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Nemesis will catch up with our bad leaders—Paul Unongo

By Chioma Gabriel, Editor, Special Features

Second Republic minister of Iron and Steel, Paul Unong last week said here that military dictator Sani Abacha was on the verge of giving Nigeria a constitution that would have made it a better country when he passed on. We conclude his interview today. Excerpts.
Why do successive governments jettison good things done by previous administrations?
No matter how bad a government is, there must be a few good things it would do that could be built upon. You don’t throw away everything because you want to do your own thing. It’s just politics. Some governments when they come in, allow their wives to interfere with what happens in the nation states of Nigeria. The woman who should be in the kitchen cabinet now uses $20 million to go to hospital because there is oil money.

We have abandoned agriculture and all the benefits because there is oil money. The Niger Delta boys are blowing up pipelines. They don’t want to go to the farm. The leadership we have in Nigeria today are like the apostles, the Judas in their midst, they do not recognise. Look at Britain, the British rulers have loyalty to a metropolitan authority. They didn’t care about Nigeria or what they did to Nigeria. But what excuse do we have for the way we treated Nigeria? The British eventually left for their own country.


Where would our Nigerian leaders leave for? Our leaders are behaving like the colonial masters. They acted like those people that are loyal to a foreign authority as if they were taking development to Britain and didn’t care about what was going on in Enugu or Gboko or Akure because they wanted to behave like their masters. That was a terrible mistake because they had nowhere to go.

Eventually, nemesis would catch up with them or their children. The future generations would pay the price. They make big promises without articulating how to implement them and because of the structural defects in their policies, they begin to look for scapegoats.

All these are not taking us anywhere. When an unintelligent government succeeds the other, it begins to find faults with the things the previous regime did instead continuing with the good. There are many things to criticise in any government but we should not keep harping on those mistakes. What about the good ones? The people know the good things done by any government and where they began to make mistakes.

When there is development, about three or four governments take the glory. Let’s take communication for instance, one government started with it, another consolidated on it and today, everybody is talking on different gadgets of communication. But the credit goes to three, four governments. That’s how it should be.

When a government leaves office and another comes in with intelligent people, it should build on the good things the previous government started. When are we going to have people who are loyal to Nigeria? The tragedy of Nigeria is that people invest millions and billions to get into power and when they do, they become loyal to their pockets and to recouping all they spent to win elections and they jettison the problems afflicting the nation Nigeria. Such people should not be allowed to go into government in the first place.

When the civil war was brewing, I wrote a letter to our leaders and I told them that we cannot afford a civil war; that if we go into war, after the war we would still come back to the same problem facing Nigeria which needed to be negotiated in a roundtable conference. And we would now find out that what we invested in fighting a war could have been invested in re-negotiating this entity called Nigeria because after a war, the same problems will keep staring us in the face.
Ojukwu replied me, Tony Enahoro also replied. Those were the only two people that replied me.

And what happened?They went to war and we lost some of the best brains we could have used to develop Nigeria. They were killed during the civil war. We fought the war for three years and at the end of it, everything I said would happen if we fought a civil war happened. I don’t know why people are still talking about war. Let’s build a harmonious strong union that would be like the United States. We are big. We are the biggest in Africa in population and whatever. Who put oil in Nigeria? It is not Yoruba or Hausa or Ibo. It is God. Nigeria is wasting time beating drums of war.

We need a sovereign national conference where we’d speak to one another and come up with a people’s constitution. We have the Ben Nwanbuezes, the greatest brain in constitutional government, we had people like Chief Rotimi Williams at the time were doing the Abacha conference. And there are other Nigerians that are constitutional lawyers. There is no short cut to our unity. We have been delaying it. We have to talk as soon as possible, otherwise we pay painful prices. I’ve done my bit. I’m over 80. I don’t have power but I have God-given talents which I’ve made available to help my country.

I know what Nigeria can do for the black race, for Africa. I know the consequences of breaking up Nigeria in Africa and I know the consequences of vibrations in Nigeria across the whole world. Nigeria is a great nation. Let’s build it.

The agitations across nationalities are getting unbearable. There are Biafra agitators, Niger Delta Avengers, Fulani herdsmen menace and still the old Boko Haram issues. Will Nigeria survive them?

If you break up Nigeria, thinking that the small, small principalities will go away, it’s a joke.  They will go nowhere. The people who are kidnapping people are Ijaw people. In their own enclave, the kidnapping will continue unabated. We have seen this kind of thing in Libya, we have seen it in Somalia. In Somalia, how many are the tribes? They call themselves tribesmen and they are not up to 10 tribes. In Nigeria, we have about 250 to 500. It’s a joke. And people will stand up in Niger Delta and be blowing up things. Yet, we from South-South go to South-West to marry.

The man from the North goes to the South to marry. The Ijaw man marries from Nsukka and the Igbo marries from the North Central and you want to break up. It cannot happen.

And now, you’d find Ijaws in Rivers, Ondo, Lagos, Bayelsa. So, who is separating from who? You’d see Igbo in South East and South South states. I’m Tiv, you’d see Tivs in other states outside Benue. How is the break up going to happen? You have Tiv in Taraba, yet Taraba is not a minority state. We have tribes whose language sound like ours and they are not Tiv. So many things are structurally wrong.

You talk about Hausa, yet there are the Fulani, Kanuri and other tribal nationalities in the North who we all call Hausa but they are not. These have their own agitations against the nation Nigeria and there is only one solution, like I keep saying from the beginning and that is to restructure Nigeria and correct the structural defect. The only way to get it right is by talking to one another and working out how we’d live together via a sovereign national conference.


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