Elder statesman and member of the Southern Leaders Forum (SLF), Chief Guy Ikoku, has tasked Nigerian women to leave their comfort zones and challenge the status quo in order to secure the future of their children in the country.
According to Ikoku, Nigerian women like their peers in other parts of the world have the potential to put the nation back on the path of development if given the chance. He also spoke on other issues of national importance in this interview.
Nigeria is currently contending with insecurity, how did we get here?
The truth of the matter is that the nation has never been as divided as it is today in the past decades. It is not only insecurity; there is also scarcity of good living conditions. Nigeria has become one of the poorest countries in the world. There is also insecurity due to absence of work and employment as many people have been laid off in the commercial sectors, in banks, in industries, even in small-scale enterprises. There is what they call hunger in the land and any nation where there is hunger, will not only experience insecurity, hunger will also breed criminality and a situation where criminality prevails there will be multiple killings because criminals kill for many reasons. These may be either as thieves or in order to secure themselves from arrests. And when people arm themselves there is fear in the whole land. People can no longer travel safely on the roads, they have to fly, and then how many airports do we have that people have to fly over the roads?
In the civil service, what they have is lootocracy. The high and the low do nothing else, but to loot the resources of the country such that we find out that Nigeria has become a laughing stock among all the nations of West Africa, in Africa and beyond. Everywhere, they are attacking Nigerians and once you show your Nigerian green passport, they tell you that oh, are you one of them? It doesn’t matter how well behaved you are. Many countries don’t respect the Nigerian passport anymore. You can see that in the European Union, you can see that in America, the situation for Nigerian is very, very desperate.
What can be done to address the situation?
The first thing to do is to have the rule of law. When you have a government that operates under the rule of law, then everybody is subjected to it. A situation where people think they are above the law, then insecurity and disobedience will thrive in such country. And when the citizens find out that there is no obedience of the rule of law then the end result will be anarchy. Anarchy means that everyone is a government to himself alone and Nigeria has been in this sort of situation since independence. Take for instance, the issue of workers’ salaries. The government of the day cannot even pay the minimum wage of N30,000. When you consider inflation, the non-availability of products, the N30,000 which they agreed now is just the equivalent of about N15,000 six years ago because Nigeria has now gone through economic depression and revaluation of its currency. A dollar, which used to be N150 is now N350 to a dollar. A situation where the recurrent expenditure is about 70 per cent as you have in the country then there cannot be any development. Whereas if the capital expenditure is 70 per cent and the recurrent expenditure is 30 per cent then a lot of money will now go to the productive sector instead of the consumption sector. This kind of situation was what made the 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 Nigerian budgets to be total failure. It was Obasanjo government that revived our pension scheme, but we still find Nigerians in the parastatals looting the pension schemes. One Nigeria alone has looted over N25 billion and he has not been convicted. Even those who had been sacked from civil service and parastatals are still working and collecting money. The other day we heard of a civil servant in Abuja who has over 60 houses. You can see how mind-bogging these things are. They are not exaggeration, they are just the order of the day. If you see the kind of pensions that has to be paid to the governors, to the ministers, the economy cannot tolerate it at all. They are not rendering services to the people and if they cannot render services to the people the nation cannot grow and Nigeria is not growing. That is why the World Bank and the IMF had told the Nigerian government that our economy is not growing at more than two per cent per annum, whereas the Nigeria population is growing at 3.4 per cent. If the population grows more than the resources, which can be generated by the economy, it means inflation. It means we are going down and down. One thing that can be done immediately in this year of 2019 is to restructure the country.
The Federal Government should immediately let go on powers of the local government, powers of the state government that they have appropriated so that Nigeria can become a constitutional federalism. There is no such thing in political dictionary as unitary federalism. All countries where you have multi-cultural, that you have multiple religions, that have multiple languages, that have multiple educational systems, have all become federations, so that local people can grapple with the things which they are familiar with and grow their own resources and benefit from there. It is the local structures that would generate money for the existence of the nation at the top. Not the top that would generate for the rest of the country. So, you can see all the killings that are going on in the whole country, we are talking about insecurity, insecurity is generated by something. If you look at the whole world you find out that it is a system that is not justifiable. Time is very short, the Federal Government should listen to posterity, they should listen to those who actually know what is beneficial to the whole country. When you restructure this country as we are saying, every cultural group will benefit from it. They will compete with one another and learn from what others are doing. That was what happened in the past. In Pakistan, those that are in the forefront of the change we are talking about are the women. When you look at other countries where same things had happened and they have decided to decentralize, the women had to rise up. So, Nigerian women should no longer be idle, or sit at home because they have a family to cater for. If we have more women you will see that things would change. This is what has happened in places like Rwanda. In Rwanda, there are more women than men in their parliaments and in their local governments, in their universities as lecturers and so on. And you see what changes the women have brought. Go to South Africa, you now see that women are being emancipated. Why should Nigerians demean our women and make them look like ordinary harlots and yet they have families, they have children to give quality education. There is no real woman who will not want her own child to have real education. Our women are being suppressed. The day we have women protest in Nigeria, Nigeria will become right in six months.
You mean like the Aba women riot of 1929?
That’s a long time ago, I’m talking about today. Go to Egypt, go to Sudan, go to Hong Kong and see what is happening. The women are on fire because they are the breadwinners of their families. A woman has children and then you want them to be hungry and children that are not emaciated without good education? No virtuous woman wants her children to fall into these. How many women technocrats in Nigeria today are looting our money, how many? It is the men particularly. When you have 60 per cent of women in offices more than the men and you know that (women vote more in elections more than the men) the country would change for better.
What is your assessment of our judicial system considering the way the cases involving El-Zakzaky and Dasuki are being handled so far?
You can see what is happening at the Presidential Election Tribunal, it makes our situation a laughing stock. INEC could not go to prosecute its own defense; the APC couldn’t go to prosecute its own defense. Only the president that went and the witnesses the president called disagreed with the president and they are witnesses to the president. It’s so shoddy and sometimes laughable, but we shouldn’t laugh. Nigeria is an enormously blessed country, but if we do not treat these blessings properly, it becomes a curse like oil has become. A few people who do not have oil in their own land or territory have taken over the whole oil industry in Nigeria and mismanaged it. It is very shameful that a country like Nigeria does not have electricity. Without electricity how can the country grow, how can you employ people? Your goods and services become expensive because you are buying generators and fuel. If we abolish the importation of different generators/petrol, diesel, make it an offense for anybody to use generator within six months to one year, we will have light everywhere in Nigeria. Let us try alternative energy and you see Nigeria being lit up because God has blessed us with sun. Many Nigerian states can overtake many African states, any other Asian states, but it requires a lot of energy, it requires a lot of mental emancipation. If we don’t emancipate ourselves mentally we will continue to deteriorate until we become good for nothing, laughing stock of other countries and that is what is happening right now.
Talking about 2023, the Igbo are hoping for the presidency, the Yoruba want power and even the Hausa are not left out of the 2023 race, what is your opinion on this?
The Igbo are not talking about 2023. Restructure this country or let our people go. The Igbo under the present system have nothing to clap about. What we want today is that this year, the country should be restructured. When it is restructured anybody who wants to be president should be president for their own people. If we can’t restructure Igbo are saying, let our people go. You can’t bring our people into the entity called Nigeria and then you are suppressing us. Let our people go, but if you make our existence in Nigeria justifiable, equitable, beneficial for everybody Igbo and non-Igbo then its okay to be in a country called Nigeria. Carrot and stick; look at the so-called Igbo in the present ministerial lists, those Igbo ministers what are they doing there? What portfolios are they given? It’s a laughing stock. There are three, four of them and they are not in any productive ministry at all. They are Perm Sec and minister of state. Analyze it yourself. It’s a laughing stock of a cabinet.