Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, former Governor of Anambra State, in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, speaks on the state of the nation, President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term bid and the Coalition of Opposition Political parties. Excerpts:
You recently led some political leaders from across Nigeria to form and register a political party – Justice Must Prevail Party (JMPP). What informed that decision at a time most people believe that there are too many parties in the country?
I announced when I clocked 70, that I won’t be participating in active politics any longer. But anybody who knows the history of the world will attest to the fact that the black man laid the foundation of science and technology, but today, he is the foot math of the world. We have everything; the climate is fantastic, human and natural resources are surplus; Nigeria is in a position to lead the rest of Africa and even emerge as a super power.
But when I look at what is happening presently, Nigeria has become a shame to Africa. The country is not progressing, and I asked: Why are we not progressing as we should? I found that our leaders are toying with God’s design for the country’s greatness.
The military, which first came to power in 1966, ruled and ruined Nigeria. They started by changing the country’s political structure. You will recall that there was an agreement by our founding fathers on a federal system of government based on regions as federating units, but after 1966, because the Federal Government wanted to win the war against Biafra easily, it started the crippling the structure that made Nigeria work so well that the World Bank rated us as one of the fasted developing countries in the world just a few years after independence.
They first action they took was to split the four regions into 12 states in order to isolate the Igbo from the Eastern Region. The calculation then was to weaken Odumegwu Ojukwu’s power, but instead of going back to the agreed regional structure after the war, soldiers of Northern extraction, who ruled and ruined Nigeria, continued to create more states.
They ended up creating 36 states; 19 in the North and 17 in the South. When it came to local governments, they created more in the North to the extent that Kano and Jigawa states have almost the same number of local governments as the whole of South-East states. Besides states creation, the centralized almost everything, so that everybody has to come to Abuja.
The system we had at independence was abandoned and that is why today, those who know are saying that Nigeria must be restructured, so that the country will not collapse. Another issue is the monumental corruption that crept into our system.
This is not only about the government because there is corruption everywhere. Corruption got into all fabrics of our society and it is clear that our country cannot survive with such. These were factors that motivated my writing of the book: ‘Imperatives of a new Nigeria’ in which I stated that we have to remake the country.
I also stated it clearly that anybody who was involved in running Nigeria in the past must not be part of this rebuilding process. It was against this backdrop that I proposed that anyone who wants to enter into politics in Nigeria must take an oath of conscience.
With your feet bare on the ground, you call on all kinds of elements and say that you are coming out to serve the people and not for self-enrichment. Then sometime in 2017, some people came to me, one of them is a prophet, and he said that he saw my article published by some newspapers, which was exactly what God told him. I told him that I didn’t hear from God before coming up with that proposal, but he insisted that it was what God revealed to him.
He even said the name of the party; Justice Must Prevail Party (JMPP) was given to him by God. For me, when somebody says ‘God said,’ I don’t know how to dispute or support such.
So, what I suggested is that we should go ahead since he said what I had proposed is what God revealed to him. Eventually, the party was registered in December 2017. Although I am not active, they made me chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) and recently, I went to the headquarters of the party and took the oath as I proposed.
Given the realities on ground, do you think that JMPP has what it takes to catch up with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition party – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
I raised this same question and the prophet who came to me said: ‘If God says we should do it, maybe, He has a way of bringing it to fruition.’ Also, my mind told me that assuming we can’t do it this time; why not show the way, so that gradually, people will know that the only way Nigeria can survive is to remove corruption from the system. It won’t be a failure if it doesn’t work now, but does in four years time though the people I am working with believe that it will work in 2019.
Is JMPP thinking about aligning with other parties to realise this ambition?
For me as a person, alliance has not been ruled out. Indeed, I talked to my friend, Chief Olu Falae, who is the leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) about it, but we cannot go into any alliance with a party that doesn’t believe in oath taking.
One of those in the vanguard of the alliance to unseat the APC in 2019 is former President Olusegun Obasanjo, but recently, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, declared that the former president is not the right person to lead such campaign. What is your take on that submission?
Soyinka is entitled to his perception, but Obasanjo is more of a politician than he is and my belief is that anything is possible in 2019. But, what will not be possible is APC or PDP winning the presidential election. Yes, they have political structures, but the question is: Why will Nigerians continue with failure?
Are you saying that the ruling party will be voted out even when it believes that it has done well to earn a second term?
The party does not believe that it has done well.
But the APC leadership keeps saying that three years of the party’s administration is better than 16 years of the PDP…
We have only taken giant steps backward and the country is dying; people are packing their vehicles on the bridges and jumping into the ocean. Nigerians are dying in the desert, while trekking to Libya.
That is where we are now. You will see people lying on the streets and you think that they are resting, not knowing that they have been dead for days. I am not blaming any party for this situation because it may be the design of God as whoever became president did so with the help of God. May be, what is happening is God’s way of remaking Nigeria as He works in mysterious ways.
APC has taken Nigeria from up, where it saw her to the bottom, where it is difficult to know how to come out of it. President Muhammadu Buhari has given confidence to herdsmen and other Islamists, who have invaded country and are presently killing the people, but in the process uniting the rest of Nigeria.
That can be the will of God. Therefore, we should not just pray but confront some of the issues causing problems for the country as well. Religious crisis usually arise from human errors and if you put some of these errors into proper perspective without being biased, you will find out that there is nothing to fight for.
How do we go about solving Nigeria’s problems because there have been several attempts in the past such as the 2014 National Conference, which did not achieve the desired result?
First, I told you that the military, which ruled and ruined Nigeria, gave us a structure that is heavily biased and in favour of the North. So, there is nothing you can do in the National Assembly because it is not balanced. Secondly, anybody can call for a national conference, but the question is:
What is wrong with the outcome of the 2014 National Conference that was convoked by then President Goodluck Jonathan, where all sections of Nigeria, including the youth were properly represented and the recommendations reached by consensus? Can we have another conference that can come close to that? Thirdly, I will say that everything needed for restructuring Nigeria is available at the moment.
You will recall that in 1954, Nigerians agreed on a federal system of government based on regions as federating units and up till 1966, we were running that system and the regions were developing at their respective pace. For instance, education was the priority of the Western Region and the World Bank declared that some parts of Nigeria were growing faster than some countries in Europe and Latin America.
That means the structure we had then worked for us. So, what we should do now is to say that we are going embark on an emergency restructuring and gather all the regional constitutions that were used then, the federal constitution as well as the reports of the various conferences we’ve had. We can restructure Nigeria in six months.
The belief in some quarters is that most political leaders who are clamouring for restructuring at the moment are doing so because they are out of power. How would you respond to this claim?
There is nothing going on Nigeria except fighting for funds and taking the funds back to our colonial masters and other western nations. However, this cannot be an excuse. Yes, many of us asked former President Jonathan for restructuring, but before he was convinced, it has taken time and so by the time he convoked the confab in 2014, time was no longer on his side.
What do you think is the fear of those opposed to restructuring?
I told you that the military, which ruled and ruined Nigeria, started with the creation of 12 states so as to isolate the Igbo from the Eastern Region. After the war, they continued with states and local government creation without any consideration for fairness, which is why North-West has seven states, while the South-East has five. If you come to local governments; consider Kano and Lagos or Kano and Bayelsa. Also consider Sokoto and Lagos.
They were equal before, but take a look at the number of local governments that have come out of the then Sokoto State yet Lagos has not changed. It is on this premise that the same people who ruled and ruined decided on the revenue sharing formula.
They also concluded that all mineral deposits including oil, belong to the Federal Government, and today, revenue is shared from the centre to the states and local government irrespective of the fact those states and local governments were unjustly created.
One aspect of restructuring is resource control and as I just pointed out, the Federal Government took over resources of the states and decides how to allocate funds from those resources to the various tiers of government. That is not fair because revenue comes mostly from southern Nigeria and goes more to northern Nigeria.
How can this imbalance be addressed?
If you say that restructuring must include resource control; those in the North, who seem to be believe that they will lose heavily in terms of revenue, will vehemently oppose it. Another reason is that they are afraid of the motives of the southern states, but obviously, in a society where people have genuine intentions, you cannot restructure with resource control and implement it immediately.
But, I see restructuring helping to develop an optimal system that should be implemented over time. There should be a transition system during which the various federating units would be helped to develop new sources of revenue that are sustainable.
The question then is: How long should this transition last and how long should we take to build sustainable revenue capabilities for each of the federation units, so that the optimal restructuring that we are talking about comes into effect? This is a matter of negotiation
The states in the North, which are more concerned, should negotiate with others in a national dialogue. In summary, what I am saying is that restructuring must include resource control and we can develop optimal restructuring including optimal resource control that would not be implemented immediately by coming up a development plan to help each of the federating units develop revenue bases to sustain their activities. How long do we give for this transition period? It can be five or seven years.
When you talk about federating units; are you referring to the states or the former regions?
It can be like we had it; the three regions before they became four. However, we have six geopolitical at the moment, so the best thing we can do from the economic point of view is to adopt a regional system of government with the six zones as federating units.
Will that arrangement address the fear of minority groups, which is another critical issue?
There may be problems in some areas but the South-East, South-West and North-West have no business thinking of another way out of what we are in than regional government.
The North Central, North-East and South-South should also find ways of accommodating regional government. What we will do in the South- East before we agree on regional government is to first make sure that we develop an acceptable constitution for the zone.
And where some people seem not to be amenable, we will develop means of convincing them. For example, the people of Ebonyi State are not comfortable with a regional government arrangement given their perception about their brothers and sisters from Anambra State. But, I have argued that this perception is ancient history. There was a time that if you go to Abakaliki most of the civil servants as well as those in the private sector are not from Ebonyi.
That gave room for inferiority complex, but today the story has changed, Ebonyi people are in charge of their affairs and have developed their state to the level that Abakaliki is even more beautiful than most other state capitals in the South-East. The people of Ebonyi are even calling the shots in other towns in the zone, so the basis of inferiority complex by Ebonyi people is antiquarian ancient history.
However, when they say they don’t want to go back to Egypt, we have to take that into account and make some concessions. That was why I recently proposed a rigid rotation system, so that no state takes power twice before others.
I went further to propose that the government of the zone must first be headed by Ebonyi to be followed by Enugu because the people of the two states understand themselves better before the other states will have their turns either in alphabetical order or otherwise.
The post President Buhari Has Given Confidence To Herdsmen –Ezeife appeared first on Independent Newspapers Nigeria.
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Author: Temidayo Akinsuyi