Chris Doghudje is the former Chairman of Advertising Practitioner’s Council of Nigeria (APCON) and a former Managing Director of Lintas Ltd.
Doghudje, who recently turned 80 spoke about the ‘magic’ called Nigeria as a country, insecurity, Igbo presidency, and expectations from the government in the New Year, among others. Excerpts:
What do you think about the country Nigeria as we have just entered into a New Year?
Nigeria is a country that is a surprise and will continue to be a surprise. It is a surprise that we ever came together to form one country. When one thinks about the three major tribes that make up the country; then the minorities added together are again more than the three powerful tribes when one looks at them demographically. Having done that by Lord Lugard; we have managed to keep together on political focus, ordinarily Nigeria should have broken into pieces. But surprisingly, Nigeria refuses to break; instead the country continues to be strong. When one thinks Nigeria will fall, it will not, rather it continues to wax stronger. So, I think we will continue in this manner.
What string do you think is holding Nigeria from breaking up?
That is why it is surprising. It is either luck or mystery. First, let us look at the three powerful tribes. There was a northerner, the Sarduana of Sokoto who believed 100 per cent in the northernization of the country (the North must rule); there was Awolowo , a westerner who believed in West for the westerner and there was Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik of Africa) who was Igbo, but had the good luck to have been born by Igbo, schooled in Yoruba land and was actually born in Zungeru, in the North. When one has this mixture of a man who schooled at Hope Waddel Institute, Calabar, in present day Cross Rivers State and then studied in America and came back to Nigeria with his own ideas. Among the three of them then, Zik was the unifying factor because he had his upbringing in the North, West and East, and he managed them all. Luckily, he was not even the leader of the party originally. It was a Yoruba man, Herbert Macaulay who was the leader of the party (NCNC). When Macaulay died, Zik took over and became the leader of the party. As at that time, political parties were not many. All the tribes were included in a party, even Aminu Kano was with Zik, and that is the surprise. I might also say divine providence might be responsible for Nigeria’s staying together. Part of the surprise is that many people did not know why the Sarduana did not come to the South as the head then.
Why didn’t he come?
It was during one of the constitutional conferences held in Nigeria before they went to Britain for independence; one of those constitutional conferences was called for by Chief Anthony Enahoro for independence, while the South was ready for independence; the North said they were not ready at that time. When Sarduana came to Lagos by train, while going back, the workers at the railway stations who were mainly Igbo booed at the Sarduana as he was going back to the North because he was not interested in independence. He was managed to go away from the crowd. This was far back in the 50s. That is also part of the surprise and magic of Nigeria.
From the analysis so far, what do you think about the clamour for presidency by the Igbo as a marginalised tribe since Zik was the unifying factor then?
Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was a ceremonial president of Nigeria. He was the first Governor General of Nigeria. He chose the position he took when the two parties (NCNC and NPC) parties were more or less on coalition at the Federal level. Zik suspected that if he takes the position of a prime minister, the northerners would secede; so at the meeting of the two parties, he conceded the prime ministership to the North and took the ceremonial position as the ‘Father of the nation’.
Is this the outcome of the political allegation where one tribe ‘must rule?’
It is not the outcome, if he had not done that; there would be no Nigeria today. It is only a parochial man who would think that this is the outcome of what is happening today. Now, which one is better; a Nigeria that is not perfect or Nigeria that is 100 per cent perfect? It will amount to parochial thinking to fault Zik’s decision then. Do not forget that he studied politics and Philosophy; he was the most learned among the leaders when it comes to politics. He was known for using big grammar because he was learned. Those of us who happened to have a stint as pioneer students of University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) where he was the Chancellor then knew he believed in liberty.
In this New Year, what should Nigerians task the present government, especially on insecurity?
I think the political development Nigeria has been following is not our own. We are following the Western type because democracy is Western. The Igbo did not have that, the nearest they had is age-grade system, monarchy was for the Yoruba, while the Hausa practiced Muslim-religious type of oligarchy. Those were the three different types of leadership we had in Nigeria. If one goes to democracy as practiced by the Greeks, it is very near the Igbo type. It takes time to acclimatize especially when it comes to nation state.
What solution then can you proffer on insecurity? Now, to what extent is education inclusive in the whole of Nigeria?
To be educated is to go to school willingly. But if one is forced to go to school, that is not the true representation of going to school. The school we have in the South is not done by force. What we are trying to have in the North is force, which hardly works. Again, it is a surprise that we are still together as and a country because there are other Muslims in other parts of the world who have no Almajiri. Are there Almajiri in Ghana, Mali or even Saudi Arabia? How come Nigeria is the headquarters of Almajiris? There are many invulnerable things about Nigeria and it is a serious situation, but if those Almajiris have voluntary Western education, they will not be Almajiri instead would struggle for the same jobs. They will not be carrying plate to beg for food. The president has a country to rule, but it is the country that is difficult to rule and govern. We have over 100 tribes that were reduced to states; most of the states are bigger than most African countries. As one is trying to settle a challenge, another is erupting somewhere else. It was Boko Haram more than anything at the time of former President Goodluck Jonathan; kidnapping of people; former President Jonathan’s home was attacked recently. We, therefore, need divine intervention to settle the Nigeria problem.
What do you think about the clamour for Igbo presidency? Should the presidency be rotated among the regions, or a good leader to take the country to the Promised Land?
In the first instance, are IPOB and MASSOB singing the same song and tune? The late MKO Abiola, a Yoruba man won the 1993 presidential election, but was denied by the military; so when the military was to return power to the civilian, they contrived it in such a way that two or three political parties presented a Yoruba man, that was how General Olusegun Obasanjo came into power. Yoruba came together and presented one man. Can this happen among the Igbo tribe? It is not enough for the Igbo to clamour for presidency, can they come together even among themselves; within two or three political parties operating in Igbo land to present one candidate and support him? Presently, there are three political parties already in existence; among them PDP, APGA and APC. They require a kind of unanimity of the tribe itself who really feel cheated to have a clear-cut leader who can lead them. Until this is done, it might not be easy, not that it is impossible, it might be one of the surprises I am talking about to have one. There is nothing wrong if an Igbo man becomes the president. Again, if I should take another shot, the best thing is merit; but all would claim merit. So, with Federal Character, all would compromise so as to have themselves qualified for the position. Note that at the time Obasanjo became a civilian president, it was not as if he was the most qualified, he did not even form the party, he was not also part of NADECO, it was Alex Ekwueme and others that formed the party. But it was done in order to have a Yoruba man after the troubles of MKO Abiola. If the Igbo can be together, others will then support them. But if there are two or three Igbo, they will first of all divide Igbo land, then there is a problem asking the rest of Nigeria to support their dream. What happened to Ike Ekweremadu in Germany? Who were the tribe that attacked him? So, the best and foremost is the proper unity of the Igbo people. Let MASSOB and IPOB come together as one body. If the Yoruba was able to manoeuvre and get it, let the Igbo do the same and get it. The problem is in the hands of the Igbo. By the time everyone knows that Igbo have done their preliminary quiet election by choosing one of their own from any party who will also be respected by others; not that a nincompoop will be presented and they expect other tribes to accept him because he is an Igbo man, no. Again, their entrepreneurial skill does not rule a country. If you check most leaders, they study politics and Philosophy to make leaders of a nation. The Igbo entrepreneurial skill is not engineering, inventing skill rather based on commerce. Azikiwe was a political philosopher, Ekwueme had double Ph.D likewise many others. Igbo as a tribe have the people. Agreeing on one person is what they need and when will it happen, that is what many are waiting to see?
Take a look at President Buhari’s administration in the last five years?
President Buhari had good intensions and promised change; five years after, Nigerians are still looking for change. Now, even though he had good intension, he cannot do everything alone, as he promised to fight corruption, he cannot do it alone. The police, judiciary, legislators all must join him. The question is, are all these people on the same lane with the president?
Recounting Theophilus Dajuma’s role during the civil war as recorded in history, his recent outburst of “If I open my mouth, Nigerians will not sleep,” what do you think about that statement?
He is not the first person to make that statement. If you remember the late Dr. Eme Awa, former Federal Electoral Commissions (FEDECO) Chairman, before Humphrey Nwosu who was Awa’s student. After Awa headed FEDECO, he said Nigeria will boil if he opens his mouth. Now, I ask, did Aguiyi Ironsi plan a coup? No, he did not. The coup d’etat’ was planned by young Igbo officers led by a Mid- Westerner, Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu who hailed from Okpanam, very close to Asaba. The second coup that removed Ironsi was planned by a Northerner and history has their names as well. Danjuma might not be in good books of all Northerners because he is not from the majority tribe and not a Muslim, he is a Christian. Did Profr Humphrey Nwosu or Maurice Iwu, a Pharmacologist talk after heading the electoral bodies? No, they do not talk, but just vanished into the air. What Danjuma said has been said earlier by another person.