Enugu — The founder of the now-crisis ridden All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Chekwas Okorie, in this interview, says no sane person would dance when his child is pronounced dead. Excerpts:
The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which you founded, is not finding things very, very easy now; moving from one leadership crisis to another. How do you feel about the current development in the party?
Well, there is nothing I will say now that I've not said before but because perhaps I've not said it to the Sunday Trust, I may just repeat myself. And that is that when we left the party, the spirit left the party; and so what is left there is the carcass just bearing the same name.
APGA was held hostage by political hijackers; I call them political hijackers because they were never there at the time of the formation of the party, and so did not share in the vision. If you look at the confusion that is going on, everybody will remember when Victor Umeh told the whole world that the APGA Constitution that we were referring to was a fake constitution that I, Chekwas Okorie smuggled it into lNEC.
But I sat back the other day watching the same Victor Umeh in his sponsored programme at the African Independent Television (AIT) brandishing and flashing the same constitution. And nobody there asked him, is this a new one or the fake one you told us a couple of years ago ? And he was quoting sections that would protect him to remain there as the party Chairman. This is the hypocrisy of our system and nobody is asking those pertinent questions; that's nemesis at work. I also thank God that I am still alive to read publically where those who accused me later apologised to me; at least it was in the front page of the Daily Sun newspaper. And they have repeated the apology over time, I mean the same people apologising to me; that they were misled and they accused me wrongly.
If I had died long ago, I wouldn't know that I've been vindicated. Then the question would have been, what did the court say? If the truth was told and the court didn't see it, and the court ruled against me, and those who lied against me are now saying we lied against him, what did the court see, talking about corruption in the judiciary?
Well, INEC has quite a lot of jobs to do but how it intends to do it within the law, only God knows. But we have moved on and I can't be celebrating the demise of APGA because I founded it. There is nothing like former founder; and it's not a normal person that will be celebrating the death of his own child. But it continues to be a thing of great mourning that those who hijacked the party ruined it; ruined it for Nigeria's democracy; ruined it for those who had looked up to it for political liberation.
And I don't see a reversed trend there because you have inordinately ambitious gladiators struggling for the control of that carcass; one says he wants to be president in 2015 and he needs that platform; the other person wants to negotiate for more relevance in perhaps the PDP government, and may be influence who succeeds him, and for that he wants to appropriate that carcass, too to himself.
Now, unlike when they fought me when I had no financial backing, there is balance of terror in the fight because each of the parties has what it takes to corrupt the system; to even sponsor smear campaign and false propaganda against each other including sponsorship for violence; it's all balanced now. So tell me where that will end up. It's unfortunate. And there's no northerner, no westerner, no south-southerner that is responsible for the destruction of APGA, its all Igbo.
Emeka Ojukwu Jnr reportedly said in one of his recent interviews in one newspaper that his father, the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was misled and fed with false information about you, and that he acted on those false information. What's your reaction to this?
Well, I was loyal to the late Odumegwu-Ojukwu for 22 unbroken years. And I stepped on so many toes during that period and I was the punching bag of his detractors; those who couldn't reach him, reached me easily, and I bore the brunt. So when what happened, happened, it really pained me, because at the level he had reached in terms of age, maturity, exposure, and his own personal knowledge of my person for this length of time, I found it difficult to comprehend a situation where a person like Umeh, who came into the scene; whom I introduced to Ikemba as it were, will now be the one to knock our heads together, but it happened.
How do you feel when you heard that a particular part of the country has been blown up by the Boko Haram Islamic sect? Did you ever envisage Nigeria descending to this bloody level?
(Long pause) Well, I wouldn't say that I didn't think the country would have degenerated to this level but the only thing I will tell you is, the first part of it is that I feel very sad, that it has come to this level. But as a Christian I've always known that when people turn their back on God, and fail to seek the face of God, and commit atrocities over time; that the punishments come at one time or the other. It has been there in the scripture; the Jews, the Isrealites have become example of people who at certain period they were punished and another period they were restored, and these things had happened over centuries.
The Nigerian case is not different. The events that have taken place in Nigeria, all over Nigeria, not only in the north, are such that our leaders and some of our people, who are led, have turned their backs on God. There are so much atrocities going on in Nigeria; so much sin, so much crime, so much adultery, fornication and even idolatry. If you watch our films, you will see that people have reposed more confidence in man-made things than in God. And I believe it's the punishment that is coming. On the spiritual note, the answer is to return to God but then God has used human beings, put certain people in positions of authority in order to govern well. I therefore say, go back to the issue of security; that those who are in the position of authority to govern us well; have not done what is necessary for the security of lives and property, thereby creating room for a reprisal attacks.
Generally, Christians don't take revenge because they believe strongly that vengeance belongs to God but gradually, gradually it is now degenerating to where even Christians are beginning to say, well, God helps those who help themselves. And that's why we are seeing the kind of reprisal attacks that took place in Kaduna, and sometimes in Jos. But the danger is that we will now degenerate to religious war; God forbid it but if that happens, that's bye, bye Nigeria. But in spite of the country coming to an end, there will be too much bloodshed, and the leaders appear as if they are made of...their body is made of bullet-proof; otherwise if they know that they are as human as the other people, they should do more than they are doing now in terms of tackling the security problems in the country.
The ritual of condemning killings, consoling families of victims and asking people to remain calm, and so on and so forth, is no longer impressing anybody because that is what people hear every day these bombings and killings occur. Then the president gives order, arrest the perpetrators, and no arrests are made; even where arrests are made no prosecution at all.
The legal system is so slow; justice delivery system is not helping anybody to have confidence. So we just keep praying to God that this country doesn't blow up but we are getting to ...we are close to the precipice.
When you look at Nigeria's current and future political atmosphere, do you think it will be possible to have a Nigerian president of Igbo descent in 2015?
I have always been a strong believer in the capability of the Igbo people producing a president of Igbo extraction for Nigeria. Where I have deferred most times with my fellow Igbo people who have similar good intentions and wishes for our people is in the method.
We all agree that the Igbo people are very easily the most widely dispersed and spread in Nigeria; in the aggregate, they constitute the highest population in terms of ethnicity in Nigeria. Then the problem has also been how to harness this enormous potentiality which is population and spread for political empowerment. And by deliberate policy of government, especially after the civil war or the Biafra-Nigeria war, the successive governments structured Nigeria to make Ndigbo a minority in a country where they are indeed the majority.
Example is the Dasuki Committee that gave Igbo, the whole southeast zone only 95 local governments when northwest where he comes from has 188 local governments. And so in the six geo-political zones of Nigeria, Igbo people have the least number of local governments, creating the false impression that we are also the least in number.