Vice-Chancellor, Oduduwa University, Ile-Ife, Prof. Chibuzo N. Nwoke, has raised the fear of Nigeria treading the path of Rwanda that was engulfed in political crises, and its attendant genocide. This is coming against the background of the hatred that has been injected into the activities of those beating the drums of war and conflict in the country.
Speaking with VINCENT KALU, the Internationa Relations scholar prayed that the Nigerian situation does not degenerate to that of Rwanda, if leaders listen carefully to the aggrieved persons, correct the socio-political imbalance and work towards enthronement of justice and equality for all.
What is the state of the Nigerian project?
The Nigerian project is fast approaching a state of anarchy following torrents of unguarded agitations from uncoordinated quarters in response to perceived bad governance and lack of development, also manifested in the general feelings of marginalisation, inequity and injustice. The Nigerian condition can be compared to the proverbial tsetse fly that perched on a man’s scrotum and if he uses severe force with the aim of killing the nuisance fly; he may end up exploding his own vital organ. The lesson here is for our leaders to listen carefully to aggrieved persons, correct the imbalance and work towards justice and equality for all.
How does Nigeria look before the international community in view of widespread agitations for self-determination in the country?
The principle of self-determination is a central norm of international law, which is recognised even at the level of the United Nations, the headquarters of the international community, which, for me, is a euphemism for the metropolitan powers that rule the world today under globalisation. In other words, the struggle for self determination per se is neither a bad nor shameful act but simply the recognition of the power of a nation to decide for itself, how, and by whom, it will be governed.
The only anomaly in the Nigerian case seems to be the amateurish, unorganised, and unprincipled manner several ethnic nationalities are going about it; the latest example being the sad episode of quit notices from and to different ethnic groups.
Following IPOB’S and MASSOB’S clamour for Biafra, Arewa youths gave the Igbo in the North notice to quit on October 1, 2017. Niger Delta militants also gave notice to Northerners and the Yoruba to leave the Niger Delta at the same time, even as Middle Belt group also directed Fulani herdsmen out of their areas. Where do we go from here?
My first response about the necessity of addressing injustices and inequity is very germane here. All of these call for committed and patriotic leadership that will listen, collate and systematically address the grievances that have been expressed by various groups. It is the absolute responsibility of the leadership class to embark on concrete plans to calm frayed nerves, resuscitate the almost comatose economy, and address the several internal contradictions in the country today.
Southern leaders say there will be no 2019 elections until restructuring is done; Northern leaders say it is a ploy to break up Nigeria. What is your view?
First, my position is that whoever decides to opt out of an election would have only himself to blame when either nonentities or his adversaries take over power of governance, to marginalise him.
Second, I really do not think that southern leaders are interested in breaking up Nigeria. To be particular, the Igbo elements of the South have the highest investments to the tune of trillions of naira elsewhere other than in Igboland. A break up of Nigeria would, therefore, certainly not be in their interest.
What needs to be underlined here is the fact that the ordinary Igbo, Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, etc. really do not care about the ethnic or religious coloration of his compatriots. It is the politicians that have poisoned the minds of their gullible people and elevated the ethnic/religious card to a potent instrument of hate. It is all of these that have provoked several hate speeches and songs among ethnic groups, whereas the elite do not talk ethnicity when they are sharing their loot from corruption and mal-governance.
Some analysts say that Nigeria had not been as divided as it is today, not even during the civil war. How did we get to this stage? And how do we get out?
We got to this stage because the leadership class is less than committed and patriotic. Most of the tendencies toward division and break-up are actually the handiwork of those who lost out in the power game and, therefore, in the opportunity to share in the lucrative enterprise of looting the country dry. In other words, most of the tendencies to divisiveness are deliberate efforts by disgruntled elements to halt the progress of governance. The way out is to install committed, principled, and patriotic persons in governance positions.
Anti-Igbo songs are trending in the North, spreading hate speeches and animosity. There is mutual suspicion among ethnic nationalities. Is Nigeria headed towards the sad story of Rwanda?
The fear that Nigeria may be heading towards Rwanda is not misplaced; to the extent that hatred has been injected into the operations of those beating the drums of war and conflict. I sincerely hope the Nigerian situation will not degenerate to Rwanda; and I have already given some of the recipe to prevent such a situation in my earlier responses.
Is Buhari’s 104 days absence in London on medical leave not embarassingfor Nigeria?
Indeed, for a person with spartan, principled, disciplinary and anti-corruption profile to have succumbed to be treated in a foreign clinic is sad and embarrassing. But I feel a personal empathy for the President because I sense that it must have been a very painful thing for him to acquiesce to the idea of being flown to the UK for medical attention. One huge lesson for all our leaders is that we must immediately ensure that world class hospitals and medical facilities are introduced in Nigeria. The fact is that Nigeria’s medical practitioners hold sway in several parts of the world, particularly in Europe and America. Moreover, part of the huge funds that have been looted by Nigerian politicians would have gone a long way in building the several world class hospitals that are needed now.
Boko Haram resurgence in the last three months of Buhari absence. What do you think is responsible?
I don’t want to make any connection between the so-called resurgence of Boko Haram coinciding with the absence of the President because I was never of the opinion, and I don’t think our military told us that Boko Haram had been completely annihilated. Let us recall that the strategy of Boko Haram is more or less that of guerilla warfare. In other words, we might think that they have been routed in a particular area only for them to resurface in a different form elsewhere with heavily drugged under-age suicide bombers. Let us discard the mindset that one of these days, Boko Haram will become non-existent in our society.
How do you prevent Nigeria from falling off the precipice?
First, assuming proper leadership; we must address the several issues that gave rise to the current agitations, including the internal contradictions. We must also accept the need for a new constitution produced by the Nigeria people for the Nigerian people; one that stipulates the conditions under which we should live together in peace.
Morocco is planning to join ECOWAS. What is behind this, and its implication for Nigeria?
Morocco’s application to join ECOWAS should not be accepted by Nigeria or other ECOWAS members. First, Morocco is inadmissible to ECOWAS. It is a North African, not a West African, state; it is not even contiguous to any West African state. It belongs to the Arab Maghreb Union of North Africa, with headquarters in Rabat, Morocco. It is also a member of the Arab League.
It will seem that Morocco’s main motive in making this move is to pursue its ambition to achieve its illegal annexation of, and dubious claim to sovereignty over, Western Sahara in order to subvert the legitimate aspirations of the people of Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) to attaining independence. Morocco’s annexation of SADR is mainly for the purpose of exploiting its huge natural resources, including phosphate, an act the UN has declared as illegal. Some implications of Morocco’s move to join ECOWAS include the following: erosion of Nigeria’s influence in ECOWAS; damage to the unity and cohesion in the organisation; and political and diplomatic conflict among ECOWAS members.