Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, former governor of Anambra State, in this interview, says for the unity of Nigeria not to be negotiable, there must be restructuring of the country. He also accuses President Muhammadu Buhari of pushing Ndigbo out of the country and also corrupting the constitution of Nigeria. Excerpts: By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Is it true that the meeting in Owerri was for Rochas Okorocha to lobby Ndigbo against clamouring for restructuring of Nigeria?
I don’t know how Rochas will do that, to listen to anybody about something that will compromise the Igbo interest. In fact, the unity of Nigeria may be un-negotiable, but that is not the problem, the problem is do you want Nigeria as one or do you want the disintegration of Nigeria? If the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable, then restructuring Nigeria cannot be un-negotiable because restructuring Nigeria is the only guarantee for the unity of Nigeria. What we have now is a unitary government for a diverse people. Diverse in culture, including religion and many grounds. You must respect the pluralism of Nigeria.
If you have six federating units, then, you guarantee the survival of Nigeria in many ways. Cultural diversity is taken care of, economic feasibility is taken care of. Right now, we have 36 states, most of which are not feasible economically. That is why we are borrowing money for salaries. Is it not a problem now; are we not borrowing money for salaries?
During the 2014 conference, another 18 states were proposed and the proposal was to improve the unity of Nigeria by respecting diverse groups who want to stay together on their own but within the federal government. If 36 states are said to be unfeasible, what about adding 18 more? But with six geopolitical zones as federating units, you can even have 100 states, but they will not be called states. Any name you call them they can take, but you scale down seriously, they can be provincial government, they can be anything you call them, they may even be local governments.
Do you know that in this Nigeria, there is a state where a child must score 139 points in order to qualify to enter a secondary school, while from another state, you will have nine points?
For an Anambra child to go to federal college, he or she must score 139, that is the highest. But when you go round, some states are nine points, some two. This is very diverse and it is not even helping anybody. So, if you have geopolitical zones as federating units there will be increased competition. Within the zone, there will be fair standards. There will be increased pressure to score well or you will not qualify.
But once it is Nigeria, you will hear, how can you allow Igbo or the Anambra indigenes to fill the school and Sokoto will not come even if they don’t score anything? What kind of Nigeria are we running? God created Nigeria and endowed resources on her, for unmatched greatness. I don’t know what country in this our world that is more favoured than Nigeria.
Here, I can step out in the open naked; I will not die. But go to Europe and step out in the snow, you will quench in a short time. Look at resources, any plant that can grow anywhere in this world can grow in Nigeria. We have mineral resources in surplus, and when we talk about minerals, it is not just coal and crude oil, we are talking about gemstones, gold, silver, aqua marine, sapphire of highest quality, etc.
Then you come to human beings with expertise and knowledge, we are talking about many talents from many tribes. Over endowed, that is what Nigeria is and what have we done with it? Anybody who thinks clearly will see this point that God appears to intend Nigeria to be big brother and rallying point for all blacks on earth. We are the largest concentration of blacks on earth. Therefore, with the resources we are given, and with the way we have escaped natural disasters like earthquakes, volcano, hurricanes,etc, we are supposed to develop into a super power. The role of Nigeria is to wipe out the shame of slavery from the face of every black man. That is our manifest destiny.
Apart from the unity of Ndigbo which other thing was discussed at the Owerri meeting?
We discussed the problem that the South East is facing in today’s Nigeria. The problem of hatred from Mr. President. At the beginning, not everybody saw it. I saw it early enough and thinking it was a mistake and not a deliberate action, I started shouting. We have not been taken here, we have not been taken there, you have appointed 10 persons nobody from Southeast; you have appointed 20 people nobody is from Southeast, you have appointed 25, 30, 40 going further we have nobody, no soul from the Southeast.
Respect and dignity
So, I started knowing that it is beyond a mistake. I was thinking it was a mistake and since I believe that the person who is President must have conscience, I was raising his consciousness to the mistake so that he can correct it even the ones I tell you to write, you will find that everything I was saying is true. Instead of being taken seriously for amendment to be made, I was called enemy of the North and enemy of Buhari.
So, these days, I am not talking too much again, I am talking about Nigeria. Instead of making the black man to get more respect and dignity, we are generating shame for blacks on earth. We are generating shame for the blacks for whom we are supposed to be improving their respect and dignity.
Now you said Mr. President hates Ndigbo, how can the elders of Southeast organise Ndigbo to speak with one voice as it appears the people don’t speak with one voice?
I am not praising Ndigbo, but they are the most united group in Nigeria. Ndigbo have been out of central political power for more than half a century, yet, they can call one another, ”come” and they come. Do you know what it means to be not even Vice President and not to talk about being president? We have not had Vice President or president for so long, yet we are still united. They called us to Owerri and we trooped there. I talk and some people understand me they didn’t say go to hell.
There is no bad name they don’t give Ndigbo, they say when they hear money they will drop everything and go for the money, lie. I remember one governor somewhere in the northern part of Nigeria, who told me he had found a people more greedy for money than Ndigbo. He said these people can deal with their mother in order to get money. We are so united that if you are called a bad name, every person knows the bad name you are called and they may even be avoiding you. Our problem is not lack of unity, it is lack of opportunity.
Whether the present government can implement the 2014 Conference report.
It is a matter of whether the government is serious or not. That was the greatest assemblage of Nigerians of all types. From deformed people, disabled people to the latest intellects with experience to the highest level of traditional rulership. We discussed difficult things where we did not always agree but we ended up getting a consensus.
Some people who are in present control, those people who were controlling Nigeria then and now, they didn’t want any change. They said to themselves, what are we going to change? Anything we change will be at our loss. But they are wrong and we proved to them that they were wrong.
Eventually, they agreed with us, no group walked out because each group saw it, a long term interest is better inside one Nigeria than in a disintegrated Nigeria. No group walked out, everything was discussed and it was a matter of weighing the easier of two positions, disintegration or unity.
Any group that intelligently looks at its interest in the long term, will find a united Nigeria more attractive than a disintegrated Nigeria. Unfortunately, the people who had disagreed with the restructuring and things that will make Nigeria permanent are the people who will lose most by disintegration. If you want Nigeria to be a Super Power and to develop to unmatched greatness, you want every section of Nigeria to make maximum contribution; therefore I end every letter I write to a Nigerian organisation or a Nigerian president with yours for Nigeria as a Super Power.
I want Nigeria to be a Super Power; we cannot be super power if components of Nigeria are not making progress. Now we are talking about some group wanting to leave Nigeria, which group, how does Nigeria gain by Southeast of Igbo leaving? Short sighted people may say ‘we will gain the property they are leaving behind.’ How did they manage to have those property they are leaving behind? Look at Abuja, what percentage of the structures, buildings belong to Southeast people? Likewise in Kano, Kaduna, Calabar and Sokoto.
One man from Awka, Anambra State, I went to visit him in Awka and I was told that he has 300 modern houses in Kaduna and I have taken some space in Awka to build civil servants houses. It happened that some part of the space belonged to him, he came to me and said ‘oga governor, you have taken my land’ and I said, ‘I am told you have 300 houses in Kaduna, what are you doing in this land in Awka, have you built anything? What I am saying is we should calculate our loses and our gains whichever decision we are taking.
Culture and tradition
Igbo people are not building everywhere for nothing, it is our culture and tradition. There is an Igbo adage which says, “Ebe onye bi ka ona awachi” (where you live, you mend). Essentially, where you live you build, where you live you take care of the interest of that place. So, if you push the Igbo out of Nigeria like Buhari is doing, pushing Ndigbo hard to leave Nigeria and then he turns back to say that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable, what kind of nonsense is that? You are pushing some parts of Nigeria out of Nigeria and you are turning around to extol the unity of Nigeria.
How is Buhari pushing Ndigbo out of Nigeria?
All these I have been saying ‘no de make wave in your ears at all? First, he swore the oath to protect and defend the constitution, he is not defending the constitution, he is not offering any job to people from the Southeast. That is called denial, he is corrupting the constitution through the appointments he is making and the best policy Buhari is known for is anti-corruption policy. He is corrupting the policy he rolled out in many ways. One of these is unfairness in the distribution of jobs. As I am talking to you now, people sit in national security council of Nigeria, the Igbo are described as one of the third legs of the tripod in Nigeria, not one Igbo is in the national security council. You don’t kill people and expect them to be with you.
The Nigerian Army massacred our people in Aba, they also massacred our people who carried the Bible to go and do memorial service in Onitsha area. Fulani herdsmen went and killed our people in Enugu. Olisa Metuh was going to court handcuffed when people who have greater charges against them, were swaggering into the court. What are you telling his people? So, please, I am no longer interested in blaming Buhari, all I am interested now is asking Nigerians from all parts of the country to pray for Buhari because he is the President. May God give him the idea to change, may God direct him to the right path of Nigeria’s developmental governance. That is my prayer and I will appeal to everybody to forget criticising Buhari. We have seen that he doesn’t absorb criticism, so why do we keep calling him names if he doesn’t recognise what you are saying.
What do you think is responsible for the resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta and the IPOB in Southeast?
The IPOB you mentioned has no militancy about it, they have a legitimate case they have even taken to the United Nations. If you go to the Niger Delta, the boys are saying, this oil which God located in our area, why are we not part of it? Why is 80 percent or more oil wells given to the North? Why are you negotiating with Boko Haram hoping to get money from the Niger Delta? Even the one Yar’Adua negotiated with the people; you are not following it anymore.
Why is the stock market in Nigeria losing value? Why is the Naira so down? Why is power not available in Nigeria? Why is water not available in some places? Why are there difficulties everywhere? The more you have people suffering, miserable, the more you have militancy and insecurity. Why are graduates not employed? These are contributors to militancy and insecurity. But President Buhari’s administration said it did not create it. What was the value of the Naira to dollar when Jonathan was leaving? Tell me. It was about N179. What was the total value of stock market when Jonathan was leaving, how many people were suffering inability to buy anything in the market? What was the price of fuel when Jonathan was leaving?
I think people who refuse to face their problems cannot solve their problems. Jonathan, who left more than one year ago, is responsible for problems that arose. The president pronounced your country as bankrupt, what do you think other countries will say? They will run away. How many organisations have closed shop in Nigeria? What is responsible for the economic recession Nigeria is facing today? Our economic policy, our attitude to the economy generates negatives which are responsible for the misery the Nigerian people are going through today. The only one thing you can now talk about is the collapse of oil prices because it reduces revenue.
Nigeria has a problem, we do not respect intellect. I proposed a solution to petroleum crisis to Obasanjo, I proposed to Yar’Adua but he was not quite alert when I was talking with him in his office. I proposed to Jonathan but the oil Mafia was so strong that if your proposal is against their interest, there is no chance of it seeing the light of the day. I made a proposal, the bottom line of it is to subsidise. (Vanguard)