Buhari can’t rule without Ndigbo –Ifeanyi Uba | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe


Buhari can’t rule without Ndigbo –Ifeanyi Uba

Posted: Apr 26, 2015 at 1:17 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Oil mogul and National Coordinator of the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN), Ifeanyi Uba, in this interview with journalists in Abuja, bares his mind on the outcome of the 2015 general elections, the impact of the TAN activities, among other national issues. Assistant Editor, JOE NWANKWO, who was there, captured some of the excerpts.



Many commentators are of the view that Ndigbo put all their eggs in one basket by solely supporting President Goodluck Jonathan. Now that Jonathan has lost, how do you see the life of Ndigbo in the opposition?

The Igbo voting for Jonathan was not unexpected. Ndigbo had quite a number of opportunities in his administration. Even though Jonathan did a lot for the Igbo, most of the things he did as president, went to the north. He did more in the north. For example, the Kashbila Dam is the biggest project handled by Jonathan’s administration, all the railways, Abuja, Kaduna and the rest of them. You know, all these dams and hydro-power projects are multi-billion dollar projects. They were all done in the north. Irrespective of that, the Igbo are still appreciative of the much Jonathan did for us. My position is that General Buhari should think of the Igbo and make them his friends, and if possible, do more than Jonathan did for us.

Coming to Lagos, Ndigbo have been in Lagos since the creation of Nigeria.  Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the great Zik, is the only Igboman that had represented Lagos in the legislature. Since then, no other Igbo man has been voted into the Lagos State House of Assembly. For 16 years that AD/ACN/APC have been in power, they never cared about giving an Igbo man a slot to vie for in the Lagos State House of Assembly, or to represent it in the House of Representatives, while we have Ndigbo everywhere in Lagos.

So, if truly you claim that you are a democrat, you need to practice it. If the APC has not given Igbo that opportunity in Lagos, then we think there is still animosity against the Igbo. There is a large population of Igbo in many parts of Lagos, like Surulere, Ikotun, Ojo, among others. So, it is expected that the political parties should factor them in their choice of candidates for elective offices. What we have therefore done is not something that we want the Lagos State government, or any person whatsoever, to be angry with. It is democracy in action.

They should take this as an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and see how we can be accommodated. That is all that we ask for; to be involved in the scheme of things.

I want the parties to recognise Ndigbo as part of the government. Nigerians are members of parliament in the UK. Why can’t people be elected in places where they have spent all their lives? We are not only talking about Igbo, we want this for all Nigerians, no matter where they come from. Igbo are spread all over the world like the Jews. The elections have come and gone. We should go back to being our normal selves by going back to the drawing board, to plan for the next line of action till the next election comes in. I am grateful to the residents of Lagos who by their votes showed that it is the candidate that matter and not where he comes from. The voters, by their votes, showed that the Igbo and other ethnic nationalities can call Lagos their home. I am grateful to Lagosians, who deemed it fit to vote for non-Yoruba, including some Igbo that were elected into the l House of Representatives for Lagos and also the House of Assembly in Lagos. This is a giant step forward for the nation.

What is your advice for Ndigbo now in the unfolding Nigerian politics? How can they return to the mainstream politics?

Well, I will try to balance things. My advice is not to Ndigbo alone, but to the Nigerian government as well. The government should embrace all Nigerians irrespective of their tribe or tongue. Our leaders must build a nation where people get what they deserve and are not deprived of what they rightly deserve on account of where they come from or do not come from. People must also live in peace wherever they find themselves. They must also respect the culture of their localities.

That is the incoming government?

Yes, they should balance Ndigbo first, by giving us additional states, making us to be like others, and stop marginalising us. That is one thing that is very important. If you do this to Ndigbo, there is no way, you will not be appreciated. Ndigbo are not asking for so much from government. We only ask for good governance, infrastructural development of Igboland, a merit-based society, conducive business atmosphere, level playing field, and security of lives and property. You know, they voted Jonathan, because, his government guaranteed them these. So, if they say we are going to give you an additional state, so that you have six states, like the other zones. For example northwest has seven states. We don’t want seven. Just give us six, like others. We will, like others, need to be reassured that we are part of this federation.

The second way to assure Ndigbo and cultivate their trust is to make them an integral part of the in-coming government. This is of utmost importance. In any case, I wonder how any government, which excludes Ndigbo or ‘punishes’ them because they did not vote for the President, will function. Such a government will unfortunately portray itself as petty and vindictive. I however do not think General Buhari will be persuaded to exclude or ‘punish’ Ndigbo.  He does not strike me as such a person. He is a great Nigerian with exceptional leadership qualities. Ndigbo have a special gift, which any government will be glad to tap into. You cannot do without the Igbo or indeed any ethnic nationality in the scheme of things in Nigeria.  So, it is my opinion that General Buhari and APC need to show love to Ndigbo. Once you show any Igbo man that you accommodate him, you can’t imagine what he will do in return. Four years is a long time to reach out and make new friends.

Now, let’s talk about TAN. Most of us know that a lot of money was spent on TAN. There are insinuations that TAN was funded with government money. Others say that you funded TAN with your money. What is the true position?

First and foremost, TAN was not funded with government money. TAN is a non-governmental organisation (NGO). We have a lot of friends that have been supporting us. Political campaigns cost money, so it is natural to expect that we spent good money on our media and grassroots campaigns. We are glad that our members and supporters were very supportive in contributing towards these campaigns. I believe that Jonathan is a good man, who meant well for this country, and I supported him, and I still have the believe that he is a good man. I saw sincerity in him. Let me actually say one thing that attracted me so much to Jonathan. It is the love and passion he has for Nigeria. His humility in conceding defeat shows the extent of his great love and belief in our nationhood. His statesmanship saved our nation from post-election turmoil and possible loss of lives and instability.

Could you clarify the issue of the TAN budget? Were the funds from your own pocket? Don’t you regret that Jonathan didn’t win?

Yes, I can say yes and no. One is that, you don’t invest and wish that the investment would go the way this one went. The election has come and gone. I would not like to open the old wounds, especially when the main actor in the whole episode has conceded victory. But for me, we had a lot of strategy. We have a lot of people all over Nigeria. We have a lot of data, we have a lot of information, which were meant to give us victory, but God knows the best. All I ask for is that we should move on. The election has been won and lost. We must unite to move Nigeria forward. Jonathan has conceded defeat to General Buhari. If you are in a boxing ring and your coach throws in the towel, that is the end of the game. I have chosen to respect his position and indeed that of Nigerians, even though it would have pleased me greatly to see Jonathan win.

Now that the PDP and GEJ have lost the elections, what will be the role of TAN going forward?

Our primary objective is to advocate good governance and the transformation of Nigeria. We will continue to stand on the legacies of President Jonathan and watch from the stand to see what the President-elect will offer Nigerians. We will rather wait for events to unfold. Since he made electoral promises to Nigerians, we expect him to keep those promises, which made Nigerians to vote him in. As I said earlier, we will continue watching from the sideline. I want to, however, note that we will support him in every form so that his government delivers on his campaign promises so that our people continues to enjoy the dividends of democracy.

Apart from this, TAN will embark on its other objectives, which are establishment of industrial parks in six geopolitical zones of the country before doing the same in every state of the federation. As we speak now, our foreign partners have shipped the first phase of the park, which will be installed at the regions that are ready. The industrial park will also serve as a vocational training centre for the youths on different things, among which is waste to wealth mechanism, business management and others.

TAN will also engage in humanitarian activities. Reaching out to the less privileged in the society to see areas we can help. Also, TAN will be involved in sports development, because, youths are very much active in this area. You may recall that TAN was in forefront of sports sponsorships. Many Nigerians benefited from World Cup sponsorship to Brazil. So, there are many thing TAN will do to help in our society.

Let us go to the issue of fuel subsidy scam. Your name was mentioned severally during the investigations. Would you want to enlighten us on how the matter ended, and if you were eventually cleared from it?

The Aig-Imoukhuede Committee, without giving me the right of fair hearing, declared that it had indicted me for fuel subsidy scam. The committee claimed to have indicted me even when their findings showed that we imported the products in issue. It was a farce. The committee clearly had a mind-set of what it wanted to achieve. I believe, there was a bit of conspiracy against me. It was all geared towards taking over my company. I stood firm in resisting the injustice. I dragged the Federal Government to the House of Representatives and insisted on a public hearing so that they can prove their case to the whole world. The committee was shamed during the public hearing. They made mistakes, you know, looking at my lifestyle or the things that I have achieved within a very short period of time. They thought, I had my hands deep into the scam. I have always insisted that anyone who has anything against me, should come out and show it to Nigerians. Up till today, I have never been charged to any law court for the so-called subsidy scam. I have in fact been cleared by the relevant security agencies, after very intensive and rigorous investigations. A clear conscience fears no accusation and I will be the first person to challenge anyone who has anything against me to prove it. The campaign provided an opportunity for people to carelessly resort to cheap propaganda against me. If not that I was not involved in subsidy scam, the police would have arrested me. These are shamelessly associated with politics here. It matters not that the statements are unfounded. So, the allegation is a classic example of the pull-him-down syndrome. I have never been indicted in any subsidy scam. The court also gave me judgment against the Federal Government, and then, I have nothing to hide.

Most businessmen prefer to stay in business and leave politics for politicians. But you are trying to change the roles. You are a successful businessman and a politician. How do you manage this?

Your question is rather interesting. Why would businessmen run away from politics? If you know you have no skeleton in your cupboard, there is nothing bad in aspiring to serve your people. Being a businessman should rather be a reason for going into politics because if you are able to manage and grow a business, you should try and do the same in politics. Politics is about service to the people and the management of public resources for the common good. If you feel you have got to a point that you have garnered leadership experience, you can serve people with your knowledge. You should not be stopped from serving your people. I am therefore in politics because I want to serve my people. It is a passion for me to serve. I have done so many things to create employment and the much needed services in the downstream sector of the petroleum industry. As the son of a teacher, I have been blessed by God. I will always use my wealth to give back to the society.

Do you still have any political ambition?

I did when I wanted to serve my state, Anambra, as governor. But, I don’t know if I will still want to contest. I am one politician that you cannot define as being over zealous to grab power. At least, in the present political dispensation, I am one of the few politicians, from Anambra State, that was involved in the mainstream of the nation’s politics without personally aspiring for any office. If I were desperate for power, I would have gone for a senatorial slot, or for the House of Representatives. But I said no, I don’t need anything. So, I don’t know. When next political opportunity will come, I may still say no, because, I am guided by my spirit, not of ‘wants’ of the world.

Do you regret supporting Jonathan in this election?

I have no regrets, but I have also regrets. I supported him because I believe in him. The people made a choice and we have all accepted it. We all have to work to ensure that we keep moving forward as a great nation. There is no time for regrets. The task of nation building should be our major pre-occupation. If it comes to the regret of being involved, or participating in the whole political campaign, I love it. It broadened my idea about politics in Nigeria. I have also learnt many things I did not know before. I think I am developing more day by day in terms of understanding the politics of Nigeria.

When I ran for the governorship of Anambra State, the experience I brought, you know, helped me in also working for President Goodluck Jonathan, but also, with what happened during this political dispensation, I have learnt much more political lessons. But, also, I am happy, that in some other states, especially in the south south, south east, Lagos, Akwa Ibom, and some others states, like in Rivers, we worked hard, even in some parts of the north, to make sure that we delivered Jonathan. But, I think Buhari had more influence in some parts of the country and we also had more influence in some. At the end of the day, he won the election.

Would you ever accept Buhari, as the president of Nigeria?

Why not? He is a man I respect a lot. The fact that I supported his opponent does not take anything away from the tremendous respect I have for him. He will be our next President. We have no choice in the matter. We owe him the duty of respect and obedience. We will pray for him. His success will bring about further growth and transformation to our nation.

So, what would you advice Nigerians to do in respect of Buhari as the president of Nigeria from May 29?

Well, the first publication I made, when we congratulated him, was to pray for him that God should give him the wisdom, good health to rule Nigeria. Honestly speaking, I am a fanatical member of the Jonathan’s political family till tomorrow. I want to make this known. I have a business that Nigeria needs. I don’t go for contracts. I have never done government contracts in my life. I have never touched any Federal Government contracts, I have never touched any government waiver, I am one of the cleanest Nigerian businessmen, and I can prove it. If you are a big man in this country, and come up and say look, I am better than Ifeanyi, I want you to come out in public and I challenge you. I am a very contented person. I am not saying this for what I will gain, the friendship I will make tomorrow. I am always here. If I get to understand General Buhari better than I understand him now, I will be closer to him. If he needs me, I will be there for him. He will be our President. I have always had my respect for him. Let me be, and let him be. I wish him well. I have an open mind. My doors are always open.

What do you say TAN gained, and what are we expecting from it in the future?

Well, I want you to note this today. If you walk the street of any Nigeria city today, there is no street in Nigeria, I am not even saying state, there is no street in Nigeria you will pass without having anybody wearing a TAN tee shirt. There is nobody you tell today, one out of every five, about TAN, and they will tell you they don’t know TAN.  So, I will say, through Jonathan’s campaign, TAN has been marketed to every nook and cranny of Nigeria. That is number one. Number two, the awareness created about TAN is so much that it has become bigger than some political parties today in Nigeria. It is something that is very important to us.

Thirdly, we have supported so many parties. We supported PDP to achieve in some states what the party did not achieve in 16 years. In Lagos, we supported and helped it support the six members of the House of Represemntatives. They testified to the fact that TAN supported them. Eight House of Assembly members were delivered with the help of TAN for the first time in 16 years. And I said, it is part of the movement. In Anambra State, we delivered all the senators, all the members of House of Representatives, in my own constituency. In fact, in my constituency, Mr. President got more votes than what he got in some states in Nigeria. We got more than 370,000 votes for him in my own constituency. So, you see my constituency delivered votes more than some states in the country. So, these are part of the work of TAN that if I look at the mirror tomorrow, I will say we had really done well.

I can’t be everywhere in Nigeria, but TAN did a lot to support the cause of the president. If you go to Ebonyi, Enugu, to every state in the south east, even in the north, there is no where you go to the market today, without seeing somebody putting on TAN’s tee shirt or wrist band, or anything that has to do with TAN. So, for us, we are growing, and I believe there is a national acceptance of TAN. I believe that in the next political dispensation, will say much about TAN. We made a lot of impact with Nigerians in diaspora. Therefore, looking at the general outlook of TAN’s contributions, we are grateful that, at least, we had that opportunity, using Mr. President, to also launch our NGO across the globe. So, it is something so remarkable even for us, which so many homes might not see the end value today. But those, who understand political language, know what TAN stands for.

What impact did people in the diaspora made in the just-concluded elections?

People in Diasporas can always make calls, their opinion matters a lot as they have a lot of dependants in the country who vote. They understand what we stand for. We will look at the current regime. Like I said, if they think we can do something together, we are ready to render our services, and then we can have discussions on the way forward. But for me, and for TAN, we are an NGO that stands for good governance

What is your first advice to Buhari?

To totally deregulate the petroleum downstream sector, and take the state governors (APC and opposition) to a retreat to chart a course for Nigeria’s economic growth and management, waste management and competition in governance.

What do you like most about Buhari?

I love his respect for his wife, children and the grassroots people. I also admire his doggedness and perseverance. His refusal to give up after failing for some time is a great lesson in not letting failure distract you from your objective.

What will say to President Jonathan?

May God bless and care for him.

What is your advice to Nigerians?

To love our country, be peaceful, honest, show pride in our nation, and show undiluted commitment to national development.