Former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, has decried the policy of raw injustice being meted against members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) in the South Eastern part of the country.
Ezeife, who called on President Muhammadu Buhari to rethink the logic in the policy of using a sledge-hammer to crush harmless ants, remarked in an interview that the constant arrests, detention and frequent killing of harmless activists, pressure groups and campaigners, has the capacity of invariably pushing them to adopt stiff resistance as a means of self defence.
Sir, how would you justify the Federal Government’s recent offensive against MASSOB and Radio Biafra?MASSOB is primarily a pressure group which doesn’t go with arms. They have never been armed. I don’t know what the recent upsurge in the attack means. Recently in Onitsha, 12 youths who participated in peaceful demonstration were killed and many injured by the Police.
And also there were those who went to church to celebrate their anniversary, and Police went killing and maiming them. This is uncalled for; I don’t know whether to call this injustice or another form of genocide against the people.
This people are protesting injustices to the Igbo. They talk about Biafra and it is only now that politicians are picking interest in what they are doing. Though they have made some mistakes in the past to have prevented our people from being counted during the population census, which was a major loss to our area. But to kill people when they stage peaceful demonstration is genocidal.
But some of the Igbo leaders are also guilty of not giving adequate support to pan-Igbo group for justice?The problem with MASSOB is that they are not fully accepted by mainstream Igbo politicians because you cannot be asking that you want to be President of Nigeria and say you want disintegration from Nigeria.
In fact, some northerners are capitalising on this because they know the truth and tend to use it against the Igbo political interest and now Buhari is growing MASSOB by his disposition towards the Igbo people since assumption of office.
He seems to be saying you people can go, I don’t care, and even one of the Buhari strong supporters, Alhaji Junaidu Muhammed made it clear in one of his recent outbursts.
What do you think is the way out of this?This is a major problem not too good for the polity and I don’t know how it would be solved, but killing people, committing pogrom and genocide against those who are going for mass to worship their God, all of them is indeed incitement of MASSOB against the nation by the authorities.
Moreover, I will want to discourage people from linking up Radio Biafra with MASSOB. They are two different things. Radio Biafra is an individual effort being made to express the progress of the Igbo people.
Taking a look at Buhari administration’s appointment so far, some say it is a call to anarchy. How would you advise Buhari, if you see it differently?My brother, a lot has been said about recent appointments. Sometimes, people don’t understand. They think there can be amendments, but where will the amendment come from;
we have the President, the Vice, Senate President, Chief Justice and Speaker of House of Representative and Secretary to the government. These are six major appointments in a country that has six geopolitical zones. Even those who are not Igbos believe the SGF should have come from the region.
Ogbonnaya Onu is a rightful man being a party member. So, the moment that was taken away, there is nothing left with which to compensate the Igbos. I even looked at the list of ministers; I am told that also has been skewed in favour of the North than Southerners.
Having said that, what are you the elder-statesmen, especially of the southern extraction, doing to call Buhari administration to order?The problem is that Buhari is threatening the unity of Nigeria. This was seen very early. In one of Buhari’s interviews with Al-jazeera, I even have it in my Watsup where a woman asked President Buhari a question and what Buhari said was that there is this idea that you don’t prospect diversity of Nigeria. He said, there are Northern groups he understands and others he doesn’t understand.
Taking a look at that and what he tells you is that he is not pursuing a northern agenda, and yet the North West is dominating everywhere. So, what else are you telling the people that are not part of the system? What message are you passing?
Can you advise him on amendment for the nation to move on?Buhari cannot make any amendments. He does not want to make any amendments. He has a programme we don’t know and he continues with it. I understand that the Boko Haram prisoners sent to the East are still there in spite of all the promises we got and many people are still thinking that this is a ploy towards Islamisation of the country.
The plan is that Boko Haram will be in prison, brainwashed other prisoners and overtime, there will be a jail break and they all will go inside towns spreading ISIS gospels and agenda, though God is in charge.
*** As a Harvard-trained economist, do you share the view that delay in ministerial appointment has negative implication on economy?
I have said my mind that Buhari has committed impeachable offenses already. He is not supposed to run the country like a dictator. In fact, most of his actions should be based on Federal Executive Council decision.
Are you saying no other areas this government has done better, even without FEC in place?There are some clear policies like the anti-corruption policy, and there are some glimpses of implied policy by actions taken by government, which also are good. I call those ones clear policies. Buhari can change Nigeria if only he pursues the anti-corruption crusade to its logical end.
Even today, there are changes in the Nigerian system – people are thinking before they act. I don’t think there is anybody stealing oil by now, that has been put under control. Anything you are doing in Nigeria with impunity before now is being done with great fear now.
So, if Buhari wants to succeed in this war against corruption, he should adopt ‘do as I do’ principle, what I mean by ‘I’ includes his immediate family and those associates around him. If he keeps himself clean and pursues those who are corrupt, but not Saraki.
You just mentioned Saraki. Do you share from the views that Saraki is innocent of the charges against him?Saraki might be the most corrupt person now, but pursuing it the way it is being done is not corruption fight. It is politics, and that will even reduce the credibility of anti-corruption offensive. I will want the media to help us appeal to Nigerians, let them leave Saraki alone.
If Saraki had not been Senate President, all this harassment including the one against his wife will never have been there. Moreover, it is even like thuggery and armed robbery on the invasion of government house in Akwa Ibom.
They should return what they take from that place and make apology. These are not acts of fighting corruption. In fact it is the height of corruption on its own, corrupting the system with appointment, corrupting the system with impunity and pursuing somebody who has not too much.
What other areas do you think Buhari has excelled?Another thing is upon assumption of office, there was a recommendation to Buhari for immediate scrapping of fuel subsidy regime, but Buhari rejected it, which was a very wise decision.
I also monitor a television programme, where some sound elements of what to be Buhari’s policy on Petroleum pricing would look like; I must confess to you that is the best thing that can happen to Nigeria because the cost of petroleum products affects virtually everything you do.
You are a member of the 2014 National Confab, the ovation seem to be dying over its recommendations implementation. What is your view?The permanence of one Nigeria depends on implementation of the recommendations of the confab. A President is for four years, a party rules for some years, but the country is forever if it is well structure.
What the 2014 conference does is to restructure Nigeria to the happiness of the majority of Nigeria, the core North disagreed with some of the recommendations simply because going by the status quo, they have advantage over others. If the core North thinks deeply, they will realise that these advantages will kill Nigeria. They should notice that what makes Nigeria thick was the amalgamation.
What amalgamation meant is to use the surplus of the South to cover the deficit of the North, and today, the deficit of the North is wider than the deficit in the 1940s, Assuming we don’t have amalgamation, all the houses built by Igbos in Kaduna and Kano, Lagos and every single town in Nigeria, even the majority of the houses in Abuja belong to the southerners.
But we need to look back at what the host communities think about us, whether what they think about us is correct, my suggestion is that we should find a way to improve our relationship with the host communities.
Do you have anything to add as regards the political future and fortunes of the Igbo nation for equity and justice?We have been more united than any other Nigerian group, but if we have never been President how do you expect unity in the land. Unity lies in the polity and the offices you are holding.
If you are President everyone knows you are the President, but if you have not been in power, there is the tendency of you to be scattered. But that is not enough for the Igbos to nurse grudges. We must do more; the Igbos must learn how to speak with one voice.
Though, our people don’t know that some people are working overtime on how to move our region forward. If those people survive, the economy of the South East and the South South will be so massively developed that nobody from that area will look outside for economic survival. Though a gradual process, it may be 20 years but we shall get there, and we hope our people are listening.
As for the system, sometimes you think you are doing something damning to your people, you end up waking them up from their slumber just as Buhari is waking the Igbos up now, and I can assure you that this intervention may become a blessing in disguise.