Cosmas lkechukwu Okoli is the President and Chief Executive Officer, Mobility Aid and Appliances Research and Development Centre (MAARDEC) and CEO of Cosokoli Ventures Nigeria Limited. ln this interview with OBIRE ONAKEMU, he speaks on the state of the nation, agitation for Biafra Republic in the South East, the ongoing general elections and how to achieve a better future for the country.
What would you say about the state of our nation?
We are in a big mess. l feel so bad and very much disappointed. Nigeria has so much potential in terms of natural resources and human capital. In terms of brain drain, a lot of Nigerian doctors, lawyers, engineers, people who should help build this nation are leaving this country for greener pastures abroad.
Can you blame them?
We have to be honest. And really, you cannot blame them because after working hard to qualify as a professional, there is no space for you to contribute your quota to nation building, there is no space for you to practice what you have spent years to study. l wouldn’t support anyone to just waste away here. lf you have an opportunity anywhere else, you can go. And hopefully, when we get our leadership right, all these people will come back to the country. On the 2023 presidential election that was just held, it was a mess. l will continue to use my platform to speak the truth to power, including the kind of leader that will move Nigeria forward.
What is your comment on Nigeria’s style of leadership?
If Nigeria as a nation could get its leadership right, every single person will benefit from it; everyone, including those who are already out of this country. A lot of them will come back. All we need is good leadership; all we need is for the Rule of Law to work, for the son of nobody to rise if he has anything to offer without anybody asking where he or she hails from. And that is one thing I like about Peter Obi. He would attend any occasion without minding the calibre of persons organising it. Once he feels that it will contribute to the success of the government or it will help the people he governs, he will attend. In facts, he makes out time to reach out. And sometimes, I wonder whether he has time to attend some of those bigger events where big men want to show-up to celebrate their wealth or show their wealth, power, and connections. He probably doesn’t have time for those ones that are not so important whether they are hosted by a king, a queen or a billionaire.
What is your reaction to the IPOB agitation in the South East?
As for the situation in the South East, I want to believe that as times goes on, they will realise that what they are fighting for is not actually what they need. I don’t believe that IPOB actually wants Biafra to break out of Nigeria. That agitation is because they feel that they are not part of the system. They are ignored; nobody knows that they exist; the country is not addressing their history; they don’t feel that they belong and it’s like saying if you don’t want us, then let us go. Every single IPOB member knows that they are better off in a Nigeria that is working than even a Biafra that is also working. There is even no guarantee that if you get this Biafra, it is going to work. I believe that Peter Obi will be able to quench that agitation if only he is allowed to become the President of this country. Even now, people who are agitating for Biafra and all that are beginning to see that Peter Obi candidacy will present an opportunity for a united and prosperous Nigeria. And so, with time, they would be able to cool down and that should have been the time to move Nigeria forward.
Recently Governor Charles Soludo of Anambra State asked for release of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, saying it will bring peace to the region but some people said he was playing politics. What is your comment on this?
Personally I believe that releasing Nnamdi Kanu will help bring peace to the South East region. lf he is released today, he is going to play a significant role in the politics of Nigeria. He is not going to cause any problem.
He will be part of effort to bring peace to the South East. I concur with Governor Soludo that releasing Kanu will bring peace to the South East and the nation as a whole. I don’t really see the reason he is still in custody.
And all that the governors need to do is begin to engage; engage these people and you will begin to see the impact that will be felt. Knowing that he has a lot of followers, the president can call Nnamdi Kanu and dialogue with him. We don’t ignore that, thinking intimidation will wipe that away. No. Call him, talk to him and make him to understand why this agitation is not good enough for our country and assure him that the issues he raised would be addressed. I think he should be released.
How would you assess INEC’s preparation and capability to handle the remaining elections?
INEC should be improving with each election. lt has no reason not to conduct a free and fair election. They need to brace up to every challenge. But what happened in the last presidential election is an eyesore. That is the truth; the only truth, like the words of Galileo Galilee, that will deliver mankind from ignorance, superstition and falsehood.
Peter Obi was like a lion that came into the field of elephants for a purpose. What would you make of that statement?
For this 2023 presidential election, Peter Obi was like the Biblical David. The difference is that it was only David and Goliath. But this time, it was David and two other people combined together as a Goliath.
How are you convinced?
Let me tell you. Nigerian youths want change. And anywhere in the world where youths stand up for anything, they always get it. They are not just asking for anything. They are asking for good leadership; they are asking for purposeful leadership; they are asking for a leader who is competent and who has capacity; who has character and this is what any sane person would support. Let me tell you, it is not just the youth, it is Nigerians who are fed up with years and years of bad leadership.
How would you end this interview?
In a democracy, people should understand the fact that there is no do- or-die affair. People should have their opinion and express them. l have seen people who tell me different things why they gave support to some people. l don’t quarrel with them; l don’t fight with them; l just try to convince them that this is not the right reason to support somebody who is to become your leader; who is going to have so much power to assess your life and the lives of your children and grandchildren. I tell them we should look for a leader that will take the country forward. Everyone has his or her own opinion and should be free to express it. Everyone has his or her own choice and should be free to make his or her own choice. Everyone wants a better Nigeria and the only way we can achieve it is by not intimidating people but by using power of persuasion and good argument to get support for whoever is the candidate you are supporting, not through violence.