Elder statesman, Chief Mike Ahamba, has said the exclusion of Southeast zone from benefitting in the proposed $22.7 billion loan, which the Senate recently approved for the federal government was discriminatory, and goes against the spirit of Nigeria’s constitution.
In this interview with VINCENT KALU, The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, emphasised that the loan had better been stopped instead of causing more disaffections in the country.
What is your view on the state of the nation, the insecurity and more?
It is very worrisome because it has not been this bad before. I don’t know who to blame, whether it is the times or those in charge. It will appear that those in charge of all these areas have become permanent structures that cannot be shifted. Even in a football field, if a striker is not scoring, another striker replaces him. I have said it before and I keep saying it that our security chiefs should be changed; their era has not been good for us.
Former President Obasanjo recently said if the country is not restructured, it may experience another civil war. How do you react to that?
The country has to be restructured, there is no doubt about it and it has to be peacefully done. I want people to define what they mean by restructuring, is it geographical restructuring, intellectual restructuring or economic restructuring or what?
I believe there must be devolution of power to create a semblance of federalism. I believe we have to go back to what was. I repeat, if they can find the Aburi agreement, let’s give it a trial. That is what we need now, getting apart a little to be closer.
Political restructuring to enthrone true federalism, going back to the Aburi accord or implementation of 2014 Confab report seem to have hit the brick wall, as those in authority don’t like to hear about these. What should be done then?
Who are those in authority? The first estate of the realm is the National Assembly. I was a member of that National Conference and we passed more than 600 resolutions. There are three segments of those resolutions. Some of them require constitutional adjustments, while some require statutory enactments and others require administrative action.
So, it is to find out, which one to do and how. My idea is that if anybody knows any aspect of it that ought to be done, which he can initiate in one way or the other, let it be initiated one after the other.
For example, there was a resolution that one state should be created in the Southeast, but Southeasterners have never presented any such request to the National Assembly. I believe that we have to sit in a conference under a law made by the National Assembly; call it Constituent Assembly, call it National Conference, remove sovereign so that people will not be agitated, let us sit and decide how we are going to live in Nigeria.
It has become necessary for us to redefine it. I don’t know how those who went to Constituent Assembly in 1978 allowed themselves to be goaded into giving up our federalism. Until that time, we had constitution for every state inherited from the regions.
It was a conference of Nigerians that decided that we should have one constitution and now we have found out that it was a mistake. Federation is just a name; we have to get something close to a federation and that is the only way I think that we can have peace.
Remember, this country was established and rested its growth on productivity of the components units, but we have converted it into a distributive country, where instead of producing, the states now go to the centre because of oil.
We have to get back to the part of productivity; it is absolutely necessary that we must begin to produce again.
Talking about insecurity, which you said was worrisome; the Southwest came up with regional security outfit, Amotekun, while people were expecting Southeast governors to follow suit, they adopted the IGP model of community policing, which critics say would further deepen the unitary system people are questioning. Where do you stand on this?
I congratulate the Westerners on taking the positive steps to protect themselves, and I believe we should do the same. If you find it difficult, and failing to do things to protect your people, they will begin to find a way to take care of themselves. I don’t see why the Southeasterners should not find one, the Northeasterners also has one, and the far North equally has one because the police and the military that are supposed to protect everybody have failed.
How can someone stay around and watch somebody who is armed come and kill his family in his presence because he decided to be a disciplined man. No, no, how long will people tolerate that?
My fear is that one day, people will turn around and say if we are going to finish today let us finish today, and I’m praying that it will not happen. I don’t see anything wrong with Amotekun. If the Southeast should have one, I don’t like the name, Ogbunigwe, we should give it another name.
But the Southeast governors have settled for community policing, which the IGP launched recently in Enugu
That is a different thing from the local thing they want to do. All areas cannot do the same thing, if they are for community policing, and it is what they want, let us see how it goes. There is no cause for alarm, but when they find out that it didn’t work because there has been community policing already existing, it didn’t solve the problem, they will change tactics.
If those given the duty to ensure security in this country could not perform their functions in an unbiased way, people are going to take arm to protect themselves. In a situation where everybody will have its own army, it would be disastrous for the country. May God help us never to tread on this path.
What is your take on the proposed $22.7 billion loan, from which the Southeast was excluded from benefiting?
It is unfortunate and I intend to write to Mr. President. I’m highly disappointed with that. He is a man I served for eight years, absolutely 100 per cent.
For him to exclude my own Southeast and allowed this thing to happen to us, it is a horrible disappointment to me.
In any case, don’t be surprised that some people may go to court to prevent the spending of that money unless it is done in accordance with the constitution.
The constitution is designed in a way that when you are sharing something; you share it equally to all the geographical areas.
To share this money and exclude the Southeast is a bad message that will not help anybody, and I hope they have to have a rethink and those who are bringing the money should keep their money instead of bringing it here to cause trouble for us. We are already suffering; let’s suffer a little more if it will make us behave ourselves.
Is it not the Southeast governors who are supposed to lead the protest over the loan issue?
We have people in the National Assembly, where approval has been given for it. That is where the battle is won.
Let the legislators in the Senate and the ones in the House of Representatives who come from the Southeast raise their voice so that the world will hear it, and that is why they are there to represent us. Only Abaribe has spoken, where are the others?
It is discriminatory, which is an insult and we are going to protest. We must raise our voice to high heaven and let the world hear this type of open discrimination.
Whoever that is in charge of this country should know that it is wrong to isolate a particular zone and visit it with this type of cheating. This is not acceptable to me and it is also not acceptable to any Igbo man.
Why is it that the Southeast governors are always afraid to take a firm stand on issues that concern the region?
How would I know? We elected them. Next time, let us know what to consider when electing governors. That is important thing. What should you consider, is it the person who will be sharing money at the primaries or is it somebody whose attitude is known? I have nothing against any of them for now. They have been elected and will be there until the expiration of their tenure by 2023 or as the case may be.
Kaduna State governor, Nasir El Rufai, recently said that the presidency should move to the South in 2023 after Buhari might have completed his term, and that the North should not have anything to do with it. However, some Northern elders still insist that the zone should retain power after Buhari. What is your view?
Have we had a 100 per cent decision on this type of situation? When the thing moved to the North, did everybody agree? The point is the majority. The majority that sees what is right will do what is right.
Those Northerners who said that power should come to South are true Nigerians, and those who said, no, are just looking for trouble. When the time comes, reasonable people will do reasonable things. The reasonable thing is that the presidency must come South, not just South, but the Southeast. That is what is fair to all concerned.
The Southeast must muster courage and bring out candidate who will be acceptable to the whole nation.
Power is not given on a platter of gold, is the Southeast building the necessary bridges linking other zones to support its aspiration?
They don’t have to do it in the newspapers; they are doing it quietly. We are doing something about it.
You were an associate of President Buhari, what will be your advice to him based on the situation in the country?
I will advise him to think about the people, they saw him as the messiah. He should assess what has happened and decide for himself whether he has answered that calling.