“My own restructuring is that, to solve the problem of insecurity, let the Federal Government keep the army, states have their police.”
Joe Effiong, Uyo
The former President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr Sunday Mbang, rarely talks to the press. But when he does, he fears no foe or cuddles an offending friend.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, the prelate emeritus of the Methodist Church Nigeria, expressed his fears for Nigeria, puncturing the Federal Government claims of fighting insecurity and corruption, saying that Olusegun Obasanjo is the only Christian that has ever led Nigeria, and many more.
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Sir, how would rate the Federal Government efforts in tackling security challenges in the country?
Yes, you know when Buhari came into power, one of the promises he made was that Boko Haram would be defeated, and then, his minister of information and others have used the word decimated. I don’t know whether that means defeated. But the experience is that up till now Boko Haram is still killing people. In fact, they are killing people far more than when Jonathan was here. That’s number one. And to add salt to injury, we have this cattle people also; and I have not seen any government being able to cope with any of these. So, as far as I’m concerned they are very unsuccessful in security issue. But here in Akwa Ibom, because we have a lot of cultists, these cultists are now handing over their arms and one of the thing that I like in what they are doing is that they are not sending them to prison; because if they are sent them to prison, they will go and learn more of how to be worst cultists. They are rehabilitating them and trying to make them better human beings for the country. So, they are doing more about security here in Akwa Ibom than they are doing in the APC Federal Government. So, as far as I’m concerned they are yet to cattle security issues. And the cattle people! I call them cattle people.
They talked about that; they are from somewhere or anywhere, but they are killing Nigerians. So, that is for their interest and they are not able to stop them from killing Nigerians. People have now gone into killing army generals in the country. I mean when generals are being killed that means we little ones, they can kill us any day. So, as far as I’m concerned, the APC government is yet to tackle the issue of insecurity.
One of the things that railroaded the APC into power was the cry against infrastructural decay in the country. Have you noticed any improvement?
When I was the president of CAN, I used to travel around Nigeria. So, I have not travelled around Nigeria so much again. The only place I usually go was either I go to Ibadan or Abeokuta; and they started doing Ibadan road, from where they started and I think they have not gone half way on the Ibadan road and I don’t know when they will finish the Ibadan road. And if you go to Lagos, the Tin Can Island area road, they talk about it every day. I don’t know whether they are making road in the North, but here in Akwa Ibom State, I have not seen any federal thing in Akwa Ibom. The road in Ikot Ekpene, the former governor started it and Udom is finishing it. And I don’t see anything and I don’t know whether they are doing infrastructure, I don’t know where the infrastructure things they are doing are because take infrastructure like electricity. Recently, in this state light has been a little bit better than what it used to be and the governor is complaining. When we ask, the government why, he said if states were to run it, light would have been steady in Akwa Ibom State. He said the problem is that when he generates light he gives it back to NEPA or whatever they are called now. So, that brings me to the issue of restructuring; you know every day I see ministers and commissioners of finance lining up to receive the bits and pieces from the Federal Government. I think it’s the most disgraceful thing that is happening in Nigeria. Why should the state government go to Federal Government to beg for money whereas, take for example, in this our state, if they allow us to manage our own loads, this state would have paid more than N30,000 as minimum wage. If they allow us to do our thing, just like we did when I was a young person in the 50s, before Independence, cocoa, the West managed it. We managed palm oil; the North managed their cotton and groundnut and things were working well. But I think the army just came, turned the things upside down and those in government are enjoying the benefits of the economy of those who have it so much that they don’t want to leave it; and when they talk about restructuring people say what does it mean. Take, for example, security, if we had our own police, and the police we will know them; they will be our children, we will know them. When they misbehave, we have fewer problems with the police. Army they can keep. I mean I don’t want any state to have army. But the police in America, the local government even have their own police. The roads; the state should manage their own roads, agriculture, and whatever minerals and pay taxes to the government. Once they start doing that you would see the state competing. In fact, in few years Nigeria will be so developed than any country in Africa. I used to travel to many of the countries in Africa. So, the restructuring thing is something that they just have to do to liberate states from the Federal Government domination.
But when they talk about restructuring, people are confused as to whether it means economic, political, geographical or even ethno-tribal restructuring?
I have given you what I mean. My own restructuring is that, to solve the problem of insecurity, let the Federal Government keep the army, states have their police. They will be people that everybody knows in the state and if they commit crime, we will know them. Let us have light, power; leave the state to manage their power; leave the states to manage their roads; leave them to manage their economy. Whatsoever they have, let them manage it, and if they want to pay tax to the Federal Government, let them pay. Let the Federal Government manage railway. Let them stop allowing state governments to go and line up every month. Some months they are not able to collect it. And so, it comes to the area of non-payment of staff and so on. These fellows don’t have money to pay because what the Federal Government gives to them, that’s what they use in doing everything under the sun. So, let them leave them to manage their affairs and you will see a change. In fact, you will see competition in among states.
Sir, what is your take on the ongoing minimum wage problem?
You see, I sympathize with some of these governors. I really sympathize with them because when you see what they give to them, you begin to ask yourself, what are they are going to do because the Federal Government is not repairing their roads. State governments repair their roads; they struggle to give light, struggle to do this and struggle to do that. But I really believe that N30,000 is not the money anybody should get in Nigeria as a wage when you talk in terms of high cost of things in the country now. So, I sympathize with the labour people; I sympathize with the state governments. If federal wants them to pay N30,000, they should look at all what is the problem of the states and provide enough money for them to pay the N30,00. I really believe that it shouldn’t be less than N30,000 for now.
The Federal Government is fighting corruption; at least that is one of its campaign promises. What is your view on the matter?
(Laughter)You know whenever I hear that Federal Government is fighting corruption, I just laugh. I’m told even the American ambassador accused them of not fighting corruption the way it should be done. One thing I like in Obasanjo’s regime, you know, Obasanjo started this fighting of corruption. He did it within his party. He didn’t fight corruption outside his party. You know charity has to begin at home. Has Buhari fought corruption in his party? So, that’s the key and the problem. He has not started. You know anybody who is corrupt runs to him for salvation. How do you say he’s fighting corruption? So, it does not make sense to me in the way they say it. Corruption is a tragedy for Nigeria. But if you want to fight it, fight it sincerely. In fact, for me I always think they will start fighting corruption from the civil service because that is the bank of corruption. They should start from there, because even some of the minister and others who are being corrupt, they are being educated properly by the civil servants. So, if the Federal Government wants to fight corruption, let charity begins at home. You see if the Federal Government, the APC people are not corrupt. Name one APC person that has been indicted or has been taken to court for corruption; name one. There was a time we were told the Secretary to the Government of the Federation was corrupt, has he been taken to court? And many ministers that have been found corrupt; has anything been done to them? And as I say, if you’re corrupt and you want to be free, go there. So, let them not deceive themselves that they are fighting corruption. When they start fighting corruption, they will get support from people like me. For me, I don’t support the way they are fighting corruption because they are just fighting opposition party. In my church, there was one Sunday we went out, all churches in Nigeria, the Methodist Church to demonstrate against corruption. I did that in my church because fighting corruption, people are serious about it. The only person I saw trying to be serious about fighting corruption was Obasanjo. You know sometimes I quote Obasanjo because when I quote him they think it’s because he’s my friend, no, if he is my friend and he does something wrong, I’m not going to support him. He is my friend, but I don’t support anybody who does something wrong, he did something right. So, now Jonathan has gone out, believe me when you really look at the period of Jonathan and the period today, it looks like we were in heaven when Jonathan was in government. And I mean it. Look at what dollar is about now with naira. The other day I went to Britain and had some challenges and I went to the hospital, if you had seen the amount of money I paid the bills to the hospital, because naira is N600 to a pound. When in that time, it used to be about N200 to N300 to a pound. So, you begin to see the way things are. In fact, we were in a golden age when this man was there, though I didn’t completely like him. But comparing him now to what is happening today, we were in a golden age. So, they have not started fighting corruption. But I just hope that even those that are coming, I don’t know if they are free of corruption, but I am praying that God should change their mind and they try to be free of corruption. So, they can just draw a line that all those who were corrupt yesterday should go and eat their loot, and then stop corruption completely. I will accept it, because in an attempt to begin to fight corruption, you may do some wrong. So draw a line when they come in they say all those who were corrupt, go and enjoy your booty. But these ones who are coming, if you’re corrupt, we will deal with you effectively. If they do that, I’m telling you this country will change drastically; but not wasting time and spending all the money trying to fight them.
You know they say you must argue the case properly. And how many lawyers can argue the case of corruption? So, the better thing is just draw the line and let’s begin a new leaf. Leave all these other ones because I don’t see how we are going to make anything out of it. They told me they have collected a lot of money. If they have collected a lot of money, why are they borrowing money outside? I’m told that this regime has borrowed far more money than any regime in this country. But they said they are fighting corruption; they are collecting so much money. Where is the money they are collecting? You know all these lies. They tell lies to young people; not the old people like us. I was born in 1936; so I saw the colonial people. I saw the first group, I was a leader, in fact, I was the assistant returning officer in the election of 1959. So, you see, I have seen it all; and then I became the president of CAN, knowing everything about Nigeria. So, there is nothing anybody can tell me about Nigeria. I know that this time is one of the worst times that we have had in the history of Nigeria; even during the military regime, it wasn’t as bad as what we are seeing now. And I mean it when I say so; and I want them to come and challenge me. So, the sooner this people decide to rule the government properly or leave the government for other people, the better for them.
There are fears that Nigeria may experience violent revolution if things are not done right. You have proffered some solutions here like restructuring and drawing a line to demarcate corrupt eras. Assuming that all these are ignored, do you see foresee implosion in Nigeria?
I can’t predict; I’m a prophet, I know; but I don’t want to pre-see the dark days of Nigeria. My prayer is that it shouldn’t come to that. My prayer too is the kind of election I saw in Osun State, Ekiti State should not be repeated anywhere in this country, because what happened in Osun State and Ekiti State was a disgrace to INEC and the Federal Government. So, I hope that will not repeat itself. But I believe that INEC will learn a lesson properly and run elections and let people be elected and when they are elected, some of us will have to give advice to those that are elected. But what you’re predicting, I can’t say yes or no, if elections are not run properly and they continue with that kind of things they did in Osun and Ekiti states, don’t be surprised if we have an uprising in the country against those who have done it. I’m not praying for that. But if they try Nigerians too much, if the young people stand and decide to do what they like, it will be difficult for them to restrain them. That is why I’m praying that, what evil, whatsoever satanic things entered INEC to do the kind of election they did in Osun state and Ekiti state it should not be repeated in 2019. If they do such a thing, then I can a sure you this country is not going to be what they are seeing; and I’m praying we should not arrive at that.
Sir, what advice would you like to give to Nigerians this time around?
The only advice I want to give to Nigerians is that whatsoever is the situation in the country, we should remain as one because if we start splitting to different countries, it’s not going to help Nigerians. Whatsoever any leader is doing to annoy us, we should try to remain one. When we remain as one country, that’s where our respect comes and so on. I’m one of those who have travelled very widely in the world and the respect they have for Nigeria is unbelievable, even with all foolishness we are doing to ourselves. Many countries still regard us as the number one country in Africa, not even South Africa with all the money South Africa has. We have the potentials of running a government, or running anything than any other country in Africa. We talk of academics or whatever industrialists and so on, we have them here. So, the only thing we have not been able to get that we should struggle till we get it is leaders that can run the government. We have leaders in other areas. We are lucky here in this state; and if I say this they think I’m sentimental. The governor we have in this state is not just a professional, but a Christian; and the person I saw as a Christian running a government was Obasanjo. And interestingly, our governor did not have the experience Obasanjo had, because Obasanjo was thrown into prison and was about to be killed; and from what I understand, foreign people helped not to kill him. They would have killed him. But power outside made it impossible for them to kill him. That has changed his philosophy about life. And I find our governor, I think when I was a young man, I was a member of
Qua Iboe Church. Qua Iboe Church among all the churches, I’m a Methodist, but I saw Qua Iboe Church, in the past, I don’t know about now, they trained people on character, moral character. And I find this fellow being the old type of Qua Iboe Church that I knew in the past. Many people don’t know I’m close to him and I know the amount of God that he worships. So, we are lucky to have him. We had a politician called Godswill Akpabio; but when you look at the character between the two, it’s miles apart.
Prelate, but people say you were equally close to Akpabio?
I was. You know sometimes you’re close to people, but you don’t know them. They allow you to know the area they want you to know. This fellow has allowed me to go deeply into his areas. The other one once told me that he was a member of Salvation Army. But people are accusing him that he was the member of the Brotherhood. People accused him and somebody seems to be telling me that he was. And then today, he is a Roman Catholic. When you find people jumping from one church to another, be careful of such. Udom is Qua Iboe from beginning to the end. In fact, he was telling me they wanted to offer him elder in the Qua Oboe Church, but since the father is elder, he will not accept it until the father goes. That shows you the kind of character the man has. And I know the problems most of his commissioners are having with money, because you have to convince him to the last letter of amount of money he gives to you. People are complaining that when Akpabio was here he used to give us. You know sometimes Akpabio used to give people N150 million for something. Udom will give only N10 million for the same kind of thing. So, you see, people are crying, and I’m telling you this election if you hear how people come to me to cry that this man doesn’t give us money.
Don’t you think that may even affect his re-election?
But he is giving the money according to the way he wants to give; not the way they want it. So, if he gives the money the way he wants to give, if people give plenty money, God is also involved because this election God is there. You know why I say God is there? Look at what is happening in the APC primaries? Can you tell me why the primaries were like that apart from God? So, if they want to play wayo in the election; you know what the president of CAN told me? President of CAN told me that CAN prayed for three days, and there’s wayo in the primaries; and if they see that people are becoming foolish, they will pray for seven days; and may be all those candidates will die before the day. And I told him pray for only three more days; don’t pray for seven days. So, they are now praying for three days. So, if people want to be funny, the God that we worship, because here in Akwa Ibom State there are few who pretend worship God. But they don’t worship, but there are many who worship God properly, that God will fight for them.