The issue of insecurity has remained a major concern to many Nigerians lately. Already there is Amotekun security outfit in the West while some groups are planning Shege Ka Fasa in the North. What is the Southeast (Igbo) doing?
Ndigbo have had a very bitter experience with regards to loss of lives and property in Nigeria. In this their long ordeal they have developed capabilities starting from Igbo state union for the defense of Igbo lives and property in the homeland and in the wider Nigeria. The present situation presents new challenge especially with the infiltration into our farmlands and forests. The Enugu State government took the initiative then of the Forest Rangers. These and other ideas are being fine-tuned and Igbo elders will work hand in gloves with governments of South Eastern states as Ndigbo to deal with the new challenges. The overall objective is to teach any infiltrator that we know our homelands, forests and farmland better than they do and when Ndigbo are pushed you can be sure they will react appropriately. The issue of Anti-Grazing Bills, state security outfits and zonal security understandings have legal implications and are matters of state governments and state legislatures, but Igbo experts have already done their homework on draft laws to deal with these new challenges without copying anybody. After all when Bakassi Boys acted to curb insecurity and kidnapping their effectiveness was clearly seen.
How do you think we should tackle insecurity problem at the pan-Nigeria level, whether Boko Haram, banditry, organized kidnapping etc?
The duty of securing Nigeria is the responsibility of the Nigerian Armed Forces and the Nigeria Police Force under the Commander-in-Chief, simple. This is why all the criticism is on the Commander-in-Chief and the various Service Chiefs and the Inspector General of Police. It is not personal nor political nor partisan nor religious, it is simply that when the system established by the nation state Nigeria for the protection of lives and property of its citizens is failing to the extent that it is failing now, it is natural to call for resignation of the leaders of the Armed Forces. Put differently, the answer to system failure is complete overhaul and change of the system management. Those who attempt to make it ethnic or religious or political simply missed the point. The point is that those charged with the responsibility of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians should do their jobs period. Too many people have died and are still dying and internally displaced persons cannot return to their villages to resume their normal lives.
You were one of those calling for resignation of Service Chiefs. Your call seems to have fallen on deaf ears, what will you people do next?
We have done our duty, which is simply to demand that the Service Chiefs having failed to give Nigerians adequate protection should relinquish their positions. Let’s not forget that these Service Chiefs are already on extra time and how do we know that those under them cannot secure Nigeria better, after all they were appointed because Service Chiefs were retired when their times were due. It is now the duty of the appointing authority to listen to the call or close his eyes and ears to the situation.
Given your answer on the pan-Nigeria security situation, does it mean you are afraid on the future of the country?
Very much so. Failed states of which Somalia is the best example of those states where the security situation has failed irretrievably. When the various zones of Nigeria are as concerned to the extent that they are now over insecurity, every citizen should worry. For me who fled the University of Ibadan to University of Nigeria in 1966 because of insecurity, I am doubly worried because decades of reflecting on this showed clearly that if I were Yoruba or Itshekiri or Tiv or Fulani I would not have fled the University of Ibadan. I know that the late Ken Saro-Wiwa, an Ogoni, fled the University of Ibadan with us to the University of Nigeria before he later left for Port Harcourt. This is of serious concern to me because security transcends our diversity and every Nigerian citizen must feel secured in any part of Nigeria.
Are you saying that the present government is not managing our diversity well?
I am saying so and very loudly too. When appointments of Service Chiefs become skewed to one part of the country, when a zone comprising five states is excluded, when appointments are annoyingly made from one zone to the irritation of others as this government has done, it is a complete mismanagement of Nigeria’s diversity.
How do you think, therefore, giving the plural nature of the Nigerian nation, that we can give everybody and every group a sense of belonging in the Nigerian nation?
The simple recipe is inclusiveness and strict observance of the Federal Character principle. In addition, there are nation-building institutions such as the Armed Forces and the police that is why their parochialsation is dangerous. There are Federal Government colleges and there is the National Youth Service Corps, which should be used in a creative and imaginative way to foster national unity. Government should also revitalize National Sports Festivals etc for the same purpose.
Let’s go to your home state, Anambra, where elections are due next year. It would appear that some people are already beating the gun …
(Cuts in) Of course, it is Anambra where people will always try to beat the gun and bend the rules. I am not surprised because the last count revealed that there are about 23 Anambra State governorship aspirants even when the election is more than a year ahead. We the Anambra senior politicians are watching the situation as it develops to make sure that Anambra State returns to that period of good governance which it enjoyed under Peter Obi.
But the Peter Obi government you are referring to was an All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, government…
Yes because Peter Obi was under the watchful eyes of Ikemba Ojukwu and he respected senior politicians, traditional rulers and the church. By the way, Peter Obi is now in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and was indeed the PDP vice presidential candidate at the last general elections. I hope you get my point that Mr Obi must have seen something in the PDP to have made him change from APGA to PDP.
How does the PDP intend to achieve this core objective of producing the governor of Anambra State which it has not managed to achieve since 2004?
Anambra State from 1999 has always been a PDP state and even when we did not produce the governor we produced the majority of National Assembly members. We know the hiccups that stopped us in 2017 even when we still had two Senators and majority of House of Representatives members. This time we shall make assurance doubly sure that there are no hiccups.
So many people in Anambra are talking about zoning and it will appear that APGA has already zoned its candidacy. You are a member of Board of Trustees of PDP, may we know the position of your party on this question of zoning?
To the best of my knowledge my party (PDP) has not taken any position on zoning. What we are all working very hard on is to ensure that Anambra State becomes a PDP state completely by having a PDP governor after 16 years. Many of us from Anambra in the party would want to return to the national grid politically by having a governor that belongs to PDP, which has a national spread. We are not comfortable that of the 36 states in Nigeria 35 belong to either PDP or the APC and Anambra stands alone like a sore thumb. The situation where the National Chairman of APGA is from Anambra, the Leader of the party is the Anambra State governor, the financing of the party is by Anambra, requires complete reconsideration especially in the absence of the towering wisdom of the late Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. Against this background, what the PDP is looking for is to bring back Anambra State as a complete PDP state. In other words, for Anambra State PDP winning is the core objective not zoning. The 23 aspirants come from the three zones and when it is time we will ensure that the candidate most likely to win will emerge. One of our major worries is that one year after the presidential election, the amended electoral bill is yet to be signed into law by Mr. President. As we prepare for Anambra governorship election, we shall be conscious of the fact.
It would appear from your answer that your party is unhappy with the president having not signed the Electoral Law and that you are factoring this matter into how the party shall deal with the Anambra issue?
Yes and yes. Before the 2019 general elections the excuse for the non-signing of the bill was that the time was too close to the elections. Now, one year after, a bill that was ready to be signed in 2019 is not yet signed. So, my party has reason to be worried and as the late Chinua Achebe would write, my party, the PDP, has reason to suspect that “cunning has entered into the matter”.
The PDP does not appear to have taken its duty of opposition very seriously and seems only to be reacting to APC actions?
That’s the general impression people have, but let us give due credit to the party for reinventing itself after the catastrophic 2015 general elections. In case we have forgotten, the party lost the presidency; the party lost most of the state governorships and lost its clear majority in the National Assembly. On top of it the party suffered the self-inflicted injury of Governor Amodu Sheriff as its chairman. So, to come back from such a position to where the party is convinced that it won the 2019 general elections is no mean feat. Let us also not forget that the party has never been in opposition before and to compound matters, the frequency of APC government’s missteps require constant reactions by the PDP so as to protect Nigeria’s democracy.
How then do you rate this APC government?
Badly. The most troubling is that our debt burden has exceeded what any government of the past has borrowed and most of the debts go into the budgets, which is about 80 per cent of the recurrent expenditure. The second most troubling issue is that so soon after the end of the Abacha regime for which so much credit belong to PDP, we are rapidly travelling back on the road to un-freedom and insecurity. These are the most troubling factor. When you add the limping economy, the exchange rate of the naira etc; it is clear that my rating is based on facts.
Why are you certain that the PDP will be better having governed for 16 years before 2015?
The PDP can beat its chest that in 16 years it nurtured democracy successfully and ensured that succession from PDP government to PDP government and from PDP government to APC opposition took place democratically and without disequilibrium to the polity. There was freedom of speech and there was freedom of association. The social media was unfettered and Nigerians breathed the air of freedom to the maximum. This to me is the greatest achievement of PDP. The PDP also nurtured the economy to six per cent annual growth rate especially after the phenomenal debt relief effort. And then everybody is now enjoying mobile phone, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp etc forgetting that these happened under PDP government. Let us attempt listing what the APC government has achieved in the five years which is the one-third of the time that PDP was there and you will see the reason for my optimism that PDP is the party for national harmony, freedom and economic development.