Chinyere Stella Okunna, a professor of Mass Communication, is currently the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics), Paul University, Awka, Anambra State. She has had a long and distinguished career in journalism education, particularly at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka (1994-2021). For eight consecutive years (2006-2014), she served in Anambra State government during the administration of Governor Peter Obi, where she occupied various positions, including Commissioner for Information & Culture; Chief of Staff; Commissioner for Economic Planning & Budget; Coordinating Commissioner for Development Partnership/Donor Agencies activities in Anambra State; Chair, Anambra State Committee on Good Governance, and Chair, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Implementation Committee. In this interview with OBIRE ONAKEMU, she talks about the administration of Peter Obi–who is now the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) for the 2023 general elections– describing it as exceptional in delivery of good governance and was able to record amazing achievements in all sectors because Obi possesses the qualities of world-class political leaders. She also speaks on the redesigning of the naira, among other important national issues. EXCERPTS:
What is your take on the state of the nation?
The state of the nation is very worrisome because the situation appears to be getting worse in virtually every sector, as exemplified by the extremely high rate of poverty and the horrifying insecurity in various parts of the country.
You once served in the cabinet of former Governor Peter Obi as Chief of Staff and Commissioner for Economic Planning & Budget. How
would you rate the delivery of good governance in the state then?
With absolutely no exaggeration, I can say categorically that Peter Obi was exceptional in his delivery of good governance. With his unique, grassroots-oriented and participatory “Anambra Integrated Development Strategy” (ANIDS), he was able to record amazing achievements/dividends of good governance in all sectors simultaneously.
Why are many of the intelligentsia not showing enough interest in political leadership in Anambra and Nigeria?
I think this situation is changing because the interest of the intelligentsia in political leadership is becoming noticeable. The country is in a bad shape and on the brink of collapse, so much so that even those Nigerians who were apathetic towards politics are now sufficiently alarmed to show interest in who has the capacity to salvage the country. The intelligentsia are no exception.
How do you see governance in the country and failure of the state to fulfill its obligations? Don’t you think this is responsible for the polarisation of the Nigerian population?
Indeed, good governance has been dealt a deadly blow in recent years and the country has never been as divided and disunited as it is today. The various groups vociferously clamouring for the restructuring of the country, or even for outright secession, are eloquent testimonies to how polarised and disillusioned the population has become.
How do you see the South-East in the power equation of this country?
Since the end of the Nigerian Civil War, the people of the South-East have never been given a sense of belonging, as can be seen in their total exclusion from the power equation and political leadership at the highest/national level, in spite of the so-called “Federal Character” or quota system which is expected to ensure inclusiveness for the various federating units of the country.
How do you see Peter Obi’s Obidient ‘Tsunami’ in the Southeast and other parts of the country?
It is a revolution whose time has come and which is becoming embraced by Nigerians from all senatorial zones, not only in the South-East. Peter Obi symbolises the change which Nigerians desperately desire, the face of a New Nigeria, because it is daily dawning on every Nigerian that the country cannot continue with the same ‘business-as-usual’ governance failure which has brought us to deplorable situation in which we are today.
How would you rate the chance of Peter Obi in the coming election?
I rate it very high because Obi possesses the qualities of the world-class political leader who Nigeria desperately needs now. He is knowledgeable about national and international affairs and issues; he is intelligent and expert in the management of financial and human resources; he is humane and people-oriented. All told, he is peak of the pack in terms of being the best among all the contestants.
How do you see the Federal Government’s move to redesign the naira? Would that improve the nation’s economy?
With the information available in the public domain concerning the reasons and benefits given by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), I think the government’s decision to intervene through this strategy of redesigning the naira is commendable. These reasons and benefits include
stopping the ongoing alarming hoarding of the naira (more than 80% of currency in circulation is outside the banking system); fighting counterfeiting of the naira and helping the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to monitor campaign funding and prevent vote buying.
Why is it that many lgbo people are not coming out openly to declare support for Peter Obi?
My dear, l think you are wrong. First of all, you said many and some people say most. lt is not true. The ranks and files, the people who are supporting Peter Obi are visible high people who have their own expectations, their own ambition, their own desire and need. The low and the high people in the society today are all in support of him. And even high profile members of APC and PDP are all in support of him quietly. They may not come out openly.
Now, l am telling you that many people are going to break ranks with their governors who are not supporting us and with their people who are not supporting us. He has a lot of secret supports from the National Assembly to the Presidency. Those who are not supporting him openly or visibly are those who are afraid to come out openly because they have other considerations which are really understandable.
Don’t you think agitation for Biafra will affect the clamour for Peter Obi to become president of Nigeria?
What gave rise to the agitation in the first place? ls it not that people are not being treated well? ln all honesty, some of the agitations have been hijacked by hoodlums. These are the ones we are trying to make sure that they do not disturb the elections. If you notice what is going on, even the Nnamdi Kanu whom they are claiming to be fighting for has come out through his spokesman to say that it is not IPOB that is doing all that is happening. Some other people who have some ulterior motives have hijacked this movement. The lgbo person is a very intelligent, hardworking, patriotic person. How can Nigeria pay him or her back? This was what gave birth to the agitation! And now, when they see the total and full support for Peter Obi and when they know that their own person is going there, they will give him support. And l keep saying that Obi is no longer an lgbo person in quote, so to say, he is now a Nigerian. He is going to unify Nigeria and bring everybody into the main stream, including the lgbo people. I am personally convinced that the election will go well and Obi will win. He is going to bring the lgbo people into the mainstream, and other Nigerians. He is a true man of the people and he is for all irrespective of tribes and religion.
How do you think the marginalisation of lgbo can be resolved?
That is what l’m talking about now. Do you know that one of the greatest areas of marginalisation is political involvement or participation. The Nigerian institution, not Biafra agitators – not lgbo have sat down and arrived at the Federal Character or whatever they call it. Federal Character is a common name for one to steal. Do you see the fairness and the equity when Chief Moshood Abiola was ingloriously treated and the entire nation raised their voices against the injustice. We pray such a thing should never repeat itself in this country. lf it happens, l don’t know if this nation would survive it!