Jude Chinedu, Enugu
Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province of the Anglican Communion and Bishop of Enugu, Most Rev. Dr Emmanuel Olisa Chukwuma, has said that only restructuring could guarantee peace, justice and equity in the country and end agitations, especially in the Southeast. He said the current realities in Nigeria show that the country belongs to a particular region and not to all.
Bishop Chukwuma also advised all the political parties in Nigeria to field credible Igbo candidates for the 2023 presidential elections as the nation can only progress under the Igbo.
He also lampooned the military for their constant crackdown on members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), insisting that the Federal Government made a huge mistake by proscribing the group which was merely reacting to injustice in Nigeria.
You have remained a clear voice for restructuring; and it’s been like pouring water on a duck. Do you think that it could still work?
Restructuring will still work if the Federal Government puts its mind to it because the way things are now, there is selective negligence and I would say there is no equity and justice in the country today. In every sphere of government today, there is the issue of marginalization of a certain section of this country. Not only the Southeast, many areas are being marginalized. I would tell you that most of these developments now, 80 per cent is going to the North and that doesn’t show that we are one Nigeria and Mr President is not helping the issue. Mr President has destroyed this nation. Nigeria is totally in trouble by his mismanagement and ways of doing things. He has not shown that he is carrying Nigerians along and his cabals around him are trying to make sure that other parts of Nigeria are not part of the scheme of development. That is why restructuring is very much important because we need to really know where we are. You can’t be getting oil from one part of Nigeria and you begin to develop other areas that have nothing at all to offer. It’s cheating and because you are in power, you talk about appointments and most people you appoint to positions of authority are northerners. You talk about military, they are northerners. Service chiefs, most of them are northerners. So, it’s a pity and we are very much disappointed and also fed up with the style of administration of President Buhari and time has come that he must know that he has finished this nation. Restructuring is very important and we still say it is important if Nigeria is going to have equity and justice and peace and agitations stopping. And you talk about hate speech; most of these things are what is causing hate speech. And hate speech will not stop until Nigeria addresses hunger, poverty, unemployment, marginalization, violence and so on and so forth. Until these areas are dealt with and good salaries are paid to workers, honesty and integrity, if these things cannot be addressed, hate speech will not stop and I say it, let all of us go to prison. And the senators should stop wasting their time talking about hate speech. There are other important things that affect everyone living in Nigeria. Nigerians are suffering. Right now, no one is sure that they are going to have rice for Christmas. Poor people are suffering. Poverty is going higher and higher. So, all these things are the reasons we are talking about restructuring. If there is restructuring, there will be justice and there will be no marginalization of anybody and then we’ll know that Nigeria belongs to all. But now Nigeria does not belong to all and we feel very much disappointed about it.
What is your take on the call for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2023 bearing in mind what some Northern leaders have said about it?
The thing is that if you look at the history of leadership of Nigeria, Igbo have been marginalized and that’s part of the problem. But the problem is that the Igbo themselves are the problem of themselves. Because if we say that we are going for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction, then it must be with unity of spirit and then pomposity and arrogance must be put aside; because not everyone who wants to become president will get it. It is about looking for someone who is credible; someone who has integrity, someone who can go there and perform on behalf of Nigerians and make Nigeria better. The Igbo are very much intelligent. They have that spirit of development; they have that business mind and are very much involved in making things move. Anywhere you find the Igbo, they are there progressing but they’ve never been given chance. I don’t know why. So, it is time that we think about equity. Every Nigerian must know that Nigeria belongs to all. We have fought Nigeria/Biafra war, but again why shouldn’t the Igbo people have the opportunity of being the leaders of this country if we say that keeping Nigeria one was a task that must be done. But it is not really so because even the Yoruba are thinking to come back again to become president. What have we done that we should be marginalised? I think there should be serious consideration by 2023 to think about an Igbo man. At least, all the parties must definitely decide to field a credible Igbo man for president. Give us a trial and see what happens. When the Igbo are managing the finance of this nation things go better. But when other people like even those in the North; it’s squandermania. Go and find out. So, it’s a pity that we’ve been put aside and I don’t feel happy about it. I think we should have a rethink and make sure that all of us have the opportunity to rule this country. Every other region has had their opportunity remaining the Southeast. So, I think they should consider it if they think we are definitely one Nigeria.
Some days ago there was a clash between youths suspected to be IPOB members and the police in Oraifite, Anambra State, where four deaths were recorded. This is all about the struggle for the actualization of Biafra. Do you think Biafra is the Eldorado for Ndigbo?
It’s because Nnamdi Kanu’s mother is to be buried; there is clash because they feel that Nnamdi Kanu should not be given opportunity to come. So, Biafra or no Biafra, the agitation for Biafra is not the solution for anything. But unfortunately the Federal Government made a serious mistake by proscribing IPOB because there are worse groups in this country that should have been proscribed like the Fulani herdsmen. They should be declared as terrorists, but nothing has been done about them. What evil has IPOB done that they should be proscribed? That again calls for agitation. You provoke these youths while most of them have no jobs and you find out that a hungry man is an angry man. The thing is that the youths are very aggressive because of the way they feel that they’ve been marginalized and there’s no concern for them and all these amnesty that you granted to South-south, they need it too and that’s why they are restless. But I want to say that Biafra is only a means for us to say that you don’t want us, you have marginalized us, leave us let’s go on our own and be on our own and if you feel we are part of you, then give us opportunity. The Biafra thing is not a violent thing; it is an agitation for recognition and proper place in governance. So, I do not support that the military should be confronting these boys. There’s a way of pacifying them and killing them is not a solution because you are calling for another war. So, how many Fulani have they killed; how many have they sentenced to prison? Is it here that they will exercise their warfront skills? Is this where they come with so many things like Python Dance and others; how many wars have they won in Sambisa forest? Why is it so long to conquer the Boko Haram if not that they’re using it to make money for themselves? The service chiefs are still there; why haven’t they retired if not that there is a hidden agenda? Mr. President should stop harassing IPOB. IPOB should be given freedom to operate and if you don’t want them to be violent, listen to them and know what they want and there will be peace.
Could you talk to Southeast governors on how to redeem the Igbo man?
Well, the Southeast governors under the leadership of David Umahi have good agenda for the Southeast and we thank them for all their efforts, but they are handicapped. They are handicapped by criticisms. They are handicapped by so many groups who do not want to give them a good opportunity to let them know what they want. You can imagine when you are a leader and you are being criticized and harassed. Even so me of our young ones are harassing them. The thing there is that we have to give them support and pray for them for them to be able to achieve that and then do consultations with them. How many times they’ve come to Enugu here to do some consultations and we advise them. The thing is that there should be more consultations by the South Eastern governors with various groups, religious leaders and traditional rulers and then get what is our own feeling about things in Nigeria and also the senators. The people in the National Assembly, they are not doing well at all because most of them don’t come home to consult. Many of them have abandoned their constituency offices and these offices are very much important for them to come and consult and hear the agitations of their people and know what the need of the people is and you now go and move the motion or sponsor the bill. You can’t move a motion or sponsor a bill when you have not consulted and you’ve not got the feelings of the people. So, everything is wrong. It’s not only governors. The members of the ruling house have to also work with their constituencies to make things better for the Southeast. It’s a corporate agenda that everybody has to come together and then work with governors and the governors will do better. You can see that even now finance is a problem. They are being asked to pay minimum wage, the IGR is not enough. So, the thing is that we pity them because they are under pressure and we are the ones giving them that pressure. The governors are doing their best, but they should be sincere and honest. And allow sacrifice to prevail in their governance for the good of all.
Some people believe that Nigeria is heading towards dictatorship with the way the social media bill is being pursued by the National Assembly. What is your take on this?
I think the Senate President there is just like a rubber stamp and that’s why he is there. But it will be foolish of him to think that he can rubber stamp everything. We are heading towards anarchy. There should be deliberation of bills being passed. I want to commend Senator Abaribe. Abaribe is speaking out and he is the person speaking the mind of the Southeast. And he should be supported. So, they cannot rubber stamp whatever the president is saying because this is not a military regime. This is a democratic government and things must be done democratically. The people in the Senate should express themselves on what they feel by feeling the pulse of the people in their constituencies. And if they are settled to do the wrong thing, they will all perish. They cannot be settled for them to keep quiet and be supporting whatever the president is saying. They’ll all perish because God is going to bring judgement on all of them so they should be very careful. Mr President cannot just come and pass any bill. Now, he is asking for another loan to be given to him. What’s he going to do with it? I think it’s high time the president of the Senate used his brain and knew that he is not there for himself or Mr President. He is there for all of us and he must listen to the feelings of the people otherwise we will pass vote of no confidence in all of them.
Asaba recently honoured their people massacred by the federal forces on October 7, 1967. How come the world has not seen what happened during the Nigeria-Biafra war as genocide?
That is why it is consistently causing war in the Sambisa Forest; and Boko Haram is a result of the punishment of God. I was there, I would have been killed. I saw the civil war. I was lined up to be killed, but God saved me. It was genocide and until the Federal Government appeases the sound of those who were killed in Asaba and during the war, there’ll be no peace in the northern part of Nigeria. Those people that came to perpetrate that deadly act are from the North, particularly the Northeast and Benue; they called them Gongola, that’s why the war is now back to them. So, it’s a repercussion and nemesis. The souls of the innocent are crying and that’s why there will be no peace in most of these areas. It’s important that the Federal Government should understand and do something about it. It is unfortunate that such a thing happened and the Federal Government has not done anything like build a monument. We are only doing it ourselves. This month now; we are doing what we call Asaba Day. We are doing all we can to remember what happened by ourselves. I see no reason Asaba should not have a federal university.
I see no reason an airport should not be named after Osadebe who was the first and only premier in the Mid-Western State, he is being forgotten. So, what is the Federal Government doing to remember us? What are they doing to make sure that at least they pacify the souls of the people murdered in Asaba? They neglect all these things and until something is done to make us to understand that Nigerians are sorry, that the Federal Government is sorry for what it did to the people of Asaba, there’ll be no peace in this country. There will be no peace in the northern part of Nigeria. That is why we will continue praying for God to have mercy and compassion on all of us. It is only by mercy and compassion of God that things can be settled, but let it be known to Nigerians and the whole world that what happened in Asaba was genocide and God is not happy about it.
You have been part of the various meetings pushing for the reconstruction of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport. Over three months after its closure; do you have an idea of the situation now and whether the Easter target is feasible?
We are hoping that it will be feasible because earlier, Minister of Aviation said it will be ready before Christmas before it changed. The amount that has been released over N10 billion if they are serious; day and night, they should meet that target. We are still in December. I don’t see any reason the runway should not be ready by that time because we are suffering. The thing is that they should know that this Akanu Ibiam airport is the gateway to the whole East and it’s one of the busiest. Ethiopian Airline will tell you it’s one of the busiest routes. But if the Federal Government truly thinks it’s not a punishment to the Southeast they should be able to supervise and make sure that the project is completed before Easter or even by March; we should be talking of the airport being reopened. For me, it’s even too long a time; if Abuja airport, although it was just the runway will take a short time and remember the Kaduna road was renovated. But here, you close down the airport and the roads are not even given any palliative measure. You can’t travel from here to Asaba or to Owerri without having a lot of problems on the road and this is a problem. Not even the buses that used to carry people from Abuja to Kaduna. So, I see it as part of wickedness. If they know that we are part of this country then we should be treated fairly. Akanu Ibiam airport should be opened as soon as possible because a lot of people are suffering. Imagine Ethiopian Airline is now landing in Port Harcourt. It’s a terrible pain and again you find that only Air Peace is flying. Why shouldn’t there be more airlines coming to this area? So, there’s a lot to be done apart from rebuilding the airport. I hope when the airport is put fully in order that other airlines will come to the Southeast. It is lucrative and we promise that if they do, we in the Southeast and all Nigerians will be very happy. I think the minister of aviation has a lot to do with the contractors to make sure that they work day and night and speed up the work there so it will be done even before the Easter. There are so many people who would have loved to come for Easter from abroad but cannot come because they feel that the situation within this time is very bad. The weather is bad, the road is bad; the airport is not functioning. So, many people will not even come for Christmas. So, if we are going to improve confidence in our country; the job must be properly done and the funds properly used for what it was meant for. And not just marginalizing us, doing it shabbily. So, I hope that very soon we’ll have cause to smile and thank the government for their improvement and concern so we expect the airport to be ready before Easter so that people abroad will have a nice place to travel without any hazard or stress.