Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife is a former governor of Anambra State and political adviser to former Presi-dent Olusegun Obasanjo. In this interview with MBACHU GODWIN, he speaks on Nigeria at 60, re-structuring and other sundry issues.
Today, Nigeria is celebrating 60 years of independence, but some Nigerians say there is no need to celebrate. What do you think?
You know the answer to that question. Every Nigerian knows that if we are talking about independ-ence, it’s not worth celebrating. People should go to their house and rest; they should not lose hope in Nigeria. They should pray not to get into complete breakdown and disintegration of Nigeria. We pray that the Odua Republic will not come on; we pray to God to revive Nigeria, for a new Nigeria, because we have been crying year after year. It is clear to me that man cannot repair the damage inflicted in Nigeria. God created Nigeria through the instrumentality of British. Look at our climate; we don’t have earthquakes or any natural disaster except those we bequeathed to ourselves like erosion that is our own making. So, God gave us a good climate and environment. Talking about minerals, we don’t even know the quantity we have, for a long time people are exporting gold and we didn’t even know.
What about human resources? Nigerians are gifted and talented. Today our children are making waves all over the world, but why are they not coming back. I studied in Harvard and I am supposed to go to Uganda but I was stuck in Lagos where I was offered a job without application. Today, my children are abroad and I don’t have the persuasive power to convince them to come back to Nigeria to be faced with insecurity and poverty. Today Nigeria is ranked the poverty capital of the world. Before 1966, the Nigerian economy was growing well more than the world; the WORLD BANK said so. I don’t know what to say, yet I am encouraging Nigerians, let’s have hope, God does not make mistake. God who gave Nigeria abundant mineral resources knows why He did so. Nigeria can grow to be a super power.
What we are passing through now is too bad but God can reverse it.
But where did we get it wrong?
I think we got it wrong right from the military coup. Those military officers who took over and ruled Nigeria ruined Nigeria. When the World Bank said we were growing faster. What kind of structure did we have? We had a Federal system and it was Federal. The Federal government was doing those things states and regions cannot do, like currency, defence, diplomacy etc. But most of the develop-ment action was done by the region. Those days when you are spending the tax money you know how you do it, you don’t stash it in foreign banks abroad.
First, there was a civil war and the Federal government wanted to win that war. It created 12 states and now 36 states plus the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). So what we have today is not a federal sys-tem, not based on regions but states. Before the war they came up with something rational called the Aburi Accord which restored regionalism.
What is your take on the clamour for restructuring?
When people talk about restructuring, the world restructuring confuses people. They think it begins and ends with resource control. The North resists it by thinking that once it is called restructuring it is all about oil money stopping flowing to Kano or the North. The federal government must actually help the state and local governments in revenue. We need to restructure, and by restructuring, we mean simply going back to the structure that worked and that is regionalism.
Today, we can make zones. We have six zones; we can make it 12 zones, that way we solve the prob-lem of the middle belt, that is the way forward. Why I believe that a new Nigeria can be unveiled, it doesn’t take much. Look at what is happening in the South West, people are saying no going back to Oduduwa Republic, look at what is happening in the South East. We in the South East are the most marginalised and excluded in the project Nigeria today and we have voted with our feet for one Nige-ria. We believe that where you live is where you develop. Therefore this restructuring we are talking about is useful to every Nigerian.
You blamed the military. Do you think the civilian leaders got it right?
We have had military governments. When they are not there, they will be pushing for what they want. The military has not left Nigeria. The military that ruled Nigeria were from one part of the country and they created states and local government to favour that part of the country. Lagos has 20 local gov-ernments, while Kano has 44 local governments. That is why anybody looking at the National Assembly is wasting time.
The ethnic groups are opposing amendment of the Constitution. What is your view?
It is not meaningful to talk of amendment of the Constitution by the National Assembly. We never had it so good in the 2014 constitutional conference, where all partof Nigeria were fully represented and we worked hard. We had no problem in bringing back Nigeria that will work. What we need now is to revive the conference and go to work; we don’t need another constitutional conference. It is dishon-est, and I don’t understand what is going on. If we want a new Nigeria, it is easy to implement, we can go back to Aburi and implement it. If you restructure there will be justice. I appeal to Nigerians to have hope and pray for God to rise and unveil a new Nigeria so that man’s desire does not win. Today, be-cause of the consciousness in Nigeria, corruption is comprehensive; every facet of Nigeria is corrupt. A person in government goes in there for what he will get and his or her relations rush to him. I was a governor of Anambra State; none of my relations had any dime or cornered anything. So people have changed. We must make those in government listen to people. Man’s mess up cannot be cleaned by man, divine intervention is necessary. The only celebration is Nigeria.
What is your take on the high cost of governance in the country today?
People are stealing money. They are stealing Nigeria dry. I think a country like Nigeria should have a parliamentary system of government, at least to reduce the high cost of governance. You cannot be-come a lawmaker and have an allowance that makes you rich.
What is your take on the clamour for a president of Igbo extraction?
That’s a major challenge. I will like to thank God on this issue of Igbo president because he has done it. Recently, a very important person from the North called me and said we should go ahead that he has commenced mobilising for the Igbo presidency project. Also, the middle belt youths decided that it will support the South East presidency for justice and equity and moved around the North selling the idea and the person they selected. They organised a mock election and selected somebody which I will not mention. The impression is that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is likely to select an Igbo person as their candidate. It remains the Peoples Democratic party (PDP).
As far as the Igbo presidency is concerned, there is no complain. If an Igbo man is voted as president of Nigeria it means justice, equity, fairness is returning to Nigeria and that will end request for Biafra. We the elders from the South East have been praying for one Nigeria, all we need is to have a level playing field. We have a problem in Nigeria; we don’t know how to manage our success. We are not diplomat-ic. You, the pressmen, must fight this battle. We must learn to manage our success. With justice we will not be taking of Biafra, but assuming we do everything people expected us to do and persuade Nigerians to produce an Igbo president and merely because we are Igbo’s and our candidate did not win, we will take it that the residents of Nigeria have rejected us and in our thoughts and believe one rejected, will not reject itself.
How would you manage the number of aspirants?
A Northern friend of mine told me ‘you people, if you are asked to produce president, all of you will come out.’ But we are going to be well organised. We are going to create an elders committee to make sure that the number bid is scaled down and everybody aspiring is speaking the same thing. We will give it everything we have. The president of Igbo extraction will fix Nigeria. We have already voted with our feet for one Nigeria, therefore the Nigerian system will benefit from what the Igbo has.