Prof. Gregory Ibe is the founder of Gregory University Uturu (GUU), Abia State and one of the people eyeing the governorship seat for Abia under the platform of PDP in 2023. In this interview with MADUAKO ELEWEKE, he speaks on EndSARS protests, Abia State charter of equity, Nigeria presidency of Igbo extraction among other things. Excerpts:
What is your take on the state of Nigeria, especially the just concluded EndSARS protest?
EndSARS came like a surprise to everybody and they hash- tagged it,, which switched all over the world and everybody decided to follow the challenge, because it was a challenge.
In the modern time, you must see this kind of thing because of one injustice or perceived injustice along the line. They went for the police to the extent that they took the matter so far and what came out of it was surprising to every right-thinking person.
Yes, there is right for agitations, which the president said was provided for in the Constitution. If I may say, we ran it to a point that hoodlums took over it and we couldn’t meet the aim again. The aim of the agitation was to develop a template to speak to the authorities, but as far I was concerned it was a total confusion because I don’t know if we actually achieved anything apart from the responses the president or the government gave.
If it was coordinated well, it could have led to sitting down with the government and bringing out something reasonable for the system. People bought into it and it became marketplace and what we are left with today is that our critical infrastructures have been reduced to nothing.
Police cannot operate in a vacuum; they need buildings, vehicle to carry out their duties. I think, we have left more vacuum, more dangerous vacuum than we tried to cure.
Every community needs police and security men, and they are not having it now. Police is your friend and now, how can police be your friend under this condition?
I think, there must be a reform system that would reform whole Nigeria. The police code of professional conduct ought to be put in place so that an average person would be watching what the other is doing. What led to American problem was American police sitting on a black man’s neck till he died.
So, I think we continue to reform police until they get where they ought to be. They were not like this some 20- 30 years ago. This is a lesson to Nigeria. Police and government should be reformed totally. I should also call for different forms of police in the country.
Let create railway police, school police and others to reduce the pressure on the main police and their duties should be enshrined in the Constitution.
I will also want the police to be decentralized and give state some level of autonomy. If there are traffic police, they should not do the work of civil police.
In some states, there is complain that police have refused to return to duties. What is your take?
With the vacuum, the state governors will have to create state police, which everybody has been clamouring for over the years. I know that Federal government will not allow that vacuum to be, because it is very dangerous. Two wrongs do not make a right.
So, I appeal to our brothers and sisters in the Police to return to work and function according to the laws that guide their operations. It was the police extrajudicial killing that triggered off the protest.
In some states, Covid-19 palliatives were hoarded, while people were dying of hunger, what does that portend about our leadership?
When Covid-19 started, you could recall that Federal Government shared a lot of seized rice from customs to different states government.
Some state governors complained that the rice was not good for human consumption. Some states still shared them to their people to eat that way and they ate and by God’s grace they survived. I want to look at few scenarios before any other thing.
Those states they found these rice and food items, were those food items part of the Federal government palliatives given to states? Two, when were these food items received? Some states claimed that they just received those items, and they were waiting for another outbreak to share them.
Again, federal government gave each governor N1billion for the Covid-19 pandemic. What did the governors do with the money? The Kogi State governor stated this and I am quoting him. Federal government should ask them to give account of how they spent the money. How many molecular laboratories did we have in each state done by the federal or state government during the Covid-19? Without National Centre for Diseases Control NCNC, I don’t think we would have survive it. We should critically review what the governors did with one billion naira and additional money from the various donor agencies across the country.
N1billion is not a small money. If you have an existing
building, to build a molecular laboratory it will not cost
more than N25 millions and with N100 millions, one will do
about four molecular laboratories in each state and
everybody would have been tested. VTM is between N800 to N1000 for single probe and N1500 to N1800 for double
probe. Tell me why government could not flood the country with all these materials to test every Nigerian?
For me, they made wrong excuses. The foods that were meant for hungry people and you kept them without giving to them. If the epidemic break out again, there is a government and system, there should be another provision.
Why allowing people to suffer hardship when there was provision to soften their challenges? Those states making such excuses and statements should stop that and find another excuse to give.
It was possible because federal government responded quickly and timely by sending N1billion to governors.
Where are all these monies? Federal Government should institute a panel to investigate all these things and find out what happened.
The Israeli government, my company Skill G and my University Gregory University Uturu in Abia state jointly produced materials and donated to Federal Government. We also did palliatives in Abuja, Imo and Abia States and if I have opportunity, I would have done it to the whole country.
Again, during Covid-19, I made sure that people have food on their tables. That is what we called responsiveness when it comes to emergency. I want us to be our brother’s keepers. I am looking at the situation where all the rich men will be their brother’s keepers, not just for their constituencies but to everybody.
Recently, one Nigerian national newspaper Daily Trust honoured you, as Unsung hero. How do you feel?
It was a surprise, that a newspaper could honour me with that. When somebody drew my attention to it, I was looking at the pictures; I could not recognize anybody. I also believed that many people looking at my face may not recognize my face. I appreciated the honour and those who were honoured along with me as well as those who are yet to be identified in the same honour that have done well to human development and bringing succour to people.
My philosophy in life is that, do what is right for the people and for the alleviation of poverty. Support one another, build capacity of other people so that their tomorrow will be better, and they will investigate you and you will live a life of fulfillment.
That was what I feel that has happened and it has been my guiding principle. I appreciated the newspaper, the people that wrote about me. If I still have the opportunity, I will continue to do good for the people for societal good.
Ebonyi State House of Assembly recently gave PDP 7 days ultimatum to zone it’s 2023 presidential ticket to South East or face court action. Again, the Igbo youths are agitating for Biafra, while the elders are calling for Nigeria presidency of Igbo extraction. Which way Ndigbo?
Freedom of expression and politics is guaranteed in the Constitution, but when it is taken too far, one begins to ask questions. A party prompted you up and suddenly you decided to give it warning that if it doesn’t give you presidential ticket the worst would happen.
I think 7 days have elapsed and we are waiting for their worst to happen. As far as I am concerned, the PDP national should disregard the threat and let see how to achieve our dreams of South East producing president of Nigeria. It is surprising that such statement was coming from the South East and with these kinds of utterances our chances of producing president of the country keep getting narrow by the day.
I for one I have been promoting president of Nigeria from South East. I have been on it over the years. I founded a coalition to make sure that the dreams of every Igbo man, that Igbo man become of the country is actualized.
You see our condition is very precarious and somebody who wants to be president is given ultimatum to the party that prompted him up or move to other party. This running from pillar to pole in politics gives me a lot of concern;
it weakens the position of Ndigbo in Nigeria politics.
As it stands today, Ndigbo is ripe, qualified and the right people to produce the president of this country come 2023. Nigerians should give Ndigbo the opportunity as given to others to lead this country.
Nigerians should disregard all the agitations by some group. If the Igbo is made the president of this country, Nigeria will develop faster because their views, thinking and God’s blessings on them. Other tribes have ruled the country and I hope if the opportunity is given us, we shall deliver effectively to the surprise of many.
Are you saying that if the Igbo man is made president of Nigeria, the Biafra agitations will die?
It will. There is nothing to worry about, it will just fizzle away any day Igbo become president of Nigeria. Let me give an example, when the governor of Zamfara state introduced Sharia law and people asked Obasanjo, who is my boss about what he had to say, he said he has nothing to say, rather he will allow market forces to determine the operation.
You know that strength of the governor was dependent on monthly allocation from federal government and the internally generated revenue.
He invested heavily on buses for commercial purpose for women and for men. Under two years, he could not handle the buses carrying women again and the women started joining the men in the same buses. The market forces played it roles, and everything died naturally.
So, the issue of Biafra agitations will fizzle out the day the Igbo man is made the president of Nigeria.
In Abia state where you are aspiring to be Governor under PDP platform, the Ngwa people are still insisting on continuing in power, what is your reaction?
There are a lot of permutations going around, but everybody seems to be playing blind eye on what Abia charter of equity says.
The Abia state charter of equity says at whatever situation, we find ourselves and if the three senatorial have a shot, the I (Isuikwuato) must have it.
This is the guiding document, the elders have said it should be enacted as a law in the state, but those who have tested the power from our district sat down on it because they can manipulate it.
Whatever is of God, is whoever that is going against this, must also know that life doesn’t belong to anybody. Whatever that is in this world comes from God.
Whatever, we are doing we must remember that there were people who made sacrifice for the state. After these people have taken their turn, Isuikwuato must have their turn to lead Abia State.
Why would people want to change the rules of the game at the middle of the game? They should remove selfishness, anything that should bring rancour in the zoning arrangement and let us have a state that is called a state.
APC is making serious in-roads in South East, especially Abia. do you think APC is a threat to PDP in Abia State?
APC is a political party and the more you spend the more visibility you get. Politics is all about creating impression, even when all is not good, you keep telling people that all is well Whether, APC is coming up or not, there are more people in the state that believe in PDP.
Abia is PDP and majority of ndi Abia believe, trust, and have confidence in PDP. PDP will certainly get all votes and supports of Abians any time and any day.
However, that does not mean a downtrodden party cannot come take over the state because at the end, there must be minus and plus. If your government is not doing well, you can lose out from the seat and APC become the bride for the people.
APGA can also become the perfect bride of the state depending on circumstances If the PDP can maintain it’s structure and all the seamless zoning formula that has been working in the state, the way it has been working, then it becomes more formidable and the pride of the state.