•Economic crisis: Restructuring is the solution
•He has not been fair to South East
By Bashir Adefaka and Kehinde Bashir
Igwe Ezeoba Alex Nwokedi, former Chief Press Secretary to General Olusegun Ohasanjo when he was military head of state and immediate past Chairman Anambra State Council of Traditional Rulers, is presently the Uthoko Na Eze Achalla in Awka North Local Government of Anambra State. In this interview, Igwe Nwokedi speaks on national economy, Niger Delta issue and the need for even distribution of development among the regions of the country.
How would you describe President Muhammadu Buhari’s government considering the present economic recession in the country?
President Buhari has no programme. He had only one ambition. He wanted to be President and by the grace of God he is now the President. There is one adage which says that, “When a child wakes up in the night, he is looking for something. And when he sees it he will go back to sleep.” The economy is not just bad but very bad. We have no alternative than to support him for the remaining years he has to spend.
You were at the just concluded 5th seminar of Anambra State Council of Traditional Rulers, which agreed that the economic crisis was because of mono-cultural economic system and backed the current diversification programme of the Federal Government. What is your personal attitude to that?
I was at the meeting and we agreed that other areas of economy should be encouraged. Agriculture in particular should be encouraged because it is the more realistic mainstay of any economy. Like here in Achalla where I come from, I grow rice and the rice here in Achalla has been rated by the United Nations to be about the best in Africa and one of the best rice in the world.
Achalla rice is called mans, it is like American long rice. That type of rice should be encouraged. It was even shown on the CNN recently. So, we as a nation must pay more attention to agriculture because it is an area that we can proudly and comfortably, too, call the mainstay of our economy. Instead of talking about grazing for cattle, we should be talking about healthy animals like goats and sheep. Cattle is a moving poison, it is full of cholesterol unlike goats and sheep. So, we should begin to be talking about developing goats and sheep farm.
Some people believe that the way out of Nigeria’s current challenges is restructuring. Do you have any opposing view to that?
According to former Vice President Alex Ekwueme and Tony Momoh also said it recently in an interview with him, the 36 states of the country should be collapsed into six zones. This will go a long way in solving the problems of over-bloated recurrent expenditure and drastically reduce the cost of running Nigeria as a whole. A zone has six states currently, and if each of those states is run by, for instance, one governor and 24 commissioners, it means that the zone has six governors and 144 commissioners. But if the six states are collapsed into one federating unit as a zone, you can imagine how viable that zone will be.
In other words, are you in support of restructuring?
I am in full support of it. When a motion was moved in Anambra House of Assembly, I supported it. We should have six zones which should be agricultural zones, that is, zones grown by agriculture.
What factors will you say are threatening the peace, unity and development of Nigeria?
There is only one factor and that factor is the economy. The economy is very bad and Buhari should give way for somebody who has plan to come and take care of the economy.
How do you mean?
What I mean is that Buhari has no programme. He has got what he has been awake to get, which is to be president of Nigeria, and after his four years he should give way for somebody who has programme to come in and restructure Nigeria economically and geographically.
What other programmes should the government put in place after the current diversification?’
You should ask him, what programme does he have? I have told you agriculture and it is the mainstay of Nigerian economy right from time immemorial. Oil is just a recent thing. If we develop agriculture, you will see how less concerned we will naturally become about oil. Part of the problem is that Buhari has to be fair to all ethnic groups in Nigeria and not to pay attention to only one. It is not only when you embezzle money that they say you are dishonest. Buhari could be honest but he is not a fair man.
In what sense is Buhari not a fair man?
He is not fair to South East. The roads in the South East are deplorable. I am telling you what is on ground for him to know that if he wants the South East people to believe that he cares for them, he should bring development to their region. It is a very funny saying that all those big trucks collapsing everyday on the bad roads of the East are trucks from the North.
I shouldn’t even be seen as criticising the President but rather be seen as letting him know what he needs to do to make peace with the South East. How can somebody like me who has always been on the side of peace and unity of Nigeria be painted in bad light? I am an in-law to the Yoruba because I married from Yoruba land and both Hausa and Fulani are my friends. What I am saying is that, President Buhari should please bring development to the East so that every Igbo man will be able to see him as a father that cares.
Who is to blame for the hostilities in the Niger Delta?
I read that some leaders of Niger Delta have agreed that they truly got their fair shares of the national cake and that is correct. Talking about the hostilities and the poverty level in the area, I said the last time that the problem of Niger Delta was within them and that they should therefore look inward for solution. The only thing I blame the Federal Government for is their talk of resorting to military option.
So, I appeal to my brothers and sisters in the Niger Delta area that they are justified in their agitation but they should know that their problem is neither Buhari nor the Federal Government, they should therefore look inward for solution by laying down their arms.
Does it not bother you that despite the derivation funds that accrued to oil producing states in the Niger Delta region, there is nothing to show for it?
That is why I said they should look inward. Their problem is with themselves and all these people who embezzle public funds will naturally pay for it. What I want President Muhammadu Buhari to do is to say, “Look, it is not just a question of giving money to the Niger Delta region but to ensure that what is given is properly utilised.”
Let us assess President Buhari’s performance in terms of economy, security and infrastructure. When you said Buhari has no programme, does it mean he has done nothing commendable?
Economy covers everything including security and infrastructure. Once the economy is fixed, security and infrastructure will come up. I must commend Governor Willie Obiano at this point for the present security in Anambra State. What he needs now is to be supported with roads and power by the Federal Government. We don’t have good roads. As I speak to you now, nothing has been done Onitsha- Enugu road.
But the government announced recently that contractors had been mobilised to the Enugu-Port Harcourt road to start work?
Nothing has been done. We have competent companies to handle the job. There is Julius Berger, there is CCC.
What is your advice therefore?
Government of President Buhari should first of all analyse its priorities.
By October, Iru Ji Festival of your kingdom will come up. What should be expected this year?
The usual things should be expected. Iru Ji is an opportunity for us to give thanks to Almighty God for strengthening us to make good farm and good harvest throughout the year. This year we have good harvest and with the rain we hope to have more. Like I told you, I am a farmer, I grow yam and more especially rice.