By Cosmas Omegoh
A lawyer and clergyman, Rev Onyema Duruigbo is saddened that Nigeria is a country where justice, fairness and equity have no place.
He does not understand why the various zones in the country and citizens are treated differently – all because of the section of the country they come from.
Among other things, he wants the Federal Government to release Nnamdi Kalu unconditionally, insisting that he did not do worst things than Boko Haram insurgents. Excerpt:
How much of equity, justice and fairness do you see in Nigeria?
The mere thought of justice, fair play and equity in Nigeria saddens and depresses me. I often liken Nigeria to a table standing on broken legs. If a table is standing on broken legs, of course, anything set on it will easily fall down. Nigeria is a country that fights itself, and glories in injustice; that is heartbreaking. When you begin to think about what goes on in Nigeria, you feel like crying. When you see what people pass through on a daily basis, your firm conclusion is that there is no justice anywhere in Nigeria. Do we talk about the law enforcement agents who will stop you on the road even when they know that everything is right, or office workers who will compel you to part with money before they can do the right things. Call it corruption or injustice, they run from the top to the base; there is injustice everywhere. Worse still, we have a society that is warped because of our constitution. It is heart-rendering.
Are you worried that we now hardly have a generation ready to fight societal ills?
The society is dynamic. Each generation creates its own individuals. In those days, there were the likes of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, and Gani Fawehinmi among others. They were products of the things they saw. For instance, Gani was there because the military was in power, and we needed people like him to fight for democracy, the same for Fela. Now, we have democracy in place. We can discus freely; that is the essence. But now, we need to go beyond that. We need people who will do justice. We need revolutionaries – people to say enough of talking. Let us do the acting. This distinguishes us from that generation. At that time, they had their champions. Now, we have a generation that does not know Fela or Gani. We no longer have a generation of conscience of the nation. This one has stuffs the former generation didn’t have – talking about mobile phones for easy mobilisation. That is why when you open the social media, you see a lot of talks. You see the Soweres talking.
As an Igbo man, do you share that view that the Igbo do not get justice in Nigeria?
Of course I do. The Southeast is marginalised no doubt, starting from the deprivation enshrined in the Constitution. Now, take, for instance, the moment the military moved Nigeria from true federalism to unitary system of government, and went ahead to create states, they empowered the states around the Southeast region and made them more powerful. It was all planned. Now, look at the politics of state creation. Every other zone was given six states; even the Northwest has seven states; that is where it all started. And now that forms the basis for sharing the national resources. The same thing applies to local government creation. Now, how many LGAs do the Southeast have? So you can see that constitutionally, there has been this ploy to marginalise the Southeast. Overall, the same marginalisation robs off on the economy of the Southeast. This is followed up with the denial of infrastructure in the zone. Look at Lagos, for instance. It is leveraging the power of the ports. All the goods arriving in the country come through Lagos. If you move the ports to the East, you will notice that the economy of Lagos will drop by half. And you see that the economies of the Southeast and South-south regions will pick up. But these things were done deliberately. Now, consider this. Imagine you have to go to the UK, China or USA, you have to go all the way to Lagos or Abuja to get visa. And you ask yourself. ‘What does it take to open up consulates in Enugu or Port Harcourt? So, these things are deliberate efforts targeted at enhancing the economy of other zones and keeping the Southeast and South-south down. And so, when you ask me, does marginalisation exist? My answer is yes. And that is why many in the East migrate to other zones. But my problem is that the East has not been able to consolidate and think the East. The day the people will begin to think the East, and decide within themselves to start building small-scale industries, the narrative will be change.
To what extend will insecurity be injurious to this plan?
But which of the zones is free from insecurity? Is it the Southwest or South-south or Northwest? There is insecurity all over the place. So, we may just have to decide to tackle the challenges. I believe there are situations that are giving rise to the insecurity we are experiencing. The central government is contributing to it all. The government may not have deliberately come out to do so, but by their inaction, they have allowed insecurity to fester. Otherwise, how many people have been caught? How many people have been prosecuted? How many people have been jailed? You are a soldier fighting insurgency, you are wounded, maimed. Meanwhile, the Boko Haram insurgents who caused your sorrow are being pardoned and reabsorbed into the society. Is that fair?
How do we resolve insecurity in Southeast then?
The Federal Government knows what to do as regards the security challenges in the Southeast. It is a very simple thing. The boys out there are saying ‘give us back Nnamdi Kalu.’ Yes, he has offended you, but there ought to be a political situation to it. What has Nnamdi Kalu done that Boko Haram insurgent have not done? Yet, you profile them, train and absorb some of them into the Nigerian Army. Have they not killed, have they not maimed? What did Nnamdi Kalu do that those kidnappers/bandits awaiting trial did not do? Elders from the Southeast among them the aged Amaechi Mbazulike with grey hairs have gone to Abuja to say ‘give us our son, let’s go and talk to him.’ And you said, ‘let the court runs its course.’ That means you want what is going on to continue. If you are really tired of what is going on in the East, call those elders, and hand them Nnamdi Kalu with a caveat, ‘I don’t want to hear this thing again.’ Let’s not forget that before Nnamdi Kalu became a ‘monster’ his group was just carrying about their flags and talking. It is the attitude displayed to them that probably pushed them to the trenches. If he is released, first, the Monday sit-at- home will stop. Secondly, the “unknown gunmen,” we will now know them as “unknown criminals.” We will now go after them because the person they say they are fighting for is out. When people talk about Biafra, the Biafra they are fighting for is the Biafra they are experiencing. Not the Biafra of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu because none of them saw the war. I did. Some of these boys were born in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. It is the injustice they experience in the system that they are fighting against. Not the injustice meted to their fathers. The Nigerian state needs to include them in the scheme of things. How can somebody finishing from the university, because his name is Okoro, he doesn’t get a job in the system. He watches Musa picks up the same job, and now turns round to lord it over him, and you expect him to clap and cheer. Because a boy’s name is Okonkwo, he takes the common entrance examination into the Unity Schools, he scores 130 marks and you say “No” to him, and a certain Haruna scores 20 marks over 300 and you give him admission?
What sorts of leadership do you expect going forward?
Let’s have the right leadership. We need a genuine leader that is detribalised. One who loves this nation – someone who will love to do the right things – someone who will look at the Hausa man or Yoruba man or Igbo man and say we are one – that we have one country called Nigeria. Not one that will come with this mindset that Nigeria is an estate of his grandfather. One who believes that we are equal in the eyes of the law. That we are all entitled by the Constitution. One who will look at the present Constitution and have the boldness to amend the areas that are keeping all of us down. One who will amend the areas that don’t agree with common sense. But we must realise that once someone is benefiting, he doesn’t let go. But if justice is not done, I see insurgency continuing. You will always see people agitating. Because the era of cowing down people is gone.