Capt. Casmir Nwafor (rtd.), a lawyer was until April this year, a Captain of the Nigerian Army. Our Correspondent ran into him recently in Lagos where he opened up to him on why he jettisoned a profession he loved so much, his days in the University, the plight of the people of Orumba North and South LGA of Anambra State and his travail in the struggle to return Nigeria to democracy among others. Excerpts;
Can we meet you sir?
I am Barr. Casmir Nwafor from Oko, just retired from the Nigerian Army.
We got the wind that you intend to contest for Orumba North/South Federal Constituency, can you confirm the truth or otherwise of the insinuation?
Yes you are right! I came out to contest for the Federal House of Reps seat of Orumba North and South Federal Constituency and we are on the game now. I have been going round now and from the feelings from the constituency and the stakeholders, I think they want me to go for that office.
We learnt that until April this year, you were military personnel and if I am right, you are due for another promotion this year, what prompted you to jettison the promotion and all that come with it for this position?
In Igboland, our people do say that one whose house is on fire don’t go after rats. I know it would have been a prestige for me to have hung the rank of Major but when you look at your people and how they are being treated in the country, if I have taken the rank, it would have been very difficult for me to leave the Army immediately but I have to deny it so that I will be able to leave at the time I left because of the imbalance in the country, the injustice we have in the country where government in power has not been fair with appointments, with infrastructural distribution and with its policies.
I have looked and I saw that my people are lacking and are being ignored and I felt it is something selfish for to stay back and enjoy rank while my people are not being treated fairly in the country. So, I felt it was time for me to leave and come and motivate my people to action because this is the time that they should come out and then take their stake in the country because at stage, it was like the Igbo man who was the first in Nigeria has become almost number four or number five in the country and I while I was in the service, most nights, I think of it and I weep and I feel it is better I should come out and then mobilize my people, not only to mobilize them because when you talk about Nigeria, you look at the North Central, you look at the South-South, there is no fair treatment anywhere and it takes a man of conviction to, at least know what we are talking about.
So, I have to come out to be able to look at those issues and tell my people that there are some issues we should look at. So, that was why I left that issue of rank and then talk about my people which are first before mine.
Some people believed that as a military officer, that you were in a better position to get things right in the polity than as a politician. How do you react to this claim?
It’s not like that anymore, that was when we have the military in power. Yes, then, there was major Orka coup, the Nzeogwu coup, the majors’ coup but those things are no more in vogue. What is in vogue now is if you feel you have something to offer, you pull off the Khaki officially as some people will call it and go and join politics. Across the world, America, Britain, the powerful presidents they have had were mainly from the military background. So, I don’t think it is good for you in the military to go and start contesting anything, the military is meant to secure the country, the borders, provide security, they are not meant for governance.
So, if you feel that you want to be in governance, then pull off the uniform and come and join the queue and then may be say what you want to do, if people see that you have something to offer, they should vote you. So, I am using this opportunity to tell people that military coming in power is no more in vogue.
When I was there, yes, it will be illegal, it will be unlawful for me as a military officer to do anything while in uniform because while in uniform, you are expected to obey the Commander-in-Chief, you are expected to obey your commanders and once your Commander-in-Chief is doing something wrong, that’s why in America, you see Trump having his security Chiefs resigning not only under Trump even under other governments like Bush and others. You only resign and then go and…, you don’t stay in the system and be causing problem. So, it would have wrong for me to stay in the Army and be causing problem, there is no change while you are there; you are only there to obey command.
Contesting for this House of Representatives seat, what do you have speaking for you?
The House of Reps is not just a place to go and say Aye or Nay, it’s a place where you have to bring in your experience, your antecedents into play. When I was in the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, when I came in there, there was nothing like students’ unionism and the VC then happened to come from my mother’s town. The man offered to give appointment to be the Sole Administrator of the Students’ Union where I will appoint other officers but I told him no, what I want here was for us to have a democratically elected President because as a Sole Administrator or as an appointed President, there is a limit to what I can do for the students.
We disagreed and we fought it out and eventually we went to court and other things, eventually, I made sure that there was students’ union in that school and up till now, there is still students’ union. And when we eventually had it, to deny me of my right of contesting for Presidency, he said I will not be President, I told him I am not that kind of selfish human being. I never became President but all the while I was in that University, I made sure that every year, my candidate becomes the SUG President until I left that school.
Secondly, when I was in Campaign for Democracy, we were part of NADECO; we fought for this issue of democracy with Tinubu who is now the National Leader of the APC. I was once the National Vice Chairman of Campaign for Democracy after which I became the National Publicity Secretary. What I am telling you was about when I was still in the University. So, I was in the forefront of bringing back this country to democracy. Immediately I came out from the University, the then Chairman of Dunukofia Local Government of Anambra State, saw what was in me and appointed me his Personal Assistant, it was from there that I went to the National Youth Service Scheme.
And then in my community, Oko, we had in the constitution that the Igweship stool should rotate, unfortunately, there was a politics that played out where the late Vice President insisted that he must produce the Igwe and I stood against that because, yes, we respect him as our hero and as our leader but once he goes against the constitution, somebody should point it out to him but unfortunately, nobody came out to challenge him and I have to stand up because I believe in justice, I believe what he was doing was improper and if nobody should talk to him, some persons will take him as a dictator which he is not. But I love him, I don’t want him to be seen that way and I oppose that because the constitution said that it should be village by village. So, I went to court to fight against that but eventually the town union prevailed but we now agreed and signed a written agreement that after this current Igwe dies, that the next Igwe of Oko will come from the next village and it becomes rotational as it is in the constitution.
So, I have been somebody that stands up to what should be the right thing, I don’t look at your face or your position, once I believe that what you are doing is wrong, I will say it out of respect and probably, I will call you to order but where you continue to go ahead with the wrong position, then, you are in for a fight with me. That is me and I am going to mobilize people to maintain that sanity because it is sanity that we want to maintain because if you don’t maintain justice, you are creating room for anarchy and where there is no peace, there can be no development.
Have you had any political experience before now?
When I came out from the military, people were saying you just came out and you entered politics immediately, how can you make it? But they forgot that before I joined the Army, I was a politician. In 1998 when I went to Law School, we joined the PDP then because of Alex Ekwueme our son was there and wanted to become Nigeria’s President before the Generals then connived and imposed Obasanjo on the party.
Before then, I was in the SDP that produced Okwadike Ezeife as the Governor of Anambra State, from Okwadike, Abacha came and bulldozed everybody from where we now joined the PDP. In 2001, we had a Governor, Mbadinuju who came and messed up Anambra State, so we rose up in Anambra People’s Forum to fight that the man must not come back as Governor because schools were closed for one year, salaries were unpaid, my boss BC Igwe and his wife were killed in Onitsha by the state agents. So, we felt that this man should not continue. I was the PDP Local Government Chairman at that time. When the party was taken away from us and given to Mbadinuju, I left the party and joined APGA and I was the first Anambra State Assistant Youth Leader of APGA.
APGA was like a revolution against Mbadinuju and the PDP and we won but unluckily for us, they rigged the election which we reclaimed from the court. Then I contested for the State House of Assembly for the party and won but was rigged out too before I eventually joined the Army. So, it’s not as if I am coming from nowhere, I have been in SDP, I have been in PDP, I have been in APGA, so, it’s a terrain I know very well. So, it will not be difficult for me to excel.
…To be continued.
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