By OKEY NDIRIBE
A former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, is angry over the current political developments in the country. In this interview, he says the panacea for a united Nigeria is the re-election of President Jonathan next year.
What is your view about unfolding political events in the country?
I want to use this opportunity to emphasize something central to the problems we are presently facing. The explanation I am about to give provides insight into the defection of the G-5 governors, the activities of the fundamentalist Islamic sect, Boko Haram, or even the present status of the All Progressives Congress, APC, which is the leading opposition party in the country.
All the attacks by these groups on President Goodluck Jonathan stem from one thing: Some people believe they are born to rule while others are born to be ruled. They therefore see the present situation where a person who was born to be ruled is now ruling as a reversal of the natural order of things. How have they reacted?
After Jonathan’s victory in 2011, mayhem was unleashed on parts of Nigeria.
Blood flowed; the Igbo have not recovered from the losses they suffered due to the massacre of their people that year. A prominent APC member is already setting the stage for another carnage after the 2015 elections.
Should such candidate win? These people ruled the country for 38 and a half years. In the course of ruling the country, they ruined Nigeria. However, they ruined the North more than they ruined other parts of Nigeria.
Every attack from these groups against President Jonathan is designed to prevent him from running for the 2015 election.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo ignited the problem. The G-7 or G-5 governors also played their part. They toured almost the entire country and visited all past military heads of state. Obasanjo also consulted other former military rulers before writing his letter. All these activities are geared towards proving only one thing: the person who is ruling was not born to rule.
Can you comment on the view held by some Nigerians that President Goodluck Jonathan’s proposed National Dialogue was designed to actualise his political ambition of being re-elected in 2015?
At this juncture in Nigerian history, President Jonathan’s interest and Nigerians interest in the continued existence of the country have become coterminous. If you say because you oppose President Jonathan’s bid for a second term in office, you are also opposed to a National Dialogue, you are saying no to one Nigeria.
The truth of the matter is that opposing President Jonathan’s second term is like opposing the continued existence of Nigeria as one united country.
What do you think would happen if as a result of the handiwork of the opposition, President Jonathan is disallowed from running for second term? Can you control what would happen? Whether you are from the North, South or West, you can’t stop President Jonathan from going for second term and winning. Everybody can make noise but if those who are making noise should think deeply, they would realize that the continued existence of Nigeria as one country is anchored on Jonathan’s continuation in office come 2015.
What happens if President Jonathan contests the 2015 election and loses?
We would be faced with the same problem. Niger Delta boys would blow up all the oil pipelines and then a part of the country could say they are no longer interested in Nigeria; they could say Nigeria legally expired when the nation marked its centenary and that they are now on their own. This is not what I want, but I am afraid it could happen if we foolishly think of only our short term interest instead of thinking of the long term implications. However, if he contests and loses in a free and fair atmosphere where Nigerians truly vote against him, it would be less bloody than if he is not allowed to contest.
But there have been those who have also threatened that blood would flow if President Jonathan insists on contesting the election…..
Junaid Mohammed and his fellow travelers must know that we don’t want the blood of ordinary Nigerians to flow again. This time around, it is the blood of those who are threatening to spill blood that would flow. It is just like somebody who is claiming he is born to rule. He should rule himself only. People should stop making intimidating statements.
I am making a plea to all Nigerians, be they from the North, South, East or West to consider that it is in the nation’s long term interest to give the continued existence of Nigeria a chance. From we the Igbo, we are not issuing any threats. We have been absorbing all kinds of punishment. We in the East are for one Nigeria. The people of the West and North should also be interested in one Nigeria.
What do you have to say about President Goodluck Jonathan’s proposed National Dialogue especially against the background of the criticisms by the opposition?
For a long time, those who understand and love Nigeria have been demanding for a Constitutional Conference. This month marks 100 years of the amalgamation of Nigeria. Some see it as an opportunity to quit Nigeria; others see it as a period for a review of our basic laws. For me, whatever I say I am saying it based on my commitment to the continued existence of one Nigeria.
Both small and big ethnic groups in this country today would find that their long term interest is anchored on the persistence and sustainability of one Nigeria.
For instance, if you consider the Igbo, we have voted with our feet for one Nigeria; by our action of developing and commercializing whereever we are as if we are at home, we have demonstrated our commitment to one Nigeria in action. We have invested more outside Igbo land than within Igbo land. So, I don’t see the Igbo wanting to leave Nigeria tomorrow.
For the Yoruba, even though it is rumored that they are ready for any eventuality and already have their constitution, flag and anthem, they remain the dominant group in finance and industry in Nigeria. Therefore, they still like the big market a united Nigeria offers. In the North, the Hausa-Fulani are the greatest beneficiaries of one Nigeria.
In the beginning, the amalgamation was motivated by the need to cover the economic deficiency of the North with the surplus from the South. There was a resource gap. Today, the resource gap is wider than it was in 1914. The biggest resource for development today is education; and the gap between the North and South in education today is so wide. When you talk about agriculture, the North has a huge mass of land.
National resources have been used to build a lot dams in the North and this has facilitated the development of agriculture in the region. Today, the North is feeding the whole country. Would they want to be exporting their food stuff to America? Apart from the big groups, the minorities are also benefitting from Nigeria which is a big country. This is because if they are on their own, they would be irrelevant but since they belong to Nigeria, they benefit from its status as a big country. No group in this country would triumphantly walk away from a Nigeria that is properly structured, well organized and works.
President Jonathan would become the greatest leader Nigeria ever had if he organizes a successful National Conference. He would then be the reason for the continued existence of one Nigeria. In addition, there is need for the Federal Government to take urgent action over the constant clashes between farmers and herdsmen in different parts of the country. These incessant killings must stop. Nobody is prepared to drive herdsmen away but if these killings persist, then some people may begin to avoid cow meat and eat only chicken meat so that peace can reign in the country.
Can you comment on the recent brickbat between Prof Ben Nwabueze and the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee PAC on the proposed National Dialogue, Senator Femi Okorounmu?
This is a matter of monumental confusion. What I read concerning Okorounmu’s statement was that Igbo Leaders of Thought led by Prof. Nwabueze are complaining about something that may not be in the report submitted by the committee. This is what is implied in Okorounmu’s statement. Some of the recommendations we made for the confab were on equality of zones for representation. We also reached an agreement on the process of selecting members to the confab and on the issue of referendum. There was an agreement on these issues by the entire southern Nigeria and some parts of the North.
However, Okorounmu said he didn’t know what the Igbo Leaders of Thought were talking about. He insisted that what they were talking about was not in the report. This is where the monumental confusion comes in. How would Prof. Nwabueze not know what he is talking about? How would he be referring to a non-existent recommendation.
We are waiting to see what happens next; but we sent competent people to the committee. Prof. Nwabueze himself was nominated into the committee but he turned down the nomination for personal reasons. We then had to replace him with Prof. Anya O. Anya who is also very competent; a holder of the National Merit Award and a solid academic. We also had Dr. George Obiozor.
If the recommendations of delegates from southern Nigeria who were in that committee were omitted, then there must be compelling reasons for that to happen. We cannot throw away the baby with the bath water; we can find a way of continuing.
What do you think would be the fate of the 2014 Budget now that it appears that the All Progressives Congress, APC, has become the majority party in the National Assembly?
Whether the APC has 100 percent membership in the National Assembly or not, Nigeria must continue. I appeal to the National Assembly not to indulge in too much politics. Do they want to demonstrate that nothing has been achieved by President Jonathan? If an institution becomes the obstacle to Nigeria’s development, would members of that same body turn around to accuse the President of not developing the country?
The performance of President Jonathan is already far ahead of that of his predecessors. If the National Assembly uses its power to approve or not to approve the budget to make Nigerians suffer and you come back to tell us that the President has not performed and that we should vote for you, we are not fools.
Therefore, the National Assembly should ensure that excessive politicking is not disruptive of the system and the welfare of the people. We have heard of the 50 questions that were presented to the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. We have also heard that the answering of those 50 questions must come before the consideration of the budget. Yes, it is easy to criticize a person or group that has been in power for long. It is easy to find fault with the People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
If the Federal Government is starved of funds to provide for the welfare of Nigerians in 2014, we know who to hold responsible. We must not allow people to gain from any negative outcome.
The President must also make the effort to reach an understanding with the National Assembly. The problem the Presidency has with the National Assembly reared its ugly head right from the beginning of President Jonathan’s current tenure in office.
The PDP zoned the Office of Speaker of the House of Representatives to the South-west. But due to political intrigues, members of the House from the South-west sold the speakership to another zone. Infact, what we are witnessing is that those who sold the office that was zoned to their own part of the country are now turning round to blame the President for what happened.
I am not blaming the National Assembly all the way because there are certain things that I have observed where the National Assembly stands on issues affecting certain individuals; and the Executive insists on following a parallel line. This should not be the case especially when the issues involved are not major. The President must find ways of working with the National Assembly, especially the House of Representatives. Otherwise, they could for one minor issue suffocate the whole country.
What is your reaction to the recent face-off between President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi?
President Goodluck Jonathan should immediately suspend him over the false alarm he raised concerning the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation NNPC’s alleged non-remittance of $49.8 billion into the Federation Account.
I am surprised. I didn’t know that the report of the CBN indicating that a whopping sum of $49.8 billion was missing from the Federation Account was false.
That gives the impression that the CBN Governor is working against the government he is serving. He tried to make President Jonathan look bad in the eyes of the public. The money involved was so huge that to lie about it was a serious affair.
Irrespective of who is involved or my personal relationship with him, given the present situation, the President should act presidentially. There is no way the Governor of CBN could be trading words with the President. He should be suspended immediately from office. If this had happened under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the CBN Governor wouldn’t have been allowed to enter his office again after making a bold statement that the President could not remove him from office.
I read the second statement made by the CBN over the alleged missing billions of dollars but there was no mention of the fact that the Governor’s earlier claim was a mistake. The statement simply mentioned the role of the CBN. That kind of mistake is impossible. It was a deliberate action to impugn the President and his government. This is not a matter of being a humble and simple Christian; there are presidential powers that must be respected.
Media reports in circulation give the impression that the President can never bite even though he has teeth. Sometimes the President needs to exercise his powers. This time around, even though the President won’t bite anybody, he needs to show his teeth and perhaps bite.
Falsehood from Sanusi or anybody is not acceptable. Suspending him won’t affect the economy. Even though the CBN Governor insisted that $10 billion of the sum NNPC ought to have paid into the Federation Account is still missing, the difference between approximately $50 billion and $10 billion is like the difference between night and day. My position is that his later admission that it was a mistake and now only $10 billion is like the action of a sinking man who is ready to hold on to any straw to prevent him from going under.