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2023 presidency not Igbo priority – Achi-Okpaga, Ohanaeze scribe

As the organisers get set for the epoch presidential debate today, Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof Itse Sagay, has given reasons why President Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate will not participate in the debate.

Speaking with VINCENT KALU, the erudite Law Professor, said, the president is far ahead of all other candidates, he described as ‘political dwarfs’, and as such, appearing with them in a debate is just to give relevance to people who have no hope. Sagay’s position on the debate was confirmed from multiple sources in the presidency, who told Saturday Sun that President Buhari won’t participate in today’s debate because he had attended one on Wednesday along with his deputy, Vice President Yemi Osibajo, tagged ‘The Candidates’ anchored by Kadaria Ahmed and wouldn’t want to give his opponents the platform to embarrass him.

In this interview, Sagay also said that Aisha Buhari enjoys his sympathy in her fight to cut down the influence of the cabal in the presidency.

In an earlier interview with Senator Okurounmu, an Afenifere chieftain, he said that his group was going to meet with Ohanaeze, Middle Belt Forum, PANDEF, and the Northern elders to decide on who to support among the presidential candidates based on restructuring agenda, what is the position of Ohanaeze at the moment?

Ohanaeze will have a meeting with other regional organisations; however, the stand of the Igbo apex organisation now is not to endorse a particular candidate. The impression was that Ohanaeze had endorsed Atiku. A group met at Nike Hotel, and invited Igbo distinguished personalities, including the President General of Ohanaeze, Chief John Nwodo.

However, because of his presence, the position taken there was mistaken to have been that of Ohanaeze, he was only an invitee at that meeting. If it were an Ohanaeze affair, he would have been in charge and preside over the meeting. So, the position of Ohanaeze now is not to endorse any candidate, but any candidate who identifies with the restructuring programme and agenda of Ohanaeze, we will not fail to identify with that person.

It is no secret that Atiku, the PDP presidential candidate is placing restructuring in the front burner of his campaign, he is said to have gone ahead to assemble senior lawyers to look at the 2014 confab report especially areas that would be implemented immediately, while the APC has not made any commitment about restructuring. In this case, where do you go from here?

Eventually, we are not going to single out Atiku and say this is our candidate because I’m sure there are some other presidential candidates and other political parties that have also inculcated restructuring in their programmes. It is left for us to put all these on the table and leave the people to make their choice, if it is Atiku that has the most attractive programme for us as regards restructuring, we may not go against it.

Our intention is not to become a political party, a propaganda machine or an advertising agency, what we want to do is to make it clear that Nigeria is noose diving; we need Nigeria to be working again, and if there is anybody who has a programme that identifies with our interest and our notion about making Nigeria progress, we will have no option than to identify with that person whether Atiku or any other person.

Now, we are still talking with other regional groups, if eventually the consensus is to identify with one particular person, Ohanaeze will soft pedal on its stand and join others because the most important thing to achieve is to get Nigeria working. Ordinarily for Ohanaeze, what we want is to make it plain; put it on the table, anybody that identifies with this programme, if there are two or three we make a choice. However, if we come to the roundtable and all the organisations – PANDEF, Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum, etc agreed to support a particular candidate, then Ohanaeze will soft pedal and join them.

It is believed that Peter Obi is your own and through him, you have access to the presidency in 2023, what do you say to this?

Is it not the man who lives till tomorrow that will need tomorrow? We are talking of today, when 2019 election has not even taken place and you are talking of 2023. Let us live till 2023. If the kind of hunger and persecution that Nigerians have gone through in this country continues again, who and who will still be alive to talk of 2023? That is not the interest of Ohanaeze.

If we restructure Nigeria and put things on ground, the clamour for presidency will reduce. When you are allowed to determine your future you can hardly remember that somebody is a governor or somebody is a president. If you have three square meals a day and nobody is molesting you, you go to your farmland and harvest your crops and there is no fear of herdsmen and cows coming to destroy your crops, you have little or nothing to worry.

Some people are agitating because things are not working well, so we have to seek today first before we talk of tomorrow. Biblically, the Lord admonishes us to ask for today’s food and leave that of tomorrow for Him.

You are talking of meeting with the other regional groups, barely four weeks to the presidential election. When will that be?

You won’t understand, the meeting has gone far. Ohanaeze has met at Enugu; we will also meet our people at Lagos and Abuja, where we have bulk of our distinguished personalities. So, we have met at Enugu, and soon we will meet at Lagos and Abuja. PANDEF has also met, and they have put something on the table, which they have to bring back to their people.

What of INEC that has just released the electoral timetable, if they are not late, is it ours that is late?

Look at what is happening, you are trying to remove the Chief Justice of Nigeria at the peak of elections; you are fomenting trouble here and there, is it not just a ploy to rig the election? When you cause violence here and there, a lot of people will be disenfranchised and you go and manipulate the process, that is corruption, but I thank God that Nigerians are awake.

Before meeting the other regional groups, have you discussed 2023 presidency or are they going to cede it to the South East?

Ohanaeze as a body has not entered into discussion with anybody concerning 2023. The interest of Ohanaeze as we have always said is to get Nigeria working again; let us restructure the country first and let 2023 unfold itself. Let us fix Nigeria now; we have four years before the election of 2023. Four years is a long time to fix Nigeria before we begin to think of 2023.

I don’t like this propaganda of APC. You go to Southwest, you promised them presidency for 2023; you go to Southeast, you promised them the same, and unfortunately the people are happy about this. How can you be happy when you are being deceived?

Politicians have a way of derailing the process; they want to deceive the people with the issue of 2023 presidency so that when you are in the polling booth, your mind will be telling you as a Yoruba, if I vote for Buhari and Osinbajo, the 2023 presidency will come to the southwest; if you are Igbo, you will be saying that these people have promised to hand over to the Igbo in 2023.

The presidency is not in the hands of the president or the vice president; the mandate is in the hands of the people, it is whom the people vote that becomes the president; the president didn’t make himself, it is the votes of the people that made him the president. If they promised regions that they would give them the presidency, is the presidency in their hands? It is not in their hands, it is in the hands of the people; they are the employees of the people.

Why is Ohanaeze not looking in the direction of the parties that have Igbo as presidential candidates, like Prof Moghalu of YPP and Oby Ezekwesili of ACPN?

In the US, there are many political parties, and you have even independent candidates, have you ever seen them winning the presidency in US? It is not possible, it is either you are a democrat or a republican, the two major parties there.

It is the same in Nigeria, the two major parties are PDP and APC; these parties have their structures all through the wards. There are some parties you see on newspapers; you can’t see them on ground. If you have to be serious to win the presidency of Nigeria at least you must have agents in every polling unit across the country.

So, if you ask me to go and follow these mushroom parties it is just going to put the vote where it will not deliver. Moghalu and Oby are very credible candidates, but the platforms they belong cannot work out.

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