First Republic Minister of Aviation, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi has carpeted Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai over his suggestion that Nigeria should jettison zoning of the presidency for competence. In this interview with VINCENT KALU, the elder statesman noted that ethnic and religious configurations of Nigeria make it imperative for presidency to rotate among various groups.
You are one of the founding fathers of this country, are you satisfied with the way things are going?
How can I be satisfied when I see the house that I built collapsing right in my own eyes? I took part in the building and in the founding of the nation, called Nigeria; I also took part in the first government of the country. The military took over the country, they abused and mismanaged and robbed the country for a whole 38 years, and they handed over to a corrupt civilian surrogate to the military.
The looting and stealing, which the military introduced, continued in the civilian government because the civilian that took over from the military could only do what the military taught them or what they learnt from the military.
But that is not the question now; that Nigeria is collapsing economically is one thing, but the question now is the insecurity in the country and the kind of things happening in the country, while the government turned the other way shows that there is deep precipice in front of us, which if we don’t take care we will plunge into.
There is no doubt that the Fulani imperial power that they want to expand now is real. There is no doubt of the intention of Islamising the country, which they tried by force during the Usman Danfodio era, he didn’t succeed; they tried it by force in Benue area during the Sardauna era, but they didn’t succeed, as we stopped it because we were in government then, and Balewa who was a Muslim too didn’t support it, and it collapsed.
Now, those ruling the country are encouraging the whole thing, using the herdsmen, who are heavily armed, killing, maiming, raping people, destroying houses, and sacking communities. Have you seen any of them that has been arrested and charged to court?
Not one of them has been charged to court in a country people fought to build, and I happen to be the only remaining one now among the people who led the country for independence. I’m not happy at all with the situation and I wish the government should do something.
I call on the people of Nigeria to come together with or without the government, the elites of this country, and the religious leaders of this country should do something before we plunge into a precipice. The religious leaders are keeping quiet as if nothing is happening, and until it happened to them in the Southeast recently, when a Catholic priest was killed.
But, it has been happening across the Southeast, where the herdsmen have been killing people, they remained silent until one of them was killed and they went out to protest. That is why the public refused to cooperate and join them in the protest, because when others were being killed the churches remained quiet.
So when they killed a reverend father, they started protesting; but the public told them to go and do it themselves. We either stop this or the country will collapse, and if it collapses, I’m sorry, it will be very tragic.
Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai said that the presidency should go to competent person, and no more by rotation, do you share the same view with him?
Ideally, a country votes the best man they have during election to serve them.
However, the ideal situation doesn’t exist anywhere in Nigeria. The country is where tribal and religious interests come together and everything depends upon power, so there should be a proper planning on how political office, especially the presidency should be shared.
The situation is so bad now, and I don’t see the solution in the nearest future because the future is getting worse and worse. You notice that the corrupt and rotten governors in the states, immediately they finish their second term in office, the next thing is to go to the Senate. In the next ten or twenty years, you find the senate being manned by majority of former governors and who have brought the rottenness and corruption they had in the state to the upper legislative arm.
As it stands, there is no hope for this country. Ex-governors who amassed the public wealth of the state find their ways to the Senate as their second term expires, we find majority of the senators being former governors, perpetrating the corruption and rottenness they brought from their respective states.
Why do you think some people are querying the timing of El-Rufai’s proposition?
Like I said, ideally, it is the most qualified, most competent person that should emerge as president. However, ideally, in our own situation, it has to go round; rotate. If it doesn’t go round, people would not be loyal; agitations from various groups will continue and people will not be made to feel that they are free.
Right now, Nigerians don’t feel they are free, as we are under a dictatorship, a military dictatorship in a civilian dress, that is what we have right now.
What El-Rufai is saying doesn’t make sense at all. Who is El-Rufai to talk about Nigeria, is it just because he happened to win election to be a governor; who is he, where is he?
The people of Nigeria, from the North Central, North-east, North-west, South-east, South-south and South-west must come together, and in the spirit of give and take, in the spirit of compromise and in the spirit of fraternal understanding, fashion out a real way of living together as a nation, and if they don’t do that the thing will collapse one day, either today or in the near future. In political power, you have to win it, and that is why I have told the Igbo, that if they want to be the president, they have to organise, they have to strategise, they have to plan, they have to work, they have to go out. You don’t become president by mere wishing to be one.
Nobody will give you president on a platter of gold; Ndigbo have to plan if they want to be president, but from what they are saying now, I don’t see them being ready for the presidency in 2023. I have talked to them about it, that is both the Igbo in the All Progressives Congress (APC), and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Let them come to me now that I’m still alive, I will tell them what they should do to win the presidency in 2023. Nobody is going to concede it to them. If they don’t want to come to me let them take whatever they see. That key was given to me by Azikiwe few hours before he stopped breathing, and I hold that key; if they want the presidency let them come to me, and if they don’t want, let them stay, and what they see let them take it.