ELDER statesman, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, has warned that the Northern agenda to continue to occupy the presidency by 2023 after President Muhammadu Buhari must have completed his eight years will create instability in the country. In this interview with Saturday Vanguard in Owerri, Chief Iwuanyanwu spoke on restructuring, border closure, common currency as well as the alleged persecution of Christians in the country among other issues.
There seems to be a plot for the Northern region to produce the Presidency in 2023 after the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari. What is your take on this?
My feeling is that they know the truth. I know that they know the correct thing. They know that the presidency has stayed eight years in the north and by the mutual agreement and by the consensus as agreed by politicians it will now come to the South. And in the South, we have the South West; we have South South and South East.
The South West has produced, South South has produced and it is only the South East that has not produced. So by every law of justice and equity it should be that of the South East. Any Nigerian who is a true Christian; any Nigerian who is a true Moslem will know that a good relationship can only survive when it is based on justice, honesty and fairness. I don’t think any true Christian or any true Moslem can say that the presidency should remain in the North because it should be in the South. You can’t build an election on falsehood. I understand the reason Jonathan, an incumbent lost, was because he had an agreement with the North to let him serve the residue of the tenure of late Musa Yar’Adua.
But that was not known to us in the party. And you could see that when he lost nobody went to court. Even those of us who are leaders of the party did not go to court because we felt if we had known there was such an agreement we couldn’t have allowed him to contest at all. The truth about it is that the honest politicians, the genuine politicians in this country, those who want to preserve the unity of this country will not say that the presidency should be in the North. It should be in the South.
So, what is expected of the South East region to do in pursuit of this project?
The issue now is that the South East should talk to the South South, South West, and the Northern region and prevail on them to allow us have the presidency in 2023. And I want to reiterate the importance of this journey. Zoning is a very key element in the unity of this country and the reason is this; before 1st January 1914, we had Northern and Southern Nigeria but on the 1st of January, Lord Luggard amalgamated these two regions. Obviously, there are cultural, religious and ethnic differences, there are many differences. Under normal condition people should come together and agree on how they would accept the federation but it was not done. Now, it has created a problem; in subsequent years one part is larger and can procreate more by marrying many wives while the other part by their religion and culture cannot marry too many wives and can’t get many children. I believe that the population in the North is bigger than that of the South because if people can have four wives and get too many children why will their population not be much. If there was a negotiation at the conclusion of the amalgamation in 1914, people in the South could have negotiated a formula that will make them have a say in the affairs of this country and not to allow only one part to dominate. The danger in any federation where one part is dominating is that even that one part that is dominating cannot be comfortable. It is just like in a situation where only one man is rich and any other person is poor, you cannot be comfortable. The truth about everything in life is fairness, equity; live and let’s live. Let there be fairness.
So what really happened as of then?
I think when our founding fathers went for the 1953 constitutional conference they agreed that they should have a true federal structure where each of the federating units would have autonomy. The People have their ethnic differences, this was accepted by everybody. The North, East and West accepted it because there were three regions then. Unfortunately, the military intervention in the country’s political history set Nigeria backward because the government that took off in 1960 was probably the best Nigeria ever had. If that government was allowed to stay, Nigeria could have been better than India today because India and Nigeria got their independence around the same time and you see where they are today. That government was toppled by a military coup which most of us regarded as most irresponsible and you know of course the aftermath; the crises, the pogrom, the civil war and all sorts of problems that we have had.
What will you then say of the Second republic?
When we entered the second republic, the Nigeria leaders came together and decided that zoning should be part of our system that can strengthen us and foster unity of Nigeria. But again, the military toppled that government, which is another problem. Positions during the second republic were shared accordingly and fairly. It appears we are seeing a different thing from what happened in the first and second Republic. Today, we are seeing a situation where some people are saying after the North has been power for eight years they should continue for another eight years. I think that will be creating a situation for crises, creating room for disaffection, creating a situation for instability and problem in this country and I think any true patriot, the one who loves Nigeria, as much as I do will not say that. I have been honoured by this country several times; I had scholarship from this country. I love Nigeria. Most of my friends are from the North and South West. Many of my true friends who have supported me are not even from the South East. They are from the North and West. The truth about Nigeria is that we have come a long way, over the years to come and live in peace and harmony, and I have seen that Nigeria is one of the best countries in the world. I don’t want any generation of political leaders to come and destroy this country for us.
So what is to be the way out?
I think it is a very simple thing. The zoning system must continue and I want people to realize that this issue of restructuring is not just important for ethnic harmony but also for development, especially, now that it is getting clear that oil in the next few years will lose its relevance. I want to caution, every month we go to Abuja to share money, over eighty percent of the money we share is from oil. In about five years time the story will be different. Because I have read in the papers that most factories have started producing engines and machines that don’t use fossil oil. So, in the next few years, it is going to be very difficult. The restructuring must start now. It is in the interest of the federating units so that we can now look inwards instead of looking towards the allocation. There is no state in the thirty six states and Abuja that has not got agricultural potentials that if harnessed can sustain them economically. In fact many countries of the world base their economy on non-oil like agriculture. I think that restructuring is one of the greatest things that can happen to this country but unfortunately, some people have been playing politics with it, arguing that it is about denying anybody anything. No, restructuring will make the state to be more developed and create employment in the states. It will stop everybody from rushing to Abuja, people will now stay in their states and develop them and the purpose for which states were created will be realized.
There is this perception that Christians are being persecuted in this country. Do you think this is true?
Let me tell you clearly, there is no persecution of Christians in Nigeria but isolated case of fanatics. Many of my Moslem friends have come to stay with me. The truth is that we cannot look at the characters of a few criminals, bad people and generalize. The problem we have is with these jihadists and these jihadists are not Nigerians. They are like a sect of Islamic religion who are coming from outside and infiltrating the citizens of this country. The true Moslems in Nigeria are not part of Boko Haram, and what worries me is that we are allowing them to come in and bring their supplies. They are fighting and killing our people with arms. How do they bring in these arms and ammunitions through our borders? Why do we allow them to bring in these sophisticated arms through our borders. Ordinarily, Nigerians want to live in peace. What I am questioning is that the government should be aware that there is a new wave of Moslem insurgence, a jihadists group that probably wants to convert the country. I suspect that the plan of these jihadists,is to expand their territory. I have experience in military operations; they don’t intend to take over the whole country at a time.
So what are their plans?
Their plan is to get the North West and North East, they want to get those areas and see it as a launching pad before they consolidate. I have carried out my investigation and their plan is not to overrun Nigeria, because they know that they cannot overrun Nigeria. They want to get the North East and North West as their own Islamic states and they will then attack the middle belt. I have heard of so many statements from this government and I said that this war cannot be won by bombing of people. Nigeria should identify which country these people are coming from and declare those countries as hostile territories. Possibly, we can launch attack on these people from their base instead of concentrating the attacks on these people in just this place. If we want to attack we should go to where they are coming from and bomb there. Just like America, once they see a place that is supplying those things they will go and attack the place.
Now, what steps do you think the Federal government should take?
I think the Federal government should go and bomb the areas where they are coming from, attacking them here does not make any sense to me. Because, they are killing innocent Nigerians, and those who are the sponsors are safe in their homes. I think the Nigeria government should take the attacks to the base of the people that are sponsoring them with. I am sure that in this 2020 the Nigeria government should use new strategy and tell the world that we are going to attack these people from their base and we have known their bases. I know that other countries, like America, Britain, and Russia will support Nigeria by reinforcing the Air Force. It is not by land operation, it is by Air operation and I believe that all other countries in the world against terrorism will give their support. If you bomb these people there, soften the ground, they will be afraid to come in but if you continue to have skirmishes here in Nigeria, they will overrun the place. The security agencies have done well and if not for the effort they have put in, they would have overrun the place. And the government must get clearance from United nation, and other international bodies and if they continue to launch attacks on the terrorist base then we will reduce the tension in our place and they will want to go back and defend their base.
Do you support the land border closure by the Federal Government?
Land border closure is very good. But it is not effective in the North from what I can see. But the border closure is the greatest decision that this government has taken. No country in the world will allow its security to be undermined by foreigners intruding. We know that those who are attacking us are foreigners so why do we leave our bothers open? You know that they are destroying our economy why then do we leave our borders open, no country in the World can do it.
What is your take on the proposed common currency for West Africa?
I have heard of some of these economic experts talking about common currency. I don’t believe in it and Nigeria should not embark on this journey of common currency. If Nigerians have signed it I advice that they should withdraw. All the countries around us are very, they will drag us down. Already we are in a very big difficulty. I think Nigerian should withdraw from this common currency for West Africa.
What do you think of the proposed Federal Government policy of visa on
I am glad that it is a statement and it has not been implemented that people should come in without visa. Please, it is a very dangerous situation because our population already is over two hundred million. And once they come in here you don’t know who is a foreigner and who is a Nigerian. They are creating a lot of problems for us, they are stressing our economy. If go to any construction site in Nigeria, I have checked over 30 percent of construction workers, carpenters, bricklayers, they are foreigners. So, I don’t see why we should fold our hands. I think that we should say Nigerians first because we are already facing a lot of problems.
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