Dr ChukwuemekaEzeife, an elder statesman and former governor of Anambra State has seen it all as a social crusader and a revered commentator on topical national issues. He is one who says how he feels and sees it, no matter whose ox is gored. Virtually no national discourse is complete without a word from Dr Ezeife.
In this interview with CHUKS COLLINS, he speaks on several burning national issues.
Nigeria at 57, would you say it’s been so far, so good?
I would say it’s so far, so bad; so far, so negative. We are taking giant steps backwards, not for development or progress.
Since when, in your opinion, did this observed slide start?
It’s been there for long. But it took a quantum leap since the coming of the incumbent President MuhammaduBuhari administration. For two years now, we have been in the doldrums. You can listen to your friends, the young people who come to you for assistance, the old women, the children in school, people who have been driven out of their usual abode due to non-payment of rent…we have never had it so bad. Shops closed all over the cities of the nation had never been so many.
So, it’s not a matter of proving it; everyone is living it. Perhaps some people in government are stealing money and feeling good.
What’s the way forward; what could be done?
Well, it’s our Lord’s doing and it is good for us. God has brought Buhari to change things. He thought he was bringing change, but he is initiator of change. He has brought Nigeria down to the lowest possible level. Therefore, there is nowhere for Nigeria to go, except rise. Go up. And go up, we must. Because for 15 years, we had been doing the wrong things. Nigeria had been doing very well until 1966 when the military came, then the Civil War.
In order to win the war, the military divided the country into 12 states in order to isolate the Igbo from the South East. Now after the war, we didn’t resurrect the structure we had before. Instead the Northern military leaders eventually created thirty-six (36) States, with 19 in the North and 17 in the South with Abuja Federal Territory (FCT) as if it were a State.
So what happened? There was an increase in unitarism, whereas what was agreed by our founding fathers was a federation based on regions. Now, we have States with unitary centre. Therefore, not even the indigenes of the states are monitoring the activities of their states, the spending in the States. Whereas in those days all the money spent in the states come from the indigenes of those states, so they looked out to see that the money was well spent.
But now, they go to the FCT, get federal revenue and nobody is supervising it. Therefore, from that came gigantic increase in corruption and the country started going down, down, down and down.
Now, with the noise on restructuring increasing, if we restructure we’ll begin to grow again. In fact, we will experience explosive growth if we restructure and allow justice to prevail. And nobody will any longer be looking for secession.
This word has been on the lips of virtually everybody. And am sure there are many who are confused about its real meaning that makes some Nigerians so uncomfortable. What is restructuring?
Ok. It will sound like big grammar. But, it is very ordinary. It is like keeping agreement. It is like going back to what was agreed.
Restructuring is taking Nigeria back to what was agreed in the 1960s, when there were regions and those regions were strong, and were growing. That is restructuring. There is nothing else–just making sure the federal system works; that the federal government does not run everything; that regions are important and that regions have power over resources in their lands, which they should use to grow and modernize at their own pace.
So, ‘restructuring’ (unfortunately the grammar sounds big) simply means that we keep agreement. What was the agreement? Federal system with regions-that was the agreement we reached.
Why, then, does it appear that some Nigerians easily get very agitated whenever the word ‘restructuring’ is mentioned?
The people getting agitated are mostly from the North. As you know, the military rulers of Nigeria created states and favoured the North more than the South. They have more Senators and more House of Representatives Members. Therefore, when Buhari says we should take restructuring to the National Assembly, he knows what he’s doing. It means we should kill it.
So, if you look at even the local government areas, that is where the action is more. Sokoto State has 20 LGAs, the same number as Lagos State. But today, out of Sokoto has come 83 LGAs and Lagos is still 20 LGAs. Kano has 44 LGAs. Kano and Jigawa states are about the size of the number of LGAs in the whole South East. And money is paid to LGAs from the centre, as well as to the states. So, in both states and LGAs they have a lot, lot more. Wherefore we are saying restructure!
It may be to equalize the numbers or remove LGAs from Federation Account. Because, you have federating units and LGAs are never part of the federating units in an organized society. That is the main issue and that is why they say they don’t understand it.
But, those of them who have positive intellect know that if the country is growing faster, it would be better for them than get money, share money without any form of growth. Who is suffering more now in the country? It’s the Northern poor. If the country were growing, they won’t be depending on government. They would instead depend on themselves and on the private sector where our people play dominant role.
Suddenly, the agitation for self-determination appears louder with more of such groups agitating for self-determination springing up. Surprisingly, instead of fashioning out ways of peacefully dousing the tension, the FG is sending out soldiers, guns and fighter jets on them. Why are we not getting it?
They don’t want to get it. There is only one agenda in this government and that is Islamization. That is why the herdsmen kill with impunity. That is why the President is massacring anybody he can see in South the East and South South.
It’s not that they don’t know, but they don’t want to know. We keep playing into their hands to achieve the Islamization agenda. Look at the money flowing into your zone to enable them succeed in that agenda. In Ebonyi State, how many million dollars are they being promised for the three mosques they want to build. Then in Enugu State, Iran is to build a hospital. So, the hatred for the South East by President Buhari is the love for Islam. The East is the place where you have the greatest percentage of Christians in Nigeria.
But could all these be reason anytime Biafra is mentioned it sends jitters down the spine of other Nigerians
Biafra sends jitters down the spine of even well-educated Igbo people. Although Biafra may be inevitable, it is not the way the young men are going about it. Yes, life without honour is not worth living-“e jinduemegini?”
More Igbo slaves committed suicide, jumped overboard into the deep sea in the era of slave trade, because life in slavery is not our way. If we can have restructured Nigeria, living in peace with others and having access to this mass market of Nigeria that is the best for us and any group in Nigeria. But, if we cannot get that and you are rejected, would you reject yourself? Therefore it is not inevitable that we must be in Nigeria. But those who know don’t want Biafra now. It’s only as a last resort that Biafra comes up in the scheme of things.
APC has replaced the PDP. Can you observe any difference in the scheme of things even in the face of the change mantra?
Never. Sometime ago a major newspaper had a headline that said ‘APC equals All Promises Cancelled—Ezeife’.
Well, but if you look at it, what have they brought to the table? They promised to make N1=$1, they promised N40 per litre of petrol, they promised change, and they promised most things. They also said they are fighting corruption but this is the most corrupt administration we have had in history. Because even the man heading it doesn’t know what is going on.
The people behind the government are carting money away. There was a time it was a matter of everyday you go and take dollars from one bank, change it into Naira and become a billionaire. Even LamidoSanusi, may God bless and keep him going for Nigeria because we need people who have conscience. It’s not just intellect. He has the intellect but has also the conscience to do things right and say the truth.
APC brought nothing and uptill today, after all they are all PDP anyway. What they brought were Islam and herdsmen. That’s all.
Sir as Anambra goes to the polls to elect a governor in the next one moth, what advice do you have for the electorate, the parties, the candidates and the rest stakeholders?
To all, I say, think about the Igbo and vote.