■ Says ‘I want to see Nigeria president of Igbo extraction before I die’
At 102 years old, High Chief Iyom Josephine Ezeanyaeche has seen the bad, the good, the ugly and the most beautiful aspect of life. At 102 and still counting, she has 12 biological children, 10 males and two females with seven of them still alive and kicking.
She has gone through pains and agonies of watching five of her children die, including the recent one that passed away in November last year.
It has been a sorrowful situation that she sometimes feels and even confides in her children that death should take her away even when she knows she does not have control of the longevity of her life.
But life and living have not been all gloom for Iyom as she still relishes sweet memories of countless numbers of her grand and great grandchildren nearing 100 now.
Speaking when she paid a courtesy visit to The Sun Newspaper, Abuja office, recently accompanied by one of her sons, High Chief (Dr) Caro Nwosu and her manager, Dr Obinna Linus, Iyom expressed disappointment over the current situation of the country, announcing that it is not the Nigeria of her dreams.
She lamented the volume of killings going on in the country.
She also appealed to the Southeast youths to end the carnage and bloodshed going on in the zone, but appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to unconditionally release the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu from the detention facilities of the Department of State Services (DSS) in Abuja.
She joked that as part of the plans to actualise president of Igbo extraction in the 2023 presidential election, she might be tempted to contest the election should Igbo leaders and politicians refuse to indicate interest in contesting.
What are your unfulfilled dreams?
Overtime, I have been speaking for others and I am also an expert in volunteering for advocacy, to the point of fighting without noise. I am also an expert in lobbying especially for the black race as it concerns Africa and Nigeria in particular. I am Igbo, Igbo BK as we call it in those days in school and it is deliberately to promote Igbo language and culture. To answer your question directly, I have been successful in many things but my unfulfilled dreams are first, not changing the long neglect of senior citizens in Nigeria. I feel the pains that nobody remembers senior citizens in Nigeria because having lived in the USA and seen how it is done; I feel the pains of the deliberate neglect of senior citizens in Nigeria. They are lacking good services and good programmes that keep us moving like good food, hunger, stress, insurances, endless fights for pension payment and many others. So, one of my unfulfilled dreams is my inability to replicate the senior citizen programmes in the USA in Nigeria by having a presence in all the states. I have been lobbying for senior citizens to be established in Nigeria, but I am seriously concerned that this dream may not materialise before I join my ancestors. Again, I made a prayer for good leadership for this country about 50 years ago. But one thing making me sad is the state of the country today. I have been in pain that God has not answered the prayer I made for good leadership in Nigeria. I am getting closer to answering God’s call yet I have not seen a semblance of the good leadership I prayed for. I have been in the US since 1979, I have also travelled round Europe and seen leadership, but I feel sad that Nigeria, which is supposed to play leading roles in Africa and the world, is still lagging. Today, the giant of Africa status given to Nigeria seems to be only a sobriquet. I was, however, happy when Prof Charles Soludo did not only indicate interest in contesting for the governor of my state, Anambra, but also won the election. I have the feeling that that leadership lacking in Nigeria will be filled with his emergence as the governor of Anambra State. His victory is one of the fulfilments of the dreams I have for Nigeria.
How do you feel about the insecurity situation in the Southeast?
I feel that the situation is attributable to leadership failure from the grassroots to the national. One of my prayers always is for God to give the country good leadership. We should also begin to learn how to pick the right leaders, not necessarily party alignment. In the US, you can be a Republican and still vote for a Democrat and vice-versa if the contestant is a good candidate. I feel pained that what we have in Nigeria is politics of bitterness. People should be free to choose the right leaders because once they get it wrong in leadership selection; the whole system will be affected. Is it that the barber is incompetent or the barbing tools are not sharp? I am very certain that if we have the right leadership, the security challenges in the Southeast will be a thing of the past because the Igbo have the resources, manpower, talents and the intellect. We failed to tackle insecurity when it is still at the embryonic stage.
Did you in your wildest imagination expect that Igboland will degenerate to this extent of insecurity?
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I cried for three days before the recent Anambra governorship election because a lady in my kitchen with me showed me on her handset where people were being killed like fowls. I had broken down crying because this is not the Igbo and/or Nigeria of my dreams as a young lady. I had wondered how Nigeria could degenerate to that ugly extent. Again, I am seriously concerned about the Nnamdi Kanu case with the Federal Government and the continued sit-at-home in the Southeast. We can no longer quantify the level of casualties and economic resources wasted in that region. The security situation in the Southeast has been of very serious concern to me to the point of almost taking my life. If the security situation does not improve, I am afraid that I may not travel again to the zone until something drastic is done. Let me add that deep down my heart, I feel that the marginalisation of the Igbo is the root cause of the problems. I have even previously appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to treat all Nigerians equally regardless of their tribe, religion and sex. I have also appealed to him to ensure equitable distribution of appointments and resources. I am sure that there will not be this level of agitation and insecurity if the government had ensured equity in the sharing of resources among all Nigerians. Kanu is fighting a just course because even the blind could see the glaring injustice melted against the people of the Southeast. My appeal to the Igbo youths is, however, very simple. Drop your guns and the senseless killings. Yes, I am aware that if the Igbo youths are empowered and strengthened, the entire country will be a better place, but the Igbo youths should resist the temptation of escalating the security situation in the zone. I urge them again to continue to be peace-loving people regardless of whatever happened. The Igbo youths should drop their guns and pursue peaceful coexistence.
What will you tell President Buhari about Nnamdi Kanu if you see him today?
All these while, I have been praying for Buhari’s good health and wisdom to enable him pilot the affairs of the country. I will tell him to intervene to stop the volume of lives, especially the youths, wasted every day. He should release Nnamdi Kanu from detention because he is doing what Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela did in their countries those days and other peaceful agitators. If Buhari wants peace in the Southeast and by extension Nigeria, he should free Kanu from detention.
What do you feel about Igbo presidency in 2023?
I can confirm to you that I am ready to contest the election because I still feel that I am not too old for the race and position. But even if I decide not to run, the Igbo president in 2023 will not only be a reality, but also supported by all Nigerians as a whole. This is because; rotation of power among the major ethnic nationalities will help Nigerians to live in peace. Nigerians knew that it was the turn of the Igbo to be the president of this country. It will be a rewarding decision. Yes, they said that power is not given, so the Igbo must stand tall to be located by other tribes. They must lobby other tribes to make the president of Igbo extraction a reality. Igbo must put their house in order because the 2023 presidential ticket is for us. I cannot wait to see Nigeria president of Igbo extraction before I die. When I said that I will run for president in 2023, it is to encourage the Igbo leaders especially the skilled, knowledgeable and competent ones that if they are not ready to come out, I am still strong enough to actualise the mandate of the Igbo winning the ticket. By declaring for president, I want to set the pace for the leadership of this country and I believe strongly that if the Igbo are given the opportunity to become the president, things will certainly turn out to be good and bountiful. The country will stand to gain because having been successful in whatever they do; the Igbo are also good materials for the highest position in the land. Above all, once an Igbo is elected president in 2023, there will be peace and economic boom. Yes, at 102, people may not take me seriously for indicating interest to contest the 2023 presidential election, but my intention is to motivate the Igbo leaders to organise themselves for the big task ahead. I simply want to tell them that if they cannot enter this boat about to move, I am ready to even be the captain.
How do you feel about women participation in politics?
I have an unassuming personality and I don’t make noise about it. I believe in infrastructure and more importantly, I feel that women should make their own money, hence my encouragement for entrepreneurship to help women build up their own wealth. It is very important because politics has become so expensive for women to indulge. And going to men to get help comes with strings of demands. I also want a situation where women should be able to sponsor their own women without envy and jealousness. Women should throw everything into politics, but not necessarily their bodies. Women should not listen to the fallacy that they belong to the kitchen. I want to urge the political parties to give quotas and I feel the legislators should intervene in making laws to compel the political parties to map out certain political quotas to Nigerian women. The legislation should also specify a man/woman joint ticket. If a man becomes governor, a woman should be the deputy, if a man is the chairman, a woman should deputise him. Women must participate actively in politics irrespective of name callings and intimidation. In fact, I want to advocate that parties should not give free nomination forms to women. I believe that the free form relegates women to the back seat. I urge Nigerian women to make a statement in vying for governorship positions in the 2023 general elections. My expectation is to see the emergence of at least five women governors and 10 women deputy governors after the 2023 general elections. My dream is to see the first female president of Nigeria before I die.
What are your fears ahead of the 2023 general elections?
When there were escalating pockets of violence before the Anambra governorship election, I was so concerned and surprised. I went into fasting and prayer against any negative incident like bloodshed during the poll. God answered my prayers because the election went very peacefully. I strongly believe that if the election in Anambra should go peacefully despite the fear and tense security situation then, there is nothing to fear for the 2023 elections. In a nutshell, the peace of Anambra governorship election will be a reflection of the peace in the 2023 general elections. I will leave beyond 2023 and I have started praying and fasting against anything happening in the 2023 general elections. Nigeria will surprise the world and doomsday prophets with the peace that will pervade the elections. I am already making arrangements to visit President Buhari to commend him for the success of Anambra governorship election and urge him to ensure the replication of the same in the 2023 general elections. I want to urge the politicians to put on the spirit of sportsmanship.
What will you single out as the most memorable moment of your life and the saddest memory that will follow you to the grave?
There are many memorable moments in my life, but the one that stood out was when Nigeria returned to a democratically elected government. As one of the founding fathers of NADECO in the USA against military rule, I feel that one of the best forms of government is democracy. Again, the blacks taking over South Africa government after the repressive apartheid regime is also a memorable experience to me having been part of the protests and lobbying. Among the few things I still have as my sad moments was the treatment meted out to Willie Mandela after standing behind her husband while he was in detention for 27 years only to be branded with all manner of allegations. I don’t know how long I will stay alive again, but I will not be happy if this continent did not become the United States of Africa. I would also love to see one currency for Africa. I will be happy in my grave if Africa becomes one united country.
What is the way forward to the farmer/herder clashes escalating insecurity in the country?
I can tell you that this situation is manmade and a confirmation of bad leadership. While growing up and even in school in those days when we went to the farms very early in the morning before going to school, there were no such incidents of clashes as we see today. The enemies of the state, angry over the mileage and giant strides the country is recording internationally, are behind those clashes. The unfortunate thing is that some politicians and enemies of progress benefiting from the crisis are desperate to see it continue like that.
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