What are some of your fears when you look at the country today?
My fear about the country is that, firstly, there is no more mutual trust. All the gains we’ve made since independence have been eroded and this lack of trust, lack of love among different ethnic groups and individuals is as a result of the way we have brought back tribalism, nepotism, religionism, and brought lies into national affairs. Today, you see people who will see the truth and they will shamelessly be lying and be rationalizing evil as if that is the best option for the country. We have in this country today, even old citizens who have seen all that is wrong in the system, but they cannot open their mouth and talk, but years back they were so vociferous during the time of President Jonathan, even during the time of Obasanjo. Today, once the execution favours them all is right and they now have no obligation to say anything. It is like the thing they say when you are at the dining table, you don’t have to talk. So, my fear today in Nigeria is that Nigeria may break up and that will be very unfortunate, that will be very regrettable; we are inching close to it because people have refused to see reasons, people have refused to acknowledge and appreciate those trends that bind us together rather we are now interested in where we come from so we are getting close to breaking up and it will not be long before it happens; unless we retrace our steps very quickly and urgently so that the country can be re-united. To say the least, Nigeria is more divided today even more than during the Biafran-Nigeria civil war and that is the truth
So, how did we get into the situation we are now in your observation?
I think we started retracing or losing our gains with the coming of President Buhari’s administration. I know President Buhari personally, when I say I know him personally, I know him personally. In 2011, I visited him in his Kaduna resident three times and we discussed Nigeria. I was so fascinated and I said, look this is the best man for the job. He was so patriotic as a General, he was so straight and blunt, he had a clear vision as to where he wanted to take Nigeria to and that was the time, I wanted him to come and be the presidential candidate of Labour Party which I was the national chairman then before he formed CPC and moved into ACN and then APC. So, nobody can tell me about the man, but all these changed immediately he was elected civilian president. I can say he was hijacked by people who came with bitterness, anger, and hunger so they just got themselves into the China shop like a bull, hijacked him and started determining who gets what, particularly during his illness, they played with our foreign exchange market, they destroyed the market, they did all sorts of things even those who were indebted heavily before President Buhari came in, in less than one year they have finished their debt and were in a credit of billions, that is the situation we find ourselves. Unfortunately, these are people of the same tribe, the same religion; so, they didn’t want anybody to come near. Then they introduced the issue of making appointments one-sided, Check all the appointments? I have friends all over the country, I know some of my Fulani friends who say “Dan, we are ashamed of all this”. Not all Fulanis are like that, there are Fulanis that are opposed to this charade going on. There are many Fulanis, prominent ones that I know that are my friends when appointments are made at times they draw my attention to it and say look at another perfidy and these things are made shamelessly, and what can you do? You can go to hell, you can go to blazes, so the people will now decide to go to blazes, they will no longer take it. So, that is where we are, that is why you have agitations here and there, which will come more as we enter next year as I predict. In fact, up to Jonathan’s administration Nigerians were forgetting their tribes and their religion. I had the opportunity to have visited the Villa many times during Jonathan’s time even during Obasanjo’s time and from the gate you see Nigeria. From the pilot gate, you see Nigerians, from the security post you see Nigerians from every part of the country. Even when you enter and you didn’t get what you wanted you will still get that sense of belonging, because you will see that you are represented. But go there now. I recall there was a time I wanted to see President Obasanjo, it wasn’t possible, I remembered my good friend who was with me in the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies Kuru, Jos, Chief Olabode George, I called him and he asked me to come out in the evening which I did. He put me in his car and we were in Villa a few minutes later. I met with President Obasanjo briefly, a few minutes I was done, I left, two days after my suggestion was done I was very happy and proud of myself that I have contributed to nation-building. Tell me who you can tell that you want to see Buhari and he puts you in the car and takes you to Buhari, mention that person? Now, from the gate where you are given a tag, you will see that you are not needed, you are not wanted, that you shouldn’t come around here at all. There is this arrogance getting bloated, but people have forgotten that nothing lasts forever. One thing I can tell you for sure is that Buhari will not be in power after 29th May 2023. You don’t know who is coming and that tells you that nothing lasts forever. Even people who are less educated or are not educated at all will talk to you with disdain, they are just there by virtue of their tribe and religion that is the problem in Nigeria now. So, what people who are victims have done is okay, let us take it as we have seen it there is no problem; “soldier go, soldier come, barracks remain”.
Different ethnic groups have contended that Nigeria will progress better if there is restructuring of the country. Do you share this view?
I must tell you, I am an unrepentant believer in the unity of Nigeria, a Nigerian irredentist not an Igbo irredentist and when I say this, atimes some who wanted their own freedom will ask me why I am talking this way, but I tell them that I am vast in this country, across ethnic groups so when I speak, those my friends from different tribes of Nigeria, will not see me as speaking to protect a tribe, but that I am speaking as a patron, as one who wants a better Nigeria. I will not be part nor will I suggest anything that will dismember Nigeria rather I will suggest things that will make it strong, economically, politically, socially and otherwise and one of such things is to restructure the country. We will touch this constitution, we will never develop with this present constitution. I was a member of the National Conference in 2014, look at our recommendation; it was comprehensive, all-encompassing, it was unanimous, from all angles over 620 recommendations. President Buhari doesn’t want to look at it because there are some people who feel that if you restructure it is going to affect them. But they don’t know that if we come to the template that Nigeria will be one if a group is developing, it will rub off on other groups to develop too. Look at the positive competition that we had during the time we had regionalism in the time of Azikiwe, Awolowo, Balewa, can you imagine the development then to what we have now? Awolowo will do something the other groups will then be under pressure to replicate it or do another one in healthy competition. I did a survey in the North in 2009-2010 on the number of Almajiris in the North; it took me 18 months to arrive at that conclusion that there are about 10 million Almajiris in the North. I addressed a press conference as the then national chairman of Labour Party and released the figures. It wasn’t long after the government started using the figure and I asked them to show me their statistics. They started using it without quoting me, a research I paid for. Now, it must have increased and I am doing another study which I will likely release next year to update on some critical issues. And you ask yourself why is it so? It is because the elite have decided not to educate the people. They leave them where they are to continue in ignorance, giving them crumbs from their table, so that during politics they will use them to do all manner of things to ensure they win elections. They can use them to kill; they can use them to cause mayhem. People will have children and they will not train them because the elite have not provided the environment for those children to go to school, but their elite will sent their children to IVY colleges and universities so that they will continue to be on top and the other people will continue to serve them that is the problem we have, for example, in the North we don’t find that in the South because education is key, so what am I saying, if I have my way I will move every year, 5000 Almajiris from the North to the Eastern part of Nigeria, to the Western part of Nigeria, let them live there for one year or two years then I return them. I will tell you over 70 per cent of them will not agree to go back because the lifestyle is different. The lifestyle on the other side is moving with the time we cannot continue to live in the old medieval time when life was ugly, brutish, and short, you must move with the time. I am sorry to say that this government has turned us to those old times when everything was put on a table and directed by one man, the monarchical government. So, we have been saying it and I think it is both in the interest of President Buhari and those who love him to get him out of this because I am concerned, I am always worried about what will be President Buhari’s testimonial, how history will remember him and that is why I have said several times that this is not the President Buhari I met in 2010, three times. I said it on television that all these ones surrounding him, misleading him, they never knew him then. Even up to that time he will come to Abuja we were very few that will follow him: myself, Buba Galadima, Suleiman, Osita Okechukwu, Mustapha Salihu, all of us will escort him to his room in Transport bring him down for meetings, take him back, we were with him 24/7. All these people who are now gallivanting around him, where were they then? They wrote President Buhari off that he was finished, all of them they wrote him off that he was finished with Nigeria, but God has shown them that nobody is finished until God says so. So, what I am saying, in essence, is that President Buhari, people should leave him alone so that he can use the remaining two years plus left to redeem his image and integrity so that he can use the remaining two years to get back to what he used to be so that his testimonial will not be disastrous, so that history will not be unkind to him.
Do you think that what is happening as you have observed is also part of the things that lead to the #EndSARS protest…?
(Cuts in) It was a fallout of what has been happening, but the one that concerns the youths more was that we are not developing the economy, we are not developing the country, we want to stack everybody down, let nobody grow, remain where you are and the security became a tool to be used against the young people. So, if you are still wearing a good shirt, a good trousers with one or two phones with laptop they will take you, and you will be lucky if you come out alive so it became so rampant that the youths reacted over the last killing of a young man that went viral which now led to the #EndSARS and, of course, there were other issues complicated in the country, they have to add them and bring them up to be part and parcel of the demonstration. So #EndSARS is just small because it is just one item if they go further on the issue of the economy, tribalism, nepotism etc, it will be more wild and the government felt the only way to react was to mobilize the same people that are hungry, cheated, that have no education, suppressed to now come and attack the genuine protesters. They said hoodlums infiltrated them, they were not hoodlums, they were brought to do that so that there will be opportunity for the government to intervene and say there was breakdown of law and order and that is why I said it was a senseless idea because people even predicted it before it happened. So, that is to tell you that even the people advising have no brain because the people can predict them with ease, as they can now predict the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). We should not pray for another demonstration and that is why everything ends on the president’s table. The president can resolve these issues without stress by addressing the complaints of the young people and also extending it to the complaints of the people of Nigeria. Go to the market now nothing is purchasable, prices have skyrocketed, 110 people were reported killed few days ago, the president has not spoken; what we heard from the media man is that those who died caused their death because they didn’t get permission to go to the farm. This is a ridiculous excuse from Garuba Shehu and Information Minister, these are the people putting President Buhari in a very bad light and as a bad man because of the way they react to issues. They lack depth in information management. So, the issue of #EndSARS, I pray it doesn’t come back, I have predicted it will come back with more force and they will confront whoever, because the problem has gotten worse.
Different political groups are strategizing for power in 2023…?
(Cuts in) As far as I am concerned, we have seen that we have something that is still binding Nigerians together though not written. President Obasanjo used his tenure handed over to Yar’Adua; unfortunately, Yar’Adua died while in office, his vice president took over which is Jonathan; Jonathan finished, he was not re-elected, it came to the North, Buhari will be doing eight years by 2023. This power must return to the South in 2023 if we want Nigeria to continue to exist. I am not threatening, but I am using it in the rightful sense that if we believe in this country and that this country will continue to be one, this power must return to the South. Let the key political parties zone it to the South. If you don’t zone it to the South, while still working on restructuring then it means we don’t believe in this country, you want to create problem. It will be unreasonable for anybody from the North to aspire to be President in 2023 after Buhari and it will be telling other Nigerians from other zones that you people don’t belong and I don’t think that is the intention or impression that most Nigerians will like to take. It must return to the South, then when it comes to the South we will start asking the question of those that have done and those that have not done and it will be situated appropriately. There has been this argument as to Igbo wanting their own country at the same time wanting to be president. Let nobody try to blackmail the Igbo with that. They have gone further to say that the elite In Igbo land have not said anything against IPOB and that we are part and parcel of it. I think that is idle talk. In 2014-15, even before then Boko Haram took over the North, they were in charge and even hosted their flag and declared their Caliphate Republic. Nothing happened, their elite, northern elite did nothing because they were rightly afraid of their lives to avoid being killed. Most of them said nothing and did nothing and even ran to Abuja for refuge. The situation was terrible then it would have been stupidity or foolishness for any Northern elite to open his mouth and condemn Boko Haram at that time, so they did not say anything and yet President Buhari was elected the president. Now, IPOB is doing their thing, they have not even killed anybody before they were proscribed. They were not given the same treatment with Boko Haram rather they were smashed, attacked and proscribed. They are now blaming Igbo elite for not talking, for not condemning it, even when they have condemned it openly. That is why I warn that let nobody blackmail Ndigbo. You cannot prescribe to the Igbo elite what you could not do when you were in a similar situation. Now, you expect the Igbo elite to put their neck to the Golgotha to be chopped off. Let me tell you, IPOB is where it is today because the Igbo elite have not embraced it, they are not giving IPOB any support. I think that the Igbo is better in Nigeria than in Biafra. If their leaders know the position of Ndigbo in Nigeria, they will think less of carving the region out of Nigeria. I will never support the division of Nigeria because I am a believer in Nigeria. Let me tell you, the day Igbo elite endorse IPOB it will be a different ball game. Look, IPOB, was never and has never been given equal treatment like Boko Haram, in any case, they are not on the same pedestal, their mission and vision are different, one is fighting against injustice, the other one is fighting for Islamization through killing, maiming, and beheading people, a religion they knew nothing about. The treatment meted to IPOB was done so because they are predominantly Igbo, just like other treatments meted to the Igbo on every other sector: from political appointments, business, contracts, whether it is in the ministry, parastatals or government agencies. There appears to be a criminal conspiracy against the people, Ndigbo, just because they are Igbo. And I dare say without equivocation that the Igbo have become the most hated tribe in Nigeria, the most despised tribe in Nigeria, not because of anything bad that they have done, but because they are Igbo, as a result of their enterprising/entrepreneurial nature, they carry other people along while growing, they don’t discriminate. If you come to Nigeria today, even though the Igbo are not anywhere in the spheres of the state of Nigeria, they have less poverty rating in the country. I am not saying this because I am Igbo, no, but I am saying it because it has to be said so that necessary corrections will be made for the betterment of the country I love so much. Look at the situation we have found ourselves in Nigeria today. Look at insecurity, look at the economy, look at the lopsided appointment, if President Buhari was an Igbo man there would have been conspiracy in the National Assembly to remove him and they would have succeeded in removing him. Look at what happened at the EndSARS protest. They started twisting the narrative to say it was a ploy by the Igbo to run down the government. Can you imagine such wicked thought? It has become difficult for things to be done rightly in Nigeria. You cannot condemn the entire race, including me, for what I did not do, for no genuine reason, just because you hate the name Igbo and this is done across the country. I cannot find myself hating any tribe for whatever reason, every citizen must be treated equally and there should be no denial of any right or privileges as a result of where you come from. So, this hatred and neglect meted to the Igbo people is something that the government must address. They must address it because if they allow it to continue to grow, it will have a devastating effect on the unity of the country. No tribe in Nigeria can claim to be more patriotic than the Igbo, and the reason is simple: you do not invest in any part of the country where you don’t believe in. The Igbo have their investments in any remotest place in all parts of the country, if they did not love Nigeria they will not be making such huge investments without putting even 10 per cent of such investment from where they come from. Other people do not invest in Igbo land, but the Igbo invest everywhere: what could be more patriotic than this and yet they are the most hated? What I am saying is what many people will not dare say because they live in government, they are not sincere, they don’t want to be seen to be saying such so as not to be accused of working against the establishment and being denied certain benefits they enjoy. They are the ones that are tribalistic, but I am saying this because of the patriotism in me. If what is happening to the Igbo is happening to any other tribe in Nigeria, I will still condemn it outrightly. We should not be afraid of saying the truth for fear of being tagged any name. I am a patriot and have friends from all parts of the country, so I am bound to say the truth no matter how uncomfortable it might be for some people. President Buhari must address the issue of Igbo hatred and marginalization head-on, by redressing all the injustices, and injustices done to others, but at a lower scale. It is only when this is done that Nigerians will move as a nation. My advice to IPOB is to tarry a while because things can be good, with visionary leadership that will put justice for all first, practice true federalism through a people’s constitution.