•Narrates how ex-Govs Rimi, Lar gave him $24m, others got him oil business
•Asks: What did Jonathan or Anyim do for the S/East?
•Slams region’s govs for not caring ‘whether you eat or not’, says Obiano unfair to royal fathers
•‘Why I am taking Anambra monarchs to Buhari in Abuja’
Igbo billionaire, Prince Arthur Eze, says for the Igbo to realise their dream of producing the President of Nigeria in 2023, they must work with the North.
In this interview conducted by Nnamdi Ojiego in his country home, Ukpo, in Dunukofia Local Government Area of Anambra State, Eze reveals why he’s taking Governor Willie Obiano to court, his support for President Muhammadu Buhari, among other issues. Excerpts:
Recently, there have been calls from some quarters for an Igbo to be president of Nigeria in 2023. What’s your take on this?
Listen, I don’t have any objections to that because only God can make anybody president including Igbo person. It is possible for an Igbo person to become Nigeria’s president in 2023. However, for us to achieve that, we must work with the North. Again, we shall pray to God to find an Igbo man who has character to help people.
I would prefer someone who has conscience; somebody who will remember the people. I don’t care where he or she comes from. During the time of President Jonathan, we had the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Pius Anyim. What did he do for Igbo people? He brought Julius Berger and they tarred his own road; the one leading to his house. All our roads were bad. It is President Buhari that is tarring our roads now.
Look at Enugu – Onitsha Road, Enugu – Port Harcourt Road, Second Niger Bridge. He went and modernized Zik’s grave. Did Jonathan do that? These South-East governors, does any of them ask whether you eat or not? For example, in Anambra State, Dunukofia Local Government Area makes about N150 million every month. Has Governor Obiano built anything in Dunukofia? Has he brought any industry to Anambra? Tell me. Your children, where are they going to go tomorrow? Go to Yoruba land in Ogun, you will see industries. Go to Rivers and you’ll see industries.
I started politics when I was very young. My father was a member of the Eastern House of Chiefs during the time of Nnamdi Azikiwe and then Premier Okpara. I used to open doors for politicians whenever they come around, and my father never opposed any leader, be he Yoruba or Hausa. It is not in our blood.
We preferred to live in peace with everybody. So, for the Igbo to be President, they must love themselves and work other regions. We must learn from Nnamdi Azikiwe. Zik was a wise man. During his time, he built bridges with the North through the Sardauna of Sokoto and Tafawa Balewa. It is important that we emulate Zik at this point in time in our lives as a people. The seed of discord between the North and Ndigbo should be broken totally so that both regions can enjoy harmonious relationship for the benefit of all.
You said northerners love the Igbo. Why did you say so?
Yes. Why I said so is because, after civil war, when Igbo properties were being seized in Rivers and other areas, northerners didn’t seize anything. In fact, they returned all Igbo properties including money made from them. So, northerners are kind. Again, when I went to the North, they didn’t know who I was but they supported me and helped me to establish (businesses). Abubakar Rimi (second republic Kano governor) gave me $12 million for Kano TV in 1980 when I didn’t have one naira. He called Governor Lar and he gave me that of Plateau for $12 million. It was the same thing in Katsina, Borno and Kaduna. Then, they put me in oil business. They didn’t care where I came from. Tell me any Igbo man who can do that.
We learnt that you are taking Anambra State traditional rulers to President Buhari. What’s the purpose of the visit?
Yes. The Anambra State Council of Traditional Rulers held a meeting with me. The purpose of the meeting was to appraise the achievements of President Buhari in the South-East and to reach a resolution for a thank you visit to the President. You see all he’s doing for us? Did you see the Onitsha-Enugu road? It is the best in Africa. What about Onitsha-Enugu road, Enugu – Port Harcourt road, Enugu airport, Second Niger Bridge and many others.
Buhari built and decorated the Zik’s mausoleum. Only a northerner can do that. So basically, we are visiting the President to thank him for the numerous developmental projects both completed and ongoing in the South-East, and to appeal to him to complete ongoing projects. We will also use the visit to beg him to dredge River Niger to allow ships berth at the river to help our people who are largely importers.
It was reported that you are taking your governor, Willie Obiano, to court. Why?
To compel him to pay traditional rulers their outstanding statutory entitlements which were approved by the late General Sani Abacha. The late Head of State allocated five percent for traditional rulers. The North has been implementing their own up till today.
Northern governors are paying their traditional rulers. Western governors are paying theirs but South-East governors, except that of Enugu State, are not paying, why? So I am taking Obiano to court unless he pays the outstanding money owed traditional rulers, start doing something for the people and stop wasting state’s resources on projects that have no economic impact on the people like the airport he’s building.
Obiano is spending $3billion to build airport at Aguleri while the people of Aguleri don’t have good roads. Enugu, where there is an airport, to Anambra is about 20 minutes’ drive, then you have Asaba airport close by.
So, do we really need another airport? Why not use the money to build industries and other critical infrastructure? Provide something for your people, your own children. Very soon we shall die. Your children, where are you going to engage them? Which industry did they build? They didn’t build any, not even one that is producing toilet tissue. That is the problem.
It was alleged that you were having a running battle with Obiano over the siting of the Zone 13 Police Command facility?
I’m not aware of anything like that. On the siting of the police command, it will interest you to know that in Anambra, Dunukofia or Ukpo is in the middle position. From here to Enugu with the new express road is just 20 minutes. From here to Ebonyi is about one hour using the road Buhari built for us. Here is a centralized place, that’s why it is sited here. Governor Obiano wanted it to be in Aguleri, his hometown. I thought that he would be happy we brought it to the centre because, from here to his place is less than seven minutes’ drive and from here to Onitsha is seven minutes. I thought that we were working together until I heard that he went to Abuja to spray money.
The point is that I didn’t even fight. I didn’t have the impression that I was fighting but when I heard that Obiano wrote a petition against me, I knew that there was actually a war. His people, Aguleri and Umueri, have been fighting war for many years, killing themselves but he has never reconciled them. Now, he’s interested on where to site Zone 13 Headquarters. The most important thing for him now should be to reconcile Aguleri and Umuleri communities, this is important and should be his utmost concern. So, where the facility is sited does not bother me.
By next year, Anambra will be electing another governor and there is this argument over zoning. Where do you stand on this issue?
The point is, if you see a good man, no matter where he is from, go and help him. Let them have the opportunity; provided that there is a good human being from that area; not a criminal that will deal with the people when he acquires power. Any man from the minority which has not gotten power should be allowed. This is because if you don’t do that, God can change situations anytime.