By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, politician, industrialist and publisher of Champion Newspapers, is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)
What is your thought on Nigeria as a nation?
Frankly speaking, I don’t believe that when Lord Luggard amalgamated the North and South he had the intention of establishing a nation based on unity, love and prosperity.
I think Luggard only did that for the convenience of the British Trading Company that employed him. He was just a staff of the company and of course he made every effort to maximize profit and the bigger the profit he made, the more he pleased his masters.
In the history of mankind, God at times takes a very simple action which he turns into a very serious situation. That action, which was very simply taken by Luggard has been able to transform into one of the strongest countries of the world. I think Nigeria, as it is today, is one of the strongest countries in the world. Nigeria is endowed enormously with potentials.
Our diversity means that Nigeria has got everything that God can give to a people in this world. And if Nigerians have a government, if Nigerians decide to harness these resources, we will be able to build a country, which no nation in the world can overtake in any situation.
What is your take on calls for national conference?
President Goodluck Jonathan has been very kind and generous to Nigerians and by next year, we will be 100 years as a nation.
In the life of a people, there comes a time, when the people pause for a while, to reflect on the past, examine the present situation and then decide the future. I think for Nigeria, the time is now.
Over the years, the history is clear and we know how we fought for our independence and got it in 1960. Soon, after that, we went into an unfortunate civil war.
And of course, that civil war was a major set-back to Nigeria but in spite of the civil war, we still remain strong. Very few countries will come out of a very serious civil war and still stand to day as a very strong nation, respected all over the world.
Do you have faith in this nation?
I have faith in this country; I believe that Nigerians should do everything humanly possible to preserve the entity. There is not part of Nigeria that has not got tremendous natural potentials.
Some of them are being tapped today; some of them will be tapped in future. There is no part of Nigeria that has not got human resources that are needed for the development of the people, but what I want in Nigeria is actually honesty of purpose.
Now, I will start off from the political angle: in any country like Nigeria or republic, Nigeria is not obviously a nation, it comprises nation states.
That Lord Luggard by force amalgamated Nigeria does not necessarily mean that Nigerians have essentially agreed to be together but we have learnt over the years to live together and we are ready to live together. I think one thing that makes the country survive more than anything is for the people to be fair to one another.
Federal Character is very important. One issue that creates problem in this country is the office of the President of this country.
Nigerians over the years, throughout our experimentation on how to govern ourselves, started with three regions, we came to four regions. We had 12 states and today we have 36 states and Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Now, in our constitution, there is a clear policy of Federal Character. This is very important.
This is being applied in many areas. Nigerians must make sure that the Presidency of this country reflects Federal character. Nigeria is not the first country to do that. Switzerland, America and many other countries do it. We have now six geo-political zones. Every geo-political zone can produce a president.
I don’t see why Nigerians can’t be bold enough to put rotation of the presidency in the constitution among the six geo-political zones.
That will reduce acrimony and rancour that characterise the polity. Nigerians must work it out.
This is very important because every part of this country needs to have a sense of belonging.
If we don’t have a Federal Character and it is left to the whims and caprices of some people that don’t have the efficiency or capability, then it means that the weak will continue to be weak and the poor will continue to be poor and that will not be good for this country.
For example, everyday, you see people from the South East clamouring for Igbo Presidency and I feel that they are right because they know that their forebears like Zik played a frontline role in securing the Nigerian independence. South East also knows that their men and women are all over this country playing major roles in shaping the country’s destiny, socially, economically and otherwise.
So, they think that they deserve to be given the power but without zoning, it may probably be very difficult for people in their type of structure to achieve that. That is why, I think we must be bold enough to put this in the constitution.
In clear terms, does that mean you support Sovereign National Conference?
At first, I was not supporting it, but now, I support. I support it because I have seen that the National Assembly that is supposed to do this job is not able to do it.
Why do you think it is very important?
It is very important because we must examine the structure of this country now to ensure we have a country we can manage with our resources. For example, we have to look at the legislative structure in this country. The Central Bank Governor has always said that the National Assembly is very large and spends so much money.
This country spends so much on overhead and this is not good for any country. We are living in a country where most school leavers, instead of going to look for jobs in productive areas, are seeking to be political aids. This is so because we are spending a lot of money on overheads.
Are you saying it is good for us to practice a unicameral legislature?
No, I am not saying that. Nigerians should sit back and reflect whether we need a full-time Senate and a full-time House of Representatives.
Most of the time, they overlap in their functions. What the House of Reps does is often repeated by the Senate. These are the issues that must be examined by Nigerians because America may be able to afford it, but Nigeria at this level of our economy cannot afford it.
The fact remains that the overhead of this country is so high and has become serious problem and is affecting the youths. There is a serious unemployment in this country. It is affecting development. Part of it is that private sector is very weak. When you have a country that is spending so much on overhead, the capital money generated by the private sector is reduced and the private sector is weak and can’t generate jobs.
Everybody, who leaves university today, is looking for job in one government agency or parastatal. It never used to be so. It is not so in America or Britain. A normal brilliant graduate from Harvard is not looking for a job in the state department. He is looking for a job in a company. But here, our own people, everybody is looking for job in a ministry, where they feel their jobs will be secured.
Sir, would you recommend physical federalism under which states control their resources and pay some portion as their contribution to the centre?
I don’t want to speak about that. I want the Nigerian state to decide what to do. But going to this national conference, after 100 years. These are our experiences. Nigerians have had it all and must use their experiences to bring a new constitution that will be able to guide the nation on the path of growth.
Any constitution we bring today must be able to create a situation, where the youth will have the opportunity to get jobs.
I believe that every nation, owes every citizen a right to earn a living. That is why every government owes every citizen, a right and opportunity to earn a living honestly and that is not done in this country. The private sector must be empowered.
The other issue that has been a problem for this country and which requires to be tackled very seriously is corruption. I believe that it is corruption. A typical American governor is voted to go and serve without giving bribe. In their culture, there is integrity. He was not voted to go and make money.
Here, we have seen that over the years, when governors leave office, the EFCC will be going after them to recover monies he stole.
You will see a person who was a governor of a state, before he became a governor, he had only one house but at the end of his tenure, he has a house in Abuja, he has a house in Lagos, he has a house in Dubai, he has a house in America of London and so many other places. In addition, he has investment in so many businesses.
How can this be effectively addressed?
Only government cannot address this. The fact is that every government that comes, talk about corruption, but when they leave, we see in the trail of their job very nasty size of corruption. Take for example, the stealing of oil.
This government has virtually actually stopped it. And I think, that is a major achievement of this government. I think Nigerians should stop blaming government for this corruption, they should blame politicians. Everybody must be involved. If you have somebody, who before he became a public servant that suddenly became rich, and we keep quiet. Is it the government that will do it?
In their religious places like churches, they are knighted because they have stolen public fund. In some ceremonies, they are giving recognition and people say they are doing well.
People who stole public money must be made outcasts, so that people will know that it is a bad thing.
This attitude must completely be eroded. It is a problem that must involve everybody in working for the solution. I think we require a moral reorientation and moral transformation by everybody.
Even in the universities, where students buy degrees, where people ask for favour from women to get degree. The stories are very nasty. I hope they are all not correct. But the stories are bad and people now see that the quality of education has gone down drastically.
You are a top member of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, what do you think is the most important key to the issue of reconciling your members?
I am not blaming anybody who has an issue to raise but PDP as a party has a constitution. Bamanga Tukur was elected in a very transparent election. Most of these governors were there when he was elected. He has been there for nearly two years.
None of them raised these issues, when he was elected. Now, if there are issues against him, I don’t know, I have not investigated. There is a constitutional process to follow in resolving issues, if they are actually working to protect the party.
They should raise the issue within the laws of the party, but what they are doing today, is to destroy the party and may be to form another party. Otherwise, if they actually have facts, they should constitutional process to remove him. And I am quite sure that they are very powerful, if they actually have facts, but it is not easy.
I have heard some of them giving conditions to the President that he must remove the party Chairman. The president of Nigeria has no power to remove any party Chairman, who was duly elected.
So, anybody, who is telling the President that the only condition to support him is to remove an elected Party Chairman, is not actually being fair to the President because he has no such powers. The Chairman was elected; everybody watched the election in a transparent election. Even those, whose elections had flaws, went back in the last convention to be re-elected .
Most of these people who are giving these conditions are founding members of the party and people who have made contributions to the party. I think that they should be able to work hard to make sure that the party does not disintegrate. Some of them became what they are today, even governors through the party. They should come back to the party and raise these issues through the constitution of the party. Telling the president to remove the party Chairman is not possible.