INTERVIEW: We believe in the unity of Nigeria, Africa and all Nigerians have a lot to gain from it
Below are excerpts from an interview with him in Owerri
What is your opinion on the murderous Fulani herdsmen and the Boko Haram insurgents?
The two groups, Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram, are a phenomenon that is strange to us. Up till this moment, I don’t understand what is the purpose of Boko Haram and I agree that many Nigerians do not understand. Again, up till this moment, we don’t understand how Fulani herdsmen have access to sophisticated equipment, AK47 including explosives and bombs. I think we require some proper explanation from our security agents on how these groups have access to sophisticated equippment.
A few weeks ago, Boko Haram went to Yobe and kidnapped 110 students. We understand that after negotiation or intervention or after military action, they released all of them except one person. That one person was said to have refused to confess Islam. That means we are talking of a group that wants all Nigerians to belong to Islam. And of course it’s very embarrassing and disturbing to us. Many people believe that these people are Nigerians. They live in Nigeria, because like when they kidnapped those youths, they drove through the area and even addressed the people there and nobody challenged them. So, we think frankly speaking that there is something fundamentally wrong.
Somebody could have monitored them to know where they came from. I don’t think they are from outside Nigeria, they are within Nigeria. If they are from within Nigeria, then, there must be leaders from those areas who may be earning money from tax payers, they may have local government council chairmen and councilors, they may have members of the house of assembly, they may have members of the House of Reps, they may have senators. These are people who should be held accountable for living in their area and launching attack on Nigerians.
The so-called cattle rearers have launched attacks in many places including Enugu state. One starts wondering when the cattle rearers begin carrying weapons. It is important for the law enforcement agencies to address Nigerians and tell us the truth about Boko Haram and the so-called armed cattle rearers. Here in Imo state, we have cattle rearers. The cattle rearers we have here have no conflict with us.
They go about their business, they don’t carry arms, they only carry their sticks and in fact, in most cases, they are trained to the extent that when even the cows stray to somebody’s farmland, they will give command and the cows will come out. So, I can’t understand what is happening. And if federal government fails to address this issue, it will create a lot of problems for Nigeria.
What do you think is the way forward in this matter?
The point is, most of us are committed to the unity of this country. We have a lot to gain by one united Nigeria. Africa has a lot to gain from one united Nigeria. The only thing we need do is to restructure Nigeria, have a government that will be able to give the federating units greater autonomy and greater freedom. So, if Nigeria is restructured and the states get their autonomy, it’s going to be at the end of the day the ultimate interest of those people and Nigeria itself.
At the moment, the government is making the states very lazy. There is no state in Nigeria that does not have internal resources to make them prosper but because of this cheap oil money they share every month, no state is ready to look inwards. If the country is restructured and every group has the capacity to work hard, think and create wealth in their environment, Nigeria will be richer.
Sir, do you believe the North wants Nigeria to be restructured? The south, yes, they do, they have been speaking with one voice but the North, do you think they will allow Nigeria to be restructured?
Many prominent leaders of the North have supported restructuring. I have heard the voice of some prominent leaders. The point is we are putting it to them, if you live in a country where people are killed and slaughtered and you don’t restructured, I don’t think you have interest of the country at heart. Restructuring is meant to save Nigeria. And we don’t want Nigeria to fail, we don’t want Nigeria to collapse. That is why we say let us restructure. Let Nigerians meet and decide the best way they can co-exist, so that people can know the limits of their activities.
For example, people are talking about Igbo domination, it was said before. But today, I don’t know who is dominating who. Today, I don’t see any Igbo man in any serious position. Now, even the little businesses Igbos have in other parts of the country, some people are even jealous of it and still talking of Igbo domination. If Igbo man uses his sense and goes to somewhere in this country, set up a business, either to sell spare parts or medicine or sell anything good, he has committed an offense.
So, I think when we restructure, it will be clear what they will like non-indigenes in the states to do. In restructuring, we will also know the area where everybody will own, because I believe that a place like Abuja, the federal capital, where the federal government used federal money to settle the inhabitants must be a place for all Nigerians. Every Nigerian who lives in Abuja should be an indigene of Abuja. Abuja should be like a principality where every Nigerian can live without fear of any discrimination, of any attack or hostility. That is the position.
Now, if you are worried sir about menace of Boko haram, what about the recent phenomenon, the Fulani herdsmen?
Well, I have talked about it, I believe that the Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram are the same. I believe that they have the same origin. But let me tell you some years ago, a head of state from North Africa made an announcement that Nigeria was too big to be one country and that it should be split into two. And it should be Northern Islamic country and Southern Christian country. Now, he is dead, he was killed in one insurrection in his country. When he said that, most of us were not happy with his statement because he was seen as intruding into the internal affairs of Nigeria. And that is against the OAU charter.
We have Christians in the North, we have Moslems in the North. We have Christians in the South, we have Moslems in the south. In all these things, the only thing that can help Nigeria is restructuring. I think this man has territorial ambition, I believe. That is the man who made the statement. But if you want to know his name, it was Gaddafi. He had territorial ambition, wanting to rule Africa.
If you watch Boko Haram when they started, they were not coming to express internal issues, but they were conquering territories. Any local government they conquered, they hoist their flags. They changed Nigerian flag and put theirs. Until the Nigerian armed forces re-enforced and weakened them, otherwise they were conquering places and putting their flags. I think that these so-called cattle rearers get their weapons from the same group, the same source. They only codenamed them as Fulani herdsmen. I believe it’s all part of that plan that was aimed at destroying Nigeria.
Do you see the plan as extension of the agenda of Sardauna who said he wants the Koran in all parts of Nigeria
I don’t believe that, that is not true. That is not correct because I can assure you that most of my friends are from the North. Most of them believe in the unity of the 36 states and Abuja. They don’t believe in what is happening in the coountry.
Have you heard Tanko Yankasaai who said for instance that Nigeria is God’s gift to the Hausa-Fulani for domination?
I haven’t heard that. I know Tanko Yankassai is a very good man, he is patriotic. I don’t think he would say that.
One of the Northerners once said that as long oil flows in the Niger Delta, Nigeria will remain one and that the oil does not belong to Niger Delta, it belongs to Nigeria
The issue we are talking about is not the issue of oil, the issue is that of having a stable, a very safe country where security of lives and property can be guaranteed. Nigeria today has no security of lives and property. That means there is a failure. And that failure must be remedied. The easiest way to remedy it is by having a restructured Nigeria. Once Nigeria is restructured and every state has its own police force which they can arm to protect themselves when they are attacked, then there will be security.
It is not easy to tell everybody to defend themselves, it’s not possible. When you tell everybody to defend themselves, it’s anarchy. It’s getting late, if we are not careful, we may get to a point which will not be pleasant. We don’t want to be like these countries that have failed. There are many countries that failed. We don’t want to go to that point. I’m saying that I have got friends in the North, very well meaning friends, they are not happy with all these things happening in the country.
We want to come home sir, most people in Owerri are worried about a strange phenomenon that has come into the politics of Imo state. They are saying that the governor wants to promote his son-in-law as the next governor to succeed him and that part of the strategy to realize that is to close up the political space for other contestants. You hardly find other posters of candidates other than that of his son-in-law. People are saying this is strange, why would people so educated allow this kind of thing to happen? What is your thought on this?
I want to tell you that I am not in the party of the governor. He is in APC while I am in PDP. It will be unfair for me to comment on what they are doing. I can comment on my own party, the PDP. We believe the next governor of Imo state should come from Owerri zone, based on mutual understanding on zoning or rotation of power. Mark you, it is not a constitutional issue, but it’s a covenant reached and people believe it should be respected. We in PDP believe it should be respected.
I’m not going to tell APC the person to nominate for governorship, I wouldn’t tell them. I can only tell my party, the PDP.
Now sir, let’s go to the presidency. With the way you are seeing the system, do you see PDP winning the presidency in the next election?
Surely, PDP is going to win. We actually know why we lost the last election. We have looked at all the problems and I can assure you we have addressed them and we are going to win this time.
Why do you think so?
PDP is a widespread party, the present government has made a lot of mistakes which everyone sees. You notice the security agents have not been able to tell us about the Cattle Fulani herdsmen. Lives are being lost everyday. And part of the job of government is to secure lives and property of Nigerians. Do you think these people who lost their relations will go back and vote for this government which is supposed to secure them but did no secure them? So, there are so many things.
Yes, one can say the government has put up a fight against corruption and it is clear the head of state did. But we have also seen that among the people in that government, there are also corrupt people. So, that is why people still believe that even though the president may have the best of intentions in fighting corruption, the people with him are also corrupt.
Do you believe that President Muhammadu Buhari has good intention to fight corruption?
O yes, he has good intentions.
In NNPC, there was an investigation that the Premium Times came up with an investigative report that NNPC is being run, as financial responsibility is concerned by the Managing Director and the president who is also the substanctive Petroleum Minister, that they bypass the minister of state to sign contracts to tune of N20billion….
Cuts in! That matter should be reported to the National Assembly. That is why we have the national assembly. If that matter is brought to the National Assembly, I’m sure they will investigate it.
Are you also aware that former President Ibrahim Babangidda gave a press statement alleging that President Buhari is the commander of Boko Haram and that Boko Haram takes orders from Buhari?
I’m not aware of that. I’m hearing it for the first time from you.
Now, sir, what is your take on the looters list being released by the presidency, about three lists now?
The point is that that lists looks very childish because you see what they are doing, I have seen names of people whose names appear there on mere suspension. I think the looters list does not make any sense. When somebody commits offense, he goes to court, during trial, the press is free to go to court. The press in this country has always gone to court to report all cases that been tried.
What they are doing is contempt of court. And moreso, when the people whose names they publish are only those belonging to the opposition party, they have failed to publish those in their party. It becomes a campaign issue. And I’m expecting that the court should take them for contempt. Because somebody is in court and somebody is already passing judgment. The court has not passed judgment on someone accused and somebody is publishing his name as a looter, that is contempt of court. That publishing of looters list is not in good faith.
It’s unnecessary because all the trials are published in papers, the press has been free, there is no trial of anybody that has been in secret. I believe that it is absolutely unnecessary and contemptuous and I expect the judiciary to take steps to call these people to order.
About Boko Haram still, it has gone beyond allegation, amnesty international and the United Nations are investigating the allegation that the military top brass is benefitting from the contract of military hardware and other wares purchased from the defense budget used to fund the operations against Boko Haram. Do you agree?
I don’t know anything about that. I’m not aware, have not seen any document on that. I cannot comment on what I don’t actually know about.
Recently, there was a publication where there was a shakeup in the military top brass. It was a fallout of that matter. Many were indicted for corruption and embezzlement of funds meant to fight Boko Haram
I have not been following the news.