Pharoh Okadigbo, the son of late Nigeria politician, Chuba Okadigbo has asserted that President Muhammadu Buhari would have retired from politics by now if his father was still alive.
Speaking via an interview with Leadership Newspaper, Pharoh spoke on a number of national issues.
Read excerpts from the interview:
Friday, September 25, 2015 marked the twelfth anniversary of the death of your father, Senator Chuba Okadigbo, a former Senate President of this country. How do you reflect on life without him these past years?
Well, when l reflect on my Father’s death, it is that of emotions and a deep feeling of a sense of loss. I was about 28 years old when he passed on in September 2003. Today, l have come of age, to a stage in life that l now think more about his vision and philosophy in life and also about his visions and concern for the future of this country. My father was, above all things, very passionate about Nigeria. He often told us and to some of his friends and to those who cared, that a Muhammadu Buhari Presidency, whenever it comes, would signpost the beginning of a great turn around for this nation in all its ramifications. He had always looked forward to compliment President Buhari in this vision and has always urged his progressive political associates, allies and followers, to keep the flag of this vision for progressive Nigeria flying. But unfortunately, he had always regretted that anytime the nation was about to make this progress, it always made a detour and derailed.
Considering the caliber of the person of your late father, Chuba Okadigbo, what are those things you and the entire Okadigbo family miss about him?
I think we miss his absence, the warmth he usually brings to the family and also the advice that gives. It is very rare to find such a person as a father figure. But we can only rely on the lessons that he had taught us. I remember he used to call us his children together and sits us down to tell us things that were beyond our comprehension. And day after day or week after week, he keeps on repeating it knowing full well that we were yet to come to terms with the import of what he had told us. A year ago, some things will happen in my life and l will remember the stories he tells us about life. Okadigbo was a man that prepared for the future especially in regards to his family. He prepared for the future in terms of the life’s lessons. And to the extended family, his absence has been difficult. Can you imagine if the Sun is extinguished, how would the universe feel? We thank God so far because for us in the Okadigbo family, his lessons have kept us strong and focused to ourselves as human beings, to our country, our family and to humanity in general. As the Bible said, my father really thought us to love our neighbors as ourselves. That was his number one philosophy.
Being a notable knowledgeable and charismatic politician during his lifetime, what political tutorials would you say you learnt from him?
There have been many. Politics, just like the world, moves faster now. With the advent of social media and even within your profession (Journalism), you can understand the role social media has played in the evolution of journalism. The same goes for politics. There is a greater level of citizens participation now in the political process of the nation. There is a whole lot of things, politics going on in the National Assembly that my father has taught us about in power and leadership. He specifically taught us that we can not blame the failure or success of leadership of this nation at the early period of post-independent era on the late Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa because he was a led-leader, who, we all know that the late Sardauna Ahmadu Bello who was a power premier of the northern Nigeria at the time. Don’t forget that the Sardauna was a leader of a region where the former Prime Minister came from and all the political parties then were regional parties. But when you have a Prime Minister as the leader of the party in government but yet the authority comes from the background, you can imagine the difficulties faced by Balewa. It happened in the case of the immediate past President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan. His hands were tied to some extent. When as a leader your power base is located in a tribal area or region, you will certainly be encumbered. The situation is different in the case of President Muhammadu Buhari.
My father had the ambition to be president and naturally who wouldn’t. But he knew that one should not be greedy about it, that you had to take it one step at a time. Politics, he often tells me, is a game of patience. You have to know how to be patient in order to achieve development for the people as well as for your self.
Having learnt a lot from your father politically and being the most visible of all Chuba Okadigbo’s children, most people often wonder why you haven’t taken a plunge into politics all these years. Are you bidding for your time before stepping into your father’s political shoes?
Well, l have been taking part in political activities all these years even when my father was alive. I have worked with politicians. My father taught me that political tutelage is a very important lesson. If you achieve something too early in life, it poses its own difficulties because you have not had the time to learn the basic things about that particular aspect of life you are going into. For the past twelve years, l’ve been learning and watching. As l said previously, you have to be patient especially with a country like Nigeria that is very dynamic and fluid. The youths of nowadays who are young graduates, often desire the kind of accomplishments of a man of fifty years or that of a retired person. You see, it doesn’t actually work that way. That is one of the fundermental problems with us youths. You just can’t be the master in one day. You must go through the apprenticeship stage in life. For me, all these years, l have kept in touch with a lot of politicians most of who were my Father’s political friends, associates and ideological soul mates. I’ve worked with them, like the Senator’s Forum. I believe l have done a lot of background work to become a fulfilled citizen that is able to analyze the political field to the best of my ability. Fundamentally, my movement into politics is not for personal glory. I believe if one is entering into politics, it should be for the calling. You have to have a clear-cut focus on what you want to do and how you want to serve the nation.
In the past twelve years of my father’s death, we’ve had members of my family who have been into politics. And by having close relatives going into politics since then, I am not too far away from that politics itself.
Your father was a known political and ideological ally of President Muhammadu Buhari. He was Buhari’s vice presidential running mate in the defunct ANPP in the 2003 presidential election. He believed so much in Buhari’s military and civilian presidency such that he refused to serve under the previous military regimes before the advent of this democracy. What would have been their relationship now that Buhari is in power were he to be alive?
First and foremost, my father, the Chuba Okadigbo that you know, was a political scientist who believes strongly in democracy and civil governance. He was never a fan of the military rule because he believes that power belongs to the people and should indeed be derived from the people through a democratic process. Like you rightly said, that was why he refused to be part of the military government even when he was invited severally to serve under the military as a minister and positions like that in the transition process leading to democratic rule like the constituent assembly. So Chuba Okadigbo was guided all his life by a strong democratic philosophy. And while he shared very strongly President Buhari’s people-oriented ideology in political and democratic governance, he did not welcome Buhari’s historical circumstance as a military leader. They are two different things. So while he was totally for Buhari’s style of leadership, he was averse to the institution of the military getting involved in civil governance. So if you are a soldier and you want to serve the people, you must shed your uniform and come down to derive your power from the people through the process of democracy. That is why you see President Buhari today being totally different from Major General Muhammadu Buhari as a Head of State of Nigeria. You will observe that it is that same premise of democratic supremacy so to speak, which my father believes in, that President Buhari is strongly opposing the military junta in Burkina Faso today. So President Buhari has seen both sides and has become a better president that we have always known him to be under the mandate of the people and not through the power of the gun. Therefore my father would have been a part of this government and a supporter of the Buhari presidency.
I also believe that if my father was alive, Buhari would have served out his eight year tenure as a president of this country before 2015.
How do you mean?
Yes, if Okadigbo was alive, Buhari would have been president in 2007. So l believe strongly that Buhari would have been a retired politician by now because he would have won the election in 2007 and won again in 2011. Another man would have been at the helms of affairs of this country today. Chuba Okadigbo would have played a great role in making that scenario possible.
In specific terms, what do you think Okadigbo and Buhari shared in common?
Integrity. They shared similar political philosophy and they believed so much in humanity. Both men were very humane people. A lot of people who speak about Buhari’s years when he was a military leader and talk about his draconian decrees and all that, were simply a product of the environment and circumstance at the time. President Buhari couldn’t have responded in any other manner considering the state of things he met. His colleagues in the army who rallied round him to become the Head of State at that time knew of course, that he was the best man to clean the Augean stable and he did. So there is no way anyone could undertake such task without stepping on toes. It’s just normal. President Buhari has changed. Politics is about patience. Buhari has been patient all these past twelve years that he contested elections from 2003 to 2007 to 2011 and in 2015 that he finally made it to become the president. That was the same thing with my father. He started contesting for elections since 1979 up till 1999 when he came to the Senate and till 2003 when he ran with President Buhari for the presidency. My father deliberately refused to get involved with military rule even when juicy offers of appointments were made to him. Because of his ideology, he stayed away even though he had officers who were his friends. So one thing you have to understand about president Buhari is that he is ideological and when you are ideological and have principles, it gives you strength to achieve what you want to achieve. Both president Buhari and my father were born in December. They were age mates. Both of them were tall and lanky. They possess the virtues of perseverance, ideological commitment and integrity and dignity. If you look at the Okadigbo family, there has not been any scandal associated with our family members, likewise the Buhari family. Buhari and my father were good family men who trained their children. People that know Dr Chuba Okadigbo will attest to the fact that he always carry people along.
In what way do you think your father would have complimented the Buhari presidency?
My father was an associate professor of philosophy and political science. Very few people do have that kind of combination presently. His ability to read politics and it’s trends, would have benefited Buhari and the nation greatly. I think that he would have created a saner administration and a saner opposition. One thing l like about president Buhari is his ability to use the right political language in politics and not this type of abuses you see today’s politicians throw anyhow. All these period, President Buhari never abused any opponent in the name of politics. So if you have a vice president who has debt in politics and who understands politics practically as well as the theoretical aspect of it, there is nothing in governance you will not be able to achieve. I think that is what my father, Chuba Okadigbo would have brought to the table.
You and your father have been known to share President style and ideological vision, what do you think are those things Buhari has done in the past 100 days which you will commend?
I think l like the maturity of the man. President Buhari has learnt a lot from 2003 till date. He carries on as the real President of Nigeria and not as president of APC. Governance is different from politics. Ever since the unfortunate trial of our Senate President, President Buhari has never made a comment. When the opposition and individual make wild comment. It’s maturity.
Buhari is not a man who can not keep his promises. All those things he promised to do during his campaigns, he would do them in due course. They are not things he can achieve in just 100 days. Ministers would soon be announced and things would begin to happen. President Buhari is only taking his time to ensure that credible men and women of ability are appointed as ministers to help him actualize those promises. He has made it clear that no corrupt person will be appointed to work with him. Civil servants have been driving the machinery of government and things are moving. The president is streamlining the civil service. The civil servants, the permanent secretaries of the ministries now know the president one-on-one. There is checks and balances and any minister who is coming on board now will be more careful in what he is doing knowing full well that there are people watching him who will report back directly to the president what is going on in the ministry. Nobody likes change but change indeed has come. Also, if you look at the Boko Haram insurgency, there are movements now. There war going on and all manner of combat weapons we have never seen in this country have been brought in by the president to ensure that his promise of vanquishing the insurgents is kept. The new service chief are all working round the clock to make that possible.
There are both internal and external intelligence activities on-going and the president has met with leaders of neighboring countries and those of Europe and America, so fundamental things have happened in this past 100 days. And we hope that by December this year or by January or February next year, Boko Haram menace will be severely curtailed to at least 20 percent or so. In the area of recovery of stolen funds, president Buhari has not done badly. Stolen fund is stolen fund and it should be returned. My father would have given his backing to such effort. Nobody should be spared in this war against corruption. Even if it requires plea bargaining to get back the money, for Christ sake, let these funds be returned. I was glad when l read in the newspapers the other day that about one billion naira was returned from the ministry of environment. That’s a huge sum for God’s sake! How unfair can we be to this country? The people of this country are suffering because of leaders who steal billions in naira and other currencies and they hire these top lawyers to do this and that for them. I support the repatriation of those stolen funds by legal means.
How far have you gone in your effort to revive the Chuba Okadigbo Foundation. When is the foundation’s next annual lecture series coming up?
Presently, we are putting finishing touches to a lot of things regarding the foundation. You know, the foundation has Directors. The immediate family of Dr Chuba Okadigbo have started reaching out to the directors to intimate them of our plans for the future of that foundation. We apologize to Nigerians and to ourselves to not to be holding the Chuba Okadigbo annual lectures as it we are supposed to. A lot of people have said to me that we can make a lot of money from that foundation and l tell them that the Chuba Okadigbo Foundation is not all about making money. You see, money is not our concern. My father was not the money conscious type of person when he was alive. Okadigbo was more of an ideas man and l believe strongly in that. If anybody brings money, it is not for the Okadigbo family but for the foundation which in turn will be given back to the citizens for various projects. We thank God that we have been able to reach out to the director.