Chief Goddy Uwazuruike is former president Aka Ikenga. He speaks on the agitations for 2023, insecurity and other national issues.
Insecurity in Nigeria assumed a new level recently when soldiers of the Nigerian army attacked and killed policemen attached to the Inspector General of Police Response task force (IRT); what do you make of the development?
What comes to my mind when I think of this is Chinua Achebe’s novel ‘Things fall Apart’. In the first few pages of that novel, it says the centre cannot hold. That is what is going on in Nigeria. Of all the promises President Muhammadu Buhari made when he was coming in, three stand out. He promised that one, he would tackle insecurity; two is that he will check corruption and the third one is that he will improve the economy.
Looking at insecurity, there are many places in this country that you cannot move around freely. These include the whole of Borno State and parts of Adamawa and Yobe States. Travelling on Lokoja to Abuja and Abuja to Kaduna highways have also become dangerous. Coming down the South, Lagos to Sagamu to Benin expressway, Lagos to Ibadan to Uyo is also a haven for bandits. There is massive insecurity in the country, and it is attributed to lack of coordination and cohesion by the Federal Government. The killing of policemen in Taraba State is in the limelight because the police authorities decided to open up on what everybody knows that insecurity in Nigeria is very high. For a long time, we have been saying it that military personnel work with criminals and each time we say it, we are told that they are fake soldiers.
Now that this is in the open, the Army Headquarters has a chance to wash its hands off those criminal elements in uniforms; let them answer their fathers names. We don’t need to have a brickbat between the army and the police, the constitution is clear that whenever there are issues of kidnapping or murder, it is the responsibility of the police.
One open secret we now know in this country is that men in uniforms, whether they are the police or the military, work with criminals. As far as I know, one duty the government owes us as citizens of Nigeria is to fight insecurity, that is their primary responsibility. The constitution is very clear that the primary function of the government is the security and welfare of the citizens. If the government cannot fight insecurity, what then is it there for? Is it only when they hear the Igbo are organising themselves that they will come out and declare Operation Python Dance? I can say without fear of contradiction that insecurity in Nigeria has gone sky high.
The constitution is also clear that while the police is charged with internal security and the military with protecting Nigeria from external aggression from land air or sea, they can also be charged with other internal security operations as the National Assembly may prescribe?
The military is trained to protect Nigeria from external threat and to kill in the process. The police on the other hand is trained to subdue people and not to kill. The police is specifically trained for peace while soldiers are trained for war. When the military go to war and kill people, the police come out afterwards to make sure peace returns. However, what we have today is a situation where the military is deployed all over the country. In some places, the Federal Government deployed them, while in others, the state governor invited them. Unfortunately in most cases, the military see things differently from the police because their training is different from the lowest to the highest rank. But the Federal Government can bring the officer corps together, as part of the training for officers, under one roof and make them see things from the same perspective, but that is not the case. It is only when they go to the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, near Jos, that they have overall policy direction. But on a day to day basis, soldiers are trained to use the maximum weapon to do maximum damage and destroy any perceived enemy, not to keep peace.
At what point did Nigeria get it wrong by using the military to perform police duties?
Whatever one may say the buck stops at the president’s table. I don’t understand why he still has the same military commanders he used in his first term on their seats. They are doing exactly what they did earlier. My understanding is that the president should appoint new commanders so that there will be new ideas; he has not done that. The police has been quiet until the immediate past Inspector General came in; that was when we started hearing ‘wacky’ activities going on in the Police Force. When gold rusts, what do you expect to happen to iron? When the Inspector General of Police does not understand the general duties of the police, what do you expect from the other ranks? The favouritism going on in the police is the cause of all the problems.
There are people that you put in certain positions and things will stand still. When you have people with Second Class upper and Second Class Lower Degree but decide to make another person with a Pass the boss, things will not work optimally. It is that lack of team spirit and fair play that is the base of the insecurity we have in Nigeria. If every policeman or soldier takes a pledge that this country belongs to all of us and that he will do his best for the country, things will work well.
The Federal Government is thinking of closing the land borders to check insecurity. What do you think?
It is laughable. Which land borders? In Yobe, Sokoto, Katsina, Kano and Kebbi that share boundary with Niger Republic, there is no border. The government may have succeeded in bringing down importation of rice but importation from the neighbouring states have gone up. It is only in the South that you talk of borders. In the North, you can just walk in and walk out. Nobody in the North sees people from Niger Republic as a foreigner. In any case, where do they want to close? Nigeria cannot build a wall like President Donald Trump is doing in America. But if the government is serious, they can strengthen the Customs and Immigration Services to work in the North.
What advice do you have for the new ministers?
I can only advise them to perform their duties conscientiously. The major limitation the ministers will have is the president who has the executive power. You are a minister and can’t even confer with the president when you go to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting? There are super ministers and there are ordinary ministers, which is why super ministers get fantastic allocations. For instance, the allocation of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing during President Buhari’s first term was more than double the budget of many states. The road networks are in a terrible state, this is the only country in the world where you decide to shut-down an international airport, the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu and you did not say when work will commence and how long it will take? So in simple language, what they are telling those that depend on the airport for sustenance is just go home because we have a government that does not care. These ministers have a responsibility not just to the government but also to the people.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu was recently attacked by suspected Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in Nuremberg, Germany. What is your reaction?
It is unfortunate and regrettable. It was Senator Ekweremadu, tomorrow, it can be anyone of us. People have a sense on entitlement and responsibility. What this means is that if I decide to travel home tomorrow, people can just gather and beat me up because they feel I have not done one thing or the other for them. Sense of entitlement means that anyone can be attacked anywhere by any group of people for any reason. The attack is regrettable because Ekweremadu was the one who rallied round members of the National Assembly from the South East in a particular year when Goodluck Jonathan was president and Stella Odua was Minister of Aviation and each one of them picked Enugu airport as constituency project. All the funds for constituency project was channeled into the airport and construction was ordered by the minister. It was also Ekweremadu that rallied South East members of the National Assembly for Nnamdi Kanu and convinced Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe to stand surety for Kanu to be released on bail.
I also read another meaning to the attack. I’m aware that Ekweremadu is interested in the 2023 governorship election in Enugu State and some people want to use that to embarrass him. I think it is the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau.
The agitation for 2023 presidency is ongoing and some politicians advise political parties to zone the ticket to where they have numerical advantage. What are your expectations?
The All Progressives Congress (APC) was formed as an agreement between the North West and the South West, and they still feel that way. Whether it was supposed to be a 50-50 agreement, I don’t know but the balance has tilted.
The North West now holds the power and they want to retain it. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) believes power should rotate round the six geopolitical zones and I believe they will stick to that. I don’t think the APC will go that way. The APC is determined to zone the presidency to the North. If you know the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El’Rufai well, what he did was to fly a kite and it is being bought.
Some people say the Igbo are not united but it is not true. In 1999, both Olusegun Obasanjo and Olu Falae were Yoruba. In 2007 both Buhari and Umaru Musa Yar’Adua were Fulani. So those things do not mean anything. Unfortunately in the North, the only language they understand is power, but in the South, what we say is good governance.