What is your take on the renewed clamour for restructuring of Nigeria?
My position remains what you would expect it to be. With all modesty, I was one of the leaders of the Middle Belt Forum and I remain one of the leaders of the forum. I was at one time chairman of the political committee of Afenifere. I remain a very firm believer in Afenifere and the course of Yoruba nation. I believe Kwara wants and desires the best share of what this country has to offer. So, beginning at how we were talking of restructuring. It has always been part of Nigeria’s history from the beginning. There was a rush for let-us-get-independence first and we have never sorted out restructuring of Nigeria to the full up till today.
So there must be restructuring. All nations are teaching us everyday. The United Kingdom is not a federation. They have restructured to the level that Wales, Ireland and Scotland have self-determination. They are not dominated by the English. It came to a point that the Scots had to decide on whether to walk out or not. It is a matter of choice for each people where they belong and what role they play in government and who rules them. So, restructuring is crucial. It is part of what we fought for. I was the secretary of the movement, National Reformation and NADECO was about the struggle for the restructuring of Nigeria.
Until Nigeria is restructured we won’t have democracy as it should be. So that must be taken into consideration and addressed. That is one area where I have not been very happy with what the president has said about the last Confab. The issue that is involved more that anything else is this issue of restructuring and a balanced federation. A federation in which every unit is satisfied that it is having what is best possible for it.
There are nations, and I am talking in the conventional sense of the word, who want to be together. My people in Kwara State want to be part of a Yoruba nation within a federation. So long there are such desires, they must be addressed and if it is not addressed, the people are not happy. I belong to a Canadian federation which recognises a sovereignty up to a limit of each of the provinces.
Power is too heavy in the hands of the federal government of Nigeria. There must be devolution but before that, there must be restructuring so that the oppression of the minority within a unit can be stemmed. I want the restructuring of the Nigerian federation to be a priority of the current administration.
What are your reflections on the anti-corruption war?
It is inevitably selective. You tackle what you can see. You can’t fight what you can not see. Sometimes, you can’t see mosquito but before you go to bed at night you spray. These are preventing measures and there are investigative devices which can help to ascertain those who were affected and those who were involved in leading us to where we are and I believe that they are tackling it.
To now talk of being selective, people have to show evidence that whereas they have named x, y and z who are also involved and they are not being looked at, what people are saying which makes me laugh is that there is a concentration on a particular group. The truth is Yoruba say when two trees fall on each other, we begin to cut down from the top.
Government of today cannot start tackling corruption from 1960. What is immediately visible is what has been stolen but not yet spent and they have been trying to recover that as much as possible. It will be of interest to us with what they do with what they recover.
How do you see the performance of the Buhari government?
The government has certainly performed. It is a matter of personal assessment as to percentage in terms of expectations. The great huge word is ‘change.’ People say there has been no change. I assert that there has been change; whether it has been fast as everyone expects is a different matter. Don’t forget that one thing that we have is the justice system that assumes a person is innocent until he is proven guilty. You can’t rush things when it comes to determine involvement in crime and the level and depth of involvement. This government is going about it the way it knows best. If people have ideas of how fast it could be, they must be free to offer them. But talking in theoretical terms that they are too slow is not far. Government should continue to go after treasury looters.
What is your take on youth unemployment?
Unemployment is a new development in the country. It has been with us for many months and if you like, years. The world’s situation has worsened and deepened our own recession. I believe we have a ‘new’ government which daily is trying to tackle these issues.
They are not things you can handle overnight. Non-payment of salary arrears across the nation and people in the labour sector are still talking of pay increase. They are not issues to tackle in a short term.
I think our concern should be that those who are in power at the moment are doing the right thing to ensure that we eventually get over the serious hurdles before us.
What about the rising cost of living in the country?
The recession we are talking about cannot leave out employment; purchase of essential materials including what we eat and wear. That is the situation that the government claims to be addressing.
We may have our views as to how we are tackling it but there is no question at all about their being conscious of it and they are going about it the way they all understand.
Fortunately, ours remains a democracy, people can say anything they like and you people will carry it. So, if we have lost anything that remains a precious property. People who have ideas are flying them. They are suggesting to government and institutions and we do believe that ultimately, these will lead to improvement in our circumstances; in our economy; in wage and other areas in this country.
Any way out of the present economic situation in the country?
A serious confrontation of the problem; that is the way out and there is no one way. We must learn from countries that had gone through it. It is interesting, in recent years one of the countries that was best known for democracy, Greece went through it. We all know the situation Greece got into and the solution was beyond them. Thank God that the European Union (EU) came to their aid. Even a country like Spain has its problems.
The problem we have is not peculiar to us in general terms, but is probably heavier. We know that things would not be bad as this if people had been more careful with the national resources. So, the management of our national resources, both those that were denied us and that we can recover and those we still have would be the only area that we would say that greater attention is required. And I am persuaded daily that things are being tackled.
Abia guber stalemate: Ogah should be sworn in -Anumaka
President Muhammadu Buhari has been accused of favouring the northern part of the country in his appointments so far, what is your take?
I want to appeal to Nigerians especially, my people from South-East to understand that President Buhari has a limited constituency before he became President. He grew up in the North and knew a lot of people from the region. Buhari did not socialise much with the people from the South and for Mr. President to deliver on the change mantra, he must appoint people he trusts into sensitive positions. We have been discussing with him to ensure further appointments will reflect national spread so as to correct this impression that his appointments are one sided. So, Mr. President appointed those he knows that will help his government sanitise the system. I don’t buy the idea that Buhari hates Igbo or any section of the country. Rather, he appointed those he is familiar with, those he has interacted with who are conscious of APC promises to Nigerians and willing to help deliver them.
It is very clear that the APC candidate, Hon Ben Uwajimogu may have won the Imo North Senatorial seat considering the figure he has already garnered, what benefits do the people of Okigwe stand to gain?
Yes, if we go by the figure already announced by the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC) in the Imo North Senatorial election held last Saturday. Though the exercise was declared inclusive, even if the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Atan Achonu gets the remaining votes, he will not win. So, the election has been won and lost. On what Okigwe zone stands to benefit from Uwajimogu’s victory, I will say the gains are numerous. With forgery case hanging on the neck of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, there is an indication that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Ekweremadu may lose their seats. If that happens, Hon. Uwajimogu stands a better chance to replace Ekweremadu having served as the Speaker, Imo House of Assembly. Therefore, as the only APC Senator from the South-East, the coast is clear for Uwajimogu to emerge as Deputy Senate President.
Many will not agree with you but believe it is a deliberate attempt by Buhari to undermine zones that did not vote for him; don’t you share the same opinion?
I don’t see it from that angle because Buhari got over 2million votes from the South-East which is the highest he has gotten since 2003 he started contesting the presidency. I will liken it to the case in the Bible when God told Abraham that if He finds even five persons in Sodom and Gomorrah, He will spare the place. Therefore, because Buhari got a reasonable number of votes from the region and have not appointed people from South-East does not mean he won’t appoint them in future rather, Mr. President has so far appointed those he is sure can help his government bring the change he promised the masses. Mr. President is a good man and meant well for the nation.
With IPOB, Avengers and Boko Haram and the recent statement by Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka that he is pro-Biafra, is it not time Nigeria is restructured?
I pity Mr. President because he took over governance when the national income is at the lowest ebb. As it is now, Buhari has the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), NDA, and Boko Haram to contend with. Let’s first of all consider Buhari’s age and because Nigeria is a complex country, Mr. President is doing his best to bring all these groups to understand that things are no longer the same with the country. When I said group, I mean that IPOB and Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) are pressure groups; they are my people and militant groups. You can identify members of IPOB and (MASSOB), but members of NDA and Boko Haram cannot be identified. The economy is no more buoyant and it is not the making of Buhari but global challenge. Yes, I’m an advocate of restructuring of Nigeria. There should be balance in the state structure because other zones have six and seven states while South-East has only five. So, we demand the creation of additional one state in the zone. I concur with Prof. Wole Soyinka and have great respect for him. What he meant is that Igbo are fighting a genuine cause because there is no federal government presence in Igbo lands, hence the reason for the agitation by IPOB and MASSOB. Soyinka has always identified not only with Igbo, but the down trodden and those oppressed. So, he knew the South-Easterners are suffering injustice in the hands of past and present federal government in the distribution of our commonwealth. Like myself, Soyinka is not advocating for disintegration of Nigeria, but to treat people from all the six geo-political zones equally. The three ‘R’ declared by Gen. Yakubu Gowon after the civil war has not been adhered to, Reconciliation, Re-habilitation and reconstruction. Unfortunately, Igbo land has not been reconstructed just as the Northeast is being reconstructed now. Therefore, Soyinka is in the same page with Ndigbo. He is calling on government to see reasons with Igbo and develop the area that was devastated during the civil war of 1967.
The confusion in Abia State over who is the authentic governor has kept everybody guessing; to you, who is the governor, Ogah or Ikpeazu? To be fair and just in line with the judgment and order delivered by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Ogah has been given Certificate of Return by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); he is the authentic governor. I want to use this medium to call on the Chief Justice of the Federation to intervene so that there won’t be anarchy and lawlessness in Abia State. Based on court pronouncement, Uche Ogah should be sworn-in while Governor Okezie Ikpeazu should appeal the judgement. Justice Abang said, “The Certificate of Return should be given to Uche Ogah with immediate effect”. So, I don’t blame INEC for obeying court order. In the face of the law, Ogah is the governor. Both of them are my friends, Ikpeazu was my senior in the secondary school in Aba and Ogah is a close associate. I have done businesses with him. Both of them are nice guys, the only problem Ikpeazu has is riding to power through Senator Theodore Orji who milked Abia dry during his eight years as governor. The Owerri High Court judgment threw the state into further confusion because instead of telling Ikpeazu to go to the Court of Appeal, it gave contrary pronouncement. Judiciary should not give conflicting judgment and that is the case in Abia.
How do you relate this to the Abia North Senatorial conflict?
Senator Mao Ohuabunwa has always promoted confusion from his early years. I respect the courage of Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu and his calmness. If Mao wants to test his popularity, let him and Kalu take a walk in the streets of Aba and Umuahia. I bet you the people will stone Mao. Kalu is not a violent person but one who believes in due process, but Theodore Orji is not. Theodore Orji can do anything and even kill to keep Abia under his control. So, at the end of the day, Kalu will emerge winner and will soon be sworn-in as Senator representing Abia North in the National Assembly.