Onyeka Amadi Okoroafor, a third Republic senator is respected for his integrity and principled stance on issues. Okoroafor, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party has been a national delegate in all the party’s conventions since 1999. He speaks on some national issues in a recent interview with Ndubuisi Francis
What is your take on the agitation by some in the North that the zone should produce the next president in 2015?
I think the North has not been fair to us; they have not been fair to the South. Nigeria is 53 years old and out of these 53 years, the North has ruled for 39 years. We (South) have barely done 15 years. We’re talking about equality. The problem with this country is inequality in all ramifications; that is what is putting this country down. The Igbos have been president only six months. Nobody should be talking about the presidency going back to the North. Jonathan is doing his first term. He’s only three years in office. In 2015, if Jonathan decides to go back, we shall back him till 2019. In 2019, it will be the turn of the South-east. There’s no question about this. It’s after then that we can start talking. So, as far as I am concerned, they have to wait. They had it for 39 years, we kept quiet. Let’s have it for some time too. And any person from the South accepting the post of vice president (we had a resolution during the recent Southern leaders meeting), I think we will not take it kindly. All the political parties should reserve the position of President for the South. Let the vice president go to the North until after the Igbos have ruled. I understand, if they amend the constitution and make it six years for the president; that should be 2025. As far as I am concerned, the presidency will remain in the South. There’s no question about it.
Are you referring to the South-South and South-East or the entire southern part of the country because if you look at the political configuration, most of the states in the South-West belong to a different political party—the ACN? Are they flowing with you in this seeming political realignment?
Politics is about the people – it’s not about the political party. If you are talking about something that affects the people, parties – whether you are ACN or PDP should listen to the yearnings of the people. If politics is all about the people, political parties should come under the people. If you are talking about the people, I expect the ACN to toe the line of PDP and other political parties in terms of the presidency.
Talking about Ndigbo, one of the problems that a lot of people have come to associate them with is that they can barely forge a common front. If this permutation works and President Goodluck Jonathan has another four years come 2015, do you think that the South-East will forge a united front to enable them produce the next president in 2019?
You know the mistake people are making? A lot of people make this erroneous assumption that the Igbos are divided. The South-East is the most homogenous zone in the country. There are no splinter organisations in the South-East. If you go to the South-West, you have Afenifere, Yoruba Unity Forum and others; go to the South-South, everyone is talking on his own. Go to North-Central, it’s the same thing. I think the Igbos are coming to terms with themselves to know that we cannot do it except we come together. What I do suggest and I am suggesting is that we the Igbos should have a scorecard. We should have criteria and those who fall within the criteria should be the ones to be put forward. We have not done that and I assure you, we are going to do that. Many people ask who the person is? What a stupid question! There are many qualified Igbos as there are many qualified people from the North-West, North-Central, North-East, South-South – anywhere. It’s just for the leadership of the Igbos to come together and establish criteria and that criteria will form the basis for those who want to contest. We should do an in-house cleansing, and after that, we come out. I think we can do it.
Politics is all about horse-trading. It is generally perceived that when the Igbos are giving bloc support to any candidate (as was the case with President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011), they do not put forward their collective interest or extract some kind of commitment from those they are supporting in order to better the lot of their people. Now that southern leaders have met to support a South-South candidate in 2015, what guarantees did the South-East receive from their South-South compatriots to reciprocate their support when it is the turn of the Igbos to take a shot at the presidency?
That’s a very good question. In 2011, Jonathan won the presidency with 30 per cent of total Igbo votes; we did not do any horse trading or agree on anything. I think the situation