By DICKSON OKAFOR
The Coordinator of Nigerians in Diaspora Organization (NIDO), Guangzhou chapter and CEO, Blue Diamond Logistics, China, Mr Festus Uzoma Mbisiogu, has tasked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to experiment Diaspora voting with the forthcoming Anambra State governorship election slated for November 6.
He described the exclusion of Nigerians living overseas from electing their leaders as infringement of their franchise and fundamental human rights, which he said, is against the 1999 Constitution.
Mbisiogu cautioned Nigerians who are blowing the embers of fire because of Governor Rotimi Akeredelu’s quit notice on Fulani herdsmen to leave the state forest reserve, saying it is not a quit notice, but a means to profile them in order to have a database for herders in the state.
He condemned the killings of unarmed civilians in Orlu Local Government Area (LGA) of Imo State by the Nigerian Army, describing it as man’s inhumanity to man.
The business mogul who hails from Umuchima in Ideato South LGA in Orlu put the larger blame on Igbo leaders for being insensitive to the plight of the people of Southeast, especially the youths, saying that Igbo leaders must come together and collectively play their constitutional role of the people’s advocate.
Mbisiogu called on President Muhammadu Buhari to set up judicial panel of enquiry to unearth the root cause of the killings and punish those who masterminded what he described as massacre of unarmed civilians in Orlu.
He gave insight on how insecurity in the country has prevented foreign investors from coming to Nigeria to invest.
How did the Igbo in Diaspora receive the news of the recent clash between the Nigeria Army and members of Eastern Security Network (ESN), a security outfit of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) which claimed many lives in Orlu?
Just like me, it came to them as a shock. As I sympathize with the parents of the unarmed youths who lost their lives during the clash. It is unfortunate that Orlu which is the most peaceful part of the country is in the news in such a negative form. Inasmuch as the majority of Igbo in the Diaspora do not support anything or group whose aim is to divide Nigeria, we are equally against shooting and killing of unarmed civilians. It is not acceptable in international judicial system. It is barbaric, unjust and man’s inhumanity to man. To the best of my knowledge, Southeast has no security outfit in whatever guise. So, it sounds strange when we heard that members of IPOB security outfit, known as Eastern Security Network (ESN) attacked Nigeria military in Orlu, we were surprised. I’m more concerned because I hail from Orlu and few weeks ago my NGO; Uzotex Foundation sank boreholes in some communities in Ideato South in continuation of our community development initiative. Our people are peaceful, law abiding and good citizens. Therefore, I call on President Muhammadu Buhari to set up judicial panel of inquiry to investigate the cause of the clash and bring those behind it to book.
How has the spate of kidnapping, banditry and insurgency in the country affected business transaction between members of NIDO and their foreign partners?
Security is a major determinant factor in international business. No foreign investor will invest in a country that is not secure. No doubt, security situation in Nigeria is getting worse by the day which has resulted to citizens relying on self help. It threw up agitations such as state police, community policing and call for Service Chiefs to be sacked. Insecurity raise suspicion among Nigerians to the extent that Fulani herdsmen that we used to know as peaceful back in the days are today perceived by the people in the Southern part of Nigeria as terrorists, kidnappers and bandits. To me, not all Fulani herdsmen are criminals; rather they have been infiltrated by members of Boko Haram. That is why you hear Fulani herdsmen and farmers clash in the recent times, but it was not the case back in days when I was growing up. And in order to safe guide their people and their lands, leaders in the South had to form regional security outfit and that is what brought about Amotekun in Southwest. So, every business discussion with our foreign partners wishing to invest in the country is put on hold coupled with COVID-19 pandemic. That is how bad the security situation in Nigeria is. But thank God with the recent appointment of Service Chiefs by President Muhammadu Buhari there is hope that very soon security situation in the country will improved. All over the world even in China, security of live and property is not left in hand of government alone, but a synergy and support of traditional as well as religious leaders and the populace is needed to enable law enforcement agents perform their duty optimally. Again, like I have always advocated, no country can thrive economically or attain industrial growth without uninterrupted electricity supply. This is the main economic bane of Nigeria and unless there is steady power supply, unemployment and insecurity will persist unabated because when young people are not gainful employed, they will be a willing tool in the hand of terrorist. In developed countries like China, modern equipment and gadgets for crime control and detection are in place and that is why you cannot break the law in China and get away hence everybody is conscious of the law. The reason uninterrupted power supply should top Buhari’s agenda is that if, there is a bomb blast or any terrorist attack in any part of the country, the CCTV cameras in public places will reveal those behind the attack and they will be arrested as is the case in advance countries. But without steady power supply, you cannot have a functional CCTV camera. So, if power is fixed, crime rate will reduce. However, I appeal to Nigerians not to see themselves as enemies, rather we should join hands and fight our common enemy which is insurgents who disguise as kidnappers, bandits and armed robbers attacking, killing and raping our mothers, sisters and daughters.
Invariably, you are against the recent quit notice given to Fulani herdsmen by the governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredelu?
No, it is not what Governor Akeredelu meant and that is not what I meant either. The governor only asked Fulani herdsmen operating in the forest reserves to come for profiling. The problem of Nigeria which made the governor in his wisdom to take such decision was to do the needful, get to know genuine herders which is the proper thing to do by asking the herders to come out for identification. Just few days ago, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State concurred with Akeredelu when he said recently that herders’ should operate only in the northern part of the country. Ganduje called on the Federal Government to ban the movement of cattle from the North to South in order to end the frequent clashes between the Fulani herdsmen and farmers across the country and curb cattle rustling. So, it is now clear that Ganduje is in the same page with his Ondo State counterpart. Therefore, I expect other governors in the six geo-political zone to do the same at least to enable us have a database for herders in the country. It is wrong to ask certain tribe or ethnic group to leave any part of the country for whatever reason. Constitutionally, it’s unacceptable and it violates the rights of such individuals. Like I said earlier, Fulani, Igbo, Yoruba, Tiv, Kanuri, Ogoni or Efik are not enemies to themselves, but terrorists who disguise in different forms to unleash terror on our people.
Do you foresee security restored in the Northeast with the appointment of new Service Chiefs by President Buhari?
That is the desire of every Nigerian, including those in the Diaspora that security should improve in the Northeast with the appointment of new Service Chiefs. Even though many believe it came late, but to me, it’s better to be late than never. It is left for the new Service Chiefs to prove to Nigerians and that they are indeed capable of ending insurgency in the Northeast without further delay. Also, the appointment has restored confidence of our foreign partners in the effort of the present administration to end terrorism in Nigeria. No doubt, the former Service Chiefs did their best in the fight against terror. The expectation is that the new Service Chiefs should consolidate on the achievements of their predecessors and nip this common enemy in the bud.
Nigerians in Diaspora have alerted the home government to make provision for them to exercise their franchise during elections in the country, what is the response so far from the Federal Government?
The agitation is on and I hope before 2023, the coast will be clear for Diaspora voting by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Therefore, refusal of Diaspora Nigerians to cast our vote for the candidate of our choice during election amount to infringement of our fundamental human rights. So, we have placed the demand to the Federal Government and INEC through Hon. Abike Dabiri- Erewa, Chairman/CEO Nigerian in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM). She has assured us that before 2023 INEC would have concluded arrangement for Diaspora voting. Meanwhile, I’m calling on INEC to experiment the process with the forthcoming Anambra State governorship election in November this year. Citizens of other nations where we reside are given opportunity by their governments to vote during election, but Nigerians don’t enjoy such rights.
In spite of the aggressive manner President Buhari administration is waging war against corruption, Transparency International in its latest corruption index, rated Nigeria as 49 most corrupt country in the world, is that the way Nigeria is perceived outside?
Corruption is a global menace that has impoverished citizens of nations and Nigeria cannot be exempted hence the reason for the rating by Transparency International. Of course, the Nigerian government faulted the bases through which they arrive at the rating. To me, considering the way and manner the present administration under the watchful eyes of President Muhammadu Buhari is fighting graft, there is indeed reduction in the rate of corruption in Nigeria. But I think one area the government is not looking at, is nepotism which is also corruption. So far, the Buhari government has not been fair to the Southeast geo-political zone in terms of federal appointments. A typical example is the recent appointment of Service Chiefs; the zone was omitted just as in previous appointments. That itself is corruption hence the Federal Government should take note of that and make amend in future appointments.