Jude Chinedu, Enugu
Personal aide to Nigeria’s first President, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Maxi Ukatu is an elder statesman. The chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said that beyond the genuine clamour for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023, what the Igbo need more in Nigeria is justice and fairness.
The Second Republic politician also lambasted some Northern elders for saying that the North will retain power beyond 2023. He, therefore, advised Southeast governors to make their position on the controversial RUGA settlement clearer to the masses to avoid unnecessary tension.
The controversy surrounding RUGA settlement has refused to die down in the Southeast, as an elder statesman, what do you think is the solution to this problem?
All I have to say is that those who brought RUGA had put in a solution. They said it is for the accepting states. No state can be forced to adopt RUGA. You either accept it or reject it and I know that the Southeast governors have rejected it. So, there is nothing more one can say about RUGA settlement unless for people who want to be sensational about it. As far as I’m concerned, the problem of RUGA has been solved. The populace need guidance. It is left for the leaders to explain to them. We don’t have to over flog an issue. RUGA is not coming here and our people need to know about it. The most important thing is that our leaders not only said no to RUGA, but have rejected it in any form or acronym it may be introduced.
Some Northern elders have expressed the unwillingness to relinquish power to the South, especially the Southeast in 2023. How do you react to this?
Let me tell you, I don’t have anything against Igbo presidency or disposed about it. What I’m passionate about is the development of our people more especially infrastructure and human development. That’s my concern. I can tell you that by 2023, the presidency will come to Southeast. But we have to put our acts together. There must be unity among our people. We’ve shown a very bad aspect of our people to other Nigerians, when a presidential candidate picked an Igbo son to be his running mate. We don’t have any cause to have stood against him. I thought in my humble opinion that the moment he picked our son, that we would all cue behind our son. I expected that we team together and work with him and not to castigate him because he has been named a vice presidential candidate. With this type of attitude, we are going nowhere. I am surprised at some of the statements being ascribed to Ango Abdullahi. Since he retired as Vice Chancellor, I wouldn’t regard him as talking at any time for the interest of the nation. One would expect that with his age and level of experience, he would be a jolly good patriot. But if he feels in his conscience that after all these years of presidency rotating between the North and West that it is right to say it will not come to Southeast, good luck to him. What I am saying is that Ango Abdulahi is not God to decide where the next president of Nigeria will come from.
What do you think is the solution to the continued clamour for Biafra by different groups in the Southeast?
If I have to be honest with you, in my humble opinion, what the Igbo require is justice and fairness. I remember a lecture by the Great Zik of Africa in 1972 at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN): “Unity with diversity”. You’ll find out that there is greater advantage to all the component parts when we remain as one. What is disturbing us is the injustice being meted to us. If there is justice, the answer to your question is that I prefer all of us being in a united Nigeria, but justice must be the key word extended to all the parts that make up Nigeria; the advantages of being united is enormous.
Why is the world yet to see the massacre during the civil war as genocide?
I tell you something, this issue you raised is a mere academic exercise. Nobody has gone back to look into the causes of the civil war. There is need for that. It was only General Yakubu Gowon through his ‘Nigeria Prays’ outfit that went to Asaba to say sorry to what happened to them during the war as an individual. But to me, it should be a national approach where we as Nigerians will say to the people that a lot of injustice has been meted to you, that we are very sorry and promise that we will all work hand in hand to make sure that such thing will never happen again. Not only in Asaba, but other parts of the country that injustice has been meted to. We could not have fought this war. All the indices indicated so. But a few individuals were responsible for what truncated the efforts then. Gowon was a young man when he became the leader of a complicated country like Nigeria. When the crisis was brewing, he appointed some delegates from all the regions in Nigeria then to find a solution. They deliberated on the matter, concluded their assignment and sought an appointment through the proper channel to reach the Head of State to submit their report. We heard that a few individuals went to the Head of State that they want to destroy the country. You know a young man, they advised Gowon and instead of inviting them to come and submit their report, the group was disbanded. Too many people that wanted peace were disappointed. The Head of State of Ghana at that time was so livid and disappointed. He then arranged and invited his military colleagues, despite persuasion on (Chukwuemeka Odumegwu) Ojukwu not to go, he went. They all went to Aburi in Ghana, they met on their own and arrived unanimously on issues and signed up the agreement. Coming back to Nigeria, the same powerful civil servants who were labelled super Perm Secs truncated the agreement by persuading Gowon not to implement it. That made Ojukwu to come up with the saying that ‘ On Aburi we stand’. It was the failure of that Aburi that led to the shooting war. Even though we participated in the war, some of us do not know what happened. It would be interesting to find out from those who influenced Gowon to take some of the decisions that led to the war to tell us what their motive was. Some of them are still alive. People like Allison Ayida, Damshida, Gobri, Ahmed Joda, Sydney Asiodu and other Super Perm Secs. It will be a national treasure and will help us to build our nation and stop all these unnecessary agitations.
What’s your advice to Southeast governors?
I remembered that during the government of Zik and M.I. Okpara, emphasis was placed on infrastructure, human development and regional scholarship where they trained many promising young men. Let them improve on what we already have. If you can take a trip to Adani Farm where we cultivated Ada Rice, you will understand what I mean. This is a very large farm which if improved on; it will check and control unemployment in this part of the country.
The military changed its operation code from Python Dance to Atilogwu Udo. Does this make any difference to you?
I’m not a military man, but I know the military is doing a great job for this country though there could be infractions here and there. Atilogwu Udo is a symbol of peace. As you know, the python is not a good thing in a part of the country. So, I don’t think I have anything whatsoever against the country. What I am after is that there should be peace and justice in Nigeria.
The 8th Senate was not in cordial relationship with the president like the 9th Senate. Is it because the 9th Senate is mainly controlled by the APC?
Let me tell you, I believe the relationship of 8th Assembly with the Presidency was healthy for democracy. Mahatma Ghandi said that in any democracy where you don’t have a dissenting voice, know that something is wrong. So, I hope the 9th Assembly, even though it is APC, but thank God both Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila are showing signs of maturity and statesmanship. So, I believe the cordial relationship between them is what is should be, but I hope it will not be abused. But with the way I see the two personalities, I don’t think there will be any abuse.
The present government has been accused in many quarters of over borrowing. What is your advice?
I don’t have all the facts, but if as the Minister of Finance said that the money being borrowed is 20 per cent of our GDP; I don’t have any fear about the borrowing, that’s if what the minister said is true. The problem we have in Nigeria is resource management. A recent issue came up. There was an agreement between the Federal Government and the international oil companies that the agreement as to profit sharing be reviewed because it was based on $20. All these years, corruption played its part. Oil came up to $100 and nobody referred to that agreement. The money that has accumulated to Federal Government now is over $100 billion and the oil companies don’t want to talk about equity. All they are saying is that Nigeria slept; its right and we should let it go? We don’t let things like that go. If that money came into Nigeria’s account because it belongs to Nigeria, it will automatically wipe out all that we have borrowed or currently owe. All we need is peace and dedication. Like I said before, peace, justice and fair play and Nigeria will be better because we have a beautiful and great country. You can’t find any country as endowed as Nigeria.