By Agatha Emeadi
Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife is the chairman of Igbo Elders Consultative Forum. He was a former federal permanent secretary, as well as the governor of Anambra State in the Third Republic before the intervention of the military.
In an exclusive interview with Sunday Sun, the Okwadike Igbo-Ukwu, Garkuwan Fika, and Akintolugboye of Egba land, frowned at the challenges in the country, particularly insecurity, sit-at-home in the Southeast, and the non-release of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kalu, among others. Excerpt:…CONTINUE READING
What is your take on ECOWAS position to use military option on Nigeria Republic coupists?
Well, democracy is said to be government of the people, for the people, by the people. ‘For of the people’ can be interpreted in several ways, but ordering the ‘affairs of the people’ seems to fit most. ‘For the people’ clearly means for the benefit of the people, which includes people’s safety and welfare. ‘By the people’ is what makes democracy democratic because it means that the people should choose those who should govern them. This is done through elections. And this is where democracy has its major problem. It is not easy for elections to be “free, fair and transparent (credible)”. Indeed, it is rare for the fairness and credibility of an elections to be uncontested even in very mature democracies. This is one of the failings of United Nations, which should have found a way to create a world electoral body that should be responsible for conducting elections for all democratic countries. If ECOWAS is very concerned about democracy or democratic government, they should lead the way by removing the obstacle to democratic governance thereby creating ECOWAS- wide election body to conduct free, fair and credible elections in the region. ECOWAS may persuade African Unions to lead the way and show United Nations superior organization. It is clear that mere election monitoring cannot guarantee free, fair and credible election. But ECOWAS military intervention in Niger, to restore democracy, cannot be justified on any ground. Intervention in internal affairs of a nation is not allowed. Therefore, there have been many coups and not one of them had drawn military intervention. ECOWAS did not threaten war when there were coups in Mali, Guinea Bisau, Burkina Faso, all in West Africa, and within ECOWAS. I am happy that most Nigerians, including those who live far from Niger, spoke against any war. Another coup has just happened in ECOWAS (Gabon), right after an election.
IPOB has finally announced an end to sit-at-home, do you foresee peace in the Southeast zone soon?
IPOB cancelled ‘sit-at-home on Monday’ after the very first Monday. When I heard about the order, I called the IPOB leader’s lawyer and we argued about its merits. I convinced him and he went to Nnamdi Kanu who ordered the cancellation of that order, but the cancellation was of no effect for some reasons because, in the first place, some miscreants who gained from the order, wanted to perpetuate it. Again, enemies of the Southeast who did not wish the zone well exploited the order. One group organized the so-called ‘unknown gunmen’ over the time, people who were alleged to be financed by the Federal Government joined the exploitation of the order. A leader of one of the groups is Simon Ekpa who lives in Finland. No easterner who understood the situation supported any “sit-at-home” or “stay away from business” order. Peace can be restored in the Southeast as soon as insecurity is defeated. Fear by the people made the miscreants succeed for long. But the continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu, even after the Federal Appeal Court cleared him of any offence, made the torture of “sit-at-home” last longer. Good thinking cannot justify the continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu. Only a decision to continue to punish the South easterners can justify the continued detention of Kanu.
How will you react to the removal of oil subsidy by President Bola Tinubu?
Over many years, I made a proposal that would have made the subsidy problem in the form it arose in Nigeria not to have arisen. Based on the idea of using what we have to get what we want, I proposed that we estimate the quantity of crude oil we need to produce, the petroleum products needed for home consumption plus the quantity needed in our neighbouring states. Then refine that quantity by contract with foreign refineries. Again, I also proposed to set the domestic prices of various refined products as we choose (on basis of cost recovery or with whatever margin we choose.) This way, the subsidy problem, as we have known it, would not have arisen, yet the petroleum sector would have been subsidizing the whole economy – making Nigeria more competitive in the world market. This proposal was submitted to three presidents, but instead of their adopting it, they persisted with the policy of discouraging local refining of crude oil. It is known that more than 53 years ago, crude oil was refined in parts of Nigeria and the refined products were used without negative consequences. Imagine what would have been the case had the local refining continued with necessary standardization, regulation and control over the last 53 years. Government should consider allowing small scale refining activities; giving them access to crude oil, setting standards etc. This should help increase the production of refined products in the country.
What do you think is the way forward for Nigeria?
The coup in Niger has opened the eyes of everybody on the proportion for the actions in our world. I read somewhere that Uranium is sold more than $200 per measure in the world market, but that France, which takes most of Nigerien Uranium, pays a tiny percentage of the world price to Niger. The coup in Niger has raised ancient and modern issues on colonialism and neo-colonialism to the fore. The way forward for Nigeria must derive from a proper understanding and appreciation of the position of Nigeria in Africa and the world. We should appreciate that Nigeria is in Africa, which in many ways (environment, climate, materials resources etc.) is the most favoured continent in the world and where man was first created. Again, that Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and has the human and material resources that make her able to grow to a super power in world economy and affairs. All these, and many more considered, it appears to be the purpose of God or God’s assignment to Nigeria to raise the respect and dignity of all blacks on earth. It can be said that this is the debt Nigeria owes all blacks on earth! Instead, we are generating shame to the faces of all blacks on earth, as we are described variously as the poverty capital of the world, the banditry capital, kidnapping capital, insecurity and all the negatives capital of the world. Those of us who have lived a bit long in Nigeria have enjoyed the statement by the World Bank, in the early 1960s, that parts of Nigeria were growing faster than the rest of the world. Those who led the Nigerian coup in 1966 condemned politicians who they called the “10 percenters”. Today, we do not talk about percentages anymore, we plunder for self-interest, the welfare of the people is never considered. Corruption has become comprehensive!
If you are to advise the government on insecurity, what would you say?
Insecurity is a major problem in Nigeria and no serious thinker can expect quick fixes for it. First, what are the sources, or inducers of insecurity? The major inducer of insecurity is economic failure, and the insecurity worsens economic failure. Other inducers of insecurity include political tension, ethnic divides, which lead to banditry. Some form of insecurity need rural/community approach, some, urban solution. Highway insecurity needs very sophisticated strategies. Insecurity requires the mobilization of many institutions and bodies: vigilante groups, town unions, traditional institutions, churches and mosques, trade unions, age groups etc. But in this context, I should deal only with banditry which is the strategy employed for land grabbing. Where the government is fair and unbiased – does not take sides – the insecurity which comes in the form of banditry can be dealt with effectively. This kind of insecurity is well known in Nigeria. It accounts for so many emergency settlements for Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs). Its solution requires two serious agreements, principles and commitments which include that irrespective of how long a people or group are displaced from their original space, they remain the owners of the space; and that the government, at all levels, must help the IDP to as soon as possible, reclaim their space….CONTINUE READING