Local Politics

1966 still haunts Nigeria —Toe Ekechi

The former director, Presidential Election Planning and Monitoring, All Progressive Congress, APC, Dr. Toe Ekechi in this interview bared his mind on the recent dissolution of APC’s National Working Committee, NWC by the National Executive Council, NEC, what is expected of the incoming party leadership, the mutual North-South phobia that exerts enormous influence in the distribution of human and material resources and how to mitigate it, the possibility of Igbo Presidency in 2023 among other salient issues of national concern. Excerpts.

The National Working Committee (NWC) of your party, APC was recently dissolved by NEC, what is the implication of this for the party?

The political space consists of elements of varying structures and strength. It is this variety that makes the polity whole and gives it the perceived or real force. It is a good lesson to learn that for the party to remain strong and alive such elements or components must enjoy due respect and courtesy even when some must be in the majority, while others in the minority. In the last days of the National Working Committee, it was obvious even to the lay man that the party became pregnant with many life-threatening complications. Things were falling apart and the centre certainly could not hold. The surgical team led by the party’s surgeon general opted for the only option of aborting the pregnancy. It was in my opinion, a case of aborting the child to save the mother. It is no victor, no vanquished. Perhaps, the only winner is the party.

By December, a new leadership would be ushered in. Would the new team learn to respect and tolerate dissenting voices?

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Kingdoms will rise and kingdoms will also fall. With President Buhari completing his second term and ineligible to run in 2023, the brand equity of APC is already suspect. It will be worsened by any further infighting. A factionalized APC presidential ticket may worth nothing after all. Let those who have ear, hear.

Going by your argument does it not suggest therefore that this government is unpopular?

Not at all. For many decades it has been our lot seeing government as an institution outside the people and sometimes in competition with the people or even against the people.

This attitude of Nigerians is not an APC nor a PDP phenomenon. It is historically a socio-cultural cum political phenomenon. If you like call it an inherited tradition, albeit an unfortunate one. But somehow we must break the jinx and I think this administration has an opportunity to break that jinx.

Do you share in the view that mutual suspicion has prevailed between the North and the South for a long time thereby causing a setback to national development?

One of the major accidents of Nigeria’s chequered history remains the coup and counter coup of 1966. There might have been mutual suspicions earlier but it was the perceptions and interpretations of the coups of 1966 that was to define tribe and race in a meaning that is peculiar to our country. The Military used it to rationalize their incursion into government, while politicians latch on it as a tool and mechanism of attaining power. Now it manifests as a mutual North-South phobia that exerts enormous influence in the distribution of human and material resources. Any society that fails to distribute, apportion or deploy its resources on the basis of true need, use and capacity will no doubt continue to hurt its national development goals.

What is the panacea? 

Thus, the fall out of the twin coup has continued to haunt us till date and is not likely to abate unless there is a massive revolution that will reverse the peoples psyche. I mean an idea revolution which can only be achieved when an untainted model gets into power and presides with the people, and who by his actions and inactions will naturally spur the citizens to embrace the Nigerian nationhood. This will mark a pivotal departure from love for the country to love for the nation. Experience has clearly shown that the cleanliness of a leader alone is not enough to instill confidence in the people. Anybody who is directly associated with a leading leader must also be clean and should be subjected to the same protocols and tests of selfless service. The mutual suspicion between the North and South is simply a crisis of confidence that can only be addressed by an assurance of confidence.

What is your take on Igbo presidency in 2023, is it a ruse or reality?    It is neither a ruse nor a reality. It is a plausible possibility. What I find detestable is the thinking in some quarters that the presidency would be handed over to the Igbos on a platter of gold. Those who propagate this mentality consider the Igbo political class as political orphans who should be given power out of pity. This is both unfortunate and illogical. Even in real life no orphan gets a fair share of the commonwealth without a convincing ‘fight’. In spite of what you may consider to be our disadvantaged political stature, it is important we play the appropriate politics so befitting of the circumstances for us to excel. I must say this, commitment to fight is both a personal challenge and a communal responsibility.

Those who wish to become Igbo President or who crave for an Igbo President should rise and work the talk. The race to the presidency is daunting, costly and long distance. It is a huge risky investment which only those who dare may win. It is only when two equities are perceived to be equal that the first in time may prevail. The argument for equity and good conscience can only be on the side of the Igbo man who shows courage and conviction. But 2023 is not the era of big names with long, convoluted political history. 2023 is the era of ideas, statesmanship, integrity and above all unassailable character. It is an era of the untainted virgin. Whether Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa. Only those who can convince Nigerians of their trusts will be trusted with power.

A school of thought has traced our tribal and religious divide to leadership deficit. Do you agree?

No doubt that would have been the ideal scenario. But the damage has been done and it would appear to me that the trauma of the damage can only be healed if all parts of the country could be allowed to test power even for shorter durations compared to what the north and west have enjoyed. It is only after this we can truly and sincerely talk of politics without ethnic or religious connotations. June 12 would have brought us to the end of politics of religious sentiment but the powers that be torpedoed what would have been Nigeria’s finest political moments.


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