2023: Obi Would’ve Been VP If He Didn’t Leave PDP — Jim Nwobodo

2023: Obi Would’ve Been VP If He Didn’t Leave PDP — Jim Nwobodo

*No other candidate can beat Atiku in 2023 elections    •Jonathan should stay with PDP or keep off politics  

•Buhari is supposed to be a friend but fenced off by power and people around him  
•Faults President on insecurity in S-East  
•It’s not my business who Atiku picks as running mate   •Igbo presidency sure through Atiku, PDP

Dr. Jim Nwobodo is an elder statesman. He was the governor of old Anambra State in the Second Republic between 1979 and 1983. He was elected Senator in 1999. He also ran unsuccessfully for the President of Nigeria in 1999 and 2003. A founding father of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Nwobodo, in this interview with Vanguard spoke on many contemporary issues in Nigeria including the emergence of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as the PDP presidential candidate for 2023 general elections.  

Tell me how you feel about Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s emergence as PDP presidential candidate?

Atiku’s emergence as the PDP flag bearer in the presidential race has brought a lot of dimensions. It is clearer to me now that PDP will win because of Atiku’s experience. He has been on this for a long time. This is his third or fourth time and I don’t see how anybody else, any other candidate will beat Atiku.

Even a candidate from the ruling APC…

Which candidate from APC will beat Atiku? And I am an Igbo man but I believe that what I want is for PDP to win. If PDP wins, the Igbo have won. So in other words, for me, the most important thing is that Atiku has clinched the presidential slot for PDP and based on his public and private sector experience, he will make some difference in this election. Besides, Atiku will bring back all the angry PDP stalwarts.

What do the Igbo stand to gain from Atiku’s presidency?

When Atiku was going last time, he picked Peter Obi and Atiku has always said that he is the person that can hand power back to Igbo and I trust him. I trust what he says. I have worked with him and I know him. I know that he doesn’t talk much but he acts. So, I believe absolutely that his emergence is a victory for our people.

What about restructuring? Do you believe he will restructure the country?

That is a different ball game. You don’t start restructuring when you are not in power, and you talk about it when you are there. People make so much noise about restructuring. If he is the man who is on the spot, when he has power he can talk about restructuring. But you cannot be outside and be talking about restructuring. These things will happen as soon as Atiku gets in and I am convinced, absolutely convinced that with Atiku coming into power, things will take a new shape in Nigeria. There will be one Nigeria. All this insecurity will varnish. The question of your place of birth, or where you come from will varnish. He will reunite Nigeria completely and bring about a new Nigeria.

So you are no more talking about Igbo presidency at this time?

I am talking about Igbo presidency but the Igbo presidency will come only through PDP. You see, in party politics, there are always two big political parties usually. If you go to Britain, there are two big political parties. If you go to America, two big political parties. The rest are there. So, in Nigeria, there are two big political parties and we have captured one. So, Igbo presidency will still come.

If we have somebody who has interest in Nigeria and has a sense of fairness, equity and justice, I am sure Igbo presidency will come. Certainly, I don’t expect to have it in APC.

Don’t you also believe Igbo presidency can come from the APC?

No, I am not saying that but I believe that it is more likely to come within the PDP than APC. I have very good friends in APC but tell me one Igbo man whose name has been sounded in APC?

What if another person had emerged from PDP as candidate?

Like who?

We had Governors Aminu Tambuwal and Nyesom Wike…

No, all these are young men. Tambuwal is very sensible. He is extremely sensible. He saw that he wasn’t going to make it, he decided to give it to his senior brother whom he knows will carry the Igbo along. You see, the issue of Igbo presidency is as a result of the treatment we are receiving now.

How do you mean?

Under Buhari and the APC, the Igbo have suffered. This is the worst we have had.

And you believe under Atiku, the Igbo will have…

No, Atiku is a Nigerian to the core and he has a keen and fair sense of justice and fair play.  

So, even if it doesn’t come now, it will come and he was also a founder of the party, I am also a founder of the party. Most of us who are founders are no longer around.

Were you sad that Mr. Peter Obi left the PDP?

Of course, I was very sad. I called him and said why did you leave the PDP? He said one or two things happened and I said no, he should have waited for me. He should have spoken with me, I would have advised him not to leave.

The beauty of politics is being able to absorb, at times insults, you absorb but you have your eyes on the ball. I blame him for going. He should never have left because if Obi were there, Atiku will have no problem in picking him as his vice.

But he has emerged to contest against Atiku from Labour Party…

As I have told you, in every country where democracy is practised, there are always two important parties. In America, Republican and Democrats, in Britain, it’s Labour and Conservatives. In Nigeria, it’s PDP and APC. So, tell me, in all these countries that I have mentioned, when somebody from another smaller party came and became the president?

But the younger generation of Nigerians are actually craving for a change, to change the narrative…

No. You see, the younger Nigerians have not been in the game and they want to change the narrative. Do they know all the intrigues in getting a president? Talking about president is not a tea party. It is something very important, that is somebody who can handle all the troubles, all the problems of Nigeria. We need experience. There is nothing like experience and this man called Atiku has gotten the experience and I have no doubt that he was going to win and he won and I am happy that he won. And he is going to win; nobody is going to beat him.

How would you rate Nigeria in the last seven years because I heard you said that Buhari’s government has not really favoured the Igbo. Again, what’s your take on the economy, security and all of that?

First of all, I don’t think Buhari likes the Igbo. He has shown it in his attitude. I know him very well. Once Buhari makes up his mind about something, it is difficult to change.

He believed that the Igbo did not vote for him, so he preferred to deal with those who voted for him. But a good politician will deal so mercifully with those who didn’t vote for him in order to attract them to him, he didn’t do that.

On the economy, has he handled the economy well?

No. There is no money in the country; foreign exchange at the time Buhari took over was N195 to a dollar. Today, it is N500, N600 to a dollar. That is an abysmal failure in terms of currency. Today, it is unheard of that a luxury train from Abuja to Kaduna was attacked. The bandits entered there, in fact, I am told that up till now, some of those kidnapped have not been released.

Do you think that Buhari’s government will still solve the insecurity problem within the next one year ?

He means well. I don’t think that Buhari is incapable of doing that. He means well.

South-East is becoming a no-go area because of insecurity. How do you feel about that?

It’s being called sit-at-home. How can you imagine people you don’t know, faceless people say you must sit at home and people sit at home?

You are also a stakeholder in the Igbo agenda in Nigeria. What have you, I mean the Igbo leaders done within that region to make sure that this thing is nipped in the bud?

You see, I have been a governor. I was governor of three states: Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi and we had peace because we had a president who was careful, and bothered so much about the safety and security of his people; so we pulled the way we wanted and nothing happened. We disagreed, nothing happened but we  had one Nigeria. Today, do you say we have one Nigeria? I am asking you as a pressman. It is no longer the Nigeria I know. This was a beautiful country. I was born in the North, I schooled in the West, I worked in the West and also became governor in the East. When I got married, a Fulani governor was my best man.  Abubakar Rimi from Kano was my best man. We went to the church together. You know what it means to make somebody your best man. We were so close that he was my best man and we went to church and we sat together on the front seat. The only thing remaining for Rimi to do was to take Holy Communion and I told him no, you cannot take Holy Communion but he said if you brought me here I should take it and I said no, please, no, don’t be angry. You can’t take this one.

But he was there with me as my best man. We had one Nigeria. There was no difference between a Fulani man and an Igbo man. I think something must be wrong.

How can we get it right?

That is why I am saying that Atiku’s victory in this convention is victory for Nigeria.

Would you call on Igbo and all Nigerians to vote for Atiku to make sure he wins?

Why not? If no Igbo man can make it, since no Igbo man can make it in APC, we will work with what we have, after all we are one Nigeria. We are not enemies; we are brothers belonging to one country.

President Muhammadu Buhari has only one year to stay in office and then wind up. You have been around for a long time. What  advice would you give him with regards to his parting legacy? 

I know Buhari very well, in fact, he is supposed to be a friend but power and people around him have made it difficult for us to meet as we used to meet but we were quite close before and I believe that, he is a principled person but something has gone wrong somewhere. He is no longer the Buhari I know.

The legacy I would like him to leave is first of all, security of lives and property. He should do everything to reduce the amount of killings in Nigeria; you see, life is sacrosanct, don’t joke with people’s lives. Every life is important. So, let him focus on security and ensure that people are safe wherever they are and that people are free to go to any part of Nigeria and live anywhere in Nigeria. You see, the Igbo are the most highly travelled. There is no nook and cranny you go to in Nigeria that you will not see an Igbo man. I believe that he can do that if he decides to.  As a parting legacy, he should bring peace, unity, love, faith in Nigeria. He should also bring about safety of Nigerians, security.

Even though Nigeria is facing serious, multifaceted challenges, do you see it emerging strong, becoming a strong country?

It will. Give Atiku a chance, let him manage this Nigeria. You will see a lot of difference. Buhari can start it off now and wherever he stops, Atiku will take over. 

The younger generation wants power as well. They are blaming old politicians for the rot in the country…

At the last presidential convention of the PDP, there were many young people there. Did they win? I am congratulating Atiku that he has done so well and I think the person I really thanked very much is the Governor of Sokoto State, Tambuwal, who seeing the handwriting on the wall, withdrew and asked his people to vote for Atiku. If he felt he was better than Atiku, he would not have withdrawn.

You see, the youth and age go hand-in-hand. What about the character of the person? If you have a good person, whether he is young or old, he still remains good. If you are bad, whether you are young or old, you are bad. So, what is important is the character, the innate character of the person.  

Now, the South is up for a Vice Presidency slot. Who would you suggest Atiku should pick? How would you advise him?

I wouldn’t advise him. He should pick anybody he likes. It is none of my business. I have no suggestions to make. He is the presidential candidate. He should pick somebody he thinks he can work with.

So, you are confident PDP will bounce back?

Of course, we are going to bounce back with him. But it is not about the party really, I think it is about giving Nigeria a direction. You see, the party is important. The calibre of leaders in a party matters a lot. Atiku has emerged and it is his ball game now but I believe he can handle Nigeria.

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