Senator Clement Anene Okonkwo, a notable politician and established captain of business and industry, represented Anambra Central at the sixth Senate from 2007 to 2011 where he was the Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Environment amongst other sensitive committees including, Upstream Petroleum, Police Affairs, Agriculture etc.
He has also traversed different political platforms from one of the late Abacha’s transition parties, the DPN, to PDP, Accord Party and now APGA, a process that have honed him as a crusader of sorts. In business and in politics, he has tasted the ups and downs that has tempered his insights into rare foresight.
Today his activism centre’s around Committee 21, a Socio-political Group canvassing for a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction. Fresh from his international engagements in his pursuits, he shared his views with a cross section of the media on broad issues affecting the nation.
IGBO Presidency 2015?
The crusade for a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in 2015 is not just bones without flesh. It is not a slogan for grand popularity, neither is it a baby song to help us go to sleep and quit disturbing. Far from that. It is a political, social and economic reality that the culture of Nigeria as a political entity supports since 1914. It has become a necessity that fairness and equity made imperative. It has gone beyond the usual sentiments, intrigues and politics that lacks honesty and faithfulness.
If Nigerians still believe and accept that – in brotherhood we stand, then the best centenary affection we can dramatize to cement that resolve is to persuasively buy into the Igbo Presidency Agenda. To me, the wisdom of fair national preservation should convince politicians, businessmen, technocrats, school children, market women etc to reflect and dance this tune for once.
We will accommodate every alliance to realise this, we will respect every commitment we make in this regard. We assure Nigerians, they will get the best deal they have ever seen. Let us build trust by sacrifice and let our genuine sacrifice as a nation determine our true prosperity.
Igbo unity in this regard?
I am aware of the popular perception that Igbos are not united or not capable of speaking with one voice. I am also aware that politics is not only about speaking with one voice. It is more about speaking with several voices about the same issue. If there is any issue the many voices of over 50 million Igbos in Nigeria and the Diaspora have been consistent and united about, it is the sacred agitation for a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction. We should not malign this century old desire with day old excuses that Igbos are not united or cannot speak with one voice.
What is practical and clearly evident from this misinterpreted scenario, is the Igbo man’s exemplary passion for National Unity above ethnic exclusivity. That is why we have about 70% of our population spread comfortably in every nook and cranny of our dear country. They are there investing their live earnings, speaking the language of their hosts, assimilating their cultures and always remain their No1 development agents sometimes against aggravated attacks and selective mistreatment.
That is the open score card of our faith in National unity. And the test is for our fellow compatriots to accede to us this much sought after concession. We have adopted a multi level, multi partisan approach to the vital negotiations and engagements necessary. Committee 21 (C21) which I happen to be the President is one of the revving engines amongst many others advancing this timely frontier.
Corruption in Nigeria?
Very regrettably, there appears to be no new language to describe corruption in Nigeria. There is nothing new I will tell you that you have not seen or heard. Our grave picture of arrested development at a graying adult age is sadly the harvest of our corruption tragedy.
The havoc of what I call our Acquired Corruption Tragedy Syndrome (ACTS) is worse to our National life than AIDS is to our physical body. This is because while AIDS can be evaded through fear and discipline, corruption is lethally invasive with value killing propensity and impunity. Our easy accommodation to the pills of corruption and quick adjustment to its devastation, is a development taboo that we must vomit to make progress.
So don’t ask me whether the Government is trying or not in the fight against corruption. Assuming the government have not done much as is very obvious, should we the people surrender? We must have the courage to put our fingers in our throat and vomit this scourge in our system without hesitation. By that cleansing, we will serve the government a yellow card, and consequent red card if they still fail to act.
For example, the attack on corruption should be fought with the same intensity Americans fight terrorism internally and globally. The same momentum Muslims fight for their faith. No compromise, no half measures unless we have resigned to be buried as living carcasses in the decay. When governments and institutions that should fight corruption energetically make excuses as atonement for not performing, then darkness will assume superiority over light in our affairs. It is that sad.
While overseas, I read what Governor Rochas Okorocha said about Igbo marginalisation at an Ndigbo forum in Lagos recently. He admirably articulated the issue properly and proffered the way forward. He is an able member of the C21 group. I concur with him that the soft cries or loud moans of marginalisation without more, will not take us far as a race. In Nigeria as in other nations, people are constantly marginalised by race, culture, economic, religious and even gender. In reality, equality is a precept, because you will always have the rich and the poor, the good and the bad, the tall and the short.
What is significant is how many triumph do you make out of your perceived or real weaknesses. The Igbos have had economic marginalisation after the civil war when they were given flat 20 pounds. But they became giants of trade and commerce. Today we are being marginalised politically especially at the highest level of leadership in this country. Have we given up, No. Should we continue to cry without doing the necessary, No. Can we do something about it, yes. We must re-enact that can-do spirit of triumph to once again overcome, and I am certain, we will.
De-registration of political parties?
That was a surprise action bolt by INEC. My take is that it is better to do something than to do nothing. We have all lost count of the number of political parties that are supposed to engage us, educate us and canvass for our votes for acceptance. But we also know that most of these parties have long converted their certificates into title documents for personal ego and sundry trading. INEC feels it’s their duty to do something about them which they have done. Some of those affected have loudly said no, that INEC can not do that legally. That is the beauty of democracy.
We are eager to see them square up with INEC at the courts of Justice and I believe at the end of the day, our institution of democracy will be the better for it. What I may candidly suggest is that, it would have been more expeditious if this kind of matter can go straight to the Supreme Court so that it can be decided once and for all. That way, it will have less strain in the pockets of the litigants and save INEC too from operational pressures. But like I said, it promises to be an interesting and enriching combat.
As C21 President and member of APGA, what's your view on the festering APGA crises?
Interestingly, what you call ‘a festering APGA crises’ is gradually and steadily becoming a melting pot of rapprochement and reconciliation. APGA as a child of necessity has since gone past teething age, all thanks to our late Ikemba, Odumegwu Ojukwu. It has been weaned through crisis to a handsome adolescent, many thanks to our veteran Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh. The journey to firm adulthood is promising because it has the peerage of a profound pedigree.
The contentions and tendencies are yielding to this superior background, that APGA being of pure Igbo descent cannot be orphaned politically by individuals or groups. What I urge every Igbo man and woman to do now, is to step out boldly and identify en masse with APGA. The huge sentiments we enjoy is good, but active involvement is even better. APGA is our inheritance from our great Ikemba, Eze Igbo Gburugburu and must be protected like a rare heirloom.
Constitutional amendment and state creation?
The constitutional amendment being undertaken presently should cut a radical picture of thoroughness based on core principles of justice, equity and fairness. If we make the mistake of playing to the gallery with our usual sentiments and politics, the essence will be lost and the cynicism of the people that it is a staged jamboree will be validated. The issue of the cost of governance and the size of government should be taken care of down the three tiers of government. All impediments to the enthronement of merit and performance should be expunged.
True federalism may not come in one swoop, but clear progress in that direction should be made. The Judiciary should be mandated to establish special courts for corruption and economic crimes to end the gimmick of purchased injunctions and procured endless adjournments. Then of course, the big one, two more states from the South East. I understand that there are more that 42 wishes for additional states nationwide, but two of them are overriding necessity, the South East extra states demand. Let us heal that open sore to our national conscience.
Anambra 2014 appears to be the next stage to test our electoral transparency and integrity of popular participation. But ideally and constitutionally, Anambra 2014 should be preceded by Anambra 2013 with transparent elections into the local government councils. The arguments front and back why this deceitful abnormality have persisted for 12 years till date have gone sour, tasteless and worm ridden even in the mouth of those parroting them.
It’s a sad irony that beneficiaries of epoch constitutional legitimacy are the ones bequeathing this legacy of grand democratic illegitimacy. I heard that fresh promises in this regard have been served by the government to our people again maybe as a parting atonement. Anambrians are primed and ready. They deserve it. They should get it because they have been patient enough. Will the institutions responsible allow it? Only time will tell, and the time is short and ticking.
Igbos non investment in the media
This is one as one of our collective indictment. I may not know exactly whether it is the impatience with the long gestation associated with breaking even, or the fear of outright failure. But for the abiding faith of our senior brother, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu who has kept Champion Newspapers afloat for up to three decades, and our innovative Orji Uzor Kalu, who saw today yesterday, by setting The Sun Newspapers, the tunnel would definitely have been darker.
Maybe it’s more honourable that I consult them for tutorials before I can make faint attempts at coherent answers. But I thank all Nigerian Journalists and Media Professionals who have been making their mark to see that all shades of opinions are given fair representation whether they are investors or not.