David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
Days after Nigeria marked its diamond jubilee, the call made by the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, urging the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to restructure the country now, has continued to reverberate across the country. Just like the former Secretary to the Government Federation during the regime of military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Chief Olu Falae who in an interview with Sunday Sun clearly defined the meaning of restructuring and called for implementation of the Confab Report, Bishop of Amichi Diocese of the Anglican Communion, Rt Rev Ephriam Ikeakor has joined the discourse on restructuring and bares his mind on the way forward.
We just marked Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary. In the balance sheet, we have debit and credit sides. What do you have to say about the debit side of Nigeria’s balance sheet as a country?
I think we have monumental problems as a nation. Number one is the problem of leadership. It’s a very disastrous problem we are battling with. We have leaders that are not only insensitive to the plight of our people but have graduated to wickedness. I’m not talking sentimentally. Recently, I read a report that the Chief of Staff of a governor in this COVID-19 bought a house in America worth N74.2 million despite the poverty and hunger ravaging the land especially now. Do you think the person is only insensitive, is that not wickedness?
Now you have a country where our leaders travel overseas for any little medical challenge. Nigeria is the biggest country engaged in medical tourism, you see Nigerians everywhere. Then why do I talk of wickedness, they go there and see medical facilities. They enjoy them, they come back here but they do nothing to improve medical facilities in their country. That’s not only insensitivity but wickedness.
Look at our polity, till today we are still doing primitive, crude and shameful politics, snatching ballot boxes and rigging elections. This is the 21st century, when shall we graduate? Our leaders travel on our roads. I pity those of you who travel to Abuja, Lagos and Maiduguri by road because those roads are just death traps. Where are the humongous amounts voted for the road projects? Who are taking them? So, it’s a big problem.
Why is it difficult at 60 that Nigeria cannot boast of steady power supply? I’m talking of development. What are you doing with N10,000 or N20,000 poverty alleviation? What is it for? We don’t need it. No country can empower its citizens with those peanuts. Give us steady power supply and you have solved the problem of this nation. A little vulcanizer in the street will do his work. The little baker that makes confectionaries will be comfortable; the mechanic who wants to us electricity will be comfortable. Go to Aba and see a whole lot of small scale industries but there is no light, no steady power supply.
So, that is my problem with our country. Then I also have this problem of sharing of money from the Federation Account every month. It’s a stupid arrangement. It makes our governors not only lazy but lacking in mental creativity. How can you call people every month to share money? If you spoon-feed your child, what do you want that child to be? Let the government allow each state to control its resources. The federal government should not share anything. Take 20 per cent of resources to the federal level and the rest will be retained where the resources emanate from. If they can’t survive, let them perish there.
I’m an administrator. I don’t believe in spoon-feeding somebody. For instance, this is a new diocese; I never get any help from anybody. Whatever you need to survive is in your environment. It depends on your level of doggedness, creativity and determination. So, most of our governors are not creative. Most of our governors are not ready to develop anything. So, let us scrap this federal allocation sharing thing. It doesn’t help us. If you scrap it now every state will begin to compete, you will know that you have something in Anambra State, the Enugu State man will know he has something, the same thing for the Abia State man, Borno and all these states will begin to compete. That is the right thing.
Could that be responsible for lack of enough infrastructural development in some of the states?
That is true. When I look at the country I cry. I cry because by virtue of my ministry I travel far and wide and I meet these leaders of ours in big airports, big hotels abroad and they enjoy these things. But when we come back here, what happens? So, we are backward abysmally in infrastructure and superstructure. Abysmally, that’s the word. During a trip to Dubai four years ago, I bought a laptop for one of my wards. When I entered the shop, I was asked what brand, I mentioned it. The man in the shop looked at me and asked: “Are you from Nigeria?” Proudly, I thought he was trying to say no wonder I wanted the wonderful laptop. So, I said yes with confidence. He said: “No wonder. We don’t sell such laptops again, they are outdated.” I was ashamed. He said it’s only Nigerians that can buy such outdated laptop.
While in America I bought a textbook for my daughter studying pharmacy in a Nigerian university. And I was so proud to write the title of the book, “Pharmacology, Fourth Edition” because my daughter said that her Professor here is using the latest fourth edition. When I mentioned the book, at Amazing Bookshop, they gave me a reply online. “You can visit our archives.” I’m talking about 2018. They said they were already using the 12th edition of the book and we were looking for fourth edition. And that is what our professors are using to teach pharmacy students here. You see where we are educationally?
Do you know that if you go to Ghana now, they will not employ you as a teacher, if you are from a Nigerian university? They will see you as a quack. Ghana, I’m not talking of USA! Do you know that in Ghana now, if you go there as a doctor, they must retrain you for two years before they give you a license. I’m talking of Ghana!
So, I’m pained. It’s all about leadership. Did you hear what the Secretary to the Government of the Federation said after the inauguration of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19? How could he say that he didn’t know that the health sector was as dilapidated as it was? What does that show you? When you look at our laws, you begin to wonder. When I went to Abuja recently, I saw cows in Federal Capital Territory (FTC), I mean the central business district of Abuja, I’m not talking about Nyanya. Cows were moving on the road. Which country are we in, cows moving around the FTC? That kind of thing belongs to 1930s. My pains are that even in other African countries that kind of thing doesn’t happen and we claim to be the giant of Africa. It is a disaster.
Some people have argued that these monumental problems and other indices account for the agitations for cessation. What’s your opinion about that?
The Federal Government has failed to answer some nagging questions the agitators hold against it as regards marginalization, subjugation and hardship, which especially the Igbo third class citizens in Nigeria. If things are done right, nobody will talk about cessation. I see reasons for the agitation of Biafrans for an independent nation. Agitation for self-determination is ceaseless because we don’t receive equal treatment. Hausa/Fulani oligarchy has made us understand that there are first class and second class citizens in Nigeria. Restructuring should have been the best and safest arrangement but where that is not possible cessation should be the last resort. The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was declared a terrorist group for agitating for self-determination because of marginalization and subjugation but the Fulani herdsmen who kill and maim have not been declared terrorist group. Is that one Nigeria? We are not one Nigeria; so, people who want to go should be allowed to go.
Maybe a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction will make a difference?
Nigerian President of Igbo extraction will make no difference. A lot of Igbo have held strategic positions at the federal level ranging from Secretary to Government of the Federation to Senate President with nothing to show for it. They will still go there to serve their Hausa/Fulani masters and forget where they come from. To allow an Igbo man to become a president won’t make much difference. It is either we restructure or allow Biafrans to go.