Former Health Minister, Prof ABC Nwosu, has said that the Northern Region is not averse to the aspiration of the Igbo for to occupy the national seat of power in 2023.
In this interview, the former political adviser to ex- President Olusegun Obasanjo emphasised that only the restructuring of the country will save her from an imminent doom. .
What is your view on the state of the nation?
The state of the nation is bleak. It was bad, but it is now confounded by COVID-19, and the people who couldn’t govern the country have taken cover under corona virus and have gone on holiday, and the state is running on autopilot. As you can see, nobody could direct things; insecurity is mounting, we have seen how war on anti corruption is going; we have also seen how the economy is going. In medicine, the worst thing is the future; the prognosis – how do you see this thing developing in future; turning out in future? That prognosis is very bad – that is, the prognosis of children not at school, small and medium scale industries closed, lockdown, no interstate travel, no aviation, everything.
So, we are taking excuses under COVID-19. We have not heard anybody mentioned an exit plan, an exit strategy; instead, what we hear is a containment strategy on how to lockdown, how to lock up, how to lock in, and nobody is thinking that someday this thing will be opened. We have never had it so bad.
You are saying the situation is so bad and bleak, but the Presidency stated last week that the five years of APC is better than 16 years of PDP?
What do you expect them to say? We have had five years of ghost leadership; invisible leadership, a leadership that is a spirit, which you can’t touch, see or hear. You heard what Borno governor said, that there are five local governments being occupied fully by Boko Haram, and he is an APC governor? You can see demonstrations in Katsina, the president’s own state. When they were demonstrating some years ago against the PDP, did anybody stop them, but now, they are stopping people in the North from trying to see the situation , which is terrible; they are even trying to stop people’s inalienable right to protest.
The same government is completing the railways started by PDP; the same government is taunting TSA, as a major achievement, which is an idea that came from the same PDP; whistleblower is also an idea that came from the same PDP; EFCC, an idea that came from the same PDP. The same PDP brought the country debt relief. By 2007, Nigeria had zero debt, but now the money we use in servicing debt is more than the one for capital development. In just five years, this government has borrowed more than any government in the history of Nigeria.
When this president came in 1984, what was his official car? It was Peugeot 504, which was the official car of all the governors, which was also the official car of the ministers and commissioners. I was a commissioner in a state; I served four governors, all had 504 as official cars. What are the cars they drive now, SUVs, and this is a government that said it came to change filthy opulence and wasteful spending, and it has continued.
When I came as Political Adviser to Obasanjo, it was Peugeot 406, and two persons whose parastatals bought 607 were asked to return them. Now, they don’t need these cars, but higher and more beautiful ones. Do you see the difference it will make if the president, ministers, service chiefs, etc drive the type of cars we used? Now, service chiefs drive armoured SUVs. How can you be doing that and you are telling me in 16 years of PDP, nothing was added. Every day, watch them, they are on their phones tweeting, clicking, browsing, etc, who brought the mobile phone to Nigeria, was there any before 1999. When a person who is eating rice and turkey prepared by somebody, says that person didn’t do anything, what then can you say of that person?
The most dangerous leaders are those who believe their own lies. Don’t you know how Abuja was in 1999; coming from airport, look at how it is now. There is nobody with any sense – common, uncommon, useless, who will deny that Obasanjo worked a minimum of 18 hours every day; there is nobody who will deny that Obasanjo could read a 500-page document overnight and distill what is important there, there is nobody who will deny that Obasanjo would take decisions promptly and he delegated. I didn’t need to go through Maj. Gen Abdullahi Mohammed (retd), Obasanjo’s chief of staff (a very thoroughly efficient human being) and absolutely incredible servant, Chief Ufot Ekaite, as secretary to government, before seeing the president. I could see the president immediately and tell him that we can’t continue with HIV at this level, we got to do this and that. They talk of African Plan of Action; anything you say on Health now, they go to African Plan of Action, it was Obasanjo, and it was my first assignment two months as minister of Health, and Nigeria got over $600 million grant as dash, not loan, not borrow. How can I start enumerating what PDP did? They moved the country from $33 billion debt profile to zero, it is nothing. You had no mobile phone, which you have now, it is nothing; they started the railway projects, it is nothing.
Those from the South East may seem to buy into the position of the APC because for the first time they are seeing progress on the Second Niger Bridge, about 50 per cent of work done; and also works on the Enugu- Port Harcourt road and Enugu- Onitsha road, which are the major arteries for the region, but they can’t point at what PDP did for the region in 16 years in power?
Second Niger Bridge is not the inspiration of the Igbo man; even if you build second, third, fourth and tenth Niger bridges. APC got the votes it got at the last election in the South East because of the fearful governors who didn’t want to be disturbed in their second term, which APC perfected plans for, otherwise, they would have got zero votes. How come they did all these things, yet the people refused to give them votes?
Second Niger Bridge is not an APC conception, like I have said, TSA, and the major things in anti corruption, that is Public Procurement, Fiscal Responsibility Act were not done By APC. I agree with you, infrastructure, building an overhead bridge to my house is not what I’m looking for. I’m looking for situation where I have the same right in Nigeria , the same voice in Nigeria as a person from Daura and I’m from Nnewi; and I cannot accept that I am inferior to somebody, and all I want is an opportunity to self actualize to give vent to my God given potentials. If you look at it again, do you think if you put Second Niger Bridge and Igbo having zero in national security architecture, that they will choose the bridge.
Will North West pick dam? By the way; way back in Borno, you had the South-Chad Irrigation Scheme, which over $600 million was used for its construction. It was one of the loans taken by that government for River Basins. I was the consultant on water borne diseases for that project, and that is why I know Gamboru Ngala, New Marte, Baga, etc, let them go and see what was done there; over $600 million spent then, and every day, the first thing I hear is Second Niger Bridge.
I was there when Obasanjo launched the dual carriage way from Onitsha to Owerri and the Second Niger Bridge; Igwe Achebe, all of us were there. They didn’t have the money, the credit that the APC will take is that when the money was trying to be mobilized, it fast forwarded it and got it started and gave it to a credible engineering company, Julius Berger and for that, they deserve all the credit. There is nothing going on the Onitsha –Enugu road. I travel regularly, and I know that you can’t travel on the so-called finished federal road. For how many years have they been on it and yet they have not finished it how many years, and the same with Enugu- Port Harcourt road. Whatever they have done, we have credit on it.
I was part of the 16 years of PDP, as a minister and a political adviser and what they are talking is a lie. If it is not a lie, let each person throw away his mobile phone; look at the debt, how strenuously, Okonjo Iweala fought to get the cancelation; look at how officers were appointed in the regime, and how come these officers are being sought after by the world. Look at how everybody was insulting us, but under PDP, could South Africa have done that nonsense on xenophobia; do you think they would dare do it under Obasanjo? Look at the one in Ghana, Ghana? And we will say, ‘we are engaging, we are in constructive engagement’, that is what we are hearing. You have an invisible government that reacts when things happen, they don’t even react in such a manner that the same thing will not happen tomorrow.
Former Kaduna State governor, Balarabe Musa, in a recent interview said the country will not move forward or know progress until Nigerians do away with both APC and PDP, because both are the same; the only difference is their names, what is your position on this?
I have always admired Balarabe Musa, he is on the Aminu Kano school, they are PRP, and I’m certain he is still PRP. If you bring PRP, are you going to bring people from mars to populate it? With every reference I can muster, he is very wrong.
The thing that will change Nigeria is restructuring. Many people say they don’t understand that word, ‘restructuring’ and such people are being dishonest. It is an English word, to change the structure; it is not a technical language like fossil logic in mathematics; it is a concept, chaos theory in mathematics, and you need to understand it and its application to social sciences because that is what is happening in Nigeria now, the chaos theory.
This structure we have is Federal Government, and recently, another word has crept in to our discourse, as some people are talking of sub national units. Sub national units in a federation? What we have are federating units, and not sub governments. That is why Tinubu could take law suit against Obasanjo because he was not a subordinate government. Once you get into a city, there is no Exclusive List again. So, you can see our misconception of what federalism is; some call it feeding bottle federalism.
The structure we have is not working; that is why you can start School Feeding and the minister sitting in Abuja is responsible for feeding children in Ikom, Ogwu, Odi, etc, which type of federation is that. You come to my village, a borehole is being sunk by the Federal Government, and you go to Gusau, the same. He awards the contract for 774 local governments, is that not how corruption comes, and that is why you see them they are larger than life and sometimes you ask yourself, isn’t it the same minister that we were. Like I told you, our official car was 504; you have two, a pilot which is 406 and your backup. Now you see them with the latest Range Rover and other premium automobiles. That is not how to run government. At the beginning, we were told that no sirens will just run pass red light at traffic, but what are we seeing now. It is not about party, but about the country.
You are talking about restructuring, Balarabe Musa, also posited that Nigeria should break into six regions, and restructure, do you share his position?
He was correct in the fact that we have to restructure and what shall constitute the federating units is open for discussion. There are two schools of thought. The first, those who think the states that have existed for so long will be hard to be taken away; that it may be difficult having operated for long for you to force them to coalesce into regions and therefore, states should be the federating units. There is another school of thought that says that the six geopolitical zones that have been accepted in principle should be the six geo-political zones. The positions of PDP and the positions of the 2014 National Conference, which I was part of is that states coming together to constitute a zone or region should be a matter of consent; you can’t put together a group by force. The proper word is not sub national units as some people in government are using, but federating units. It is the federating units that make central government possible. I agree with him to that extent.
The other major thing that Balarabe Musa should have said, which he believes, probably an oversight, is the devolution of power. The Federal Government has too much power, compare it with 1960 constitution, gazetted in 1959; where you have the constitution of the federal government, you have the constitution of Northern Nigeria, you have the constitution of Eastern Nigeria, the constitution of Western Nigeria, bound in the same copy; each one has its own constitution and each one has its own agent general and the resource control the South-South has been fighting was completely there – 50 per cent.
What is happening is that those who have appropriated the 50 per cent and sharing it in their backyard are offended, they don’t want this thing to get back to where it was. They must be devolution of power, responsibilities and resources. We can’t just divide into regions like that; we must divide power, if you don’t want the word, devolution. Federal Government is in charge of everything. What is wrong with state police, didn’t state police exist in the North before the Nigeria police? Nigeria police didn’t come first before the Native Authority Police. So, what is wrong with state police now? Somebody is talking about community policing, why community policing, why must the Federal Government finance the policing of everywhere, the security needs of every place are not the same, and the authority derived from there. That is why you have the Inspector General of Police almost coming permanently from one place, is that fair? If we want to do restructuring, let’s do it and define what the federating units will be; let’s do devolution of power; there are 68 powers at the centre. Look at the number of ministries? You don’t need a new conference on cutting down cost of governance as the vice president is proposing; this is obfuscation, to confuse matters.
We don’t need any new conference. We have decided that the cost of governance is high, and the bulk of the cost of governance is the style of governance. By the time you buy 500 Toyota Prado SUVs for the National Assembly, and of course, ministers cannot ride the same vehicles with them, there must be difference, some will ride armoured ones, including military people, who are supposed to protect the people who go on un-armoured ones. Look at the cost of the vehicles.
You have 68 items on the Exclusive List, check the number at independence, negotiated by our founding fathers. This thing was not forced on our founding fathers; they negotiated it, colonial masters were the bosses, it was approved and then gazetted by the colonial government.
When we talk of restructuring some people say they don’t know what it means. what it means is that you don’t collect all the money from petroleum and share it and sit on top of petroleum as if there is no other person and you are in charge of Federal Character Commission, in charge of this and that; this is not what restructuring is. Since we didn’t know it; maybe, we begin with what it is not, and then come back to restructuring.
Between restructuring and 2023 presidency, what do the Igbo want?
The debate is going on by Igbo people, but on restructuring, there is no debate. The Igbo know to their bone marrows that the way to rebuilding Nigeria and making it a nation is through restructuring and on that, there is no debate.
The debate is on the presidency, should we divide our efforts to what the real problem is or should we make our point. If there is any ethnic group in Nigeria that believes in Nigeria, that is found in every part of Nigeria and imbibe in nation building, it is the Igbo. From 1999, the popular thing in PDP, which was the major party, was that Ekwueme would emerge, but late in the day, the argument was made about June 12, and Obasanjo emerged and ran against Olu Falae on APP platform, the Igbo were in support, but June 12 was unfair.
After him, it went to Yar’Adua and then to Jonathan, and the Igbo gave Jonathan the kind of support that his own people didn’t give him, and they didn’t regret it one second and are not regretting it one second. The Igbo are saying because of equity, fairness, are we really part of Nigeria; do we have really any right rebuking Nnamdi Kanu and other groups of IPOB and MASSOB, if we don’t really establish our stake that we are authentic sons of Nigeria and we are entitled to run for the presidency; and then we galvanise Igbo, maybe the Igbo votes 100 per cent or near 100 per cent, and let the other groups vote against us. I think that is where the debate is.
We turn to the Yoruba and say, because of June 12, did we oppose Obasanjo, and have we opposed Osinbajo? What have have we done that when it reaches our own, you will come out, and tomorrow when we object and assert ourselves that we are free citizens of Nigeria, you begin to talk to us about equity and fairness, do you have the moral right to do that after not supporting us. Ditto with the South-South.
The Igbo don’t think the North will be a problem; they supported Ekwueme as the vice president in 1979, cannot be the people who will say that the Igbo will not be president in 2023, that is my thinking as well as many Igbo. In 1979, they had the chance to give the vice president to anybody, it was just nine years the civil war ended, while should they wait to 2023 to throw the civil war to our faces. The Igbo are not afraid of the North supporting them.
All we need to do is to present what the Igbo have always wanted to be in Nigeria, to convince Nigerians that what they have always regarded and feared as their problem is indeed the solution to their problem; the Igbo are the solutions to their problems. Once it is stated that way, we will see those on the grounds of equity, and those who will oppose it. That is where the debate is coming. The one of restructuring is settled and sine qua non for Nigeria becoming a nation. Nigeria will either restructure or in a short while cease to be a nation.