•Says it’s sad one tribe controls security of 250 ethnic groups
By Steve Oko
Former Nigeria Ambassador to Argentina, and Second Republic member of the House of Representatives, Ambassador Empire Kanu, in this interview, submits that only equitable restructuring of Nigeria will end the growing agitation for self-determination. He also warns on what will happen if security agencies refuse to implement the anti-open grazing law passed by most Southern states. Excerpts:
Do you think the ban by Southern governors on open grazing is workable?
Yes it is. If the governors who are the Chief Security Officers in their respective states have unanimously said so, why won’t it work?
But do you see it being enforced considering the apparent indifference of the police which recently said they had to receive orders from the Inspector General of Police first before acting?
Why is it not enforceable? It has to be put into action first and let them stop it let’s see. There will be anarchy in the country if it’s not enforced. Why would a lawful law passed by State Assemblies not be implemented? It has to be implemented.
Most of Northerners are not even in support of open grazing. Most Northern governors are not in support of it at all. It’s only the few masterminds. The truth is that anyone opposing ant-open grazing law is the chief enemy of Nigeria.
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Having served in Argentina globally reputed for cow production, do you think Nigeria needs open grazing? Is there no technology Nigeria can borrow from Argentina on this?
Open grazing is very primitive. I served in Argentina and I never saw cow roaming the streets. I never saw cows wandering into homes, parliaments, churches, schools or any home at all. Cows are caged and you have what you call cattle breeding by artificial insemination.
I have personally offered this system which is in vogue in South America and Europe. You don’t roam about with cows in any sane society; it’s a primitive practice.
Argentina ships tons of beef and dairy products to different countries because of artificial insemination, but here in Nigeria we don’t even produce enough for local consumption, yet cows are causing havoc everywhere.
Have you suggested the artificial insemination technology to either federal or state governments before?
Yes I have suggested it everywhere both to the federal government and to my state, but you know, people don’t want anything that will take a fews years to mature. They want immediate harvest.
Artificial insemination is the technology they use to breed cows in thousands. In Argentina, they have farms in hectares – they grow their feed on the farm (soya, corns), they also have medical section to take care of the cows which are barricaded. This is what you call ranching.
Considering the rising wave of insecurity across the geopolitical zones, what kind of future do you foresee for Nigeria?
The future of this country is bleak; it’s not good. Only a few people are causing this havoc. They don’t see anything good about the country. They have an agenda but their agenda should not be allowed.
Cattle rearers have been around the country for decades and there has not been any problem. Why are they now causing problem everywhere?
Let’s look at small Ghana. This type of problem almost happened in Ghana but their President said ‘stop’, and it stopped! So, if our President says ‘stop’, it will stop.
Do you think South East governors are doing enough to stop herdsmen menace in the zone?
I’m not in their shoes but I have heard what they have said. Because the President has overriding authority, what will the governors do?
If the governor says what he wants and the authority in Abuja says a different thing, then let the people decide what they want. If the governor is acting in the interest of the people, then it’s up to the people to rise in support of their governor.
What is your take on the vilification of Gov. Samuel Ortom of Benue State over his hard stance against open grazing?
The Benue Governor is doing the right thing, and does not deserve the buffeting he receives. He is speaking for his people and they are supporting him. So, let the other governors do the same thing and see if the people will not come out to support them.
The Presidency has claimed that the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, is amassing weapons, vowing to crush the group. What do you make of this allegation especially in view of the disturbing viral video of nothern bandits displaying a cache of dangerous weapons ostensibly stolen from security forces?
It’s wrong to leave the real bandits and begin to point accusing fingers elsewhere. I think IPOB is only after self-determination of Biafran. And if you say you want self rule there must be a reason for that.
We are saying restructure but you don’t want to restructure. So, what do you want them to do? They talk, you say they are carrying arms; they do simply protest, you say they are disturbing the peace. What do you want them to do? There must be freedom of speech and freedom of association. How do unknown gunmen translate to IPOB? Tell that to the Marines.
Why are we not deploying drones in the fight against insecurity? If we are having party or social event that will be done; if we are playing football there is a drone.
But when we are dealing with insecurity there will be no drone. Who is deceiving who? If they deploy drones all these things will fizzle out and Nigeria will have peace.
How would you react to the recent attack on the Nigeria Defence Academy by bandits?
It appears like a written script is playing out. If we have drones that attack would not have been possible. Something is really funny.
Since the leader of IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu was ‘abducted’ and forcefully brought back to Nigeria, the Igbo elite have not openly identified with him unlike their Yoruba counterparts who do not hide their sympathy and support for the Yoruba freedom fighter, Sunday Ighoho. What do you think is the problem?
You say Igbo elite are not supporting Kanu, am I not an elite? Am I not saying he should be released? Is Senator Abaribe not saying he should be released?
Is it just few of you?
When we talk, where does that one end? It’s not the elite anymore but the masses. The people now control the power. It’s the masses who should come out and demand his release.
What is your take on the suspended Ghost Mondays earlier declared by IPOB to press home for Kanu’s unconditional release as some say the action will cripple what remains of the South-East economy?
Obviously it’s not good for Eastern economy, and if you cripple the economy of South- East, have you crippled the economy of other zones? People who depend on their daily sweat for survival won’t find it funny.
Somebody is presumed innocent until convicted by the court. The case of Nnamdi Kanu is very sensitive, and government should handle it with caution.
Are you not worried that 2023 is almost here but the major political parties do not yet seem to be looking the direction of the South East for their presidential flag bearer?
My party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has not decided where the presidency will go. As a stakeholder, when the time comes we shall all be there to decide on that. Everybody knows the ticket is supposed to come to the South East.
It has almost gone round and when the time comes we shall look in their face to know why it should not come to South-East that has not tasted it. People say it should be made open but we tell them let it go round first before it can be made open to all. The fear that if power if given to South East they might turn to be like Buhari is unfounded.
Could you compare your days in the House of Representatives and now?
I was in the House of Representatives from 1977-1983. There is no basis for comparison. Then, there was discipline in party. Elected members then stuck to party manifesto but today what do we see? We have PDP lawmakers supporting APC like we saw during the voting on electronic transmission of election results.
What is your take on Abia charter of equity vis-a-vis power shift in 2023?
I’m one of the signatories to Abia charter of Equity. We have an understanding but the issue is that every time the quest for governoship comes up every zone comes out but at the end of the day we still go on rotation arrangement.
So, let’s leave it until that time, the party will decide. And if PDP does not get it right and APC gets it right, APC wins the election. It first went to the North before coming to the Central and then to the South. In 2023, it should naturally return to the North.
What is your take on the multiple security check-points across South East zone?
They should be dismantled. Let them withdraw and leave the states let’s see what will happen. They are causing nuisance. Let them withdraw so that states can put their local vigilante if necessary.
How would you advise the federal government on the growing clamour for restructuring amidst increasing agitation for self determination?
It’s time to restructure. Nigerians should the restructuring movement, and if need be, self rule.
Do you mean Nigerians should support self-rule?
What is wrong with that? Why are there agitations here and there? It’s because the country is skewed in favour of the North. Nigeria is dangerously skewed to favour the North. If there is equitable restructuring there will be no agitation for self determination in Nigeria.
Look at the entire security architecture of the country now in the hands of a section of the North. Just one particular tribe controlling the security of over 250 tribes, is it fair? So, why won’t people seek self rule?
If you talk of federal infrastructure, it is the same thing. They built railway in the North, built refinery in the North. This is the cause of the agitations. So, the reason for self determination by various groups is that they have seen that Nigeria does not want equity. A certain section of the country wants to impose on the rest of the country that it owns Nigeria.
The constitution that Britain left for us was much better than what we have now. Then, the resources in your region were used to develop the region and little percentage paid to the centre. That was why there was healthy competition among regions then.
Why do we have to change that? Then things were far better. Now, even if they don’t want to do anything, let them return Nigeria to what it was then.
How right was former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who recently said that the cost of keeping Nigeria was cheaper than breaking it up?
When you are together you achieve more but when you are small what you get is small. But when you have people who do not share the same interest, what do you get? Negative results! I fault Obasanjo’s position.
Are you recommending peaceful dissolution of the country into manageable monolingual and cultural nations?
If Nigeria is restructured nobody will be agitating for self rule. Restructure the country equitably there will be peace.
How can you take the resources from the South and develop the North and the South not getting anything in return except exclusion?