National Coordinator of Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, TAN, Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah in this interview bares his mind on the outcome of the 2015 general elections among other issues.
To what extent was TAN significant during the electioneering period?
We are happy about the impact we have made in the polity. I believe that within a very short period of time we will be able to make our mark on the political landscape. We were able to draw attention to the activities of government as well as mobilise the grassroots for a more robust political engagement.
Our activities generated incisive discussions regarding the choice of candidates and also added colour and substance to the political space. The best outcome is the inputs of associations like TAN other than political parties in enlarging the political space.
Many are of the view that the Igbo put all their eggs in one basket by solely supporting President Goodluck Jonathan and that life in the opposition may not augur well for them What is your take on this?
It was expected that the Igbo will vote for Jonathan. The Igbo had quite a number of opportunities in his administration.
Number of opportunities
Even though Jonathan did a lot for the Igbo most of the things he did were for the North. The Kashbila Dam is the biggest project handled by Jonathan’s administration and it was cited in the North. The Abuja and Kaduna railways are also in the North.
Irrespective of that, the Igbo are still appreciative of the things he did for us. Be that as it may, my position is that General Buhari should consider the Igbo and make them his friends and if possible do more than Jonathan did for us.
On plight of Ndigbo in Lagos
For 16 years that the APC has been in power, they never cared about giving an Igbo man a slot to vie for an elective position in the Lagos State House of Assembly or in the House of Representatives. If the APC has not given Igbo that opportunity in Lagos, we think there is still animosity against the Igbo in the state. There are large populations of Igbo in many parts of Lagos so it is expected that political parties factor these issues in their choice of candidates for elective offices. What we have done by supporting the PDP is not something that we want the Lagos State government or any person whatsoever, to be angry with. They should take this as an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and see how we can be accommodated. All that we ask for which is to be involved in the scheme of things.
Nigerians are members of parliament in the UK, why can’t people be elected in places where they have spent all their lives? We are not only talking about Igbo, we want this for all Nigerians, no matter where they come from.
The elections have come and gone. We should go back to the drawing board and plan for the next line of action. I’m grateful to the residents of Lagos who through their votes showed that it is the candidate that matters and not where he comes from.
What do you think Ndigbo should do to remain relevant in mainstream politics?
My advice is not to Ndigbo alone, my advice is to the government of Nigeria. The government should embrace all Nigerians irrespective of their tribes or tongues. Our leaders must build a nation where people get what they deserve and are not deprived of what they rightly deserve on account of where they come from or do not come from. People must also live in peace wherever they find themselves. They must also respect the culture of their localities.
On the incoming government?
The government should carry Ndigbo along by giving us additional states. That is one thing that is very important. If you do this for Ndigbo, there is no way you will not be appreciated. Ndigbo are not asking for so much from the government. We only ask for good governance, infrastructural development in Igboland, a conducive business atmosphere, level playing field, and security of lives and properties. You know, they voted Jonathan because his government guaranteed them these. So, they say we can give South East additional state, so that we have six states, like the other zones. For example North-West has seven. We don’t want seven. Just give us six, like others. We will, like others, be reassured that we are part of this federation.
The second way to reassure Ndigbo and cultivate their trust is to make them an integral part of the in-coming government. This is of utmost importance. In any case, I wonder how any government which excludes Ndigbo because they did not vote en mass for the President will function.
Such a government will unfortunately portray itself as petty and vindictive. I however do not think that General Buhari will be persuaded to exclude or ‘punish’ Ndigbo. He does not strike me as such a person. He is a great Nigerian with exceptional leadership qualities.
Ndigbo have a special gift, which any government will be glad to tap into. You cannot do without the Igbo or indeed any ethnic nationality in Nigeria. So, it is my opinion, that General Buhari and APC need to show love to Ndigbo. And once you show any Igbo man that you can accommodate him, such relationship will profit everyone.
There are insinuations that TAN was funded with government money, others say that you funded TAN with your money. What is the true position?
TAN was not funded with government money. TAN is a Non Governmental Organization (NGO). We have a lot of friends that have been supporting us. Political campaigns cost so much money, so it is natural to expect that we spent good money on our media and grassroots campaign. We are glad that our members and supporters were very supportive in contributing towards these campaigns. I believe that Jonathan is a good man, who meant well for this country, and I supported him. One thing that attracted me so much to Jonathan is the love and passion he has for Nigeria. His humility in conceding defeat shows the extent of his great love and belief in our nationhood. His statesmanship saved our nation from the likelihood of post-election turmoil.
Having spent so much on TAN, do you have regrets that Jonathan didn’t win?
Yes and no. You don’t invest and wish that the investment would go the way this one went. The election has come and gone, I would not like to open the old wounds especially when the main actor in the whole episode has conceded defeat. We have to move ahead at this juncture. We must unite to move Nigeria forward. Jonathan has conceded defeat to General Buhari.
If you are in a boxing ring, and your coach throws in the towel, that is the end of the game. I have chosen to respect his position and indeed that of Nigerians, even though it would have pleased me greatly to see Jonathan win.
What becomes of TAN now that PDP has lost the election?
Our primary objective is to advocate for good governance and the transformation of Nigeria. We will continue to stand on the legacies of President Jonathan and watch from the stand to see what the President-elect will offer Nigerians. Since he made electoral promises to Nigerians, we expect him to keep those promises which made Nigerians to vote him in.
I want to however, note that we will support him in every way. Apart from this, TAN will pursue other objectives which include the establishment of industrial parks in six geopolitical zones of the country.
As we speak now our foreign partners have shipped the first phase of the park which will be installed at the regions that are ready. The industrial park will also serve as a vocational training centre for the youths. TAN will also engage in humanitarian activities. Reaching out to the less privileged in the society to see areas we can help. Also TAN will be involved in sports development because youths are very much active in this area.
Your name was mentioned severally during the fuel subsidy scam investigation, can you enlighten us on how the matter ended?
The Aig Imoukhuede committee, without giving me the right of fair hearing, declared that it had indicted me for fuel subsidy scam. The Committee claimed to have indicted me even when their findings showed that we imported the products . It was a farce. The Committee clearly had a mind-set of what it wanted to achieve. I believe there was a bit of conspiracy against me. It was all geared towards taking over my company.
I stood firm in resisting the injustice. I dragged the Federal Government to the House of Representatives and insisted on a public hearing so that they can prove their case to the whole world. The committee made mistakes.
Looking at my lifestyle or the things I have achieved within a very short period of time, they thought I had my hands deep into the scam. I have always insisted that anyone who has anything against me, should come out and show it to Nigerians.
Till date, I have never been charged to any law court for the so-called subsidy scam. I have in fact been cleared by the relevant security agencies after very intensive and rigorous investigations.
What kind of relationship do you envisage between Buhari and Nigerians?
The first publication I made after his victory was to congratulate him. We prayed to God to give him the wisdom, good health to rule Nigeria. If I get to understand General Buhari better than I understand him now, I will be closer to him. If he needs me, I will be there for him. He will be our President. I have always had respect for him. I wish him well. I have an open mind and my doors are always open.