By Daniel Kanu
Elder statesman, Dr Umah Eleazu, thinks that the incessant security challenges in the country have overwhelmed President Muhammadu Buhari. He, therefore, feels the president should accept this and consequently step aside.
The nonagenarian, political scientist, policy analyst and a former presidential aspirant in this exclusive chat with Sunday Sun emphatically said that Nigeria’s security architecture has collapsed, pointing out that nobody is safe any longer.
Elder Eleazu who will soon celebrate his 92ndth birthday spoke on other crucial national issues, including latest attack on the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA), the challenge of 2023 and Igbo presidency. Excerpt:
Let’s begin with the latest attack on the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA). What does that action connote?
It simply shows how low we have become as a country for a place like the NDA, which is like the citadel of where the three people in the Army, Navy, are trained. It is like a person entering the Cathedral to beat the people who are serving mass. It is sad. Everybody is afraid now, it’s unfortunate and I don’t think anybody can tell you what is really going on, especially in Northern Nigeria, not even Buhari. I think he too is a little confused about things that are happening.
As an elder statesman, can you hazard a guess on what is happening or what seems to be playing out?
Everybody is in his corner now, it’s not a question of being old or being a statesman, but one can put two and two together or can connect the thoughts and just hazard a guess as to what is going on. Everybody now knows that security has broken down and each day we see people, those who ought to know on television telling us that the security structures have broken down. Now, who is to rebuild it? And they tell you that everyone is involved or should be involved. Yes, we ought to be involved, I want to secure my house, you want to secure your house, the entire village in the East, for instance, ought to secure itself, but then some people come with guns to kill people in the village and the people who are at the top say, oh, don’t buy a gun. I want to secure my village, let’s start at that lowest level. I want to secure my village, but I am not allowed to buy a gun and give it to the youths who are prepared to stay awake during the night to secure the village. That is where it starts. You then get organisations like IPOB setting up the Eastern Security Network (ESN) for what reason? Because they want to secure their village. And then you go and tell them, no, that they cannot be allowed. So, do we want security or don’t we? Is it until we are all killed that we should be serious with our security? And if you move up from the village level to the local government level, it’s the same thing. You find a DPO who cannot speak the language of the people under him. The chairman of the local government cannot go to the DPO and say, look bring your police there is trouble going on somewhere. They will tell him oh, we are coming and they won’t come until the deed is done or until they have finished their job and leave. There are barracks all over the place, but who are inside it? Who is the commander in the barracks? Look at what happened in Imo State, the so-called unknown people came ransacked prison, ransacked police, released prisoners and there was an Army barracks one and a half kilometers to the place. They could equally have picked the governor and go. So, when people say that security structure has broken down the problem now is that those who are at the helm of affairs are not doing anything to help to rebuild this security architecture. The truth is that sooner or later we have to do it if we are to survive, it is as simple as that. Looking at what happened at the NDA, that show of shame, I expect that Mr. President should resign. These people (bandits) have put their fingers into his eyes by going to NDA to give the country such humiliation. In my opinion, he has had enough and the mark of a good leader is somebody who knows when he should step aside. The president should not stay until he is overthrown or something happens to him. If they (bandits) can go to NDA, they can equally move to Aso Rock. So my advice is that he (Buhari) should quietly step aside, announce to the nation that at his age he wants to rest, that he just came back from his health tourism. Actually, his body has taken a lot of beating and he should acknowledge that. Some of us that are more than 80 to 90 years, you know when your bones are no longer what they used to be. History will still record for him that he was President of Nigeria twice, let him step aside, and if he steps aside, certainly the people in the North can get somebody to step into his shoes. The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) can manage the situation and get us somebody who will manage this country to the end of his tenure in 2023. That is the only way that Nigeria will not disintegrate. This is the time for him to step aside so that we can have a smooth change over and the person that they will bring will agree that he will just stay in power till 2023 for new elections to be held. If he is going to step aside the new person should start by the first step, it is not the whole restructuring, but to recognise the political zones as working units of the federation. Only one section of the constitution that he needs to change to help him manage the country to 2023, and that will be the section that says. Nigeria has 36 states and those 36 states should now be organised into six geo-political zones, that is the only amendment that will be required for now.
A few months ago the Federal Government promised to expose or make public the names of Nigerians that are behind or sponsoring this insecurity…?
(Cuts in) My reaction to it is like that of every other Nigerian will react to it. We are waiting for the government to release the names of those behind it. I don’t know them, the government knows them. If the government doesn’t know them who negotiates between the kidnappers and the government, who pays the ransom? There must be people that go between who do the negotiations. They (the government) know them. People like Sheikh Gumi have come out openly to say he has spoken with them and he is negotiating also, but nobody touches Sheikh Gumi because of what he represents in the North. In other countries, he will be held down to say all that he knows about the bandits, name names. If he had mentioned names to the government the government is not willing to let all of us know what is going on and you don’t fight this type of battle with little or no intelligence reports. Who gathers security intelligence for this country? Where is it warehoused? Is it shared? Why is it that some governors get the intelligence and some other governors don’t?
Let’s look at the political parties we have, particularly the ruling APC and the main opposition party, the PDP, and the way they are engulfed with crisis upon crisis?
We do not have ideological parties in Nigeria, what we have is a gang of people who have captured or perhaps kidnapped the public treasury. All the fights you see in the parties either in the APC or the PDP is about who is going to man the purse, the public treasury, and loot. As far as I am concerned they are not political parties, the type that we studied in political science. Today, they are in the APC, tomorrow they are in PDP and when they quarrel in the PDP they are back to APC. They just keep flowing back and forth. Somebody was talking on television the other day and he said, wait until the beginning of 2022, a season real cross-carpeting will begin. So, we are waiting for the season of cross-carpeting to begin. We don’t have political parties in Nigeria what we have is a gang of political robbers, state looters.
How do you see the clamour and feasibility for a president of Igbo extraction?
To begin with, will there be an election in 2023? The way I see things, yes there are people saying there must be Igbo presidency come 2023. I am not saying I am not subscribing for an Igbo man to become president. If an Igbo man can become president, a Yoruba man can also become president in 2023, an Hausa man, a Fulani can become president. I am a believer in the integrity, competence, and known character, if we can find somebody who has character, capacity, dividends and can show that he has the competence by showing that he has managed organisations before and knows how organisations are run, then if you ask him to run the state, at least, he will be able to run his office (the Presidency), we can find such people in Igboland, we can find such people in Ijaw land, Ibibio land, Itshekiri, Yoruba land, among the Fulanis and Hausas. We have them in Nigeria. There is no part of Nigeria that has a monopoly of intelligent, competent people. Secondly, if you put an Igboman as president today and tell him to manage this country, what I call the cabal of state looters, he will not succeed. So, what we require is a clean sweep of the political atmosphere, the political platform and create a level playing field for everybody. That is what we require now and I know some organisations, people who are organizing themselves, talking about this language of creating a level playing ground and that level playing field should be such that those state looters will find it impossible to join because they will know then that the rules have changed. We need somebody now who has the competence and character to run this messed-up country and to run this messed up country we need to have a clean sweep of the political arena so that all state looters, anybody who has his name tainted either by the EFCC or the Code of Conduct Bureau should not be allowed to smell office again.
Do you agree with the views of most critics that the President Buhari-led government seems to be romancing with bandits and Boko Haram fighters, but hard on genuine agitators?
Boko Haram is taken as agitators, but banditry is pure criminality. I think we should separate the two. IPOB started as an agitation, they were not terrorists, they did not terrorize anybody as far as I know until the government declared them as terrorists. They were simply praying in churches, praying that the government should change and help them, their region, but the government got up and declared them to be terrorists which they are not. It is Buhari and his government that created the terrorism and they are fighting the shadow of what they created. It is calling a dog a bad name in order to kill it, but the real foxes that are bad you don’t give them a bad name, rather you pamper them. Look at what is happening in Zamfara State, it has never reached any stage like that in any part of Southeast when Buhari called those young boys terrorists. Now you have seen terrorists in Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna, in fact, everywhere in the North and he has not opened his mouth to declare them terrorists. Even when a governor, Matawalle is telling him to declare a state of emergency in the North which shows that banditry, criminality etc, have taken over, he still did not. He sent his media aide, Shehu Garba to go and defend the indefensible that is rubbish.
What do you think should be the lasting solution if Nigeria must rise again?
Partly I have given it in my views above. We are drifting towards 2023 and people are meeting in various places, I just hope that all those meetings and discussions will eventually coalesce into a broad movement that could sweep the current state looters aside and create a level playing field where new people, new leaders, invariably younger people will all emerge. People like us, I am 91 going to 92, Obasanjo was 80, Babangida has just celebrated his 80th birthday, among others. Those are not the people we should be looking up to again to come and do anything. The young people who are between 30 and 40, 45, should get up and reclaim this country because if they don’t rise up and reclaim this country, nobody in our age-grade or circle is going to do it for them, all we can do is to give them ideas. We need a revolution; I am not talking about bloodshed, but a revolution that begins in the mind. People just got to change their mindset and stop worshiping money. It is because of the love of money which the Holy Bible has told us is the root of all evil and that is part of the things killing this country. I hope our leaders should know that vanity upon vanity all is vanity. Can you imagine that somebody has 550 billion naira in one account, over 80 million dollars in another account, 237 million pounds in another account, is that not madness, what is he going to do with it?