From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Governor of Abia State, Okezie Ikpeazu, has described Igbos as the most knowledgeable Nigerians, who live and invest everywhere in the country hence deserve to be considered for the 2023 presidency.
He stated this Thursday while fielding questions from State House Correspondents after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja,m.
According to him, the issue of the Igbo presidency in 2023 cannot be a matter of right but something that should be achieved through negotiations and conversations.
Ikpeazu, who distanced himself from the 2023 presidential race, insisted that political parties must consider the yearnings and aspirations of the South East in selecting their presidential candidate.
Asked about his view on an Igbo president and whether he would contest the election, he responded: ‘I’m not interested in the presidency. I’m very busy as governor and thinking about what I will become now will amount to shortchanging my people who gave me a mandate for an initial four years and renewed it for another four years and it will terminate around May 2023.
‘We are yet in 2021 and it will be self-serving for me to begin to think about what I will become instead of concentrating on serving my people for the time they elected me.
‘Maybe after 2023, I’ll begin to think about what next I’ll do.
‘Having said that, I think that the southeasterners have a right to take a shot at the presidency of Nigeria and I dare say that our qualification starts from the fact that we understand and know Nigeria better than the other states of Nigeria.
‘I dare say, this is my opinion. We go everywhere, we are everywhere, we invest everywhere, we are pan-Nigerian people.
‘Today, a lot of people, on a lighter note are afraid of Sambisa. But for an Igbo man, Sambisa is a business opportunity.
‘So, it will be preposterous of me not to add my voice to that one.
‘However, the question of Nigeria president of southeast extraction is a national question that requires negotiation, discussion and conversation with all parts of this country and I am least qualified to determine what happened in 2023.
‘I also want to spend my time supporting the incumbent president to do his time and do his best while we wait for what happens to begin to unfold. So, these are my views about the presidency.’
Ikpeazu listed the qualities that the 2023 presidential candidate must have and how the political parties may choose the individual, one of which is that he must have a pan-Nigerian mentality.
The governor said: ‘In the first place, anybody who wants to aspire to the highest post of the presidency, it doesn’t matter where you come from, must have what I regard as pan-Nigerian mentality.
‘He must be somebody who has an understanding of all the contending interests and influences in this country. He must understand that we are a country of diversity with different persuasions, traditions, cultures, religions and all of these must be put in a place where you can understand and respect them.
‘That individual must also be somebody who is ready to accommodate the youths of this country because turning it into a slogan the fact that youths are our leaders of the future have not to serve us correctly because we are drifting into an age that youths understand which many people may not understand, those who grew up before this era.
‘So, the person must be willing to accommodate the youth without necessarily throwing away very experienced ones, he must be able to find a labyrinth of all the interests.
‘He must also reflect an extreme women agenda. Such a person must also be investor-friendly, he must be an individual who understands the nuances of economics and what is the relationship between international politics and economy and the person must be strong enough to face up to the issue on the front burner, which is security.
‘He must be able to create jobs, he must be able to not deploy the kinetic device all the time, he must able to also listen and negotiate peace.
‘I’m a Christian and my religion believes that you seek peace and you will find it. So, that which you seek is not commonplace. So, we must be able to dredge up the courage to listen to one another and then find a middle course all the time for the interest of our people.’
Addressing the role of political parties in the emergence of the desired president, Ikpeazu stated: ‘What the political parties need to do. Well, the political parties need to be sensitive to the feelings of the various contending forces because politics should not be a winners take all thing.
‘It’s not at all times that you want to use your might. At times you listen even to those whom you think are weak or those whom you think may not be able to find themselves at the centre stage due to circumstances.
‘Because if you don’t do that, you will bottle up sentiments that will implode the system going forward.
‘So, you must be able to create ventilations from here and there so that you can accommodate diverse opinions and have strategies to help you run the country.
‘So, all the political parties should be alive to these sentiments and feelings in making decisions going forward. And we are at a critical point in our history and anything that is self-serving, anything that is selfish, anything that leads to winner takes all mentality should be jettisoned at this time.
‘We need to rescue our nation, we need to work hard to put Nigeria on a strong footing before we can begin to look at other things.
‘So, if we have this at the back of our minds, my thinking is that we will arrive at the fact that there is a geo-political zone that has been clamouring and yearning for an opportunity to lead.
‘And we should be gracious and magnanimous enough to give consideration to such yearnings and aspiration.
‘But as I said earlier it cannot be done in isolation. It’s not a matter right, it’s not a matter of ‘I have to.’ It’s a matter of negotiation, conversation and discussion going forward.
‘And I think Nigeria is alive to all of that. We can find people who listen.’
Ikpeazu, who described Abia as the safest state in the country, said he met President Buhari to felicitate with him on the Yuletide season, thank him for projects in the southeast and as well brief him on the Enyimba Economic City, which he said would provide jobs for 625,000 Nigerians.
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