• “We can’t continue to watch the killings of men of God”
The Anglican Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province and Bishop of Enugu Diocese, His Grace, Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma, has described President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration of June 12 as Nigeria’s new Democracy Day and the conferment of the highest national honour on Chief M.K.O. Abiola as embarrassing. According to him, if the Federal Government has now decided to revalidate the result of June 12 election, then it should go ahead and prosecute former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, who annulled the election.
He also re-echoed the view that former Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Prof Humphrey Nwosu, who supervised the June 12 election, deserves recognition.
The bishop warned against any plot to rig the 2019 elections, declaring that it would spell doom for the country.
He spoke on other burning national issues like the frame up allegation against the Federal Government by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, insecurity and the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Act, among others. Excerpts:
He speaks on other major national issues including the face-off between President Muhammadu Buhari and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the killings by suspected herdsmen among others.
What is your take on the controversy trailing the award of the highest national honour to the late Chief M.K.O Abiola and the declaration of June 12 as Nigeria’s new Democracy Day?I find
it very embarrassing that it is coming at the tail end of this administration and in a pre-election period. And one will ask: Why was it not done before now. The June 12 the president has declared as new Democracy Day will come after the 2019 general election and even after May 29 handover date. So, does he really have the right to make such announcement at the tail end of his administration when he is not sure if he will be in government by June 12 next year? Number two, one is embarrassed that someone who was not sworn in even though he won an election was conferred with the highest honour in the land. I think that honour is reserved to someone that was sworn in as president. Yes, Abiola won an election, but he was not sworn in as president. So, I think it is erroneous for him to have conferred Abiola with the honour. Those who are advising him should advise him rightly. Abiola was not sworn in and any person that was not sworn in does not deserve the highest honour in the country. It is, therefore, seen as a gimmick to woo the South-west for their votes in 2019, which I think will not solve his problem because people are tired of this present government. I feel he is trying to play on the intelligence of Nigerians. He should address the issue of hunger, poverty, high standard of living and unemployment that is facing the people rather than deploying this sort of diversionary tactics that will make some people to think that he is a good man.
The other issue is that you are talking about revalidating June 12 without prosecuting the person who annulled it. I think that Babangida should be called to book; he should be asked some questions. If really the government has now decided that June 12 was real, then Babangida should be prosecuted for annulling an election, which all Nigerians participated in with their hearts. So, Babagida has a question in this case; he should apologise to Nigerians now. There is no doubt that Nigerians voted for their choice in that election, but because of their military might and selfishness, they annulled it. Also, the late Gani Fawehinmi was given a posthumous honour on account of June 12; but how about the person who boldly announced the result? Humphrey Nwosu should also be given an award. He should be honoured for being bold to announce the result. People are also advocating that Abiola’s wife, Kudirat, should be honoured, but I don’t approve of that. Kudirat doesn’t deserve it because it is the men who are at the helm of affairs that they gave the highest award to. So, the call that the president should give the award to Kudirat is not right because no president’s wife has ever been given any such ward. So, I don’t know what qualifies Kudirat and so I differ from that. Again, I think it is now absolutely necessary for us to stop military democracy in this country. With the military democracy we are experiencing now, no military man should be allowed to go into politics and head this nation any more. We should have pure democracy, which is civilian democracy. That is what will help this nation than people feeling that they can use their military might to intimidate others. As far as I’m concerned, that is not democracy.
You are calling for Babangida’s prosecution for annulling the June 12 election. Do you think that it is possible under this government?
Yes! We can see that there is military witch-hunt going on in the country. So, he should not just talk about Obasanjo or any other person. Babangida should not be seen as innocent in the annulment of the June 12 election. He should be called to explain certain things. If we say that the election was free, fair and credible and that Abiola won it, then the person who caused the confusion should be prosecuted or made to apologise to Nigerians.
What is justification for the call on the government to also honour Humphrey Nwosu who obeyed Babangida’s and stopped announcing the result of the election?
He declared the result, but Babangida annulled it. He declared the result! He was manhandled and maltreated for announcing the result. I live with him in Enugu here. Mind you that he was hospitalised for some weeks. So, we knew what he went through for announcing the result. If he didn’t announce the result there wouldn’t have been any annulment. That was what happened and he should be credited for being bold enough to announce the result for Nigerians to know that Abiola won the election.
You are one of those who say that Buhari should go home and rest. How would you comment on the Not-Too-Young-To-Run bill that was recently signed into law by the president?
Well, the president has signed a verdict of exit from power. His signing of the bill is a verdict of exit for him, but he doesn’t know. The law should serve as a signal to him that it’s time for youths to take over. Thirty-five years ago, he made a statement that youths are the leaders of tomorrow. But 35 years after, he is still there. So, when will the youths be leaders of tomorrow? The youths are eager to lead so they should be empowered and given the opportunity now to also do their best to make Nigeria what it should be. We are tired of these old people; most of these people who are in government now, including the Senate are over 70 or almost 70. Most of them had been in government before and are expired. As far as I am concerned, they should go and rest and allow younger Nigerians to take charge in this digital era. We need new people with new spirit to lead a new Nigeria. Nigeria deserves a new spirit now and I am happy some young people are coming up. Nigerians should begin to take the opportunity of the signing of the bill to exit these elderly people out of power; they can remain as consultants and advisers. I think that if he (Buhari) loves himself, he should not yield to the voice of the cabal that is asking him to continue because they are benefiting from him. God has given him the grace to have better health now; he should go back to his village and enjoy what God has given to him because nobody knows tomorrow. There are complaints and conspiracies all over the place to make sure he does not continue. So, for him not to be shown the way out in a disgraceful way, or for him not to die in the process of trying to force himself on Nigerians, he should try as much as possible to obey the voice of reason and exit. People are complaining of hunger, there is violence more than ever before and more lives are being lost, the exchange rate has not come down and unemployment and crime have increased. So, I don’t see any change in the polity. Rather what we see is hardship. We need someone who has integrity. I’m not defending any political party whether PDP or APC. All of them have lost their relevance. We need people who have integrity, people who have robust background and pedigree, people who have performed before and can perform, people who have something doing not people who take politics as a job and not as a sacrifice to take over the mantle of leadership. We need people who are ready to serve this country and not to sap it. We need people who love this country and who are willing to work to make Nigeria better so that the youths of our time will enjoy the resources God has given to us, which are being mismanaged by a bad government. None of the people there now is free; even right now there is till corruption in high places. The present government has also been involved in corruption by allowing the Service Chiefs who ought to have retired to remain in office. If others are retiring, if people who are 65/70 years old or those who have put 35 years in service are retiring, keeping the Service Chiefs who are due for retirement is corruption. And that is not acceptable because if you are fighting corruption, you have to fight corruption in its entirety. If they re-examine themselves, they will acknowledge that many of them are still corrupt.
The youth appear not ready to take advantage of the new law given the fact that they are asking for waivers from the political parties instead of testing their strength at the polls. For instance, they say that the parties should reserve 50 per cent of elective positions for them. Isn’t that an indication that the law might just be there to decorate the constitution?
That is why I said that they should be given an opportunity. They are afraid that the people who are there will hijack the whole thing if they don’t ask for some percentage. I think that they know what they are saying, because if you look at the National Assembly and other elective positions, it is people who are moneybags that hijacked the whole thing. So, they are looking for a way where they can be relevant. So, they should be granted that percentage so that at least they can have an opportunity. These youths are vulnerable because they don’t have money like those moneybags who are there now who would use money to buy their way. But Nigerians must be prepared to use their voter’s card to vote in the youths and vote out all these elderly people and make Nigeria better. I’m not saying the elderly people are useless; they are very good. But there should be a mixture of the youth and the elderly in the running of Nigeria. There should be an opportunity for the younger ones to have a chance of exhibiting their knowledge to make Nigeria to move forward.
There have been allegations from different quarters that the ruling party plans to rig the 2019 elections. Do you see any signs to that effect?
Allegations or not, if it happens, there will be war in this country. And I want to warn that any attempt to rig any election in 2019 will spell doom to this democracy, which we have enjoyed for 19 years. So, to avoid any doom, let them behave themselves. The interest of Nigerian voters must be respected; our franchise must be respected. Any attempt to rig anywhere will spell doom and we are prepared for it. The youths are prepared; everybody is prepared. Let the votes count. Just as we are hailing Abiola’s time, let it be that people’s choice and interest are respected at the polling booths. If the ruling party attempts to rig the election, they will be held responsible for any doom or war that emanate from that.
You alluded to the rising insecurity in the country in the course of this conversation. How can the country wriggle out of the problem?
That is why I said that the Service Chiefs are due to be removed. If the people who are there now cannot perform, then put people who have the intelligence acumen to confront the problem. These people have outlived their security intelligence acumen because right now, I can’t see any performance from them. They are just there acquiring money; I must tell you that the Service Chiefs are just acquiring money. The thing is that there is selective negligence and there is nothing they are doing at all. I am going to call out all church leaders and Christians for a two-day protest that will shut down the country. Markets will be shut and there will be no work. Christians will sit down in their homes to pray and cry unto God to fight our battle. We are going to make sure that we close down everything in this nation for one or two days before the end of the year. We cannot continue to witness these kinds of kidnappings and killings of men of God. Whatever affects any church affects all of us.
There have been many allegations of frame up against the Federal Government by some political gladiators in the country. The last one came from former President Obasanjo, which the government described as frivolous. From your vantage position, do you really see any moves that suggest that the government is out to silence critics and the opposition?
The thing there is that we don’t know which one is the truth now. But again, I want to warn the Federal Government to be careful. If they don’t want to spark off trouble, they should maintain a sort of decorum whereby they just make sure that they do what is right. There should be freedom of speech and freedom of movement in this democracy. Speaking the truth or criticising the government is part of democracy. So, nobody should be arrested, victimised or witch-hunted for airing his view. Any attempt to do that means we have derailed from democracy and no longer respect the fundamental human rights of Nigerians. So, they should not infringe on that. But if they know that they are doing what is right, a clear conscience doesn’t fear any accusation. If our government knows that they are doing right, let them continue to do right and then we shall know the truth and the truth will set us free. But if your conscience is telling you that you are afraid of somebody criticising you and you decide to close up that person, then God is up there and He is watching all of us. Those in leadership must be very careful and listen to the voice of reason. They should not victimise or witch-hunt anybody. We need peace in this nation; but where the people in government don’t want peace, they will be held responsible for whatever happens because tension is high in this country and Nigerians are waiting to know what will happen.
So, how can an atmosphere of peace be enthroned ahead of the 2019 general elections, which is seven months away?
First of all, we should intensify our prayers for God’s will to be done for Nigeria. Secondly, people should be sensitive enough to know that Nigerians are tired. We all wanted a change, which never came. Can’t we have another change of the change? Nigerians should, therefore, be given the opportunity to make their decision. The people in government should know that even though they have tried in some ways in the area of infrastructure and anti-corruption, violence and insecurity have been on the increase. And Nigerians are not comfortable about it. They should within the next seven months prove themselves better than what they are thinking now. Seven months can still make a better government if they want to continue. We want a better life; we want a more secured life; we want life to be easy and cheaper. Also, the unity of the country should be maintained. We love ourselves in this nation and as such there should be no selective negligence. There should be justice and equity. All these appointments that are being done by the Federal Government should be spread out and not lopsided. There should be confidence in all the areas of this country. Particularly, the South-east has been marginalised a lot. To build confidence in the area, then the people should be recognised in appointments and all areas of selection. Also Nigerians should not capitalise on the situation of the country and make things difficult for others. Even now that Muslims are fasting, I don’t see why food should cost more. Nigerians should stop extorting their fellow human beings by making things expensive.