By Fred Itua, Abuja
Rev. Sally Mbanefoh is the South-East zonal woman leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and an ardent supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari. She also believes that at the right time, Igbos will take their right place in Buhari’s government. In this interview with our correspondent, she spoke on the APC-led federal government, Biafran protests in the Southeastern part of the, as well as the need to support Buhari to run for a second term in office. Excerpts.
How would you rate President Muhammadu Buhari’s performance so far?
I will say he is doing well. I am not saying this because he belongs to my party. Nigerians, including me are quick to shout praises and also to say crucify. From my background, eight months or one year is long, but not long at the same time. If you do not give somebody enough time, you cannot tell what they can really do. This country needs to be cleaned up. Nigerians need to understand that there are better ways of doing things. Nigerians need to understand that it is not business as usual. It is time for you and me to begin to make valuable sacrifices in order for generations yet unborn to benefit from this country. What Buhari is doing is to bring the country to a point where we can take off. He is trying to give Nigeria a blueprint. I am convinced that Nigeria under President Buhari will get to the next level.
Are you also comfortable with the perceived low appointment of women into sensitive positions by Buhari?
This is a government of change. Everything is systematic. I am certain that President Buhari will accommodate more women in his government. Let us give him some time. I am not speaking for him, but I think he is trying to do what he feels is best for Nigeria for now. I pray for him every day to always do the right thing. With time, there is no way he will sideline the women. He will accommodate all of us. I see him as the person that can turn things around. It is too early to say that Buhari has not replicated former president Goodluck Jonathan’s 35 per cent affirmative action for women. He will give us more than 35 per cent. Let us give him time. He is not insensitive.
Do you think the APC-led federal government has handled Biafran agitations well?
Even people that live in the best mansions still want more. What I am appealing to my people from the South-East is to give peace a chance. Let us forge ahead with Buhari. We will get what is due to the region. Even if it does not come today, it will come tomorrow. Life in Nigeria has been so tough and it did not start with Buhari. Very few persons have been taking it all, including the South-East. I was very young during the Nigerian civil war and it was in that war that my mum lost almost everything she had. I was a little girl during the war, so I do not have much knowledge about it, but I have a faint idea of what happened. War is not the best option and that is why I want my people from my region to be calm. Nigeria will move forward.
Do you think government is doing enough to arrest the situation?
It still goes back to the fact that President Buhari is new in office. We in the South-East did not give him our votes during the last presidential election. I see it differently though because God used the South-East to stop war. We may not have given any of the candidates 100 per cent. But the peace the country enjoys today is as a result of what the South-East did. President Buhari has listening ears and with time, he will do what is right for the South-East. With time, my people will come to appreciate Buhari and before the end of his second term, he will do something.
Are you already advocating for a second term for him?
He has to finish his second term so that an Igbo man will succeed him. I am ready to be the president of Nigeria. I am praying that Buhari runs for a second term in office even though I do not know if that is his wish. I have my reasons for saying this. Anyone that comes from the north in 2019 will want to do two terms. But if Buhari continues, it will give an Igbo person the opportunity to run too. This is my prayer.
Have you considered the age of the president?
How old is Robert Mugabe?
But Mugabe has lost the goodwill of his countrymen…
If the man is doing well, age becomes irrelevant. If he is able to retrieve and recover all stolen monies, then sell off houses corruptly acquired in Dubai, then he will not have any reason not to run. He should also sell off the ones in Abuja. Have you gone around to see the numerous empty houses in Abuja? Who are the owners of these houses?
Do you think the president is selective in the ongoing anti-corruption war?
Whoever says Buhari is selective in his anti corruption war should prove it. If I am corrupt, one day, Buhari will come after me. I believe that he will come after every one that has siphoned our wealth. Our hearts bleed when we see how people acquire wealth for the wrong reasons. If I am involved, let Buhari come and prosecute me. I will tell that Buhari will not limit his search to only those in the opposition.
Apart from Imo state, APC is yet to make inroad into the South-East…
We will very soon. I am breaking that barrier already. I am moving to Enugu to gather women in the South-East. Because we are in the majority, we will be able to make inroads into Igbo land. Everything got slowed down because of finances. Things will start unfolding soon. One thing that gladdens my heart in Buhari’s government is that Nigerians will begin to invest their monies here. The years where people will go outside and buy houses will be over. That is why we are saying that he should remain there for eight years. Things will improve. There is one of the state in the South-East where I am speaking with the governor and his deputy. A lot of governors from my region will come to APC.
How many governors are you looking at?
There is no way we are not going to have all the governors very soon. It will happen on the next few months. We cannot remain in the opposition. They do not have any business there. I will continue to talk to as many governors I can talk to. They will come to APC before 2019. By 2019, the South-East region will be for APC.