By Chidi Obineche
Dr Damian Uzoma Ogbonna, an ideologue and National Chairman of the PPP speaks to Sunday Sun on divisiveness in Nigeria, saying the nation must divide to realize its full potentials. He also speaks on the odyssey of the nation, zoning which he says finished Nigeria, the 2015 elections which produced the All Progressives Congress, APC as the ruling party, and which he affirms was a mistake that would be corrected in 2019, corruption in the country, among other vital topical issues.
We are very close to another electioneering campaign, how is your party doing?
As you know, my party essentially came back as a political party on December 17, 2015. That was when the Federal High-Court nullified a section of the Electoral Act that banned some political parties that could not win seats at the National Assembly, State Assemblies, etc and therefore paved the way for us to return. That was in a major shift where my party along with Peoples Redemption Party(PRP) headed by Alhaji Balarabe Musa filed a suit at the Federal High Court. So we came back and we are doing everything possible to regain our status in the system. We are looking forward, towards the next presidential elections, because we want to be able to engage Nigerians and other presidential candidates in a way with discussions about this country. This is because, along, there has not been a real discussion about Nigeria.
Are you going to situate zoning as part of your proposed discussion?
Well, that’s part of the problem when I say there has not been a real discussion about Nigeria. When you are talking about Nigeria’s problems and how they could be solved, zoning is not part of it. Indeed, zoning has been part of the problem. We zoned right from day one as an entity. We zoned in the 1960’s which led to war, we zoned in the second republic which led to coup, we zoned when the PDP and APC came along, see where we are? You see, it is not only about zoning, but in fact it is one of the reasons why this country cannot come together. Whenever you say okay, you are zoning, immediately people plant in the minds of people the concept that we are different with different interests.
What practically would you engage in your discussions?
The fundamental problem is divisiveness and you cannot solve the problem simply by sermonizing or by passing laws. You also can’t solve it simply by legislation. When you have a country where the different segments hate one another, you are wasting your time. The divisiveness can be solved only in one way; by creating a loose federation and allowing each group to govern themselves and take care of their own responsibilities. A loose central or what we call federal government is the panacea for most of the endemic problems besetting Nigeria. The role of a loose central government has to only be limited to defense, interstate commands, common border issues like customs, immigration and others, nothing else. The ministry of Education that stays here at the centre and runs education is an anomaly. No! There are of course the health issues, hospital issues, business issues, all of those things should be deployed back to the regions to help Nigerians .keep in mind, when I’m talking of regions, I’m not talking about states. Even if they are states and you do that, the situation becomes worse. You take the divisiveness that you’ve created and multiply it.
Several attempts have been made to lay all these issues to rest to no avail through several conferences, dialogues and they have not worked. What do you think is responsible for Nigeria to actually fashion a very unique system that would accommodate all?
That’s simply oppression.
Oppression or suppression?
It’s oppression. You see, when you have enemies, the interest is only to exploit the nation, then suppress the potentials for growth, oppress the people of the nation so that they can continue their exploitation. Oppression cannot be adrift from liberty and freedom. No, they can’t understand what I’m saying. We were oppressed by the colonialists, they were not interested in developing us, they were only interested in evolving the capacity of few people through whom they can communicate and of course rely on. Their interest was in taking our resources, exploiting us and taking it back to their mother country. But when we attained independence, we didn’t fight them, we negotiated independence, we indeed dialogued for our independence. In that process, the truth is that they funded and created a class of people loyal to their interests and then they handed the country over to them including the Governor- General and the Prime Minister who are of that class and they, themselves and their families continued to exploit. If you are not of their family you would never be part of the ruling establishment of the country. Nigeria is what I call an important country without development. What do I mean? Those people who are there, whose families have owned Nigeria, Nigeria is their farmland, homeland, it is their construction land and the only way that they can retain this is to oppress the people. That was why the military interventions were successful, the political power is successful, everything is successful and they are used against us. The oppressors, the government, which is the people of great authorities, meet their opposition and when that happens you take all instruments of oppression and tear them to pieces, you push them out. When you do that, they would listen to you.
Where do you think the nation as you have just enumerated is heading to? Where do you think the renewed clamour for restructuring is leading Nigeria to?
It is only the privileged people who are in top positions that might think otherwise. The only way oppression leads to is anarchy or separation. When I say oppression that is the obstinacy and lack of discernment of those in power and absolute open antagonism to the debate on restructuring. Nigeria is going to be divided whether they like it or not. You see, you cannot hold down the liberty and freedom of people forever. There comes a time when they have to throw away that yoke. History told us about this, Britain over hundreds of years were on this oppression and ruled over various nations all over the world, they were forced to go. The wheel of progressive independence of states moved without much hitch. As an independent state Nigeria would also decide to peacefully evolve into confederacy through restructuring so that the various entities can evolve at their own pace. Through restructuring, we would remove all that is controlled by the cabal. So the power that dominates the nation has nothing to do with all this things we see. So we need to find a way, in case if there is going to be a division in this country, it is going to be a division that would strengthen us and not weaken us.
What are the plans of your party to mobilize the people towards your goal?
Well, we are doing it and we are doing as much as we can. But you have to understand the problem going on and on in this country. Nigeria is not a country that is developed, the ability to communicate to people is limited. If it were to be the United States and you have one interview with CNN or something else, there are 30 per cent of the voters that are literate and would listen to you, there would be impact. And so, Baracks Obama could rise out of nowhere. But in Nigeria, even this information that I’m passing to you, only a small group of people would probably read it. It is not going to be up to 10 per cent of the voters. If I go to NTA today and say all this things, would I be satisfied? So, in all that we would be able to do now, we actually make lots of noise because we now have feasible structures on the ground everywhere. Now, the point that I’m making to you deals with logistics and it is that of finance, the concept of being able to gather the masses within a space of two to three months. Really, it won’t be something somebody would be able to do in the manner that is envisaged. We are going to be involved in the 2019 campaigns and we are going to be discussing the ideology of our party with the public. We would be speaking on restructuring; how restructuring can be done, how we are going to accomplish these things and what makes our party different from other parties. We are going to bring these to the public and that becomes the beginning for us. We couldn’t do all that in these past elections because we couldn’t win seats and they banned us from participating. Now we are back and we are going to be talking about these things come the next elections and then from there we are going to pick it up. We intend to do that and accomplish all that.
APC seemed to have begun very well in spite of the militating sickness of the president, do you have anything to say on that?
I don’t get it when somebody says that they are doing well. That is all we hear. Are you saying that APC is doing well in the sense that APC is still a party in spite of the illness of the president or doing well in terms of administration?
Well most of the statements we get are suggestive of the notion that APC is doing well.
Anybody can say that, and doing well in what area? If they are doing so well, what is the president still doing in London? Why is he not in the country right now? Why is he not being attended to in a medical facility in Nigeria? If they are doing well, why am I running generator here? Didn’t they promise us that they would get us 20,000 megawatts before 2019? What the hell is all that? If they are doing so well, what is happening to the economy right now? Why is the economy coming from recession to depression? Where are the employments? Why are people unemployed? Surely they are doing well. Is it security? What is exactly going on on security? Nigeria is highly an insecure country. What are they doing about Boko Haram? They are doing so well and there is lawlessness in the land and they themselves treat Nigerians like they are all slaves in their own country. So what exactly are they doing? I think it is time for these people to realize that Nigerians are no longer happy. They don’t know anything about governance, they have no clue about government. They have no policy on the table, nothing whatsoever, the least thing they can do for us is to shut the hell up until their time is up so they can leave. They can’t continue to make us unhappy. You know the way they talk to us, we are not idiots, we are not stupid. Nigerians are not people without intelligence. So the APC people should be very careful and those that are also promising hope and insulting us should begin to realize that the game is over for them. Nigerians will be more circumspect in 2019 and avoid the mistake of 2015. When you are not doing good things, you would be better treated, if you would come to people and say this thing is not working well, I’m trying my best to try out some suggestions. When you do that, people would tend to appreciate you better, but the worst kind of a fool is a fool that doesn’t know that he is a fool, he turns out offending everybody. Most of us have to admit that what is done is done before you can be corrected, but if you believe that you are doing the right thing then how are you going to change because you believe that you are doing the right thing. They wanted power and when they were in power they started making excuses that is not the way to craft policies and build a virile nation.
They are said to be doing well on the drive against corruption.
That is what they tell us, that is what I am hearing. Well, like I said before, the worst type of fool is a fool who doesn’t know that he is a fool. Now, how can any right thinking person look into Nigeria and tell you that corruption has dropped so far?. The reason is simple. Now, if you go to the public service today it is as corrupt as it has always been.. If you walk into the next building, you would see my business outfit because I’m a businessman. So, you see a politician who is not in the market place does not understand Nigeria, because he is not in the market place. Because he does know how the people feel, because he just hires employees, he does not even know the peoples’ needs. Because we know the depth of corruption, we are the ones who know where it itches Nigerians the most. Corruption has become Nigeria’s nature and our culture.
What is your personal view of where Nigeria is? Are you talking about revolution or you think Nigeria would remain like this forever.
Well, no, we won’t remain like this forever because we have been like this for a long time and nothing remains constant. One of the things we know as human beings is that change is constant.
Why don’t we change now?
This is the bad one, another change would come. So, change only becomes bad when it is genuine. At the time when this country would have time for revolution is when the average man is ready and willing to sacrifice his blood to this nation.
You have some ugly information concerning why these things are the way they are. Do you have any insight in terms of intelligence report as to why this situation is the way it is?
I don’t need any intelligence report to tell you why the country is in a bad state. The country is in a bad state because there is a disconnection between the governors and the government, between the rulers and the ruled. They are not aligned to the people.
How do you look at the man Buhari?
Well, it is unfortunate that he is ill and therefore sometimes we don’t talk too harshly about somebody who is going through an adverse situation. It is not even human but my party opposed him when he ran for presidency three times and now we still oppose him now that he is on board because of who he is. He is the same man who violated the constitution of Nigeria few decades ago. He was amongst those who overthrew the democratic government in Nigeria therefore stepping us back for more than a decade. If they had not succeeded in that coup there would have been such an educated population, the fact that they succeeded doesn’t change the fact that they overthrew the Nigerian constitution. Like I said during the elections he has not apologized to this nation for that, if he has not even seen that he did something wrong back then, how can we entrust him with another democracy? He killed the previous democracy. Why must he be a benefactor of another democracy? I was telling Nigerians to please ask these questions to yourselves when you were going to cast your votes. So those that were in the military who ever participated in the process of destroying Nigeria’s political establishment, they are not my fans. I oppose them today and I will oppose them tomorrow. From a perspective of principle, I don’t know him in person but, statistics are clear, the public statements are clear, people should not be surprised when he surrounded the government with his kind.
You know his products, his nepotism is in his blood, he has been that way, and I wondered what Tinubu was thinking about. I remembered during the election when he was said to be a reformed democrat, I was like saying “what, who reformed him?”. He just came back and was announced reformed. Well, let’s wait and see whether he is. Nigerians needed change. So I don’t have anything against him as an individual because I didn’t know him, but his public and political statements are things that I oppose 100 per cent .