The Military Ruined Nigeria with Creation of 36 States, 774 Local Governments, Most of Them in the North – Says Gov. Ezeife
Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
The former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, who will turn 80 in the next couple of days has said that the parlous state of affairs in the country is making him to be angry on daily basis. He regretted that no Nigerian of his age could be proud of the country.
In this interview, where he x-rayed happenings in the country, the former presidential adviser on Political Affairs accused the incumbent administration of deliberately sidelining the South-East zone, saying that the panacea to the country’s poor shape remains to return to the regions.
What does turning 80 mean to you?
I don’t know what it means to me. I thought it would mean great things – success, mission accomplished, etc. But today, I feel useless. I feel like a failure. I feel a lack of accomplishment. I look at the younger ones and feel I disappointed. I look at Nigeria and I say to myself, why shouldn’t I be the change, with the kind of things I could write, or I should write? Couldn’t I have done better? I was well prepared. I didn’t go to any secondary school, but I told myself I would be properly prepared for leadership. So, nobody approaching 80 in Nigeria today should be proud or happy. This is a disappointment in the extreme. I did well at home and abroad. I beat every human being born by a woman in Ibadan. In the Faculty of Economic and Social Studies, I was number one. I came to the Civil Service; the first two years, I was a flyer. Then the problem of Nigeria, the civil war came, and I went to America.
What is that you feel you should have done for Nigeria that you didn’t do that evokes a feeling of failure in you?
I don’t know, but I think maybe I would have been less haughty and humbler. There are things I proposed for 10 years and they were not done because corruption is serious. I proposed how to use petroleum industry to make Nigerian economy massively successful. I proposed to Obasanjo, I proposed to Jonathan, I proposed to Yar’Adua on his sick bed. They understood the issue. They appreciated the thought. But they could not implement. I decided that the best way for Nigeria is to use our petroleum gift by God to make our economy explosive. What I meant was we produce our own crude and sell it cheaply because every sector of the economy needs oil, whether it is your car, you are driving or your industry. You need petroleum product. So, I said we produce petroleum product, estimate how many liters of crude we need to satisfy our local demand. Once we establish it, even if we don’t have the facilities, we go overseas and produce it, bring it back, sell it, use it to promote other economic activities. What killed it was corruption because to do that, you need to cut off importation of petroleum. There are some people who are so big, who are in charge of importing petroleum and they are gaining massively by so doing.
But this corruption has been with Nigeria for a long time. At what point would you say the descent really started?
We have always been in corruption practice. You remember during the January ’66 coup, Nzeogwu railed against 10 percenters. That was infant level of corruption and you could survive. But eventually, the military ruled Nigeria and ruined Nigeria; it became monumental corruption and they pervaded every aspect of society. If you were a lecturer in the university, for a girl to score well, she would have to be under you. For a man to score well, he would have to be loyal. If you go to church, you will find corruption. Go to the mosque, you will find corruption. Go to the police, you will find corruption. Go to the army, you will find corruption. Everywhere is pervaded by corruption. But it couldn’t have been so massive and effective in destroying Nigeria if it were not for the destruction of the structure of Nigeria.
Who actually started the destruction?
Some time ago, maybe you were born; maybe you were not born; the World Bank said parts of Nigeria were growing faster than the rest of the world. Awo brought free education to the West; Ahmadu Bello tried to push the North up. It was not just the groundnut pyramid, Azikiwe, in the East. Every part of Nigeria was growing at its own pace and any man and woman, those who are intelligent, who are in public service had vested interest in what is done with the property of Eastern Region, Western Region. You were interested in how the government spends money because it’s your money. In those days, it is your tax. Whatever contribution you make to the treasury, that’s what the state is using. We didn’t have oil. Therefore, we were interested in how those who are spending it use it. When the oil came, the size of corruption changed. If it were not for the military, we would have been far better than where we are today because God planned it that way. Nigerians are great people, but the military messed up God’s plan.
How did the military actually help in stunting the growth of Nigeria?
I have made the first point that the World Bank said that parts of Nigeria were growing faster than the rest of the world. There was a recent statement from a foreign leader. The Prime Minister of Britain came here and said Nigeria is one the poorest countries, that it is leading the world in poverty. The change from growing fastest to becoming poorest was effectuated by the military who ruled and ruined Nigeria. By 1954, our political leaders and founding fathers had decided on the structure of Nigeria. They decided Nigeria will run a federal system with regions as federating units and there were only three regions, then four. The federal system means that the regions have their own constitutions and determine how you govern your own is your own making. But then there was a coup in January 1966.
There was Nigerian/Biafran altercation about planning war, etc and the Nigerian military wanted to win the war and they wanted to win it fast. How would they beat Ojukwu who was fighting from the other side? They thought about it and they got the right answer. They decided that it is best to isolate the Igbo from the rest of Eastern Nigeria so that Ojukwu’s command is just Igbo; the other people would not obey as much as they would have obeyed if nothing happened. That was achieved by creating 12 states in Nigeria. Southeast became Igbo state. That knocked out the federal system based on regions. That’s how Nigeria died. If after the war, the Northern military leaders had ended this isolation, we would have been far ahead, and the Igbo man would have been leading the world.
The argument is that yes, the military distorted the structure and the steps they took hurt the system. But we’ve also had politicians who took over, who have never shown interest in reverting to the old system, why?
You are wrong. The whole idea now is reverting back to the old system. Restructuring is what we are talking about and that’s why Atiku has won the PDP ticket. Restructuring is going back to our agreed structure.
Is restructuring all about going back to regions?
Yes, that is the correct thing to do. It’s to go back to the regions as federating units. If we are going back to what we knew, what worked and what made Nigeria grow faster than other parts of the world, we are going back to true federalism with regions as federating units. I want to tell you something which many Nigerians don’t know. Many Northerners say they are opposed to restructuring. If the North insists on no restructuring and the South wants to grow, that’s the end of it. But Nigeria is better bigger. It’s the largest concentration of blacks in the world and what did God do with that? Maybe you saw recently the Hurricane Michael and it is around the world, except most of Africa. We don’t have the hurricane, we don’t have the tornado, we don’t have those natural disasters. God made it that way. You can go naked outside and not die. Every vegetable can grow here. Anything you plant can grow here. God gave us every plant and animal. God designed for Nigeria unmatched greatness. God gave us all; but today, an ignorant man in Nigeria has messed up God’s design.
Maybe this PDP something in Port Harcourt is a change. It was open, free, fair and everything was positive. The man who won talked like a human being with intelligence. Maybe we can still go back to what God designed for Nigeria. However, the military ruled and ruined Nigeria with 36 states, 774 local governments, most of them in the North and nothing was done with fairness.
The impression people have of you is that you are against this government. Is your stand because of government’s refusal to restructure Nigeria?
I am not against the government. I am against the government’s policies. I’m not against Buhari. Buhari and I have been friends. I visited Buhari in his Kaduna home many years ago and he served me. He didn’t call anybody to serve me. He respected me. But the government is ruining Nigeria’s future. Nobody forced Buhari to say that he belongs to everybody. But do you know that Buhari has ruined Nigeria more than all the military people who ruled this country?
In what way?
There is something in the constitution of Nigeria called federal character. If you listen to those who know, you will know that Buhari did not come to use Nigerians to work. He has Nigerians who have superior intellects, superior ability, yet he does not use them because of where they come from. Instead, he prefers to go to only Katsina and get people who have blood relations with him and dump them in government. They are sitting in the country and the country is going down. There is nobody who wants Nigeria to make progress that will like Buhari’s government. I am Igbo, God made me so and God made Igbo people a people of destiny. No man can change it. The man, as president, has turned against the Igbo people. Any list of people who are being driven from office is dominated by the Igbo. On the list of new appointments, the Igbo are non-existent. The agenda is to pull Igbo down. Look at the case of Innoson, Emzor. Their containers are seized. As we are here today, if there is a meeting called National Security Council, nobody from South-East is there. This is not imagination. It’s a reality. Out of the 17 security bodies in Nigeria, 16 are headed by Muslim Fulani. What can you say about that? The Senate and the House of Reps are there, and this kind of policy is going against the constitution. The federal character is a matter of constitution. It’s not a matter of individuals. I have good prayers for Buhari, but I don’t think he has enough preparation for what he got himself involved in. It was even clear from the first time he came as a military leader with Idiagbon doing virtually everything.
But he assured recently that if re-elected, no part of the country will be ignored. Do you not agree with him?
You are telling me what you will do when you will come back. You are already there, and you have been there for three years plus. So, does it make sense? Should he make that statement even when he has ignored most parts of the country? He has a preference for people who he can use to work for Nigeria. If it is the will of God that Buhari will come back, no man born of woman can stop it and no force available to us in Nigeria can stop him from coming back and we don’t know the will of God. God works in mysterious ways. It is possible that even what he has done is God’s will for him.
But we’ve seen many people from your part of the zone also joining forces with him and defending him. Are you saying that there are things you know that they do not know?
Igbo people know themselves. They know their children. They know their leaders. They know what is prompting them to act in one way or the other. Some people see money and they move. The true Igbo behavior is coming out. We believed in Jonathan and we voted for him. We may be losing, but everybody we are dealing with knows where we stand. We have some people who represent Igboness and we have some people that represent cash. Where money comes, they go there.
Some have continued to argue that the Igbo stood with Jonathan, but they got little for that support. Their roads are in bad shape, the Second Niger Bridge was not built, key infrastructure in the zone are neglected. Why did you not also criticize the former administration for that?
I went to Uyo area where the first governor of Akwa Ibom was buried. During the funeral, they gave me the microphone to talk. I said ladies and gentlemen, my brothers and sisters, I did not bring any tribute. What I brought was a bomb. For as long as the Southsouth, the Southeast continue on parallel lines and not meeting, for so long will they suffer in the Nigerian system. But the moment they team up, what they ask of Nigeria is what they get of Nigeria. I came back after making that statement and we started meeting – South-South, South-East at the home of Edwin Clark. It was like magic and it turned things around. After that, we got the Yoruba. We formed Southern Nigeria’s People Assembly. Now, we have gone to South/Middle Belt. God gave us Nigeria and made it with unmatched greatness. We messed up God’s design. But man cannot dominate over God’s will. Therefore, I have hope that things will change.
We have an election coming. God knows me inside out. I will prefer that Buhari does not run. It will be helpful to Nigeria if Buhari does not run. It will be helpful to Fulani if Buhari does not run. If he does run, we are just tearing further apart the Nigerian system. The Miyetti Allah, my friends who supported me when I was going for president, I understood their point of view and they understood mine. They said they will support me, although I didn’t go far. Let us Nigerians lift our hands from the back of Igbo. Let Nigerians stop pressing Igbo down because if you leave the Igbo and he jumps up, Nigeria jumps up. Whatever you call all those people who are backward, they are the people to gain most from the revival of this country and it is the will of God that it will work.
There is one man from the North who God used to keep me alive. That man is called Justice Mamman Vatsa. He is from Katsina. I cannot hate a person because of where he comes from.
Culled from the Sun News