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Biafran uprising no threat to Nigeria’s unity – Dr Ugorji

Dr Ugorji Okechukwu Ugorji is a US-based Nigerian scholar and a stalwart of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Imo State. In this interview,…

Dr Ugorji Okechukwu Ugorji is a US-based Nigerian scholar and a stalwart of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Imo State. In this interview, he talks about the Biafran agitation in the South-East, new ministers and President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war. Excerpts:

Some people believe that Biafran agitation in Igboland is a serious threat to Nigeria. How do you think the president should handle the situation?
Igbo land is Nigeria, just as Borno, Adamawa and others are Nigeria. So you are asking about the agitation for “Biafra” in Nigeria. None of the people you call militants has taken up arms against Nigeria to the best of my knowledge. None has assembled an army. None has acquired a base in a neighbouring country from which it operates against the security and safety of Nigeria and Nigerians. So, what you essentially have are speeches and nonviolent marches.
I come from the civil rights movement and traditions of African Americans. Just as in America’s history, it pains me to see deaths in peaceful protests and marches in Nigeria. I do not subscribe to a name (Biafra) that has little or no spiritual or cultural value to our journey as Ndi Igbo, a journey that dates back to creation and antiquity. Three accidental years of “Biafra” cannot define a people of creation and antiquity. President Buhari can either dwell in the past and the present or he can choose to shape the future for generations to come. A negotiated world power in the axis of West Africa is a legacy he can deliver in the fullness of his presidency. If he does that, he would eclipse in stature than even the great Nnamdi Azikiwe.
What is your take on Governor Rochas Okorocha’s call on Ndi Igbo to join him in APC and agitate for development for their zone instead of clamour for the state of Biafra?
The APC in Imo and in the South East is a work in progress. Certain dynamics in the region that created bias against the APC in the last election are no longer there. So, there is a great opportunity for the party to grow and consolidate in the South East. However, the only APC governor in the South East will have a lot to do with the growth of the party based on either his performance or his lack of performance. Owelle Rochas Okorocha has a great and yet historic burden on his shoulders. He has the rare opportunity to transform the politics of the entire region and perhaps the nation if he opts to be the best performing governor in the country and if he understands that he needs to share power in order to grow or expand power. I expect nothing less from him.
How would you assess President Muhammadu Buhari’s quest to enthrone good governance?
I think that for a relatively new party that has come to power for the first time, after 16 years of the PDP government, the APC has done a spectacular job of managing the expected and predictable challenges of its meteoric success. I am a patient man and I understand the turn-around time needed in a transformative public administration. President Buhari is being very deliberative and measured in his steps. After years of recklessness and free for all bazaars, it is understandable how a disciplined approach might be unsettling for some. But, because I have been educated within and oriented to this kind of disciplined and accountable public administration culture in my work with state and township governments in the US, I find the approach familiar and even necessary.
Are you pleased with the composition of the new ministers?
Politics is a team sport. In the traditions of democratic governance, President Buhari has put together a team that shows a remarkable balance between politics and professional deft. I am highly impressed. I enthusiastically look forward to seeing the team get to work. People have said that the exclusion of experienced diasporans in this government may impact negatively on the quality of governance. I’m sure that opinion was probably informed by the President Buhari’s recent declaration in Washington DC during one of his recent state visits that Nigerians in Diaspora who are looking for jobs in his government should forget it for now. But l believe the president’s statement was misunderstood. I also believe that there are thousands, if not millions of Nigerians with the requisite preparations, experience and patriotism within the country to populate the new administration.
Do you think Nigerians are satisfied with what the president is doing?
I have been involved in progressive politics in the United States for over 20 years, having worked in Democratic campaigns such as Obama for America, and now Hillary for America, to mention just those two. So it is natural for me to be involved in and to identify with progressive politics in my home nation, Nigeria. This was why I was drawn to the progressive agenda of Chief Dr. Chekwas Okorie and why I volunteered (pro-bono) as the Director General of his campaign for president. The UPP, as you know, was more closely aligned to the APC in ideology and even in its pronouncements during the last presidential campaign than any other party in Nigeria. And of course, you know that the main goal in political party activism is the acquisition of power for an opportunity to implement an agenda and a set of programmes for the people. I think all progressive forces in Nigeria should coalesce so that there will eventually be a clear difference and a battle line drawn between progressive and conservative elements. The APC has provided a triumphant anchor for such coalescence. So yes, after the presidential election, I formally registered with the APC at my local ward in Lorji, Aboh Mbaise LGA of Imo State.

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