By Kote Obe-Eleme
It’s been 11 years since Chief Emeka Ojukwu died. I had the privilege of interviewing him for THE PUNCH at his 4, Isi-Uzo St. residence at Independence Layout, Enugu in October, 2002 during which he expressed the frustrations of former Biafrans getting reintegrated politically into Nigeria. Below is part of that interview
Question: Talking about Igbo Presidency, which Ohaneze Ndigbo has been championing, there appears not to be an effort to narrowing down on a candidate yet. You have been approached to run, and only recently you joined the All Progressives Grand Alliance. Could it be that you want to run on the ticket of APGA?
OJUKWU: We, Ndigbo, indeed affirm that it is our turn to produce the next President for Nigeria. That is our firm belief. As Nigerians in Nigeria and as a leader too, it is not, and this is not and this is my firm view, it is not a good thing to narrow it down to only Ndigbo. I go further in stating that Ndigbo, it is their turn. I also say that because I know that there is a lot more, things like luck, divine intervention, that should it miss Ndigbo then of course, the South-South as a matter of right too.
Ohaneze to my knowledge is doing a lot. You said we haven’t narrowed down this or that. I don’t agree. You have a right to your opinion. The thing I will advise you on is not to expect Ohaneze to conduct its affairs in a market square. There is a lot being done by Ohaneze and I still have faith in Ohaneze that they will eventually produce to the satisfaction of the whole Nigeria a candidate.
I resigned my position in ANPP (All Nigeria Peoples Party) not because of a quarrel within or with ANPP. They still have a great deal of my respect. But I did so because having for a long time advised Ndigbo that it would be useful to have their own party, a party which answers to the call, a party which takes on its agenda, and so on; and suddenly I am finding that there is a possibility for such in the APGA to now stay elsewhere and try to lead Ndigbo. I have not joined APGA because I do not know yet whether I serve better Igbo cause, and even beyond Igbo cause, and indeed South South cause by joining APGA or by staying aloof of any political party. That’s what I am considering now. From where would I serve Nigeria better?
Question: Do you have an ambition to become the President…?
OJUKWU: Look, I have been a president. I have been Biafra’s President and no matter where you write the history of Nigeria it will be said that at one time there was a republic of Biafra, and the Head of State was Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. So, I can’t find anything that is fascinating of being President. But what I find is that Nigeria is in a bad state and that we are included in it. I would like the opportunity fully to serve. And I know that I am capable, will be able to repair a number of the ills that I see in Nigeria.
One thing one should avoid like I said is to prevent me from being Biafra and at the same time prevent me from being Nigerian. If you say I am not Biafran, well, let me be Nigerian.
Question: Preventing you from being Biafran and then preventing you from being Nigerian. Are you implying that there is some move to prevent some Nigerians from exercising their rights?
OJUKWU: I don’t know why you are so keen on creating conflicts. All I have said is that if I am not Biafran today, I am Nigerian. So, having stopped Biafra, and you have said I am Nigerian and I haven’t objected, if I want to be Head of State of Nigeria, I do like everybody. That’s all.