INTERVIEW: Mbazuluike Amaechi Reveals Why Zik Couldn’t Be Nigeria’s Elected President


Mbazuluike Amaechi

ABAKALIKI, EBONYI STATE (SUN NEWS) Chief Mbazuluike Amaechi, an elder statesman and First Republic Minister of Aviation was in Abakaliki,Ebonyi State to see Governor David Umahi.

He spoke with journalists on his recent visit to President Muhammadu Buhari with some Igbo leaders, the militarization of Southeast and the quest for Nigeria president of Igbo extraction in 2023, among other issues. Excerpt:

You led some Igbo leaders to see President Buhari recently. Can you tell us some of the major reasons for the visit?

A few days ago, I led a small delegation of Igbo leaders to meet the President of Nigeria on the growing tempo of violence in Nigeria especially in the Southeast. The president was happy to receive our delegation, and our discussions were frank, sincere and all targeted at advancing peace and full reconciliation and we are expecting a positive result.

What is your mission in Ebonyi?

I have come to Ebonyi State to greet the governor who is the Chairman of the South East Governors Forum, and seek their support in our efforts to find peace. I am deeply worried and pained by the new spate of violence between some policemen and civilians who were said to have been killed and I am appealing to all who may be involved in these crimes to please seize violence and give peace a chance. Whether they are of IPOB or MASSOB or known or unknown gunmen or agents of any organ or personality should please stop it now. You can never achieve peace or reconciliation through violence. As the only surviving minister and member of the government of the First Republic I appeal to all to please respect my age and help me to make peace , before returning to my maker. I want to comment on the new spate of violence. I am trying to bring peace and freedom to Igbo land. You people are young elements , you don’t know what pleasant place our place was before, we grew up at a very difficult time , at a strange time where there is no food, no money , nothing and your money have no value again and everything has been destroyed and we are trying to bring back that peace. Today, in Igbo land, from Abakaliki to Enugu , I know it is used to be about 35 minutes drive , but now if you have no escort, it will take you about an hour or two because on the roads there are checkpoints upon checkpoints. In our own side, Anambra, Imo and Abia, you need to see what is happening there. People are travelling, they are made to come down, all passengers in a lorry or a bus, men, women, children. Women who are pregnant, women who carry children at their back, they are made to raise their hands above their head. This is not a free country. So, these are the things I want to stop. And I want to stop the killings, I have the capability of saying it, one of the discussions I had with the president last week, was the safety of Nnamdi Kanu detention and the whole situations and how it should be handled, how to reconcile the Igbo side of this country who were the leadership of the struggle for independence and creation of the country and to reconcile them with the rest of the country. We have been isolated since the war ended, we are not given responsible positions in the country, the economy has been destroyed, the only seaport at Port Harcourt is closed because it was close to the Igbo. Our traders order their goods and they arrive at Lagos and from Lagos , to Abakaliki or to Onitsha. The customs molest them on the road and take more of the profits they will make in the business . People are suffering now, you people are in hell now. In Ebonyi State, I don’t know why they had to allow the Nkalagu cement factory to die. Nkalagu cement is the only major industry in Ebonyi State so far. And it was the major thing that sustained us during our time and at that time , if you pay N200, at Nkalagu cement they will deliver to you one lorry load of cement, 200 bags of cement anywhere in the eastern part of Nigeria. Today, that place is closed, it must be re-opened . I have seen the wonderful thing that the governor is doing here, I have seen the development here, but the next phase will be to put an industry here .I am not dying tomorrow, I am 93 years old ,I will live and see this development and you people will live and see it and grow with it.

Giving how the country is going especially the treatment being meted to the Igbo,what message do you have for the Igbo youths?

Well, my message at the moment, particularly when the Igbo are at the receiving side , is for the Igbo to use that Igbo sense , silence is golden . You see there is one weakness Igbo people have, what you will do tomorrow; you say it today. I will do this tomorrow, if you do it tomorrow it is no longer news , if you don’t do it tomorrow the shame is yours . So the best thing is for them to use their sense. Let us work silently. God has given the Igbo land the blessings of men, women and children who are hardworking and self-reliant and education is very high in our place, so with proper management and discipline, with proper planning we will succeed. We will come back to the original position of the Igbo in Nigeria.

Some people are saying that you went to Abuja to discuss with the president on how to release Nnamdi Kanu , but failed to discuss the main issue of marginalization which is fueling the agitations of Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB?

People who are saying that are putting the cart before the horse before that should draw it. This marginalization issue has always been there and also being discussed. They cannot be solved in a violent way.It is when we have this young man out, then we will have dialogue. Dialogue is the only thing, meet people, solve their problems, give and take .That was how we applied it in our time.

Nigeria president of Igbo extraction has continued to elude the Southeast since the end of the civil war. 2023 is already by the corner. What is your thought on this and your advice to Igbo politicians?

First of all, let me take you back a little to history. Ndigbo lost a very bright chance of producing the president of Nigeria in 1979. Dr Azikiwe called me in April 1978 and told me as his field man in his time to go back to Nigeria and tell them that he wanted to come back to politics. I went to Lagos , I contacted Shehu Shagari and said I have come , how do we work together to get this one . So, Shagari summoned two other people from the North , Shettima Alimonguno and Sunday Awoniyi from Kwara State . Then I went with Azubuike Okafor and Dennis Osadebe . We were holding meetings in Lagos at the residence of Shehu Shagari and I was reporting to Zik until we eventually agreed on a platform called NPN, that Zik will be the presidential candidate and Shagari will be his running mate . So I came back and reported to Zik and Zik said it is good, you know it is the Emirs that determine, are you sure that this your agreement that the Emirs will not knock it off? So, I went back to Lagos and told Shagari this is the fear of the old man , then Shagari dismissed it and said he was in consultation with our Emirs . Then the following week, the Sultan of Sokoto sent the Emir of Zaria to Zik at Nsukka with four pieces of brooked and four pieces of round footstool they make in the North and to tell Zik that they the Emirs in the North are in support of what the politicians are planning. Zik said again ,but what about the soldiers , the soldiers might take up the government again if we win the election. And I said to him, Owelle if they kill you now , they didn’t kill you early. He said, get out this foolish boy, and we laughed, I went back to Lagos and told Shagari , this is what Zik is saying again about the Army. Shagari said haba, does that man really want to be president, why all these? Okay, I will get in touch with the Army, come back in the evening. We will have dinner in the evening. Then in the evening I went back to his house in Victoria Island in Lagos and there Danjuma came, Danjuma was the Chief of Army Staff then. So, the three of us had dinner and Shagari then told Danjuma this is the fear the old man is nursing about the election. Danjuma said no , no, no , but he is the real man we want. It is that kind of elder that we really want that will bind this country together. Alright I can’t go to Nsukka because if I go to Nsukka the press will catch me, go back and tell Zik that I am going to Calabar on Saturday to Army’s sports , I will make a speech at army’s sport at Calabar and in that speech I will send a message to him. So, on that day Danjuma went to Calabar and made the speech and said that he was reassuring the nation that the Army was ready to hander over finally to a civilian government and return to the barracks, but they must warn that the person that they will hand over to must be an elder that can unite the country, not to somebody that will come and cause problem again. He must be a father; a true father of the nation. Suddenly, Jim Nwobodo lost nomination with Onoh in the party and went back to the other party called NPP and went to Zik and asked Zik to dump whatever arrangement he was making and come to NPP, that NPP is our own party, Igbo party and we will put you in the government, and suddenly Zik changed his mind and he made announcement that a plan for his birthday in November 1978 at the Presidential hotel Enugu is cancelled and it was that day he was supposed to be presented to the nation. The motion was to be moved by Maitama Sule from Kano to be seconded by Tony Enahoro from the West and I will speak last from the East. He made a statement that he had cancelled his birthday party. I was shocked and I went back to him on the 17th of November and asked him what happened, he said Jim came to him and gave him reasons he should join them in NPP. And that he thinks it was better for him to belong to a party of his people. That he didn’t want to go to a party where Akinloye will be the national chairman and he also didn’t want to belong to the same party with Mbadiwe ,reminding me what Mbadiwe did to him. He gave all these flimsy excuses . In my book, I wrote the history of Nigeria, you will see it. I said Zik made Jim Nwobodo governor and unmade himself president, that was what happened. That party at Enugu that was aborted, Osadebe came and went to Zik’s house, they did not allow him to see Zik, they told him that Zik was sick , that night Osadebe was going back and he had an accident and got paralyzed till he died, Moji Lagbaje from Ibadan a close associate of Adelabu came for the party at Enugu, it was aborted , he went to Nsukka to see Zik and he was told that zik was not feeling well and he couldn’t see him. On his way back to Ore he had an accident and died with three leaders with him, four of them died in his car . That was how he lost the opportunity of becoming Nigeria president. So the party moved around and nominated Shehu Shagari. Then on the 13th of January 1978 at Kwara State hotel , I was there on a campaign tour, Shagari as the candidate already nominated was to choose and announce his running mate. So he called me in the hotel on the 13th of January with Akinloye the national chairman and told me that they have selected me to be his running mate and I said Shehu thank you very much, you know my association with you, I am a very sincere man , I can’t see myself running for a lower position when Zik is running against you. I can’t run an election to defeat Zik. See, Igbo people will not forgive me, my children will not be able to explain it and so I am not going to accept it. And so I nominated Alex Ekwueme to be the running mate. That was one opportunity we had. Then during the return to democracy in 1998, Ekwueme ran for president , the same Jim Nwobodo went to the North again and betrayed Ekwueme when they were in Jos convention when PDP were selecting their candidate. And that was how we lost again. Now as for next year I think the country, many horses that have grown in other parts of the country and they are people who are not happy to see the Igbo come back again. But they are people who are giving a rethink to what has been happening all these years and they will want in order to bind the country together to have a true Nigeria , a true federation where everybody will belong and they are prepared to cooperate with the Igbo. The trouble we have now is like I called a meeting in my house , a joint meeting of PDP and the APC, I told them look APC go to your party , work hard , nominate an igbo presidential candidate. PDP go to your party, work hard and make sure you nominate an Igbo presidential candidate, let them contest and whosoever wins is an Igbo man. But if any of the major parties nominate another person from another place, it will be a very big contest, and it will be very difficult for an Igbo man to win on the platform of any of the other small political parties. But the question is that I don’t think that the Igbo politicians are applying enough strategy. You see, to get such a position you have to plan and strategize ,you have to organize, you have to move , you have to mobilize and you don’t making noise. You do it quietly before people know what you are doing, like I said if you say what you want to do tomorrow so much today, if you do it tomorrow it is no longer a news. But if you fail to do it, then you will be termed a failure. So, the best thing is to come out with a surprise and that is the best strategy. I am still alive and I am prepared to help them to plan if anybody comes to me .