By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
What was the purpose of the rally that you have just held?
The purpose of this mega rally was to drive home to the grassroots and educate our people about the importance of restructuring and that was what the meeting was meant for and to tell our people that our survival in the country is not guaranteed because a situation where resources found in our area are being exploited by other Nigerians who benefit from them and give us pittance and then demand us to show gratitude to them. That is the situation of a second class citizen, that is the situation where he is being colonised by his fellow Nigerian.
This country was a true federation up to 1963 when it was negotiated by our founding fathers, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Chief Obafemi Awolowo and there were three regions until Mid-West was created in 1963 and the Constitution produced in 1963 was the collective effort of Sardauna of Sokoto, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Awolowo and other leaders. But when the military took over in 1966, by 1967 they changed the whole system so that we now had a military command structure instead.
So, when you say that the 1999 Constitution was by the people of Nigeria, it is a lie. It is fraudulent. So, we had to tell our people that their survival depends on the restructuring of Nigeria. If they manage their resources instead of going to Abuja, they will succeed. That was the essence of the rally.
So, will you say that this rally was successful in the face of its stated objectives?
Very, very successful because it was very well attended by leaders from across the country. The South-East delegation was led by Chief John Nnia Nwodo, president-general of Ohanaeze Worldwide, and he led a team that also included Dr. Walter Ofanagoro, Guy Ikoku and so on. From the West, we had Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Prof. Akintoye, Chief Olu Falae, Dr. Segun Mimiko and so many people. From the Middle Belt, we had Commodore Dan Suleiman, Senator Jonah Jang, former governor of Plateau State and so many others. So, it was a very successful meeting.
But we didn’t see people from Arewa Consultative Forum, was that deliberate?
They don’t believe in restructuring; we will go to them to talk to them about restructuring not to invite them to a rally they don’t believe in! That is why they were not invited. South-South governors were also absent as the most they did was to send representatives.
Yes, they sent representatives but the governor of Bayelsa State was there through out, his deputy was there through out. The two former governors of Delta State were there and Akwa Ibom governor was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, SSG and so were a number of former senators and two former deputy governors of the state. The place was full; it was a jolly rally and it was attended by so many people.
You say that restructuring will cause Niger-Delta states to get more money, so how do you respond to critics mostly in the North who say that it will lead to the impoverishment of the North?
No, the North will get money. In the First Republic, the North was producing groundnut and up to 800 metric tons per year; but today, the North is producing only 25 metric tons. In other words, in the First Republic, they had more money. The West had cocoa, and cocoa was booming and Awolowo was able to build Cocoa House in Ibadan, he was also able to establish the first television station in Africa in Ibadan, introduce free primary education, Awolowo was able to develop industrial estates.
So, as far as we are concerned, we were left with nothing but when oil was discovered in 1956, Tafawa Balewa congratulated Dr. Azikiwe that oil had been discovered in their place since oil at that time was a regional affair.
What we are saying is that the northerners don’t care what we are suffering from, the ecosystem that is being destroyed, the water pollution, we no longer have timber, we no longer have fishes, we no longer have anything, all that they are concerned with is about taking the money without knowing what is going on in the area.
We are not saying that with restructuring, the North will not have some money, but they will not have as they used to have at the expense of all. They should develop agriculture, mineral resources in their area.
They cannot abandon those things and decide to depend on the resources found in our backyard. We should benefit! We are not saying that they will be denied, but once we restructure, the man who owns the place will benefit from it more than others, but others will get.
They have created more local governments for themselves to get more money. In a true federation, local government is an affair of the region or is an affair of the states, not the affair of the Federal Government. Today, Kano State collects more money from 44 local governments while Bayelsa State with eight local governments collects very little. As far as we are concerned, we are being enslaved. In 1963, the regions collected 50 per cent; and the remaining 50 per cent they channelled to the Federal Government. That is the position.
Nigerians are apprehensive that the relatively big money coming to the Niger-Delta is not being channelled for the development of the people and is rather being frittered away.
Is that their business?
But even people from the Niger-Delta are also complaining. That is an internal affair. Are people not complaining about Northern governors?
That is not enough reason not to carry out restructuring. If it is properly done, governors that misappropriate their money will be removed.
A key component of restructuring is state police. Are you supportive of state police?
Yes, you see what is happening today in Nigeria. Even if I were not supporting state police, I now support it 100 per cent. See what is going on in Benue State. If Benue had its own police, herdsmen would not come to destroy their farmlands and kill people. Because you have only federal police, the police did not do anything to protect the people there. If Benue State had its own police and the state makes a law, the state police will look after that law. In a true federation, that is not the duty of the Federal Government. That is what happens in America and other places.
But some say that governors with state police will destroy their political rivals as with the recent case of where the property of a rival of a governor was demolished?
You will have bad people at all times. There are many governors in the country, one or two or three governors misbehaving with the police is not enough reason not to do the right thing in the rest of the country. The governors can only provide security for their states with state police.
The APC has recommended restructuring; will you join hands with them on this?
I have congratulated them. But you know that the chairman of the APC committee was Governor Nasir El-Rufai who had earlier said that those asking for restructuring were jobless people, people who had fallen out of government.
That is what he said before, but when the time came, they appointed him as chairman of the restructuring committee. Most of the things in their report are contained in the 2014 National Conference report. I have gone through the two and found that all their recommendations are found in the 2014 report except the issues of resource control, derivation which they included and which I thank them for.
What we are now saying is that if they are sincere and honest about their report, they should now submit it to the National Assembly so that the restructuring will start before the 2019 elections.
So, following this rally, what is your next plan?
We are educating our people on restructuring. The next mega rally will take place in the South-East; another mega rally will take place in the Middle-Belt and after that, we will have the national mega rally in Abuja or Lagos. We will not stop educating our people in all aspects because we want somebody who believes in restructuring to be the president of Nigeria.
So, we are working towards that because we know that whoever becomes the president of Nigeria if he does not believe in restructuring, the suffering will continue.
We want that in 2019 that whoever we are going to vote for must be someone who believes in restructuring and who will be able to carry out restructuring. That is the next step.