“We should make the federation work, but we cannot do that without recognizing the injustices that were done… I am for reconciliation and restructuring”
Raphael Ede, Enugu
Former Minister of Information Prof Jerry Gana has said that the country is yet to get it right after 58 years of independence.
Prof Gana in this interview in Enugu blamed the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party for lacking the dynamic leadership that could have inspired confidence and engendered transformation and development in the country. He also advised that agitations for division of Nigeria were not an option for the injustices done to some segments of the Nigerian federation, but through restructuring and reconciliation of Nigerians.
What is your honest assessment of Nigeria at 58?
If the truth is to be told, we should have done much better because by the time we became independent, we were far ahead of Singapore, Brazil and many other nations. Therefore, there are a number of things we should have already gained that we haven’t been able to do, but we must be grateful to God that at least we are still together. We have made some achievements and what is required now is to go further. So, realistically, we should have done much better than we have done so far, but we should see where we are, thank God for the things we have done well, reject those things that we haven’t done well and resolve to do better next time. This is why a number of us joined the presidential race that leadership is the key without it nothing happens and Nigerians are thinking that it is a general consensus in the land. The APC leadership is not able to give the kind of dynamic leadership to Nigeria for transformation, for development, for creation of wealth, for creation of jobs that will make Nigeria move with first class infrastructure, first class development of the power sector. So, the key to it is for the democratic process to be used to throw up good leadership so that there can be good governance. Therefore, there can be good policies, good development and this is what I would advise. The central thing next to leadership is that we have to restructure the federation. This federation is over concentrated at the centre; there must be devolution of powers to the federating units. So, we need to do that restructuring, but my own position is that both restructuring and reconciliation must go together so that we create peace, security and harmony.
What’s your take on the agitation for dismembering of Nigeria, especially with the disenchantment in the South-East?
The first is that from the area we come from we understand how people feel, they feel neglected, they feel bottled-up, they feel cheated, they feel there is no fairness, no equity and no justice. So, if anybody is a lover of justice you will feel with what they are feeling, but the area where we defer is that there are other ways because you see, the 21st Century is not the age of small nations; you will be squeezed out by the big nations and the international community. With China of about two billion, India over a billion, the US nearly 500 million, huge nations and Europe coming together; the small nations in Europe are coming together to have the European Union; please, we thank God for the federation. So, there is something to do and the thing to do is not to break ourselves to small nations, rather we should make the federation work so that we are stronger together, but we cannot do that without recognizing the injustices that were done, while I am for reconciliation and restructuring. We cannot as it were say people shouldn’t feel the kind of things they are facing, but we are saying that by the grace of God there are better ways because the theory is if we break into small nations, we are going to be squeezed, we are going to be further divided by the bigger nations. The Chinese are already picking up some of the Africa nations, you see then, what they are trying to do; we don’t want colonialism. We want Nigeria to be stronger and mighty, fair and just.
How do you think the issue of insecurity could be addressed?
This is a very serious problem, it is affecting my people directly and I don’t know how many thousands that have gone. We have continued to bury people; even last week in Jos, I don’t know how many people that have been killed and just three days it is happening in Adamawa, in Taraba, in Plateau, in Benue, in Kogi, in Nasarawa, everywhere, a number of them, but let me emphasize that: first and foremost, we have to restore confidence, we don’t trust each other anymore. There were days when people felt at home everywhere that the man from Katsina would come to Enugu to live and was even elected the mayor of Enugu; some Igbo came up North and in my village and live and do their businesses. In short, in any village in my area you don’t see any Igbo man you better runaway because the Igbo are business people; there has to be freedom to be anywhere you want, peace and stability. So, that confidence is very important and we shall reconcile Nigerians and create harmony, it is very important because believe it or not, your neighbour is you’re best security that is why God says ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. Secondly, we should invest in security infrastructure of the nation in a very serious way. And the way to do it is to be part of restructuring because as of now, there is only one federal police unless somebody wants to be naïve there is no way which you can really secure the city in Abuja with the federal police. It is not possible; every federation has levels of security; if you go to the US, you have FBI federal, then there will be state police; in short they have even council police, city police and so everywhere well policed; it is not just here that we are pretending. It is correct that in a federation you must allow every federating unit to have the authority and power to enforce laws and to protect their people, very important and the best example you can find is the Governor of Zamfara State in Nigeria who recently said as chief security officer that he resigned (to fate) because he doesn’t have the power, that is a serious problem. We will make sure that authority and power come together; some people may have the authority, but may not have power to enforce the authority that is why many of the governors have authority, but they don’t have the power to do anything and you are powerless. We shall marry both because if authority lacks power it becomes pitiable and then there will be a lot of crime. Thirdly, we should bring about development; this poverty is really making Nigerians to do all sorts of things they’re not supposed to be doing; unemployment is so high, this poverty is so biting that even good people are being tempted to do evil just to survive, but with good leadership, this economy will grow, this economy will be vibrant, we shall create wealth, generate jobs; there will be so many good things to do.
What’s your assessment of the recently held governorship election in Osun State?
My prayer and hope is that the INEC will do much much better than what they have done in Osun election because it wasn’t free, it wasn’t credible and it wasn’t fair and the international community was there as observers and they have told the world. The most part of it is that they are still buying votes and they did it in two ways; this time both ahead of time by releasing money to the state, the Federal Government is helping them to now come and give loans to people and when they are giving you the loan they will take your PVC number and even during the election they were doing so. We hope that INEC will conduct free and fair elections in 2019. Osun election was a failure in terms of conduct.
With what happened do you think that the 2019 general election will be credible?
We have already asked and we joined the other parties that opposed that the INEC saying that the body must be totally reorganized because as of now they have lost the credibility and many Nigerians don’t have faith in what they are doing. In short, one of the parties asked the INEC Chairman to reign, but we go beyond that, we want an Independent National Electoral Commission because that is their name and we thank God that we were part of those who were insisting during the transition when General Abdulsalami Abubakar came in briefly and the constitutional programme was being done and I thank God for Dr Alex Ekwueme; he was the Chairman of G-34 and I was the Secretary and the meeting in those days was serious. One thing we insisted was that the then National Electoral Commission must be changed to the Independent National Electoral Commission because an umpire must be independent. This INEC is APC and they seem to be working for APC and we are saying that they must be independent. The election must be free and fair, let the vote of Nigerians count because democracy is about choice, freedom of choice; let Nigerians choose and when they choose, you respect their choice. So, I really feel very worried about the 2019 election because INEC is not giving anybody confidence. Let me take this opportunity to also appeal to all Nigerians that are eligible to vote to make sure they are ready with their PVCs to vote. If you haven’t got yours, get it, let all lovers of democracy come together and ensure that elections are done in such a way that they are credible, free and fair, that is the least they should do for us. If they don’t, we shall insist, we fought before and we shall fight again and it shall be democratic fight because the restoration of democracy was done under the pressure of those of us in G-34 and NADECO and others to ensure this democracy and this is what people now want to ruin. We will not allow any of this to be ruined, thank God for those under the previous government they respected the processes of democracy, this government must do so and I hope they will do so because democracy is the best form of government and we don’t want any other intervention by the military or anybody, we want democracy we love democracy because democracy by the very nature is the government of the people by the people and for the people.