Chief Livinus Okwara, director and chief executive of Rimax Institute, is a philanthropist, and a computer specialist-turned politician. He speaks on Nigerian politics and other national issues. OGUNTADE ISMAILA brings excerpts:
Few months to the general election, do you foresee any credible candidate who can upstage President Muhammadu Buhari come February 2019 election?
To me, I have not seen any credible candidates that can upstage President Buhari in the forthcoming election if Nigerians are still Nigerians. I was briefed about President Buhari by a friend, and when I checked record, I saw that man has always maintain about 12millions vote at a time; if only one person could garner 12 million votes in Nigeria, that means such person is a man for Nigeria, good people of Nigeria brought PMB to power because they were afraid of the PDP and they believed in him as the only credible Nigerian politician who can make a change.
Before he was elected, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was shouting that Buhari was wicked; he had jailed this governor, detained this or that, this was what Nigerians saw and said, ‘so there is someone who could do this?’ Therefore, Nigerians decided to give him a chance and for that reason the PDP has been criticizing Buhari, not knowing that their criticism had gained him more popularity.
Late Ambrose Ali’s son had come out and said he had interviewed his father, who justified what happened to him under Buhari as Head of State.
So, Nigerians saw the change in Buhari, somebody who can stem the trend of public bad image. So, I think Buhari won because of his personal image he has protected. When Buhari was overthrown, Nigerians were not happy because he introduced the War Against Indiscipline, (WAI), and Nigerians have not forgot the war against indiscipline.
So, as at now, I have not seen any good character that can do that because it is too early to forget what has happened after 16 years of the conservative era.
I have been praying to have a progressive government, at least once in my life time, so it was happiness for me. Therefore, Buhari cannot be defeated; they know that themselves; that is why they are carrying different stories and trying to over throw him.
PDP has made a mistake; they should have waited for Nigerians to forgive them before running here and there. That is I why I know that Buhari is comfortable and I have been campaigning for him even long before now. People have seen the handwriting on the wall.
Let me also say that the All progressives Congress, APC, administration has not been given free hand to function. The little it has done was through struggle, but at least for once, the Buhari administration has checkmated the Boko haram insurgency.
But some people are saying Buhari has not tried at all, for instance concerning the light rail from Lagos to Ibadan, the 2nd Niger Bridge, and the rampaging Fulani herdsmen, what is your take on this?
You see, PDP is not a good opposition party, they don’t criticize objectively; they were criticizing someone who is still working and has not stopped. What about the PDP that ruled for 16 years, during which Igbo people have be asking for that second Niger Bridge. Despite the support from Igbo people to produce Goodluck Jonathan, he didn’t say sorry for not doing the bridge for the South-South people.
It is unfortunate for them; they did not give Buhari one Senate seat and not even one House of Representative at the election. It was a pity for Igbo people. I was there for three months campaigning or Buhari, I told them that Buhari will win the election; even the governor of Imo State did not believe that Buhari would win the election. On the campaign and my support for APC, I won an award from journalist in Imo State as the best supporter of APC in South-East. I invited all the local government chairmen in all the five states, they were all happy to receive Buhari but what happened was different after the election, anyway, up till today they are still happy.
Is Ohanaeze N’di Igbo a socio-cultural group or a political group? Their activities in recent times tend to confuse people as to how to categorise it…
As far as I know, Ohaneze is a cultural group that smoothens relationship between the Igbos and their hosts, because an average Igbo is a traveler. When you go to their villages their population are very minute, most of them are either in Lagos, Kaduna or either in remote areas doing what they know how to do best, trading.
I have branches of my institute in all the states of the federation, I appreciate the positive thinking of Northerners on education.
What are the guarantees that come 2023 the APC will support the South-East for the Presidency?
Let me tell you, PMB is reliable person who cannot be influenced by petty things; he is a man of his words and APC is a party which believes in justice. So, 2023 is the turn of the South East to run for president.
Ibos only give support to a party that is ready to give them opportunity to contest for the Presidency and I know Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu will never allow anybody take what belongs to the South East in 2023 to another place.
Now, let us agree that the zoning falls to South East, do you see Igbo people agreeing on consensus candidate in 2023?
Whether consensus or not, one thing I know is that, if you don’t have support of the North, you can’t go anywhere, Ohaneze cannot do it. How many of them can come out and say Igbo will only support any party that will give them presidential ticket in 2023? Ohaneze cannot say it, they are just there looking for money and contracts and they are not thinking about the future of their children.
The APC government has just completed the Ajaokuta rail project, how do you react to this?
The Ajaokuta project is one that will bring tears of joy to the eyes of every Nigerian, because before the project started they were telling us this will be the bastion of development, no matter where we go, we will have it.
What happened was that former President Olusegun Obasanjo abused it and Nigerians are still paying for it. On Ajaokuta project, Obasanjo has a lot of questions to answer. What is important now is for the government to ensure that they bring the project back to life, what is the essence of the agreement government made with someone, I believe it was a political decision, government should do needful to ensure that Ajaokuta steel project becomes vibrant.
It is a good development seeing APC government constructing railway line to move products from Ajaokuta to other areas of the country.
Should Buhari return for another term, what do you foresee about development of the country, especially in the agricultural sector?
A lot of anti-Nigeria people will leave this country and run away, as at that time Nigeria will have stable government to control things and ensure what should be should be. After PMB, Nigeria would have developed a lot of infrastructure such that with agriculture alone, the fortunes of this country can be turned around for good.
There will be drastic reduction in the amount of money we expend on importing food and we would be able to feed ourselves and become less dependent on oil.