Nwodo: Opposition to Zoning Self-serving, Restructuring Way Forward for Nigeria

Nnia Nwodo
  • Says it’ll be unfair to deny South-east presidency in 2023

Emma Okonji and Nosa Alekhuogie

The President-General of the apex Igbo socio-political organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, wednesday weighed in on the raging debate on power shift, saying the argument for competence against zoning is self-serving, therefore, not sustainable in the face of the electoral history of the country.

He contended that it was denigrating to talk of competence as a criterion for choosing the president in 2023 when it’s the turn of the South-east to take a shot at the presidency.

He said it would be unfair not to zone the next presidency to the South-east, adding that it was time to renegotiate the basis of the coexistence among the component units of the federation and to restructure the country’s political system.

Nwodo, who was a guest on The Morning Show, the flagship breakfast programme on ARISE NEWS Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, described the call for competence as a yardstick for choosing leaders of the country rather than the agreed zoning system as misconceived.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s nephew, Mallam Mamman Daura, considered an influential figure in government, had stirred the hornet’s nest last week when, in an interview with the Hausa Service of the BBC, he canvassed that competence, rather than zoning, should determine the choice of Buhari’s successor in 2023.

Daura’s advocacy had elicited widespread criticisms from top politicians and other regional interest groups such as Afenifere, Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF) and Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), which insisted on zoning and restructuring.

Nwodo expressed similar sentiments yesterday as he described restructuring of Nigeria as the only way to save the country from total collapse and loss of confidence from the youths.

He expressed the readiness of the South-east to produce a president of Igbo extraction in 2023.

He said: “Our priority is about restructuring of the federation and returning Nigeria to its old system before the Second World War, where every sector of Nigeria has sovereignty over its natural resources. Those calling for competence as a yardstick for choosing leaders of this country rather than the agreed zoning system are not sincere to themselves. Their agitations for competency shows they do not believe in the competence of Nigerians in the various zones of the country.

“I am confident that we have competent people in different zones of the country and the Easterners, whose turn it is to produce the next president of the country in 2023, have a lot of competent people that can rule our great country Nigeria. If the Easterners are given their rightful chance, Nigeria as a country will smile again. The restructuring we are talking about is to make state governments independent of the federal government in terms of control of natural resources in the state.

“Nigeria must develop its agricultural sector and should be able to export products out of her plenty cassava produce. The idea of importing virtually everything should be discouraged. We have cattle in abundance in Nigeria yet we still import milk, we have cassava in abundance and we still import flour. In today’s digital technology era, there are growth opportunities for agriculture, solar power and we are not exploring the opportunities around them.”

Restructuring, he added, would promote national unity and dilute the ethnic factions in Nigeria as well as the craze for who becomes the next president of the country.

According to him, it is wrong for anybody to say that qualification and competence should be used as criteria for selecting the president in the 2023 general election when people are rooting for a president of Igbo extraction.

He explained that such advocates are assuming that competence belongs to a particular set of people in the country.

Nwodo said Nigeria had many competent people across all parts of the country.

According to him, “The challenge I see about selecting the president of Nigeria is in the process of selection. The process of selecting the president and leaders of the country is corrupt because it is monopolised by a few people in the country.

“It is so corrupt that people do not become even local government councillors without the nomination by a class of people who think they should be the ones to decide the fate of Nigeria. So, election into political positions have nothing to do with the competence and popularity of the candidate in his or her constituency and as such, the political parties have gained control of our electoral process in a manner that is difficult for new political parties to emerge and rise and it will take strong protests on the part of the people to change the game.”

He described Nigeria as the only country in the world where election disputes linger for one year after the conclusion of the election.

He cited the gubernatorial election in Imo State as a typical example.
Nwodo also lamented the docility of the youth, adding that although this may be due to the fact that they’re fed up with the system, they have to do something to show they’re angry.

He explained that in 1959, Nigerian students came out en mass to fight for Nigeria’s independence, adding that Nigeria needs young people to stand for the rights of the country, speak out in matters of public issues and make it possible for real political agitators to have followers who believe in them and in what they represent.
He stated that nobody would give the younger generation a chance to rule and urged them to be more active in the political process through persistence and demonstration of their capability to make them relevant.

Nwodo said: “I was 27 years old when I became the Secretary of the NPN (National Party of Nigeria) political party. For me to emerge winner as secretary, I contested with 10 other contestants and during our manifesto presentation, the 10 spoke before me and after I finished with my speech, I had a standing ovation from the Electoral College and the 10 other contestants had to withdraw. On three occasions when I went to the national executive meeting of the party, I was refused to speak and I had to shout out and forced myself on the party leaders in such a way that compelled them to give me an audience to speak. So, youths must be aggressive to change the corrupt structure of our political system.”

When asked to point few Igbos that have integrity and are ready to rule Nigeria, Nwodo declined to name anybody, saying that it will be divisive to do so.

But he explained that all political parties in the east have candidates with integrity that can rule the country.

“The young people of Nigeria are tired with bad leadership of governance in this country. But I am of the view that the younger generation must rise and do something that will make the political leaders recognise them,” he said.

Reacting to youths agitations across the country, Nwodo said often times people would tend to isolate the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) whose leader is Nnamdi Kanu, and brand them as bad youth’s movement, forgetting that the country has dangerous groups like Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram who are dangerous groups that kill people and burn down houses.

He also cited the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) from the South-west and wondered why people only single out the IPOB group.

“A situation where Fulani herdsmen kill people and they are not arrested is a typical example of corrupt government,” Nwodo said.

He added that if Nigeria remains under its current political structure, it will affect the future growth of the country.

Reacting to calls from the Northern elite that the Igbos must first build ‘bridges’ with people from other parts of the country before clamouring for the presidency, Nwodo said: “There is no ethnic group in Nigeria like the Igbo ethnic group that has reached out to people more than their own people.

“There is no part of this country that you will not find an Igbo man living in consonance with the people of the land and doing useful enterprise. The Igbos have contributed immensely to the development of the nation from every part of the country. They invest in schools, hospitals, hotels, retail and manufacturing businesses among others.”

Nwodo, however, said the greatest threat to the country remained its ethnic diversity, which is supposed to be its collective strength.

“We tend to be more loyal to our ethnic considerations than to the nation that we all belong to; and this is in opposition to our national constitution, which upholds a true federal character,” he said.

Nwodo also said the composition of the current leadership of the nation’s security agencies had shown a flagrant violation of the federal character principle as the appointments of the heads of navy, army, air force, police, customs, immigration, road safety and civil defence were drawn from a particular section of the country.
He described the arrangement as dangerous to Nigeria as a country and unacceptable.

On insecurity, Nwodo said the constitution must be rejigged to enable people to partake in community policing.
“We need local policing who understand the local communities better to address the issue of insecurity in the country. Under our constitution, every governor is supposed to be the chief security officer of the state and it is for this reason that most states are creating security outfits for local policing in the community,” he added.

Nwodo called on the federal government to institute a judicial inquiry into the allegations of corruption in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), adding that members of the National Assembly cannot be judges in their own case.

“If I have my way, I will dissolve all the different commissions in the country that are embezzling the resources of the country,” Nwodo stated.