Chibuzo Nduwueze Ziggy Azike
Chief Chibuzo Nduwueze Ziggy Azike was gubernatorial candidate for ANPP in Imo State before he joined the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), where he is currently the chairman of the reconciliation committee. In this interview with Ahamefula Ogbu, he dismissed Femi Fani Kayode as a “man struggling for accommodation among Yorubas who did not mandate him to speak on their behalf and therefore not worthy of any reply”. He admitted he was still interested in ruling Imo State but has an eye on the Senate, and described Governor Rochas Okorocha as a flirting beautiful bride in consort with other parties, while savouring the APGA brand that won power for him. Excerpts
Lately there was this issue of relocation of some Igbo indigenes from Lagos; as a lawyer, what are the implications of such action?
There are three aspects of the issue of the deportation; what I will call three implications; first is indicative aspect. The indicative aspect is what does it show us up as? What does it show, what is the mindset, what is the critical attention, intention, devotion and commitment of those in governance to the welfare of our weakest people? Our weakest people should be the ones we should have programme of how to care for because it is only the weak that you can help, you cannot help the strong; so first it indicates that there is a gap in our resolve and commitment to those who are weakest in our community. So there is a sociological aspect of it.
On the legal aspect, the constitution guarantees every Nigerian the freedom of movement and freedom of choice of even where to reside and conduct their daily lives; so removing anybody forcefully from where he has chosen to live is an absolutely unconstitutional act. The third aspect is the signal it gives about our commitment to our nationhood; of coursed it queries that because a citizen of Nigeria is a citizen of Nigeria within the territory, every limitation and all the extremities of the Nigerian nation, so it was an action that was done or conducted in error and I believe that by now the Governor and government of Lagos State is regretting their action.
I have lived in Lagos for 42 years, infact this is my forty-third year in Lagos and I know Lagosians and Lagos State as a very welcoming place. Lagos is a home to all and Lagos is a place that gives solace to even the weak. I tell everybody that Lagos is the best city on earth. I consider myself a Lagosian in every respect, so when people who don’t understand the philosophy and what I even consider as the psychology of Lagos; Lagos is where you have more opportunities than anywhere to flourish, so if you want to help the needy, bring them to Lagos because Lagos offers a multitude of opportunities to people. Of all the potentials that are encapsulated in its nature, it is industrial, it is well positioned in the sense that it geographically lies in the best and accommodating coastline in Africa. So Lagos is so blessed that it can welcome everybody.
That brings us to the issue of Femi Fani Kayode’s comment on the status of Igbos in relation to Lagos; what do you say to that?
I don’t want to discuss Femi Fani Kayode because it sours my mind, sours my thought and certainly he is not a worthy person to discuss so early in the morning. Femi Fani Kayode is seeking accommodation and when people are seeking accommodation, it is amazing what they can do to gain recognition. This is a person who has absolutely no claim to speak on behalf of government of Lagos State or even my very good people of Yoruba land.
Coming down to modern day time, in today’s world, nobody talks about who owns the land. The last time someone sang about who owns the land was when the late Sonny Okosuns sang about who owns the land and he was talking in context of Africa belonging to Africans just like Europe belong to Europeans, just like America belongs to Americans; so he was talking about the Africans right to African continent because of the apartheid in South Africa. He never talked about towns or cities or States in Nigeria in his songs because he was a nationalist, he was a great Africanist. So when anybody is talking about this land is mine, nobody uses that type of discussion in 21st century world because if everybody starts talking about having ancestral claim to this land, the red Indians will drive away everybody from the USA because the original indigenes of United States of America are the red Indians. Manhattan is a Red Indian word so they will drive away everybody from Manhattan which is where we have the choicest and most expensive real estate in the world.
If we are talking about who owns the land and their entitlement to it, then the Gwaris should drive away everybody from Abuja because the Gwaris are the original indigenous owners of the territory now known as Abuja. Then if you are talking about who owns the land, then some people can easily trace when they first trod on the place known as Israel today because by 1947, there was nobody on the place that we know as Israel today. That is why until the State of Israel was created in 1948, all the Jews went and started settling in Israel and today, Jews from even Ethiopia are migrating to Israel to go and settle. If you are talking about who owns the land, nobody will be able to do any business anywhere on earth.
I want to go back to what Jesse Jackson said when he was running for the Presidency of the United States of America and when some people were talking about his ancestry. He was addressing, I believe, those that were called WASPs, White Anglo-Saxon Protestants who actually dominate the North-East area of America where you have Massachusetts, Rhodes Islands and so on. These were the descendants of the people you call pilgrim fathers. He said “You might have arrived on Mayflower; Mayflower was the major boat that brought them in and you might have arrived on slave ship but at the end of the day, we are all boat people”. I am quoting and paraphrasing Jesse Jackson. What he meant was that eventually everyone in America was a settler, no matter how you got there. So it is not a matter of saying because you are American and I am black, am less American than you. So when you talk about origin and who owns the land, it is an anthropological issue, it is a historical issue beyond the pedantic childish ravings of people like Fani Kayode who is vacuous and historically empty.
He is not in a position to speak for the Yoruba people and in any case, no one mandated him. Like I said, he is a wannabe, when you are a wannabe what he wants to show is that, ‘hey I am a Yoruba patriot and I am teaching these Igbo people what they know and what they don’t know’. And you know when anybody is claiming to be a patriot, it was a settled issue way back in the 18th century when Samuel Johnson talked about those who have false claim to patriotism and he said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
How would you respond then to his assertion that Igbos did not contribute anything to the development of Lagos?
I am not going to start a comparative study or debate of what the Igbos did or what Igbos have not done. I am above that. In law there is Latin maxim that says reps ipsa loquito, meaning it speaks for itself, when you look at it, you know it, the situation tells its own story. I cannot talk about that because this is not a fight between Yoruba and Igbo people. We are not comparing note with the Yorubas, so I will not start asserting that Igbos have done this or have done that. In the First Republic, a Hausa man was a mayor of Enugu, in the First Republic, Zik was the leader of the parliament here, he won elections everywhere, so you don’t talk about such things, it doesn’t arise, there is no basis for it. The point is that he wants to appear as if he is making a debate for the Yorubas, nobody has appointed him, so I will not elevate him over a matter that does not exist.
But some groups are validating his comments…
Faceless groups and faceless people are not worthy of my attention and these are all people whose names he generated himself. This is a charlatan whose track record and propensity to abuse people is to attract attention for himself. What he always tries to do is to pick a very big person so that it will be that he is debating with a very big person. Who has he not attacked, is it General Malu whom he told to be ashamed of himself just because he was questioning Obasanjo’s move for third term; is it Colonel Umar or Chinua Achebe? So he does that to attract attention by abusing high profile people all because he wants to be accepted as mainstream person in Yorubaland and they have refused to recgonise him. What you should ask is who has supported him? Nobody. In fact, today, he is more pariah than he was before he made the statement. Nobody wants to associate with him so that he doesn’t muddy their waters; the more desperate he becomes, the worse his case becomes because he is doing things that are unwholesome, he is saying things that are embarrassing. The Yoruba people I know are respectful, loving and loveable, dignified and their brothers’ keepers. They are friendly and worthy of association, would not abuse people, are not insulting, are not rude, not crude and do not deliberately put their fingers in the eyes of elders and they do not condemn everybody in an unwholesome manner. So he is not worthy to speak for them, they have not mandated him, he has no credibility.
Inspite of all the assistance he has had, he has still proved himself a totally unaccomplished person. Anybody can appoint anyone as minister, you can get anything by appointment so long as you meet the constitutional requirement and just because people do not query the mental capacity to bear certain offices otherwise nobody would have looked at him.
He is a deprived person looking for an opportunity to reclaim himself or attain something that he feels he has lost; that is why he is calling names of all kinds of people.
So you are implying the misunderstanding has threatened no one?
This is the Federal Republic of Nigeria, there is no investment of anybody that is threatened. Let me tell you, Igbos are adventurous and they have invested everywhere on earth, not just Nigeria. Among the Yorubas the people that are like the Igbos are the Ogbomosho people, they are the people who travel, they are the ones who invest. If you go to Jos you will think that it is a town in Ogbomoso and they are there. The taxi drivers in Port Harcourt today are there from Ogbomosho and other places in Yorubaland. If you go to Igboland today, Yoruba entrepreneurs are establishing themselves in the crafts that they are good at. If you go to Igboland today, those who are involved in construction are our brethren from Benin Republic and Togo and a lot of them are from the Yoruba stock. So you will find that the world has gone beyond anybody threatening anybody’s investment anywhere. The world has become a global village and when you use the expression, village it means we are all one community; so not just Nigeria, the world has become one community. When a person who is bereft of honour tries to throw us back to the antiquity of primordial, primitive claim of this land is mine, nobody is interested in engaging in such argument, we have risen above it.
How do you react to the suggestion that the Fani Kayode diatribe has soured the political relationship between Igbos and Yorubas which might affect the Igbos’ ambition on a national scale?
Fani Kayode has not been mandated by anybody, he is not a leader of any group, he was rejected by PDP government because he is facing criminal trial. He is a person who has had opportunities and he has blown all of them. He was made a minister, over nineteen billion naira was allotted to his ministry as an intervention fund to be used to elevate our airports, he failed woefully. Today, we have seen what Princess Stella Oduah has done with far less than that. He has no capacity to spoil anything in the sense that other men are working to ensure the bridges are constructed and that trust is established. Those who understand serious things will not take him seriously. Of course, everybody knows that a rat can get into the most expensive turbine and cut the wire and scuttle a billion dollar project. So he is that type of rat but incapable of doing it in a respectable manner, that is why he is throwing muck around.
What political affiliation will ensure best governance and development of the South-East?
Well, I believe in a people generated political leadership because the leader would know that he is a product of the people’s trust. That is why I am against anti-democratic tendencies like violence during election or any form of rigging or coercion. So anything that does not enable the people to express themselves freely and express their choice freely limits the quality of leadership produced. When a leader knows he is accountable to the people and he knows he owes his emergence to the people, if he has any sinew of conscience in him, he will work to please the people. The days of carry go is gone, the days of manipulation and violence induced election is gone.
My people will vote for an APGA-generated candidate because APGA is the party of the people. Infact once you get APGA nomination, you have got 30 per cent of the votes already, you will be looking for 21 per cent. So all our good candidates, and there are quite a lot of them, I wish all of them will come into APGA and subsume their will in the APGA tendency and emerge and support anyone that emerges in this universally generated mandate that only APGA can give in the South-East.
APGA is in charge of Imo State now, how will you rate the party in the state?
APGA brand has been serving the people. Governor Peter Obi is an example, he has delivered. Governor Rochas Okorocha, if you look at the darkness that was before Governor Rochas Okorocha came in, you will also know that he has delivered, because there was absolute darkness before Rochas Okorocha came. The person there was more interested in razzmatazz than service; the person there before Rochas came was a blitzkrieg of sound and fury signifying nothing. The person there was running a government of deception; Rochas has come with too much enthusiasm to serve the people because he realises that he didn’t defeat an incumbent because of his massive war chest. He defeated an incumbent because the people wanted someone to serve them for a change. He has done well vis a vis the person he took over from. He was able to do well because he was of the APGA brand, the APGA mandate, the APGA ticket.
Now that APGA might be fighting to retain power from the outside now with Okorocha having indicated interest to join another party, do you think it will still win?
You know I am a lawyer of 30 years at the bar and anything I say, I consider it from the prism of the law. As far as APGA is concerned Governor Rochas Okorocha remains a member of APGA. Even though the party hierarchy has suspended him, yet he remains a member of the party. The ticket that put him in government today in Imo State is the APGA ticket and I am aware that Governor Rochas Okorocha has not communicated to the party that he is leaving APGA. I am the chairman of APGA rebuilding and crisis review committee with a view to reconciling all members of APGA and as part of my duty we had a meeting with governor Rochas Okorocha and I told him he is a performing governor, I told him he is a beautiful bride, I told him that because he is a beautiful bride and a beautiful woman in performance everybody will come wooing him. So we in APGA think that as a beautiful bride, he is flirting. He is enjoying his period in the sun, he is flirting with any political party he is doing business with. As far as we are concerned, he remains a member of our party.
You once contested for the governorship of Imo State under ANPP, are you launching a comeback or going to the Senate?
I want to tell you that my mandate which is bearing fruits as we speak is to see to the rebuilding and reconciling of all the divergent interests in APGA and refocusing APGA for the future and we are succeeding. As we speak, there is total reconciliation in Anambra State, we are marching in one phalanx. I have succeeded in one job that was given to me, that job is still work in progress. We are rebuilding APGA and reconstituting its board of trustees, constitutional organs of the party and we are doing well, the people believe in our credibility. That is the work at hand. When I finish the job at hand and the timetable is released, I am available for other duties and at the right time we shall make our statements, but for sure I shall definitely be involved in the elective offices available in 2015 within my party in Imo State.
But you won’t say whether it is Senate or governorship?
When you subsume yourself to the authority of the party, what you are saying is that I am here send me. There are so many things that are happening. As you know, we still have a government in Imo State that is entitled to second term, so it will be presumptuous of me to start saying that I am going to run when I know that someone is already holding the position. But like I said, when things unfold as we go on decisions will be taken. My people in Okigwe desire and deserve a very top quality senator and we shall ensure that if it is God’s wish that I shall go to the senate, it will happen. But you know I cannot pretend that I don’t have ambition of being the governor of Imo State, that ambition is still alive and well. Wherever the party sends me I will serve.
What do you think is the greatest problem militating against political and infrastructural development in the country?
This is a very blessed land and we have the best of everything, our problem is greed. People are involved in primitive accumulation, what they need and what they don’t need. People are so carnal and worldly and I pity them because when you look at the capacity of man to enjoy this world, it is so severely limited. The funny thing is that those who are involved in all those accumulation can barely enjoy what they have acquired and accumulated. I pity them because some of them if you see where they have stashed and hoarded the things they stole, if you ask them they will say no, this is not mine. When a man acquires property he cannot lay claim to in daylight, is he not a cursed person? So I pity them. Many people waste time trying to make money when they should be trying to make history.
You see all those we remember today, those who control our lives are those who made history - not money. You make history the way your life and works impact on the people. By the time you make history, you won’t even have to make money because your bills will be paid and once your bills are paid, who is wealthier than you? If you go to the list of richest people on earth today you will not find the Queen of England, but her bills are paid. What does she need? Mandela is not one of the wealthiest people on earth but people are dying to pay his bills. That name is magic. So people should work to make history.
Do you think President Jonathan should run for another term?
Whether President Jonathan gets another term or not would be the decision of his party. I am a member of APGA and the candidate we will be supporting in the presidential election will be a decision taken by my party. 2015 is still a long way off so I cannot decide now till my party takes decision.