Dr Emmanuel Agbo is the national deputy secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The grassroots politician, who was known to be an outstanding legislator in the Benue State House of Assembly in this encounter with Sunday Sun, spoke on COVID-19 pandemic, the frightening drift being experienced in the country, security challenge and candid advice on what Ndigbo should focus on among other national issues. Excerpt:
What is your take on the response of the Federal Government to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Well, unless Nigerians refuse to say the obvious fact, we are not getting the best of it. I think we are only fortunate to be within the geo-polity that is not adversely affected because if we were to be in the very temperate region in terms of the very low-temperature regions of the United Kingdom, Europe, and America where the temperature can be less than 10 degrees sometimes, even less than zero degrees and that is very comfortable for the growth and survival of the killer disease, it would have been catastrophic than what we have. I tell you the truth it would have been a disaster with the very uncoordinated approach of the entire thing. We must tell ourselves the truth; whoever is at the leadership should have shown very frontally that…yes, there is a problem coming to our country and have to stand as the warlord to challenge whatever that problem was. It was declared globally as a war not just only a pandemic, and then I don’t see how the man who is the head of a country, a head of a nation will be not near absent but totally absent. We are all following up in the press and you will see the very day to day challenges and as a result, even the leaders, world leaders are also making mistakes, but they keep correcting themselves. Is it in Europe? Which country of Europe, Italy, France, Germany, etc that we are not seeing their presidents or their prime-ministers at the forefront of this novel COVID-19 fight? Is it in Britain? Even their prime minister (Boris Johnson) had to go through medication and treatment; he came out and then is at the forefront with his secretary. That of the United State has already turned to campaign issue and the president is on day to day at anywhere mentioning it, every day. First, there are two components of this pandemic: the real pandemic itself and the fear driven into the society, but the fear aspect of it is the greater of the killer within the disease itself. So, what are you doing as a leader by presenting yourself in terms of the statements that you make on day to day basis, you begin to raise your people’s hope beyond this fear, that is already been sold out to the people. You should be seen driving courage, driving stability, so that even those that are sick, they see their president boosting their courage, giving them hope, but what do we get here? Nothing has been done in the case of this country. We are just lucky to be in this part of this world with our type of weather and more so because of God’s interventions for us.
What of the case of provision of palliatives?
Let me even say this to you people that are in the press, I am sorry to say this, I don’t know why you people think that the fight is supposed to be for somebody else? You people (the Press) stood up and fought former President Jonathan when nobody even asked you to do the fight. I know that one can argue that okay, it’s 15 years and Nigeria needed a change, yes, but you people were at the vanguard of it, of what was not wrong, but today everything is wrong and I can’t see the press again doing their job. Was the press not aware that the palliative distribution was totally skewed? Everybody left the Minister of Humanitarian Services to do as she wanted. The press didn’t take on her, the press didn’t even ask questions. She had the effrontery to publish that one million people in a single state have been given palliative meanwhile less than a hundred thousand is giving to a whole Southeast region. Sometimes, honestly, I begin to ask myself: what is happening with us? Must one be a politician to stand up to say that this is not correct on the basis of the figures that she posted, on the basis of the inequality, based on that unbelievable discrimination, the press kept quiet. As the 4th estate of the realm if the press had taken it up there would have been some degree of readjustment. We are all aware of the figures yet the press kept quiet and that to me is sad. Does that show that all of us are treated equally in the same country? That a state in the Northwest got more than a region with not less than five states and the press did not see anything wrong about it? Yet we say we want a united state and all of us are in the same country. Something must be wrong somewhere and it is sad to toe this part. The press I think should do more. This is the time the press should stick together. Why are we quiet? Why are we such a docile people? Why are we comfortable with being second fiddle? Is it not sad that there is nothing that this country called Nigeria takes to the international market that earns us anyone dime other than oil. Oil service is not less than 85 per cent of our earnings and then in redistributing the gains of that oil, somebody who is the producer does not even get one per cent, but somebody who sits in one arid land for crying out loud gets 70 per cent. Where is the justice? All of us go ahead and we keep clapping our hands. I am sure the Southwest should be regretting their action now. How much did they benefit in this palliative, the six states of the Southwest, of all their support? Of all the gagging of the press of the Southwest. I think it’s time to tell ourselves the bitter truth. What are we doing to the children that will inherit leadership from us, what is the foundation that we are putting for them? So the truth on the issue of palliative is that there is a lot of lopsidedness. Does it mean we don’t have poor people in any other zones of this country for them to concentrate in some areas while ignoring others? I have said it before, anybody who has stayed or lived over time in this country, particularly in the last, say, 30 years should be genuinely very concerned about the way and manner that this country is drifting. We are drifting each passing day and that is frightening.
Individuals and zones have already started scheming for 2023. Do you have any geo-political zone in mind to take the office of the president to? The Southeast, for instance, is making a strong case of injustice against them…?
(Cuts in) If I am in any Southeast meeting today and anybody stands up and tells me that the problem of the Southeast is to try to become president of this country, I will call that person a mad man. The issues with the Southeast, the problem there which they should try to address first is to, first of all, ensure that they have a home because they will watch and the whole of the Southeast is going to be taken off their feet in a few years from today. And I don’t know what any presidency is going to do for them. I am not saying that the Igbo man is not supposed to be president but since they already know that there is an agenda against it they should, first of all, re-direct their fight, that fight should be, take back your homeland first, not when their 350 communities as you and I speak that is already being inhabited by the Fulani in Igbo land and you are talking about presidency, what presidency? When you can be overrun within a night; 2023 will settle itself. When God is going to bring an Igbo presidency will settle itself. Look let me tell you even if for anything the simple fact that the Southwest saw a problem and decided to collectively, putting away party lines, created their security outfit (Amotekun) speaks volumes. There is a lot of migration of the Fulani race from the Southwest towards the East quietly and unspoken and that is why they have resorted in trying to be bombing strategic areas now because the place is no longer comfortable for them. So, if my brothers in the Southeast want, let them keep quiet and be shouting about the presidency, which presidency? That to me is diversionary; anybody drawing them into that narrative knows what they are doing on the ground. Ndigbo should wake up to the reality of the moment.
What do you expect the government to be doing now looking at the situation that we find ourselves?
I would have proferred certain things for the governments to be doing or to attempt to do if we have characters that have the mental stability to do the things I am going to suggest, unfortunately, the degree of docility and imbecile nature of some of those we are there does not call for me to give them any solution on how to approach it. It will be like trying to throw water on stone. In that case, I better hold on to whatever submissions I have until the ground and soil are fertile for such ideas to be cultivated and nurtured in the advancement of the nation because you know it and I know it that whatever are the suggestions, no matter how beautiful or hardcore they are towards either fighting what is on the ground or trying to move the country forward, it will only just appear on the pages of the paper for the day it is going to appear thereafter it will fizzle into nothingness. That is the situation that we are, it is that terrible and bad so why should anybody bother himself about giving them ideas or a solution. People are already talking about 2023, that is if in 2023 with the massive exportation from the North into the South of able-bodied jihadists. People are pretending and calling them Almajiri, if you see an Almajiri on the streets don’t you know them? We all know the Almajirai, they are small boys carrying plastic rubbers, begging for food and money in their Koranic schools, they are 10 to 13-year children but now they are carrying adults 25, 30, 40 young men in their numbers. They go about killing and maiming others. You just woke up one night and you have people firing at other people sporadically. I am talking about what happened a few days ago in Oju local government, a Benue State community, that is having boundary with Cross River State. Lai Mohammed will tell you that they are going to the Southeast to do business, of course, that is the business they are known for which they are going to carry out, the business of killing people, the business of attempting to take peoples land. If we don’t collectively stand up against this we will regret it at last. Look, you and I are fortunate that a country, a community was bequeathed to you, where either your late father, grandfather, or great grand-father graves are there, but you will wake up with your own son not having a place to call their own. How sad. But the person to fight that abomination is you and I today; we can’t wait for any other person.
When the PDP was in power, the opposition then the APC was not giving them any breathing space, but today critics contend that the PDP seems not to be providing viable opposition expected from the party. Do you agree?
Well, I don’t want to say no to that, or say yes to it. In terms of the no breathing space being given to the PDP, it was not just the leadership in terms of the national executive committee of the party, APC then, it was not. Tinubu was not in party leadership, Buhari was not in party leadership, Pastor Tunde Bakare was not in party leadership, etc, who were at the frontline of all of those oppositions? Who were those who in their houses they were holding meetings and saying that, look, we are going to move people to the streets? They were not the officeholders in terms of the National Working Committee or National Executive Committee of the party (APC), but today people tend to say, look everything that had to be done unless they see the leadership in terms of National Working Committee, is not correct because outside the working committee there is still leadership of the opposition. I agree with you they have all gone quiet. Check the clips of all the time we went to the streets, did you see Jonathan there? Did you see any former governor there? Did you see any former minister there? Did you see any former senate president there? There is a way you will go about it you will be misinterpreted and they will have an excuse to catch you, but now we provide a platform for people to use and express the real situation on the ground, you look back you don’t see anybody.
What then do you think maybe the reason for this sort of docility or inaction?
Obviously, I am at a loss on why Nigerians are keeping quiet at what is happening.
Could it be that this government is high-handed as many believe and Nigerians are afraid to speak out?
Why should they be afraid? This young man (Sowore) that spoke out, that called out a revolution, that they frustrated, he needed the support of Nigerians, they withdrew their support and it collapsed, they took him to detention and it lasted for sometime; is the young man not out today? Those who were outside when he was under incarceration are they better than him today? Let us ask ourselves the question. The entire thing is degenerating on day to day basis and we are standing aloof and watching just because we think we can eat. Are we living to eat? Even when things didn’t go this bad these people (APC) wanted to take power, if we knew for crying out loud that trying to take power was to take us 150 years back, whatever it was going to cost, people would have resisted it, people would have stood by Jonathan if they knew they were going to be subjected to this harrowing mess. Jonathan would have perhaps refused to hand over and in the worse case scenario, maybe there will be, if we are suffering this under a military it would have been understandable, but that this is happening in a democracy makes one’s heart bleed.