By Our Correspondent
Hon. Chinedu Leardner Agbaji is an Enugu-born newspaper columnist, Agribusiness entrepreneur, politician and advocate of Igbo Presidency through the platform of Igbo Presidency Project 2023 (IPP 2023). In this interview, he bares his mind on issues of national integration, among others.
How would you assess the state of the nation?
The fact remains that the state of the nation of Nigeria continues to give all patriots, not only a sleepless nights but a very deep cause for concern. Not only for them, but for their family members and what the future holds for them. We have to be worried, because all indices of development continue to point to negative. All hopes for development and growth is getting dim each day. You as a journalist can bear witness to that. There is increasing insecurity, corruption, poverty to the extent that we became the poverty capital of the world. So there is much cause for concern.
Do you foresee any hope of positive change?
Certainly yes! There is hope for greatness and revitalisation. There is silver lining behind the cloud, if we only realise this truly, change our mindsets and go to address the faulty foundations on which our nation is built upon. This is not about the president, past or present, but about us Nigerians.
What are the ‘faulty foundations’?
Of course, it has to do with the way and manner we were amalgamated in 1914, without due negotiations as to whether we want or would like to stay together as a nation or not. For me, we have passed the phase of negotiating for the dissolution of the country. It is indissoluble, yet we must be sensitive to the aspirations of all Nigerians, everyone must be given a sense of belonging and we must starve off all pockets of agitations across the country.
So, what is the best way to address these challenges?
The government is not lacking in the solutions and policy response to address these challenges. What I can say is that, so far as the crisis persist, it clearly indicates lack of political will on the side of our leaders. All of the challenges can be addressed through policies of equity, empowerment, job creation and inclusive governance.
Talking about marginalisations and agitations. Do you think Igbo Presidency in 2023 will change the narrative?
Deliberate marginalisation and injustice will continue to promote agitations unless and until when government find it expedient to do the right thing. The government at the centre is in the habit of sidelining the South-East region in the scheme of things such as appointments, employment and developmental projects.
Even in recent times, we saw the marginalisation of the South-East in the distribution of palliatives to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown and this is an indication that the region has been rejected in Nigeria. It is clear at this point that we as a people are rejected as Nigerian citizens.
This government has consistently been doing things that suggest that they are pushing the Igbos out of Nigeria. This ought not to be so, particularly with the much touted credentials of President Buhari’s honesty and uprightness. We feel cheated and slapped continually. So, there is an urgent need for a due sense of inclusion, particularly in allowing the Igbos to also get to the center. Here, I mean the Igbo presidency come 2023. This is imperative and has continue to draw sympathy of all patriotic Nigerians. I think this is the time for it, particularly in view of the long years of marginalisation of the people. The Igbos have been so marginalised as if the civil war was still on, the 2023 Igbo presidency will go a long way to heal the wounds and to put that war behind us.
Would the agitations end after that?
Certainly it will, if done with all sense of equity and fairness. It would end the agitations for a long time, until any other form of injustice manifests again. It will end when the Igbos are no longer treated like slaves again. It will end if we truly reform our constitution to address the aspirations of all Nigerians.
What is your organisation doing to achieve the Igbo Presidency in 2023?
We cannot reveal our strategies on the pages of newspapers, but what I can tell you is that the work is ongoing and by God’s grace it will be a reality. Mobilization and consultations are ongoing. We intend to also mobilise for resources to prosecute the project and towards the achievement of the Igbo Presidency project in 2023. The only thing I can tell you here is that we are planning a national rally to create awareness and support for an Igbo President in 2023. All groups promoting Igbo Presidency are welcomed to be part of it.
Who among the gladiators in Igbo land would you support?
We will continue to consult with stakeholders to ensure the emergence of a consensus candidate. But mind you, we have the likes of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, Mr Peter Obi, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, Professor Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu and several others. I am sure the selection system put in place will help us select the best candidate that will be acceptable to all Igbos.
What does the future holds for Nigeria?
Certainly the future is bright and promising and Nigeria will claim her greatness with the emergence of the president of Igbo extraction. Note, we are all Igbos; all Nigerians that have, in one way or the other, suffered injustice and marginalisation.