…Says everything has collapsed in Nigeria
By Willy Eya
Former Governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife is worried over developments in the country since President Muhammadu Buhari took over power on May 29, last year. In this interview, he speaks on the dwindling fortunes of the nation and the need for the president to have an inclusive administration. Excerpts:
What do you think are the likely gains of President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent visit to China?
Sometimes, you may hit the jackpot, sometimes, it is illusory but I am hoping that the China trip has been very successful. From what I have read, there is an achievement firstly from funding and I know that China has been funding Nigeria. And they fund in large figures. Then, there is the policy aspect. We shall now be doing direct transaction with China in their currency and not any more passing through the United States dollars.
The consequence of that is not very easy to measure. But it is something good since international currencies are connected. The Yuan like the dollar has international value. When it looks good, we must say so. It looks like our relationship with China has been very useful because there are some loans that are for infrastructure and I hope it would stand the test of time. China has some loans meant for infrastructure, railway, power and China is a model to copy because we are still developing. China has developed a model that those who want to develop must copy. But we have to wait and pray that our relationship with China would be fruitful. It is not something for the opposition to condemn or for supporters to be celebrating about. China is very astute. They are very wise and they do not give away things for nothing. Any bargain they enter, they make sure they gain from it.
At the level of international relations, they say there is no free lunch and that any relationship we enter with China would not be to our benefit. Do you agree with that?
What we need to do is to be aware of the potential for damage but it is possible to guard against negative consequences. Nobody and not even the president can say I have got it. What we need is cautious optimism and hoping and praying that it works out in our favour. If you are playing draught with somebody who is really good, you may feel you are winning but before you knew it, you are finished.
What are your reflections on the state of the economy today especially in view of the lack of fuel and almost zero power supply?
I do not talk much now because there is nothing to talk about. The state of the economy is a comprehensive failure. There is no power, no petrol and in some places, there is no water. Never have we had it so bad. In all the life of Nigeria, it has never been this bad. This is not a matter of criticizing the government. Everybody including supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) agree that things are bad. The President does not seem to have some conscience by doing certain things against some people. He does it without thinking back as if there are some people that should be suppressed and some people who are above the law.
Let me tell you what is happening now. Now, I am in Awka where young students decided to launch a book on the vision of our heroes past. They decided to use Odumegwu Ojukwu’s name in the launching. Some boys ago met me to play a role in the launching after I went to the University of Calabar to attend a very beautiful conference where Maitama Sule, Ken Nnamani, Ibrahim Mantu and others were in attendance. The same students organized something at the Women Development Centre, Awka. But as I arrived Awka at night, I started hearing that the Department of State Service (DSS) was discouraging the event in Awka. Already, the students had paid the money for using the Women Development Centre. When I arrived at Night, I went straight to the governor, Dr Willie Obiano but the governor was not in town.
I was only able to get through to the Chief of Staff and I asked him why some people would be treated this way; why the president continues to treat the South East as if he wants them to leave Nigeria, I do not know. Some of us are forced to ask that question. Nigeria is not Buhari and Buhari is not Nigeria. I went to the state commissioner of Police in Anambra and discussed the issue with him and of course, it was not his business but it is part of it because if there is violence, he would be involved in controlling it. But there can be no violence because the people are so peaceful; nobody was carrying gun or weapon and there was nothing in the launching that is against the government.
I went to look for the state Director of SSS but I could not find him that night. I met some small, younger officers but the Anambra Police commissioner was kind enough to send me the telephone number of the state Director of SSS whom I talked to. I explained all the circumstances and how peaceful everything was and I discovered that I was one of the problems. Those who talked to the young boys told them that they did not like me and Pat Utomi playing a role in the launching. I called the Director of SSS and he told me that the directive was from Abuja, that it was a directive from above and there was nothing he could do. He said that I should talk to the DSS in Abuja and I knew that they all travelled with the president. I tried to reach the operating officer and his telephone would ring and he would not answer. This is what is called humiliation in a very dehumanizing way.
If the launching was in praise of Ojukwu, what could be wrong in praising him in Anambra State. This is what I am talking about. You would look at the situation and you wonder that people who have no business of carrying AK-47, carry the weapons and saying that they are taking care of cattles. And the DSS told a lie against Abia State, a lie that could cause ethnic crisis in the country. There is no investigation on that. They did not go to the police; they just went out and accused the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Five people were involved in the kidnapping and two Igbos were involved and they said IPOB buried people. I do not know what is happening. We should not talk with bitterness too much. It is now time to plead with Buhari and his own people who support him(they are not supporting him now anyway) to give Nigeria a chance. When you have a piece of broom in your hands, you may not appreciate it until you throw it away. Nigeria is so blessed and there is no going anywhere for anybody in this nation. Justice can be done and why can’t justice be done. Who is losing? Every section of Nigeria prays for one Nigeria.
Nigeria would work if you respect equity and justice. This is a very serious matter and it is ongoing. Do you know that even the person who wrote the book I am talking about was invited by the SSS. This show of hatred shows that you despise a people. It is a show of not caring, and saying you could go to hell. But pushing the South East out of Nigeria would not work. God would take care because there is God in heaven.
Now, there is no way Buhari would look at Nigeria and say he is doing well when people are suffering everywhere. I heard that a Fulani person killed another Fulani person for praising Buhari. Everybody is suffering in the country today and he must now listen. The worst mistake he made is appointing only his own people and he is still favouring them up till today. I believe that the failure of Buhari has been so grotesque, and so multi-dimensional that he should say to people, give me ideas. He should ask how do I leave Nigeria better than I met it. How do I stop this system that some people think I am dehumanizing them.
How do I stop this apparent preference for the Fulani without control? How do I deal with the issue of the economy? How do I appeal to everybody like he said during his inauguration that ‘I belong to nobody and I belong to everybody’. And I started performing as if I belong to Daura and not even Katsina, the state he comes from and saying other people should go to hell. I think that things would change and I tell you, when things change, if Buhari listens to people, he would have a good time. This is because if in six months, things become very rosy, all the sufferings of the past would be forgotten. What he should do is to listen to those who would tell him the truth. Imagine that somebody had the guts to ask Kachikwu of the NNPC to resign. He is one of the best brains that Nigeria has ever produced. Not everybody has a conscience. Some people could talk anyway he likes. My major worry is that the nation’s economy is going down the drain. One more thing I have to say is that Buhari has threatened the people of the South South who have been tampering with oil facilities that he would treat them like Boko Haram. Let me through you appeal to the people of the Niger Delta to cool off. What Buhari said he would do, he would do more than that. This is because the Niger Deltans are not among the preferred people. That statement by Buhari, I want the Niger Delta people to heed it and not go further because to destroy is very easy.
But the unfortunate thing is that the economy has crashed. Your naira crashed to N400 to one dollar. Your stock market has fallen woefully. Every indicator of economic growth is in the abyss. The economy collapsed in a short time from what it was when the president took over. But the issue is, out of love for Nigeria, I can give the president some ideas in areas where I have competence. This is because this is our country. We are praying for Buhari but the way things are in Nigeria today, I can only say that ‘God dey’.