Chief Goddy Uwazurike, president emeritus of Aka Ikenga, the intellectual think-tank of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and member 2014 Constitutional Conference is irked the way things are going in Nigeria.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, he spoke on the Nigerian problem, his fears for the country, security challenge, among other critical issues. Excerpt:
The latest report now is that Nigeria has overtaken South Africa in its economy and now the largest economy in Africa…?
(Cuts in) I am aware that South Africa has gone into recession as at now. But my answer is that the indices may not be so obvious to us. The reason is very simple, you say you are a wealthy nation and you are living like a poor man then something is wrong. So, I think Nigeria can be referred to as a wealthy Nigeria, but with poor citizens. It is like a rich country and poor citizens, in other words, the wealth of Nigeria circulates in the hands of a few. It is only a few that benefit because the wealth is not circulating. But the irony is that even though South Africa is said to have gone below Nigeria in terms of GDP, in terms of national, Nigerians still troop to South Africa on a daily basis in search of a better life, greener pastures, so who is a richer nation? Is it Nigeria or South Africa? I think I will vote for South Africa in terms of a well-regulated economy while our economy is anything goes. Nigerians are poor, the country is rich. The question is whether average Nigerians are getting any positive impact as a result of that.
Where do you place the Nigerian problem?
What I posted on my Facebook page yesterday captured it and it’s something I will refer to. By early morning yesterday (Monday), the price of crude oil had crashed and alarmingly so. I just posted, “Who will manage the economy….Wanted managers of the economy.” So, the problem of Nigeria is called management. Nobody is saying that you must be an expert in everything, but your job as the leader is to get the best hands, best brains to work with you. Secondly, I don’t expect Mr President as it is today for somebody to be telling him about the economy, its indication and all that rather when the president has a well-grounded official cabinet then they will discuss and he will follow. Also, the president will have a sitting cabinet made up of men who are seasoned. Let me tell you what I mean by seasoned, if you have somebody like Aliko Dangote as a member of your sitting cabinet and you are talking about one funny economic policy, the man (Dangote) will tell you, yes I am not an economist, I am an entrepreneur, but I can assure you that this policy or system will not work. So, if the president actually means well he should look inwards, go for the best brains. South Africa understands this secret and you can see that they have snatched our own dear Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala because they know that Ngozi has seen it all and will be of huge advantage to them and they went for her. Recall that in Nigeria we did everything to demonize her, she was every day in the newspapers accused of one thing or the other. I know that the Governors Forum said, fine, go and probe her, but till today nobody came up with anything against her. We destroy our bests most times or ignore them. So, what we need today to get out of these problems is sound and solid management. You need an economic adviser group, that is what they are, advisers and to the best of my knowledge they only meet on few occasions, as the situation demands, they don’t meet often, sometimes just once. There is also the economic management team. Even with what we are passing through I have not heard anything from the economic adviser. It is the economic advisers that should be on top of the game, the minister of planning, the minister for finance etc, that was why I was surprised when they did some changes, it’s like they appointed some people into positions without knowing their core competence. Somebody should be speaking to us. We have this Coronavirus right now; somebody should be talking to us, giving us on the spot update of what to know about the disease. The quarrel between Saudi Arabia and Russia, where will it lead us and by the way who is our main buyer of crude oil? Of course, the Petroleum Minister, Mr President should be the one addressing this issue, talking to us not any of his men issuing press releases; believe you me, all those press releases only a fool will believe them because they are not reliable.
Looking at Nigeria today what are your fears or you don’t have any?
I fear that Nigeria is on a roller coaster and there is nobody in control. Let me just give you one example of what happened on Monday. The only issue I believe troubling Mr President and all those in Aso Rock is how to remove the Emir of Kano. That was a task done with all hands on deck: DSS, Police, NSCDC, who is the chief of DSS? It is Mr President; he is the head, who is the Chief of Police? It is Mr President, the I.G of Police reports to him. So, if the man who is supposed to be worried as early as 3:00 O’clock on that Monday morning, they were busy finalizing the removal of Sanusi as the Emir of Kano, then something is wrong. As of today (Tuesday), what are we seeing, the new Emir is paying him a courtesy visit in Aso Rock and there you saw everybody shaking hands, in other words, it has been how to remove Sanusi, not how to move this country forward, not the emergency measures, not the well-planned measures, nothing. As of today how much is the dollar in the market? It’s up to N360 and still moving, we are moving into the precipice and only God will save us.
Different groups, individuals, parties, geo-political zones etc, have already started positioning themselves for the 2023 presidential race despite the fact the time is not near yet. What is your take on such development and perhaps, the zone you will want the president to come from?
Let me tell you without any fear of contradiction, whatever goes around comes around. Since 1999, we have been practicing a system where the presidency has been shifting from one geo-political zone to the other and that was obtainable till President Buhari came and suddenly everything is upside down and it is typical with our president’s no plan, no projection, nothing. Let me put it this way, if Mr President is thinking of power being retained in the North, nobody knows, except that his henchmen are busy talking, so when that happens the man from the South can he go and waste his money planning, no; in other words, if you have 10 arrangements that from the North it may come back, the best will come out to vie for it, but nobody will come out or be interested if they think there is a hidden agenda. If the agenda of this country will always be, anything goes, then something is wrong. You hear all kinds of people who are flying the kite so that people will respond that power must continue in the North, why should power continue in the North? Some are saying that power must come to the Southwest, why should that be? Power must go round. There is no offence Southeast committed, there is no offence the North-central committed or the Northeast, this three zones power must go to them before we now go back to those that have had it before. Southwest had, also the Northwest and the South-south. We must plan that it should go round. By now certainty would have helped people to be planning to be chairman of parties, planning to be governors. In Imo State we have the same kind of crisis. Power is supposed to circulate among the three senatorial zones, but it’s not circulating and the people are pretending all is well. I think we are in trouble in this country the way we are going, the things that we are doing. Let the power go to the zones that are yet to get it and Southeast is among that zones.
Your primary constituency so to speak, the judiciary, is under serious criticism of upturning elections and simply indicting the INEC to appear incompetent or ineffective. Do you think INEC is not doing enough?
In this case, I want to exonerate INEC. The truth is that in this country we have very smart people, always trying to outsmart others. Now, they have been able to hoodwink everybody. INEC, trying to catch up with them is a task that must be done, but the judiciary has a lot of issues too. The good thing about the judiciary is that the jurists, by that I mean law lecturers, the writers, by the time they start writing about what happened even those judges some of them will say, do you mean we did this? That is why we say law is dynamic, unfortunately, those who are caught up now are suffering for it, but with time some of the judges will be looking at issues with benefits of hindsight to say, we were misled.
The creation of Amotekun, the Southwest security network outfit, received a lot of criticisms from some quarters that said it’s not the best for the country. What is your view on it?
They say necessity is the mother of invention. Is that not so? If our police force has been up to date and lives and property safe, nobody will be subscribing to it, but the people are no longer safe, so what do they do? Do they fold their hands until they are killed? People have complained, made efforts to get police protection on threats to their lives and nothing happened. The governors of the Southwest took the bull by the horn, I expect the governors of the Southeast to do the same thing. The Southeast is also under serious threat, so if the governors there who are the chief mourners and if they now decide to go and call an outsider to come and ask him, what shall we do, then it means something is wrong. Whatever happens, they are the ones under attack.
But the Federal Government has always assured that they are on top of security?
(Cuts in) In the newspapers, we are getting such assurance. Even in the Northeast, they tell those at the IDP camps to go home that they are safe and the people will go home and they are massacred. The Nigerian government has failed in its security architecture, there is no doubt about that. Each time we have a new I.G of police we think that things will change for the better, but it’s the same, it means that the architecture is wrong.
I don’t know how you will react to IPOB’s decision to be beating Nigerian politicians, particularly Igbo politicians abroad?
Well, the only report I have was that of Senator Ike Ekweremadu and I condemned that because he was one of those who stood up for Nnamdi Kanu and he has never been a betrayal. He was one of those who called the meeting of where Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe stood up and took responsibilities, of course, you know the story, so there was no need to embarrass Ekweremadu because he has never been a traitor or a betrayal on Igbo issues.