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Atiku played northern card, Tinubu built a tribe of politicians but Peter Obi will be President — Ex-Ohanaeze leader ,Chief (Dr.) Sylvan Ebigwei

Atiku played northern card, Tinubu built a tribe of politicians but Peter Obi will be President — Ex-Ohanaeze leader ,Chief (Dr.) Sylvan Ebigwei

Chief (Dr.) Sylvan Ebigwei is President Emeritus, Aka Ikenga, Igbo socio-political organization. Ebigwei was Vice President General, Ohanaeze Worldwide and former Chairman, Faculty of Family Dentistry, National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria.

A former Chairman, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital Governing Board and former Board Chairman, Federal College of Dental Technology and Therapy, Enugu and a former President, Nigeria Dental Association, he is the pioneer President of the Nigeria Chess Federation. In this interview, Ebigwei speaks on political party primaries and what the outcome portends for Nigerians going forward. Excerpts:

The political parties have had their conventions for the primaries and the candidates have emerged. How do the parties fare going forward?

I must give kudos to the various political parties for the way they democratically elected their presidential candidates. And the candidates who emerged are no political pushovers. They are all rounded politicians and popular. So, I think Nigeria is going to see the type of election they have never seen before. The gladiators have marched to the playing ground to do the battle and we pray that the election be free and fair without any interference.

There was dollar rain for PDP and APC delegates, coupled with the stepping down of contestants for fellow contestants. It showed a new face of politicking in the country. How do you react?

It is unfortunate that dollars, not even Nigerian Naira, played a significant role during the presidential primaries. It is a big shame. I must say it is a complete betrayal and economic failure of those in charge of governance. Dollar is never our fiat currency for business in Nigeria.

Dollar is international money. And for anybody to be flaunting dollars during the electoral period, they have gone against the electoral guidelines, they have gone against the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And in any normal clime, where there is law and order, all those who used dollars to bribe delegates should be brought to book by the EFCC and charged accordingly.

But now, nobody is saying anything about it. So, it is very negative for the law enforcement agencies responsible for checkmating such illegality. Now, for Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto State governor) and all those northerners who decided to make Alhaji Atiku Abubakar the sole candidate (of the PDP), they are playing a very beautiful game for the North. Politics is a game of numbers, and if you don’t play it well, you lose. In the South, there are so many delegates that can now be said to have suffered crab mentality; everybody wants to be there, but eventually nobody will be there. Atiku emerged because he did his home work very well. He reached out to his contacts and many of them decided to vote for him and some decided to step down for him. That was a very nice job, so you don’t blame him for that. It is only a man that has political sagacity that can achieve such a feat.

In APC, Asiwaju Tinubu emerged after his outbursts at Abeokuta about having made Muhammadu Buhari President. Did he go too far?

Well for Tinubu to have said that, there may be some truth there because Tinubu has always been a rallying point for many politicians. Tinubu has built a tribe of politicians, a colony of many politicians that you know about today. He understands the game of politics. Tinubu has been building his brigade right from the grassroots in Lagos when he was governor. He has made so many of them prominent politically, and there is no gainsaying that when he surfaced he should be noticed and everybody started shaking. He has the dexterity, the political outreach and the financial war chest to fight anybody. So, we know how President Buhari came.

Buhari came and said that he had no N500, 000 to pay for nomination forms, but eventually, it was paid. I don’t know who paid that for him. But I know that he himself is not an astute politician, so teaming up with Tinubu added to his fortunes. He can never deny Tinubu that. It is the synergy between both of them that gave the APC the stepping stone to overcome the almighty PDP who were boasting that they will rule forever. So he may have some truth there.

How does Peter Obi fit into your political calculation after dumping PDP and becoming the presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP)?

Peter Obi is a politician. He is intelligent and he had weighed his options. He had seen far beyond what others had seen, that the outcome of the convention had been determined. Peter knew that the rest of the players were just political chess pawns of the political grandmasters. So, Peter Obi played it and discovered that there was no way he could checkmate them and he had his own ambition, so he had to check out. Instead of going there to be disgraced like many others, he saw what was coming, and knew that the process was skewed against the South.

He knew that even his own people had sold out, he knew that he was not going to garner any votes, in that he was no longer a governor and all the delegates were under the control of the various governors who handpicked them. So there was no way he could have his way. So he checked out and joined the Labour Party.

There are people who say Peter Obi and his Labour Party are only making social media impact. What do you say to them?

They are analogue people. Anybody who underrates social media now is living in the past. Social media is now a powerful tool in mass education and mass mobilization, social media is a powerful tool for any uprising. So, you cannot underrate the social media. Look at what happened in America and elsewhere. Look at former President Obama, how did he get there?

Social media played a significant role. In Nigeria, look at ENDSARS. How were the youths able to organize? At the sound of the whistle, all over the country, in a jiffy, they came out en-masse to protest against SARS. Were they holding any meetings anywhere? It is social media. So, anybody who does not apply social media now, Direct it, Tik-tok, Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even there are some hidden ones which are not yet known, is going nowhere. Take for example, how many people are actually in political parties? They are having a meeting, the day they want to share rice or money, the masses will troop out.

There are many card-carrying members of political parties, but the rest are not affiliated with any political party. But they can sway from one group to another, depending on how you were able to convince them or persuade them. Right now the persuasion is the issue of money. But now, what we are seeing in the social media is that people are told to take politicians money but vote them out. So, I think there is a revolution going on now, because we have realised that once the politician gives you money, gives you rice, they abandon you, and you continue suffering.

But once you have the third party, outside PDP and APC, that is able to convince the suffering masses of Nigerians, I think they will sway them. So, it is going to be dicey during the 2023 elections. So, the social media is very powerful. I am sure that youths understand it.

And unknown to the PDP and APC, the youths are already mobilizing for Labour Party, using the name of Peter Obi because Peter Obi has used the social media extensively to tell the world what he had done during the time of his leadership as the governor of Anambra State, how he had been able to save money, how thrifty he is, how tight-fisted he is. Peter Obi has been able to convince Nigerians and the youths that he will be able to manage the economy well, that he can save money.

So, it is left for Labour Party to put their heads together and deliver him. Labour Party already has cells all over. There are more than 20 labour unions and they know that if Labour takes the government tomorrow, all these agitations will go. Pensions will be paid.

There will be no more agitations, because if you agitate, you will now be condemning yourselves, you people cannot be going on strike knowing you are a member of the labour union. Teachers, doctors, students, physicians, lawyers, musicians and artisans, if these people come together now under the Labour Party, they will take over the government because they are in the majority in a voting population. So, this is their time to take over this nation and address the ills of the nation instead of complaining.

If the Labour Party loses this election, who are you going to complain to? You had the authority, you had the opportunity to use the masses, millions of people under you to take over government and you failed. Are you now going to be voting for people who have been maltreating you, not paying your pensions, not paying your salaries?

Is it now not the time for universities to mobilize their students to come and take over the government? Transport workers union, is it now not the time to join hands and take over the government? NUPENG, PENGASSAN, is it now not the time to join and take over government?

This is the time to use your PVC to make a change through your union, to take over the government, and from there decide how the country can be run. In England, there are only two main parties, Tory (Conservatives) and Labour Party (Labour Unions) where civilized people know the importance of labour.

Here they give you 10 cups of rice during elections and they take your money subsequently and spend them as they like. We could have the same thing here as they have in Britain and let us stop incessant agitations for salaries, etc. Let the government decide how workers can be paid livable wages because it is they who produce the wealth of the country.

Look at the universities, a student will stay seven years all because of strike. Is it not ideal now for ASUU, etc. to use the students under them join Labour Party and salvage their future? Tomorrow you start crying that you had been cheated by the ruling party. It is your time now to rule.

Some say Labour Party has not been winning elections. How can that change?

Necessity is the mother of invention. Labour Party has not won any elections, but now there is a revolution going on and favouring the party because the workers have discovered that the people they have been voting for have been cheating them. They, the workers live in penury while the people they are electing live in affluence.

Will they continue like that? It is time for the Labour Party to use unions as a nucleus for mobilization and they will win, because they are in the majority. You know the artisans, people in the street, who cannot afford three square meals, people pushing trucks, people suffering under the sun, people at the construction sites, people sweeping the streets, suffering people who cannot even send their children to school, and somebody comes to them and says “we will give you change”, forget these people.

These people who have been ruling have been deceiving you, follow Labour and we will address the issues. That is how some nations started. For instance in Poland, unions came together to address their issues. That is the essence of labour unions: To make sure that palliatives that accrue to workers get to them. Look at NYSC members, millions of them, they graduate from school, after youth service, they are jobless. And jobless Nigerians are in millions. And these are people they recruit for terrorism.

Nigeria is a very rich country, but prudent management of resources is what we lack because we lack honest leaders. We don’t have leaders with integrity. The leaders we have are just those who massage their own ego.

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