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Open grazing: Northern governors have given Nigerians hope –Ezeife

By Sunday Ani

Former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife has joined other well meaning Nigerians to sound a note of warning of the imminent descent of the country to anarchy and disintegration if an urgent step is not taken to halt the trend. He noted that things were falling apart in Nigeria and that the only way out would be to go back to God in prayers.
In this interview, he spoke on other nagging national issues.

The recent kidnap of secondary school students in Niger State brings to four the number of such incidents. The first was in Chibok and then in Dapchi (Borno State), Kankara in Katsina and now in Niger State. How did we get to a point where some criminals will get into our secondary schools, abduct as many students as they want and disappear without any form of resistance by the security agents?
The question is very difficult to answer, but I think the system has collapsed. I wish I don’t have anybody to blame but it appears the Federal Government is somehow masterminding the breakdown and disintegration of Nigeria. I say so because on this security matter, not even one person has been arrested, tried and punished for committing crime. Take the issue of the herdsmen; they are walking around and doing things that should not be done and I am told that they are bold because their man is on top of the situation. So, insecurity has become the order of the day in Nigeria. It is not easy to answer any question on insecurity because it is everywhere. What are you going to say? But, there is a good tiding; the Northern Governors have provided the basis for hope in Nigeria and for Nigerians.

How do you mean?
They said that people should be punished for doing the wrong thing. That is number one. Number two, they summoned the courage to ban open grazing just like their counterparts in the Southeast and Southwest did. That provides a basis for hope. We just hope that it is also not too late.

The Minister of defence has just told Nigerians that they should defend themselves against terrorists and bandits. People have argued that the Minister’s statement simply means acceptance of failure to secure lives and property of Nigerians by the government. Do you agree with this line of thought?
Well, I didn’t hear him say so but if he said so, it is an acceptance that they cannot do better. It is also a repeat of what the president said earlier that they are doing their best. And we have seen that their best is not good enough. It is difficult to know what to say when you are in government and you don’t seem to care about what happens to the people, whether it is their welfare or their safety. Many people accuse me of not talking as much as I used to talk in the past, but what is there to say now that has not been said? It is only becoming clear to people who were not thinking in the past. If you look at the government and see what the government is doing, you will clearly see that the Federal Government is the force pushing Nigeria to disintegration. Somehow, the government does not like the Igbo people and I think what they are trying to do is to push the Igbo out of Nigeria. But, I don’t know what they will gain if they push the Igbo out of Nigeria. And there is no longer any doubt at all about this project to pull Igbo down, and push them out of Nigeria. From projects to appointments and everything about the Federal Government is as if Igbo don’t exist and should not be recognised at all. If you were now to go and do a referendum in the South East, and the question is Biafra or Nigeria; there will be more than 90 percent who will vote for Biafra. And some of us who are talking about one Nigeria with restructuring are made to look like we are not thinking because the Federal Government is piling reasons upon reasons to say quit Nigeria if you are Igbo. But, some of us think it is wrong and for me I believe that no part of Nigeria, no group in Nigeria can gain by moving out; not the Fulani, not the Igbo. In fact, the Fulani will suffer most from the disintegration of Nigeria. So, I want people to think long range before any action. My people, the Igbo should think long range. The Fulani should think long range, otherwise how can the Fulani, particularly the Miyetti Allah be saying that every inch of Nigeria was given to them by God? They are not autochthonous Nigeria; they are not original Nigeria, and now the people who are dominating the news as herdsmen are people who have come without a visa. I think it is time for every group to think about their long term interest.

What do you make of the call by the Senate on the president to declare a state of emergency on security? Is that all the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can do at this critical moment?
Well, we have been repeating the same thing all over the place because it is so bad and we are in it. In declaring a state of emergency, will you put a curfew on the whole country? What sort of state of emergency do they want? We are already in a state of emergency, whether declared or not. There is an emergency in security; you can take action without declaration of emergency. The Minister of defence is said to have asked Nigerians to defend themselves; how do you defend yourself? The same government said nobody should carry weapons. And part of the same government said the herdsmen have a right to carry weapons. So, I don’t know, things are falling apart in Nigeria and it is no longer a story. Things are falling apart and the only way out is to go back to God in prayer.

You said things are falling apart. The former Head of State, Gen Abdusalami Abubakar also said that anarchy and disintegration are spreading in Nigeria and unless an urgent action is taken, Nigeria would soon get to a point of no return.
Northern elders have also warned the president that the country is on fire and that he should do something fast just like many other Nigerians and leaders have done in the recent time. This shows that many Nigerians believe that the country’s leadership has failed in its primary responsibility of protecting lives and property.

If that is so, shouldn’t the National Assembly be talking about impeachment of the president now? Why is nobody talking about resignation or impeachment?
The system does not work; an elected governor was removed from office by the Supreme Court. What else? There is nothing that works. Impeachment does not work anymore because everything has gone amiss. The people in the House of Representatives and Senate are Nigerians. They are experiencing what we are experiencing. The Nigeria system does not work anymore. Abdusalami Abubakar’s statement is correct. The same thing with what Bishop Matthew Kukah has also said in the past. There is nobody who thinks that things are working well with us as a nation. And some of us are thinking that the thing has been on for too long. We thought that a change of mind somehow by the leadership would have occurred by now or if it doesn’t occur, then other changes should occur. But, it is not easy for people like me to risk thinking so negatively about Nigeria because I believe that God doesn’t make mistakes. And God gave Nigeria the greatest gift of all in every respect, whether it is climate, human resources, material resources, mineral resources, plants and animals among others. And God gave us all these things so that we develop to become a shining star making the black man proud. That is my assessment of what God planned for us but it is man that has been ruining everything. The British cannot be blamed forever. The only thing that can happen now is for God to take control and change things as He likes. The heart of the king is in the hands of God; He can change the heart of the king and Buhari will become somebody different. He can begin to think about Nigeria and forget his narrow interest in, perhaps, region or ethnicity.

There seems to be discordant tunes among the Igbo about the 2023 presidency. While some people think it is the turn of the Southeast Igbo to produce the next president in 2023, very many others from the region are also saying they are no longer interested in the presidency but in a restructured Nigeria. What does the South East want – a restructured Nigeria or presidency in 2023?
The Igbo people want to be assured that they are regarded as Nigerians. That is why they are saying that they must have the presidency because all other sections of the country have had it. Now, there is no conflict between restructuring and getting the presidency. If restructuring is not done before 2023 and an Igbo emerges president in 2023, he will restructure. So, it is not exactly a conflict situation but it is better that the present government engages in emergency restructuring strategy because that will save us from disintegration. We have six zones now and to avoid conflict; we can say let every zone become two so that we can have 12 regions or zones fairly independent like they were before 1966. And that was how we were when the World Bank said that some part of Nigeria was growing faster than the rest of the world. Do we prefer becoming the poverty capital of the world to growing faster than the rest of the world? The present structure has made us the poverty capital of the world whereas the World Bank itself has declared us as growing faster than the rest of the world. Which do we want – the structure that makes for growth or the present structure that makes for poverty and insecurity? So, some people misunderstand the system. Many Igbo ask; what can you do with the presidency as things stand now? Well, the president can change what is going on now; so it is not a very good argument. Everybody knows what we want. Some people were against restructuring because they thought it was synonymous with resource control. Resource control may be an element of restructuring but it is not restructuring. It is not true that if you restructure, oil revenue will not go to the North again. That is not true. If you restructure, we must strive for sufficient independent revenue for every level of government and for as long as oil remains important in the scheme of things in the West, every part of the country will be getting something from it. And at worst, we nationalise oil to make sure the people on whose land we are mining it get more.


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