- Says Fulani Vigilante in Igboland will lead to bloodshed FG may not be able to control
- •Igbos believe strongly in one Nigeria
•How Buhari can save the country
Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, an elder statesman, astute politician and business mogul is angry. He says Fulani herdsmen want to dare the Igbos in their move to set up a vigilante group in each of the five states of the South East region. In an exclusive interview with Saturday Vanguard in Owerri, Imo state, Chief Iwuanyanwu warns that the friendliness and hospitality of the Igbos should not be taken for granted.
He also attributes the economic challenges currently facing Nigeria to the devaluation of the naira and the health of the President and declares that the only solution to the crisis in Nigeria is immediate restructuring of the country.
What is your candid opinion about herdsmen menace in the country?
What is happening today is completely unimaginable, unacceptable and cannot be tolerated by any civilized society. It worries me and others who believe so much in the unity of this country. In 1960 we saw the union flag being lowered and replaced with the green-white-green. We all rejoiced and that started a new nation. In spite of our differences we believed in brotherhood and it was unimaginable to see a Nigerian raising his hand against another Nigerian to the point of shedding blood.
What is happening in the past few years is a tragedy. It started with Boko Haram, killing people and saying they didn’t want western education which is an impossible demand. It is like telling a man to stop breathing. These people have gone ahead to kidnap people and have killed thousands of Nigerians. Boko Haram has caused us a lot of economic problems. Nigeria went into a recession and to a large extent, it was caused by Boko Haram. We are spending billions of dollars, which we earned from oil derived from Niger Delta and South East to fight a group that gave us an impossible condition.
Are you not bothered by the kind of sophisticated weapons which the herdsmen are said to be using?
That is what we are asking. Who are the sponsors of these herdsmen providing them with weapons. It is clear to me that they are bringing arms from outside Nigeria and the Nigerian Customs as well as the Immigration have explanation to make to Nigerians. Sometime ago a group of armed people went to some communities in Benue State and killed many people, both old and young including pregnant women. They destroyed their houses, burnt their farms and many people were sacked from their villages.
Those who carried out the attacks said somebody from that area rustled their cows and they believed that the only remedy was to kill even innocent people from that area. These people continued their adventure destroying so many places as it happened in Taraba, Zamfara, Plateau, even in Enugu and Anambra states and we are watching them.
They have now gone into kidnapping and the information we have now is that this kidnapping is their long term strategy to raise funds for their insurrection because when they kidnap people they send the ransom money they collect to their sponsors to acquire more arms. Most of the people they kidnapped paid ransom and it appears to me that the police are helpless in this matter. Nigerians can no longer pass through the major highways like the Kadunna -Abuja road because this same set of people have been instructed to raise money through kidnapping in order to sponsor their terrorism.
As an elder statesman, how do people in the South East view this development
The problem is more serious than anybody can imagine. We, the people of the South East are worried about this. Since I was a child I had always seen cattle rearers with their stick, bow and arrow. I never saw them before carrying a weapon like AK47. This is a new development. It means some people are sponsoring them.
The security agencies should be able to tell us, Nigerians deserve to know. The cattle rearers used to command their cattle whenever they strayed into the farms and the cattle would understand the language and move away from the farms. But those who are sponsoring them have a purpose which we don’t know and which the security agencies have not been able to tell us. They should tell us because cattle rearers are not just new in this country. This is a business that have been going on for many years.
What is you opinion on the plan by Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, to establish Vigilante group in Igboland?
In Enugu, these same people have the boldness to tell us they are bringing in the vigilante group (laughs). I don’t think they understand the Igbos very well. The Igbos are very friendly and very hospitable but they are not cowards and when there is a challenge they rise to it. Igbos believe strongly in one Nigeria and the Igbos have demonstrated it by their business. If you go through our history in politics, our leader, Nnamdi Azikiwe, championed the cause for independence for this country, he in fact championed it for Africa.
Most leaders were more or less his disciples. Unfortunately, he never became the head of state but he still believed in one Nigeria. When there was a crisis in Congo, the person who was sent to go and quell it was General Aguyi Ironsi. When there was problem in Tanzania and Zanziba, the person sent to go and quell it was Odimegwu Ojukwu. We have done many things to show that Igbos believe in one Nigeria. Let us sincerely believe that in brotherhood we stand. And that means you will not abuse anybody because of his tribe or religion. The Igbos are living in other places but they have not said they were going to put a garrison of armed Igbo youths in those places.
Why do you think Miyetti Allah wanted to form a vigilante group in Igboland?
It is clear that the motive is sinister. The motive cannot be in the interest of the Igbos. It cannot be in the interest of the Nigeria unity. It will be very strongly resisted by the Igbos. There will be another bloodshed and there will be another crisis for the Federal Government. If care is not taken, the bloodshed and insecurity will spread and once it spreads, the Federal Government may not be able to handle it.
Do you think that Igbos have done enough to discourage this move by the Miyetti Allah Association?
The president General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, has spoken, he is very efficient, very capable, we elected him and he is speaking our minds. I am telling Nigerians that anything Nwodo has said is the position of Igbo leaders because he consults us, we accept his leadership and he is doing well. Igbos have a peculiar way of doing things, at first you may think that they are not united. The Igbos are the most united people, when they reach a point of affirmative action and they say “Igbo kwenu, Igbo Kwenu”, that is the end of it. For instance in politics, in the last four years government did not favour us. We did not get much but we stood by our position, if you like take it, if don’t like leave it,we don’t care.
Have the Igbos benefited from such positions that they have taken
Igbos are proud people and when we take a decision we stand by it. These people are daring us. The last time there was war, Nigerians said the war would last only a few months but we held Nigerians for nearly three years. We were blockaded by air, by sea, by land and Igbo scientists came together and we produced all the weapons of war here in Biafra. Biafra produced rockets that could deliver up to eight miles. Before I joined the army, I was part of research and production team that produced rocket, the point was that the rocket was not guided.
Later in the Army, I had an injury and after the injury I went for a training on an advance military intelligence. When I finished the training I was posted to combat engineering. I became the head of combat engineering intelligence. I advised our boss then, the head of state, Ojukwu, that we should withdraw but because we were able to produce rockets which we used during the war he had little hope. Russia, America, Britain were all against one small country, Biafra, and yet we resisted.
People came to blame Ojukwu, but Ojukwu did not declare Biafra. He was our leader, he led us well. Igbos don’t abandon their leaders, we stood by him till the last. So the Igbos declared Biafra. Zik was our leader. The war ended thanks to Zik. If anybody says we were defeated, it is not true, Biafrans were trained to sustain this war as far as Nigeria did not give us what we wanted.
We only stopped when our leader, Nnamdi Azikiwe met with the then president of Liberia and Gowon, and after that meeting they had an agreement including ‘no victor no vanquished’ position. We don’t want to hear that we were defeated. So, when we heard ‘no victor no vanquished’ and that all the people would go back and take their positions, the conditions were very satisfactory. Yes, we cleared with our leader General Odimegwu Ojukwu who confirmed that we should surrender.
Otherwise, the youths, the younger ones did not want to surrender until Ojukwu confirmed Zik’s position. To many of us, Zik, was like a god, whatever he said we would do because he was very highly respected. Zik and Ojukwu persuaded the younger ones to withdraw, otherwise we would have continued with the war.
So, we don’t want that situation again. We want them to leave Igboland alone. We have gone through war and we do not want them to push us into any crises again. Miyetti Allah should leave things as they are, they are still grazing in Igboland and we are not disturbing them. We don’t rustle their cows, Igbos are not cattle rustlers. Igbos host them, befriend them and buy their cattle, they should therefore tell those who are sponsoring them to leave us alone.
We have warned them that there is no need for any colony here and we don’t want an Igbo colony in any part of Nigeria. Igbo will not stop any cattle rearer from grazing but he should not graze on a farm land and should not carry AK 47 but their normal bow and arrow and stick. So, they should drop this idea of having a colony in Igboland or for some Fulani youths to come here and form a vigilante, it is going to create some kind of violence and bloodshed which is not going to be easy to control.
As a politician and a renowned business man, what is the problem with Nigerian economy?
The problem is very, very serious. I am a politician but I am basically a business man. I read science and engineering so I have vast knowledge of many things in Nigeria. I am very passionate about this country. I love Nigeria so much, Nigeria has honoured me three times and I am not sure how many people in Nigeria have been honoured three times with MFR, through the Nigeria Society of Engineers, OFR and CFR, I am so passionate about this country. In 2015, the PDP lost to the APC, and Buhari came to power and expectations were very high. Buhari came to power and economy was part of his programmes. People thought that the economy at that time was bad and needed to be improved. He also talked about corruption which is a serious issue in this country.
So, he came in and everybody had a high expectation and you could see that the people’s high expectations were not met. I am a Christian, I was brought up in a strong Christian family. I am a politician, I am in PDP, I am not in APC. I am not the type of politician who will not face the reality. So, I have to say the truth about the whole thing. On the question of Buhari’s capabilty, he is capable. People have questioned his education but I don’t like this story.
Buhari is a General in the Nigeria Army, and to be a General in the Army, you must have attended so many staff courses. All the staff courses Buhari has attended were actually good enough. When the army took over government in 1983, his colleagues picked him to be the head of state. Before then, he had been a governor of a state, he had been a minister. Buhari has got a lot of experience. When Buhari took over power after that coup, he started War Against Indiscipline. Nigerians at that time were very undisciplined.
They were rushing to everything. They would rush to catch a plane, rush to catch a bus, they were rushing everywhere. But Buhari with WAI, stopped it. At that time if anybody was jumping the queue, they would say WAI, and the person would stop. It was an achievement he made. When he came this time around, he talked about security, but Buhari was sick most of the time and I believe if he were well enough, he could have done better.
The economic problem under Buhari is said to be getting worse, do you agree?
Up till today, all the economic languages they tell us I don’t understand them. Why was the naira which was about N160 to a dollar, allowed to drop to more than N400 at a point until it was controlled at about N360?
Let me tell you, every country protects its currency. I can’t understand why the Central Bank allowed the currency to go from N160 to N400 and even N500 before it intervened and it started appreciating until it came to N360. Once the currency of a country is changed, it automatically affects everything. For instance, a worker who is earning N18,000 or N20, 000 per month cannot feed himself again and that is why they are demanding for a wage increase. Even the wage increase of N30,000 cannot feed a Nigerian. N30,000 is not a fair wage for any worker in Nigeria today, I don’t know any worker who can feed with N30,000 in a month because the workers have children also.
Can’t Nigeria Government pay N30,000 minimum wage?
If that money is paid, Nigeria will be completely bankrupt. I have done a simple rule of the thumb and I even think that if they pay it this year, the budget of Nigeria will only be used for recurrent expenditure and there will be no money for capital. I think our problem is the devaluation of our naira and the health of the President.
Any hope for improvement?
The bright side is that I want to congratulate the President for his fight against corruption. Yes, people say he is partial. You know the problem in Nigeria is that the president is only one man and there are people around who have a lot of influence. But one thing that is clear is that for the first time in Nigeria, somebody has taken a bold step to fight corruption. That is a major thing I think he has achieved. I am aware people say he is partial, yes it is possible. In the last election, Buhari did not influence election in the South East like my state, Imo.
Corruption goes with flamboyant lifestyle. Buhari, all through his time as governor, minister, head of state, did not exhibit that type of flamboyant lifestyle. But I think he made one mistake. If I were to advise him, I could have advised him to finish one term and go away. If Buhari had not contested election for second term and had spent only one term, he could have been a hero. He could have done like Nelson Mandela by spending just four years.
Buhari, has made the mistake of running for second term. He is my friend but he has made that mistake. The economy is getting worse and complicated because of insurgency and herdsmen as foreign investors are running away. Even Nigeria investors are pulling their businesses to neighbouring countries like Ghana, Togo, even Gambia. If you look at it today, in most of the northern parts of this country, you can’t move freely. Farmers are running away from farms. If care is not taken before the end of this year the Nigerian economy will come to a halt completely.
Now, where do we go from here
The challenge is at the door step of Buhari, to either make himself a hero or not. There is no solution to the immediate Nigerian economic problem apart from immediate restructuring. The insurgency cannot be solved without restructuring.
This idea of some people thinking that they are going to expand to go and occupy other people’s territory is not going to help. If Buhari helps to restructure the country he would the economy will bounce back. He would have ensured the unity of this country because Nigeria will become a more formidable united country. States and local governments will get more money because the federal government will relinquish what it is doing presently. So the solution is the immediate restructuring of the country.