By Perpetua Egesimba
Peter Ilegogie is a lawyer and public affairs analyst. In this interview, he spoke on some national issues.
How would describe the state of the nation?
Presently, Nigeria is like a sinking ship. It is like a ship being tossed about by evil storms. Every time, Nigeria has a projection like Vision 2020 but to actualize it is a problem. It has been said that Nigeria’s major problem is lack of leadership. In other words, lack of visionary and focused leadership is the bane of the country. Wherever Nigerians find themselves under a conducive environment, they always excel. The country or the system is keeping the people down. If you invite a Briton to come and rule Nigeria, the people will sit up and achieve the goals set for them by the white men. But if you put a Nigerian in a place of authority, tribalism, nepotism and other vices will come in. People will want to enrich themselves at the expense of the nation. If you look at Nigerians in diapora in various spheres of life, you will see that they achieve set goals. Nigerians are some of the best lawyers, doctors, writers, athletes and entertainers outside. Presently, we are blessed with a focused, God fearing and incorruptible acting president coupled with a former Head of State who never amassed wealth like some of those before or after him. I believe that before Buhari and Osinbajo complete their term, we will see that God used them to turn this country around. In their time, prominent lawyers are being tried for trying to compromise judges and the so-called untouchables arraigned and made to refund money. The period of impunity is gone in Nigeria. A lot of junior civil servants who were training their children abroad have brought those children back to Nigeria because all the loop holes of siphoning money from the country have been blocked. It’s not an event; it’s going to be a life style.
How would you react to the quit notice given to the Igbo by Arewa youths?
The quit notice is a reaction to the demands of the Igbo. The Igbo have over flogged the issue of secession to the point that it has become irritating to other Nigerians. When there is a problem, you don’t cut off the nose to spite the face. The Igbo, from the way I see them, are a very hard working group of people. Their part of the country is not enough to contain them. You find the Igbo in every part of the world. So, trying to restrict themselves to a geographical location in the east is not in the nature of the Igbo. The eastern part of the country is not developed as it should be because the Igbo are people who look beyond their enclaves. The Igbo would rather develop the community that they find themselves than where they come from. It is not ideal at the moment for the Igbo to say that they want to secede. But the Arewa want to preempt them into going so that by the time they leave, they will see the problem they have created for themselves. And the man championing this cause only parades an ideology, which is not in tandem with the philosophy of an average Igbo man, who is independent in thought and character. Kanu is playing on the intelligence of the predominantly illiterate traders in Igbo land and this was what somebody like Napoleon Bonapart capitalized on when he wanted to oust the king then. He used the mob. It was the same thing someone did when he wanted Jesus crucified. He took him to the mob because he knew that the mob will not rationalize before they kill. That is the same thing Kanu is doing and the so-called intellectuals are playing a docile role in controlling the masses in Igbo land. If care is not taken, what happened in 1966 will happen again because all the Arewa youth need to do is to wait for an announcement in the mosque on Friday and they will unleash mayhem. So, it is a very precarious situation that we have found ourselves in now and except it is handled maturely by opinion leaders, there may be trouble. Because of lack of leadership in the East, charlatans sometimes control public opinion. Ralph Uwazuruike, was a struggling lawyer in Lagos, if actually he was called to bar, but today he is a frontline leader in Igbo land. Kanu was also struggling in England but because he was using Radio Biafra to whip up unnecessary sentiments, he is now a hero.
Do you think that government has done enough to address the issue given that those who gave the quit notice have not been arrested?
I think government is being careful so as not to make heroes out of rabble rousers. A militant in Niger Delta, Tompolo, was declared wanted and he has not been arrested up till today and we know that he has not left the country. If they want to arrest him, they will do so. But because he has not been arrested, they have not been blowing up pipelines. If you arrest the Arewa youth leaders, there will be riot in the north. So, it is better to look the other way and allow peace to reign.
Everybody is talking about restructuring. So, what is the country waiting for?
Even former President Ibrahim Babangida has endorsed restructuring. A situation where resources are generated from a particular part of the country and spent in another part of the country is not ideal. There is so much power concentrated in the federal government but if you restructure, the resources at the centre will be whittled down. I think that this is why certain interests are against restructuring. Whoever forms the national government would not accept restructuring while in office.