Chief Ndukwe Ikoh is an industrialist and prominent political figure in Abia State who had contested as a candidate on the platform of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) for the governorship and House of Representative seat. He speaks on the issues that would determine who would win the next presidential election and the need for an Igbo presidency. He also chastised Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, accusing him of trying to restrict the movement of Nigerians which is guaranteed by the constitution.
President Muhammadu Buhari recently announced his decision to seek re-election. Do you think he has performed well enough to deserve the support of voters for another term?
Buhari has the constitutional right to seek re-election and anyone who goes against it is not being realistic and that is a fact. We must not forget that in a democracy, you must pass through many hurdles before you get to any position including that of the president. The next hurdle is to get the party’s support and ability to pick the party’s ticket, and then the last hurdle is how to win the election. Anyone who says Buhari should not re-contest is not being sincere; it would now be left to the voters to decide to vote for him again or not.
The issue of the Nigerian Stock Exchange falling low because of his announcement to re-contest is very hypocritical. I don’t know any key economic player in this country that has said that the CBN governor or the finance minister or the economic monitoring team is not performing well. These are key economic drivers in the country. If for the past three years, these guys have been making major decisions that affect our economy, and people keep quiet over their achievements or otherwise, it means you do not know how the economy is driven. I do not know how grievous Buhari’s input to the economy has been, but I know that even when he was sick, someone drove the economy. The naira has stabilized for a while now and we have not had disparities between the black market and the bank rates; that means those that are driving the economy are not doing badly.
There may be two reasons for the stock market to have dropped as a result of the president’s announcement; one is the hypocrisy on the part of the economic players. You must know that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ruled this country for 16 years and before they came to power, there was a military oligarchy that had the country in their claws and the PDP continued in that tradition. So, every millionaire you have in Nigeria today in all industries has a root in the PDP and it is possible that they manipulated the market to react that way because they do not want Buhari to be re-elected. If Buhari contests and wins the election, things would return to normal.
What is your definition of normality in this context?
Our normal is to continue to pretend that all is well. If Buhari is doing well in one aspect, we should acknowledge it, and if he is not doing well in another aspect, we should also say it. We should not throw away the baby with the bathwater, except we are saying that he did not perform well in any area whatsoever, but if we say that, it would be a lie.
He campaigned on three fundamental issues; reviving the economy, anti-corruption and improving security. What is your assessment of his performance on these issues?
I would not expressly recommend anything to voters, I would rather ask them few questions and from the answers, they would give, we can ‘count our teeth with our tongue.’ In answering this question, I would like to sound like a leader who has knowledge of leadership challenges. He campaigned on those issues but he came in and saw the kind of problems he didn’t see from the outside. These issues that you mentioned should be seen as a work in progress.
Any leader that tells you that he can fix the economy, security and fight corruption war successfully within four years is telling you a lie; such a person shouldn’t be voted for. I was neither in his mind nor in the mind of those who drafted his party’s manifesto, but I know that fixing these issues should be seen as work in progress. We should judge him from what he met on ground, the current situation and what is likely going to happen in the next three years. If he met a falling economy that was almost in recession and he was able to stabilize and re-build the foreign reserves, then that should give us an idea of what is to come. I believe that if we improve on financial discipline in governance, we would have it better.
In terms of security, before he came in, there was no explosion of herdsmen and farmers’ crisis, but unfortunately, while he sat as President, this issue worsened; but that is one of the challenges of leadership. We can assess him if we know the intelligence reports that were at his disposal, the actions that he has taken so far and the plans that are being put in place to forestall future occurrences. There would still be other security challenges and that is why a good government should be proactive. There was a time we had constant bombing of oil installations and kidnappings, but that has reduced over time.
The Boko Haram issue is gradually fading and I use the word gradually with a lot of emphases because I do not want to follow the statement that it has been defeated. If the intensity of the bombings had continued the way it was in 2015, I am sure even Lagos would not have been safe. Unfortunately, the lack of Boko Haram activities in the south has been replaced with herdsmen conflict; that is why I said it is work in progress. Even the fight against corruption is work in progress because if you talk to both defendants and prosecutors in anti-corruption cases, they would tell you the difficult constitutional bottlenecks that they go through in such cases.
If Buhari does not follow the constitution, we would say that he is a dictator, so he has to follow due process in prosecuting these anti-corruption cases. When Olusegun Obasanjo came out from prison to become President, it took him four years to come to terms to the way things were run in Nigeria. He started the concept of running for two terms after he pleaded with the PDP that instead of each zone having one tenure he should be allowed two tenures. Atiku Abubakar and some governors went against him and Obasanjo was literally made to kneel and beg the governors for another term. Some would say that because Buhari had contested several times in the past, he should have understood the gravity of Nigeria’s problems. I agree with that, but we should remember that his party’s efficiency also comes to play. The homogeneity that was found in the PDP is not in APC. Today, an APC Senate President is working as if he is in the opposition party and so are some APC governors.
But PDP suffered the same fate too in the past?
I am comparing Obasanjo’s first four years to Buhari’s first three years and I will tell you that Buhari deserves to run again. If Buhari finishes his second tenure, logically, power should come back to the south and since the South-south and South-west have taken their turn, the presidency should go to the South-east. Except if we want another Northerner to rule for another eight years, but anytime the presidency comes to the south, it should be the turn of the Southeast; that is one of the reasons I support Buhari.
The former governor of Abia, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu embarked on a peace tour of the South-west but he was greeted with hostility by the government of Ekiti State and people felt the outburst of Governor Ayo Fayose against Kalu was unwarranted. Do you share that view?
Fayose’s caveat to Kalu was an overplay of politics. Both men have been friends for a long time even though Kalu rightfully calls Fayose his boy because he was a senior member of the PDP. If Fayose who is dreaming of becoming president would have the tendency of restricting Nigerians from entering any state, then he does not deserve the position. If he understood politics and what it means to mete out such treatment to a personality of Kalu’s status, he should know that there is no place in Nigeria in which Nigerians should be refused entry, except if you are coming with arms to fight. Kalu went to Ekiti to talk peace and I want to thank him for that. Nigerians may not know the depth of what Kalu signifies in this country until we look for him and don’t find him. For him to use his resources and go out of his way despite his tight schedule to talk peace, I think Nigerians should listen to him and not the Ekiti governor.
What do you think was going on, on Fayose’s mind to have warranted such an action?
He may be afraid that Kalu would overshadow him because you cannot place Ronaldo and an Enyinmba player on the same field and you wouldn’t have the issue of a complex. Fayose knows very well that when Kalu puts his mind to something, he achieves it. There is no living politician that has the kind of connections that Kalu has; that is a fact. So when he embarks on a mission, he means business.
I also believe that in playing his role as an opposition governor, he always likes to dance to the gallery because he knows that Kalu came to talk peace and drum support for Buhari that is why he was throwing tantrums to take the shine away from the successful tour. Unfortunately, it backfired because he tried to restrict a Nigerian from entering a territory that he controls and that makes him unqualified to be president anytime.
Do you have plans to contest for any position in 2019?
I belong to a political party and I would play a very significant role in 2018/2019 politics; I would make leaders and I would also increase my status as a leader. It is not unlikely that I would contest.
Source: The Sun