By Dickson Okafor
Eze Oliver Ohankwe, the paramount ruler of Ihim autonomous community in Isiala Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State has said the insecurity in the country is a direct fallout from thugs armed by politicians for elections but abandoned after electioneering. He also spoke on other national issues.
What is your assessment of the traditional institutions in the country?
Traditional institutions in Nigeria is yet to be given their proper place in the governance of the country. It is a known fact that it was the traditional rulers that the colonial masters negotiated with and they maintained peace and unity in their domains before the 1914 amalgamation. Unfortunately, today, politicians have gained the upper hand over the traditional rulers, hence the reason moral values have collapsed in the nation.
What is responsible for this, could it be because of the politicisation of the traditional institution and involvement of some traditional rulers in politics?
Yes, you are right to some extent. Most of the politicians you see today have something in common with the traditional institution and they know the role of the traditional rulers in national development, but they refuse to give the traditional institution the respect and backing that goes with it. Whatever they are doing today to destroy the traditional institution will affect them in future.
Are you saying traditional rulers can’t play a vital role in national development because they are not empowered by the constitution?
Politicians are interested in acquiring wealth through corrupt means; that is why they are killing themselves to attain political positions. We the traditional rulers on the other hand are the custodians of the tradition and culture of our people. We promote peace and unity in our domain. So, because they have cornered our commonwealth, they worship money and disrespect the traditional institution. They always come for our blessings when they are seeking public offices but when they get there, they treat us as their prisoners.
Who do you blame for that when some traditional rulers, who are supposed to be fathers to all openly endorse certain candidates?
We always want to think they are going to change for the better, but unfortunately, their motive has never been to serve, but to enrich themselves. Unless the constitution is amended and constitutional roles assigned to traditional rulers to checkmate not only their subject but to also elected officials in their domain, there won’t be peace in Nigeria.
Traditional rulers are relied on for information on security, yet you say they are not carried along by the government?
Traditional rulers are accused of knowing the criminals in their domain, but who armed these hoodlums, bandits, kidnappers and criminals? Who imported them into the country? Who planted them in various communities? It is the politicians who used these youths as thugs during electioneering and then later dumped them without retrieving the arms and dangerous weapons given to them. Do you think after the politicians might have used and dumped these youths they will just fold their hands? Of course, they will use those arms to make a living. That is the genesis of insecurity we witnessing today.
How do you think the traditional institution can help restore moral values in the country?
Politicians cannot destroy our moral values and expect us the traditional rulers to clean their mess. As I said, politicians armed our youths to become thugs, kidnappers, bandits and terrorists in their quest to acquire power. They are the cause of all kinds of agitations including secession through their actions and inaction. How can there be peace in Nigeria when few individuals who we entrusted with our mandate steal our commonwealth? The reason for agitation is because of lack of equity and justice and undermining of the principle of Federal Character. If politicians in Nigeria had not destroyed the fabric that holds us together, we the traditional rulers will take joy in advising them and help them clean their mess.
Most traditional rulers advocate for the restructuring of Nigeria, what is your position on the issue?
We call for restructuring because the nation’s commonwealth is not adequately and evenly distributed and as long as there is no justice and equity, the masses will continue to protest and agitate. Let politicians change their attitude and make sure they close the gap between the poor and the rich, the gap is too wide. It is a shame that a blessed country like Nigeria cannot feed itself. God so blessed Nigeria yet, our leaders cannot harness the human and natural resources to improve the standard of living of citizens.
What do you think of the agitations by Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo popularly called Sunday Igboho, who is calling for secession?
I will just mention three factors that are responsible for the agitations by various groups, tribes and ethnic nationalities in the country. These include greed, lack of equity and neglect of some areas of the country. These are the major causes of agitation and disunity in the country.
The Southern Governors Forum after a recent meeting in Enugu State re-echoed the demand for a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in 2023, do you share the view?
Are they saying that without the presidency they can’t develop the Southern part of Nigeria? No doubt we are entitled to the presidency because of equity but I think that the only way power can shift to the South, especially South-East is only by concession. You must convince our brothers and sisters in the North; why they should cede the presidency to South East.
Where do you see Nigeria in the next 10 years?
The way Nigeria is going, we can be sure that Nigeria will be better if the country is sincerely restructured. I mean if there is equitable distribution of resources both human and natural resources including capacity building. Every tribe and ethnic group has contributed to the development of Lagos and Abuja. The question is, what about other states? There is no part of the country that needs seaport more than the South-East because we are merchants, merchandising is our business. So, why has River Niger and Uguta Lake not been made seaports? If the South-East is waiting for the Federal Government to transform River Niger into a seaport, we will wait in vain, it is time we bring our investments from other parts of the country and abroad home. We can pull resources together and dredge River Niger to become one of the best seaports in Africa.