ELDER STATESMAN, Senator Nosike Ikpo was one of the leading lights in the Second Republic. Ikpo, in this interview, posits that former Military Head of State, General Muhammudu Buahri cannot rule Nigeria owing to his involvement in scuttling a democratically elected government. He also says the National Conference will succeed if well managed just as he bares his mind on other burning national issues. Excerpts:
Interview Conducted by Guardian Newspaper AUSTIN OGWUDA
Do you think the National Conference will bring the much needed solution to the nation’s problems?
It is good depending on how it is managed, how it is run. If there is sincerity in the whole process because there is a problem, the problem in Nigeria like some of us have always said is the problem of leadership.
If Jonathan has a clear idea of where, what he wants Nigeria to be and gives a proper direction to the conference, they will come out fine. Somebody has to give direction. When you talk of leadership, the number one person has to have an idea of what he wants to achieve for the people he is leading.
The uncompleted job of restructuring Nigeria could be completed in that place. Nigeria is so wrongly structured. The creation of states has led to pockets of dissatisfaction certainly amongst the people of Nigeria. There cannot be peace if there is no justice.
People in the North are not happy. I remember what late Tarka said when forming the separatist movement in the Middle Belt. He was fired by a statement made by the late Sarduana of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello on the 1st of October 1960 that the minorities of the Middle Belt would be the tools of Northern leaders to rule Nigeria.
The man took action, mobilized his people and started agitation for a separate state. The matter is still there; every young man, every active politician in the Middle Belt is still asking for a separate identity.
Talking about a viable opposition, do you see the emerging All Progressives Congress, APC …..?
(Cuts in) I do not see how Tinubu and Buhari can lead Nigeria. Buhari may be a very honest person but I don’t know him. He campaigned in 2007, he wanted to be president of Nigeria but he never reached this part of the country; he never reached Delta State.
And in any case anybody who overthrew a democratic government cannot be elected as president of Nigeria.
He is not entitled to. He has no moral justification to become a democratic leader of this country. So I don’t know where they are going. My friends are there. Most of them are my old colleagues in the UPN, they are all there and I am still attracted to them but the idea of the possibility of Buhari becoming presidential candidate of that party nauseates me completely.
I don’t know why they feel that he can be of any use to them. In any case they can still be a viable opposition without having Buhari as presidential candidate.
I didn’t know Tinubu in our time, because was still a young man then, probably he was still abroad so he wasn’t part of Awolowo’s children and he had never spoken as an Awoist.
I am not talking about what do you call them, fire eaters, no. He comes from an environment that he cannot run away from Awolowo. Look at his mother who died recently, a great market woman. When we needed money in 1962-63 during the Action Group crisis, we go to her.
So he came from the environment from where he can’t run away from Awolowo’s political views, he cannot.
All those who are supporting him (Tinubu) presently who are his disciples, definitely are disciples of Chief Awolowo.
That is not the same as saying that he can be a successful president. I don’t know his personal views and manifestos. What we want is a good leader.
For instance, a good leader is somebody like Uduaghan. You can’t identify his friends, you can’t identify his enemies only him alone can tell you who his friends are or vice-versa . He has ideas, he knows where he is going, what to do.
Look at what we are doing in Delta State. Whom can you tell me that Uduaghan is likely to hand over to? I don’t know. All of us are guessing.
What type of person do you think is fit to succeed Uduaghan?
All of them are my children. All the aspirants are my children particularly from the North. I made a statement the other day and many people misunderstood me that I probably sold out. I can’t sell out at this stage; I am 85 so what am I selling out for?
You don’t expect that after Uduaghan, another governor should come from the South.
It will be unreasonable, so people will expect that another governor should come from Delta North. But what I am quarrelling with our people is that for anybody to think that he can go to bed hoping because of rotation that governor will come to Delta North I don’t believe in that. So that was what I was opposed to.
Do you support the call on President Jonathan to run for a second term?
He has to go back. He has done reasonable well. I voted for him in 2007 because I had no alternative as I couldn’t have voted for Buhari.
Are you satisfied with the way corruption is been tackled?
It is the mindset of leaders of a country. Take Jerry Rawlings of Ghana for instance. He set out to clean Ghana and cleaned up the place. I am not saying that there is no corruption in Ghana anymore. But definitely, the situation cannot go back to what it was before Rawlings.
Are you saying Nigeria needs the Rawlings method?
We need that type of revolution. We have not seen a revolution; something drastic has to happen to make people behave.
I cannot even send my cook to the market today. I can’t afford the rising cost of food at Ibusa market, then somebody is hoarding billions not even naira but dollars. So somebody has to come out and decide to stop this thing called corruption.
Well, that is my idea. All these military coups have not even helped us. They have not done exactly what I would have done if I were a young man, if I were a soldier and I wanted to clean up the place. They are merely changing batons and from one bad ruler to the other that is all.
Looking back when you were in the Senate and now, any comparison?
There are two different scenarios. They can never be the same. My salary when I was in the Senate was N15,000 per month.
When I told my constituent at Agbor, they couldn’t believe it. And we were paying five percent to the party. At the end of every month, the cashier from the UPN office would come with his receipt.
Contribution to the welfare of the party and for the building of the party. When people said I brought College of Education Agbor, I didn’t go to build the place. It was the same thing I did for Asaba College of Education.
I did not go to build it or look for a contractor, I only influenced the siting of the colleges to those places. But it is not so now; now they give you the money. It is in the budget, then you take it and do what you like.