By Chuks Eze
THE Anglican Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province, Dr Emmanuel Chukwuma is not happy with certain current affairs of the nation. For one, he rates President Muhammadu Buhari’s performance in the last one year as grossly unimpressive. He also regretted the president’s failure to address the crisis caused by Fulani herdsmen across the country, in his Democracy Day speech, insisting that government is paying lip service to the issue.
Chukwuma, alleged that the menace of the herdsmen is a grand plan orchestrated to Islamize Nigeria, warning: “We are ready to face them. Any evil herdsman that performs any nonsense anywhere in the South-east should be ready for war. We are not going to draw a reprisal, but we will defend ourselves and make sure that they do not exist in this area anymore to rape our women, destroy our farms and unleash criminality! He also spoke on other national issues including Biafra agitation.
President Buhari, and his APC recently clocked one year in office and while some Nigerians have given them kudos, others have described their outing as a year of broken promises. What is your view?
APC came on with a deceitful colour, blowing the mind of Nigerians day-by-day with bogus promises, which we are yet to see. One may not blame them so much anyway, but the fact is that both the government and the party have not behaved democratically in the last one year. We are supposed to be in full democratic setting but unfortunately, we have found ourselves under military-democracy. That is what APC has inflicted on Nigerians, and that is what I advise them to purge themselves of without delay. If you compare the style of former President Goodluck Jonathan with that of President Buhari, you would notice that Jonathan was a better democrat as president. In fact, he was a democrat to the core. But now, we don’t have such democratic spirit in Buhari. It is such spirit that reassures citizens that their president realises that democracy is actually government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Where do you have such assurances under the present dispensation? Everything is militarized, which is not healthy. We are aware, with shock, that the quantum of spoil and financial depletion that occurred in the last 16 years is so enormous that it cannot be effectively addressed within one year. We can also accept the excuse that one year is not enough to effect the desired recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation of both the nation’s economy and infrastructure. But Buhari and APC should also know that Nigerians would not allow it to continue to run the country through intimidation, victimisation and spirit of witch-hunting. Things must be done in an atmosphere of love, care and concern. Citizens should be made to see and be convinced that the APC has truly come to repair and not to destroy. There is a way corruption is fought and you end up destroying whatever that is remaining. He who is saying look at a peck in your eyes should remove his own first.
There may be good intentions to fight corruption and reposition the economy of the country, no doubt, but the way they are going about it lacks coordination and professionalism. The government lacks professional financial economists that will help it to put things in proper perspective. I have said it before and I am repeating it again that the minister of finance is immature and unsuitable to manage the nation’s economy at this critical time. All we have seen her do in the last one year is just speaking English, which cannot help the economy in anyway. I don’t think she has any capacity in financial management to handle the management of Nigeria’s economy. I do not have anything against her person, but I am sure that we have several citizens who are much more seasoned and qualified to manage our economy. As we speak, there is no clear economic team, no clear direction of the economy. Our economy is down, our foreign reserve is down, hunger is high and domestic pump price of petrol is high. So, citizens are helpless. Part of the reason for all these problems is because most of the Buhari’s cabinet members, which took him almost six months to put together, were appointed on sentimental basis, not professional basis. For instance, Babatunde Fashola is a lawyer, who would have fitted better as attorney general of the federation but you find him in Power, Works and Housing. What does he know about power? Yes, he was a governor, but being a governor is different from being a federal minister. They are not even related at all. Headship of a ministry should be purely on professional basis. Look at Chris Ngige that is in Labour. He is a medical doctor that would have fitted better in the health sector. There are several others like that. Nigeria has come to a point where appointments should take the shape of round pegs in round holes and not the other way round. The president did well by appointing medical experts as both the senior and junior ministers to man the health ministry and it is commendable. He should shun corruption and repeat same in other sectors.
Are you implying that the APC government is corrupt?
They cannot say they are free of corruption. All we heard in the last one year was fighting corruption, war against corruption and all that. What has Mr President, who is the leader of APC done to the alleged or perceived corrupt people in the party? He is just busy pursuing perceived oppositions. Anybody who dares to speak against the government, they will clamp on him to make sure that person does not talk. Is that not tantamount to waging selective war? That is not democracy, and that has to be avoided! Nigerians are still looking forward to a better Nigeria where one will say he is coming to bring change and it would not turn out to be a change to poverty, hunger, hardship and inflation as we have witnessed in the last one year.
But the current hardship seems to be a global phenomenon, isn’t it?
Is hike in pump price of petrol, without proper dialogue and pre-information also a global thing? Can you mention any country in the world that can hike the domestic price of petroleum products overnight to the tune of about 80 percent even when the price of the commodity has crashed at the international market? Everyone knows that everything in this country is tied to prices of petroleum products especially petrol. After earning people’s votes through mind-blowing campaign promises of reducing the pump price of petrol to N40 per litre, Nigerians suddenly woke up to behold an overnight all-time hike to N145 naira, which is N105 naira above their promised amount of N40 naira per litre. What do you call that? Can such happen in other countries? They should have first, engaged in extensive mutual dialogue with the masses, through various stakeholders, technocrats, labour unions and religious leaders. That would have ensured that whatever agreement reached would be communicated to the people in a way that will guard against undue shock. The labour movement was asking for increased minimum wage, you didn’t care about that but went ahead to increase the pump price. You then began to muscle and intimidate their union. But the truth is that the current pump price is not commensurate with the income of the people as well as the current salary scale of workers, which is very wicked and suicidal. The implication is that the government is insensitive to the needs and views of the people. The president should be sensitive to the needs and views of Nigerians at all times. People are suffering and they need succour, not more suffering. That is why citizens seem to be losing confidence in the APC government, as we speak. And any programme that will bring more hardship on citizens will end up totally crashing people’s confidence in the present administration. The government has been talking about putting some palliative measures in place but I do not agree that because you said you have palliative measures to cushion whatever effect then you are free to unilaterally force strange and stifling policies and programmes on citizens. The palliatives they mentioned are not even enough. How would the so-called palliatives truly translate to the economic development and relief of the people in Nigeria? They might just be packaging the palliatives for themselves, which may end up as money for the boys.
But beyond all that have been said, I see what we are experiencing in this country as part of God’s punishment for Nigeria, because we have taken so many things for granted just like the children of Israel, who were taken into exile in Babylon and also to Asyria. God had promised them inheritance of the Promised Land. But after they offended Him, God took them to Babylon and Asyria as well until they learnt hard lessons and were brought back again. Nigerians should use the current hardship to repent and think about the way we have been so careless, wasteful and indisciplined in managing our resources. Let us use the current situation to think about how to recover ourselves and be a disciplined, prudent society where we can be grateful enough to shun impunity, embrace integrity and value God and human life.
Do you also see the rampaging herdsmen as part of God’s punishment for Nigeria?
The incidence of herdsmen is a matter of people orchestrating some sort of strategies to Islamise Nigeria. That is why nobody has been arrested and prosecuted over it, just as we have in the case of Boko Haram. The president has not also seen reason to make any categorical presidential declaration over it, not even in his recent 2016 Democracy Day address. So, you can see that it is another tricky way of trying to Islamize the country. That is why you see the people spreading their attacks across the country, unruffled. The federal government must declare a state of emergency over the AK-47-carrying rampaging evil herdsmen and not unleashing military guns on placard-carrying youths holding peaceful rally in the east. However, if the government continues to pay lip service to the present realities, they should realise that everybody is now ready to protect themselves and their farmlands. I am speaking in particular reference to the South-east here. We are ready to face them. Any evil herdsman that performs any nonsense anywhere in the South-east should be ready for war. We are not going to draw a reprisal, but we will defend ourselves and make sure that they do not exist in this area anymore to rape our women, destroy our farms and unleash criminality! I had made it clear severally that enough is enough in the South-east. We must begin now to cultivate our own crops, rear our own cows and be able to say: Please, hold your cows, goats and crops. Don’t bring these things to the South-east anymore since you are causing problem and loss of innocent lives here. Then we would be forced to go into serious Fadama farming to empower ourselves. Nobody should take us for granted anymore after all they are even using our own opportunity to enrich themselves by grazing their cattle free of charge on our grasses for many years now. It is their private business, and nothing is free in business. Why should some people be known to be possessing dangerous arms and they are ignored by the authorities who now turn to fire shots at others that are carrying placards? Why should herdsmen be allowed to carry AK-47 about if there is no hidden agenda? That is why the Anglican Church has condemned their so-called proposed grazing bill. It is an Islamic agenda, it is discriminatory and it is not acceptable because it is part of their grand design to Islamize the country.
Do you support Governor Fayose’s recent ban on public grazing of cattle in Ekiti state?
I would say that I feel happy that some state governors can take bold but tough measures to protect their people. The governor of Enugu State is also doing well. In Enugu State now, any herdsman that is found with AK-47 or any weapon other than a stick, would be arrested and charged for murder and illegal possession of arms. That is what should be the case. The case of Ekiti is a more fierce measure. The Ekiti governor adopted outright ban of public grazing of cattle, and that is a dangerous trend. But at least, the herdsmen are now on their knees begging the governor for leniency. So, herdsmen should behave themselves across the country to avoid similar sanctions on them. But if those causing mayhem around us are Boko Haram elements in herdsmen robes that have infiltrated the South-east, then we shall know how to deal with them.
However, I would add that Fayose’s measures may not be the best way because you don’t fire all your bullets at once. I think that a more gradual measure would have been better. That is what the Enugu governor has done. If the herdsmen operate within limited areas without raping our women, destroying our farms and terrorising our people, we will allow them. But if they should go back to their old style, then we shall fire our shots. That is the case here. But, if Fayose’s latest action was based on repeated attacks on Ekiti people, as I heard, then nobody should blame the governor for taking bold measures to protect his people. After all, he is the chief security officer of the state and is answerable to the security of all Ekiti residents.
Why is it that many of those who celebrated the exit of PDP are now turning around to regret the emergence of APC-led federal government?
Nigerians rejoiced over the change because we know that so much impunity had happened in the erstwhile government. Jonathan was a good man, a good democrat. But he allowed so much impunity among his team. That was what happened. Squandering of the nation’s commonwealth was the order of the day, such that if it had continued, the country would have crumbled economically. Look at the staggering amount that had gone into private pockets; how would you have known about it? The country would have bled to death. But God always has a way of salvaging Nigeria. And that is why APC must not take Nigerians for granted. They should stop foot-dragging over letting us know how much they have recovered so far, who and who have been prosecuted, where the monies are going into and what their next projection is like. Nigerians need official tangible statements and not bits of information and hearsay. Nobody has told us what happened to all the Abacha loot that was said to have been recovered. So, we don’t want stories or blame-game anymore. Their failure to give citizens official information until Nigerians start pressing for it amounts to corruption. And of course you know that corruption always breeds corruption. We should stop using tactics to cover up where corruption is underground. Sincerity and prudence in governance are what Nigerians are yearning for. And it would be most regrettable if the APC fails to offer them to Nigerians after all their bogus election promises.
If you say that Jonathan was a good man only that he allowed so much impunity in his team; does that also imply that one can say that it was the PDP government and not PDP that was corrupt during Jonathan’s government?
No. That was not what I was driving at. Are Olisa Metuh and the rest of them not PDP officials? They were all involved.
So Jonathan was corrupt?
Let me tell you: No politician is clean – all of them are corrupt! I say that without any apology. All of them are corrupt because they know how they manipulate things to go in their favour. The political parties know how they manipulate things to get money for their elections. The whole money that was stolen and being recovered now was given to them by the government through the party to strategize for elections. You cannot separate a government from the political party that produced it. So, all of them were involved. The same thing goes to the APC. Most of those occupying key positions in Buhari’s government were those who used their state’s funds to sponsor his election. APC governors sponsored Buhari’s presidential election, which was why they were the main initiators of bail out funds. So, all politicians are corrupt.
Are you saying that Buhari is also corrupt?
Yes, Buhari is corrupt! You want to hear it from my mouth? He is corrupt and I am emphatic about it! He would not say he is not. If he is not corrupt, why did he allow corrupt people, especially former governors to serve in his government? How did he source the money used to fund his election? Why is he giving an individual that is being accused of corruption key portfolio in his government, if he is not corrupt himself? There are several instances to prove that he is corrupt. Look at some former governors and others, if they did not use their states’ funds to sponsor Buhari’s election, as have been severally alleged, what can the president tell Nigerians that make this set of people more qualified to handle two or more key ministries, each of which is even a huge load on an individual? How many heads does Fashola have, or what makes him more human, more capable or more qualified to handle three huge ministries if not to enable him recoup monies he used to sponsor Buhari’s election? The same with Amaechi. That is corruption. It is most unfortunate that the government of he, who claims to be an apostle of anti-corruption is filled with questionable and corrupt individuals. Look at the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, who recently attempted to compel the Nigerian Communication Commission – an agency under his ministry – to loan him over N13 million to fund his un-named official trip to China. If not that God exposed him by leaking his memo to that effect, that money would have been cornered just like that. It shows that such thing has been happening – muscling agencies and parastatals under him to loan him money that may never be repaid. Is that not sheer abuse of office? Has the president done anything about that? We all know why. That is also corruption. The information minister has just been making too much noise with no reasonable impact. Look at even the budget. How can you budget over N39 billion for information propaganda? That amount is more than the budget of some two ministries put together. What do you need such money for; to feed Nigerians with more lies and deceit? The man has got to a point where the president should relieve him because function of party propagandist is different from that of a country’s image maker, which Lai is yet to realise. Lai Mohammed is a sycophant just like Jonathan’s Labaran Maku. Maku was mouthing all sorts of things during Jonathan’s era but he was busy amassing wealth to fund his governorship election, which he lost in Nasarawa. But when he was denied the ticket, he decamped and joined another party, even at the detriment of his principal, Jonathan who was in the presidential race at the time. He has reduced himself to nobody politically. Even the recent appointment of director generals by Mohammed in his ministry is sentimental, divisive and tribal; and we totally condemn it. How can you appoint only DGs who are mostly Muslims and Northerners leaving nothing for the south; just like no Igbo man is occupying office as heading any military or paramilitary agency? If Buhari says he is not corrupt, he should look into all those issues.
When the Igbo were shouting marginalisation and condemning Buhari after his first key appointments, you condemned it, saying such complaint was premature. Why are you now crying over marginalisation?
I felt that it was too early to start complaining. But we have waited now and have exhausted our patience. They are not being fair at all. It is not enough to say that you do not hate the Igbo. You have to match your words with action. There is wicked marginalisation of Ndigbo and southerners in this country and it is so glaring. This cannot augur well when we are preaching one Nigeria.
Some people say that the present complaints were the same issues that led to Biafra agitation in the past, was that the case?
Yes, that was the case. But we are not going to be violent about it, we will continue to cry and advise the authorities on the danger of running lopsided government in a country like Nigeria. The president was once quoted as saying how can the Igbo complain of marginalisation when Kachikwu is the minister of petroleum resources and GMD of NNPC, and other individuals that he mentioned. These people are from South-south, from Delta State. Moreover, appointment into offices does not translate into infrastructural development or direct empowerment of a zone. Kachikwu who they readily mention always serves as a junior minister under the president who allocated the petroleum ministry to himself.
However, what I am saying is that the agitation for Biafra is really not because we want to have a sovereignty of a fresh country but rather because we want to be recognised and treated as co-stakeholders and legitimate part of the entity called Nigeria. Are they saying that there are no South-east-South-south individuals that are qualified and capable to head any military or paramilitary agency in this country? Again coming to DGs, how many South-south- South-east indigenes were appointed as DGs? Even if Buhari wants to appoint only APC members into his government, are there not capable APC members in all the South-east and South-south states? We have been totally side-lined, yet they keep still singing one Nigeria. That is another dangerous corruption that is now building up in APC-led present Federal Government. We appreciate that they are trying to fight corruption and trying to instil discipline into the system but this is part of the needed discipline – not being selective in the scheme of things in the country. We, as men of God abhor and condemn selective negligence. Be fair to all. Buhari stated in his inaugural address that he is for nobody and for everybody yet he is not living it. He is now for somebody. He is no longer making himself to be seen as president of Nigeria but president of a section of Nigeria. So, things must be done normally, with equity and fair play, for peace to prevail. Look at Ogbonnaya Onu. For all his efforts and sacrifices towards the emergence of Buhari as President, all he was given is minister for science and technology. Is that all that such intellectual could get for accepting to dissolve the entire political party, the ANPP, he was heading into the alliance that produced the APC government? Or is it because he is Igbo?
As a religious leader and stakeholder in this country, what can you point at as achievement of the Buhari government?
We have seen that Nigeria is becoming a more disciplined society where people are being controlled over financial recklessness. That is the only thing I can point at now. There is no security in the country. There is no infrastructural development because the money is not there. There is spiral decline in the economy, gradually sliding to recession if urgent control measures are not taken. There is high rate of poverty and hunger and people are angry. Is it unemployment that we would talk about or what? Many governors are said to be using their bailout funds anyhow they like and nothing happens.
So, the bailout is not even serving the purpose for which they were given. We are only hoping and praying that the present administration achieves something tangible in its second year. Again, there are those that have legitimately executed some contracts for the Federal Government, who are now complaining that government has refused to pay them. If that is true, President Buhari should look into it and pay them. They should be paid. If government fails to pay them, it also amounts to corruption, and God frowns at that. You cannot cancel contracts because they are being handled by perceived PDP members and re-award same to APC members without paying for job already done.