Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu, a revered politician and scientist in this interview with STANLEY UZOARU expressed his mind on the security challenges in the country and ways to tackling it. He, however, attributed most of the challenges to Nigeria’s poor immigration system which he said allows every Tom, Dick and Harry to lay claim to its citizenship. Also, he recalled the troubled days with maverick politician, Senator Arthur Nzeribe.
How do you feel about the reoccurring cases of kidnap in the country today?
Well, it underscores the bad security situation in the country; this is what we have been speaking to President Buhari about, that everything needs to be done to secure Nigeria. Every Nigerian citizen needs to have a sense of security in his home country and we say President, take note of that, give it a special attention in the interest of all Nigerians, whether from the North East or South East or even South West or North Central, every Nigerian needs a sense of security. That is very important. I hope Mr President is taking note of these complaints from all kinds of Nigerians.
Do you think the federal government is living up to its expectation in resolving it?
I think the President is making some efforts. For example, the recent instructions to the armed forces on security appears to have come from the President but what is important is, how effective it is. Any measure that is taken should be very effective to average Nigerian. The average Nigerian wants to stay alive first before he talks of what to eat or drink, it is very important.
There have been outcries of herdsmen invasion on farmlands in Imo State lately. If you were in the governor’s shoes, how would you tackle it?
The best way to handle that kind of situation is to identify who is a citizen of Nigeria and who is not; all over, the important countries are careful of those they admit into their country. If you want to go to the US now, it’s a problem getting their visa, if you want to go to UK, Germany, it is difficult getting their visas because they want to minimise those that are entering their territories. So, if the government of Nigeria is very serious of the insecurity situation of the average Nigerian, they should mount proper surveillance on those who want to enter Nigeria, they must have them properly screened, they must have means of livelihood, because if you allow somebody who is not employed to come into Nigeria, the man has to eat, has to drink, and that leads to temptation if he has no means of making money. He may start thinking of funny things to do in order to raise money to eat. So, they want to minimise that in a descent country. If the country is decent, the people being admitted must be very decent.
I guess that was your suggestion as the President; now what if you were Governor Ihedioha?
If I am the governor of a state, I will take special interest in those who are entering the state, knowing their identity, everybody would have an identity; if you don’t have an identity, you are not a citizen. There is national ID; there is driver’s licence, there must be a place where your name is recorded, that is very important. If you don’t do that, you are exposing the people to the market square because anything can happen in the market. Whoever is entering Imo State, if I am the governor, I must know the person; I must know his credentials, I must know what he is coming to do in Imo, whether he is coming to do business or live in Imo, those things are very important now, you don’t joke with it. If you do, you will be joking with the lives of your citizens.
The Igbo are jostling to take over from Buhari in 2023; in all fairness, do you think this is achievable?
They are Nigerians, why can’t they achieve it? They are one of the most populous ethnic groups in the country. There are three major ethnic groups and the Igbo are one of the three; they need to occupy the position. Other people have been doing that; Yoruba have done it several times; the Hausa/Fulani have done it several times, even our brother, minority Ijaw, have done it. We supported Jonathan, so why can’t we now? We have supported all the presidents. Those who wanted to be President, from the West, the Middle Belt, I supported all of them. so, why can’t they support the Igbo now? This is how to build a stable and peaceful country; you must be fair to all the parts of the country. If you are not fair to them, that means you have hidden agenda to the particular people and that would have a reverse reaction in their minds which would not make for peace in the country. If anybody wants Nigeria to be at peace, they should give the presidency to the Igbo. I admire the northerners and the westerners who have been championing it, the way they have spoken; Balarabe Musa and so many others, they said give it to the Igbo, remove your hand, it’s their turn, let it be for Ndigbo alone; just as we brought out Olu Falae and Obasanjo from Yorubaland some time ago, only the two of them were the candidates and we supported them, eventually one of them became the president, they should do the same thing for Ndigbo.
President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo might take its turn of rotation to Imo, who would you tip to become the next President-General?
(Laughs) Well, it is still far, as an old politician, I have to watch and see. I have to watch those who are showing interest, I want to know their character, I want to know their antecedents, I want to know if they want to go and collect money and sell the interest of Ndigbo, I want to know if they just want to use it to advance their political career, those things cannot mix. Ohanaeze is a sociocultural organisation, it is not a socio-political organisation, so, whoever has political ambition cannot go there. They have to allow it for those who have cultural values, who understand Igbo tradition, allow it for them, those who have political ambition either to become governor or president should not go for the President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. It is not like Afenifere; Afenifere in the West is a socio-political organisation, it is not socio-cultural; Ohanaeze is a sociocultural organisation. So, I am going to support a socio-cultural personality who has integrity, who has character for which the Igbo are praised, admired, so, let them come, we are watching them, very soon, we would make our position known.
Can you give us five likely best shots for the position?
You are giving me a tough task, however, it’s too early. There are some names in my mind, I would want to think it over before I answer that question, because anybody I mention now is important, I can’t just mention anybody. People know my standard; I have to take that standard into consideration before I mention them.
Recently, maverick politician, Senator Arthur Nzeribe turned 81; could you recount some of your experiences with him?
Nzeribe has done his bit in politics; he has been a senator of my senatorial zone, Orlu. We both disagreed in SDP. I don’t hold this against him, I have forgiven him, I am a Christian; he was opposing my candidature because he wanted another person and all that, no problem, the past is gone. Arthur Nzeribe is my friend; if he had invited me to his birthday bash, I would have attended and wished him many more years, no problem, it’s okay.
For not inviting you like you pointed out, do you think he is still bearing grudges against you?
I don’t know why he did not invite me, may be because he has so many friends to invite and I am not one of the important friends, no problem (laughs).