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Agitations: Nigeria can’t move forward without tackling Igbo question —Mbazulike Amaechi

…Leadership of the country is one-sided

…Restructuring Nigeria not the business  of national assembly but Nigerians

By CHIOMA GABRIEL, EDITOR, SPECIAL FEATURES

First Republic politician, nationalist and  elder statesman, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi,in this interview with Saturday Vanguard speaks on restructuring and why it is necessary if Nigeria wants to remain one indivisible entity. He lamented that the Igbo have been treated as slaves in Nigeria, and justified the agitations of separatist groups like MASSOB and IPOB., arguing that referendum does not mean a call for war as it is a practice all over the world.

Chief Mbazulike Amaechi

He also spoke on his disagreement with IPOB and the mayhem that took place at Ozubulu.

The whole country is talking about restructuring but the north doesn’t seem to agree. At present, something is happening in Abuja. A group is having a sitting protest of either Buhari resumes or resigns. Nigeria appears to be in yet another cross-road. What is the way out?

Two weeks ago, I issued a statement which was published in three newspapers. In that statement, I said that the situation in Nigeria is very grave and Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun powder. If care is not taken, it is bound to explode sometime and in no distant future. You see, a house built on a weak foundation can never stand. Nigeria was built on a false and faulty foundation.

This is not the Nigeria we founded, this is not the Nigeria which made people like me to go to prison before the independence. Nationalists ran the country for only six months after independence and the military took over the country. When they took over, they were not bothered about how to rule, how to govern, or how to administer. The military is not trained for that.

They were trained on how to conquer, how to destroy. And they took the country on a three-year war and since then, Nigeria has not been stable and has not been ruled legally, according to constitution. When the military took over in 1966, they suspended the constitution which was enacted according to law in 1962 and so, after sometime, another military man took over from Gowon and another took over from the man who took over from Gowon until it came to Obasanjo.

Then Obasanjo called a constitutional Conference which met to amend the constitution. From 1966-1978, Nigeria was ruled without a constitution. During the 1978 constitutional conference, the military amended the constitution drafted by the constituent assembly and imposed their own words into the constitution. And that again is an illegality because it was not the peoples constitution. It was a military document.

Then in 1979, Shagari came aboard in an elected government. In 1983, the military came back and took over the rulership of the country and continued to rule the country until 1999. In all, the military ruled the country for about 38 years. Now, apart from the military ruling the country for 38 years, it was the northern military, apart from Obasanjo being head of state for two or three years.

Obasanjo came aboard not because the military chose him but because Murtala Mohammed was killed in a bloody coup. So, up to 1999, after Abacha died in 1997 or so and Abubakar took over and ordered a constitutional conference and the conference drafted a constitution which again the military amended. The whole thing is an illegality. What we have as our constitution today is an illegality and it has been like that since 1966.

The position now is that Nigeria must be restructured. The demand is now in the South and it’s almost 100%. We have to re-negotiate the basis of our co-existence as a country. What we have now is what the military from northern Nigeria imposed on everybody and that is not a constitution and it will never work. People are getting conscious of what is going on. Now, we had a country where the wealth which is derived from southern Nigeria, especially the Niger-Delta area is being used to develop the north and even at the expense of the people who own the wealth.

Look at a situation like Kano which has 44 local government areas which is what about two states put together in the South have. Mind you, local government areas are meant to be under a regional or state governor. How can somebody from Abuja collect the wealth of the country from the customs in Lagos, the customs in Port Harcourt, the customs in Ondo, in Warri, and in Calabar to develop Abuja, Kaduna and the rest of the North and the people that produced the wealth are left in the dark? It cannot work. It is either we renegotiate the basis of our association or we are not serious. The whole Eastern region wants the renegotiation, the whole Western region wants it, the Middle-Belt wants. It is only Buhari,Katsina, Sokoto and a few others that don’t want it and that is not acceptable because we cannot continue like this. And to worsen the situation, the person we elected as president two years ago has left the job for over a 100 days now and that is the longest time for a president to be out of his job and still remains president.

Nobody is angry that he is sick but he cannot hold the whole country hostage. If he’s no longer in a position to continue to rule, the law demands that he should throw in the towel and let the country move on. He should not hold us to ransom because if he doesn’t take care, there will either be an implosion or an explosion.

This negotiation or restructuring we are talking about means different things to different people. The North would always ask what is restructuring and others will say if there is good governance, there will be no need for restructuring. Now, the national assembly as it has also rejected it….

The national assembly is supposed to make laws. The national assembly is not created to a constitution. Making the constitution is the fundamental rights of the country and has to be drawn by the people of the country and not the national assembly. The national assembly is to make laws for the country, laws based on the constitution and not to make the constitution itself.

But it said no to restructuring, no to devolution of power and even the party in power said no.

That is why I said the leadership of the country has been one-sided and except the country is renegotiated, it would lead to an explosion or an implosion.

The other thing is the agitations in the South East. It is like the elders of the people could not control the boys who are demanding a Biafran republic, knowing fully well that Biafra can never come back the way they are demanding it.

If a people don’t want to be in a place or want to be in a place, there is a way to determine the true wishes of the people. Some of the people who are agitating for Biafra were not even born during the Biafran era. The solution to Biafra agitation is not in killing the agitators. The solution is to find out the true wishes of the people of Biafra.

Look at the way the Igbo are being treated in Nigeria. Look at the way we’re being killed. They are using the armed forces, and security forces to kill Ndi-Igbo. Young men meet in a non-violent demonstration, they maul them down in their hundreds. They rise to protest against a situation, they are gunned down in their hundreds. And the atrocious part of it is that when they are killed thus, the killers, murderers, take away the dead bodies of these Igbo youths, dump them into tippers, use caterpillars and excavators to dig a hole, tip them into the hole and bury them alive. And you know the Igbo value their dead bodies.

When an Igboman dies in Lagos, even if he has no money to feed himself in his lifetime, the Igbo around him gather money to bring his body back home. That is the extent to which the Igbo value and honour their dead. That is what is being denied the youth being killed. They kill them at Aba. They kill them at Nkpor. They kill them at Onitsha. They kill them at Enugu. And apart from the killings, since the Buhari government came into power, they’ve released properly trained killers called herdsmen and armed them with the most sophisticated military weapons to come and help in killing the Igbo. But the painful aspect of the whole thing is Igbo governors, Igbo Christian religious leaders, Igbo traditional rulers, Igbo business bodies instead of coming together to say ‘Ah-ah, this killings must not continue’, they are all lying timidly silent and quiet.

If ninety or 100% of the people of Biafra say they don’t want to belong to a federation where they are treated as second class citizens, what right has anybody to continue to keep them there? I was part of the fight for Nigeria to be separated from British imperialism, I fought for Nigeria’s independence. If a people say they don’t want to continue to belong to a country where they are maltreated and marginalised, the proper thing to go for a referendum.

When Scotland wanted to break away from Great Britain, and that was about two or three years ago, they went for a referendum and lost out and today, Scotland is still part of the Great Britain.

Even now in the United States, one or two states have started agitating that they want to break away from the United States. It is either they have pacified them after finding out why they wanted to break out or that they have found out that the true wishes of the majority of the people. So, the answer is not in killing the people.

Why should the Igbos be killed always. If it were the Igbos that issued the ultimatum to the northerners in the South-East, what do you think would have happened? They would have started killing them. What the Arewa youths did and got away with, Igbo youths wouldn’t do such and get away.

The Federal Government ordered their arrest and the Kaduna State government ordered their arrest but nobody arrested them. And the northern governors are speaking grammar with them. And now, a group of boys in the Niger Delta has issued an ultimatum that come October 1, the Yoruba and the Hausa in their region should leave .

So, Nigeria is a big country and should not be ruled by hard-hearted criminals, hard-hearted evil men who have no conscience. We should open our eyes to happenings across Nigeria and know there is an implosion or an explosion coming up.

What is your opinion on Kanu and how he carries on with IPOB?

About a month ago or so, Kanu came here to visit me and I advised him that whatever are his agitations, he should not resort to violence. He doesn’t carry any weapons. He visited me and I made my position clear. He told me his mission about Biafra and I told him to avoid violence since he has no weapons to fight, that they will kill him if he resorts to violence. I always warned him to stop canvassing against election in Anambra State because it makes no meaning.

I told him that if IPOB members boycott the election or compel people to boycott, the political parties that are able to get there will vote and even if there are one million voters and only a thousand comes out to vote, a winner must emerge and that person becomes a governor. And in the circumstances where they have a governor that is not a true representative of the people of Anambra State, that makes the problem harder. And if he demonstrates or tries to stop people from coming out to vote, they will shoot him and his boys and kill them off because an Igbo man is like a sheep or goat to the Nigerian soldier.

But he obviously didn’t take your advice because penultimate Thursday, he was in Onitsha and its environs and kept insisting on no elections in Anambra.

Nobody should obey that order. And if he wants to do a demonstration, he will be exposing himself to danger. In fact, it would be suicidal for him to do that.

Is what he is doing not an alternative government kind of?

I don’t know his mind but trying to stop an election doesn’t make sense. In an election where one million people are supposed to vote and only about ten thousand come out to vote, that ten thousand does not represent the one million people. You cannot boycott an election. It doesn’t make sense. That one will amount to the people destroying themselves or cooperating with the enemy. More than any other race in Nigeria, the South-East, the Igbo have been dealt with especially since the end of the civil war.

They were treated at all times as a conquered people. The Igbo have been treated as a slave. During the Shagari era, the South-East got a reprieve. But simply because of a feeling that the South-East might get into power, Buhari staged a military coup and took over the government. Everybody knew it at that time. So, the Igbos have been treated as slaves in this country and it is time to put a stop to it because the other areas are beginning to sympathise with Igbos. The Niger-Delta area is reacting to Arewa youths quit notice to the Igbo. Look, if we don’t come to terms with the Niger-Delta , if we don’t come to terms, with the Igbo question, there will be a terrible implosion or explosion.

But are the Igbos speaking with one voice?

Are they collectively suffering? Are they collectively being punitively treated? That should be the question. And the answer is yes. Whether they are collectively fighting or not does not remove the fact that they are victims. Even those who go to Abuja to collect hand-outs are all victims. They are suffering together.

It seems the Igbos don’t like themselves. Look at what happened at Ozubulu, it wasn’t Fulani herdsmen but Igbo against Igbo.

St Philips Catholic Church Ozubulu is less than three hundred metres from my house, where I am speaking to you from. The killings took place less than 300 metres to where I am now and speaking from. What happened there is between relatives, people who came from the same village, people who are dealing in drug business outside the country, bringing their drug war back home to settle scores. It is not about anybody hating the other. It was drug war.

Do the Igbo need this kind of thing; a people so hated, yet hating themselves to much as to kill scores and injuring many at gun point, and you called them brothers?

Tell me what part of the country where there are no criminals, where there are no thieves or armed robbers? Even in Vatican, the headquarters of the Catholic Church, or in Canterbury, the headquarters of the Anglican Communion. Is there a place in Nigeria where there are no criminals.

I don’t know where you come from but I know there should be some criminals even there. You should not use the killings at Ozubulu to judge Igbos or arrive at a conclusion that Igbos don’t like themselves. This is a business gone sour here and they went out to take a revenge on a partner by killing his father and others. It can happen anywhere.

The problem of the Igbo is their republican nature, isn’t it?

Republican nature of the Igbo is not something strange or unnatural. If you are a republican, it means you are moving forward. Republicans negotiate, discuss, dialogue. It means Igbos don’t accept anybody is ordained by God. They don’t believe anybody should lord it over them.

Igbos led the struggle for independence of this country, followed by the Yorubas. Igbos believe in leaders but in leaders they made themselves, not somebody lording it over them.

The Hausa did not fight for independence. Britain just gave them the power and during the war, Britain, America and the Arab world joined the North to decapitate Igbos. And that was what the Igbos are still suffering today.

What is the way out of this?

The only way out is the people of this country coming together to re-negotiate. I believe in one big country Nigeria but it must be a country where there is fair-play, justice and equity. So, all interest groups in Nigeria should come together and agree on the basis of the union, on how we will live together. That is the way out.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.