By Olakunle Olafioye
DOCTOR Abdul-Jhalil Tafawa Balewa, former People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential aspirant, in this interview speaks on several burning national issues including the vociferous calls by sections of the country for secession, restructuring as well as the recently settled PDP legal battle. He equally proffers far-reaching solutions to the myriad of problems bedeviling the nation.
Nigerians are still groaning under the current administration despite claim by the government that it has been doing its best. What is your opinion on this?
As I will always say, we didn’t get into this situation in a day. The government is trying as much as possible to clear the murk that was on ground from several administrations. Nigerians must just be a little more patient.
Many are saying that it is over two years now that the party came to power. Besides, the initial impression by APC was that they had the magic wand to turn things around in a short time. There is no magic in life; only illusions. Because we didn’t get into this situation in two years, the chances of us being able to eradicate the debris in two years is slim and we just all have to join our hands and get focused and prioritise our needs as a nation. I think that is the best thing we have to do.
The call for secession by a section of the country has been variously interpreted. Some are of the opinion that it is a subtle call for Igbo presidency while some hold other views. Why in your opinion is the call more vociferous this time around?
It is perception. I remember a story about a man who went round about a town with a hat that was on one side painted white and the other side painted black. People on one side of the town saw that he had a black hat while other saw a white hat. On the issue of secession, it is very important for any government to better explain whatever it is doing to the people. Otherwise people may give different interpretations to what is going on. I believe very strongly that if that is done and everybody knows what government is doing and what they have to do to be able to help the government better, if everybody or if 75 per cent of the country understands this and have this kind of attitude, we will have a better country. I don’t think we will have any secession. Nigeria is incomplete without the Igbo, the Yoruba, the Hausa, the Igala, the Fulani, Edo and so on.
Those calling for secession are of the opinion that Nigeria does not want them, alleging that the current administration has grossly marginalized them?
How can Nigeria not want the Igbo? There is no city in this country you won’t find the Igbo. This is a complete falsehood and I don’t want us to continue to promote this falsehood. Most of the agitators calling for secession are people who were not born during the war or people that have lived abroad for most of their lives. No Igbo person living in any other part of the country feels this way. And most right thinking persons in the South-east know that we must live together. God put us together; let no one try to put us asunder.
Still on the issue of secession, there seems to be no consensus among the Igbo. While some are calling for Biafra others feel it should be restructuring. What do you make of this discordant tune?
Igbos are republicans; they meet, discuss issues and come up with one voice on their deliberations. In other parts of Nigeria we have Emirs, Kings and Obas, they are usually the conscience of their subjects. The main appellant for Biafra, one Nnamdi Kanu or Arewa youths do not fit into any of these cultural norms. Until Dr. Chris Ngige became governor of Anambra, South-easterners thought they were not getting anything from the center. These lies have been sewn in peoples’ minds for eons. Let these agitators question what their governors have done or are doing with their states’ allocations.This is where their quest should start. What is happening is very very discordant with the reality on ground.
If people are talking about restructuring, the idea will fizzle down now that the problem in the PDP has been doused because it seemed before as if power was lopsidedly given to one part of the country, that was why some people were standing up for restructuring. And it looked as if the North was very much against restructuring. If you look at any part of Nigeria you will see that there is no reason for any part of Nigeria not to do well. There is mineral resources deposit galore, we have very fertile land, even where there is desertification, we have the water trap technology to improve our agricultural output. So, those that are yearning for Biafra it’s because they didn’t experience the war. They didn’t realize how many people died during the war. Some people say people died on both sides during the war. There were no both sides, there is only one side- the people that died were Nigerians. It is about time we need to find solution to our problems. Whatever the problems are let’s sit down and think about how to solve them.
What nexus are you trying to create between the call for restructuring and PDP crisis?
Because our politics is so watered down and so diluted, there was an allegation that the President said he would only help those who voted him in. I don’t know how true this is. The president is a father to all and there should be equity to every part of the nation because the president is the father to everybody in the nation.
What do you think about APC’s non-disposition to the issue of restructuring, when it is one of the programmes listed on its manifesto?
Restructuring will actually be very expensive in Nigeria. Immediately after independence, what we had were three regions that were almost autonomous and took care of their own affairs while the central government only took care of things that concerned the nation as a whole: the military, roads, railways, national territorial integrity and it worked well because every region was growing at its own pace. But what we have now is different. We now have many states. It is not that some of them may not be able to survive on their own. Nigeria is abundantly wealthy, it is just that some of the governors we have are very lazy. Some of the governors, I think are not capable of governing council areas. If what they are talking about that the regions, like the zones we have now, should continue to take care of themselves there will still be continued agitations because the mid-westerners comprising the old Edo and Delta are crying for separation, the Middle Belt is crying for its separate region. Even if we have all these, I don’t know if there won’t be constant turmoil for further breakdown in the future. We need to think about this, think about how all these regions will be able to interact and interface with themselves, what the role of the federal government should be or are we going into a parliamentary system of government or are we creating a hybridized parliamentary system of government with a bi-cameral legislative capitalism; all of these need to be considered. I think the people agitating for restructuring need to understand the expenses that will follow.
The PDP recently wriggled itself out of a legal battle that has been threatening its survival. What does this portend for the nation’s politics now?
With PDP wriggling out of its quagmire but still having the same old people right there I wonder what will happen to our system because people didn’t like what PDP did before and voted APC in. Now they are complaining about APC while PDP seems to be coming back. Unless we change a new muslin for the new wine, I don’t think Nigeria is going to go forward. I have been watching from afar. I was the only presidential contender with Goodluck Jonathan. I haven’t heard from anyone to talk to me or seek my opinion. We need to involve the youths more in governance.The recyling of our older politicians that do not have much to contribute in this age of nano-technology must come to an immediate end. The same set of people is just going round like three blind mice. If we want a strong Nigeria, whether APC or PDP, those parties need to look at Nigeria improving, Nigeria getting better, because we are a great country; not what we have now. But until this is settled we’ll really not know where we are going.
As it is now that both parties seem to hold little or no prospect to improving the lots of the people, are we not drifting towards a situation where Nigerians will completely lose hope and get discouraged?
No, I pray not. One of the things that made America great is because people want more; they want better things and they used their voters’ card to achieve that. Instead of us getting mesmerized by these magicians turned politicians we need to have a better understanding and the idea of where we want to go. We need better educated populace that knows what politicians should be. A politician should be a servant to the people he is elected to serve. But instead in Nigeria, politicians are people that when they get there they are just trying to get as much of the piece of the cake as possible. I hope that Nigerians will now move to the next level where our people will be educated enough to ask the politicians what they want to do for them, not just politicking. That is the kind of politics we should be ready to play.
The faceoff between the Senate and the Presidency still lingers, what do you make of this tussle?
That is something that is very annoying but I don’t know how most Nigerians see it. If you look at what is happening between the gentleman at INEC and Senator Melaye. They wanted to know what he was doing with TETFUND. Of course he will have to shut the door because nobody in power, except when looking down the barrel of a gun, will want to lose power. I am happy the CJN is trying to see what is really happening. We also saw what happened between the NHIS Executive Secretary and the Minister of Health. Exactly the same with the Senate and the Presidency. Fortunately, the Acting President is a constitutional lawyer. He knows the limits of where everything should be. If there was no fear, I don’t see any reason why they should create a problem. I see a form of narcissism and arrogance coming from the Senate. I could be wrong, that is my interpretation of it, and this is a very personal view.
Let us focus on moving this country forward instead of battling on this issue that is of no consequence to anybody except them. What is the Senate or the House of Representatives afraid of? Whose goat has Magu stolen? What these people in the Senate and House of Reps are bringing up make very little sense to the rest of us. They are totally out of step with the rest of the country. Everybody sees these offices as over-bloated. When a large majority of the country is trying to make ends meet, you have the so-called people that are supposed to give us solace fighting. It means very little.
There have been calls for legislative action on the 2014 Confab report. Are you in support of this?
I don’t unsupport it. We have had several national confabs before. The people that say they want these national Confabs are the people asking for restructuring, and that is the way to move the country forward in their view. The people that are asking that this confab should not be executed are people who feel it may work against then. What we need is to be able to sieve through. Let’s find out what the majority of Nigerians want because the talking heads now are those who have access to the media. We need to have a referendum. We need to statistically get what Nigerians want. Let Nigerians say what they want and let us move forward. What concerns us all should be approved by all, or in the least a definite majority within all.