President, Aka Ikenga, a body of Igbo Professionals, Oscar Onwudiwe has said the coveted 2023 presidency must not be seen as a do or die agenda for Igbo. He claimed that the federal government was forced to suspend action on taking a $22.7billion loan following a petition to the Chinese government by a group of Igbo professionals based in South-Africa contrary to claims by the government that it did so in order to have another look at it. He spoke with TUNDE THOMAS on these and more.
What’s your reaction to the controversy trailing the federal government’s suspension of the proposed 22.7 billion dollar loan for infrastructure development following protests from Ohanaeze, and IPOB over the exclusion of the South-East from the beneficiary zones list?
I give kudos to those Igbo who protested over this issue, which I consider a big slight on Igbo. Why exclude the South-East from the list when other geo-political zones in the country are to benefit? This is unlike the Igbo who have hitherto adopted the policy of sitting back and whining without taking concrete action to back up their complaints over marginalization. But it is heart-warming that a few of them this time around decided to take the bull by the horn. These brave Igbo professionals decided to directly approach the bank, and the Chinese government who were to give this loan to the federal government that they should not give this loan to Nigeria.
The Igbo who wrote this letter are professionals based in South-Africa. They wrote a strongly worded letter to the bank, and the Chinese government that Nigeria doesn’t need this loan, that Nigeria should go ,and work for the money. The Chinese bank officials have never received such a letter in their life. The letter of course scared them. It made them realize that the risk factor in giving that loan is a lot higher. The story that the federal government is telling Nigerians that they suspended action in taking the loan in order to have another look at it is a big lie. It is a lie because they were not stupid when they were preparing papers to take the loan. They knew what they were doing. Otherwise why would the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and his House of Representatives counterpart, Femi Gbajabiamila be in such a hurry to give approval for the loan? When attempts were made in the Senate to kick against the loan, Lawan shut down those who wanted to speak out against the loan. Anyway, my expectation is that Nigerians by now should have realized that this administration has trust deficit. Anything this government says nobody believe them again.
With the protest by Igbo professionals, the federal government has no option than to say that they are pulling back, that they are suspending taking the loan because they now realize that the South-East was completely excluded. The federal government coming out now to say that it willingly suspended action on taking the loan is a big deception. It is a big lie. If those people in South Africa had not protested ,and the Chinese were ready to give out the money, the federal government would have taken the loan.
This present administration is used to Igbo complaining about marginalization. No matter what you have to say about Igbo marginalization, it doesn’t bother this administration. This administration doesn’t care about what anybody says, and this is why people have accused this administration of impunity on several occasions but all these don’t matter to them. And since the Igbo don’t have power of coercion, there is nothing anybody can do. Then if you even insist on protesting , they will kill you and nothing will happen. The truth is that if they can shoot members of the Shiite sect who are also Muslims like them, then who are you? Now the world has moved from mere shouting to intellectual battles, and this is what those my Igbo brothers in South Africa have done, and they made a good job out of it.
It is good that the loan has been scuttled for now. Since the intention of those in authority is to create adversity for all Nigerians, let’s see how many Nigerians will convert it to blessing. Definitely, there is a war going on in Nigeria. There is economic war, and of course political war which never ends. The funny aspect of it is that by now you would have expected that after six years of Buhari in office, that Nigeria should have become prosperous. But this has not been the case. By now you would have expected that all the money that is being sent to the North-East, and the North-West to tackle malnutrition or for security or infrastructural development would have trickled down in such a way that you would have prosperity in those areas but what we see in those areas today is totally different. It is poverty, and hunger all over the place.
What’s your take on the recent declaration by elder statesman, and former governor of Anambra state, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife that Igbo would cease being Nigerians if the South-East is denied the 2023 presidency?
I have a lot of respect for ex-governor Ezeife. He is an Igbo patriot of conviction but the question I will ask him is this, was there ever anytime we had a sense of belonging? I mean Igbo, did we have it before? To me it is not presidency that is the issue, you don’t have to be President before certain things happen in your area. If we decide to live by the dictates of the federal character, nobody would bother about being president because anybody that gets there will not only be fair but will also abide by what the constitution says about federal character vis-a-vis distribution of wealth, and resources. But unfortunately, we are today dealing with an administration that doesn’t believe in all these. We are dealing with people who are totally dependent on government, and all the offices in government are not enough for them. Practically all the elections we have been holding in this country have been do- or –die, and when you get power through a do-or-die approach, then it is a winner takes all. The British, our former colonial master made things worst when they announced that the population in the desert North is more than that of the forest areas in the South. But the irony of it is that we don’t see this population in terms of school enrollment in the North, you don’t see it in payment of tax, you don’t see it in the number of professionals they have. The only time you see this so-called population in the North is during the time of voting, during election time, and this lie has been thoroughly maintained, and this is why no census in Nigeria can ever be true. The census is always manipulated to make sure that higher figures are given to Northerners who inherited colonialism from the British overlords.
Elder statesman, Chief Mike Ahamba last week in an interview with Saturday Sun spoke on Aburi Accord saying that…
Cut in … If we had taken to Aburi Accord, Nigeria would have been a better place today because there would have been less conflicts in the country. Secondly, the Aburi Accord recognizes what is going on in Nigeria. It recognizes that there are two major ideologies in Nigeria, and these are the Sharia ideology, and the other ideology which is democracy, and Sharia is not compatible with democracy. What does the Aburi Accord say? What it says is that if you must have a confederacy, no problem ,then each region must develop at its own pace.
But why the North is afraid of this arrangement baffles me. The truth is that the North has more resources under the ground than the South. But the problem is about culture, the culture of whether you want to work hard enough, and use resources God has given to you to prosper your people. But that culture is missing in the North. What prospers a nation is their attitude to what is around them, I mean the resources, and how they can use the resources available to prosper everybody. This is the problem we are having in Nigeria. What Aburi is saying is that we should learn how to develop our resources but some people kicked against it saying they have replaced Aburi with unitary system and this is why the progress Nigeria has made since independence has been those ones made between 1960 and 1966. After 1966, Nigeria has not made any appreciable progress. Since then, people have been complaining that Nigeria is not working as a result of myriads of problems confronting us as a nation.
If Aburi Accord had been implemented, and the North says it wants to continue with its feudal system, that what is important to them are the Emirs, and their leaders, then no problem, but for us what is important to us is our professionals, the doctors, engineers, and others in the various professions because those are the people who will develop our place using our own resources. So the North can use their own resources the way it pleases them but in Nigeria today we don’t have a choice. It is what those in authority want that they force on everybody.
Imagine a situation where a former Head of state, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar decided to bring together a group of very sound patriotic Nigerians to draft the 1999 constitution, and by the time they finished ,he took the constitution, and gave it to one man, Prof. Auwalu Yadudu to look at it to see whether the constitution would suit the interest of the Sharia compliant people. But the man changed everything to suit the Sharia compliant North. So the constitution we are having today was given by two men, Gen. Abubakar, and Prof. Yadudu. The consequences of that is that we are not making any progress, and Nigeria can’t go anywhere with the 1999 constitution. No magic can do it. If we don’t change the 1999 constitution, no president will succeed. Everybody will fail. For as long as we continue to go and collect hand-outs in form of federal allocations at Abuja, then we must fail.
There is too much concentration of power at the centre, and this can only give you one thing, and that’s failure. We say we are a federal nation, but this is nothing but a mockery. The United States is a good example of a federal nation or a nation that practices true federalism. The American President is seen as the President of the world but he doesn’t have all the powers. The governors also have their own powers in the United States. California, a state in the United states is the sixth largest economy in the world but in the same America, there are some states that are not that rich like California but they organize themselves. Some of them use solar to generate their own electricity. These are things that are possible in Nigeria. Nigerians are not lazy, they can work but we have a government and a system that make Nigerians useless but this is very painful .
Former governor of Kaduna state, Mallam Nasir el-RufaI who had earlier canvassed scrapping of zoning in 2023 has now openly advocated that power should shift to the South in 2023, how do you view the new development?
El-Rufai’s arrogance is becoming nauseating. Who is El-Rufai to tell us to scrap zoning, and suddenly will now come out to tell us that he is now supporting zoning? Who the hell is El-Rufai? Does he think anybody trust him? He is part of the cabal that is just there thriving on manipulation of Nigerians. What has he done in Kaduna state? What has he done in Kaduna state that will make people say that he is leaving a worthy legacy. Anytime he talks, he talks about the federal government because his eyes are on the Presidency. I have not heard El-Rufai discuss Kaduna, and this is his main job. He should go ahead and turn Kaduna around. Go and ask anybody from Southern Kaduna to tell you about El-Rufai, you will hear what they will say. When he leaves office, nobody is going to remember him for good. El-Rufai is nobody, he can’t be trusted. He is one of those arrogant Fulani that believe that they are the ones that give Presidency to anybody or group that suits them. He can’t be trusted. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo even said it that El-Rufai can’t be trusted. He also betrayed former Vice President Atiku Abubakar that brought him to limelight. He is a serial betrayer who can’t be trusted.
Reports are making rounds that some individuals and groups are planning to draft the deposed Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido into the 2023 presidential race as his posters are reported to have flooded some parts of the North, how would you react to the development?
If you check Sanusi’s trajectory, the deposed Emir has always been trailed by controversies. It is either he gets thrown out of office or he moves higher in his career journey. So if he leaves the position of Emir, and then becomes the President, good luck to him but again it would be interesting to have him become President, and later got thrown out of office, or he becomes the first President to be impeached in office. If Sanusi becomes President, he is not going to give us anything different, the only thing is that we will hear him talking more. Then he will continue to think Sharia, and implement Sharia on those who don’t understand Sharia. This is the bitter truth. Sanusi doesn’t have an option, this is what he must do but this will create problems for him. Sanusi can’t live without controversy, and this will give him problems. Sanusi will continue to be controversial. He can’t change.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s call for restructuring has been generating reactions from different parts of the country with some Nigerians describing him as a hypocrite for failing to restructure the country when he was in office …
Cuts in…I would say this for him, Obasanjo is a patriotic Nigerian. I don’t agree with those accusing him of failing to restructure the country when he was in office, he did a little bit of his own silent restructuring when he was in power. Again, he was working with a difficult constitution. Don’t forget again that Obasanjo was made President by the North, so you don’t expect him to turn round, and bite the hands that fed him. Let nobody say he didn’t do anything when he was in office. Obasanjo did something. He started Due Process, and the North was not happy with him over this.
When Obasanjo was in office , nobody was selling contract again in public places. That’s another form of restructuring. He also started the EFCC, and some of these things were designed to make Nigeria work. Now that he is no longer the President, he is saying that with the benefit of hindsight that restructuring is in the best interest of the country. But I want to say this, if anybody expects restructuring from President Buhari, such people are wasting their time. Buhari will never have anything to do with restructuring. So Obasanjo has seen all these, and realize that if Nigeria continues this way, that if we continue with all these primordial sentiments there is danger ahead for the country. This is why he is now calling for restructuring.
There was a time you declared that it is better another Fulani man succeed President Buhari in 2023 rather than canvassing for the South-East to have it, has your position changed or remained the same?
My position has not changed, and it is not going to change. If you don’t restructure Nigeria we are not going anywhere. This idea of wanting to be President so that you can have a sense of belonging is called inferiority complex. If you want to become President not because of change you can bring about but because you are looking for a sense of belonging, then you have inferiority complex, then you don’t deserve to lead anybody, you are going to fail.
Recently, a group came to me saying that the aim of forming the Association is to work to ensure that an Igbo man becomes President in 2023. I then sat them down, and gave them a lecture. I told them, what do you want it for? I told them that how can an Igbo man clear all the rot being left so that he can perform? The system has been so terribly corrupted. Only another Fulani man can come and say that if we continue like this we end up uniting the rest of Nigeria against us, and when the rest of Nigeria unite against us we would lose. No matter who you are or where you come from the Fulani believe that you can’t do without them. Then the Fulani has realized that government is a big business , and so why do you expect them to leave it for you? They won’t.
What’s your position on the proposed amnesty, and foreign scholarship for repentant Boko Haram members, an idea canvassed by some members of the National Assembly?
It is only in Nigeria that you will give amnesty to a terrorist. If you are giving amnesty to a terrorist, what message are you passing across? It is very simple, you are encouraging others to take to terrorism. But does this show thinking? No, it is stupidity. People proposing this kind of idea are going for self-destruction. All these people pretending to be thinking for the North, give them another eight years, the revolution will start from there. By then they will realize what power does. Power has its own problems. But I have not seen leaders in the North realizing it. They don’t see this thinking about tomorrow. Close your eyes, and imagine the Almajiris as many as they are suddenly being indoctrinated and told that their leaders are their problems. Then imagine them turning against their leaders, you know what will happen. But I pray that this does not happen because if it happens, by the time they finished with their leaders, they will then troop down to the South as a lot of them are doing now.