By Bashir Adefaka
CHIEF Chukwuemeka Ezeife, former Governor of Anambra State, was Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters during the civilian administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo. Dr. Ezeife in an interview with Vanguard forcefully argued the case of Ndigbo for the 2015 presidency even as he deplored the spate of killings brought about by the activities of the Islamic Boko Haram group. Excerpts:
DURING the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida you were elected governor of Anambra State. How would you describe your experience working under a military presidency as civilian governor?
What I can remember of that experience is that we had very beautiful relationship with IBB. President Babangida was very good, very polite, very accommodating and very friendly to all of us. Maybe there are somethngs God gave me that He didn’t give him, but I believe there are many things God gave Babangida that He didn’t give me.
Babangida (as president) would meet you, he would ask for your son’s, daughter’s and wife’s names. The next day he tells you all those names. He has great elephantine memory. And he never says no. IBB won’t tell you no. You request for something from him, he says yes even if it doesn’t get done, but you would never hear no from IBB.
Babangida was good. I wish he had the right background to lead a country like Nigeria. There is nobody, who has led Nigeria that had the right craving. Nobody craved for a dynamic development; they were all playing excessive tribalism, religiosity, division along geographical and all possible divides. That was the bane of Nigerian politics.
I was favoured. There was one instance I persuaded him to visit Awka. I went to our father, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, appealed to him to allow Anambra to name the university in Awka after his name. I told him, “Today Ahmadu Bellow University is there, Obafemi Awolowo University is there, even Tafawa Balewa University is there. Why not your own?” he gave his blessing. He wasn’t well but he allowed his wife to come when IBB visited for the commissioning.
When IBB visited, in my welcome address I appealed to him to take over the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. I said, “Why don’t you complete the trio? Ahmadu Bellow University is there Sir Obafemi Awolowo University is there, both federal. Why not Nnamdi Azikiwe Federal University?”
At that point we won. Then, one or two weeks after, I rushed to Abuja and when I entered his office, the ink with which he signed the decree taking over Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka as a federal university hadn’t dried.
IBB did many things to me. He went to places that he ordinarily didn’t plan to go at my instance.
For example; at Oko Polytechnic, I persuaded him to go there because he didn’t have any plan to go there. He said he had no security arrangement to go there and I said, “Ah, security? You don’t need any security. Your troubles are these soldiers you came with, not Anambra people.” We went to Oko Polytechnic and our people really marveled at him and told him, “We will kill anybody who wants to hurt you.” We waded into the crowd. He laid some foundations and made some promises and that was all.
Everything I wanted from him I got. I told him I wanted a bridge across the Niger River to either area. I started the building and he gave subventions ; first was N35 million, another one was N50 million but when I left, nothing happened until the federal civilian government now took it over and completed it. But up till now, the connecting road has not been done and if it had, from East to Abuja won’t be more than four hours directly.
What is the political direction of the Igbo people come 2015?
We expect that it is not our duty to hound Jonathan out of office after four years. If he is going after four years, we are taking over from him. So if he is going after his first four years or eight years, Igbo will take over from him.
Did you ask why? North-East has served more than five years; North-West has served more than five years; North-Central has served more than five years; South-West has served more than five years and by the time Jonathan will leave office, the South-South will have spent five years or more, leaving only Igbo – South-East – that has not served as president of Nigeria.
What do you call that of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe?
For those who don’t understand, Zik was not president. He was ceremonial and not chief executive of Nigeria. Tafawa Balewa was chief executive of the Nigerian government at that time. Unless you are saying, “You people don’t belong. Go and fend for yourselves.”
What does Nigeria stand to gain from an Igbo presidency and how do you intend to achieve it?
If Igbo take over the leadership of Nigeria, Hausa/Fulani youths will be most happy. Yoruba will be happy; Ogoni will be happy; everybody will be happy. We make home of everywhere in Nigeria. We cannot take development to East and forget the rest of Nigeria because we are there.
No reservation being Nigerians
In 1966 they killed us like rats and they killed Ironsi with millions of Igbo blood which resulted to the civil war. Now we came back, … No, we started from where we stopped. Look at Abuja, it wasn’t there until after the war. We built it up. We have more than 80 percent of Abuja built up by us.
So, we have no reservation being Nigerians but we have one thing; except you reject us, we cannot reject ourselves. Nigerians in 1966 rejected us and we decided to go. Now we came back in full force rebuilding everywhere and we are saying that now that five of six zones have got the presidency, it is our turn after Jonathan. Anything short of that means that you don’t want us.
You were so passionate about why Igbo people should not retaliate the killing of their kinsmen in parts of the North. What informed that?
Yes. It is against the Igbo tradition to kill innocent people living on their land or to kill innocent person from anywhere in the world especially when the person is your guest living on Igbo land. That is the tradition. And when people were killing Igbos in the North, there was the tendency for revenge and I had to come out to remind our people that it is not done in our tradition.
Also we are Christians and our Lord is the Lord of love. So you cannot worship the Lord of love with spirit and go kill people who have done nothing against you. The people who are killing other people claiming the name of Allah are mistaken. They are wrong and will all go to hell because Allah (God) is not unjust and so, all suicide bombers are bound to hell. No questioning, no trial. It’s just straight forward.
There can be no jihad where there is no military resistance against the practice of your religion. So, this is the scripture of Qur’an. We have no (sharp) difference between the Bible and the Qur’an. You are looking at somebody and you just take a dagger and kill him. What do you think? Then God created you, you have no hand in God’s creation of you and then somebody gives you bomb and you blow yourself off and kill other people.
There is no excuse a suicide bomber can give, he goes directly to hell – eternal bomb fire. The person who brainwashed him also, who told him that it’s right to do so, that he’s serving God by doing so, also goes straight to hell if he does not repent before death because God is too generous, too kind, too mighty, most beneficent, most benevolent. But the suicide bomber who has already blown off himsel and so died has no chance of repentance and therefore no chance of getting off the consequence which is hell.