By Gabriel Enogholase
Tony Esijolomi Afejuku, activist, academic and public commentator, is a professor of English Literature who also was renown as a former leader of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, University of Benin, Benin City. Prof. Ajejuku in this interview spoke on several national issues including expectations from the Muhammadu Buhari presidency, among other burning national issues. Excerpts:
WHAT is your assessment of the present situation in the country given your past assertions against former President Jonathan?
Please let us not talk about former President Jonathan. Let us leave him where he is now. We are lucky that he was forced to give up power at the time he was forced out. I won’t say more than this. Regarding our current political landscape, the corruption of the pre-Buhari ascendancy is still very much around; the plague cannot be wished away just because Buhari has been fumigating everywhere that his anti-corruption nostrils direct him to. Let’s keep this topic in abeyance.
Nigeria was dying, very slowly and in great agony before Buhari entered the chambers of his presidential destiny. He entered the chambers with some necessarily tainted persons who were needed (and are still needed) to serve his purpose until they themselves are shut and shot out of reckoning. Study a little the mentality of Buhari’s kitchen cabinet, and you will observe that the immediately striking thing is their negative attitude about the preceding regime that tends to blind them to constructive suggestion. Because Dr. Jonathan was perceived as an Ijaw president, President Buhari is being brain-washed to function as a Northern sectional president who must deny presidential assets and fairness to some sections of our country. They don’t seem to understand that their empire will soon become simply stagnant, that it will soon cease to develop and fall to pieces.
So you are saying President Buhari hasn’t the capacity to take Nigeria to the promised-land even though you are on record as one of his pre-election backers?
This regime, this order, has broken our faith and emotions. This regime has broken our morale. The luck it has so far is that the preceding order is still being blamed for our current woes, but it is clear to many of us in my circle that this regime has no promised-land to take our country to. Buhari and his team are marked characteristically by the emotional shallowness of people who live in a world of thoughts and ideas and have small contact with physical reality.
What is your comment on the economic situation in the land?
Let me say this: many egg-heads who are part of the new order are imposing their constipated view of economics on Nigeria. They are over-learned and under-learned men, in babaringa and agbada, black-suits and different hats, who describe and everyone describes, as “intellectuals,” who monopolise our economic lives. They have commercialized everything selfishly and crippled our economic morale. There is no middle class in our country any more. And hunger and patriotism are fighting against looters and kidnappers of our patrimony, against the advanced new capitalism threatening to wipe out our masses and people. The question you pose is complicated. May the constipated economic view of Buharism not become a cancerous one, a cancerous economic policy nursing unimaginable inflation and polluted deflation. Our existing economic rights and privileges may soon cease to exist. The change that we want (or wanted) will soon cease to be for us all and those who promoted it. In fact, Buhari’s change is now changeless change. The polity is disastrously polluted by corruption and more corruption and more corruption. The more Buhari tries, the more we inhale the aroma of corruption.
What is your comment on the struggle for the siting of the Nigerian Maritime University between the Itsekiri and the Ijaw?
With due respect, I don’t wish to comment on this because as an Itsekiri man I must be a party to the tug-of-war with regard to Ijaw and Itsekiri positions on the matter. You may accuse me of this or that as Itsekiri.
If I sound pro-Itsekiri people including you will say “What else do you expect? If I sound anti-Itsekiri people, especially Ijaws will say “You see, even Tony Afejuku has taken our side.” This being said let me state this: The original conceivers of the idea of the university wanted it to be sited in Koko, headquarters of the present Warri North Local Government Area.
I don’t wish to supply further details. Secondly, I have read the various press statements by the Ijaw and the Itsekiri on the matter. That a whole nation could sit down and canvass privately and publicly that a court judgment they lost to their Itsekiri brothers and neighbours was “black market judgment” speaks volumes.
Unless the Ijaw win in or outside the courts, there must be war. Head or tail, they must not be losers. This is not how to live in a civilized society.
They don’t seem to know the difference between destructive violence and innovating violence.
Let me say nothing further given my introductory remarks here. But know this: the blood of their ancestors and forebears still run in the Itsekiri of now. They will always turn any disadvantage into an advantage whatever the gang-up against them. No circumstance, no matter how harsh as their marshy terrain, can overwhelm Itsekiris, the small people who have created in the world’s consciousness one of the greatest kingdoms known to history and civilisation.