From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Archbishop Emeritus of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has told the Federal Government that the duo of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo also known as Sunday Igboho, have a justifiable case as far as their calls for secession are concerned.
Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was brought back to the country by the government in continuation of his trial, while Igboho who is leading the call for the secessionist agitation of the Yoruba nation, is currently undergoing trial in the Republic of Benin after he was arrested in the country while trying to flee to Germany.
But speaking with Sunday Sun in his Domus Pacis, Abuja residence, Onaiyekan, a former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), said that the government’s accusation against Igboho and Kanu can hardly be compared to what the country has been suffering from the activities of Boko Haram, bandits, and Fulani herdsmen that are destabilising the security of the nation.
Onaiyekan maintained that the large number of Nigerians do not see the Biafra and Yoruba secessionist agitators as criminals, saying it is up to the National Assembly to kick-start impeachment moves against President Muhammadu Buhari.
Your Eminence, the nation is awash with the trial of Nnamdi Kanu, and Sunday Igboho, who is also on trial in Benin Republic. What do you make of these two scenarios?
Well, it is good you have put the two together – Sunday Igboho, who claims to be fighting for the defence, liberation of the Yoruba people against clear enemies, those whom he says have been harassing Yoruba people in the famous herdsmen-farmers killing, raping. And that complaint has been going on, not only in Yoruba land, but also very strongly felt in Southern Kaduna, in Plateau, in Benue and to some extent, even in our Kogi State. Although our people are not making as much noise, but I do know that my people complain that they can no longer go to farm. So, it is a general crisis. We are hearing, of course, even in the far North, the same problem. At least, in the Northeast, we already knew the exploits of Boko Haram. People have almost forgotten how to farm there, probably taken for granted now that nothing will happen there. But worst still is Northwest and North-central, places that are really farmlands, farming peoples, who are now unable to. So, you could say that what is happening in Yoruba land is not only a problem of the Yoruba people. It is a national problem. But somebody has taken it up on that level. You can say the same thing too with Kanu and his reference to Biafra. He was not the first to invoke the memories of the ideals and ideas of an independent country outside of Nigeria, secession, which led to a civil war then. Before him, there was MASSOB and after him, there is this IPOB. One could say that just as the herder-farmers problem is a national issue which Igboho has taken up very, very strongly in respect of his own people, so also, the things that Kanu, IPOB and before him, MASSOB are all complaining about, was a Nigeria that is not working well for them. But the issue is that the problem they are complaining about is also a national problem. There are few Nigerians who feel that the country is doing very well the way it is. Maybe there are some people, maybe especially now, those who are having a good time and who think the country has never been as good as they have been under Buhari because Buhari is treating them very, very well. But anybody looking at the situation in Nigeria dispassionately in terms of security, in terms of employment, in terms of economic development and so on, will all agree that we have a problem. So, what I am trying to say is that IPOB, Kanu or anybody else, they really have a case, a case we can say that what we are now having as Nigeria, they can find it no longer acceptable. Now, if you don’t find Nigeria as it is acceptable, you have two options, either sit here and fight and make it acceptable or decide that you want to opt out. Both Igboho and Kanu are saying they want to opt out. Our government should know that these people are not seen as criminals by a large number of Nigerians. And here, the ethnic aspect comes in. Kanu and co claim to be fighting for the rights of the Igbo people. We are not sure where the boundaries of these Igbo people are, which is one of the major problems. But still, there are a good number of Igbo people, especially many young Igbo, who see in Kanu, a visionary with a clear agenda. And there are two categories of Igbo that show very much interest and agreement with Kanu, a lot of young elements like Kanu himself who did not see the civil war, who did not see the first, original Biafra. Also, is the fact that Kanu made a lot of impact in the Diaspora. And there is a large Igbo Diaspora, not only Diaspora within Nigeria, that is Igbo living outside of Igbo land all over Nigeria and who resonate with Kanu’s idea, rhetoric that the Igbo man is not getting his proper due and right in Nigeria and that they have given up on Nigeria. In the case of Kanu, the leaders, elders of Igbo land, we have not seen them massively supporting Kanu. We are waiting. Here, when you look at Igboho’s case, there is a kind of linkage, it seems, between Igboho and the Afenifere and the elders there, even as far as the major traditional rulers in many places and now, even the governors are asking questions. So, when we look at these two and then, we look at the other problems of Nigeria, look at Boko Haram and the havoc they have caused and look at the other kinds of attack on the security of Nigeria from other groups in the North, some call them bandits, some call them Fulani herdsmen or terrorists. The only difference is that in the North, apart from Boko Haram that has a clear form of identity with leaders that change so often (and right now, we don’t know who their leader is), but for the group called bandits, we don’t see any leadership. And the Fulani herdsmen, the position of the Miyetti Allah is still not so clear. Whatever we say, many tend to want to agree with other Nigerians that whatever you might accuse Igboho and Kanu of doing against Nigeria, is hardly to be compared to what Nigeria has been suffering from these other elements that are destabilising the security of the nation. This is only looking at the things at the surface and the issue then becomes, where is government in all of this? It will appear that in respect of IPOB and Igboho, the government has acted in the way we expect government to act vigorously, decisively and so on. And the same government, we don’t see acting in the same way in respect of others we are talking about. That they cannot, they are doing their best, is not enough, which is what makes the thing very, very sad. These two, it is all destabilising the coherence of the nation. That Nigeria has a problem is one thing; but the biggest problem Nigeria can have is when we cannot join together to face our problem because when we are together, there is no problem in our hands that we cannot resolve. And I think this is for me, what I believe is the greatest service that the Buhari regime or Buhari himself has caused to this nation, namely, he has taken actions and inactions that have not helped to bring the nation together, but has rather polarised the nation.
What are these actions?
I mean, the simplest and careless one is, who are those whom he invites to run government with him? Apart from the ministers who come from all over Nigeria, and who he has to take from all over Nigeria because the constitution forces him to do so, when you are talking about appointments to key positions in government, we have been talking for a long time about it. The Service Chiefs, the security apparatus and all that, Mr President has made it very clear that he will work only with those whom he really knows and whom he can trust. But that is okay if those whom you have brought in are really doing excellent work. In a place like Nigeria, you cannot become a president on the vote of every Nigerian and not look at the whole of the nation when you are making sensitive appointments.
Don’t you think he is acting based on experience?
Recall he was a military president and he was overthrown…
That is another matter. Please, let’s not even go into that. If you tell me, I will say all of them who have run this nation as military rulers ought not to have any business even trying to aspire for democratic rule, normally. But since we have allowed that to happen, we just have to pay the price of not only allowing former military dictators to become our elected leaders, but also to even allow a situation where they get elected. Obasanjo, perhaps, was a bit more careful, but there was still the strain of military dictatorship even in a lot of his attitudes. Maybe not his fault because the military ruled for a long time and probably got the feeling that they have learnt the art of ruling, that they know how to do it. You see, once in a while, Buhari complains that he cannot do things the way he wants to do it because he has been impeded by the rules of democracy. He has not hidden the fact. For example, he will say, when you talk about corruption, you know somebody is a thief, but you cannot catch him and he is moving around. Whereas, if he had his way, he will simply round them up and throw them in jail. But he cannot do it. That is modern democratic rule. We cannot have our cake and eat it. But the fact of this is because that is part of the problem too. Don’t forget it is not only former military dictator who is in government; there are many other soldiers who are now very, very important people in government. But it comes back to where you started from. I do not think the greatest problem with Nigeria right now is Igboho and Kanu. At most, we can say Igboho and Kanu are symptoms of serious problems that we have. Kanu’s cry for Biafra is a cry of anguish – this country is not working, I don’t want to stay, be part of it anymore. If you start asking the question whether Kanu really has a well articulated plan for the actualisation of Biafra, then we need to see a little bit more evidence because if we learnt any lesson at all from Biafra, it is that you don’t secede by force because you have to work towards a secession through negotiation, which is not impossible. It is possible. And if that is the way out, then the way Kanu is going about it is not exactly likely to achieve that kind of objective.
So, you think government should negotiate with them?
No. Government should listen to what they are saying. And government should do well to listen to those of many Nigerians who don’t agree with government, but do not want to destroy this nation. They should leave more room for people to really say that things are not going well and listen. When I say listen means also take action, change the way things are going on. That is why all these discussion about reviewing constitution is very important. That rules have been made now that have made Nigeria difficult to manage well. Let me take a simple example: We have this whole idea of Federal Character and we have devised this kind of method. The idea was to accommodate all parts of the country so that we can all grow together. That was the whole idea and that was probably the justification for even what the Americans call ‘affirmative action,’ meaning, going beyond and bending never backwards to give special consideration to certain places because they don’t want them to be lagging behind. That is okay for a while, but when you have a situation of that nature which ends up dragging the whole country back instead of bringing the whole country forward, then it is time to look at it now and see it again. The one that has always concerned me is, you have a classroom, children in secondary school, they have been together in the school, they have been doing their exams and they have been passing, then at the end of school year, when it is time for admissions to universities, you begin to apply unequal criteria for who will go where. And the child, young boy, young child, just cannot understand why is it that I cannot get admission even though I have done better than so, so, and so and you are telling me it is because of Federal Character. We are having it too even in employments and from employment; you have it also in promotions. We are told that it is the price we must pay for being together. There are some people who think this price is too high.
So, we have to reassess it?
Yes. That it is too high a price to pay. In my opinion, the opinion I brought out that example, the question we are asking ourselves is, what good has this system brought to the places that we want to help? After 50 years of affirmative action, of Federal Character, of special consideration for the so-called disadvantaged states, after 60 years, those states are still even more disadvantaged than before. Isn’t it clear, therefore, that the system is not working? I am from Kogi State. We have never had the luxury of having very special attention paid to our state. We are more or less classed as, as far as education is concerned, we are not disadvantaged because our people have always been into education. But our colleagues, our brothers and sisters from the far North, who have managed to become quite educated and many of them, very well educated, I keep asking, can’t they see? Don’t they look around them and see what is happening? Well, apart from the normal education, special provisions were being made for nomadic education. The idea was that children of those nomads should not be left without education. Billions were appropriated for it and what are we seeing? Has it changed anything among those? Sometimes ago, we were hearing a lot about almajirai and special effort to be made to rescue the almajirai. But you don’t flog every problem with money. When there is a radical issue, you have to deal with the matter at the bottom. We have to find out, why are there almajirai on the road? And if you don’t tackle that problem, you can be throwing money and as seems to be happening, if indeed the monies are being thrown out, some other people are collecting it for their own personal use. I am just giving examples of things that we have grown to accept as necessary, but we are feeling uncomfortable with it. And it is my conviction that there is nothing wrong with the brains of the children from any part of Nigeria. The children are equally generally the same. There are brilliant boys in the South and there are brilliant boys in the North. We have to find a way of making sure, why is it that the children in the South are going to school and the children much of the North are not going to school? Don’t tell me it is because of poverty because poor parents in the South go through a lot of sacrifice to make sure that their children go to school. Why is that not happening in the North? Boko Haram, perhaps, gave us one good reason when they said pure and simple that school is not good, western education is haram. And it seems that that mentality is really working in many places, that many people are there and can’t see the good of what we call education. Maybe they have good reason to feel that way because many people have got this so called western education and have not been able to do anything seriously with it. It is not their fault. And I don’t believe that anybody ever gets education and the education is useless. He may not do what you expect him to do, but it makes a difference to his life. So, these are the things we have to look at. We thank God that the mainstream of Northern Muslims has not accepted the theory or the ideology of the Boko Haram. But like I said, there are many people who are affected by that attitude, not without reason, because some have religious reasons, some have even historical reason that ever before the British brought education to Nigeria, we were already educated, which is true. From that point of view, the Northern kingdoms at first, and later on, the Fulani Caliphate, they had a system of literature. They were not illiterates. They were reading, writing and communicating with abroad, et cetera, but that was 200 years ago. Nobody stays the same please and if anybody wants a clear example, go to Dubai, go to Abu Dhabi. These are Muslim nations to the core. But they are not sitting down on the whole Islamic religious studies. They are now one of the best. In fact, they are going to space already from the point of view of what they call western education is not western. It is modern education. It is not western because it is the same education that is taking the Chinese where they are. Are the Chinese western? Are they Christians? No! So, there is something about modern education which any country and any part of any country that ignores it, will suffer. The world will leave you behind.
Some are criticising the method the government adopted on Kanu, that he was kidnapped and brought back to the country. What is your take on it?
Well, I don’t know the details of how he was brought back. We are only hearing that he was kidnapped. The only thing we can say is that if a criminal escapes from a country and takes refuge in another country and you know the whereabouts of that criminal, the normal system is to ask that country to send him back to face trial through the system we call extradition. That is the normal way. But as you know, you can apply for extradition, the nation in which the person is, has the right to either accept your application or to reject it. You remember that after the Dimka coup, the Federal Government at that time, operating on their conviction that General Gowon (rtd) was behind the whole show, applied to Britain to send Gowon back for trial. The British government refused. The British government, imagined, studied the situation and seeing the way other accused people were being handled, the kind of treatment they were having, the kind of tribunals they were facing, secret tribunals where we don’t know who is being accused of what, Britain decided that Gowon would not have a fair trial if sent back to Nigeria. So, they retained him. Not only retained him, but protected him. That is an example. So, the question is, has the Federal Government asked the British government for extradition because Kanu was living in England? And if Britain says no, I don’t think that we should just begin to take up jungle justice, pounce on him wherever you find him. As you know, in the case of Kanu, there is another complication that he is a British citizen. They are still working on that now, which is probably what the Federal Government is also having a bit of difficulty on how to handle. It is obvious that the government says he jumped bail, he ran away. Normally, Kanu knows that any time he steps back into this country; he is likely to be arrested and sent back to prison. So, we can understand that he did not intend to come back. And he found a safe place in England because he is a British citizen and with a British passport, he was able to move around. The only thing was that most people who are running away from tribunals in their countries tend to be quiet where they are. Generally, it is political prisoners or political enemies that run away and they seek political asylum. The host country would normally tell them you can stay here, we will protect you, but please, don’t do anything that will be contrary to; you can’t stay here and start fighting your country of origin because if you do, then, we will be seen to be helping you to fight your country. These are all issues and we are living in a globalised world where no country can really decide to do whatever it likes and if you do, you won’t get away with it. It is not that they will sanction you directly, but you know the name of Nigeria is important. You don’t want to give the impression to people that in Nigeria, we don’t follow normal rules; that our nation doesn’t respect international conventions because that scares away investors. They will not bring their millions here. They will say well, if the citizens are not safe, then we cannot be safe. So, these are why countries try to obey international regulations for their own sake and for the sake of our people.
Igboho’s house was also invaded by the security forces. Some people were arrested…
(Cuts in) Some were even killed.
How do you also see this situation?
It is a pity! It is a pity because from what it seems, Igboho had never been hiding around. Everybody knew where this guy lived. He moved around, police and DSS kept seeing him moving around with his group. It is difficult for me to understand that the only way to get him was to do what they did, to invade his house in the middle of the night. The case is in court in Benin. It will probably eventually come here. But from the little I know of the situation, it is sad because what we are being told by the DSS is that they had to use superior force because his guards were shooting at them. In this day and age, in the middle of the night, people come into your house at night, if you have guns, you will shoot. Even if they look like in police uniform, because we know that armed robbers do go around in police uniform. So, even though Igboho’s case has not even come to court yet, but looking at what we have been hearing, we don’t blame him. In fact, it is not surprising that he ran away. He is lucky he got away because if he did not get away, just like two of his people were killed, himself would have been killed. These are operatives of the government. These are not armed robbers; these are not bandits who are invading Igboho’s house. They are not Fulani herdsmen. These are government agents, meaning agents acting on my behalf and on your behalf. To that extent, I will tell them; this is not the way I think you should behave on my behalf. What it does mean now is that really, anybody can be treated in that way because there should have been other ways. If indeed you need to arrest Igboho, there should be other ways of arresting him and not the way they did.
Kanu was supposed to be in court on Monday, but he was not in court. And Igboho’s case is ongoing in Republic of Benin. How do you see the development? Any hope of fair trial?
I told you there is problem dealing with the case. We don’t even know how justice system works in Nigeria now, not to talk of what is happening in Cotonou. I don’t even know what Cotonou is keeping him for, what crime he has committed in Cotonou. The only thing we are hearing is that he has Beninese passport, which they considered illegally acquired. Well, acquiring a passport illegally is not a crime that brings down the heavens. How many foreigners are carrying Nigerian passports right now? And with the open borders in the North and many Nigerians, including Mr President who claims that he is also a native of Niger Republic, oh my goodness! So, what I am saying is, I don’t think that is enough reason to put Igboho on trial. I do not know what they are putting him on trial for. It could be that Nigeria has asked Benin to send him back to Nigeria, and perhaps, Nigeria has decided not to find a way to kidnap him in Benin, like they did, I don’t know where. We don’t even know exactly where they kidnapped him (Kanu) from. Some said he was kidnapped in Ethiopia, some said Kenya, but we don’t know the full story. But in the case of Igboho, we don’t know what he is being tried for.
He is being tried for Irregular migration…
So, if somebody migrates illegally, how do you deal with them? All those migrating in and out of Benin Republic, and according to ECOWAS protocol, we don’t need a visa to go to Cotonou. You don’t need a visa. All you need is even show your passport. Normally, the Nigerian identity card should do. So, there are other things. Probably, the only way I can suggest is that maybe the government of Nigeria has asked to extradite Igboho and the Benin government is trying to do what you normally do, you examine the person and the crime that is laid against him for which he is being requested to be extradited so that the government of Benin will satisfy itself. Either that oh yes, you are a terrible person, you should go home to face the music, or we are not convinced about what they are saying, so you can stay here under our protection. As you know, the relationship between Nigeria and Benin in terms of big man, small man, is such that a poor Benin, I don’t know how much freedom they have to handle this matter. You probably can say they have a hot cake on their hand.
So, Your Eminence, how can the issues that led to these agitations be addressed?
So, we are back to the issues I was saying. Both Igboho and Kanu’s case, even to some extent, Boko Haram, bandits, armed herdsmen, kidnappers, the bottom line is, do we have a government? Is the government working?
Are you saying we don’t have a government in Nigeria?
I only asked a question because the first job of a government is the security of life and property of citizens. You have a situation where over 300 children, young boys and girls, secondary school children, are in the hands of bandits for the past two months, three months. I was happy to listen to a recording, a video by one Barrister Bulama. From what I saw, he is an Hausa man, but he doesn’t live in Nigeria. He is working for Tony Blair. And he was very clear that it is not possible, that in this day and age, he was talking more about the insecurity that is out there in the far North. In fact, it will seem that we in the South are even better off than what his happening in Zamfara, in Katsina; Katsina, the home of our president. Now, coming right down to us here in Niger! He was the one who made the statement according to the constitution – if a government cannot guarantee the security of life and property; it does not deserve to be there. And he is not the first person to say so. Many Nigerians have been saying it. Our Bishops’ Conference said it two, three years ago and we even went as far as saying we have lost confidence in this government because things are happening that should not happen. Either the government cannot guarantee our safety; in that case, they shouldn’t stay there. If they cannot guarantee our safety, how can we be in a country where our government cannot guarantee our safety? When we have a government, the first job we give to the government is keep us safe and we are ready to pay whatever it costs to keep us safe. We pay for them to maintain an Army, Police and DSS. And in exchange for that, we have not bought our own guns. No arms here (referring to his residence). Most Nigerians, we are just there, we have nothing to defend ourselves with. It is not right nah. Why do I stay without anything to defend myself? It is because I believe I have a government that will defend me against criminals. But when you reach a situation where I am here, defenceless, and the criminal can come at anytime and pick me up, and I am told by the same government either to negotiate or not to negotiate with criminals. Either they collect me or they take my child in school. No! That should not be going on. You know we can be talking about other things and the National Assembly can be passing laws up and down. But they have not touched this, they have not find out how we can be safe in this country. Many people don’t visit Nigeria anymore. If you ask the Americans, they will tell you, don’t go there. Unless, of course, you are a Nigerian, you have to come. I have to travel home to my town Kabba, every now and again. Every time I go, I say a lot of prayers in my chapel, God, please protect me. Is that how to live? And when I get home, my cousins and so on, who are still trying to farm, tell me they cannot go to farm anymore. And this has been going on for five, or six, seven years. Now, either the government is capable, or the government is unwilling.
So, how can Nigerians find solution to banditry and kidnapping?
Remember I mentioned to you that the worst thing that the government can do to our nation is to polarise us, divide us all so that we cannot work together. For example, the children in the Baptist Bethel School, their parents came from different places. They were completely… These are the kind of things that make people support moves like Igboho. How many armed people did he have? Not much. He probably also gave the impression that he had some metaphysical ways of protecting himself, which I heard the DSS carried away his juju jacket and so on. What they wanted to do with it, I don’t know. Personally, I do believe, there is no alternative to government. There is no alternative. If you say what can Nigerians do, all we can do is to keep pressurising government to do what it should do, which is why government should not try to stop people from talking against them. It is only when government is performing 100 per cent that they can say let nobody talk against us. No! If your performance is obviously far short, you should be ready to listen. Let the people complain. It is like you are beating somebody and you tell him not to cry. It is not correct. So, what will Nigerians do? We just thank God. God is very kind and He is helping us because things can get worse. And I am just hoping more and more Nigerians will continue to tell this government that things can be done better and the government should listen and listen seriously. Change! There must be change. After all, this government came six years ago, seven years ago on the basis of change. Is this the change you are looking for? Change for the worse? We didn’t have so much insecurity when Jonathan left. There was insecurity alright, but not like this. I don’t know how much we can trust the things we read on social media, but this guy, Gumi, I don’t share his views on many things, and he was saying very clearly that President Buhari has done worse than Jonathan since he told Jonathan to go. He is saying that there is too much blood flowing and that the president should resign. Well, you can only say that. Will the president resign? And if he resigns, what does he…? These things, there are rules for it. When the person in charge of the government is responsible for non-performance of the government, we have the system in our democratic setting. We have a National Assembly, we have provisions for impeachment which it seems the members of the National Assembly have not read about. Some of them are crying there. My senator was crying some months ago in the National Assembly. You are not there to go and cry. You are there to say I represent my people and my people want peace. Legislature is different from the executive and the legislature must be able to say… Unless what we are seeing now, all those whom we sent to the National Assembly, the majority of them are telling us that everything is fine.
So, you think they should kick-start impeachment moves?
Well, it is up to them. What I am saying is that it isn’t as if there is no rule in the way Nigeria is functioning. It is not as if there is no rule if things are going bad and it doesn’t seem to be a way out that we don’t need to be begging Buhari to resign. That is what I mean. And in any case, you can beg as much as you like. A president doesn’t normally resign. A president gives in to impeachment and impeachment is also a kind of system for allowing a president or a government to leave the centre stage to make way for some other arrangements. That is what the whole thing is all about. And impeachment doesn’t necessarily mean you have failed. It just means your best is not good enough. But you need the National Assembly to do that. And for as long as the National Assembly seems to be always saying things different from what the rest of us are saying, what I am saying is their voting on the electronic transfer. I am flabbergasted that in this day and age, 2021, when the smallest boy in the last village has a cell phone, you are telling me that we cannot transmit election results electronically, that we must do it by hand so that you have all the hanky-panky games going on in the collation centres. There is no other reason than you don’t want a free and fair election.
On the issue of restructuring, what form do you think it should take?
That is what we have been talking about nah. Restructuring is just a language. I don’t even know how to say it in Yoruba. Restructuring means change, change of the way things are done. There are those who are saying that since the country is complex, the way we run our affairs cannot be unitary, there must be possibility for each section to live in its own way. That is what they call decentralisation. There are those who are talking about do we need the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Executive or do we go back to the old system of what we call parliamentary, with a prime minister who has the power and ministers who must come from the national assembly, et cetera. The people are making all kinds of suggestions. But my feeling is that no matter what changes you make, until Nigerians are ready to obey rules and do things properly, we will continue to have our problems, which is also to say despite the fact that our constitution is not really so good, there are too many lacunae, too many contradictions, we are not even abiding by all that is in the present constitution because there is enough there for us to be able to even live fairly happily given that we are not following because a lot of things are being done that should not be happening. At the end of the day, we all know ourselves when we are doing well and when we are not doing well. People are going from bad to worse and the youths are losing their faith in the government. In fact, it is difficult now to even find people who trust government.
Are you for a Northern president or a Southern president in 2023?
Before we reach there because 2023 is two years! There are some important things we should sort out before we reach there.
Looking back, with all that have been going on in the country, will you say the country got it wrong in 2015 and 2019?
In terms of the elections?
The only thing I can say is that the election of 2019 was not free and fair. So, what we have here, I disagree with those who say ‘that is what you voted for.’ We didn’t. At least, I didn’t. I didn’t. So, when you have a situation where the elections are not properly done, you start off very, very badly because it means wrong people are put in the positions of leadership and the people who ought to be there are kept on the margins and you are told to be patient and wait for the next four years. No, that is not democracy. When politicians say that, they forget that the right of the citizen is not just to go and vote for you. Citizen continues to have the right to also monitor how you rule.
As we approach 2023, what steps do you think Nigerians can take…?
(Cuts in) The first thing I think Nigerians should do, let’s look seriously at the election, to try our best to see whether we can have a proper election. Secondly, the political actors, I don’t know whether there is any hope in changing the attitudes of the present major political parties. And new political parties are always a problem. We end up with 20 new political parties, which means none of them can take us anywhere. It all boils down to the meaning of politics. When people see politics as where to go and make money and not where to go and serve, you end up finding that political parties become a forum for ganging up for making money, whereas it should not be so. It is sad that the idea that most Nigerians have of politicians is certainly not of people who are very much ready to serve the nation and especially as they see somebody who is almost bankrupt, enter politics and then after two, three years, he is bouncing with plenty of money. That means that is the place to go and make money. That is not what it is all about and that is why we are where we are. I am not one of those who say that there is no hope for Nigeria. People like Kanu say there is no hope for this contraption. And all the Oduduwa people are saying the same thing.
And you believe there is hope?
Of course! It is better for us nah to be together. What I have always said is this: It is difficult for us to stay together or if you put it differently, for us to stay together, we need to be ready to pay the price of unity. But if we think it is too high a price to pay and we decide to scatter ourselves, we should know that the cost of scattering ourselves is far higher than the cost of keeping us together.