By Sunday Ani
The Anglican Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, Most Rev Dr. Emmanuel Chukwuma believes if the Southeast is allowed to produce Nigeria’s president in 2023, the wounds of the Biafra war and long feeling of marginalisation in the zone would be healed. In this exclusive chat with the Daily Sun, the vocal cleric expresses optimism that with continued dialogue and engagements with other sections of the country, the zone’s quest would come to reality. He also assured that the zone was ready to offer the country eminent technocrats with proven integrity, wherewithal and magic wand to turn around the fortunes of Nigeria and make it great once again.
What can you say about President Muhammadu Buhari today, having described him as a corrupt leader in 2016?
President Buhari is not only corrupt, he is insincere. He is dishonest and runs a very dishonest government! He presides over a government that has gone from bad to worse and from worse to the worst ever since Nigeria’s independence. What we have under his watch is a government of ‘squandermania’ with no wherewithal about wealth creation. Under Buhari’s watch, there has been so much waste of resources, corruption like never before, negligence of the poor; astronomical increase of poverty, unemployment, violence and killings, among others, all due to ineptitude. The country is in disarray because people are suffering more than ever before.
Can you identify one major issue that makes the President an insincere leader?
There are several examples. All the bogus promises that he and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) made during his presidential campaigns have turned out negative as none has been fulfilled. We have, unfortunately, voted into power, a man who we do not even know whether he is really a Nigerian. That is probably why he is being accused of using Nigeria’s scarce resources to develop Niger Republic while paying less attention to the sufferings in Nigeria. The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, has severally alleged that the person who is there is not Buhari. And the president’s attitude is heightening such suspicion. That he, allegedly, can no longer speak Fulfude, his native language, is something to worry about. The notion that Mr. President has surprisingly stopped repeated medical tourism abroad is also interesting. The other day, we heard the ridiculous news that the National Assembly has barred Mr. President from going abroad to seek medical attention, thereby raising more questions. What I am saying is, let Mr. President speak Fulfude for all Nigerians to see that he can still speak the language fluently. They should reassure Nigerians and the world that the President is not actually a sellout, as has been alleged.
Also insincere, is the issue of slanted border closure where all the borders in the south have remained closed for several months while those in the north are allowed to run, with all sorts of brazen smuggling activities flourishing there.That is also selective negligence and it is just one of several other instances.
What is your take on the recent #ENDSARS protest in the country and government’s handling of the development?
The establishment of tribunals and judicial panels by government is to divert the attention of citizens. Let me tell you, nothing will come out of those exercises. The tribunals are a mockery.The way things are going, #ENDSARS has not ended because I can bet that Nigerians would not be happy with the outcome of those tribunals. A lot of issues were packaged into the #ENDSARS slogan and the government appears to be feigning ignorant of that. God save this country from revolution because I do not see justice emerging from the tribunals. The #ENDSARS movement also addressed the issue of yearly budget deficits, more borrowing and more wastage of resources. They keep borrowing from China as if China will someday forgive them the debts. And with a rubber stamp disposition, the National Assembly is not helping matters too, even in the face of continued impoverishment of citizens through repeated hiking of taxes, electricity tariffs and petrol pump price. Even the once dependable leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) that should be at the forefront of the fight has, shamefully, become a toothless bull dog, always compromising. Otherwise, how can government increase tariffs recklessly without considering the plight of citizens? Again, all the back and forth claims about deregulation, subsidy or no subsidy are all about insincerity and corruption. The more they create confusions, the more they smile to the bank at the expense of the rest of us. Is it not ridiculous that Nigeria would be sourcing fuel from Niger Republic? It is an insult to this nation.
How do you feel about Nigeria slipping into recession the second time under the current administration?
It is bad governance that plunged the country into both the first and second recession. Buhari had made promises that he would do better in his second term but all we see is his continued pally-pally with sycophants that he has surrounded himself with, more bad governance and more hardship. Buhari must do something about borrowing. When you borrow for consumption rather than for investment, or you mismanage the loans, how will you repay the loans? Except the government lifts the country out of consumption economy into a productive one, hardship will not cease; that is the way out. They should also open our borders and rather employ modern measures of checking smuggling and border crimes. The border closure is also affecting the nation’s economy adversely because many genuine businessmen have become redundant. Another way out is to stabilise our electricity and make it reliable so that local industries can produce. The issue of giving selective waivers to Dangote Group is wrong. Granting of waiver and other incentives should have a national spread. We have other industrialists such as Ibeto Group, Innoson Group and others across the country.Or, is Dangote fronting for those at the corridors of power?
What is your view about the concerted quest by the South East to produce Buhari’s successor in 2023?
There is nothing wrong in agitating that the zone should be given a chance to produce Nigeria’s president in 2023. However, political parties should also catch the passion and be the main drivers of the campaign. The fact is that any party that sidelines the South East in nominating presidential candidate would be unfair to the zone, going by how the slot has been rotating since 1999. But, it is premature for any individual to now think at this time that he is the right person for the position. Let all stakeholders sustain the push for political parties to zone the position to the region first. When we secure the approval, our leaders will know how to select those that will go.We will not consider any political armed robber but eminent persons – technocrats with proven integrity, political sagacity and wherewithal, and magic wand to lift Nigeria out of economic and other problems. That is why we urge Ndigbo to be involved in major political parties. Whether the APC or the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), all we want is to produce a Nigerian President of South East extraction; one who can transform the country for the good of all. We will offer the country eminent technocrats with proven integrity, wherewithal and magic wand to lead Nigeria to greatness.
That is the only way to pacify Ndigbo and heal the wounds of the civil war. That is the only way to make us feel that we are one Nigeria. That is the way to appease us for all the years of executive neglect.
Your friend, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State recently moved from the PDP to the APC on grounds of PDP’s alleged reluctance to cede the 2023 presidential ticket to the South East; do you see that as a sincere excuse?
The governor may have sensed something wrong. Remember that PDP ignored South East in 1999 and chose the former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, a northerner. And now, the governor may have seen the handwriting on the wall that Atiku is still interested in running again. But, I am not sure that his decamping is out of desperation to seek for presidential slot. I think it is about creating awareness that South East is being marginalised even by the political parties. So, I am in support that south East politicians should not put all their eggs in one basket. It is a free world; that is the way I see it. So, people should not condemn him yet because everything is game. If it plays out well, good luck to him.
Did the governor by any chance consult you ahead of the move?
He did not tell me before he moved, but I respect his decision. Let God’s will be done over it. That was what I told him.
Assuming that it is true that the governor is eying the presidency, do you think he has the wherewithal and spread to make a strong candidate?
I know that he is qualified, but, I think it is too early to indicate if he has such interest. And as the Chairman of South East Governors’ Forum, people may find his action somehow illogical. However, his move should not affect his leadership of the forum. And as regards his outing as Ebonyi governor, he has performed marvelously well. He knows his onions as an administrator.
The PDP says that the governor was unfair to the party …?
What do they mean? All of them, all politicians are unfair to one another! Once there is no rule against carpet-crossing, such that compel them to remain in their party until they serve out their tenure in view as a governor, legislator, president or whatever elective office, there is nothing that anybody can do.
Do you think the youths will play a role in the 2023 general elections?
Let me tell you, youths will decide the 2023 elections; take it from me. With what the youths exhibited and achieved with the #ENDSARS movement, nobody can chicken them out anymore. So, expired politicians nursing 2023 ambition should advise themselves. Some of them have remained in the system for over 30 years with no sign of stepping aside. But, I see Nigerian youths embarking on serious political cleanup; it would be a political tsunami that would force many politicians into retirement. The protest has shown that our youths can shun financial inducement and follow their conscience. So, moneybag, beware!
Do you think that other sections of the country can sincerely give the agitation for 2023 Igbo presidency a positive nod?
I believe they will; it is a matter of dialogue. Anyone that sincerely believes in one Nigeria will not oppose it.The agitation for Biafra is about a feeling of denial of our rights as Nigerians. That led to the emergence of IPOB. Unfortunately, IPOB was hurriedly proscribed by the Federal Government, thereby, aggravating the feeling of marginalisation and selective negligence in the zone. You proscribe a non-arms wielding IPOB for protesting against perceived injustices and marginalisation, while turning blind eye to killer herdsmen and deadly Boko Haram that have been menacing the nation? That is part of the FG’s insincerity.