Former Anambra State governor, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife has said those clamouring for the abolishment of power rotation, zoning of the presidency should wait until the Igbo have their turn in 2023. Speaking with VINCENT KALU, the elder statesman noted that if things continue as they are, the North may be forced to embrace restructuring.
“The state of the nation, is something we have never been through even during the civil war. If nothing is done, it may lead, ‘to your tent oh Israel’, but God forbid. Otherwise, the way things are going is very bad”, he warned.
How do you react to recent developments in the country?
I don’t know what can be said that has not been said before, but the failure of government is now comprehensive; failure in every direction, economic failure, political failure, social failure, security failure. Only in very few locations in Nigeria can people sleep with their two eyes closed. This is very bad. On top of that, the government said it has done its very best, that is very frustrating because if what is now being experienced is the best that the government can do, I don’t know, maybe, that is why some people are making statements that it should be the end of this government or something like that.
The state of the nation, is something we have never been through even during the civil war. If nothing is done, it may lead, ‘to your tent oh Israel’, but God forbid. Otherwise, the way things are going is very bad.
What do you proffer as solutions to these problems you have highlighted?
My own solution is different from yours. My solution is that Nigerians anywhere they are should go on their knees and hand over everything to God, begging Him to save us; to retrieve Nigeria and make conscience resonate in Nigeria so that corruption which has taken over everywhere can begin to recede. Man has messed up God’s design for Nigeria; man cannot clean up the mess, only God can mend it. You can’t give timetable to God on when to do it, or it will be too late.
Nigeria is rated as one of the most prayerful nations; it has the biggest cathedrals and in every street, you have so many worship centres – churches, mosques, etc, are they not enough to call on God?
The way of God is not the way of man. You may be praying without results, but if all Nigerians go on their knees and pray to God, He is bound to listen to us. He doesn’t slumber, He doesn’t sleep. There is nothing else man can do, do you sack the present government? How do you do that? We pray God to resurrect conscience in Nigeria , to unveil the new Nigeria and not let man prevail.
Boko Haram is asphyxiating the Northeast, while bandits are holding the Northwest to its jugular, both killing our soldiers and civilians, are you worried?
We must understand that mistakes are made. I don’t know what else to call the re-absorption of Boko Haram into the system. It was a very bad mistake, which should never be repeated. As of now, we know even some Boko Haram members who are back in the military have been doing something unheard of about the military, they attacked Borno State governor. I don’t know, I wish I knew I could answer your question.
Still on security, the Southeast governors said after their meeting with Ohanaeze, they were going to set up a regional security outfit. What do you expect in this direction?
In the past, the Southeast governors talked about regional security. I signed a letter as chairman of Imeobi, Abuja, and chairman of Abuja Elders, commending them for deciding to set up a regional security body. I should be very grateful and glad if they now act fast. We do not want community policing or any type of policing that will be taking directives from Abuja. Therefore, we want an independent Southeast security organisation based on community vigilante; every community should have its own vigilante, and the local government will have local government command, the state will have state command and then the Southeast will have Southeastern command.
The Yoruba brought Amotekun, nobody knew they were bringing it , and the day it was unveiled, we saw many vehicles for that purpose. We should now begin to do our own very fast and the state House of Assembly should help the governors in drafting the legal basis for it.
We have been hearing of ‘One Nigeria’, why is it that we don’t hear, ‘One Ghana’; ‘One Togo’ ‘One Canada’; ‘One India’?
By the grace of God, whose powers are infinite, One Nigeria has come to stay. Any efforts by man to mess up One Nigeria will eventually fail. I’m from Southeast, the most disadvantaged, the most humiliated, the most pushed down and pushed out, but I still hope that Nigeria can survive because, if Nigeria survives and we go back to the structure of government we had from 1945 to 1966, when the World Bank said , parts of Nigeria were growing than the rest of the world. If we can go back to that; for people who don’t understand what restructuring means, all we mean is to go back to the structure that worked. If we can go back to that structure, nobody, not Fulani, not Yoruba, not Igbo, not any group will gladly move out of Nigeria.
But as it is now, we must understand, especially for the Southeast people blaming IPOB, MASSOB, as talking nonsense, but they should understand that these groups are reacting to what is going on now. So, I don’t want what is going on to continue.
Coming to the issue of presidency, I believe that the moment it comes to Southeast, our people will take it that justice has been done, if by then restructuring has not been done, that president in double quick time will restructure Nigeria, which doesn’t take much. We had regional constitutions; we have federal constitution. All we have to do is go back to federal government that was federal and not unitary; and go back to the regional constitutions, now apply it to the zones, that is it.
Going back to regional governments as we had, is it still possible when you have states, would they agree to go back to that structure?
People who are governors will want to maintain power, but you see us disappearing; the whole country is disappearing. When we were as a federal system, we were growing very fast at individual regional basis. These days when we have 36 states and Abuja, we are taking many giants steps backwards and that is not what is good for us. Look at Rwanda; if it was big enough I would have been happy, they are not big enough. God gave assignment to Nigeria to lift the Black man, give dignity and respect to the black race. No country in Africa can do it; not Ghana, not Rwanda because they are too small, and that is why we are talking of One Nigeria; size matters. If we correct all the other problems, our strength begins to show.
You are talking of restructuring, but the North doesn’t want to hear such, where do we go from here and what does it portend?
The North is talking about restructuring, but theirs is not the one we have, but not even the North will obstruct restructuring. When it is clear to them that it is either restructuring or disintegration, they will rush to restructuring. The Fulani would be the most to lose by a disintegrated Nigeria, while Igbo, Yoruba and smallest tribes will laughingly move out of Nigeria to where things are going to work.
While will Fulani be the most affected if Nigeria breaks up?
Today, the most valuable resource for a nation’s development is education, but they are the most backward in education. We don’t want it that way. When the Igbo man becomes the president, first he will see Nigeria as his own, he will ban Talakawa, he will ban Almajirai, he will introduce egalitarianism, which is what the Igbo are known for. He will introduce fast development of every sector; every section of the country will develop fast and Nigeria will grow into a super power among the nations.
The statement by President Buhari’s nephew, Mamman Daura that rotation, zoning of presidency will give for competence is generating ripples in the polity, what is your position?
Daura’s statement has been dealt with by most people and it shows us that God has approved president of Igbo extraction by 2023 because people from the North and from the South, opposed Daura’s statement.
A group of Northern youths made a statement saying that it will be fair for the rotation to go round first before we talk of considering merit, stressing that the only zone that has not got the president in the South is the Southeast and they believe that after the Southeast, then if we want, we can begin to talk about competence. That is the way it should go. The Igbo should have their turn in 2023, thereafter, we can go for competence if we like. But remember, talking about competence or merit; one, the South may dominate presidency. That is after one Southern person, another Southern person because when it comes to competence, education and such things, the Southeast is dominant. Southeast is not lacking in such considerations. Therefore, if anybody says competence, we jump at it; we are not complaining at all if it were competence. Competence will be competence if talk of level of education for our president.
Competence should not just be a matter of presidency; if we want merit to rule in Nigeria, then in every office merit should rule. When it comes to entering secondary school, a student from my state must score 240, before he qualifies, while in some states, students only score 20 and they qualify, that is not merit. So, if we are talking about merit, it should be total, and not just for the presidency only.
Everybody in Nigeria is tired of the country right now because of the flow of blood, because of banditry, because of kidnapping, because of failure of the economy; Nigeria becoming the poverty capital of the world. So, is it the merit that is making us to have all the negatives; comprehensive failure of government? If we want merit, let us go for it. A minister must be meritorious, adviser must be meritorious, permanent secretary should be meritorious. Before, you found permanent secretary very competent directing what happened in the ministry; civil servant very competent, but today, competence is gone to blazes and somebody who is where he is by dint of only blood relationship is talking about competence now. I like it and we must discuss it fully and at least map out areas where competence should rule so that Nigeria ceases to be the poverty capital of the world.