By Ismail Mudashir & Fidelis Mac-Leva
Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr Peter Obi, has said he would dialogue with the members of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and other agitators to restore peace in the country if elected president come February 25, 2023.
Obi, a former governor of Anambra State stated this while responding to questions on insecurity in the country at the corporate headquarters of the Media Trust Group (MTG), owners of Daily Trust titles and Trust TV in Abuja. IPOB is a separatist organisation in Nigeria, which claims that its main aim is to restore an independent state of Biafra in the old Eastern Region of the country, comprising mainly today’s South-East and South-South regions.
The group was founded in 2012 by Nnamdi Kanu, a British-Nigerian known for his advocacy of the contemporary Biafran independence movement.
It was designated a terrorist organisation in 2017 under the Nigerian Terrorism Act and subsequently, Kanu was arrested and taken to court over terrorism-related offences.
The group had been accused of killing security operatives, politicians, traditional rulers and ordinary citizens. Its members were also fingered in the destruction of symbols of authority like police stations and INEC offices, among others.
In other parts of the country, the Boko Haram/ISWAP fighters have been raging war against the Nigerian state for over 13 years while activities of militants occasioned by oil theft have denied Nigeria the opportunity to benefit from its oil wealth. In the North West, bandits have been terrorising the people of the geopolitical zone.
‘My approach will be different’
While answering questions after his visit to Media Trust, Obi said, “I have said it times without number, Nigeria does not have more agitation than Brazil, if you want I will show you countries that have had agitations in the past, whether it is Brazil, Mexico, whether it is this.
“In our South East, it is a simple thing, I will dialogue, I will discuss, it is a democracy, and in a democracy, you govern by consensus. If anybody says he is not happy, you call him and you sit him down and discuss with him.
“People agitate in my house, my wife, my children. If you say to me you have lived with your wife all through and you people have never quarrelled, then you are not married. You disagree and settle it – that is agitation.”
If elected, Obi said he would govern by consensus and listen to all for smooth administration of the country.
“I will govern by listening to the people. I will visit every state in Nigeria. We have a huge land in the North that if properly invested and cultivated, will change Nigeria. The more I pull people out of poverty, the more I reduce agitation, the more I reduce criminality. What you are seeing in Nigeria today is a cumulative effect of leadership failure over the years and all I want to do is to be seen to be that man who changed this country called Nigeria,” he said.
Asked whether he shares the federal government’s position in designating IPOB as a terrorist organisation, he said, “I don’t want to go into that place. I have told you, I will dialogue with anybody, anything they like let them call you, I will meet and we discuss.
“I don’t like the way people were treated during the EndSARS, I will apologise. We must have a country of healing and love; that is what leadership in a democracy is.
“I am going to meet people in the North, I am going to meet people everywhere and say come, let’s be a family. I want Nigerians to be proud that they are Nigerians. What we have now is we have a country called Nigeria but we don’t have Nigerians. I want to bring back Nigerians.”
‘I’m not Igbo candidate’
While urging Nigerians to vote for him, he said he is not an Igbo candidate but the most qualified candidate among the 18 flagbearers.
“I am contesting as a Nigerian, I don’t want people to vote for me because I am an Igbo man or because I am from South East because people don’t buy bread cheaper because they are from that zone.
“I don’t want anybody to vote for me because I am a Christian; I don’t want them to vote because it is my turn, it is not inheritance. It is the turn of Nigerians to take back their country. I want them to vote for me because of character and competence, I have the capacity, I have the commitment, I am qualified,” he said.
‘Subsidy an organised crime’
Speaking on petrol subsidy, Obi described it as an organised crime, saying he would not allow any form of criminality as president of Nigeria.
His words: “The amount of fuel they say we consume cannot be consumed by this country, there is empirical evidence. We are about the same size as Pakistan, we are about 210, 220, Pakistan is about the same size, they have more growth.
“We probably have the same number of vehicles or they have even more but yet, their fuel consumption is a third of ours, so who is drinking the balance? That is where we will start. So we will make it more efficient.
“Subsidy benefits the rich and famous because they are the ones who have five, ten cars, people in my village, want education, they want health, so we will remove it and in removing it, you must say what you are providing and we will use some of those resources to make sure that we come up with local refineries, which are not rocket science, within a shortest possible time and show people what you are doing and you can do it, it can be done.”
On electricity, Obi said it is not rocket science that he would address it squarely.
“Egypt is just exporting electricity now to Europe, Egypt is a third-world country. If Egypt can do it, Nigeria can do it. I want people to be proud of this country,” he said.