Frontline Nationalist and ElderÂ Statesman,Â the Adolor of Uromi and the Okakuâ€™o of Edo land, , Chief Anthony Enahoro, turns 87 on July 23,Â Â in this interview, heÂ doubts the progress of the country in the nearest future due to what he terms the failure of leadership.Â Â Â
HeÂ describes the zoning system of the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) as nonsense, arguing that President Jonathan can run for the presidency as a Nigerian, just as he rejects the presidential ambition of former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida. Excerpts:
How do you see the sack of chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Maurice Iwu?
I do not know whether he should be removed or not.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole organised a rally recently tagged One Man, One Vote. Eminent personalities like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Professor Wole Soyinka and some other Action Congress leaders boycotted the event due to the presence of IBB. How would you react to that?
Those who reported to me were quite critical about their leaving. If things did not come out the way you anticipated it, it does not mean that what is happening is nonsense. I did not think that they should have left. We thought that as a nation, we would have shown that we are a people in one part of the world and we have our customs and traditions. We are not going to begin to say if it is done in this manner in America or Britain, we must do it the same way here.
They call us Nigerians; some of us were regarded as extremists because we did not think that things would be like this. We thought let us be whatever we want to be and tell them so. It does not mean that if they are English, we must all now become English speaking. We had hoped for some thing else, not what we are seeing today.
I remember when the Queen and her husband visited us in Ibadan . I had the honour and privilege of being there. We had been with the Queen and we had been with her husband before. So, at that time, we always said, who the hell do you think you are?
We were told that the queen and her husband would be at a dinner party and that the government had decided that the elders and traditional rulers were asked to sit at the back.
They were quite weird about it because I understand that the Oba of Benin then, that is the father of the present Oba, when I went to see him because I was in charge of most of the arrangements, he said that he thought that the Queen should be brought to Benin and he would receive her and not him going to Ibadan to see the Queen. Chief Awolowo agreed in full and since I was in charge of the arrangement, we all decided that he would receive the Queen in his own territory.
And the Queen took off time from Ibadan to come to Benin and the Oba, in company of his chiefs, received the Queen. Those were the sort of things that we took extra pride in doing and we felt that if you do that, you are one of us, not just somebody looking for a position and selling your birth right. I was particularly proud of the Oba for that action.
YouÂ moved the first motion for the nationâ€™s independence. Why?
Thatâ€™s the way we felt. We did not think that the British young stars coming here to teach us were superior to us. We thought one of these days, we were going to be free. We were very critical actually; we did not look down on our people.
The whites can be whatever they are in their country, may be more enlightened, or more developed. We may not be that but here, we are developing on our own but not as if we looked down on them. But we are not going to say Sir to them.
That is the way we felt in those days. But today, the masters of today and the bosses of today are not quite up to the job. I may be wrong but I felt that frankly speaking, we do not think that most of the things we are doing today are properly done.
And some of the things you find in government circles,Â will you be surprised that people of our generation will accept this? The truth is that the people in charge today are not doing the job efficiently.
Yar Aduaâ€™s illness.
Well I my self have been criticised each time I speak on issues like this. People say, why do I think that things must be done in my own way. But what they are saying has not produced the results we want. We are not quite sure of what those in power are doing today. I will say our own generation cannot understand their style today. But I would have thought that if a President is sick, the Vice President takes over immediately.
I am unable to understand what they think they are doing, frankly. And quite frankly, it is out of politeness that we are still talking. For example, if you took a deputy when you enter office and the situation arises that you cannot continue…. What is so crazy about it is that the person will insist he must stay. If you want to be a No 1 and you can no longer be No1, then, there must be a No 2 and it should be normal. Nothing extraordinary about it.
The No 2 automatically goes in there as President if you can no longer perform. But I do not know what they are doing now. They tell us that we are using olden days style but their style now is not working.
There isÂ pressure onÂ Â Jonathan to contest the 2011 election but the PDP zoned the ticket to the North. What is your view on that?
What does the law say? I try not to look down on those who are in-charge of affairs, considering what some of us went through. What was the reason for that? How does one defends that? Why should they say it must go to one particular area?
I donâ€™t see the point and I did not think it was right. They are just trying some thing else without giving reasons. May be, they have their own reasons but I have not seen them.
They have to consider somebody like me who does not know the reasons and then come out with the reasons. But I canâ€™t see any reason now for ceding the presidency to anywhere. I can see the Europeans laughing at us, wondering what we are doing.
What is the way forward for Nigeria?
People seem to be satisfied with what they are getting. They seem to be satisfied with our schools. Some of us fought that we could be as good as any other group. We thought we could do it as a nation but I am surprised that almost all our colleagues from all over the country who come here criticize what is happening all over Nigeria and if it is like that, it is either we are incompetent or things are not moving as we will like them see them move.
I still travel all over the country now and then, and I am surprised with the critical reports I receive. People feel that we are not able to govern our selves. So, I donâ€™t know how we can move forward now. How are we going to prove that we can rule ourselves, or are we going to be slaves to the British people forever?
IBBâ€™s presidential ambition.
If the people who were ruled under him are critical ofÂ Â Â his coming back, he has to give way. If they feel he was not a good ruler, he should give way. There is plenty of work to do. But if he feels that they are all wrong in criticising him, he should continue.
But I am not so sure whether the military should be in administration. I do not think so. Whether they have the ability to be good leaders is a different matter. But the point is should a soldier, the kind of soldiers we have any way, should they beÂ administrators. I do not think so. I am not concerned whether he was competent or incompetent. I donâ€™t think that soldiers should be rulers.
Again, if we continue with the present system, we have no choice. We will continue to get the kind of leaders we have been having. I think the American system will be better for Nigeria . Though in theory that is what we have now, in practice, it is not working yet. As a system I still think that the Parliamentary system is still superior to any system but I wonder about our own people? Where do they fit in. I like the British system because everybody hears every body.
You make your point and people disagree and move on. I remember going to London many years back and do you know that on one or two occasions, members of the House criticised the government there, even though it was their government. Some of them then said that the government should leave Nigeria alone to solve their problems.
Well, I think we must ask ourselves where we are going. Now, it is not clear at all where we are going, or who is going to take us there. It is not so clear now. I do not know.
How would you assess the performance of Governor Adams Oshiomhole so far?
Well, I am told that he is with a lot of our people. He has the support. But I have not gone close to him so as to understand him. I was closer to those who were before him in the state here.