.Never has since the end of the war has our nation witnessed this kind of security breach in the North.
Q Now lets go to the foreign scene. How do you see the war in Syria and the trial of the Kenyan President and his Vice by the international criminal court at the Hague?
A I condenm the potracted war in Syria. I believe that Assad used chemical weapons on his people and he must pay for that.But again those fighting him are no less innocent. I do want a radical islamic group to take over Syria but at the same time Assad has lost the moral right to continue ruling Syria. He must quit the scene so that Syria can be rebuilt.On the trial of Kenya's President and his Vice by ICC , its not a bad idea. Forget about the outburst of the AU. The AU is encouraging dictactorship and violence in Africa. I am disappointed in their tirades. How has the AU helped to facilitiate transparent leadership in Africa. The trial will send a signal to African bloodthirsty dictators and human right abusers that one day they will pay for their misdeeds. The world is a global village, dont forget. Those attacking the ICC are the ones that have poor human right records in their countries.
Q What is your message to Nigerians as the 2015 elections approaches?
A Nigerians should shun the antics or those who do not wish this country well. They should ensure that our democratic journey is not hijacked by unpatriotic elements. They should guard our democracy very well. The national conference that President Goodluck Jonathan has initiated is a good opportunity for them to ventilate their view.
Q The issue of oil theft has become embarrassing to the government. Ifs affecting national budget. What do you say to that?
A The government should stop shouting. The thieves are in high and low places. The government has the machinery to apprehend them and stop giving excuses.
Q A christain gal was alleged to have been abducted by an emir in Niger state recently and its generating furore in the country . What do you think about that?
A If the gal was abducted against her will , its despicable and unconstitutional. The judiciary and security agents are expected to rescue and protect her. We must never condone such acts no matter the status of the culprits. The Niger state government must take steps to get to the root of that matter.
Q Some time ago there was a shocking discovery of more than 50 corpses of some young men in the EZU RIVER in Anambra state. Up to now nothing has been heard about that and there is the recent killings at Apo in Abuja. What is your say on that?
A There is extra-judicial killings by security agents all over the country and none of the puzzle is solved. It is the duty of Mr President to direct appropriate authorities to solve all such puzzles. Mr President cannot just keep quiete in the face of all these extra judicial killings. We want to know whom the EZU RIVER VICTIMS were and who klled them. We want to know whom the Apo victims were and who killed them . Unless these killings are unravelled , more ot such cases will happen in the future.
Q In your last interview you stated that Biafra was never defeated and that the war may have continued till date if not for the intervention of some world leaders that spirited Gen Ojukwu away from Biafra?
A Yes, but for the diplomatic tact of some world leaders who negotiated Ojukwu's removal from the scene, the war would have continued to the last man.
Q The last man?
A Yes,the last man. Despite the sufferings in Biafra, her gallant troops were ready to continue the war to the last man.
Q At what point did it become obvious that Biafra would collapse?
A I have told you earlier that Biafra did not collapse. There was only a cessation of hostilities after Gen Effiong whom Ojukwu handed over directed so. There were a lot of behind-the -scene events which a lot of people do not know that led to the end of that war. Biafra did not capitulate neither did it loose the war. As a matter of fact Ojukwu directed Biafran troops to hold existing ground until he returned from Ivory Coast and he was shocked to hear that hostility had ceased. But no one should ofcourse blame Gen Effiong for directing the cessation of hostilities. The situation was becoming foggy and even the enemy was becoming tired of the war. All Gowon's directed for 'final' pushed did not materialize so both sides were fagged out.
Q Some people till date still argue that Ojukwu did not exhaust all avenues for peaceful settlement before he declared Biafra?
A But that is not true. Ojukwu exhusted all options, but the intransigence of Gen Gowon and the cabal around him in Lagos then made all such options unviable. Remember how Gowon and his super-permanent secretaries doctored the Aburi accord. Remember the threats against the East. Remember the killings and humiliation of Easterners. Let me tell you , if Ojukwu had failed to declare Biafra, Easterners would have killed him.
Q It is believed the minorities in the East did not support secession and did not participate fully in the war?
A That again is not true. When the pogrom in the North was taking place , there was no discrimination between the Igbo., Efik, Ijaw, Ogoni, Ekoi etc They were all considered Easterners which ofcourse they were and the same treatment was meted to them. It was a mere and tactical fast move by Gowon to give the Eastern minorities two states and cut them off from their Igbo brothers in the state creation excercise of 27th May, 1967.He capitalised on the prewar agitation of the Eastern minorities for states of their own, which ofcourse also prevailed in other regions of the country. Naturally when Gowon gave them the states, some hawks in the minority area who were looking for positions to occupy accepted the Greek gift and switched to the federal side. But the bulk of the Eastern minority people stood with Biafra till the end. They had some of the best and loyal Biafran officers and men. Let me tell you what you may not know. Some of the minority elements that switched over to the enemy did so for self survival. You know when the enemy entered any Biafran town, they carried out scotched earth policy to intimidate the inhabitants so that was why the Ikwerres, Agbors and other Igbo minorities denied their Igboness at that perilous time simply to survive. If you were in their shoe you will do the same.Do you know there is an Igbo town in Edo state today called Igbanke. This town where Brigadier Osaigbovo Ogbemudia hails from had to change their name from Igbo-Akiri to Igbanke just to survive Murtala Mohammed's onslaught in his hazardous march to Asaba.
The Ikwerres had to put R in the names of their villages to appear as if they were not Igbos . Today you have Rumuola instead of Umuola, etc. They still think the war is on and that is my annoyance with Ikwerre elders. They should tell their children today what happened and why they had to do what they did and then reverse back to their Igbo names. Let them assert their Igboness once more.We are no longer at war. Do you know that Gen Alabi Isama who wrote a controversial civil war book recently is an Igbo man from Ndokwa. Do you even know that Col Adekunle of the 3rd marine commando had Igbo blood in him. Its the bizarre thing about that war. Some Biafran officers were Yoruba men. Gen Ike Nwachukwu and Gen Pat Aziza were Igbo men that fought against Biafra. Its really bizarre.
Q Why did the major super -powers then support Nigeria?
A It very simple. In those days nation building was in vogue. The world frowned at seperatism at that time no matter the justness of one's cause. Nation states were emerging and the world view that time was against secessionism. If it were now, it would have been a different pot of kettle.Today, self determination is in vogue.
Q Whom do you consider as Biafra's most operational commanders?
A There were many redoubtable Biafran officers. All complemented each other and discharged themselves well at the battle. I admired Col Archibong of the Ikot-Ekpene front, Col Tim Onwuatuegwu, Col Joe Achuzia , the Hannibal of Biafra and Col Simon Uwakwe of the Special Force in Arochukwu who survived the enemy siege in that town.
Q What of the Nigerian side?
A Well I think Col Adekunle was scientific , though barbarous,Col Utuk who survived Biafran siege in Owerri, Gen Babangida who was wounded at Uzuakoli, and few other Nigerian Officers did well at the battle field.
Q What were the major battles of the war?
A There were several major battles of that war. These included the Abagana ambush in which a Biafran company routed the 3rd Division of the Nigerian army,. The federals were also routed at Onne, Oguta, Azumini, Uzuakoli, and Owerri. Dont forget the midwest invasion in which a region collapsed. Murtala Muhammed tried three times to cross the Niger into Onitsha and he was mercilessly beaten the three times. The Nigerian side recorded some successes at Calabar, Portharcourt and Uyo. They also scored some goals in Aba and Umuahia at great cost in men and material. Their main achievements however was the bombing of markets, hospitals and civilians . They did this as Ozu Abam, Aba , Umuohiagu, Otuocha , Awka and many Biafran towns.
Q Do you suggest the trial of those who committed war crimes in that war?
A Well in the spirit of the new Nigeria we are trying to build , we may forgive and forget. But there is nothing wrong if the International Criminal Court decides in its own wisdom to try war criminals especially those that massacred innocent people at Asaba and other Biafran towns, after all war criminals of the second world war and that of Rwanda are still under trial. Such trials is a deterrence to future occurrence.
Q How did Col Timothy Onwuatuegwu die after the war had ended?
A Col Onwuatuegwu was killed at Abakiliki by some sadistic Nigerian soldiers after the war had ended. He was trying to cross over to Cameroun when a trap was set for him at Abakiliki. That was how they also killed Prof Kalu Ezera, and Col Ukpai shortly after the war. They like the 16years boy Mayrock of Newyork who burnt himself in support of the Biafrans were among the heroes of the Biafran war
Q How do you assess the recent civil war book by Brigadier Alabi Isama?
A Alabi's book is rich in pictures and commentaries but he exaggerated some of his claims. .The only area I agree with him was where he stated that Gen Obasanjo was always trying to take credit for other peoples achievement during the war. In his hasty bid to claim the glory for the end of the war , Obasanjo sent many enemy troops to their early grave between Owerri and Ihiala.. Isama was one of the few Igbo Officers that fought for the enemy side.
Q Who fired the first shot of the war?
A It was the Nigerian side that did that at Garkem around 6am on July, 7th 1967. Biafra fought a defensive war throughout that war.
Igbo Information Network: Thank you for finding time to grant us this interview.
Ibegbu: You are welcome.
*Photo Caption – Hon. Chuks Ibegbu. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone at +234 8035410176.