Gyang Bere, Jos
Former Nigeria Ambassador to Ukraine and Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Amb. Ibrahim Kasai has ruled out the possibility of Northern Nigeria retaining power beyond 2023. He said though the APC does not have any document that suggests rotation of power at the presidency, but common sense has prevailed that the Presidency is going to the South after President Muhammadu Buhari.
People have been talking about marginalization of the South East and the 2023 election is coming, don’t you think it is time for the Igbo to produce the President of Nigeria in the interest of unity of the country?
Well, I believe in one Nigeria; even if Nigeria is to be separated now, I am telling you there won’t be peace anywhere. The issue is let us go back to the fundamental, let us correct our attitudes. There can’t be a better way than bringing government closer to the people which started by the Gowon regime. One of the remote causes of the last civil war was ethnic suspicion among the regions; that was one of the remote causes of the war. Gen. Gowon decided that there were minorities and majorities in the three regions that were in existence and decided let everybody have a fair share of participation in government. From the four regions, Nigeria became 12 states, then 19 states, then 27 states and today 36 states; are we saying that we cannot have our grievances ventilated within these opening. We have adopted the Presidential System of government and every ethnic group to some extent is fairly represented at the National Assembly; you have the states Assemblies, we have Local Government Areas, then how can someone say he is marginalised. Is it only when the President comes from a particular place that such a place is not marginalised when a Minister is appointed from every state? At the federal level now, even if an interview is about to be conducted to recruit graduates, there must be up to 36 candidates or more. That is to say you can’t engage people to the detriment of others. We have enough space to operate but our problem is corruption; few people will embezzle Nigeria’s money and instead of us to talk against it, we are clapping hands. They will take government money to build mosques and Churches; they will take government money to throw parties in their villages and nobody is saying anything, instead we are clapping hands for them.
There have been agitations from elders from the South and Northern parts of the country. While the North wants to hold on to power beyond 2023, the South is clamouring for power shift, do you think President Buhari will relinquish power to the South in 2023?
This is not the first time that I am talking about this. I have always said that I am not aware of any document either in APC constitution or manifesto on zoning arrangement but I am sure that APC is being driven by the theory of common sense. The theory of common sense suggests that Nigeria is our commonwealth and there is no way one part of Nigeria will dominate another and the other will just sit and watch. Just like the PDP document had earlier shown, I think any party that doesn’t think that way, they will be looking for the collapse of their party. It is wisdom for the APC to produce their Presidential candidate from the South in 2023. I am an APC chieftain and I believe the right thing will be done. Notable leaders from the North have also said the Presidency should go to the South and when you get to the South, you will know that politics is a game and you will have to look at where the game is played. I believe that the Presidency is going to the Southern part of Nigeria.
Will you be disappointed if the Presidency remained in the North?
I don’t see the Presidency remaining in the North in 2023, there is no reason for that.
Should a particular party insist on bringing their candidate from the North and the people decided to vote him, don’t you think that will make it possible?
Even if it happens accidentally, the people will determine at the end of the day during the general election; Nigerians are not fools. Even if there was a mistake during the primaries and a candidate comes from the North, I am telling you that a correction is going to be made; Nigerians will adjust. I told you earlier that we are developing without corresponding economic growth.
What was your experience during the civil war in Nigeria?
We were in primary school. In 1966 I was in class 5 and in 1967 the war started, I was hearing that there should be division, there should be division and whenever we came to Jos, we will see dead bodies. I don’t want to remember those things I saw that time and shortly, we heard that war has been declared between Nigeria and the Igbo and the war lasted for more than three years. Journalists were doing their best to dish out information about what was going on in the war front; sometimes you will hear radio Biafra and you will hear a counter from the Federal Radio. You will be hearing voices of people like Chukwumerije and so many others; I don’t want to say much about that. Happily in 1970, the war ended and there was another jubilation. After the war, Gen. Gowon and his team designed a very good post war plan -Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Reconciliation. The first declaration was that there was no victor and no vanquished, that we were all brothers and that was Gen. Gowon; he is commanding respect in the country up to now because of that singular action.
What is responsible for that?
I have told you, the Gen. Yakubu Gowon regime did her best by uniting the country after the nasty and unnecessary civil war of 1967 to 1970. Politicians should have put pressure on the Military to go three years after the war; power should have returned to the civilians and all their plans about post war should have been executed by the politicians and unfortunately, Gen. Muhammad Murtala came with radical policies which the civil servants saw as unsavoury. Instead of fighting corruption, it became the order of the day. Corruption keep turning in faces from the civil servants to the politicians, from businessmen to peasants, almost everybody is corrupt. If you are not corrupt, then you are a beneficiary of corruption. That is what is happening in our country today; it is very unfortunate; people praised those who have stolen money and it is not good for our national development. I am happy to say that the Buhari administration has done well not because I am in APC. Infrastructural development is being addressed, the issues of insecurity is being address with seriousness and we hope that the government will succeed in the fight against Boko Haram, kidnappers and banditry. Somebody suggested that we should cut down our forest to a certain level and I want to align with that idea. If you go to Europe, they don’t leave hundreds of kilometres of forests as ours here. They should be cut down two or three kilometers and give space, if that is adopted, it will help.
Will you say Nigeria is better today than what it used to be before independence?
I think the basis for comparison is not even there. What was our population after independence? There was a census in 1963 and Nigeria was about 60 million and how many educated people did we have that time. How many secondary schools did we have in the North then, they were very few. Infrastructure was barely basic, we had railway lines, the economic fortunes were geared toward enhancing the fortune of the colonial masters at that time. But there was nothing like insecurity; you could keep your bicycle on the street and come back tomorrow and pick it, you can travel the whole distance in the night and nothing would happen to you, there wasn’t any serious crime, not that there was no crime but very minimal. Also, the population was not up to what we have now; up to the 1980s, Nigeria was still very good; things started getting bad in the 1990s.
Are you blaming the under-development of Nigeria on long Military rule?
I have said it time without number and nobody wants to point out the mistakes of our former leaders, a mistake is a mistake. I am not saying that people should insult our former leaders, no, they did their best but their best was not good enough. When the Military takes over a regime, they engage politicians to be their ministers so that they can flow along, they should have stood their ground to say if the Military regime goes beyond certain time, we are all going to resign but the politicians also kept wallowing and enjoying the juicy offices under the Military and that was what kept the Military so long. I am telling you as former Ambassador, that is the reason we were giving the outside world for not being able to go beyond where we are and that is the truth. The Military overstay in power and even when they are going, they make sure they put their boys in places; if you are not the son of General this and General that, it is difficult for you to get certain things in our country, that is the reality of what is happening in our country. We hope that the political class should think so fast now and how long should we continue with this corruption thing. President Muhammadu Buhari has come with renewed zeal; he is a democrat and he is trying to curb this corruption; if it is not curbed, then it will become permanent with us and that will be unfortunate. Summarily, this is why many people believed that at the age of 60, instead of chewing sugarcane, we are still taking milk.