Dan Nwanyanwu is the National Chairman of the Zenith Labour Party, (ZLP). A onetime national president of the National Union of Banks and Financial Institutions, (NUBIFIE), a member of the 2014 National Conference, and immediate past national chairman of Labour Party, (LP) he spoke with CHIDI OBINECHE on contemporary national issues including the arrest and arraignment of Nnamdi Kanu, lopsided appointments, open grazing, secession and President Buhari, among others.
Open grazing of cattle is now controversial. Where do you know it started from, and when is it ending?
The issue of open grazing has become obsolete, and I don’t want to say it will be our albatross, neither will I say it is something that will cause problem in this country. It is outdated. We handled this issue at the National Conference of 2014, where I participated. We dealt with the issue of open grazing and it was exhaustively discussed.
I remember it was discussed for almost three days. We came to the conclusion that ranching is the way to go, and that if we adopt ranching, it will help the cows, it will help the herders, they will have better yield and then better meat and milk for the people. So that was our decision. I don’t know why, or who advised the president not to look at that conference report, but I am sure some of his people must have gone through it. There is no problem we are encountering today that was not discussed at the conference, and that was why we arrived at 620 decisions, all taken unanimously. There were Fulani, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba there. There was no tribe that was not there at the conference. There were people from different sectors of the economy and we handled it as patriots, not looking at where we came from. I’ll give you an example, even though the president is not looking at the issue of the report of the conference. They have taken one decision we agreed upon- North East Development Commission. That was the child of our brain. We were just five; myself, Raymond Dokpesi, late Yinka Odunmakin, Tunde Bakare. We were five; all of us from the South. There were no northerners in our midst when we plotted it. It was at the time that killings, destructions were every day, every hour occurrences in the North East. We said no; they have destroyed the North East. Let us create something to rebuild the North-East so that it will be a template for other northern states who are still living in those old shanty houses. Then, we allocated certain percentage of our national resources to the proposed commission. I don’t want to go into the politics of how the northern delegates wanted it to be for the entire north. We told them no. It should not be like revenue allocation. We were attacking specific problems in the North-East. Five of us, all southerners plotted it, brought it into the conference, pushed it, and it passed through. That will tell you the patriotic zeal and our nationalistic attributes.
There was an attempt by some South-East delegates to bring in the issue of reconstruction and rehabilitation, the 3RS that Gowon pronounced in the South East after the civil war. When they brought it to me, I said no; let us not spoil things. That was why that proposal did not come before the conference. Most people did not know, but those of us from that geo-political zone knew that there was something like South-East marginalization. However, the proposal to address the marginalization did not pass through; merely because I refused to present it. Forget that the Federal Government has done nothing infrastructurally for us, but God has helped us to develop our place. If you remove Lagos and Abuja; there is no city in this country that can match the South-East when it comes to infrastructure.
On the issue of open grazing, the president should not continue to talk about it. It will not fly, and in fact, he referred to a gazette. They talked about a gazette that is not federal- oriented. Go and look at it. It was for and in northern Nigeria.
Is what you’re saying real or mere speculation?
No, it exists. That was what the Northern Regional Government gazetted for the north. There was nothing like open grazing area in the South per se, apart from the one in Ibadan where they have two routes. So why are we talking about it? Even the way we live in the South-East, there’s nowhere a cow can pass through our compounds. It is different from the mass area in the north. Governor Ganduje has accepted that he has enough land in Kano and has donated it. Even Katsina governor has said the same thing. So why are they not taking the opportunity? It is not tidy to use our money to build grazing areas. They are trying to create problems in the country. It will not work. It will not fly, unless the government wants to generate war that it will fight itself. Open grazing is outdated. It will not work, and I’m happy most northern governors, most northern allies are opposed to it as I am opposed to it.
President Buhari gave himself a pass mark in terms of appointments. He said he has been able to do justice and fairness in the nature of his appointments. Do you think his appointments can stand the test of equity, fairness and all that?
You see, there’s no need for me to flog a dead horse. The taste of the pudding is in the eating. The president has the right to award himself pass mark, and of course, no leader would award himself below pass mark. Despots in all African countries didn’t know they were doing something wrong until their regime ended. So, the issue of appointments, the president has judged what fairness is, what is equity, and what is justice by his own criteria, and he said he has been doing that religiously. Okay, leave the president with that, go outside the presidency and ask questions. Of course, you have heard the senate president a few days ago; you have heard some APC leaders admit that his appointments are lopsided. They are trying to be fair. So, do you need to go to the moon to find the truth? At times we should use our tongue to count our teeth? Then, we should know that as the basis of the crises we are having in Nigeria today- injustice, lack of equity, lack of fairness, lack of openness, preferential treatment, tribalism, nepotism, lack of openness in the system. You saw some of the bandits arrested in the north who claimed that they are not being carried along by government, so they decided to upturn the system so that they will get attention. I am not justifying what they are doing. So people are now trying to take their destiny in their own hands. The day you start reversing all these things, the problems will begin to fall away on their own. I spoke to some of your colleagues from other media houses recently, and I told them that the president, Muhammadu Buhari is the only person that has the antidote, the solution to the crises in this country. Any day that he is satisfied that enough is enough, he will just take one, two, three steps, and his name will be cleansed. But because the president has not shown any political will to resolve the insecurity in the land that is why we are having these crises. In the South-East, who made Nnamdi Kanu? President Buhari made him. He threw him up. When in 2016, he was hounding him with force, I cautioned. I gave example with Uwazuruike of MASSOB – Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra. I said, leave this thing, it will fizzle out. The Igbo race is a unique race, and I thought Nigerians understood them. But with what is happening in Nigeria today, they don’t know them. All they have to say about them is that they are greedy; they love money. That is all they know about the Igbo man. They have not bothered to study the philosophy of the Igbo man. They have not tried to know what is within the spirit of the Igbo man. So, leave them with what they are doing. Don’t press them, don’t go for them. Leave them; as long as they are not killing anybody, they are not destroying things; allow them to have their say. They didn’t listen. Immediately they started attacking these people, attacked Kanu’s family house, killed some people, even the father and the mother died in the process, the situation changed. Of course, you lost your parents in the process, he would shrug shoulders and say ‘ okay, what is left?’
Is Uwazurike not there today? Is he still making the same noise? Even at that, in Igbo land, if the elite are not part of an event or action, it does not work. I said sometime last year that we are lucky the elite have not keyed into the IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) structure. I said that if we have ten per cent of the elite involved in the IPOB/ESN struggle, we would be talking a different story. The elite in Igbo land are not keen, they are not interested. They see them as young people who are trying their intellect, playing and joking. As far as they are concerned, it is no issue. It is those of you that are from outside Igbo land that are being disturbed. IPOB never killed anybody. IPOB never destroyed anything, until they started killing them. It was a peaceful organisation up to the point they were banned. Those who were killing, maiming, raping, destroying and hoisting their flags, nobody touched them. None was arrested or prosecuted, to the best of my knowledge till today. So where is the fairness? Where is the equity? Where is the justice? So when you are a leader, and the people see that you hate them with passion, they also have the right to hate you. They have the right to also give you equal measure and are ready for you to come and kill them. That is what is happening between President Buhari and the South-East. In fact, they are trying to change the narrative that everybody who is Igbo , including you and myself, are IPOB and ESN members. It is a lie from the pit of hell. I want a bigger Nigeria that is restructured to give everybody equal opportunity; equal opportunity to development; equal access to facilities. That is the Nigeria I want, because I still believe that the Igbo are better in a well-structured Nigeria, than being in a “dot”.
How do you see the “dot” comment by Buhari?
(Laughter) Go and ask some Igbo, they will tell you that they prefer to be a “dot” in a useless circle. They will tell you all sorts of things. You see, Buhari has also helped them to make money. They mass-produced fez caps, Tee shirts immediately that comment on “dot in a circle” was made, and smiled to the banks. I leant that in two weeks, they made hundreds of millions of Naira. About one million of those items sold out in two weeks and people brandished and wore them with pride. It was intended to abuse them, but they are now making jest with it and are making money from it. They said “I am proud to be a “dot” in a useless circle”. That is their reply. Nigeria is a sweet country. God put so much here. But the problem with the country has to do with leadership. Nigeria is the easiest country to govern in Africa, if not in the whole world. Nigerians don’t expect much from any government. Just give them a little, they will sing your praises. Government is not ready to do it. Look at the corruption going on today.
Do you think there will be 2023?
I don’t know and I cannot prophesy. I can only use my human conviction to draw assessment with what we are seeing. Something has to be done with what everyone is asking for. Government should attempt to address the concerns expressed by Nigerians from the South-West, South-East, North-Central and so on. If they don’t, I suspect that having 2023 election will be like forcing it on the people, when they don’t want it, and they will elect an unpopular president. That is that. You are a president but you are in the minority. That is when the whole thing will crystallize. We have reached a point now where we should drop our pride and ego and address the issues that will move Nigeria forward.