Prof. Elo Amucheazi is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and the Secretary General of Igbo Leaders of Thought. A former Pro-Chancellor of the Anambra State University, Uli, Amucheazi served as the pioneer Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) from 1993 to 2001.
He has written extensively on issues in Nigerian politics and development.
In this interview, he speaks on burning national issues, especially the farmers-herdsmen crisis and preparations for the 2019 elections. The untiring political scholar avers that Nigeria will not know peace until it is restructured, stressing that Nigerians should be more concerned about restructuring the country than the 2019 elections.
He also gives reasons the South-East will not support President Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential election.
The majority of Igbo leaders are opposing the Federal Government’s plan to establish ranches in some states as part of the solutions to the farmers-herders crisis. Why is it so when it’s obvious that the government needs to do something urgently to curb the crisis and douse tension?
You see, what annoys me really is that people are talking about super-structure without talking about foundation. Is there really a Nigeria? Yes, we have Nigeria as a country, but it’s not a nation and the first thing you do is to think about how to build a nation where every person will have a sense of belonging. I have asked these questions severally. Do you ever expect that in 200 years to come there will be peace and stability in Nigeria? Do you expect that in 200 years time there will be peace and stability in Congo Republic or Cameroon and in any of these countries created by the imperialists? These countries stand on a wrong foundation and, therefore, the imperialists planted instability deliberately. So, the first thing is to consciously build a country and a nation. Now, if you want to start with what you have been given as a framework, restructure it and make it work. That’s why our earlier leaders talked about federation. In fact, people are talking about confederation and Nigeria will work. And all these talks about ranching and all of that won’t arise. And in any case, isn’t it a private business? What is the concern of the Federal Government with that? In your distributive trade and all the rest does the federal or state government get involved in it? In your farming, does your Federal Government get involved in it? When you don’t have a real structure, then all these things will come up. I mean it’s nonsensical.
So, what you are saying is that this country will not know peace until it is restructured?
Yes! But every person knows that. In fact, it’s not that it won’t know peace; it may disintegrate. Let me ask you. Suppose you have a confederation with South-East, South-South and Southern Cameroon as one or the South-West, Benin Republic and Togo as one; North- West, North-East and probably Niger Republic as one; what happens? In other words, completely redraw the map of Africa from what we inherited and we will have peace; we will have progress. In fact, I think that what we have to do is to redesign the architecture of African countries. That’s the only way we can make progress. But I will tell you that the West will not support you. How do they sell their arms? How do they get their raw materials? How do they get and control their market? What was the rational for their coming out in the first instance and pretending to be Christians and enslaving millions and millions of Africans, particularly Ndigbo? It’s market, market, market! Every person is concerned with his stomach. What were the sins of former President Goodluck Jonathan? Part of them was that he admitted the Chinese to come and start competing with the West in the Nigerian market. Why did the British hate Ndigbo? It was because they saw us as competitors for the market in the North, Niger Republic and the rest. That was all! So, there is no way you can talk about peace anywhere unless you have proper structure. Don’t also talk about democracy without proper structure. It’s proper structure that gives rise to proper constitution and therefore democracy. As pioneer Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), I know what I did to promote peace and security.
What solution would you proffer to end the killings across the country if you are strongly opposed to ranching?
Which killings? The ethnic cleansing? What solution? But I have told you the solution. If you want the country to stay, if you want peace and security, you restructure the country. That’s all!
The National Assembly is now considering a bill that will allow the creation of state police as part of measures to improve security of lives and property. What’s your take on that?
It’s very good. Although ultimately in our submissions we talk about regional police not state police. If we have six zones, it will be zonal police not state police otherwise these comprador governors will also misuse the police. You see, they call themselves executive governors, but they are not executive governors. They are very authoritarian. So, state police is okay for the time being because we are talking about policing, but ultimately it should be zonal police. If it’s zonal police, the zone will control it not a particular governor.
But we are not governed on zonal or regional basis, so how is it going to work?
That is why we are talking about restructuring; that is what we are working towards. In fact, we are saying without restructuring let there be no 2019 election. If we have zonal police that is one step towards democracy, because a certain man who is the Inspector General of Police cannot send his men to come and deliver the state to whoever he likes.
The last time we spoke, you said that the South-east would never support Buhari. Do you still hold that opinion?
If I said that before it is now reinforced 200 per cent. How can you support somebody who is killing you, who tells you that he hates you? Somebody who tells you that he hates you and that if he has the opportunity he will kill you again; somebody who describes you as five per cent for not supporting him. And you see what is going on now. But apart from that, what is his performance like? Naira is now like a waste paper. It’s now N360 to one dollar. In our days in the 70s, two dollars were one naira. By the time former President Jonathan left, it was N179 to one dollar. Can you imagine this? Do you have security anywhere in the country? Do you see how we are treated? Is it in appointments that we have our people? Look at all the security chiefs; do you have any Igbo man there? They are playing politics with the second Niger Bridge, roads and so on, but what have they done in reality?
But in terms of infrastructure, there is ongoing reconstruction of some major highways in the South-east?
Where is it?
The Enugu-Onitsha expressway is being reconstructed for instance?
Have you gone there? Do you know why truck drivers blocked it the other day? They do one kilometre today and after a while they come and do another one kilometre. How long will it take to reconstruct the road? How much are they pumping to the North?
But we had a party that spent 16 years in power, but didn’t touch these roads?
Who said they didn’t touch them? They did some. Remember that apart from the fact that there is a glass ceiling against Ndigbo, Jonathan was very cautious because they equated him with the Igbo. So, he didn’t really want it to appear as if he was giving everything to the Igbo. But he was building universities and Almajiri schools in the North and the rest of them. He was also empowering people. He liberalised trading; as Ndigbo, we have always relied on ourselves. So, when you liberalise trade, what haven’t you done to our people? It’s like teaching somebody how to fish, not giving him fish. So, it is not that he couldn’t have done better, but you notice that Ndigbo are usually fair to all.
I didn’t refer particularly to the Jonathan administration. The PDP controlled power for 16 years…
(Cuts in) No, no, no! Did you expect much from Obasanjo really? Obasanjo himself admitted that there is a glass ceiling against Ndigbo. None of them was happy that Ekwueme emerged as vice president in 1979. Who toppled Shagari’s government? Wasn’t it Buhari? And it was based on speculation because he thought that after another four years Ekwueme would be the president. Such is the hatred against Ndigbo. After toppling the administration, didn’t he put Ekwueme in Kirikiri Prison and then Shagari uunder house arrest in his home? They charged Ekwueme for corruption.
But in fact Ekwueme was poorer when he came out than he was before becoming vice president. Ekwueme was serving people. If we had continued with the federation as it were, things would have been different from now. But every attempt now is to destroy Ndigbo. Look at what they are doing to Innoson. Look at what they did to Ibeto. Do they think that our people are not aware of all these? Industries are not encouraged in Igbo land. Where is any Federal Government establishment in Igbo land? Just tell me any single Federal Government establishment in Igbo land. And somebody told you plainly that he would work for 95 per cent of people that voted for him and not for the five per cent that didn’t vote for him. And he is living up to it. That is why many people see him as not being the president of the entire country. The other day our boys protested and he sent the Army to go and kill innocent chaps and then proscribed IPOB. Has it ever happened anywhere? Proscribing them for what? Now, look at what is going on in the North. Herdsmen are given AK47 and they are killing people with impunity and they have not been proscribed. Even the world has described these people and Boko Haram as terrorists and yet they have not been proscribed. When Ihejirika was sent to the North-East to deal with Boko Haram, was it not Buhari who said that Ndigbo had gone there to kill their people. Then look at the girls that were kidnapped, are they not Christians? And he said that he was committed to the spread of Islam. Is he not living up to that? And Igbo people are Christians. So, openly, he is against you because you are Christians; he is against you because you are Igbo. So, with this kind of record, do you expect Ndigbo to vote for him?
Many Igbo politicians are saying that voting for him in 2019 is the best route to achieving Igbo presidency in 2023?
(Cuts in) I’m not talking about Igbo presidency. Presidency is not the issue at all.
It’s not! If you restructure the country, anybody can be president. What are the powers of the president? What is the role of the central government? It’s only foreign policy, defence, immigration and monetary policy. Those are the roles of the central government and the president. So, any person can be president. It doesn’t affect development in your area.
How then do you look at the idea that Ndigbo should support Buhari in 2019 and get the opportunity of producing his successor?
I said that we are not talking about presidency; all these are diversionary things. Remember where we started our conversation. If you don’t secure a piece of land, can you be talking about stool? When somebody is telling you that you have to surrender your land for his cattle, what he is saying is that you should be his slave to live at his pleasure. No! I have always failed to comment on this presidency thing because I think it is none issue.
The 2019 election is fast approaching, from your vantage position as an elder statesman and political scientist, what do you think will happen in view of the political realignments that are going on?
In what way? What do you mean?
The APC is now factionalised with the emergence of R-APC; former President Obasanjo has been mobilising support for the African Democratic Congress (ADC) while the PDP is working hard to form a coalition with some political parties all in a bid to face Buhari at the polls and probably
(Cuts in) For which country? I am saying first things first. I find it difficult to understand all these things about elections. I find it difficult, so I don’t know what to say. We need a country to belong to. We need a country that will really be a country for every person and that should be the first thing to do. I think many people have been saying that without restructuring, there is no need for election. So, I don’t like people diverting attention. Look at the creation of local governments. Today, Kano and Jigawa states have more local councils than the entire South-eastern states. Look at the appointment of the Police IG. Eight people had to be retired to pave way for a small commissioner of police to become IG. Is that the country where people are talking about election? To me, it is first things first. I think we should sit down. It is not so difficult to do this before even December or thereabout. I don’t know why people can’t be sincere. That’s why I’m saying that it is very agonising to me because in my youthful days I exerted myself because I thought we were going to have a country to belong to. Let me tell you, there is no country in this world that is as endowed as Nigeria. There is nothing we lack. So, I’m appealing to people, ‘let’s sit down if we really want some sincerity.’ Look at oil, the mainstay of our economy. It is Netherlands that controls 80 per cent of the sector, individuals for that matter instead of our government. Is it done? In a true federation, the owner of the compound where oil is found has a share, likewise the town, local council, state and the federal government. And it is automatic; that’s how it is done in developed countries and life goes on. If you go to Ogoni and some of these places where they explore oil, where do you get water to drink? Even the air is polluted there. They feed this nation and they are ignored yet you ask them to vote for somebody. What has the person done? It just shows you the hollowness or insincerity of our politicians. It’s that they don’t really love this country or they don’t want it to exist. It’s a pity. Any person who really loves this country should go for immediate restructuring.