‘NIGER DELTA ’LL BE WORSE OFF UNDER BIAFRA’
Elder Statesman, Tanko Yakasai was his usual self – frank, blunt and unsparing in this interview with VINCENT KALU. He came down hard on the leader of Indigeneous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, and others thinking of breaking up Nigeria.
He described Kanu and his supporters, as irritants annoying the government and other people.
According to him, if Biafra had succeeded, Niger Delta would have been worse off, even as he described the EFFC as a company of Jankara boys eager to please the government.
The British government said it stands for one and indivisible Nigeria, and will not watch to see the country divided. What is your view vis-a-vis the activities of MASSOB and IPOB, agitating for Biafra?
Britain colonised us and God used them as instrument to bring us together. Whatever happens can only happen when God wishes it to happen.
They brought us together and now we are the greatest asset in Africa; we are actually the greatest asset in the entire black race.
People who are thinking of dividing Nigeria are shortsighted, whether they are Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba. The greatest gifts to any nation are population and territory. That is the reason America is great.
You can remember that about 70 years ago, China was a colonial possession of the imperial power of the Japanese, not only China, but other countries around, Korea, etc. Today, no Japanese will dare China, which is the second biggest economy in the world, and in matter of years, it will be the biggest economy in the world; and will soon be the biggest military power in the world. Why? It is because of population and leadership.
India was the biggest colonial possession of the entire British Empire, this included Pakistan and Bangladeshi (they were one India). Now because of their population, China and India are the leading developing Third World countries in the world.
Three groups of Nigerians should be the first and foremost in trying to maintain the unity of this country – these are the Igbo, the Hausa and the Yoruba.
The Igbo are the most hardworking people, not only in Nigeria, but in Africa. It is that hard work that made the Igbo, for example, when it comes to commuter transportation in Nigeria, everybody has surrendered to the Igbo, so also in the areas of building materials, electrical and electronics, vehicle spare parts, pharmaceuticals, stationery, etc.
The most educated people in Nigeria are the Yoruba, they are in control of the activities both in the downstream and upstream sector of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria.
In the next 100 years, the Igbo through their hard work, would be a dominating force not only in the West Africa but in Africa, while the Yoruba would provide the skilled manpower, and the Hausa with their land will continue to produce food and cash crops both for local consumption and export, with good leadership – leadership with vision and plan, and one day God will give us such leadership.
It is leadership that makes India what it is today, likewise China. It was leadership that made Nigeria what it was before oil – groundnut, cotton, cocoa, palm oil, timber etc. It was human activities that made Nigeria great in those days, and we fought civil war without borrowing and we succeeded.
Anybody among the three ethnic groups that is thinking of breaking up the country is thinking of destroying his own people; he is thinking of destroying the future of his people as Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa.
In the next 50 years to 100 years, these three groups of Nigerians will be so critical in the whole of Africa.
It is shortsightedness for anyone to think of breaking up Nigeria. Assume, God for bid, that Nigeria breaks up, one day we will come back together. We will be here in the next one million years unless something happened to the whole world.
Those who are thinking of dividing Nigeria are shortsighted and have no vision. If they called themselves leaders, they are not capable of being leaders in Nigeria.
They said it was hypocritical that Britain that is exiting from European Union (EU) is frustrating another group that wants to exit from Nigeria?
Britain is withdrawing from the EU out of ego. They joined willingly and nobody forced them to join EU. Like the late Mbadiwe said ‘when the come comes to become’, the time has come for Britain to surrender her sovereignty – her currency and other things that are making her to breakaway from EU.
The only competitor to America apart from China is the European Union because of their size and territory. In 20 years to 30 years, America will be in third position; China, the first and the EU in the second position.
One day Britons will apply to go back to EU because they cannot live in isolation. Anybody who thinks he can live in isolation is stupid.
But the Biafran agitators have always cited the right to self-determination charter, which Britain and many other nations are signatory to?
Nobody is saying that the right is not enshrined, but will it be better for them? The people who are vocal about this are people from the minority oil producing areas.
Remember, before the Biafran war, the Biafra entered into an agreement with France, whereby the oil and gas deposit in the Eastern Nigeria was to be given to France to explore. This was the reason why France was hell bent on supporting Biafra, in making Ivory Coast to support the break up of Nigeria.
If there had not been a Nigerian nation, the oil and gas in the Niger Delta would have been under the firm control of France today, with that agreement between Biafra and France.
By now, France would have established a military base in Biafra to suppress anyone who talks of controlling the oil and gas resources in that region.
The Niger Delta was liberated by multitude of forces that joined hands to defeat Biafra, thereby defeating French colonial machination to take control of the oil and gas deposit in Nigeria. This made it possible for people of Niger Delta to claim ownership of the resources.
Nigeria said you are right, take13 percent as derivation. The 13 per cent was agreed to as compensation to the degradation of the land in Niger Delta. It was not given because the people of the Niger Delta owned the oil deposit.
God forbid that Nigeria would have been divided; do you think that the Urhobo, Ika Igbo in Delta would have allowed the Ijaw and Itshekiri to go away with the oil in Niger Delta to their exclusion?
Look at the other non-oil tribes, if you look at the population of the Niger Delta, you see that those areas that are oil bearing are made up of small population and areas that are not oil bearing are made up of bigger population, do you think that if there were no Nigeria they would live in peace with one another? The bigger one will over run the smaller population. It will be constant wars between the two of them for only God knows how long.
There was an agreement between Ojukwu and the French government that granted concession to French government to explore oil and gas in the region. Had Biafra succeeded, the Niger Delta would have been worse off, as there will be civil war all over the place.
Even today, do you think that the 13 percent we are giving to the governors of Niger Delta to enjoy their lives will stay for long, because the local communities like the Ogoni people will soon begin to question the authorities of the governor of Rivers State to appropriate money allocated to the oil producing areas for their development.
The amount of money Rotimi Amaechi spent in Rivers State, when Wike came road construction became his priority. Look at the number of roads he has constructed in less than two years in office. How many years did Amaechi spend and how many kilometres of road did he construct?
So, if you allow the Ogoni any opportunity, they will not share the 13 percent derivation money with any other person, so also the other people in other areas. This could be perpetual infighting, and there will be no peace and without peace, there will be no development.
We have a lot to learn from Southern Sudan. The Southern Sudan people were instigated by the West, America in particular to wage war in the name of religion against Sudan; that you are Christians, so you better fought the Muslims, which was a lie because they wanted to separate them because oil deposit was in the South.
After referendum, the North said, ok, let them go. While Northern Sudan is enjoying peace, Southern Sudan is experiencing civil war. I was watching on the television the level of famine that the people of Southern Sudan are experiencing. If they were still under one umbrella, it would not have happened.
Let us learn from the lesson of other people. If you ask the people of Southern Sudan they would tell you they had preferred to be together with Northern Sudan.
The way God created Nigeria, I told you that although Britain created Nigeria, they did the will of God. Whatever will happen, the kind of food and cash crops that can grow in Northern Nigeria can never be grown in Southern Nigeria because the rain will be too much for it. Because of too much rainwater, these crops grown only in Northern Nigeria, can’t survive in Southern Nigeria.
We are complementary to one another. Apart from the education of the Yoruba and the hard work of the Igbo, we are interdependent.
Even if we were to separate, we need food, the Southern people cannot grow their own food, so they need food from Northern Nigeria.
Our problem is lack of leadership. Audu Bako ruled Kano State for four years and within that period; he built 32 dams, of which 11 of them are now in Jigawa State, while 21 are in Kano. If anybody who had succeeded him had utilized those dams, the whole of Kano would have been engaged in irrigation farming.
Irrigation farming is the quickest way of multiplying your production. Today, we produce one crop per year from rainwater, but if we use irrigation and you cultivate two crops, you then triple your production. What you need is just to level the ground, break the land into canals and sub break it into channels and pump the water into every nook and cranny of the area, and you cultivate three crops in a year.
Bako left government 42 years ago, do you know apart from Shehu Shagari who awarded contracts for the expansion of some irrigation projects, before the military took over power, there has been none since then. Till today, we have had 19 governors in Kano, nobody added a kobo to expand irrigation farming in the state.
If you can engage the whole of North into irrigation farming, with mechanized farming, you have the opportunity of multiplying your crops into many folds as done in America.
This can only be possible because we have land and we have population. What we need is good leadership.
What is fueling this agitation by separatist movements?
It is the lack of ideas. If people have no ideas, they will be shortsighted.
If you people have ideas, they see far ahead.
It is about leadership; leadership that you can hold on. It is about capacity; competence; diligence; planning; commitment and integrity. You are committed to realizing objective.
Take example of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, his programmes were only two – free education and healthcare. He believed that if he could accomplish that, he would liberate his people, and all of us know the end of that programme.
Till today, the Yoruba have more educated people than any other tribe in Nigeria. They may not be the first, but definitely in terms of number they are more, because of free education, and compulsory education.
Unlike in my own case, where our parents had their own views, of not wanting to send us to school. I was never sent to school. I was taken to school, after one week they removed me till today; all I got was through my personal efforts. You can imagine if I were privileged to acquire formal education, you know where I was going to stop?
Awolowo saw education as the key to development, and again he realised that if you were not healthy you would not go to school. The issue of, you had no money that was why you didn’t go school didn’t arise, and that is why they are far ahead.
Will the release of Nnamdi Kanu and his associates not douse this separatist agitation?
Kanu and his friends are just irritants. They are saying what they are saying just to make some people annoyed; they just want to annoy people in power. They are not serious.
What homework did they do to convince people that they would be better off in Biafra?
How do you think that Governor Wike will agree to be with Biafra; how do you think that Governor Okowa will surrender Delta to Biafra?
The governors of Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Bayelsa will surrender their states to Biafra?
They didn’t do their homework, they are just irritants trying to annoy people. They are not serious.
Last week, Emir Sanusi said in the event of Nigeria’s breakup, that the Northeast and Northwest will be the poorest in the world, is this why the British government said it can’t watch Nigeria breakup?
Like I told you that the British that brought us together must have done their homework. We didn’t do any homework. The Emir is a very intelligent person; he was a Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria on appointment. Certainly, he didn’t do much homework to make such an observation.
EFFC in the last one week has suffered defeats in the courts, as the judiciary has thrashed some of its cases.
It shows that they didn’t do their homework well, they are just rushing to malign people by first accusing them of corruption rather doing a thorough job.
Example, there was a leakage which I believe was from EFCC that I was given N63 million by Tony Anenih, and that was false. What Tony Anenih gave was N63 million, but not to me personally; it was to a group of nine for an assignment, and former President Jonathan requested the assignment. This was after they requested Northern Elders Forum to do the job, and the NEF took their money, N100 million, and they didn’t do the job. They thought of approaching me to get credible Northerners to do the job, and I gave them. Once bitten twice shy, instead of giving me N100 million, they gave me N63 million for the job, which we did in one month. Nine of us did the job in one month, but the NEF, which took the money, didn’t do the job, yet the EFFC got the information and the media was awash with my name, along with Falae, Ladoja and many other people.
Nobody from any security agency of Nigeria approached me on that issue till today since they started that their campaign of maligning people’s names.
EFCC is not doing its homework, it is in a hurry to spoil people’s name, because it does not earn a good reputation. So, a good reputation doesn’t mean anything to them.
I have been working for over 55 years for this country, so I earn my reputation through hard work. I have been to prison ten times – four under colonial regime, four under First Republic, one under Buhari and one under Babangida, in the name of fighting for Nigeria, and yet somebody will go and leak false information to the media to spoil my name.
It started when the EFCC traced a transfer from the account of the National Security Adviser to the account of Tony Anenih, and they asked Anenih to account for the money and he explained that rather than account for the money that he was being owed by the Federal Government, he explained how much he gave to Falae, Ladoja, Nwobodo, and the rest of us, and said he was still owed about N200 million.
Out of that list, they singled out my name that I was given N63 million, even when Anenih sent a correction to them that even the money, which was N63 million was for a group of nine persons. I have a copy of Anenih’s letter to EFCC.
They are in a hurry to spoil people’s names because they don’t know what reputation is about because they don’t have any.
They don’t have any reputation; these are Jankara boys eager to please the government.
Two years to 2019, some groups are preparing for President Buhari’s second term, what do you say to this?
This is in the hands of God. If he is fit, goodluck to him. He admitted that things went on fine when Osinbajo acted for him; the vice president is younger, while ill health and his military background weaken the president.
And I believe with Buhari that, things were better when the vice president acted because I was getting electricity for eight hours a day, and now since Buhari came back and took over, electricity supply dropped to two or three hours in a day.
The same complaint in Lagos of people paying electricity bill that they didn’t enjoy, it wasn’t happening when Osinbajo was acting.
During the short period that the VP acted, there was no blowing of pipelines anymore.
If what happens in this country in the last two years didn’t kill me, I don’t think it will kill me in the next two years. The suffering was much, I suffer and you suffer. The other day I got a text message from somebody who complained how he has been suffering, as his pensions had not been paid for over one year, and his children are still in school, I told him, how I was also suffering.
Everybody is suffering, but if we want to suffer, we can continue the suffering. The Hausa people say, Mutuwar yawa kaka (If death is going to take everybody, not me alone, let it come.)
So, you can see, if Buhari says he is fit and wants to continue, I wish him goodluck.