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Ndubuisi, CEO, Far East Group: 2023: Nigeria’s unity in jeopardy if presidency eludes South

George Ndubuisi, CEO, Far East Group and Chairman TopNews Publishing Company Nigeria Limited, has warned that for the unity of Nigeria to be sustained, the Presidency must shift to Southern part of the country.

He said any attempt by the North to retain power after the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure will cast doubt in the minds of the people in the other geo-political zones over the corporate existence of the country. Ndubuisi also called the people of Abia State to uphold the Abia Charter of Equity and ensure Abia North produce the next governor of the state in 2023.  He spoke on other issues with DICKSON OKAFOR

What’s your impression of the Presidential campaign so far?

We are at a time again when Nigerians either cogitate or ruminate and even agonize over this land of our forebears. Yes, February 2023 general election holds great significance in several areas. It will either be a paradigm shift or a stiffening of the status quo.  I pray it will be a paradigm shift for the nation to continue to enjoy indivisible corporate existence as the largest black nation in the world. We all expect that these should form the bases of issues driving the campaign of the Presidential candidates in next year’s election. Unfortunately, so far, it has been a war of words. As I speak with you, Nigerians want to hear how these candidates will revamp our economy, how they can transform our education system, how they can guarantee quality and affordable healthcare. They want to hear how the Presidential candidates will put an end to insecurity which is the greatest challenge facing the nation. How the nation’s highways can be fixed without delay. And how they can ensure that rule of law prevails at all levels. Regrettably, only few of these Presidential candidates have told us how they can achieve some of these pressing issues if elected President of Nigeria next year.  So, these are also some of the factors that will determine who the electorate will vote for after listening to the campaign promises. Of course, the Presidential candidates of the main political parties are the ones that have been so loud in their campaigns which are not issue driven, but attack on each other. I pray they won’t continue like this as they go ahead. So, I can’t say what my impression is concerning the campaign so far because it is only the candidates of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP) that have flagged off their Presidential campaign. 

How sure are you that campaign promises made by these candidates will be fulfilled if any of them is elected next year? 

It is obvious that in six decades of post-independence Nigeria, leaders – both military heads of state and civilian presidents could not revamp the nation’s economy, even the socio-economic conditions of citizens, the quality of lower and higher education, crumbling infrastructure, poor healthcare and the terrible condition of roads. Certainly, they have not kept their campaign promises. That is why all is not well with Nigeria, regardless of mouth-watering campaign promises as political optimists had made to us believe. But this time, Nigerians are no longer interested in campaign promises contained in the manifestos of political parties; rather we are interested in the ability to execute and fulfil such promises. Nigerians are interested in competent and capable individuals as Presidential candidate they will vote for to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari. Therefore, it is clear that Nigerians have made up their mind to vote a competent person to preside over the affairs of the nation next year.

The insecurity in the land has continued to manifest with the destruction of INEC offices and electoral material in some states. Isn’t this a source of concern?

This is the particular assignment majority of Nigerian voters elected President Buhari to come solve when we felt that the then President Goodluck Jonathan as a civilian didn’t have the capacity to eliminate terrorists, Boko Haram. But we have realized that even President Buhari could not dare them. Yes, President Buhari promised to end insurgency and terminate insecurity within two years of his administration and we believed him, but today it has dawned on us that the causes of insecurity is beyond our imagination. I can’t assure you that any of the Presidential candidates will eliminate terrorists and restore security in the country within his tenure. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has indeed, expressed fear over insecurity in the North East, Middle Belt and South-East, hence it made it clear that it won’t send its ad-hoc staff to those areas if security did not improve. Therefore, I can only advise whosoever will succeed President Buhari if by God’s grace INEC was able to conduct huge free and fair election in 2023 the measures he should take to end insecurity in Nigeria.  The possible steps to ameliorate the current security situation can be in three key steps. First, the level of economic deprivation is the major root cause of the unprecedented level of insecurity currently experienced not only in states, but in Nigeria, and confronting issues around socio-economic development would be paramount to solving the problem. However, without delay, anyone elected as President in 2023 should  first carry out investment in the right infrastructure such as education infrastructure and health infrastructure. Also, most importantly, job creation. And he must make concerted efforts by putting in the right policies and the right persons to implement such policies especially in the area of security.

What is your take on the allegation by the APC presidential candidate that he refused to attend a town hall organised by a particular station because the station wanted to collect money from him?

I least expected such comment from the Presidential candidate of APC. The media is not known for such and there is no reasons that should make Tinubu accuse the media outfit of collecting money from him before he could be allowed to appear in the station or their stories published in a newspaper or magazine. I urge Tinubu to tender an apology, not only to the TV station, but to Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).

The Presidential candidate of PDP, Atiku Abubakar told northerners that they do not need a Yoruba or an Igbo candidate, but that they should vote for him because he is a pan-Nigerian of Northern origin. Isn’t that a tribal agenda?

I’m not surprised when I heard the statement credited to the Presidential candidate of PDP and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Because this has been the mannerism since we gained independence in 1960. Our political space has been dominated by campaign of ethnicity, religion and personal interests. And this was why Atiku reminded Northerners in Kaduna not to vote Igbo or Yoruba candidates in next year’s presidential election. It’s not a new campaign strategy adopted by Nigeria politicians, but it won’t play out next year. As it stands now, the three major tribes in the country have Presidential candidates vying for President and a northerner will not hand over to another northerner in 2023. It is crystal clear that the Presidential candidate of APC, Bola Tinubu is the preferred candidate of people in the South-West; Atiku Abubakar of PDP is preferred by Northerners while the Presidential candidate of Labour Party Peter Obi is the candidate of South-East. So, this has been the way we play politics in Nigeria except in 1993 when Nigerians set aside primordial sentiments and voted massively for late Chief MKO Abiola. But because of the Nigerian factor, that Presidential election that was the freest, transparent and peaceful ever held in the country was annulled by President Ibrahim Babangida. Meanwhile, I join other well-meaning Nigeria to condemn tribal politics being promoted by politicians during their campaign as exhibited by Atiku Abubakar. One thing is clear: the unity of Nigeria will be in doubt if the Presidency eludes the Southern part of Nigeria in 2023.        

The rotation of the governorship seat in Abia State is under contention, with Abia North people claiming it’s their turn in 2023. What’s your take?

Admittedly, rotation of governorship position, speaking in absolutes terms, began with former governor and Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu in 1999 to 2007 from Abia North Senatorial district in line with Abia Charter or agreement which has existed till date. Unfortunately, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has bridged the charter by giving the ticket of PDP to Prof. Uche Ikonne from his Senatorial zone. No doubt, this move is a problem that has not existed before now. For this reason, Abians have decided to cast their votes for a competent and credible candidate from Abia North in 2023. This becomes necessary because the zoning arrangement of governorship position has been thwarted by the governor, PDP and the other political parties in the state. Meanwhile, Ikpeazu knew that the governorship position has gone round the three Senatorial zones, but he decided the renege on the agreement. That was the reason Dr. Gregory Ibe defected from PDP to the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) while the former Minister of Mines, Uche Oga of APC, all from Abia North are in the race. So, to answer your question, among all the governorship candidates in Abia State, Abians have decided to throw their weight behind either the APGA governorship candidate, Dr. Gregory Ikechukwu Ibe or Uche Oga in 2023.

Who are you pushing for between Ibe and Oga?   

Politically speaking, all politics are local. You will agree with me that before now primordial sentiments have preceded all considerations at the beginning of any political evolution. Fortunately, this time around, the people, especially the youth, want the rotation agreement to continue. That is why any of the two will emerge Governor Ikpeazu successor. As it is Abians have decided to vote for a competent, capable individual with track records and good character. They prefer any of these my brothers. However, because Oga’s candidacy is under legal contention, we are working hard to ensure Gregory Ibe succeeds Governor Ikpeazu. Don’t forget Ibe is not the only governorship candidate from Abia North. Yes, Uche Oga and Gregory Ibe are my brothers from Uturu, but as I speak to you APC governorship ticket is in dispute between Uche Oga and Ikechi Emenike..    

But you were a strong supporter of Uche Oga when he contested for the governorship. Why the sudden transfer of your support to Ibe?

That is a remarkable question. Like I said earlier, both are my brothers and they are competent to govern Abia State. We will be happy if any of them emerges governor of Abia State next year. Both of them are tested and trusted and you know that to be trusted is a great compliment than being loved. Uche Oga is loved by all Abians. This is his third attempt and he served under President Muhammadu Buhari before he resigned to contest for the APC governorship ticket this year.  So, Gregory Ibe has a clean sheet also and both of them are the choice of Abians. Aside being resourceful persons, their human development skills were distinctive. So, my support for Uche Oga or Gregory Ibe is intact.   

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