As the country just celebrated its 60th independence, against the background of not being in the position expected of her, the Prelate of Methodist Church of Nigeria, Dr. Chukwuemeka Uche, said the rain started to beat Nigeria six months after independence.
In an interview with Vera Wisdom-Bassey, the clergy called for restructuring of the country for peace to reign.
Nigeria at 60, how has it been?
We thank God that we were 60 years on October 1, 2020, it is a welcome development, we have so many things to thank God for; our independence, our self determination, self rule and we thank God for the learning process called democracy, which is government of the people, by the people and for the people. We have been practicing it but it has never been without problems, but we thank God for where we are.
Nigeria is a sovereign nation and elected people at federal, state and local levels are ruling us.
Even thou there are challenges, democracy undergoes political process, called metamorphosis. Meaning, it has to grow from one level to the another. It is not easy when a child is growing; he has challenges here and there; sometimes when you see the child, he has some wounds, yet he continues to grow until it gets to adulthood.
Are you satisfied with the state of the nation?
Yes and No. I said yes because there is a little bit of freedom for the people, but not total freedom as a matured democracy because there was a little bit of military interlude in our journey. So, there is nothing you can do to a leopard to remove its spots. The only time we had total democracy was the time of the late President Musa Yar’Adua and former President Goodluck Jonathan, those were civilians, but the others are mostly military-civilian. At times, there is that rigidity of the military that comes in and there is nothing one can do about it than to accept the situation.
What makes us unhappy and uncomfortable in Nigeria is the rate of insecurity. It has reached an alarming stage and people are no longer safe to travel by road or go to farm. This problem of insecurity is why we talk of restructuring, because Nigeria is too big for one person to manage. At 60, we were supposed to have emerged as a nation state, but instead there is division along ethnic lines, religious lines. We should not be talking of division, or breakup of the country; however, we ought know that there should be in place the type of government that allows for federating units to manage their security and resources. I advocate for community policing or state policing, which is different from federal policing. I also advocate for a nation where there should be mutual trust and laws that regulate everything we do. Whenever I travel to America, the policing in Taxes is different because of the way they operate; they operate independently and the police in Philadelphia is different from the police in Washington, as well as the one in Maryland. All the states have their own policing and even the mayors are given some measure of authority to regulate what happens in their areas. This is a matter of legislation.
Bringing everything to the centre is not very healthy and that is what is propelling the agitations; the situation where everybody goes to beg money from the federal government is not the best.
At what point did you think the rain started beating us?
I may say that things started getting wrong about six months after independence. There was a coup in 1966, which resulted in a civil war in until 1970 and then the military were there until 1979, when civilian government came, but in 1983 there was another coup. So, we have been having more military administration than civilian government.
Some times, I ask myself if we are truly practicing true democracy because some of the laws we make in Nigeria are smuggled into the status book without being thoroughly debated by the legislatures.
There should be rule of law, equity and justice, and where these things are lacking, it is unhealthy, and the place will not know and enjoy peace. Some people once lorded it over the others, it is also unhealthy. The North trying to dominate has been there even in 1904, and the alleged fear of conquest are issues that are over heating the polity.
What is really the problem?
I think France, British, and Canada are advanced democracies by the grace of God. I have been to these places, there are some elements of maturity and the leaders know they are servants of the people, but here it is the other way road.
In Nigeria, the leaders see themselves as lords, who must oppress and suppress others to be in the office, it should not be so. When you are elected into office, you should know your a servant of the people and you are supposed to be paid by the peoples taxes and other resources that belong to the people; your welfare, feeding, everything come from the taxpayers’ money, so one shouldn’t be arrogant but show a level of respect. The only thing is that Nigerians smile when they are suffering. Look at what happened in Mali, we don’t want what happened in Egypt to happen in Nigeria, our leaders should behave themselves, they should know they are the servants of the people and not their lords.
There are agitations across the country; Biafra, Oduduwa and more may still come, why?
It is a reaction to the prevailing situation in the country where some groups felt being dominated by others, which should not be so.
Where there is injustice, where equity is cast overboard and fair play not applied, and things are done in lopsided manner and one group tries to dominate or conquer others, you would expect agitations especially in a multi ethnic and multi religious nation like Nigeria.
When people get their fair share of the commonwealth of the nation, there will be no problem in the country. We should remove fear in governance; we should be wise and look for people who mean well for this country. They are many, only that they don’t come out to vie for political positions. Once we pray seriously God will bring them to the front burner.
Through prayer and coming together, we can sort out ourselves. One of the solutions to these problems that want to tear us apart is to restructure the country.
I know many people have different meanings to it, but we can go back and bring out the 2014 Confab report and begin to implement it. It still baffles why that document was not allowed to see the light of the day. People should be liberal enough, I think that will help us as a nation. We should look at other countries around us and see the progress they are making. Some of them were far behind us. Look at how we go about with elections, killing people, burning of cars, houses in order to prevent people from making their choices.
How do we come out of these problems that you have highlighted so far?
People are deprived of their right, our youth graduate from school, they are unable to get employment; so they become extremely venerable and could be used to kill if given a gun. They are hungry as there is no food for them. Hunger is the worst thing that can happen to anybody. Hunger is a killer and more dangerous than Coronavirus. Once people are satisfied, their needs are meet, and their right is given to them, then banditry will become a thing of the past; crime and criminalities of all sorts will reduce to the barest minimum.
The governments should come up with workable programmes to create massive jobs to keep the youths gainfully employed.
What advice do you have for Nigerians?
Nigerians should take their destinies into the hands; they ought to know that their voter cards are their powers to enthrone sound leadership. They should make sure that anybody who wants to rule them at all levels must have important agenda, manifesto, ideology, and overall determined to bring usher good governance, harmony to promote togetherness. We should work towards progress and co-existence among ourselves.
God has brought us together, this idea of I’m Igbo, I’m Yoruba, I ‘m Hausa, I’m Ijaw, I’ Fulani, I’m Tiv, I’m Itsekiri, is not going to help us as a nation.
I want to warn our leaders should behave so that we won’t see our selves in a situation where foreign interest will not come to mediate for us. The way we are going, if we allow inter-tribal war, foreign interest will want to come and fight because of the abundant natural resources in the country. At the end of the day, there will be killings, and who are the victims, Nigerians. So that is why we should not allow it. History will not be kind to anybody who tries to divide Nigeria under his leadership; posterity will curse such a person. That is the more reason anybody in leadership in Nigeria should behave and know that he or she is holding the people’s mandate.
We fought a war before; it was not a good war, both sides suffered.
We should not divide or cause confusion in Nigeria. My prayer is that whoever that wants to cause confusion and divide Nigeria should be eliminated whether in office or out of office by God. We should know that we would give account to God one day. Therefore, we should live together in harmony and in peace, and God is watching over us.