Ernest Elochukwu, politician and businessman: Why insecurity persists in Nigeria

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Ernest Elochukwu, former National President, Association of Nigeria Customs Licence Agents (ANLCA) and a former aspirant for the House of Representatives has adduced reasons for the seeming love for Peter Obi, Presidential Candidate of Labour Party (LP) by many Nigerians, especially the youths.

In this interview with DICKSON OKAFOR, the Chairman/CEO Nestello Gateways Group said the inability of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) to end insecurity in the past seven and a half years and the worsening economic crisis would change the voting pattern in Nigeria next year. He speaks about other burning issues

In spite of efforts and claims by the government, insecurity in the country has been on the rise. Why do you think the situation persists?

It is a known fact that the primary responsibility of government is security of life and property of the citizens and any government that is unable to meet this obligation has no business being in power. Yes, like you rightly observe, there are factors responsible for unrest and insecurity in any nation. They include unemployment, injustice, corruption and bad leadership. We all know how insecurity began in a large scale which both the past and present governments are finding difficult to tame.  It began when politicians started to engage some youths as political thugs. They were well armed to ensure their principals win elections presently and in the past. And after using them to win elections, their principals dumped them without retrieving the arms from them. So, they get themselves employed with their guns. That was how Boko Haram and other gangs spring up. Today, it beats our imagination how terrorists, bandits and kidnappers are operating in the country with impunity.  However, I was elated when I heard that some of the gunmen that attacked and killed some worshippers in a Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State on a Sunday morning have been arrested.

So, the rising wave of insecurity in the country has made most Nigerians to lose interest in this government. This trend prompted some federal lawmakers to threaten to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari even though it came late, after Buhari has ruled the country for seven and half years. It is a sign that Nigerians are not happy with the government. We are surprised that the federal lawmakers suddenly realised that innocent Nigerians are being killed every day in all parts of country unabated.  To me, there is nothing more than meet the eyes in the fight against insecurity. Majority of our youths are jobless, their parents cannot meet their needs with the petty businesses they do. Some geo political zones in the country are marginalised by the government.

As I speak to you over 20million Nigeria University students are at home because of ASUU strike. The nation has no conducive environment for businesses to thrive because of lack of steady power supply. Today, cost of living is high in a nation that cannot create jobs for its citizens. That is why many believe that from the look of things, it seems insurgents have overpowered the military and other security agencies. I will advice the lawmakers to allow President Buhari complete his tenure. However, it is let for us to elect a President in 2023 that is competent and capable to address all these challenges irrespective of political party, tribe or religion.

Many have called for disbanding of the Ebubeagu security outfit after recent killing of youths returning from a wedding in Imo State. What is your view?

It is not only a source of concern to me, it is worrisome to the entire people of the South-East. It’s a pity that this inhuman act could be carried out by the Ebubeagu that the entire citizens in the South-East are looking up to protect them from the unknown gunmen. Unfortunately, they are now perceived by the people as killers of political opponents of their principals. This shouldn’t be the perception if Ebubeagu had arrested them if actually they were members of the unknown gunmen as they alleged instead of killing them on the spot. I want to use this medium to condole the families of the victims. However, the Ebubeagu was formed by the South-East governors to put an end to the activities of the unknown gunmen that are killing our people. I call on the governors to take a second look at the security outfit if they are actually securing innocent citizens or they are being used to hunt political opponents of certain individuals in the zone. As I said earlier, it would have been better if they were arrested and interrogated. Maybe they would have revealed so much that would enable Ebubeagu to arrest more of their members. But a situation whereby innocent citizens are afraid of being killed by the Ebubeagu unjustly is worrisome and should be condemned by the South-East governors. Yes, some people can disguise as law abiding citizens, but in reality they are among those terrorising South-East geo political zone.

Why do you think the economic crisis in the country is biting so hard?

No doubt, Nigeria’s economy under President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch is in shambles. The value of the naira has gone down drastically as cost of goods, materials and service is on top of the mountain. Therefore, this time Nigerians are no longer interested in sweet and encouraging campaign promises. We won’t be impressed with well drafted manifestos. Because In 2015 and 2019 the All Progressives Congress (APC) made wonderful promises to Nigerians which made the electorate to vote massively for Muhammadu Buhari as President. They told us that fuel subsidy was a fraud, that they would reduce the price of fuel and the rate of foreign exchange to N1 to $1. They promised to repair our refineries which they say would create massive employment opportunities for our youths. Today, we all can see that before the inception of the present administration it was N240 to a dollar, but today it is N740 to a dollar. None of the refineries is repaired since has been in power. All consumable items have skyrocketed in price to the extent that many Nigerians are finding it difficult to feed. Even transport fare is so high that the salaries of Nigeria workers cannot take them home. So, President Buhari understands that Nigerians are in pain while trying to get a square meal. That is why he said workers need to earn more. My brother, there is anger in the land because people are hungry. It is not difficult to revive our economy, but because our leaders are selfish and self-centred, that is why they allow people twist the nation’s economy to their favour at the detriment of the masses. For instance, according to a recent revelation by the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, Nigeria is spending over N18billion every month on fuel subsidy by the same government that called fuel subsidy fraud during their campaign in 2015. The moment they suspended the Bureau de change operators, few people hijacked it and that is the reason why exchange rate is now about N700 to a dollar. Therefore, I’m appealing to Nigerians to set aside tribe and religion and vote for credible, competent and capable person as our next President for national interest.     

READ ALSO: PDP Deputy Chairman Dumps Party, Sends Letter to Ayu

There are three outstanding candidates in the presidential race, Ahmed Bola Tinubu of APC, Atiku Abubakar of PDP and Peter Obi of LP. Which do you think is competent to address some of the challenges facing the nation?

Thank you for this important question which is begging for an answer. I said I’m not supporting Peter Obi because he is from Igbo land, but because he is exceptional and competent. That is exactly his driving force and that is why Nigeria youths are backing him.  I won’t support anybody to vote for Peter Obi because he is an Igbo man, but because he is capable to lead the country as President. What Nigerians are looking for in 2023 is a man that can change the nation’s political narrative because it is strong institutions handed down by strong people that always make the difference between order and chaos. It has become clear to all that the problem with Nigeria’s political process or system is not only bad leadership, but also followership. However, the former President of Nigeria and one of our founding fathers, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe gave an insight to what is true leadership in one of his speeches. He said: “I regard politics as synonymous with public service buttressed by a sincere desire to make life in this country worthwhile for all who lives within its borders.”

Therefore, political strength of any party or individual is measured by the people. So many things are going wrong in the country because politicians can’t fulfil their campaign promises. Also, Chinua Achebe said “Nigeria is what it is because its leaders are not what they should be”. It is the earnest prayer and cry of the electorate to have robust representatives and leaders in elective and appointive positions who will better their wellbeing. Right now the electorate have woken up the present reality and have decided to elect the candidate of the Labour Party (LP) Peter Obi as President of Nigeria in 2023.   The society has gotten to the point where everybody has a right, but nobody has a responsibility.

Today, the general desire of the electorate is to vote for Peter Obi because they trust him more than the other Presidential candidates in the race. Yes, to be trusted is a great compliment than the fake love our political leaders have been showing us through campaign promises. Peter Obi’s activities have not been fake. His antecedent shows that he is competent, capable and prepared to build a new Nigeria of our dream.

With the situation of the country now, we need Peter Obi as an exceptional person to get the country out of the wood. The people believe he will bring succour to the people. We know the background information on the other Presidential candidates, but Peter Obi stands heads and shoulder above them. Nigeria needs true legacies that can inspire the young generation and true legacy is not about leaving an inheritance, but leaving an inspiration. Peter Obi will build strong institutions because strong institutions handed down by strong people always make the difference between order and chaos.

The major concern of the electorate is that our old breed politicians forget that our founding fathers and former leaders, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Alhaji Tafawa Balewa became great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower the citizens who later became leaders.  Unfortunately, today’s leaders are persons whose interests supersede national interest. That is why there is lack of trust between the leaders and the led. Enough is enough. So, next year’s elections won’t be mere jamboree because our votes must count. We must be true to our decision to take back our country from the grip of selfish leaders by casting our vote for Peter Obi having been tested as governor of Anambra State and he left the state better than he met.

Many people believe that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of APC and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of PDP both have more national spread than Peter Obi. What do you think?

Yes, there is no doubt that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar are team players and great politicians. However, like I said earlier, the problem with Nigeria’s political process or system is not only bad leadership, but also bad followership. Yes, Tinubu and Atiku have credible track records that endeared them to the people. But the present political atmosphere has outgrown them because Nigeria is in a critical state. It is believed that we should elect a nationalist and competent person to lead the country next year. Peter Obi can fix the nation’s economy and tame insecurity. As I speak with you, the present administration has borrowed huge sums of money from foreign countries for infrastructural development. I’m not saying it is wrong, but I know many nations in Africa that borrowed for infrastructural development, but their leaders stole the money.

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