From Ogbonnaya Ndukwe, Aba
Ichie Chuks Muoma, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) is the chairman of Igbo Lawyers Association (ILA) based in Aba, Abia State. He said that Nigerian politicians do not work with ideas to propel national growth and development of the people.
The immediate past legal adviser of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, said that South Easterners in other parts of the country and abroad should come home to invest in the zone to boost the regional economy, as he called for true federalism and return to the 1963 Constitution, to check the political imbalance affecting the unity of the country.
He also spoke on the recent rendition of the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu; a British citizen, from Kenya to Nigeria, describing it as an international brigandage and terrorism on the part of Nigeria and its cohorts.
Looking at Nigeria today, would you say it was the country Nigerians dreamt of at independence in 1960?
Nigeria as it is today was not the one we dreamt to have in 1960. Certainly not the one we welcomed on October 1, 1960. The problems are complex with several things going wrong. Our politicians do not measure up to international standards. Greed and materialism are the quest for holding public and political offices in Nigeria. Our politicians do not have any agenda or manifesto, except self and material interest to become billionaires and trillionaires overnight. That’s Nigerian politics. There’s no ideology propelling the life of Nigeria. It is all self-interest and to make it worse, ethnicity and the ambition of the ethnic groups in rivalry, to control the country and her resources. Those who produce by working so hard and offering their resources are hungry while those who do not produce sufficiently are very, very well fed, and well looked after. So, there is societal imbalance. Nigeria is a country where mere hard work will not put food on one’s table.
Is this the reason political contests in the country are seen as war?
Yes, more like it. One has to go into public office to steal public money, to embezzle public money and this is why our politicians are always desperate in seeking for offices. They are prepared to commit all manner of atrocities, including shedding blood, to win election and enter into positions where others will work very hard to bring in the money and they themselves, will do the looting. By age, I am qualified to talk about Nigeria. Intellectually, I am qualified to talk about Nigeria and socially I am also qualified. There’s no altruism, no selflessness in sacrifice. Everyone serves to enrich himself, his family, associates and partners in the crime of embezzling the treasury.
How did we get to this point and what do you think should be done?
That’s a question no one can answer easily, but somehow, I can make a trial. We reached here through corruption, dishonesty and insincerity in public service. That’s how we reached here. Well, I will tell you one story I like telling people when talking about Nigeria. When God created the African countries, he gave Nigeria everything, all resources, but denied it good leadership at the centre. Nigeria is ruined or was ruined by its bad leadership. We are now witnesses of the type of leadership Nigeria has, despite having all the human and mineral resources at its disposal. How do we find a solution to the problem? It is a task for you and I and every other person.
There are arguments on what is responsible for the marginalization of the Southeast and leading to agitation for secession. What is your take on this and how do we solve the problem?
I believe that the current problems facing the Southeast, are being perpetrated and fanned by some people from outside Igbo land. I also believe governance in the Southeast is poor and selfish, though they are not different from what we see in other parts of the country. We are ruled by people who are suffering from poverty consciousness. Our leaders, Igbo leaders, are suffering from poverty consciousness. Permit me, to define what I mean by poverty consciousness. It is the fear of the poor to remain poor and the fear of rich to become poor. Both the rich and the poor are equally afraid of poverty. Poverty is a situation that leads to desperation. Everyone wants to be rich and nobody wants to experience any factor that will prevent him from being a rich man. In Nigeria, we suffer from spiritual poverty. We have a very low spiritual consciousness, never mind the saturation of spiritual houses. The problems came along after the civil war. Our leadership before the civil war, was correct, selfless, and focused on positive orientation. All our leaders – Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, did not amass wealth. They were focused on making Nigeria great. We attained the giant of Africa stance during their time. The madness for materialism started after the civil war.
You were in politics in the 2nd R1epublic?
Yes, as a young lawyer, I was a politician, from the NPP, GNPP and NRC. At a stage, I told myself that I wouldn’t be part of the mess anymore. I pulled out from politics in 1990/1991, to focus on my legal practice and swore not to do anything with politics as I found the system too corrupt for my liking. I don’t do things because of money. Service comes before wealth for me. A reward must be the outcome of hard work.
Do you think that the agitation to have the presidency zoned to the Southeast come 2023, will assuage the feelings of marginalization and ill-treatment of Ndigbo in Nigeria, as being claimed in some quarters?
That’s a very good question. My preference is restructuring. Like we were until the civil war, the 1963 Constitution was the best for Nigeria. It encouraged positive efforts in self-development. We had autonomous regions. Those Constitutions 1960/1963, focused on true federalism, physically and politically. But it seems that the civil war and subsequent events, constituted an advantage now being exploited by only a section of the country. The benefit is not federal. It is sectional. So, here we are. We have to go back to the 1963 Constitution, so that the regions will go back to what they were. They had healthy competition in development and made contributions to the Federal Government to take care of national institutions like foreign affairs, currency, the defence and others. You can see true federalism in other parts of the world. What we have in Nigeria is a masquerade in the name of federalism. Inside, it is centralism, dictatorship and oppression. The system doesn’t encourage individual or regional enterprise.
As Chairman of Igbo Lawyers Association (ILA) in Aba, you have been calling on the federal authorities to release IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu. Why the strident call?
Yes, I have good reasons to do so and on point of law, kidnapping and abduction can never be legal whether nationally, internationally or regionally. They are crimes whether perpetuated in the village, town, community, state or international platforms. It remains a crime, no matter the coloration one gives it. Nnamdi Kanu travelled to Kenya from the United Kingdom with a British passport. As a British citizen, it is an international crime, brigandage and terrorism, for him to be abducted in Kenya, tortured and brought back by force to Nigeria. It doesn’t matter the coloration they give it, it is an act of international brigandage and terrorism.
Let’s look at Nnamdi Kanu’s cause alongside that of Sunday Igboho in the Southwest. Are Igbo leaders doing enough to get him out like the Yoruba are doing for Igboho?
You see, it is legal under international law to agitate for self-determination. There have been successful agitations in various parts of the world. Indonesia and East Timor had a referendum for the later to become independent. It is provided for in international law. South Sudan also, so, what is the crime of someone saying he is not comfortable where he is? We are not comfortable. Give us the option to say whether to remain with you, or go and you call the person a terrorist. Referendum was conducted in Scotland. It was also done in Spain (Catalonia), and Quebec in Canada. Some succeed while others do not, and no one is killed, abducted, slaughtered and incarcerated for agitating for self-determination in a democracy. It was a plebiscite/referendum that brought Adamawa into Nigeria from Northern Cameroun. It was not fighter jets or AK 47.
I mean sir, Igbo leaders are not speaking in Kanu’s favour, why?
I will tell you why. It is true and the reason is that Igbo leaders are double-headed. They are members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the morning (daytime) and All Progressives Congress (APC) at night. I have said this before and nobody has challenged me on that. Our governors and leaders in the PDP are APC in the night. All of them crawl to Abuja in the night in quest for materialism and superlative wealth. They don’t have the spirit of selfless leadership. We are praying that Kanu gets a fair trial, but I cannot read the mind of any judge in such matters. Even the devil cannot read any man’s mind.
What’s your advice to the Igbo in Diaspora including the clamour for president from Southeast in 2023?
I am skeptical about the Southeast getting the presidency in 2023. Any Igbo man elected president of Nigeria without the country being restructured will not last. The security apparatus that will protect the centre are currently in the hands of a section of the country. They have to be decentralized first, with a new Constitution in place to realize a peaceful nation. To our businessmen outside the Southeast, they should come home and invest to develop our land. I stand for restructuring. It will give each region the platform to grow at its pace and contribute to the centre and it is only through dialogue and not use of force, that Nigeria will succeed.