Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, former governor of Anambra State, in this interview talked about burning national issues, Igbo presidency in 2023, the need for President Buhari to see the whole of Nigeria as his constituency and other topical issues. Excerpts:
President Buhari may have given a ray of hope during his New Year message to Nigerians. What is your view about that?
We thank him for showing thoughtfulness, realising that people need promises. I am not happy because it is irrelevant what he said and it was not thought out to be. Some people drafted that to please Nigerians and not that he wants to please Nigerians. In the South-East, there are no good federal roads; Enugu-Onitsha road is bad, Enugu-Port Harcourt road is bad, even though there is work going on there. This government has over stayed its usefulness. There has not been anytime that it worked. The first term, we were promised things that didn’t happen, exchange rate to improve, it did not; Petroleum price to go down, it did not. I am from the South-East but I am an advocate for one Nigeria, even more than those in the North. The way it is, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has been pushing the Igbo out of Nigeria, with great effort in making the Igbo people feel, not welcome.
What makes you say this?
In business, it is like pull Igbo down. It started long ago. Ibeto was prominent cement dealer in Nigeria, the federal government struggled to crumble the business of Ibeto and it succeeded. He is trying to pull through but not in the level he was. Ifeanyi Uba helped Nigeria when the rest of the oil dealers did not want to supply oil, and what did he get? He was incarcerated by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) NNPC owed Ifeanyi Uba, he was pulled down. You can imagine that kind of humiliation can kill someone. Look at Innoson motors, he produced a jeep, and called it Ikenga. A person like Innoson, if he defecated in church people should make effort to clean him up and not take Innoson with his pant to Abuja. Today the CBN had ruled in his favour, in the case against GTB, there was no basis for his arrest. Emzor pharmaceuticals, has been producing codeine, and they said that because young men in the North were smoking codeine, they had to close down Emzor, and later reopened it. They are so many other cases. Recently America talked about the air peace boss, a man who went to South Africa to bring back our people when things were rough for the nation. Recently, traders importing containers came to me, requested that I helped them beg government, customs officials, to sell back their seized containers to them instead of selling them to Northerners, and they would go back to buy from them. The problem has been so much. The killings are too many, people took their Bibles to go for memorial service of those who died during the war, which was the purpose of the meeting in Aba and Onitsha, government massacred them and the list is unending. The one that made me feel bad was when some Igbo men were celebrating the victory of Donald Trump and were killed. The most secured place in the country at the moment is the South East and what are we doing with heavy presence of the military. The military dominance, they call, Python Dance. They took our young boys, humiliated them in the mud. The federal government has been saying go in many ways to the Igbo, to get out of Nigeria.
Do you have any claim to back up this claim?
If you check the list of people who are been removed from the military, you would find Southerners and Igbo dominating, on the contrary if you look at the list of those engaged by the military, you would find Igbo names, vacant. The recent list of Justices, 27 Justices, not one Igbo made the list, even in the South, there are two Yoruba and two South-South, the rest are from the North. The recent appointment of police commissioners, 12 are from North-West and only one from South-East, and these are things everyone should look at and know that things are bad. Igbo are fit for one Nigeria, they make Nigeria look like a nation and what we get in return is continuous push and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is reacting to the push. IPOB is not quitting Nigeria because it doesn’t want to be in Nigeria but are reacting to negative things done to the Igbo in Nigeria and the elders like us are going slowly because we think that the market in Nigeria is so big that there is economy of scale and we shouldn’t rush out, but of course something is happening, 2023 is coming, there would be presidential election, whether it comes 2023 or it comes earlier, the Igbo has decided to kneel down for the North, South-West, South-South and the Middle Belt. We will also unite ourselves so that people don’t say that we are the cause of our problem. If after doing all that we are expected to do and because we are Igbo, Nigerians say they wouldn’t want Igbo to be president, then that would be the final push. If we are rejected, we cannot reject ourselves. Whatever it takes to get out of Nigeria, we would get out of Nigeria.
Some Northerners Say they would not vacate Aso Rock until 2031. How do you intend to realize your dream?
Ango Andullahi and Junaid Mohammed have also said 100 years. Atahiru Jega, former chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also joined Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) also for the purpose of the presidency. We are working very hard and like I said earlier, rejecting us will be the final push. We like to be Nigerians. I wrote something about the permanence of one Nigeria. We don’t have to go but we cannot remain Nigerians if the rest of the people say that we are not citizens, and cannot be part of those ruling. Today, all security apparatus of the country are headed by Fulani Muslims. In fact I want to write a Happy New Year message to Nigerians, first of all, remind the people of the kind of country that we have. The Gem of a country which God gave us, from whatever consideration, is it climate, we have the best. We don’t have tsunami, tornado, volcanic eruption. We are blessed with climate. We have any kind of material recourses, gold, diamond, gemstones, we have everything, including materials to produce electronics. God has also given us the people, with diverse talents. I want to let Nigerians know what they are risking. We are toying with what God has given us and if it disappears we would grieve over what we have lost. We should be careful with Nigeria. What is the problem? Wherever you are from Katsina or Anambra, everyone knows, Nigeria is not doing well, the leaders are not doing well, they seem not to know what is going on, and are not concerned. I like Buhari, I was in his house in Kaduna, and himself served me, he did not want any other person to serve. We got together to align politically then. I don’t know what went wrong, but we can pray to God to manipulate the heart of the man. And if it is not possible to manipulate it to do well, then he can manipulate him (Buhari) to say, ‘let me leave this government’ that would be the greatest service he would do for Nigeria.
The meetings of the Southern and Middle Belt Forum leaders, how useful have they been in the cause of uniting the nation?
It is the most powerful group in Nigeria, South-South, South- West, South-East and Middle Belt are well represented. Towards the mid-2019, members of Northern Elders Forum, led by Ango Abdullahi and Junaid Mohammed attended our meeting, but we did not think they came with good intentions and also we are almost getting the same mind. They don’t want Buhari to continue, just like us, Southern and Middle Belt Forum, do not want Buhai to continue, that was the only thing we had in common. Some of us were suspicious of them. I must tell you that the body is good but because of the reluctance to leave Nigeria that body is not doing as much as it should have done. Gideon Orkar saw the future and demarcated Nigeria, cut off the Fulani, Northern part of Nigeria, to be another country. If the Southern and Middle Belt Forum had done what they should have done, at the election that was declared inconclusive, we would have got an Orkar’s Nigeria. Our people did not want to go because they thought things would change, and things have not changed. I keep saying that Orkar’s Nigeria is viable. The market is large, resources are surplus. The problem is that those who stand to lose most, should Nigeria disintegrate are the ones who are trying to lord it over the rest of Nigerians. How many are the Fulani? The highest figure I heard is about six million. I have always had friends in the North, Miyetti Allah supported me when I ran for president, but what they are doing, antagonizing every part of Nigeria. May God not bring it to a point that the rest of Nigerians would turn against the Fulani to eliminate them, because it is possible. The rest of Nigerians can decide to attack them. The president does not seem to be helping at all. The plan to give free entry visas to the rest of Africans, and we know that the Africans that are being referred to, are Fulani. There is no justifiable reason why the Fulani would be parading cows round the whole country. We don’t eat more meat than the Europeans, British, Americans, and you don’t come to America and see cows in schools and on high ways. There are ranches for them, the cows are housed and there is a new technology which makes feeding the cows easy. Grass which cows eat can be grown in six days that technology is available. It is no longer advisable to do open grazing. The Fulani herders go about killing people. We heard recently of a woman that was raped to death, no, the man came to rape the woman and she resisted, the man killed her and raped her. The Fulani has no reason to endanger themselves, what they are doing is antagonizing the rest of the country, they think that others cannot come fighting back, how many are they? Even if open visa makes them fill everywhere, they cannot confront Nigerians.
What do you thing is responsible for the dominance of the North?
The Yoruba and Igbo are the guilty ones. If the Igbo and Yoruba had worked together, Nigeria would have been miles on high, somehow, the Igbo and Yoruba messed up because of jealousy. The Middle Belt, for first time had a prayer festival in Abuja, today the Middle Belt people, Tiv and others have realized their mistakes. They killed the Igbo both in the war front and on transit. They have apologized to the Igbo. It takes people like Theophilus Danjuma to openly make some kind of apology that will go a long way. For me, I have nothing against anybody. I will personally go to some of the Middle Belt people and tell them to make the apologies open. They were used against Igbo people. No Nigerian, from any part of the country can walk away from Nigeria system feeling triumphant. Any intelligent Nigerian who wants to leave Nigeria would leave crying. It is not that the Igbo want to leave, if we are rejected, we would leave crying, we won’t leave celebrating, but it is better to leave than stay where you are rejected.
There are speculations in some quarters that with the release of Omoyele Sowore and Sambo Dasuki, former National Security Adviser, President Muhammadu Buhari’s record on respect for rule of law may have improved?
I don’t want to agree with that because I don’t believe the President knows what he is doing. Dasuki was there for four years, El-zakzaky has been there and these two were released after an American legislator wrote to that effect. We heard that an American envoy came and spoke with the president and these two were released three hours later. We would be very grateful if his reasoning continues in that direction. The world belongs to all of us, including, non Nigerians, fairness is fairness and justice is justice. It is wrong to make impunity a norm. Nigeria has a problem, politicians have ruined everything. We don’t have hurricanes, tornadoes, and terrible things, but politicians are damaging Nigeria more than those terrible things. My view is that the President has gone beyond redemption. The judiciary is ruined completely. The Chief Justice of the federation (CJN) was removed and a Sharia Chief Justice was put in his stead. Anybody thinking about survival of the country may be narrow-minded. Sowore did not have to be in prison. Government sent military to court, and the Judge was running to safety. No way to think that something good is around the corner.
People are of the opinion that politics has been played so dirty with government agencies being used as instrument to fight opposition or critics, the recent demolition of the house of Olusola Saraki, father of former senate president, Bukola Saraki, readily comes to mind. What is your view about that?
I think the end has come. All these things are rushing to happen shows that change is in the offing and God has answered our prayers, before March, things would begin to change and when things change, it will compensate for all the bad things that have happened. The South-East may be nearer government, and with that, economic development would take place everywhere. The nooks and crannies of Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, every part of the country would experience economic development and hunger would be sent packing, when the East comes near government because it is destiny given to us. We don’t boast about it because God gave us destiny, gave us potentials for achieving it. He also gave us success mentality and we want our children to be bigger than us. We don’t believe in Talakawa, or Almagiri. We want everybody to rise to the best, God allows him or her to rise and with that an Igbo president, would make Nigeria compete with America, Germany etcetera. We are not any less gifted than any country in the world. If Nigeria wants to be counted as one of the super powers of the world, she has to give Igbo a chance and as long as the Igbo people are put politically down, for so long will Nigeria continue to be economically poor.
It looks like some of you are no longer concerned about the clamour for restructuring. Are you still concerned about restructuring?
Any government that comes up must engage in emergency restructuring. What is restructuring? These big languages sometimes are difficult to understand. What we are calling restructuring in Nigeria is going to our agreed system and structure which worked for us then. Restructuring would make room for development, which the World Bank said that some parts of Nigeria were growing faster than the rest of the world, in 1954, 1956. Then the military came and ruined Nigeria and also drained Nigeria. Corruption has eaten so deep into us; it has pervaded every element of the social strata.