as Ndigbo, under his Presidency, are without honour
Former governor of Anambra State, Chief ChukwuemekaEzeife (Okwadike) has condemned the attitude of some northern leaders over the quit notice given Ndigbo resident in the north by the Coalition of Arewa Youths. Ezeife regretted that rather than condemn the action of the northern youths and advocate for peace, some northern elders are fuelling the situation by making inflammatory, provocative remarks.
On the issue of rising agitation for Biafra, the former Presidential Adviser told CHUKS EZE, in Awka, Anambra State, where this interview was conducted, that President MuhammaduBuhari is to blame. In his view, Ndigbo are suffering the worst neglect, marginalisation, suppression and intimidation under the Buhari administration in the history of Nigeria, adding that the situation is there for all to see.
According to Ezeife, “During President Obasanjo’s era, MASSOB was there but there was no serious quest for independence or self-actualisation. There was little pressure during the time of Yar’Adua until he died, and there was none during the time of Jonathan. Any intelligent person must ask ‘why now, why now?’ I think we all know why?
What do you make of the three-month ultimatum given to Ndigbo by a coalition of northern youths to vacate the north, which is fast running out?
What I make of it is that there is God in heaven; and that God made a promise to us – Igbo people, who believe in Him that He will protect us and direct our ways. Sometimes, we are proud as if it is by our ingenuity that we are so successful everywhere. The Igbo will go to a strange town empty handed – whether it is China,
America, Kano, Katsina, Lagos or anywhere. We, the Igbo, could start with any kind of business and still make it work. In the olden days, we used to carry faeces on our heads, and somehow we would succeed. With our success, we build houses. In the house we live, sometimes we stay in a very easy chair in front of the house and exude more confidence than the original owners of the land.
And if it happens to be an Anambra person like I am, we talk without caring how the other person is feeling. Now, what do you expect to happen when you appear to exude more confidence than the original owners of the land?
Obviously, we are drawing jealousy. From jealousy, it gets to hatred, then to shedding of blood. I read Fani Kayode’s interpretation of the pogroms in the north, especially that of 1967. He said the Igbo would get to a place belonging to other people and behave as if they are the owners of the place. And as I said, with so much confidence that the original owners of the place would begin to doubt whether we remember that we came to join them.
But the truth is that God in heaven is the one who gave us the characteristics that make us succeed; and we are humans. When the Igbo are successful, they behave like successful people, which can be annoying to the people in whose homes, villages and towns we live – their communities. That is the first thing people should understand.
But I would add that we, the Igbo, must realise that it is time to make friends with our host communities. You lose nothing making friends and you lose nothing investing in lasting projects and investing in human beings in your host community. Give them schools – Primary schools, secondary schools et cetera, they would never forget.
We should start making friends more with our host communities to ensure that this jealousy and hatred do not come at all. But, as you can see, there are sayings in our tradition that make us behave the way we do. One says, ‘Ebeonye bi kaonaawachi’. The proper literary interpretation of that statement is that, ‘you mend where you live’. That is why the Igbo have more modern houses in Abuja and Kano than any other group in this country. And what obtains in Abuja and Kano is the same everywhere whether in South West, North or the Middle
Belt, which we have been tending to neglect.
Is the Middle Belt being neglected?
O yes, very well.The Middle Belt is being neglected and it is the one holding the North and South together. It is like a bond between the north and south, and that region should be given the credit for that. The Middle Belt helps to hold this country together.
Without them, may be, we would have since been over as a country.
How do you feel that the call for the breakage of the country is currently being orchestrated by the youths?
My brother, I have never thought that the youth of Nigeria can be problem of Nigeria. I do not see NnamdiKanu or members of MASSOB as the problem of Nigeria. If you look carefully, then you would find that they are reacting to the injustices of Nigeria.
And again, there is a statement in Igbo, which says, ‘Ejinduemegini?’ meaning, ‘Life without honour is not worth living’. The life that Igbo people live in Nigeria is not with honour; it is a long time ago when it was with honour. But, for so long now it has been life with neglect, injustice, humiliation, harassment and inequity – life not worth living. And it has never been like this all the time.
During (former President) Obasanjo’s era, MASSOB was there but there was no serious quest for independence or self-actualisation. There was not much pressure during the time of Yar’Adua until he died, and there was none during the time of Jonathan. Any intelligent person must ask ‘why now, why now?’ I think we all know why?
Does the why have anything to do with alleged lopsided appointments?
It has everything and more to do with it. Firstly, (President Muhammadu) Buhari came to power and talked about 97 per cent to 25 per cent, which is incoherent, senseless and cannot make 100 per cent. He started making appointments and after over 40 appointments, no position was given to the South East. Then another set of appointments was made and again, the South East was virtually vacant in the list.
They started removing people from the Military, Custom and the rest; we looked at the list of people being removed, the south especially South East was dominant. Then if you look at the budget as regards the Enugu-Onitsha and Enugu-Port Harcourt federal roads respectively and compare the provisions, if any, to their equivalent elsewhere, you would weep.
The most recent is the issue of railway where they borrowed over 5 billion dollars to improve the railways and there is nothing for the rail sector in the South East, yet we are expected to fund the loan repayment. Sadly also, the Igbo have no membership in the National Security Council and so, the Igbo is not represented at National Security meetings in this country, yet the Igbo are the untouched nous in Nigeria.
You perceive Fulani/Hausa in some countries outside Nigeria and they were grown there and not visitors; you also find Yoruba in some countries outside Nigeria but you would not find an Igbo in any country outside Nigeria, who is not a Nigerian. Yet, you hold National Security Council meetings and the Igbo are not represented.
But we all know that Buhari allocated ministerial slots to the South East, didn’t he?
Yes, he sure distributed ministerial appointment and we got science and technology, labour, Trade and Investment; and foreign affairs – to deal with foreigners! Look, I was a federal Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and I know what obtains there.
I do not know whether he wants us to be jealous of the Yoruba when he assigned three major ministries to one person, although that is what it seems like. But the point I am trying to make is that if you digest all these, you would know that the person doing it hates you. These are demonstrable facts. Then coming to Buhari’s body language, some young boys in Aba (Abia State) were having a peaceful march; they had no machetes, guns or anything that could hurt a fly.
The police and soldiers mowed them down and killed them. After that, Buhari made a statement that while they are alive (those who fought the Biafra war), nobody should raise a voice (from Biafra land). Then some Igbo youths decided to hold memorial service for those that were slain during Biafra war, including none-Biafrans, in Onitsha. They were holding copies of the Holy Bible, performing memorial service.
They were mowed down; and some confusion sponsored by the federal government in an attempt to pass the blame to our people who made efforts to put the situation under control. Then, we were all here when (Donald) Trump won American Presidential election and some people who liked his victory were carrying solidarity placards to celebrate Trump’s victory in Port Harcourt.
They were mowed down, killed in the midst of their merriment. I can state many more instances because I even had a personal taste of their penchant for harassment and intimidation of innocent, defenceless citizens in Igboland.
Are you saying that you had been harassed by the Buhari administration?
Look, I have said so many things in this country and I have never said a single lie. I once went out, in a motorcade, with some relations and friends during the 2015 Christmas return. As we were coming back around past 11pm, we saw some soldiers in my compound.
They came with various vehicles. When I saw them, I thought they had come with a prominent man who must be waiting for me upstairs; so I rushed up but found nobody. On coming back, I saw them blowing siren and zooming off one by one. Maybe they left after seeing that we were so many that came back at the same time. People asked me to raise the alarm but I kept calm and kept quiet.
Another case was when some young Igbo people invited me to chair the launch of a book written in honour of (the late Odumegwu) Ojukwu. While driving down to the venue in Awka, I got information that the DSS had taken over the venue. I drove straight to the governor’s house and he was not around. So, I went to the Commissioner of Police who directed me to the DSS, and on reaching there, they told me that they were acting on orders from above. I then asked the young men to move to another venue and inform me.
But before they even contacted me, the police and army had gone to the new venue and forcefully dispersed everybody. When I returned to Abuja, I had to talk; and when I spoke, they reacted in some way. Let me just leave it at that. But, the thing is that we need understanding in Nigeria, we need peace. People should do away with superiority complex. The Fulani man has no superiority over the Igbo man, both locally and internationally.
Many people are of the notion that recent inflammatory utterances of some northern leaders are indications that they couldn’t care less whether their actions can hurt anybody or not; do you feel so too?
MaitamaSule is a disciplined intellectual; politician and socialist, just as Justice MammanNasir is a consummate, sagacious politician. But we also have the likes of JunaidMuhammed, who talks like he speaks from the ‘Yansh, the same with AngoAbdullahi – a Professor, former university vice Chancellor, and one of my greatest friends in the north.
They are all from the north. Sometimes, it is difficult to understand what motivates Junaid’s statements. It was he who said the north is ready for Nigeria to break up. What is the literacy rate among the Fulani that he is talking about; or when did education become inferior to anything in the course of development of a nation? So, when you see people that you respect talk what looks like senselessly, you become dumbfounded. I apologize, but that is the thing that comes to my mind.
Now, even the youths, whom I used to think that our hopes must be higher with; the Arewa youths now call us, the Igbo, hooligans. I am certain that the meaning of that word has not changed. Of all people in Nigeria you call Igbo hooligans? Is it for their achievement-orientation? Is it for their success records internationally? How much discipline does a person display when he calls another person hooligan or vagabond? I hope we are not dealing with Muslim extremists.
I can state unequivocally that those extremists are not true Muslims. What they are doing are not from the Koran. A good Christian behaves according to the bible, especially the gospel, likewise, a good Muslim, who lives his life in submission to Allah, behaves according to the Karan. But what we see in the world today such as the incidents in London Bridge, Manchester, Paris, Germany, Iran, Nigeria and other places that have experienced terrorist attacks; such attacks have no foundation in the Koran.
They are actions of those that have been brainwashed by people who do not understand the depth of the religion they profess. Allahu Akbar means God is great; therefore, you cannot kill God’s children for God. I am EmekaEzeife and I have children. You cannot kill my children and say you are pleasing me. God is the father of all of us. You cannot go killing people and say you are pleasing God. That is insult to God. If you do that, you will pay for it dearly.
In fact, the kind of torment you will meet in hell fire would be so unbearable.
All this brainwashing that is used to prepare terrorists is nowhere near God’s or Allah’s words. You are told that when you die in suicide bombing that you would end up in Paradise; that is balderdash. You are going to the deepest hell because when you embark on suicide bombing, you don’t know who would kill.
You kill Muslims and the Koran says you should not kill fellow Muslim; you kill children and the Koran says innocent human beings should not be killed; you are killing women and the Koran says you should not kill innocent women. You also kill the lame, blind and other helpless individuals.
Those who are brainwashing the terrorists are using words that are not contained in the Koran, and you will not find them recruiting their children into the fold because they know that after raping, killing people or blowing themselves up, they end up seeing opposite of all that they had been promised, when they die. So, may God forgive all of us including those who are calling us hooligans and we, the Igbo, who are always proud of our achievements when it is God who made us successful.
What is your position on the reactions of various interest groups to the situation, especially the South East
Governors’ Forum, OhanaezeNdi Igbo and others?
We are still one country – Nigeria; the constitution is there. Some people say the South East governors should mobilise trucks and luxurious buses to move our people home. Those are bright ideas, but as far as I am concerned, nobody is coming home. I would advise our people to stay put. God will bring solution because the quit notice in itself is illegitimate and unconstitutional, not recognised by any known law. But, our people should not behave like a tree.
If you tell a tree ‘I am going to kill you’, it stands there. But if you threaten to kill a human being, he would behave otherwise. This time, there is no question of running back home. No way! I would not support anybody to run home, we must get ourselves ready to defend ourselves. It had happened before. We were used to running when they killed us in Kano, but the last time it happened, we did not run. Some of us died but those who wanted to do damage to us for no just cause saw real damage too; so that if there is commotion in the north, everybody – Hausa, Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba – everybody begins to run. It is no longer a situation where only the Igbo run with hands on their heads creaming. We still have enough time to organise ourselves to defend ourselves, if it comes to that. But in the name of God, in the name of Allah, it will never come to that.
AngoAbdullahi, recently berated northern governors and called them hypocrites for denying the Arewa youths after the Kaduna Declaration. On several occasions, he has declared support for the quit order, saying they (the entire north) were all part of the plan. Shouldn’t Ango have been removed as spokesperson of NEF if he has really not been speaking for the elders?
Well, even before he openly declared support for the quit notice, most of my friends who had assessed the situation had believed that AngoAbdullahi and JunaidMuhammed must have been privy to the action of the northern youths. They are free agents, not constrained by legalism, constitutionalism and responsibility. A governor is the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of a State, according to the constitution.
Even if the governor of Kaduna State (Nasirel’Rufai) knew about the plan to make the irresponsible, unaccommodating, inflammatory and inciting statements, there is a second thing; he has a duty, which Ango Abdullahi does not have, although as an elder he should have a duty. AngoAbdullahi is a very high cerebral person, highly achieving – a Vice Chancellor – but it seems his brain has disintegrated.
He used his mouth to say that the north is ready for disintegration. No northerner with common sense and live brains will say the same thing because the North loses most by the disintegration of Nigeria. If we were to leave, it would be worse off for the north.
How do you mean?
Let me educate you a little. Araba was the word they used in 1966/67; you may not be conversant with the word. Araba means ‘no basis for unity’. The north had wanted to go, but the British asked them, ‘What do you think you are doing? What do you have where you are going? Illiterates are what abound where you are going! Stay longer; you have not built a base for your people. That was what stopped the North from leaving.
We have large market in Nigeria, and that is what economists call economies of scale. Of all things, the strongest base for unity in Nigeria is economies of scale, which is the ability to produce cheaply, goods and services, for the satisfaction and welfare of the Nigerian citizens.
Like every Igbo indigene, I, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, am suffering rejection; I am suffering injustice, maltreatment of all kinds from a person who swore to keep our constitution and respect it. That constitution provides for Federal Character – balance in spreading jobs and other national benefits. But, I regret that some people have gone beyond their abilities in what they say. JunaidMuhammed is a little more balanced in his utterances.
But my brother and greatest friend, Ango, I do not know what has happened to him. But quoting him is irrelevant. Quote for me Justice MammanNasir; quote for me MaitamaSule; quote for me, most of the time but not all the time, TankoYakassai. Quote for me thousands of other northern elders, out of whom two are very different – the ones who are talking. And of the two, one seems to have some evil spirits working in him, and that is my friend, AngoAbdullahi. Instead of an elder like him praying and suing for peace, he is inflaming passion and asking people to do wrong.
We hear that some Igbo in the north are already bringing their wives and children home in case the northern youths choose to strike before the expiration of the ultimatum. How do you react to that?
If they want to move their wives and children home, let them follow their hearts. You talk about some people striking before the deadline? And who are we? We are weaklings? Oh, they struck in Kano, we replied and they stopped striking.
If we want to destroy, even three months is more than enough for us. We can do it, but may God never give the spirit of destroying Nigeria to Ndigbo. Anybody who is fair, let him point out one lie in any statement that I have made, and I have made many in newspapers, television and radio. Let any human born by woman point out a lie in anything I have said. And if they cannot point out a lie, let them put themselves in the position of the South East person and see whether they will accept it.
The Arewa youths said that their action was prompted by the recent sit-at-home order issued by IPOB and MASSOB…?
(Cuts in) No, no,wait! You do not need to go any further. Some groups asked people to stay at home and people obeyed. What did they say stay back home to do? It was to mourn our dead heroes – those whose lives were mercilessly cut short, in very inhuman manner. Oh, do not let me remember all that! People were butchered. Pregnant women had their stomach slit open; their unborn babies including twins pulled out and butchered; people were beheaded. Look at your Whatsapp and see the kind of killings… (He breaks down and sobs)… Have they got forgiveness for those people who were doing all those things? The northern youths are suffering from the effect of mild education and brainwashing.
The Koran provides that those who are doing such brainwashing will go to eternal bonfire. We do not know what we have; we wait for the British to tell us not to move out of Nigeria, and now the British is no longer here to dictate to us. God created us for a purpose – to be big brother and rallying point for all black people on earth. For that, He gave us everything. Is it our climate? Very equable. I can be naked outside round the year and not die. Is it material resources? Any plant can grow somewhere in Nigeria.
If it cannot grow in my village Igbo-Ukwu, it can grow in Ijebu. Any Animal found anywhere can find a home in Nigeria. You talk about minerals? The ones we know are uncountable yet we do not yet know so many. Is it human resources? My brother, we may be stupid, mislead ourselves, but God gave us many talents from many tribes. Our ultimate manifest destiny is to wipe away the shame of slavery on the faces of all blacks on earth. That is why we are the largest concentration of blacks on earth.
We must think. God does not make mistakes. He designed us for unmatched greatness. Man can mess up God’s design only temporarily but not permanently.
Is that why you once said that you believe more in a restructured Nigeria than a Biafra nation; are you really for Biafra or restructuring?
No, you must have gotten me wrong. What I said, which I have kept saying, is that I prefer a restructured Nigeria that allows us to develop and exploit the land markings that go to our homes, develop the same way and only be restrained by the markings.
If restructuring can provide answers to Nigeria’s problems, why then are some people uncomfortable with the term such that they grind their teeth whenever it is mentioned?
Those are the ones who do not seem to understand when we say restructure. We are simply talking about going back to the agreed Nigeria – Nigeria as agreed by our heroes past, who had interest of the country at heart, not interest in the funds of the country. Ahmadu Bello did not think about oil, Awolowo did not think about oil; they agreed on a federal system based on regions and federating units.
What happened? There was a problem between the North and the East. The North galvanised a lot of the entity and said it was Nigeria versus the South. What am I driving at? It was the Military that changed the structure of Nigeria by creating 12 states – six in the north and six in the south. Then after the war, the military went further to create more states. Today, we have 36 states plus Abuja, which sometimes behaves as if it is a state.
Then the wise council, in 2014 National Conference recommended even more 18 states for people to feel like human beings, so there would be 54 states eventually plus Abuja. Why do we think that we want 25 federating unites plus Abuja? They think so.
Even those who do not like the idea of larger units must accept that we should use the six Geopolitical Zones, which is already more than four original regions, as federating unites. For those who are suspicious about zones and regions, we should make it free for the states of every zone to work out their own quasi federal constitution – a constitution they are happy with, guaranteeing the permanence of the state and distribution of responsibilities, devolution of power between the zonal government and the state, in a quasi-federal system, where even within the geopolitical zone, you respect fiscal federalism.
With that arrangement, what happens to the issue of security, especially the State Police?
For me, my suggestion is that no more should security in this country be a federal responsibility. Federal responsibility for security should end with external threat. All internal problems must be sorted out by the zones without any reference from the centre. The idea of State Police may be attractive but I do not like it because governors are not angels. But, if many of them are responsible at the zonal level, they may structure it in a way that the zones would have control of the police.
What about the issue of fiscal federalism and power rotation; would you say they are also veritable solution options?
Yes, thank you. In a fiscal federalism system, the States control their resources and contribute for the maintenance of the centre, and not this kind of arrangement where States rush to Abuja every month to beg for a share from the federation account. The States should control their resources and support the federal government with funds; that was what it was before the civil war.
That is why when we say restructure, we mean mostly, going back to the agreed Nigeria, as I said earlier. I was Chairman Power Sharing Committee during the 2005 National Conference. The issue of rotation was problematic but in the end we reached consensus. We said that at the local government level, the local people should work out rotation so that Chairman of local government rotates in some sequence. When it comes to the governorship, it becomes so easy such that the office of the governor rigidly rotates among the Senatorial Zones.
In Anambra State, the North, which has power now, is a product of rigid rotation. (Former Governor) Peter Obi must be praised because the North having power now completes the recognition of the rotation. He must be praised for insisting on that. I have on several occasions suggested and delivered lectures on rigid rotation of office of the governor among the Senatorial Zones.
And the way I have it is that each zone should hold power for eight years. If the person in office fails to do well in his first tenure, let another person from the same zone take over with clear knowledge and understanding that he has only four years.
Then, coming to the national level, there is no question of North and South; it would not work. If we have six geopolitical zones, we must rotate among the six zones and create six packages of power that rotates evenly so every zone knows that it will reach their turn over a number of years. Rotation is the way to go and we would live in peace. We have several human beings that are qualified in every zone.
In fact, no matter how backward Nigeria may be, in some local governments, we have many people who can be President, even in the North. It will interest you to know that the North also has several youths who are very bright and can compete effectively anywhere in the world. You see it when they go abroad. Our problem is our inability to provide opportunities for education; that is all.
Nigeria is so blessed and gifted, and I seize this opportunity to thank the Middle Belt, Afenifere, the Niger Deltans and all kinds of groups that rose against the Arewa Youths after their quit notice declaration against the Igbo. By the way, it must be noted that when they say Arewa Youths, they are referring to Muslim Youths of the North. And I forgive those Muslim youths because their actions come from brainwashing and superiority psychosis given to them by their elders. They believe they control the affairs of Nigeria; that they can kill anywhere and they can carry AK47 anytime. These are people that we should forgive whatever they do because they are doing it out of misguidedness.
I am a Nigerian, I love the North and I love the West as much as I love the East. For the West I can proudly beat my chest and say that no human being born of a woman fought more for Abiola than I did. He is in grave but I am sure that some people are alive to testify that. In the North, I have not had any opportunity of helping any person. On the contrary, a lot of people from that zone have helped me.
During the era of (former Head of State, the late General Sani) Abacha, when my name was on the list of those to be killed, somebody from the north intervened and saved me. After that, they started calling me sacred cow in some quarters. I was not any sacred cow; I was not even more courageous than anybody. I was just living the life that God allowed me – to call a spade a spade.
Do you think that Biafra as an entity can be sustained assuming that the agitators are allowed to secede freely, on a platter of Gold?
The question is: if you are rejected, what chance do you have? Do you reject yourself? And the answer is no. As a matter of preference, if Nigeria can be restructured and justice is made to prevail in the country, no group would not want to prefer to be in Nigeria, unless there are some emotional foolishness involved in the action of any group. The truth is thatno group or section would walk out of Nigeria smiling. Naturally, the
Eastern people do not care whether they are President or not; they only care to be treated on equal basis with others. They care to be treated fairly, and not when an Easterner imports a container load of goods, it would be seized; not when the Chairman of Capital Oil, IfeanyiUbah, is being owed by the NNPC, NNPC turns around to claim that Capital Oil is owing them too, even when what they claim is far lower than what they owe
Capital Oil; and the Chief Executive officer Of Capital Oil is arrested and detained indefinitely because he is Igbo, even when the court says he should be released. This is the definition of injustice and rejection; this is what IPOB, MASSOP and many other people are fighting. Remove the injustices and see whether the Igbo are not more loyal than any other tribe in this country.
You are a strong advocate of rotation of offices; but there is a strong belief that the APC is determined to establish strong presence in the South East at all cost in future elections, especially in Enugu and Anambra States. Are you not worried that Governor Obiano may have problem at the polls?
Governor Obiano emerged governor because he is from the north. We can still keep rotation and have another governor from the north.
That is if other political parties agree to zone their slots to the north, isn’t it?
Just hold on… It does not have to be from the same political party, but we know ourselves; let nobody lie to himself. We know how APC started. We know the foundation of the party. APC is the central government of Nigeria today. That central government has not performed. Worse still, that central government seems to, if not executing the policies of Islamisation, that central government is not against Islamisation.
They are not announcing it as a policy but also not hiding about supporting it, and helping herdsmen with the supply of weapons. Police and the military appear to be helping the herdsmen and turning against those who are the ones that are bearing their punishment. We hear all kinds of stories, and some of them may be wrong, but nothing have we heard that APC is anti-Islamisation of Nigeria. On the contrary, we see them being in charge yet, not fighting those who are Islamising Nigeria. Boko Haram seems to be wearing a new toga – Islamisation toga.
What do we mean by Boko Haram? First of all, it was a manipulation to get (President) Jonathan out of power. Now that Jonathan is out of power, most of those held as Boko Haram prisoners are being smuggled into the Nigerian Army and posted to the south. So, the issue is, as Igbo, I don’t react to APC take over the South East, starting with Anambra State. We know how they started like a Muslim Brotherhood, and we know that we are exact opposite of Muslim Brotherhood in Igboland. So, some of my friends who are in APC, who always try to defend Buhari know where I stand.
Are you referring to former Anambra governor, Chris Ngige?
Yes, I get disturbed whenever I watch him trying to defend President Buhari and ruining his political career. If I had access to him before he made those statements he has been making, I would have dissuaded him. (Senator) Ngige was my personal Medical doctor o, unpaid doctor. When I fell sick he would come and treat me, those days in Lagos, without asking for a kobo. Now, tell me how I can turn against Ngige, or Bath Omeife, who is from Igbo-Ukwu, my own village. The only problem I have is that the truth should be told. A spade is a spade and not anything else.
Talking about calling a spade a spade, which has virtually become part of your identity; would you say that Governor Obiano has performed well to deserve a re-election?
Let me tell you what I know, but mind you, I may be totally wrong in what I think I know. I am a member of Anambra Elders Council and they include me when they call stakeholders; so I happen to know a bit. Our first meeting with Obiano after he was sworn in a governor, what he told us was that he was going to make security his first priority. I was the first to respond in that meetingbecause I don’t hide my opinion.
I told the governor that those who talk about God and heaven said: Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and everything else would be added unto you. I said to him that in politics, society, economy and the likes, seek thee first, security and people who feel secured in your place would do your bidding by investing, thereby propagating agriculture, manufacturing and all other things.
But if they do not feel secure, nothing would happen. You are in Anambra right now and you can witness what is happening. Last Christmas, we came home and enjoyed. Last Easter, we came home and enjoyed as well. And long before then, after six months of his inauguration, we started to enjoy coming home. Formally, our big men would stop at Asaba and pack their vehicles, if they had to come this way at all.
They would hire taxi, come in the day and smuggle themselves away in the night. When he said his administration had started exporting Ugu (pumpkin leaf), abroad, some people started saying that it was a lie, a fabrication and all that. When I heard about it, I came back and asked people where the so-called ugu was being; APC said it was fabrication. When I heard about it, I came home, asked around and they showed me. I was surprised; eventually,
I met with the pilot who specialises in carrying the stuff. I was also told that the same pilot is also packaging other items such as yams, onugbu (bitter leaf) and the rest for Shoprite, from Anambra farms. These are things that, as a well-trained governor of Anambra, I never conceived such ideas. You know in politics, some people are always prepared to say that everything is a lie, but they have not been able to show me one lie. Then, everybody who passes through Awka can testify that those three flyovers there make the State capital look special – like London Bridge if you like. So, I have looked around and the young man is hard working.
There are allegations that his projects are slanted to Anambra North; is that true?
My answer is that if we who had held power ignored that place, it is still part of Anambra; let him develop it. I went to Nsukka and I was so happy. You see, what is happening in Anambra is happening in Nsukka too, which is Enugu North, which is holding power now. If you havent been to Nsukka in a long time, you would not recognise it today.
So, I was the first elected governor of Anambra State but I never did anything for my area. By then, there was nobody to copy and I was doing the best I knew, not giving advantage to my place. If Willy Obiano faces his place and develops it, the next person will come from the South. Let him also face his place and develop it and before you know it, development will go round. It is that simple, and that is the beauty of rigid rotation of power. But on the whole, I think he has worked hard enough to deserve re-election.
Are you saying that there is no legitimacy in all the allegations against the governor?
No, that is not my position. In fact, there are criticisms in abundance against Obiano, and I see one as legitimate. That is the issue of having too many Special Assistants, who are also dominated by people from his area. We are all criticising Buhari for packing everything to his brothers and all that. You come to Anambra, the same nepotism plays out. If the governor wants to listen, for him to win election, he should reduce those people – remove several of them and balance the number.
Let them come and attack me in my village, but I have to tell the truth. Then he should let Special Advisers be Special Advisers, let Commissioners be Commissioners and Permanent Secretaries be Permanent Secretaries. No Special Assistant should dominate a commissioner or a Permanent Secretary. Let positions be fairly spread across the state.
That is the only point I see that can be legislative risk and I do not see anybody saying that is not true. On the other criticism bothering on alcoholic intake, I was with the governor, Former Vice President, Chief Alex Ekwueme, General Gowon (Rtd), (Iyom) Josephine Aneni, and a few others after the burial of UkpabiAsika, and we were drinking at the lodge in Awka. I saw Obiano drink brandy and all kinds of anything; I drank a lot too. Ekwueme and Gowon did not drink as much as I did.
But contrary to what people say about drunkenness, the man never spoke out of point for the long hours we stayed together and dined together. So, if drink and can handle it, I am not the one to talk about it. It is not a defect if you can handle it, but know you are dying younger than you would have died if you are drinking very much. So, what I am saying is that we should endeavour to reduce the cost of running election at all levels; let us make sure that we get the right people who would govern us. Only rigid rotation is the answer.