Prince Tony Momoh
In this concluding part, Prince Tony Momoh, a former Minister of Information and Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council of the University of Jos (UNIJOS) speaks with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI in Abuja on clamour for Igbo presidency and other issues. Excerpts:
Given the manner President Buhari handled the issue of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), do you think the Igbos will cast their votes for him in 2019?
IPOB was an issue which was dealt with. IPOB said there won’t be governorship election in Anambra, was there no election? They were fighting injustice and they have a right to do so. But the fact is, IPOB is not the one that drive activities in this country. It is a group that has a right to air their views and government has the right to respond to those things. It is just like OPC saying there will not be election in the South- West and because of that people will now believe there won’t be election. No! People exaggerate things unduly. IPOB is a group that has made a demand, especially in the areas of restructuring, although they were talking about independence and not restructuring to get Nigeria as one but with concessions here and there to allow us drive fully on the democracy highway. They wanted to excise some part of Nigeria from the country and wanted it to be Biafra. They even included Midwest, Plateau, Benue and so on. That is not Biafra. So, it is like you want the tusk of an elephant and you ask of the whole elephant. So, it is an issue but it will not prevent the Igbos from voting. Look at what the government has done in the South East. Why is it that people who are of importance in Igboland today is joining APC?
But despite this defection, the party didn’t win the governorship election. Why is that so?
To me, it won because it had 78,000 votes. What was the score of PDP in the election? APC even beat PDP in the election. In the past election, APC wouldn’t have had up to 5,000 votes. All the governors in the South- East there is none of them who is not friendly with Buhari because he has been fair to them. He didn’t rig any election and apparently, APGA is not putting up any candidate for the presidential election. The Igbos are committed to APGA but the fact is if they are not putting up any candidate, they will choose who to support either APC or PDP and I bet, they will support APC.
Are you in support of youth presidency?
I am in support of youth presidency but I am also a supporter of President Buhari. It is now left for Nigerians to decide. It is whoever they vote for that will win. If the youths fulfilled all the necessary requirements and they have what it takes to president, so be it. Yesterday, I hosted someone who came from the United States here for about four hours. He said he wants to be president. I gave him the respect he deserves as a presidential aspirant but I gave him the bare facts. As a president, your party must have presence at least in 120,000 polling units. This guy has not even been introduced to his ward by his political party. It is one thing to dream, it is another thing to be realistic enough to know how far you can go. I like his vision but I told him the plain truth.
What are your fears for the 2019 elections?
No fears. You should ask me about hopes. The election will not be declared inconclusive. The election will be won handsomely and I can assure you that APC can’t lose. There will not be rigging.
Since 1999, why do you think it has been difficult for Igbos to occupy the highest office in the land?
The fact is the Igbos have been in a difficult place since the civil war. They started from scratch after the civil war and they had to re-establish themselves in the Nigerian polity and they had to start moving up slowly in the institution. Many of them their senior people in the Army were no longer there but they have moved in the Army to the highest level, even to the level of Chief of Army Staff. The Igbos are a wonderful people. For instance, at the end of the war, in spite of what you’ve had, they gave you 20 pounds. Every other thing collapsed. Then the Igbos came back to Nigeria and Nigerians celebrated with them and forgot that there was any war. Where they have property, apart from Port Harcourt, people were collecting the rents for them and gave it back to them. But the fact is climbing the social, political and economic ladder takes time. But because of commercial activities, they dominated the economic terrain in Nigeria, the Igbos are the main group of any city in Nigeria. Even in Lagos today, they have Igbos in the House of Representatives. But the Igbos are as disunited as the youths of Nigeria who wants to be president. We were in ANPP. We went to Lagos with the late ChubaOkadigbo who was Buhari’s running mate in the 2003 presidential elections. We met the Igbo chiefs in Lagos and asked for Igbo votes. The chief said we should come back the next day. We came back the following day and he said ‘look at that corner, that is N6m that PDP gave us. Bring us N6m and we will vote for you. I will return the N6m given to us by PDP to them. That is trading and I am not surprised because they are businessmen and they talk business. For you to be talking business, the highest bidder is the person you will befriend. Nigeria will always try to divide the Igbos through financial compromises. I speak truth to power, issues and institutions. If for instance, you have an Igbo aspiring to be president, you may have about 20 people from the same South East wanting to be president. The issue is, how can they sit down and say we decide that we want a particular person as our candidate? Nigeria knowing that weakness will cause trouble so that they cannot be united. That is the problem. It is just like Nigerian youths. The youths cannot be united. And also the problem of women, the women cannot be united. Nigerian youths cannot be united because they will be in demand by those who have money and then youths will be against one another fighting themselves on behalf of old men that they claim they want to drive away. These are very practical issues.
But do you think Igbo presidency in 2013 is realistic?
Why not? It is realistic. But they have to work for it. For instance, they cannot achieve Igbo presidency with PDP. This is because whoever comes from PDP if he wins the presidency will like to do eight years, but in APC, Buhari has already done four years. If he wins again, he will only do another four years and then Igbos will have more bargaining opportunity than when they are in PDP. And if any other party wins and then the person is from the North, the person will also like to do eight years. These are very practical things. They shouldn’t allow anybody deceive them.