Chief Emmanuel Offodile is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC. He is also the Chairman/CEO of Emglo Investments Company Limited, which is into haulage and hospitality business. In this encounter with Tony Iwuoma, he assessed the Buhari administration and also bared his mind on burning national issues, including the Biafra agitation and the face-off between the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.) and the Senate.
How do you see the ongoing face-off between the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service and the Senate?
It is indeed saddening and unfortunate. I believe that the senate should leave Hameed Ali alone. He is not the problem of the senate or Nigerians. They have allowed the reason he was invited in the first place to be dwarfed by whether he wears uniform or not. That is not an issue in this period of recession. The Senate should pursue the main reason it invited Ali. Ali was invited because of the planned retrospective duty payment on old vehicles. They should face that squarely instead of beating about the bush.
Are you now saying that the Customs’ boss is right in the planned retrospective duty plans?
The Customs has no reason to intercept any vehicle that has left the port on the road. This is especially against the Igbo that are being oppressed so much. If you are travelling to the East, you will encounter several checkpoints on the road; their brutality is something else; they are even more brutal than the police. Before, we had police brutality to contend with but now Customs has taken over and doing it with more crudity. It does not make sense to intercept vehicles on the road in the name of Customs duties; where were the Customs officers when the vehicles left the port?
Don’t you think it is wrong for Ali to refuse wearing the uniform of the agency he heads?
The man Ali is a much disciplined being. It is because he has refused to allow the perpetuation of impunity in the Customs that they are after him. He has his reasons, he said he was not bound by law to wear the uniform and he has gone for legal interpretation, which is the right thing to do. Uniform does not stop him from doing his job. The Senate should face the main issue and forget this needless face-off over uniform. However, I urge both the Senate and Ali to look into the aspects of Customs on the roads, especially in the East. Unfortunately, the authorities may not even be aware of these checkpoints mounted solely to extort the people.
Are you saying the senators, as representatives of the people, are wrong in tackling Ali?
No, that is not what I am saying, if they are concerned about the welfare of the people. But the reverse is the case. They are part of the extortion going on in the land and the people are victims. In fact, I am advocating for the abrogation of the National Assembly. It is wasteful. The constitution should be amended in a way that competent people should be given the opportunity to come together and make laws for the country. There are many professors all over the country who know what to do but for lack of opportunity. Our universities have many professors that are knowledgeable and competent to enact enduring welfarist laws for the country. The constitution should be amended to accomodate these professionals instead of the lazy, selfish bunch in theNationalAssembly. These politicians ride on the back of godfathers to rip off the nation. The legislature must operate part-time, with learned and competent professionals.
As a chieftain of the ruling party, are you satisfied with the performance of this administration?
The President Muhammadu Buhari administration is on course. They don’t want to build castles in the air but ensuring enduring legacies. Nigerians want loopholes to exploit and maneuver their ways to shortcuts that will lead to easy wealth. That is what the government is addressing. Whoever wants to go to heaven must first die. Before we get it right, we must first be discomforted. Nigerians are used to short cuts but they must learn to be patient with the government to fix the economy. There is process to everything. To get hot water, you heat the water gradually until it gets to 100 percent.
People’s expectations are borne out of your party’s promises during electioneering, what do you make of that?
It is also true that government underestimated the problem of Nigeria. You have seen how people in their numbers hid millions in their closets. How on earth could people pack so much of our commonwealth? Is there any country even in Africa where someone would steal millions, in hard currencies in the manner it is done here? Such looters are supposed to face firing squad. The anticorruption war of this administration is in full swing. Nobody can take that away from Buhari; he has taken the anticorruption war to the limits and it is bearing evident results. There is no more hiding place for looters, as they are being exposed everywhere, whether in Nigeria or abroad. By the time Buhari is done at the end of his tenure, Nigerians will be begging him to come back.
But he is being accused of human rights violations, such as ignoring court orders granting detainees like Nnamdi Kanu bail. Is that not corruption?
There is nothing like absolute right. Rights are given subject to conditions. Buhari is the chief security officer of the country and anyone that violates the law is detained. This administration doesn’t flout court orders; the detainees are held under valid charges.
Are you in support of Biafra agitation?
The timing of this Biafra agitation is not ripe because Nigeria of today is not Nigeria of yesterday. This agitation can destabilise the country as a whole and what do we stand to gain? If you want to protest against anything, must you be unruly and violent and burning tyres on the road? Violence does not have to be with guns. Obstruction of roads to prevent people from moving about freely is violence; even wielding ordinary stick can be being armed. If Igbo have to start agitating, there are more civil and decent ways to go about it. The Igbo have prominent people that can speak and the world would listen but no dignified people can come out to support what is happening. Nnamdi Kanu is blaming people that are more knowledgeable than him. Many of the agitators don’t even know the full meaning of Biafra. You can’t have two governments in a country at the same time.
Are you now saying the treatment being served the Igbo is justified?
That’s not what I am saying because it can never be justified. The Nigeria-Biafra war impoverished the Igbo; the war reduced the Igbo to nothing. Now that we are coming up again, some people want to take us back to where we struggled out from. People calling on Igbo to break away are calling for second destruction.
In any case, the Igbo are not ready for Biafra. If all Igbo come together and decide that all Igbo should relocate their business at, say Trade Fair, Lagos, to the East and from all sections of the country, the impact will be felt. If we can do that, Nigeria will come begging us to come back and start treating us with respect. Let the Igbo everywhere come home and invest. Let us replicate Nnewi everywhere across Igbo land. Let us move our shops and products to markets in the East; that is the best way to agitate successfully. Those posturing for Biafra are attention seekers and doing so for self-aggradisement and pecuniary reasons. They want to leverage on the noise to get noticed and, perhaps, be given something. If we get our acts together, even some non Igbo will fight for us. The Yoruba and Hausa have icons, their rallying point, but we have none. All we have is disparate people intent on pulling one another down. Tell me, who will coordinate us when we reach Biafra?