Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, a former governor of Anambra state and former Political Adviser to President Obasanjo in this interview with EMEKA NZE bares his mind on Nigeria at 60 and other sundry issues.
Chief, Nigeria has just celebrated her 60 years of independence today, is it worth celebrating?
You know the answer to that question, every Nigerian knows if we are talking about independence, it’s not worth celebrating, people should go to their house and rest, they should not lose hope on Nigeria. They should pray that we should not get into complete breakdown and disintegration of Nigeria. We pray that the Odua Republic will not come on ,we pray, we pray to God to revive Nigeria, for a new Nigeria because we have been crying year by year. It is clear to me that man cannot repair the damage inflicted in Nigeria. God created Nigeria through the instrumentality of British, look at our climate, we don’t have earthquakes or any natural disaster except those we bequeathed to ourselves like erosion that is our own making. So God gave us a good climate and environment, talking about minerals, we don’t even know the quantity we have, for a long time, people are exporting gold and we don’t even know. What about human resources, Nigerians are gifted and talented . Today our children are making waves all over the world, but why are they not coming back. I studied at Harvard and I am supposed to go to Uganda but I was stuck in Lagos where I was offered a job without application. Today, my children are abroad and I don’t have the persuasive power to convince them to come back to Nigeria to be faced with insecurity and poverty. Today Nigeria is ranked the poverty capital of the world. Before 1966 the Nigerian economy was growing well more than the world, the World Bank said so. I don’t know what to say, yet I am encouraging Nigerians let’s have hope, God does not make mistakes. God who gave Nigeria abundant mineral resources knows, so Nigeria can grow to super power.
I think that what we are passing through, although it is too bad but God can reverse it. Where did we get it wrong?
I think we got it wrong right from the military coups. Those military men who took over and ruled Nigeria ruined Nigeria. When the World Bank said we were growing faster , what kind of structure did we have, we have a federal system and it was Federal.
The Federal government was doing those things states and regions cannot do, like currency, defence, diplomacy etc, but most development action was done by the region. Those days when you are spending the tax money you know how you do it, you don’t scratch it in foreign banks abroad. First there was a civil war and the federal government wanted to win that war, what it did was to isolate Ojukwu , to achieve that it created 12 states and now 36 states plus the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT) , so what we have today is not a federal system not based on regions but states. Before the war they came up with something rational called the Aburi Accord which restored regionalism.
What’s your take on restructuring?
When people talk about restructuring, the world restructuring confuses people. They think it begins and ends with resource control. The North resists it by thinking that once it is called restructuring it is all about oil money stopping flowing to Kano or the North. The federal government must actually help the state and local government in revenue. We need to restructure and by restructuring, we mean simply going back to the structure that worked and that is regionalism. Today, we can make zones. We have 6 zones, we can make it 12 zones, that we solve the problem of the middle belt, that is the way forward. Why I believe that a new Nigeria can be unveiled fast, it doesn’t take much. Restructuring is for survival while continuity is for break up. Look at what is happening in the south west, nobody knows what we happen on October1st, people are saying no going back to Oduduwa Republic, look at what is happening in the south East, we in the South East are the most marginalised and excluded in the project Nigeria and we have voted with our feet for one Nigeria. We believe that where you live is where you develop, therefore this restructuring we are talking about is useful to every Nigerian.
You blamed the military, do you think the civilian leaders have got it right?
Today, we have a military government led by Muhammadu Buhari. When they are not there , they will be pushing for what they want. The military has not left Nigeria. The military that ruled Nigeria were from the North and they created states and local government to favour the North. Lagos has 20 LGAs while Kano has 44 local governments, that is why anybody looking at the National Assembly is wasting time.
The ethnic groups are opposing amendment of the Constitution, what is your view?
It is not meaningful to talk of amendment of the Constitution by the National Assembly. We never had it so good in the 2014 constitutional conference where all parts of Nigeria were fully represented and we worked hard. We had no problem in bringing back Nigeria that will work, what we need now is to revive the conference and go to work, we don’t need another constitutional conference. It is dishonest and I don’t understand what is going on. So if we want a new Nigeria, it is easy to implement, we can go back to Aburi and implement. As you can see Nigeria is gradually breaking up and we recognize it. If you restructure there will be justice. The middle belt told us that they thought that they were Northerners and fought the war of the North and they didn’t know they were used and dumped. I appealed to Nigerians to have hope and pray for God to rise and unveil a new Nigeria so that man’s desire does not win. Today because of consciousness in Nigeria, corruption is comprehensive, every facet of Nigeria is corrupt. A person in government goes in there for what he will get and his or her relations rush to him. I was a governor of Anambra, none of my relations had cornered anything, so people have changed. We must make those in government listen to people . Man’s mess up cannot be cleaned by man, divine intervention is necessary. The only celebration is Nigeria.
Your take on the clamour for a president of Igbo extraction?
That’s a major challenge, I would like to thank God on this issue of Igbo president because he has done it. I have the feeling that it has been approved by God. I hear the North wants to be in charge forever, even Tinubu whom I helped to become governor, but our God is incharge ,he has approved it. Yesterday a very important person from the North called me and said we should go ahead. He has commenced mobilising for Igbo presidency project, also the middle belt youth decided that it will support the South East Presidency for justice and equity and moves around the North selling the idea and the person they selected.
They organised a mock election and selected somebody which I will not mention. The impression is that the All Progressive Congress (APC) is likely to select an Igbo person as their candidate, it remains the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP). As far as the Igbo presidency is concerned, there is no complaint. If an Igbo man is voted as president of Nigeria it means justice, equity, fairness is returning to Nigeria and that will end the quest for Biafra. We the elders from the South East have been praying for one Nigeria, all we need is to have a level playing field. We have a problem, we don’t know how to manage our success, we are not diplomatic. You the press men must fight this battle. We must learn to manage our success, with justice we will not be taking of Biafra, but assuming we do everything people expected of us to do and persuade Nigerians to produce an Igbo president and merely because we are Igbos and our candidate did not win, we will take it that it as that the residents of Nigeria has rejected us and in our thoughts and belief, one rejected will not reject itself.