By Peter Anosike
American-based physician, Dr Ifeanyi Chukwuka, has advised Nigerians to root for the political party that would be ready to guarantee them regular electricity supply, saying that constant power supply is the first thing Nigeria needs to grow rapidly.
In this chat with Sunday Sun, the former Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and ex-Special Adviser to three governors of Anambra State: Col. Mike Atta, Chinwoke Mbadinuju and Dr Chris Ngige, opened up on why he forayed into politics despite the clamour by his clients to remain in medical practice, his exploits in NOA and why he left the agency. He also advised Nigerians on what to do in 2023. Excerpt:
You are a trained doctor, but before you travelled out to America, you joined politics in Nigeria, what happened?
When I left the university and established my own hospital, the stack reality of Nigerian government disorganization confronted me squarely. I was like a fish thrown out of water into a dry sand. The university in those days provided an excellent environment of constant electricity supply, and water supply. But now in the free world as Americans in prison would call it, I began to see the realities of Nigeria’s misgovernance. No water to run the hospital, no electricity and no good roads. As I kept complaining to my patient, I received a spiritual revelation, telling me that I was complaining to the wrong people who can’t solve the problem. The spirit informed me that if I want to change a system, I must have to be within the system. That it is practically impossible to change a system by operating from the gallery. Furthermore, I was spiritually informed that if I want to sweep the stinking Aurgean’s stable called Nigerian politics, I have to be within the room since I cannot sweep the room from outside. I understood this spiritual revelation as a call to enter into politics and participate in political meetings where governmental policies are formulated, debated and made as laws. That complaining to my patients will not effect any iota of change to the system. I went without restriction into politics. I came with a mission to change the system. My patients did not like it and cried, but I ignored them since I was going to participate in formulating laws that will make their lives better.
So, as you joined politics, what did you see?
It was the time of Prof Humphrey Nwosu’s Option A4 and General Ibrahim Babangida’s doctrine of (co-founders and equal joiners in parties). The doctrine of Babangida was so visionary that it created opportunity for a young medical doctor like me without huge bank account then. What all young aspiring politicians needed then to do in Nigeria, was to just register into any of the two political parties.Their ideologies were written by political academicians. The manifestos of each of the political parties NRC (National Republican Convention) and SDP (Social Democratic Party) were freely available for the people from grassroots to national level. Everyone who wanted to be a politician had to go t6o the village to start in the wards. Government appointed civil servants to act as midwives to deliver a new political era in Nigeria. General Babangida saw that since independence, Nigerian political framework has been unfortunately and tribalistically based on a tripod of Igbo in the East, Yoruba in the West and Hausa in the North. He saw that the system did not provide for political harmonization and integration of Nigerians, but that rather the system further polarized an already charged tribal Nigerians. So, Babangida’s doctrine enthroned and ushered in a new political era in Nigeria in which the Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo previously found only in their tribal base, now mixed in one political party. This was possible because the Babangida doctrine knocked off one of the tripods on which Nigerian politics was originally based and judiciously used Nigerian wealth to establish political parties, where no moneybag could claim sole ownership of any of the political parties. This provided the political opportunity for the first time in Nigeria for the Azikiwes, the Awolowos, the Aminu Kanos, the Joseph Tarkas progressives to come under one umbrella as one political bloc called the SDP. A lot of Nigerians rose from their wards to the national level. I became the first publicity secretary of the SDP in the old Anambra State of then Ebonyi, Enugu and Anambra states. From there I rose to Nother national level and made my political sagacity known to Nigerians. I never lost my focus of coming to change the system. But all these tall Babangida’s political dream collapsed like the Ikoyi building in Lagos when the same Babangida annulled the freest and fairest election in Nigeria in which the late MKO Abiola was about to be declared the winner of the election.
So, what do you think made Babangida to destroy the house he built?
Tribalism, nepotism, statism and absolute power intoxication caused Babangida to destroy the house he built. Nigeria was verged in a perilous pathway heading for disintegration. By the time the nation came out of the political coma, Nigeria has again regressed to her former tribal politics. Babangida embarked on a face-saving governmental political system called settlement – a squandamanic tendencies that ruined and bankrupted this nation economically, politically, socially and spiritually.
Did what you saw discouraged you about the change you wanted to make in politics?
In 2001, when I was appointed the Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), in the regnime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, I came with my vision to change the system. Having now been charged with the responsibility of sensitizing, galvanizing and mobilizing Nigerians with a view to changing their behaviour towards nation building and co-existing with one another as one nation, I immediately mapped out programmes to solve Nigerians’ obnoxious behaviour. I summerised Nigerian problems into five ‘i’s of indiscipline, impatience, intolerance, insincerity and injustice. In a conflict resolution seminar held at Kuru, Jaji, Jos in Plateau State, I spoke in that meeting stating my goal to change the way Nigerians view one another and need to stop the senseless and barbaric communal clashes rearing their ugly heads in many Nigerian communities like the ones we went to resolve between the Tivs and the Jukuns of Taraba State. President Obasanjo after my speech outlined my mission to eradicate the five observed problems, especially that of intolerance and impatience, He, Obasanjo added what he called another ‘i’ of indolence. I was now set to fight and solve the six ‘i’s. However I was removed from NOA before I could accomplish my vision.
What happened, why were you removed from NOA?
Prof. Jerry Gana had asked me to represent him in Ebonyi State where Dr. Sam Egwu the then governor was presenting the trophies of excellence he won during the media tour embarked by the Ministry of Information under Prof Gana. I went to that occasion, and addressed the teeming crowd of about 10,000. I addressed the Ebonyi people in their dialect, sang their folk songs for them, thereby mobilizing them which was my job. Unfortunately for me, one of the old tribal politicians, Senator Joseph wayas, a former Senate president under the regime of President Shehu Shagari was there. He was so mesmerized, bamboozled and flabbergasted by my eloquence, oratory power that he erroneously thought I was a civil servant. He inquired from me, if Prof Jerry Gana was instrumental to my appointment as DG NOA. I affirmed his query and told him I was following Prof Jerry Gana footsteps since he headed that agency before me. To my chargrin, he told me I had shot myself in the leg. That as soon he dropped his forks and spoons as we were being entertained in the governor’s lodge of Ebonyi State, he would call Prof Jerry Gana and tell him that someone was after his job. The statement hit me like the cold harmattan wind. I had suffered such accusation during the time I was Director General of Bureau of Information and Culture under Col. Mike Attah in Anambra State. I had during the time I was in the office, directed the Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) – a parastatal under my bureau – to install satellite dish that will enable Anambrains to watch the 1994 world cup matches without hitches. I showed all the world cup matches to the admiration of Anambrains. However, political turncoats and enemies told the military administrator that the people now praise me instead of the military administrator! That I took the glory instead of him. The administrator caved in and called a panel to discuss that. I was mad, and I resigned from the office and went back to my hospital. So, you can imagine again how I was hit when Joseph Wayas came up again with the same accusation. My aim has always been to assist the government that appointed me to be people-oriented, focused and embark on projects that will benefit the generality of the people and not just satisfying individual selfishness and personal aggrandizement. I headed NOA in Abuja for about two years and did not even have a plot of land. I served four governors in Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Col. Mike Attah, Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju and Dr Chris Ngige and did not even have a plot of land in Awka or in anywhere in Anambra State. I have always crusaded against unnecessary political avarice and unbridled acquisision of material gain. This is because “life is vanity and nothing but vanity. It is like chasing the wind.” Expectedly, Senator Wayas carried out his threat of calling Prof Jerry Gana, arguing that if he was President Obasanjo and witnessed what I did in mobilizing the entire crowd into frenzy with such oratory power, he would on getting back to Abuja, drop Prof Jerry Gana as Minister of Information and appoint me immediately as a replacement. My plead to make him see reasons fell on deaf ears. That was on a Friday, and on Tuesday of the next week Jerry Gana summuoned me to his office and intimated me of his intention to restructure all parastatals under his Ministry of Information, NOA inclusive and that he would drop me. No reason was given and I was shocked because I never quarreled nor did anything to embarrass my agency, or his ministry, or my workers. Rather my workers were religiously attached to me and NOA under me was vibrant, activity-orientated and was known everywhere, our programme objectives were to execute what General Buhari and the late General Tunde Idiagbo envisaged in those days of MAMSA.
So, what did Prof Gana do next?
Prof Jerry Gana did restructure the parasatals of NTA and NOA and dropped me and Tony Iredia. I was advised to go to court to fight this decision, but my wife advised me not to, but to let it go. I went back to join Dr Ngige and Chris Ubah’s campaign to unsit Dr Ubadinuju whose regime was accused of killing Barrister and Barrister Mrs Igwe in a grusome politically movitivated murder in Onitsha. However, when Peter Obi removed us through the court, I decided to leave for the US, knowing that “he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day” as said by Bob Marlely.
Now, as you know, Nigerians are returning to the polls in 2023…?
(Cuts in) If the APC can give Nigerians one year uninterrupted electricity supply from January to December of 2022, I will urge Nigerians to consider them as a party and vote them back to power. But if they fail to do so, I will urge Nigerians to vote them out because Nigerians cannot afford another eight years of confusion, political intimidation, insecurity of monumental dimension, outrageous insensibility to the plight of Nigerians and non-achievement. They should have a legacy that will make Nigerians to consider voting them back to power. Their presidential candidate must be of the age bracket of 40 and 55 years. I really do not care which zone he comes from, for politics is not a game of zoning, but a game of wits, alliance and allignement in order to achieve a political goal and desire. Zoning I have always contested enthrones mediocrity. Allowing “a goat” to come from any zone to rule Nigeria in the guise of zoning is political timidity, immaturity and sucide and a political retrogration.
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By Peter Anosike American-based physician, Dr Ifeanyi Chukwuka, has advised Nigerians to root for the political party…
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