Chudi Offodile, a lawyer, is a governorship aspirant in Anambra State on the platform United Progressives Party (UPP). The former member of the House of Representatives who has been an ardent advocate of what he calls “Biafra brand” in this interview insisted that he would run a Biafra system, if elected.
You are a very successful lawyer? Why are you going into politics?
Well, the truth is, I have always been in politics. I was elected into the House of Representatives in 1999, I was elected in 2003. But after I tried to go to the senate in 2007 and 2011 unsuccessfully, I decided to quit. In between, I wrote the book ‘the politics of Biafra and the future of Nigeria.’ I was working on my second book too; which reveals the investigations I carried out as chairman of the Public Petitions Committee of the House of Representatives. And that was taking my time until I decided to redefine the politics of our area. Since the Anambra governorship election was the first one coming up I thought I should use it to give a new ideological direction for the politics of the eastern area.
You won the election to the House of Representatives on the platform of PDP, now you are going into the governorship on UPP’s platform. Why did you dump the PDP for UPP?
I actually dumped the party before the crisis. My leaving PDP had nothing to do with the current crisis. It actually got to do with the fact that I was tired of the kind of politics the political parties without ideological bearing were playing. All the parties were two sides of the same coin. It didn’t quite make sense, and I just felt that there was no need. And there was also a lingering crisis in the Anambra State chapter of the PDP, which began in 2003 up till today. At that point I decided, and I left before the current Makarfi, so it had nothing to do with the current crisis. I also mentioned that I quit politics and now I have gone back with UPP as my preferred destination.
Oh, clearly because the UPP has taken a clear ideological position, which I believe is the best position that the Igbo people in Nigeria should follow. UPP has emphasized the right to self-determination; I mean these are revolutionary ideas within the Nigerian context, so it fits into my own personal conviction.
When you say it fits into your conviction, do you mean the party is sympathetic to IPOB?
The issue is really; I wrote a book on Biafra, that book dealt with the history of the struggles within the Biafra, then the prescriptions for the future. That is the difference between that book and other books on Biafra. So in the process, I analysed the recent agitations of the Biafra groups, and the customary government. So it gave me a clear understanding of what I believe in, I mean representing the general attitude of our people, particularly the younger generation.
What is that in the Anambra of today that you feel is missing in governance that you want to go and address?
The first fundamental thing is the idea of decentralization of power. In Nigeria, Igbo agitate for decentralization of power. It is not enough to seek for devolution of power from the federal government to the state whereas within the state, the state government has all the powers; including powers that ought to go to the local government. So in effect, there is no difference in the operation of the Anambra State government in the last 16 years. For instance, there is clearly no local administration in Anambra State. I think elected local government councils have only existed once in the last 16 years, it is always caretaker committee. So that is concentration of power, and what I seek is an anti-thesis; which I call the ‘Biafran Ideology’, which is an anti-thesis of the Nigerian system, which emphasizes decentralization of power and participatory democracy.
And you know it is not my original idea, it was already put together in the later years of Biafra by Prof. Chinua Achebe and other brilliant Igbo scholars. They emphasized participatory democracy and decentralisation of power. So my idea remains that we need to put it into practice, criticize centralisation of power in the centre; whereas that is what goes on there. We have had a party in power for at least 12 years, representing Igbo interest, but the question is how much of that Igboness have they represented, what is their view on restructuring, on Biafra; whether we are having a Biafran state, or sharing power to the regions. Nobody is clear. So I think they have been too silent on those key issues which deal with the protection of the Igbo interest in Nigeria. And I believe that is the foremost reason they were given the mandate. And I think they failed decisively. That is why it has become necessary to create an alternative platform to agitate and protect the interest of the Igbo people in Nigeria.
UPP is believed widely to be a party that IPOB and Biafra sympathisers have embraced, but ironically the same people are saying there should not be election in Anambra. How do you see the contradiction?
Is it truly a contradiction? I don’t know, but I will say Biafra is a great brand, a very great brand, and the reason is clear. The two and half years that Biafra existed, it was a successful state; Biafra was innovative, and of course it manifested technological abilities. Biafra was self-reliant, that is why it is a great brand; it had a great leader in Emeka Ojukwu. So today Nnamdi Kanu has taken up the battle, Nnamdi has shown that characteristics, he is resolute, he is audacious, he is bold; that is the Biafran brand. Now the Biafran idea is the idea of freedom and justice and the most important thing is if Biafra represents freedom, it means that different people will have different opinions and ideas on how the Biafran dreams should be realised or what the Biafran idea actually means.
So it needs not just be IPOB or Nnmadi Kanu or Uchenna or whoever, it is a free society. They can talk about boycott, I am interested in the idea and I am interested in the election, we just have different opinions, it doesn’t affect the brand. That brand is great like I mentioned, because the Igbo brand was not very successful in Nigeria. So the Biafran brand is what we should try and I think that should be the direction.
So you believe strongly that the best thing for the Igbo at the moment is to have Biafra as a country?
It is to have Biafran identity not the state. Some people want the state, I want the Biafran identity. That is the brand; the Igbo brand didn’t succeed in Nigeria. The Igbo man is not respected; they look down on him. But the Biafran brand, even those who don’t love it, those who don’t like it, at least respect it. That is where we should go; some people put it as separate state, others want it as part of Nigeria, which is a point of view. Some other people really feel it is an idea that can be implemented in any environment, which is a point of view. That is the essence of the Biafran idea itself, freedom. That is the basis of the innovation that occurred in Biafra; people are free to think and express themselves. That is what we should push for, a free society.
The UPP has Chidoka who is also aspiring to fly the party’s flag; do you think you have advantage over him?
I don’t think I have any advantage, I just know that come 19th of August; the delegates of the UPP will choose a candidate that will fly the flag of the party in the governorship election. Chidoka is a great candidate, but I think I will do a better job in pushing our people in the right direction.
Even when you win the party’s ticket, do you think it is enough to use the Biafran card to get elected?
I don’t know if that is enough, but I will certainly wave it. There is nothing wrong with using the Biafran card. Someone asked me before, ‘is this not opportunism?’ Everybody learns that if you read the Bible and live according to the injunctions of Christ, that you will make heaven; so is it opportunistic for people to seek to go to heaven? An opportunity that is open to everyone; it is a free society, but why is everyone afraid of asking that opportunity? They don’t want to take it, so they just keep quiet.
Just few days ago, the National Assembly shut down devolution of power in the on-going constitution amendment, how do you feel?
They have made themselves irrelevant, that is the end of the story, I don’t need to go further on that. Those of them that are reviving the idea are the ones that understand that they have removed themselves from the power equation in Nigeria. So if they are considering going back to it, then they are sensible; that is what I expect sensible people to do, but if they stick to that, then they will become irrelevant.
What will you do to change Anambra if you are elected?
The one important thing I would do is to decentralise power. If you think about local government as an administrative unit, where you employ a number of people doing nothing with huge recurrent expenditure, then you won’t appreciate the point I am making. But if you think about local government as a unit of administration, just like town unions, we have 177 town unions in Anambra State, each with an administration, but they are not even paid, but they function.
So we create 326 units that will be fully operational and funded by the government, and what we design is to have five persons to run those local governments of course with uniform limited salary. We intend to run a bottom-top approach, rather than a top-bottom approach. That is the Biafran ideology we preach, it is going to be an interesting revolutionary system, and it is going to work for our people.