FROM OBINNA ODOGWU, AWKA
ELDER statesman and former Governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, is not happy with the present state of Nigeria. He is sad that things have moved from bad to worse at the moment in the country. Each time he speaks, he recalls Nigeria’s past when the World Bank had said that some parts of the country were growing faster than the rest of the world, economically.
The ex-governor’s wish, however, remains that the country goes back to the old pattern which he said worked then; and of course, regain its lost glory.
But that, he said, cannot work except the country is restructured, arguing that restructuring holds the key to Nigeria’s progress. He pointed out that Federal Government’s seeming rigidity to the arguments for restructuring makes it appears opposed to Nigeria’s survival and progress.
In this exclusive interview with Sunday Sun, the elder statesman also spoke on this year’s governorship election in Anambra State, the plan by the Southeast governors to establish joint security outfit, among other issues of national concern. Excerpts:
What are your expectations for Nigeria in 2021?
Well, I believe that when there seems to be no way, God creates a way. At the point at which we are now, is the point of discouragement comprehensively. Nothing works in Nigeria. Conscience is dead in Nigeria and total corruption has taken over. What hope can one have in that circumstance? No hope except that we have God in heaven; and we cannot give timetable to God; do this for us at this time or at that time. He does at His own pleasing at His own will, but we believe that God in heaven sees what is going on in Nigeria and cannot leave us like this. Look at what God gave Nigeria. No country is richer than we are in gifts of God – the climate, the weather, no earthquake, no natural disasters except the ones caused by us by neglecting the environment. So, my hope for Nigeria is that God will do His will to bring about the resurrection of conscience, corruption going down, and commitment to Nigeria. We will like Yoruba, Hausa, and all Nigerians to be committed to Nigeria like the Southeast people are in spite of all the pull-down Southeast by the present government. So, what is my hope for Nigeria in 2021? It is that we survive 2021 as a country. So, God in heaven will help to make Nigeria survive 2021 and increasingly understand that restructuring is sine qua non. If we restructure, we make progress. And we prune down all these other corruptions because when we were regions in smaller space, the governors were not so powerful as to spend our money anyhow. But today, it is different.
And it will change again back to what it used to be if we now have restructuring. We can say, we have six zones, let each zone become two zones and then we have 12 zones in all and they are the regions or zones of Nigeria. I think, if we do that, one Nigeria will survive and those who are talking about leaving it will change their minds and stay on. This is what I think about Nigeria in 2021.
This is not the first time you are talking about restructuring. There are other Nigerians who are making case for it too. But it appears that the Federal Government is rigid on what and wherever it stands. Are you surprised at this posture of the Federal Government?
Well, I don’t know what they have. They are not moving like people who want the country to survive and make progress. In fact, the Federal Government seems to be opposed to Nigeria’s survival and progress. There is no other way I can see the opposition to restructuring. For example, are we saying that we like Nigeria as the capital of poverty or prefer it to the Nigeria we used to know which the World Bank said was making progress, growing faster than the rest of the world? The World Bank said that parts of Nigeria were growing faster than the rest of the world under the structure we used to know before the war, the Nigeria/Biafra war, and before the creation of various states and then, the multiplication of states. So, we want to go back to what we used to know; what we knew that worked; which the World Bank saw that worked. So, I don’t think that anybody opposed to restructuring understands it. Some states in the North are opposed to restructuring because they think that restructuring means Delta people should have their oil, etc. But no, we cannot stop sharing revenue from the Federal Government. There may be changes, but every state will still be getting revenue from the Federal Govern- ment until they are able to get their own revenue and they will not be stopped completely at all.
So, I don’t know. If the Federal Government is opposed to restructuring or insensitive to the argument for restructuring, it means only one thing. Either they don’t understand anything or they are opposed to Nigeria’s survival.
Recently, the Federal Government said that it would be borrowing money from dormant accounts in this country. Some persons have opposed that. But that idea alone, what sort of message does it send to you about the leadership of this country? Does it send a message of a state of hopelessness on the part of this country’s leadership or total collapse of the system? How do you view that?
Nobody can make Nigeria hopeless. Nobody can make Nigeria collapse. God is in heaven. He created Nigeria for a purpose. And God doesn’t make mistakes. Therefore, the Federal Government may want to borrow anything from anywhere, it cannot lead to the collapse of this country. But it doesn’t make me change the view that the actions of the Federal Government do not suggest that it wants Nigeria to survive. How do you promote police officers; you promoted 12 from the Northwest, eight from the Northeast, four from the Middle Belt, some in the South south and Southwest and one from the Southeast. If there were exams wouldn’t it be the opposite?
The Southeast governors made a U-turn saying that they’d establish a local vigilance group they’d own jointly. But that came after the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) launched Eastern Security Network (ESN). Before ESN was established, the Southeast governors dumped their initial plan to set up such and adopted the Inspector General of Police’s community policing template. But immediately the video of IPOB’s ESN went viral, they made a U-turn and said that they would launch theirs. What is your view about this development?
I support the state governments setting up a regional security network. We supported them when they said it in the past and somehow they changed their minds. If they have come back
to it, we are happy. Well, I do not want to talk about Eastern Security Network. There are some problems in it.
The ex-governors wish, however, remains that the country goes back to the old pattern which he said worked then; and of course, regain its lost glory.
But that, he said, cannot work except the country is restructured, arguing that restructuring holds the key to Nigeria’s progress.
He pointed out that Federal Government’s seeming rigidity to the arguments for restructuring makes it appears opposed to Nigeria’s survival and progress.
Now that the Southeast governors have decided to set up this regional security outfit, how would you want them to go about it?
I would tell them to copy the Southwest; the Yoruba, and make it effective; make it independent of the Nigerian police.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has issued timetable for political activities that would lead to this year’s governorship election in Anambra State. The other time we spoke, you were drumming support for zoning and you want the governorship zoned to Anambra South. Since that time to this moment, have you had course to change your mind or do you still stand for zoning?
Now, let me say what you may have known. I fought for Obiano to win his second term and complete his eight years. Before then, I gave a lecture in Awka where I enumerated the benefits of zoning and rotation. And there is a very strong lobbying in Anambra. I think zoning and rotation has come to stay in Anambra until we the politicians decide otherwise. Remember, I was the first governor of Anambra State. I come from the South, but I didn’t consider the South special. I didn’t give any special consideration to the South of Anambra. But things have changed. When you become a governor these days, you take special interest of your senatorial zone. You try to be governor for every part of the state, but you pay special attention to your zone. That being the case and I was from the South before the idea of zoning came around. But actually the idea of zoning started from the North and after the North, it is South.
So, Anambra Central ruled for 11 years and gave to North. The North should now yield to the South Senatorial zone and the South Senatorial zone will yield to Anambra Central.
Anything different is bad. Anybody who is on the way of zoning and rotation is not there because he has a good idea. It is either he is an enemy of progress or he is too arrogant to yield to people’s opinion.