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2011: TIME FOR CHANGE IS NOW – IKIOGHA

By NBF News
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Last weekend, the country witnessed the birth of another socio-political pressure group, The New Nigeria Initiative(TNNI). The group expresses readiness to mobilize some 60 million Nigerians from all parts of the country to persuade president Goodluck Jonathan to contest the 2011 election.

National Chairman of the organization, Chief Diekivie Ikiogha here speaks on a wide range of issues including reasons for the formation of the group.

Excerpts…
What is the major reason for floating this organization,

or is it to get favour from Jonathan?
The New Nigeria
Initiative was conceived for so many reasons. Anyone who is not a stranger in Nigeria would have known that a lot of things have actually gone wrong in this country in the last 50 years since we attained independence. Let's take the power sector. I do not know of any household in this country that can say boldly that they are enjoying five hours of steady power supply. Everyday, the small and medium scale enterprises and even the major industrialists complain of the same power problem.

Some of them have had to fold up because they are not making profit; and this is due to the fact that they spend on power generation. Outside this country, we do not have a very pleasant image. Whenever you want to travel, once they see your green passport, they will subject you to all kinds of search. Our education system is suffering. Our public institutions are decaying. Look at the congestion in the prisons. Our railway system is not working. We don't even have any airport in the country. We do not have true and selfless leaders who are committed to the real service.

The list is endless.
Look at South Africa. Look at Ghana. Look at Dubai.

Today, we feel free to travel to those places to live or holiday because their leaders have made things to happen there. Even in Benin Republic, you find out that they enjoy a very steady power supply and the system is

working. But here we are, we call ourselves the giants of Africa.

So, we looked at all these and told ourselves that since God has given us this opportunity on a platter of gold, we should grab it without looking back.

We agree that Jonathan being who he is, will likely foot drag on this but we are moving to all parts of this country to mobilize 60 million people, from market women to students, from politicians to professionals, from the creeks of the Niger Delta to the hills and valleys of the north.

We are moving and telling Nigerians to take advantage of this man's goodluck to move our country forward. We want to have a country that our children will be proud of. We want to have a country that all our public institutions will work a country where the leaders will not only be accountable and transparent but also seen to be doing just that.

We want to have a country where people will not be forced to pay their taxes but who will see the need to do so because they are convinced that their money will be put to proper use. We want a country where people will begin to respect time and keep it. We want a country that the international community will respect and want to partner.

That is why we floated the Initiative and for now, we have found out that the only person who can drive Nigeria to that destination is Jonathan. He has done it when he was governor of Bayelsa State and as president in this very short time, he has shown signs that he can be trusted with power. I am sure all of us will agree that he is not a power monger. That is the kind of person we need on the saddle.

Do you realize that the north is not thinking along that line?

When you say the north, I think that is a general statement and I would say it is a statement of fallacy. It cannot be true. It is just like saying that everybody in the south is in support of Jonathan coming out to be the president. Even when he was Vice President, I hope you know that it is not all the people in the south that wanted him to be the acting president.

There will always be contending voices and that indeed is the beauty of democracy. Talking about the north, I need to inform you that we are getting very tremendous support and followership from there. Most of their leaders are with us. There are some that we cannot tell you in print that they are in support of the need for Jonathan to be on the driving seat for this new Nigeria of our dream. There are some that have called to express their support. I am talking of very influential people in the north who truly desire a generational change.

They are there for us and we are happy that they have kept ethnic sentiments aside to work towards a Nigeria that will remain united, a Nigeria that will belong to the comity of developed nations. We are also sure that even those who are perceived not to be supportive of the vision will key in at the appropriate time. We are talking to them and we are happy at the response we are getting. There are consultations at the highest level and I can assure you that this is not an issue.

How much has Jonathan budgeted for this movement?
I knew this matter was going to come up. Yes, in the past, we have heard people go to government to collect money to float organizations like this. But let me shock you: Jonathan is not even aware of what we are doing and I say this on my honour. What we are doing is a matter of conviction. If you look at the names of some of the people we have published as coordinators in the various states, you would have convinced yourself that we are not beggars.

Jonathan cannot finance us. Of course, those who know him should know that he is not the kind of person that can spend money on people to campaign for him in this manner. Come to think of it, before he became deputy governor, he was enjoying himself in OMPADEC as a civil servant. He did not lobby for it. He also became acting governor without lobbying for it. He became governor of Bayelsa State without sweating.

He became vice president without sweating. He became acting president without sweating.

Even when people were urging him to do certain things, he ignored them because it is not in his character. It is just that people have refused to know him for what he is. Many people have spent billions and time trying to become president of Nigeria, but Jonathan got it from God because he is a child of destiny. It is only those who are thirsty for power that can do all of that. Let me tell you, left for Jonathan, he would not want to occupy that office even after his boss died. He respected the man till the day he died.

We are all aware of what happened when the former president was ill. Did you hear that he moved in a clandestine manner to undo his boss? That is Jonathan for you. He has always been satisfied with whatever position he finds himself. We are funding our activities and I tell you, we are not going to approach anybody for funds. Never.

The day we can no longer fund ourselves, we will stop. We want posterity to remember us for taking this initiative to enthrone a regime of transparency in governance, and have a country that our kids will be happy with.

Once we can achieve this, then we would have achieved so much. This is the best legacy we can leave for our children. They don't need to suffer what we have been suffering this past 50 years.

Are you working with the Save Nigeria Group?
The simple answer is no. The Save Nigeria Group has their own agenda to pursue. I think the only meeting point between us is that we are all desirous of a better country. But they have their own modalities. For us, we believe that if we can get Jonathan to run the 2011 presidential election, then we would have been sure that we are on course, as we drive on.

It is beyond organizing street protests which can be hijacked by politicians for selfish gains. It is about engaging the populace, sensitizing them to know that if we have a good leader, our problems would have been solved as a nation. That is our own. We have seen in Jonathan, those attributes of a good leader. We have seen in him, that meekness, that love for his country, that humility. The Bible says when you humble yourself, God will lift you. We have been told of how Jonathan as a sitting Vice President had to stand up from his seat to allow a traditional ruler in the north to sit.

That is the man we are talking about.
We are talking about a man whose mother, at birth named him Azikiwe, apparently a proof that God knew that Jonathan would be a leader for this country.

So, you can see that he was destined by God from birth to lead. Like I said, if you follow his political career, you would agree that the man has been with God's leading. We are only pleading with him to avail us an opportunity to benefit from his goodluck from 2011.

How has the response been so far?
So far, so amazing. The response from across the country is just amazing. People from across the country are calling and sending texts. As I talk to you now, we have got over three million text messages and over two million calls from people who are willing to join this cause. Within just a day that our website came up, we have got no less than 1,000 people registering and indicating interest to join.

You can't believe this. The responses are coming from very highly placed, respected people in this country. Right now, we have got offices in most parts of the country where people can go and register.

Interestingly, we are going to get these people who have registered to also register with INEC once the exercise starts, so that from day one, we are sure that there are already 60 million people of voting age that will give the votes to Jonathan. The 60 million people will now move into their wards, local governments and states to convince the others to join. That is our focus.

We are serious about this. In the next few days, we shall be meeting with stakeholders in the universities, polytechnics, and other tertiary institutions and also consult with religious leaders, traditional rulers, opinion leaders and men of goodwill on this project.

We will meet with market women, the motorpark people, the artisans, we shall meet with all stakeholders and convince them to key into the project. We want everybody who loves this country to key into this. And we are happy to announce that the result we are getting so far is satisfactory. By the time we go on for the next six months, I am so certain we would have got across to the smallest and the biggest in this country.