Tunde Thomas and Sunday Ani
Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, and Alhaji Bashir Tofa, a former presidential candidate on the platform of the defunct National Republican Convention, NRC have been warned to stop making controversial remarks capable of plunging the nation into crisis or jeopardizing Nigeria’s unity.
Giving the warning in an interview with the DAILY SUN, the National Coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group, Comrade Joseph Evah berated Governor el-Rufai and Alhaji Tofa for saying that zoning should be abolished in 2023.
He also spoke on other national issues.
What’s your reaction to the recent declarations by some prominent Northerners including Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State and lately Alhaji Bashir Tofa, the former presidential candidate of the defunct National Republican Convention, NRC that zoning should be abolished in 2023?
Maybe they misquoted Gov. el-Rufai and Alhaji Tofa. I don’t want to believe that they made such unpatriotic declarations which is capable of putting Nigeria’s unity in jeopardy. Even in Kaduna State where el-Rufai is the state governor, if they abolish zoning, and his own local government area continues to produce the state governor, will there be peace in Kaduna State?
Some of these people when they enter public office or become prominent citizens, talk without considering the implication. Even if el-Rufai is nursing presidential ambition in 2023 as it is being rumoured, and there is no peace in the country, how can he realize his ambition?
When some of these Northerners talk, they should not talk in a way that will threaten the nation’s peace. Why are they always behaving and talking in manners that can set Nigeria on fire?
El-Rufai, Tofa and any other Northerner that says that zoning should be jettisoned in 2023 is clearly an enemy of this nation. Why must these unpatriotic Northerners come up with these kind of funny declarations whenever it is the turn of the South to produce Presidency? This was the same way this Northern cabal tried to frustrate former President Goodluck Jonathan from becoming Acting President of Nigeria when late President Yar’Adua was seriously ill and was flown to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment.
This same cabal from the North is at it again but they must be resisted. El-Rufai should watch it. The Northern leaders should call him and Tofa to order, otherwise they will plunge this country into crisis.
How do you think the controversy over 2023 should be resolved?
As far as I’m concerned, there is no controversy anywhere. It is the turn of the South in 2023. When Buhari runs out his second term in 2023, then it is the turn of the South, and when it comes to the South, it should be the turn of the Igbo except the Igbo are not ready. But if the Igbo by their actions proved that they are not ready, then there can’t be vacuum in any society, then others that are interested can fill the slot. However, I believe that the Igbo should have it in 2023 to show that all Nigerians are equal but if the Igbo are not ready by their body language, then other groups in the South can now come to fill the gap.
The Igbo should stand up for their right, even if only for the sake of their children, and the coming generations. Younger generation of Igbo should not have a kind of feeling that they are second class citizens of Nigeria. But if Igbo say they are not interested in 2023, then there is nothing wrong with that, then others that are interested can fill the slot.
I believe that in 2023, it is the turn of the Igbo but the Igbo have to put their house in order. They should show more seriousness over the issue. The Igbo should come out more forcefully over the issue of 2023 now. Now is the time for them to come out and make their intention known.
For now, I have not seen anybody from the South East showing that interest. They should not be saying or thinking that there is still time between now and 2023, there is no time. If you look at United States of America, immediately after the end of an election, politicians start preparing immediately for the next one. They start strategizing and commence holding political meetings. You don’t wait until 24 hours to 2023 before you start strategizing. No. It is not done that way. Politicians always work ahead.
If the Igbo have the dream to clinch Presidency in 2023, now is the time for them to go into action. They must have a think-tank. How can el-Rufai have the boldness to say that rotation or zoning should be jettisoned in 2023? He wouldn’t have made that remark if the Igbo have already started talking about 2023 that it is the turn of the South East. I believe that if the Igbo have been more vocal about 2023, el-Rufai, Tofa and other selfish and greedy Northerners wouldn’t have the boldness or the affront to say that zoning should be jettisoned.
The convener of the RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, has been kept in DSS custody in defiance to the court order which earlier said he should be released. What do you have to say about that?
Yes, the court has granted him bail but the DSS has refused to release him. I want to join his lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana to demand for his release because he has denied his involvement in any kind of violent overthrow of government. The allegation is a very serious one but because the court has found out that the allegation is false, he was set free. For goodness’ sake, this is democracy and court orders should be obeyed. If Sowore did not believe in democracy, he would not have involved himself in the political process to contest for the office of the presidency of Nigeria in the 2019 elections. So, we are demanding that he should be released immediately. What the government is doing in this matter, that is disobeying the court order which granted him freedom, amounts to ridiculing the country before the international communities. The international communities will not expect that people like Sowore who fought for the institutionalization of democracy in Nigeria will be denied his freedom. So, we are asking those who are deceiving the president by saying that the young man wants to overthrow the government violently to be reasonable and stop deceiving the president. We are calling on the international communities that are present in Nigeria; that is the foreign embassies in Nigeria to pressure the Nigeria government to release Sowore and all political prisoners because we are not fighting war. The war we are fighting is with the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East; so why will Sowore be captured like a prisoner of war? Another journalist, Agba Jalingo in Cross River State is there; we are saying that government should release all of these activists that are in various detentions across the country because they are the people that made this democracy possible. They should not be detained like prisoners of war. If the security agents refuse to release Sowore, it will only bring ridicule to Nigeria. When a competent court says grant him freedom, I don’t think there is any other security agent in this country that should disobey such orders in a democracy, and even in the military era.
How will you react to concerns being expressed by some Nigerians that the face-off between IPOB and South East governors, and Ohanaeze may be a ploy by some powerful interests to ensure that the Igbo are not united on 2023?
I also have the same feeling. I believe that some powerful interests are behind the face-off between IPOB, and South East governors on one hand, and Ohanaeze on the other. These powerful elements want to ensure that the Igbo are not united over 2023. They want to ensure that the Igbo won’t be able to take a common position on 2023, but my advice to the Igbo is that they should watch it.
This is I’m calling on the Igbo to put their house in order. IPOB can’t do without the South East governors and other leaders in Igboland. IPOB can’t be an island on its own. IPOB leaders can’t do away with Igbo leaders. They can’t do without them.
What do these IPOB leaders know? IPOB should learn from what happened during the civil war. Ojukwu then was not consulting with other Igbo leaders like late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, and late Dr Michael Okpara. He sidelined these prominent Igbo leaders thinking that it was only the military option that he could use to achieve victory, but look at what eventually happened. You can’t do away with political leaders and elders in any society. If Ojukwu had sought counsel and advice of Azikiwe, Okpara and other Igbo leaders during that period, may be the civil war would have been averted. But Ojukwu sidelined these prominent Igbo leaders. Not that Ojukwu didn’t have some Igbo elders and leaders with him, but those elders were only telling him what he wanted to hear.
These IPOB leaders and their members should be careful. They should not create problems they can’t sustain. IPOB leaders should respect the South East governors, and Ohanaeze leaders. A society without elders is doomed.
You can’t do without elders. Elders are in every society for a purpose. Can IPOB only on its own develop the economy of the South East to sustain the geo-political zone? In the whole of Nigeria, it is the Igbo that use their wealth to develop and prosper other parts of the country than their own area, so the Igbo need to come together and speak with one voice not only because of 2023 issue but also to strategise on how to develop South East geo-political zone as they are doing to develop other zones with their wealth. I advise IPOB not to ignore Igbo elders and leaders. It is the prayer of everybody to grow up to old age, so we should treat our elders with respect. It is an insult to be rude to old people.
The face-off between South East governors, Ohanaeze and IPOB will harm the Igbo interests. The Igbo should not play into the hands of those forces who don’t want the Igbo to have it in 2023.
I believe that there is a Third Force working to cause disunity among the Igbo on the issue of 2023, but honestly speaking, I believe the Igbo should not play into the hands of these elements who want to ensure that they don’t speak with one voice on 2023. I’m warning the Igbo to watch. There is a third force, a cabal that want to cause confusion among Ndigbo. The Igbo should not play into the hands of this powerful cabal. Some powerful groups are working to ensure that they are not united, but it will be very unfortunate if the Igbo play into their hands.
What is your take on the country’s 59 years of independence? Has the country fared well?
Well, with our file as the largest black nation in the world, we are still crawling. If we are sitting permanently in one place, it would have been very dangerous but we are still crawling instead of walking. So, there is still hope because we are not facing a war situation and the young people are still doing very well, giving hope to this country. What happened in South Africa is a shame to the leadership of this country. You remember that recently, the government, before now banned the teaching of history in our schools. That very ban affected our situation in South Africa, where Nigerians are being killed and their property destroyed wantonly. This was a country that we struggled and fought to give independence during the apartheid regime in that country. Our government through the ministry of external affairs is not educating the South Africans. I expected the ministry of external affairs to run one full hour documentary of how we helped South Africa, Zimbabwe and all that. With our oil money we helped them. From the 70s to the 90s, no South African student that was educated in our universities paid school fees. They were given free accommodations and free foods. Even Mandela’s families were coming to Nigeria to meet Abiola to be able to feed. If our foreign affairs minister can educate them for one hour on CNN, the South African children that are killing our people will weep. Why is it that our government doesn’t want our children to learn about the past? Now, it is affecting us; the South African children killing our people, destroying their businesses and property are not aware of their past.