By Ebele Orakpo
Igwe Emeka Ogwuru, Araka 1, is the traditional ruler of Ngodo, Isuochi in Abia State. In this chat with Vanguard, soft-spoken Igwe Ogwuru speaks on the state of the nation, saying that he voted for President Buhari in 2015 because of his promise to fight corruption and wants to see corrupt people dealt with according to the laws of the land. Excerpts:
People are calling for restructuring, saying Nigeria cannot work the way it is now, do you agree?
Nigeria can work if we have the right people. Nigeria has everything it needs to work but the resources are not well managed. Another thing is ethnicity. It has not always been like this. In our time, you could stay in any part of the country without fear; we were like brothers and sisters. The best solution is to let each region go their separate ways if we can no longer live together.
The USSR divided into different countries. Switzerland has a population of less than 10 million, less than the population of two states in Nigeria and it’s one of the best countries in the world today and there are many smaller countries. If we can agree to let each region go and develop at their own pace using their resources, may be it will be better because the hatred is too deep, there’s no love amongst us. How can we claim to be one nation with so much hatred? If we seek God, He may intervene eventually; it is difficult but with God, nothing is impossible.
All hands must be on deck
The media should help in the campaign to bring back the parliamentary system of government. The late Chief Anthony Enahoro was canvassing for this system of government. He was like a lone voice in the wilderness and it worked for us then; I believe it will work for us now. If it means having to obtain a visa to go to the north, so be it. Get your visa, transact your business, pay your duty and go. The late Umaru Dikko said they should “leave the oil for the oil-producing regions, let them drink their oil and when they come to buy our food, they pay duty; it would be balanced,” but unfortunately, everyone’s eye is on the oil.
We should go back to the parliamentary system. Our National Assembly members may not agree with me because they know how much they are making but this is the best for everyone. Although corruption will not end completely, I believe there will be less corruption and less expense in the parliamentary system.
The presidential system is not good for us. In England, parliamentarians have their jobs and the parliamentary job is part-time. They only go when they have to sit.
The presidential system is costing us a lot; they say there’s no money to pay teachers; some teachers are being owed about eight months salary. I’d like Nigerians to canvas for this system, it will help our children. The presidential system enriches a few people at the expense of the majority. About 20 per cent would be extremely rich while 80 per cent would be pauperized; that is where I see this presidential system taking us to.
Would you say the APC government is winning the war against corruption?
I like the fact that President Buhari has started the fight. As a matter of fact, because of his promise to fight corruption, I voted for him in 2015. Honestly, he’s trying; to fight corruption is not easy because all of us are corrupt. We need a new mentality and God will help us. People are saying he is not fighting corruption because the fight is one-sided; but I tell them that someone must start from somewhere and that is my joy. However, he needs to put in more energy and avoid nepotism. He shouldn’t use it to fight his enemies or opponents. We pray that those after him will continue and even do better. Without fighting corruption, we are going nowhere. One thing I like is that he has started and it will continue by God’s grace.
But there are allegations that the system is more corrupt now than before.
I wouldn’t agree with that. I don’t think there’s more corruption now, it’s still the same but now, people have a little fear of the EFCC. In previous regimes, people stole with impunity as if corruption was legal and no one would query them, but not anymore.
It seems that even if you are corrupt and EFCC is after you, once you decamp to APC, the charges are dropped.
I don’t think Buhari will cover anyone because I know some APC governors who are being investigated. I am just watching to see what happens. I believe Buhari will make all the corrupt members face the law. That’s my thinking and that’s the best thing for him to do so generations to come will remember him for that.
Is this the Nigeria you grew up in?
No! When we got independence, things were very good, we lacked nothing. There was electricity and pipe-borne water. After independence, things began to go downhill…electricity, water, roads etc. I used to tell people that I wish we didn’t have independence, I am sure we would have been better off without independence, especially in terms of infrastructure. I don’t know whether the independence was a blessing or a curse.
We were taught in history that Uthman Danfodio once said that they will fight until the Koran is dipped in the Atlantic Ocean. That is what I see happening now. To avoid all these killings with impunity (human beings are not goats), the killer herdsmen must be arrested and brought to book. How many of them have been arrested and taken to court and punished accordingly? I haven’t heard of any. Now, people with licence to own guns are being asked to surrender the guns and licences while the bandits still hold onto theirs, it’s most unfortunate. But to be sincere, President Buhari may not be in support of all these but the body language is saying otherwise. I expect him to speak up and ensure perpetrators are brought to book. Whether it is Fulanisation or Islamisation as Obasanjo alleged, I don’t know but whatever happens, for us to have peace, let us go back to parliamentary system or let the regions go their separate ways and develop at their own pace.
I am very angry that we have enough riches to enjoy life, but we lack the most basic infrastructure. I will support anyone who is ready to look corruption eyeball to eyeball and fight it not minding whose ox is gored.
But we don’t need strong men, we need strong institutions.
But someone will head strong institutions! We have so many laws now that are not being implemented so we need a very honest strong man to ensure the laws are implemented; someone that will not favour anybody but follow due process in whatever he does. I know only God can give us such a person. Buhari will try but he is not the messiah we are looking for. My prayer is that God will give us somebody to lead this country. We don’t need to suffer because the wealth is there; or let God push everyone to their country if we can’t live together in peace. God knows what is best for us.
Plug the loopholes
We don’t know the real way to fight corruption. It’s not easy to fight corruption in a corrupt country. There is corruption in developed countries also but they plug the loopholes and once you are caught, you will be punished no matter who you are. I like Buhari as a person, I like a strong man who will fight corruption without looking back. If he asks me to join in the fight, I will, even if it will take my life. I know the only thing holding us back is corruption and we have to fight it. If it means going to hire professionals from abroad to help us, let’s do that.
We were arguing about Dame Patience Jonathan having billions in her account, some people asked whether she was the only one that stole. That may be true but we have to start from somewhere. People always rise to their defence. Left to me, if you are accused, go to court and clear your name, simple! Corruption must stop. Imagine one person stealing what could have been the country’s budget! Let’s continue to pray for Buhari. The TSA is one of the ways of plugging the loopholes and it is helping. It’s not easy to fight corruption but we must keep trying.
What was education like in those days?
The school system was superb. Acquiring education was not that expensive. I couldn’t go to the university because my parents could not afford it but even with Standard Six certificate, you could get a job. I could have been a teacher if I wanted but I preferred business. If you went to the university, before your graduation, you’ll have jobs, a car and a house waiting for you but now, the reverse is the case. Unemployment is high, our children are roaming the streets without jobs and that is the cause of the increase in cases of robbery, banditry, kidnapping, cultism etc.
How did we get here?
I am sorry to say, the black man is not honest and not trustworthy. We used to have N60 million budget in those days. There was no corruption as such but now, everything has changed. Even when they have billions of naira as budget, not much is used for developing the country. That is what is killing us.
Appointment by APC Govt
We are all Nigerians but the way the government is sharing their appointments is very poor. There is a lot of marginalisation. In President Buhari’s first tenure, he marginaslised the South-East so much. This time around, let him not marginalise anybody. They have done the elections for the NASS and I ask, where do you put the South-East people? Are we not Nigerians? If the South-Easterners are not Nigerians, then push them away, let them go and find their way. I don’t like the way things are. I had thought they would have given the South-East and a woman the Speakership position in the House of Reps. Hon. Nkiru Oyejeocha was very qualified in terms of the length of time she has spent in the House and what she has contributed. Women are supposed to support their own.
How can you say we are all one and then you treat one part badly because they didn’t vote for you? This is democracy. Immediately you become the president, everybody becomes your child, you treat everyone equally. I am appealing to President Buhari again, he is my man, I know as humans, we have our flaws but when you see things going wrong, you must speak up. As the PTF chairman, he built fantastic roads in the North and none in the East but I still pray for him because I think he is a serious-minded person. I try to follow serious people who do what they say. I will support any strong man that will rule this nation with iron fists to stop corruption.