National President, Aka Ikenga, an association of Igbo professionals, Oscar Onwudiwe has said that the clamour for a president of Igbo extraction in 2023 is not in the interest of Ndigbo. Speaking with TUNDE THOMAS in this interview, the Igbo leader urged political leaders in the country to support the agitation for restructuring of the country if the nation is to move forward.
How do you see the rising insecurity, the economy, border closure and some other national issues that have become subjects of discourse among Nigerians?
The present state of the nation is not what any Nigerian would wish for. No Nigerian will want to say this is how they want to live. No Nigerian is safe. No Nigerian feels safe, and we are gradually watching how security, law and order are gradually going down.
Sadly, we have a police force that the federal government has not bothered to ask how do we get the best after the enforcement of law and order. We don’t have a government that abides with the dictum that law and order is the soil on which everything good grows, and as long as we don’t get law and order right, nothing can grow. What law and order means again is that everybody is under that law, and mustsubmit to that law. It is not what we have in the country now which is double standard and selective morality. We have selective morality and double standard, and once you do that, the society can’t grow.
What we have in Nigeria is a situation where people can belong to a cabal that can break the law and get away with it. Now, a Nigerian is privileged because somebody somewhere believes that he is loyal to him, and not that he is privileged because he is behaving well in a way every Nigerian will be proud of, and this is a big problem for us in Nigeria.
Insecurity will not stop except you have a different mindset from the government in power. No economy can grow in an atmosphere of disorder. No economy grows in an atmosphere of discontent. No economy grows in an atmosphere of divide and rule. The situation in Nigeria today is very ugly. But what is however interesting is that those who create the present situation don’t know any other way, they sincerely think that there is nothing wrong in what they are doing. They believe Nigeria is going on very well, and that some people just like to criticize.
To these people Nigeria is working perfectly well but contrary is the case. Our present leaders are far removed from the reality on the ground. Part of the reason for what is going on in the country today has its root in the cultural belief of our present leaders that some people are supposed to be poor, that Allah has made it that way, but now they’ve created more poor people.
This is a government that has promised to alleviate poverty but they’ve created poverty more than any government in the history of Nigeria since 1960, and there is only one human being that can do it and get away with it, ………
cuts in … Who is that?
It is Nigeria’s current President. The reason for this is because of Buhari’s destiny. His destiny is such that so many things are waived for him. Can you tell me of any president you know that Nigerians have been tolerant of than Muhammadu Buhari? None. That’s Buhari’s luck and destiny. Things are waived for him. He gets away with anything. This doesn’t start when he became President of Nigeria in 2015. It started from the time he wanted to join the Army several decades ago. They just keep on waiving things for him, and that’s his own destiny. Buhari is a child of destiny and I admire him.
Why do you admire him?
I admire him because it is left for us as Nigerians to understand what is his destiny. What is the destiny that Muhammadu Buhari has come to fulfill? Is it a good one or a bad one that will end up bringing a good one?
But which one do you think of?
I think it is a bad one that will end up bringing a good one. I see beautiful light at the end of the day. I see the silver lining the cloud for Nigeria. Nigerians should not despair. Buhari described Nigerians as being lazy, and of course he is very right in his assertions. If we are not lazy, there are so many things we should have been conscious of so many years ago that we are just being conscious of now.
Like what and what?
Nigeria is not one by fiat, it can’t be one by fiat, and you can’t make Nigeria one by fiat. Nigeria can only be one by negotiations. We must learn how to adjust our compromises. That’s the only way Nigeria can be one. When the British amalgamated Nigeria in 1914, their aim was to exploit us. As far as the British were concerned they were just lumping together a group of black people and exploit them, and that’s what they exactly did.
I will continue to talk about this, former Nigeria Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, may his soul rest in peace said in one of his famous speeches that the Nigeria the British were trying to create is only a figment of their own imagination, that they from the North would not be part of it, and he ended that speech with the reason that the people that made up Nigeria are different in so many ways. He delivered that speech at Northern Nigeria House of Assembly. Now if you ignore your prophets, it will be at your peril. Unfortunately, Nigerians ignored that statement, but the fact remains that Nigerians are really different in so many ways.
As a group of different people, we need to sit down together, discuss and talk about how we will stay together in the space thewe found ourselves, otherwise we will run into serious crises, and that’s why we are having series of crises in the country today.
If you call an average Fulani man and ask him the questions you are asking me, he can’t say what I’m saying. He can’t see things the way I’m seeing it. But if you go to an Urhobo man, he may see what I’m seeing or say what I’m saying.
But the beauty of what Buhari has caused in the country today is that all those people who can now see things the same way and all those who have a common sense of justice are now beginning to find themselves to hold hands.
The South-south is now suddenly realizing that Igbo are not their problem because no Igbo man has an oil enclave in their area. Now the Southwest is gradually getting the point where they would realize that Igbo are not their enemies. The Middle Belt who believed that they were part of the North are now beginning to realize that they are not part of the North, and today, they’ve moved away from Arewa saying they are no longer part of Arewa, that they have not been fairly treated by the Arewa – this is the beauty of what this administration is doing in Nigeria today. Buhari’s administration has opened Nigerians’ eyes to injustices and inequalities in Nigeria today.
Now all those who have the same sense of justice are now thinking of coming together. Why? Because they suffer the same fate under Buhari’s administration. What injustice has these people suffered, it is double standard. Because of this, you now have Southern, and Middle Belt leaders holding regular meetings, and this has never happened before. It never happened before. But today, these leaders are sitting down together, and they are talking about way forward for Nigeria.
Is restructuring the way out of all these challenges?
Restructuring can only happen if Southern and Middle Belt leaders don’t relent and keep on insisting on it. We have six geo-political zones in Nigeria, and if four say this is what we want, then restructuring must happen, but if the Northeast, and the Northwest geo-political zones keep on opposing it and say they don’t want it, they can now be told to go and form their own country.
The Southern and Middle Belt leaders can now tell them that we want restructuring in our own country in such a manner that everybody will be accommodated. Now for the first time, the South-south, the Southwest, the Southeast and the Middle Belt have now all realized one thing, and that they all subscribe to the fact that all men are created equal, but this is not the same philosophy from the Northwest and the Northeast geo-political zones. These two zones don’t understand the golden rule, and the golden rule is that do unto others the same way you wish they do to you.
Some prominent Nigerians have been canvassing the need for another national confab to chart the way forward for Nigeria, what’s your position on that?
We don’t need another national confab. The mess that has been created is such that if you hold a confab today it will not go the way Jonathan’s own ended.
Jonathan’s own confab in history has been the most peaceful in the history of Nigeria. Most of the other past confabs experienced deadlocks, walkout, and all sorts of controversies. For us not to want to implement Jonathan’s confab it means something is wrong with us. It is like when the Aburi Accord was signed, and when some people got back to Nigeria, they started saying it was as if they were sleeping when they signed that Accord. They then decided to disown the Aburi Accord.
If you convene another national conference, it will not happen. Although another national confab is helpful, we need it but it will end up in chaos.
Some people will also oppose another confab because the present situation in Nigeria suits them. The Constitution of 1999 suits them, and they would rather defend than jettison it because of personal interests by Northerners. What they believe is that if there is another national confab, it may not favour the North, and that the North will suffer. Buhari is in power, and majority of the people in power today are from the North. Nigeria is poverty capital of the world today because of the same North. But actually it is not the Northerners that are holding Nigeria to ransom but only a few northerners who hold power in their hands, majority of the people in the North are wallowing in poverty. It is only a few privileged in the North that are holding on to power. They have all the wealth, while others are extremely poor.
Buhari has chosen all those he can trust to be in the security architecture from the North but we have more Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in North more than you find elsewhere in the whole of West Africa. You vote large amount of money for security but some people because of personal interests put it in their pockets and the insecurity remains, and for as long as insecurity remains, it means more money for them.
On the calls for scrapping of zoning by Governor El-Rufai and Alhaji Bashir Tofa ….
Cuts in … El-Rufai is calling for the scrapping of zoning because he is preparing the ground for his own presidential ambition in 2023. He can’t hide the fact that he wants to become the President of Nigeria and he is entitled to it. But I also know that El-Rufai will be worse than Buhari if he becomes president of Nigeria because he has conquest mentality, and he wants the status quo to remain. El-Rufai lacks the capacity and ability to manage crisis, and this is despite the fact that he is a first class brain. He is extremely educated but he can’t manage power in a country like Nigeria.
The simple question to ask El-Rufai is how he is managing Southern Kaduna. What happened between him and his deputy governor, that made the man say he can’t continue. What happened about all the killings in Southern Kaduna and that same person wants to be president of Nigeria.
But I need people like El-Rufai to be president of Nigeria because they are the ones that will unite the real Nigerians against our oppressors. I wish I could stay in front of El-Rufai and tell him why he would fail as Nigeria’s president. He should tell us what he has done in Kaduna. Kaduna is a small place he can’t manage. El-Rufai is always commenting on national affairs, why is he not busy to face governance in Kaduna State? If El-Rufai becomes Nigeria’s president, Fulani from all over West Africa will take over Nigeria.
It is generally believed that it should be the turn of the South-east to have the presidency in 2023 being the only geo-political zone in the South that is yet to have it since 1999,what’s your take on that?
That’s correct. It is correct that it should be the turn of the Southeast. It is also correct that a large number of Southeast people are also hoping and praying that equity will find a place in the hearts of those who determine who becomes president.
But my personal opinion is that please scrap zoning but make sure that a Fulani man becomes president in 2023 – that’s my personal opinion and I’m proud to say this but I know that a lot of people from my area [South-east] will like to stone me for saying this but they should listen to my reason for saying this. The mess that Buhari has created, and the incompetence that has been planted in all the ministries and in the Armed Forces by this administration, nobody from another ethnic group can come and say he will uproot them without having a war in his hands. Only another Fulani man can come and clear the mess and nobody will say it is an ethnic issue. No tribe can try to undo Buhari’s mess, not even Hausa, it has to be another Fulani man. It has to be a Fulani man and a Muslim. Anyone from Southern Nigeria who wants to take over in 2023 will suffer what Buhari can’t suffer. Such a person will inherit a kind of mess he can’t understand. He will inherit incompetence in all the ministries and agencies of government left by Buhari, and how will he uproot them? The type of people this present administration has recruited into Army, Customs, Immigration and other agencies, how do you uproot them? How do you now want to tell them that you want competence and ask them to write exam and that if they pass you retain and if they fail that they will go, how do you tell them that? Such a fellow will now have a tribal war on his hand. The truth is that the North has become too dependent on government as means of livelihood, and Buhari’s government has further consolidated that.
I will never vote for anybody from the Southeast who wants to be president in 2023 for all these reasons I have stated above because I don’t want the person to fail. It is only anybody I don’t love from the Southeast or the South that I can vote for as president in 2023 because I know they will kill the person. The only way such a fellow can survive is that if he gets there and decides to completely forget and ignore the Southeast and continue to dance to the tune of the Fulani. Even if he does that his chance of survival is not guaranteed because General Aguiyi-Ironsi got the shopping list of northerners, and did everything to please them but did they not still kill him? Was Ironsi part of the January 1966 coup? No. He only quelled the coup, but did they still not kill him? Did former President Goodluck Jonathan not do everything to please the North, especially the Fulani, did they still not call him clueless? Did they not abuse him? Did they not throw him out?
So what are we talking about? Any Igbo man that aspires for 2023 will have problem if he eventually gets there. It is either he survives there, and have no name and reputation, and won’t be able to go back to his village again with his reputation intact. But if he wants to do the right thing, they will kill him. If Nigeria will remain one country, we need a Fulani man as president in 2023, but such Fulani man must not only be knowledgeable but he must also be a courageous man, and also have conscience.
I want a Fulani man to take over from Buhari in 2023 but the Fulani man must have knowledge. He must have the knowledge that he is not pleasing the South but that he is protecting himself to change things. I’m being brutally honest in saying this. Such a Fulani man must have courage to face those who are eager to pursue personal interests rather than national interests. He must completely lock them away so that he can do what he wants to do.