From David Onwuchekwa
First Aviation Minister in the First Republic, Chief Mbazulike Amechi has tackled President Muhammadu Buhari for describing Ndigbo as a dot-in-a- circle, condemning the wrong choice of words and lack of diplomacy on the part of Mr President.
He also talked about agitation for self-determination and revealed what he would have done, if he were in President Buhari’s shoes. Chief Amechi who has just clocked 92 years looked at other national issues. Excerpt:
President Muhammadu Buhari recently called the Igbo a dot in circle. What is your reaction to that?
Buhari’s deep-rooted hatred for Ndigbo is not a new thing. Buhari’s lack of diplomacy even in government and use of diplomatic language or the language that fits a president is well known in Nigeria because as at today, even though Buhari is not wearing a military uniform, he is still the same soldier who overthrew a Fulani-led government in 1983 because the constitution of the then National Party of Nigeria (NPN) said that the next president of the country will be an Igbo man and Buhari swore that an Igbo will never be a president of the country. So, his hatred for Ndigbo and everything Igbo is not a new thing to me. And then his poor choice of language as a president, a real president would have found better words to use than that expression that Ndigbo are a dot in a circle. That is a poor choice of words, very unpresidential. That is all I can say about it. Now, yes, he said that the Southeast, that Igbo do not have access to the sea. There are many countries of the world that have no access to the sea yet they function. I have said it personally that I believe in a bigger country, Nigeria that I fought for. I dedicated my entire youth to the struggle for independence of Nigeria, a big country. And up till today I don’t believe that Nigeria should break. But if Nigeria breaks, Buhari is responsible for the breaking of the country. If this country disintegrates, Buhari should accept total responsibility for it because it is his actions and inactions that have brought the whole thing in Nigeria to the level we are now.
What is your opinion about the President’s plan to return grazing routes and open grazing even when the Southern governors have banned it?
This question of Fulanis and cattle herders and all that is a new language and it only came up in Buhari’s regime. There have been governments in Nigeria. There were NCNC and AG in Nigeria as political parties. There have been military regimes in Nigeria. The Fulanis were bringing their cattle to the East, West and South to sell. Buhari is the only president who wants to equate Fulani economy and empire with his attempt to Fulanize Nigeria and to Islamize Nigeria. That is what is causing the whole trouble. That is for allowing the Fulanis to be armed and allowing his government, people inside his government to arm the herders and they come down here, they shoot people, they damage crops, they rape women, kidnap people and not one of them has been arraigned in any court of law even though those who are arrested and handed over to the police are released the following day. What kind of president is that? The younger elements who are agitating for separation, agitating for Biafra or even the Yoruba now apart from the South-south which is another question which will be dealt with later. Will the South-south talk, are they free to talk?
Let’s leave that. Those who are free to talk are talking. Now, the younger elements say instead of being slaves to Fulanis after coming out from British imperialism to Fulani Empire, the Igbo say we don’t support that. My own case is that the younger elements who did not see how we ran the country before they were born, how there was equity and balance in the country grew up to see themselves marginalized in their own country, rendered poor in the midst of plenty in their own country, and they said no, the system has to be changed because we have never been slaves in our lifetime. Our history shows we have never been slaves, let us go. A human president, a president with human feelings would not have stopped them of that. All he has to do is to conduct a plebiscite and ask Igbo to come and vote whether really they should go based on what these younger elements are saying or remain. How is he (Buhari) sure, in any case that if a plebiscite is called the majority will say we will go. Igbo have so many investments in other parts of Nigeria and West Africa. Igbo abroad are more in population and richer than Igbo at home. And so, they would certainly want that spread to be. The only thing they want is freedom, give us equity and balance that is all they are asking for in the affairs of the country. Let us compete with others, but you cannot come and take our general wealth and deny us our fair share. That is what they are saying. So, the proper thing would have been let’s go and do the plebiscites, if the majority says we will go, let them go in peace. If the majority says we will not go, no we are not going, then they will remain and negotiate and find out what is their anger, what is the problem and all that and then solve them. That is the way I should have handled it, if I were in the position of the president. If the man is the kind of man who would listen to advice, that is what I would have advised him to do. He doesn’t take good advice and always being misled by the cabals around him. He is not free again. Have you seen a president who has never made a speech himself except occasionally when he reads what is written for him by his speech writers and they pass it on to him, which he revises a number of times and then come to read it. After reading it, have you ever seen him take any question from the press? You are a pressman find out.
Let’s return to grazing routes and open grazing.
Despite the ban placed by the Southern Governors, Mr President insists that the ban will not hold.
What is your take on that?
The president has no such power even under the military constitution we are operating in Nigeria. He has no power to decide on land matters in the states. The states have the powers to decide on what to do with land in the individual states not the Federal Government. He cannot implement it, he cannot exercise it, although as a dictator, he can send soldiers to go and show force and all that. But the question is, it is all the same illegality that is going on otherwise he has no powers at all to do that. The presidency has nothing to say about this is a grazing ground, this is not a grazing ground, no. Only states governments have that right.
What was the relationship like with nomadic Fulani herders in your days and at what point did we get it wrong?
In my days, I belonged to a political party that did not discriminate. The Fulanis were bringing their cattle. Those who lived permanently bought the cattle and the cattle were escorted on the roads. There were no so many trailers in our days. They were taking them along the road, but they were not allowed into farms. There was discipline then. Allowing them into farms is to provoke crisis to kill the people and that is what they are doing now. And that is what they continue to do. So, in our own time they mixed up well with our people. There was peace and harmony. One of the Fulanis, Alhaji Umaro was elected a member of Eastern House of Chiefs. Another young Fulani man was made the Mayor of Enugu, a Fulani man from Sokoto. He was elected two terms as a Mayor of Enugu because he was a President of Enugu youth branch of NCNC which I was serving as Secretary General. So, they were just part of us. They had absolute freedom and we were all living in peace and harmony. Nobody disturbed them. They were not particularly educated, but if we found any of them showing interest in education, we encouraged them to embrace education. The point we got it wrong is at the point of Muhammadu Buhari as the president of Nigeria. That was when the whole thing started. It didn’t start in Shagari’s time, it didn’t start in Olusegun Obasanjo’s time, it didn’t start in Goodluck Jonathan’s time. It started with President Buhari because of his other ambition of colonizing Nigeria, that Nigeria is a property bequeathed to them by Uthman Dan Fodio. That is the point we got it wrong.
Anambra governorship election will come up on November 6 as scheduled by the INEC. What are your expectations, advice to political parties and Anambra people?
The individual political parties are doing their game. Some of the aspirants have come to me to inform me they are interested in the election. They asked for my prayer and I prayed that God may make the best among them to lead Anambra for the next four or eight years. It won’t be said that the present government we have is any of the best. That thing there is a one-man show. So, he is going out next year, let him go out. Whosoever wins, let him know that Anambra State has wise men. Anambra has great names and great men in Nigeria. Let him realize that Anambra is full of hard-working men and women. And let him know that Anambra State is a state where people know their rights and are not prepared to shy away from them and then they should stop stealing from government. My doubt about free and fair election is on the interference of Abuja, otherwise if it is a question of voting I have no doubt that there will be free voting. But then manipulating the result is what I don’t know because the constitution is such now that the military in their desire to promote military government in Nigeria concentrated all powers in Abuja. So, Abuja can still interfere, but I do hope they will not. I have not heard that the IPOB said there will be no election. If the election is going to be disturbed it will come from the Federal Government in order to create the atmosphere for a state of emergency in Anambra State. The Federal Government through their secret service, through their Gestapo could or may do it in such a way that it will be said based on this we can declare state of emergency and so forth. So, voters and politicians should be weary of that. They should not give them the chance. I advise Anambra people to do a peaceful election.