Former governor of Anambra state, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife has said that the struggle by IPOB is in the interest of all Igbo. In this interview with VINCENT KALU, the elder statesman warned that Nigeria is pushing Igbo out of the country.
Some opinion leaders say that Nigeria has not been as divided as it is today, not even during the civil war. Do you agree with them?
I agree that Nigeria has not been as divided as it is now; Nigeria has never been a failure as it is now. What do we do about it? My suggestion is that man has failed in Nigeria. What do we do, we should only go on our knees to pray to God to change things for us before total collapse.
The country is, in everybody’s assessment a failure, and we are fooling ourselves as Nigerians, but we have failed black men all over the world. This country has the kind of weather; the kind of resources that cannot be found on earth, yet we the human beings have messed up ourselves; the mess up has become a tradition, a culture. For our people, corruption is no longer something you frown at; people consider corruption to be something normal, we are not talking of politicians eating money; it is everywhere now, in the church, in trade unions, everywhere and I think it is time for us to call on God and surrender to Him to help us.
Some leaders are talking about restructuring as the only way for the nation to begin to make progress, but the president doesn’t seem to agree. He said recently that there was nothing wrong with the 1999 constitution, as it is fair to all. Where do we go from here?
I don’t believe that the president understands what is going on in Nigeria. I don’t think that he is aware of the extent of the problem. The people who are messing up more are Junaid Mohammed and Ango Abdullahi. These are people who are leading those who are in greatest danger; if you are leading a people and you make enemies for those people you are not doing well.
Ango Abdullahi and Junaid Mohammed are talking about ruling Nigeria in the next 100 years, and they are talking in favour of Hausa/Fulani or Fulani. The Fulani have the greatest to lose if this country breaks up. The issue is why should people be against going back to things that worked. Nigeria worked. Towards the mid 50s and 1965 Nigeria was growing faster than the rest of the world, this is World Bank statement and not mine. Why were we growing faster than the rest of the world? It was because we have perfect structure for advancement – the regional structure, which was agreed by our founding fathers. That regional structure gave regions the rights to pursue their own interest with the speed they wanted, and it gave control of regions to be rewarding people in the regions who were contributing their resources for development.
We didn’t depend on oil money at that time. It is what we contribute from our pocket, and whoever was the governor was concerned about development. I wouldn’t reckon with the views of Mr President, because I think something must have happened that makes him not to understand what Nigeria is talking about.
Look, the Igbo people had to go and beg for Enugu airport before money is released to give attention to the airport. That is humiliating. What are they begging for? Kano, did they beg, Kaduna, did they beg, who begged for their airport to be renovated? It is a matter of saying what we are doing for Igbo people when they are pushing us out of Nigeria.
Some statesmen, especially in the South say Nigeria is not workable, complaining that a section of the country has made itself the rider and the rest the horse. As such, they are asking that the enterprise be broken and every group going its way to enjoy peace. What is your take on this?
Negative; but understandable. I understand their reaction. Nobody applied to be a slave in Nigeria. Whether we applied or not, we don’t accept to be slave, you are superior in some ways and you become politically inferior to them, and what is the consequence? We are not making progress as a country.
The people who are riding the horse are the people who can be hurt by the collapse of the horse; so let them come down from the horse so that there will be no calamity when the horse stumbles. If I were Hausa/Fulani, no, let me leave Hausa out of this, they are not able to bring themselves out of the problem they are in, but the Fulani will lose most for the disintegration of Nigeria, and they are in the best position to stop the disintegration of Nigeria by going back to the structure that we know that worked. Some of them say they will never support 2014 confab report implementation, it means they are saying, ‘Nigeria break up’. It is not those who make noise that say the country should break up, IPOB is complaining about many things done against the Igbo; the same way those who know are aware that Buhari government is pushing the Igbo people very hard out of Nigeria in everywhere.
So, what do we do? We go to God; only God can save Nigeria now. We have passed a stage where man can help Nigeria. No man is even willing, those who are enjoying power don’t want to help, and so we have only one chance, which is to pray to God to change things.
You made a strong case for president of Igbo extraction in 2023, but some leaders in the North are still pushing that the region should hold on to power in 2023. What is your position on this?
My position remains the same that if we do all that is necessary; we lobby the North, we lobby the West, we lobby the South South, we lobby the Middle Belt and we are well organised among ourselves, united and we don’t bring out 1000 candidates, and we bring only three and we do all that we need to do at home properly and yet Nigerians say they don’t want the president to come out from Igbo land, I interpret it to mean that those Nigerians don’t want the Igbo in Nigeria; they are pushing us out and that will be the final push.
When you reject us in 2023, then you are saying bye, bye to the Igbo as citizens of Nigeria. This is what I said. I have never said that those who vote against us did that at their peril even though newspapers used it, but if you read the same newspaper of the details of what I said you wouldn’t find anything threatening. I think it is more maturity to go to a prince carrying a plate begging than to say I stab you if you don’t give me money.
Those opposed to the president of Igbo extraction in 2023 say that you people cannot be asking for the presidency and at the same time IPOB is seeking the actualisation of Biafra, that the two are parallel. How do you reconcile this?
There is nothing parallel about this. We want to be recognised as fellow Nigerians, and for that we want to be voted as president of Nigeria. Why should we not be?
Is it because I said that if we were president we would not tolerate what you call, Almajiri? No, Igbo want a united Nigeria where everybody is accepted as equal. I hope it is not what is making some people annoyed with us. If you give us presidency and we restructure the country there is nothing like our going out. I prefer one permanent Nigeria to any break up, but I cannot stay where I’m rejected; a person rejected doesn’t reject himself. Don’t you know that the present government rejects Igbo? We have to beg to have Enugu airport repaired.
APC says that Southeast has benefited far more under Buhari’s four years administration than 16 years of PDP rule. Do you agree with the party?
Lie, lie, lie! This lie business and no conscience won’t take them anywhere. Igbo have never had it so bad. There was a time and even now is the time they are implementing policy that sounds as, ‘Pull Igbo Down’ (PID), whether it is in the market, you go and import something, they will seize your container and sell it to other people or in the industry.
Look at Innoson, who set up a major industry, he did nothing bad, and the Supreme Court has confirmed, but something bad was done against him. Look at the man who made us go back to petrol station, Ifeanyi Uba, for weeks he was incarcerated for doing nothing; for being owed by the central government, he had to be sequestered. Look at Emzor Pharmaceuticals, what did they do?
Today, if the National Security Council is meeting, Southeast is not there. Today, appointments being made don’t include Southeast. So, every right thinking person should recognise that what the IPOB is fighting for is what all Igbo should be fighting, but because of our love for commerce, market and we know that Nigeria has such a big market, the older people are hanging on to Nigeria, but of course, this presidency this or that, if you don’t like us why do you have to keep us, but if you reject us we won’t reject ourselves.
One of the cases the ruling party cited is the Third Niger Bridge, as well as the Enugu- Port Harcourt and Onitsha- Enugu roads being funded by Suku bond
None of those roads mentioned is passable. The railways built by this government, where are they passing? The roads? The airport was closed and we were told there was no money, and we had to go cap in hand begging for money for its repairs. When the other airports were being renovated, nobody from their areas begged the government. I have told you and if you want I can give you a write up showing from 1966 how everything went against us; creating states was to fight the Igbo, as well as the creation of local governments.
For those of us who can read and remain part of history, there is nothing anybody can say that justifies our remaining in Nigeria, except the hope that the large market would be retained, but if Nigeria breaks up the large market doesn’t stand.