Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
Wisdom Durueke is the National President of the Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO) and the alternate chairman, Human Rights Committee, Imo State. He speaks on governance in Imo State and other national issues.
What is your impression of the killings in the northern parts of the country?
It is a thing we should all condemn, like I keep saying to people, the life of a Nigerian should be dear to every Nigerian because we are a family. So, I think that what is happening in the North is what all of us should condemn, for me, that is very important. We cannot continue to allow such wastage of lives. The first duty of a government if you look at the constitution is to protect lives and property. If the life and property of the people cannot be protected, government has failed.
Do you believe these killings are actually carried out by herdsmen?
Yes, there are herdsmen but let’s get these things right, there have been a lot of theories as to the whole issue of the involvement of herdsmen. The truth is that the government has not helped issues, the government has been dancing ‘Azonto’ on the issue and this has beclouded it and created room for a lot of doubt, speculations and additional theories. Yes, if you say all these act of brigandage are by the herdsmen, I would be hesitant to say yes to all, as I wouldn’t say that they are not involved, but you will find out that some people hide under the guise of herdsmen to commit some of these atrocities in some places and that is why I said that the government has not helped the situation.
What do you think the government should do to avert this worrisome development?
For me, a time comes when a nation wakes up to the reality of the situation, a time comes when a nation thinks about building the nation, empowering the nation, the answer is very short, let there be ranches, imagine the quantum of money spent looking for oil that would not be found on the Chad Basin, imagine where we would put the money looking for gold mining in Zamfara. You can see how we miss money, the huge income that would have turned around the people of Zamfara State. That amount of money we spent we can use it to develop ranching, if we have ranches out there and you supply them water, electricity, provide school for them, you are having a development of integration strategy.
We all can tell if nomadic education has failed or succeeded in this country, if you say it has failed people would think you are opponent of state government but the truth is that it has failed with all the money sunk into it but if for instance you introduce ranching system and you provide hospitals and schools, the lives of the people will improve. You would also have to increase their security; you also block conflict between them. For me, the answer lies in ranching, these people are our brothers and sisters, you must ensure that they are exposed to civilisation, education; that way you keep them moving. Taking care of cows, what of their education, you will find out that they are being marginalised and people are not considering that angle.
The IPOB was proscribed by the federal government; do you think it should remain proscribed?
As for me, IPOB, MASSOB and the rest are not registered organisations, talking about proscribing them for me is not the solution. There is something important that we really need to note and the question is, what was the basis for the agitation across the country? The agitation is not limited to the South East. If you carefully look at the 2019 general election in the country, you will notice protest voting, look at the pattern of voting, nationally and locally, you will find protest at different levels, this is what I think that government should be interested in addressing, state or national.
For a group like IPOB and MASSOB, you proscribe them, you’ve not killed the members, you’ve not taken away their ideas from them, a new name comes up, what is the utility in that proscription? The whole idea of proscribing them to me is fruitless. I will rather, not just for MASSOB and IPOB, but for every agitating group in every part of the country, identify the group, their core demands, and how to address these demands.
So, I think what we need is a new thinking and a new way of doing things, that will ensure justice in this country, social justice, economic justice, political justice, legal justice and all variants of justice. Nigeria is like a big pot of soup with all the condiments but lacks salt to taste. That’s the way the country is.
If you were to set agenda for the Imo governor-elect, what would you have as priority?
First and foremost, the government has been taken over from Rochas Okorocha. Today, the mantle has been handed over to Emeka Ihedioha. Ihedioha must have to be sincere to Imo people, for me that is the first thing, there is need for transparency and accountability in the governance of Imo State because we cannot continue where budgets are made and we cannot assess the budgets; where the procurement law is not respected, where rule of law is abused. So, he needs to convince himself that he has the mentality for a new Imo. Therefore, the priority should be to restore the civil service in Imo State, it is very important, the civil service in Imo State has been bastardised, we need to reclaim it, government cannot succeed without the civil service, the government must also be interested in creating jobs in the state because if you do an audit of industries, how many will you say the government has helped in setting up? I am not an advocate of ‘government has no business in business.’ No, the stage we are, government still has business in business, there are industries that have gone down; they can be revived.
The government can embark on the Public-Private-Partnership to solve the economy of the state. Also, what I would like the incoming administration to do is to recall the 10,000 people given jobs in the twilight of the Ikedi Ohakim administration but were laid off by the Okorocha’s government, they should address it; there must be a way out. I don’t want to say with every sincerity that Okorocha wasted eight years in Imo State; that would be quite unfair, you can see certain things he has also put in place, we need to identify such, government is a continuum, it is not time to pull down; it is about strengthening. Okorocha has opened up many roads, many of the roads are being called China roads, but the point is that the roads have been opened, so what would the government do, is it to close those roads, no. Now that they are called China roads, Ihedioha should turn them to American roads or British roads. The issue of education, the free education thing wasn’t well managed, so, one cannot come out and say Imo State all this while had free education in place because if you go to schools, you will find that they are still collecting certain sums of money from pupils and students. So, what are these monies meant for if they are being paid? For me, that’s indication that education has not been free and none of these teachers collecting these fees has been brought to law. How many schools had access to the free bags aside those in the metropolis? That is a discriminatory policy and approach.