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Southern leaders in APC are behaving like surrogates, says Nyiam



Col. Tony Nyiam (rtd) was one of the principal actors of the failed Major Gideon Orkar-led coup of 1990 against the military regime of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. He also served as delegate to the 2014 National Conference. In this interview with SEYE OLUMIDE, he accused the southern stakeholders’ in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of playing second fiddle.

Would you agree that APC lied to Nigerians about the promise to reconstruct the system?
My worry about the issue of restructuring in regards to the controversy whether APC promised something to that effect or not during the campaign in 2014/2015 is, why are majority of the leadership of the party, particularly those from the southern region disgracefully allowing themselves to be controlled by a small minority of APC governors from a particular geo-political region? Why are the APC leaders from the Southwest, North Central, South-South and Southeast allowing their party to be turned into a self-serving political party of the ruling Northern oligarchy?

The APC is being turned into a party that is serving the Northwest interest. I cannot even imagine reason the National Working Council (NWC) should allow itself to be dictated to in making a well-known anti-restructuring character, to be the head of the party’s panel to define restructuring, which he is against. That, definitely, will give his northwest political zone undue advantage.

Why are the APC leaders from the South and the central belt of Nigeria acting as if they have been hypnotised? Why are they supporting the move to stop Nigeria from returning to fiscal federalism system? Isn’t it truth that the geo-political zone, which has benefitted most from the existing imposed fiscal centralism system, is being allowed to dominate the Nigerian political system?

These questions wouldn’t have arisen if there had not been a deliberate move to ensure that the number of APC committee member to redefine restructuring came more from the Northwest than any other region. The Northwest has an undue advantage to keep on shortchanging all the other four regions.

Are you insinuating that some southerners in the ruling party are against restructuring?
We should be bold to begin to name those southern leaders who are covertly colluding with the Northwest to keep us down on this issue of restructuring and one of such characters is a former governor of Lagos State.

Do you have any proof to back your allegation?
Whatever I say, it is with document. This (showing a document) is a memorandum presented by Lagos State to the 2014 National Conference. This document rejects regionalism, rejects that we should make use of Land Use Act, which is the core of what those agitating for restructuring are fighting against. The introductory part of the memorandum, one of the paragraphs said: “Importantly, Lagos State has never been historically part of the Southwest zone or Western Nigerian politically and administratively.”

It goes on to say that: “Nigeria has operated a federal system of government with unique origins and that this system (current) is not departed from principles and practices of federal system,” which means that he was supporting the present structure as it is.

Could this have been part of the reasons the ruling APC is unwilling to implement the conference recommendations?
I repeat, the Southwest, Southeast, South-South and North-Central APC leaders should stop allowing their party to turn to a Northwest serving political party. And that is why I am naming and shaming those who are working against restructuring of the country. That is reason some of us have been supporting the move by the governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode to initiate what we term as economic restructuring by championing the south west regional economic integration.

So you believe while the agitation for political restructuring in ongoing, economic restructuring can start…
Reason some of us are interested in Ambode’s example is that it will kick-start same thing in other regions. It is high time the South South, Southeast and the Middle belt governors take after Ambode’s example and ensure that their regions are transformed by pursuing regional integration.

One close example to Ambode is Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State, who has transformed the state from Onitsha to Awka. The Anambra people should also allow their wealth and their skills in work to spread to other parts of the Southeast. In my own region, states that are similarly endowed like Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom should allow their wealth to spread to other parts of the region. So, what Ambode is starting is a good thing. If we want to create sustainable jobs that will last, let the states begin to compete and that is what Southwest governors are trying to harness.

We also need to kick start the agitation for restructuring of the mind. If all Igbo take 20 per cent of their investment to Igboland and do what Nnewi is doing currently, the economy of Southeast will improve. In Nnewi Town, any container they import, they don’t open it outside; they offload it in the town. So, people go to Nnewi now to buy goods, and through that, the economy of the state is growing. So, let every region follow what Lagos is doing.

Lagos State is self-sufficient and can do without federal allocation. So, other states can emulate Lagos and that is why some of us are happy that at last, the Southwest that we always looked up to for the way forward is now showing the way. It is not for nothing that Ambode’s colleagues are even praising him. For instance, the governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola referred to the governor of Lagos as the Governor-General of Nigeria.

Ambode also went as far as partnering with the Kebbi State government and that partnership has pushed Kebbi up as the number one producer of rice in Nigeria.

When Fashola was in office, he was never interested in anything that has to do with the Oodua Investment. This is why there is a breath of fresh air, now that his successor is pioneering the Southwest integration agenda believing that the prosperity of Lagos should be spread to neighbouring states. This is not just altruistic; it makes economic sense because if you allow Lagos to invest in Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Ondo and and Ogun, it will make these states much more viable and the economy of the region would be better.

What do you mean by restructuring of the mind?
I am mentioning Ambode because he is beginning to do what some of us have been advocating; that while most of us are fighting political restructuring, economic restructuring can begin and there is no better example than the economic self determination example, which Lagos is setting. I used to say that there are three major sides to restructuring we require in Nigeria. The kind of restructuring most Nigerians require has the following three major aspects: the restructuring of the mind, political restructuring and economic restructuring. It is with gratitude to God that I will say I am happy to observe that my state of residence, Lagos, has increasingly become the example of restructuring for other states to follow in the three sides of restructuring; psychological, political and economic aspects of restructuring.

The restructuring of anything or situation of a group of people find themselves, must first begin in their collective minds. In accordance to the perennial wisdom of thinking rightly first and speak or act, afterwards or to use the proverb which states that as you think so you are; I think we have to give credit to former governor of Lagos, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who initiated the Internal Generated Revenue (IGR) method to free the state when former President Olusegun Obasanjo confiscated allocations meant for the local government.

There is insinuation that some Southwest stakeholders’ in the APC are behaving like traitor…
I enjoy conspiracy theory and all that. But whatever I say is something that I can defend legally in court. That may be true but the one I have fact against is somebody who benefitted and who was a governor from a state that benefitted from a region; somebody whom somebody propped up politically. So the consistency is clear.

Can you to put it in context what the Minister of Works, Housing and Power, Fashola has been doing that opposes the demand for restructuring?
First of all, I have no direct evidence of that but what I would say is this; if I look at the evidence of favouritism; he appears to be favouring the Northwest in his road construction. That region is the most favoured region in road works and Northeast followed. And my own zone, South-South is the poorest and yet Lagos and my region, as it were provides the income for the country.

Secondly, Ambode has been struggling with reconstructing the Oshodi-International Airport Road; one would have taught that his predecessor should have gladly joined him. It is only when the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo came recently that he gave his blessings. So, in terms of those who are allowing the Northwest to get away with things and to think that they are the lords and masters of rest, he is playing a role in the way the budgeting is done.

When the Orkar Coup, in which you played a key role struck in the 1999, one of the reasons you gave was the skewed nature of Nigeria, but today the Head of State then, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida is singing the same tune in your direction
This is why in a way I praised Babangida for having the courage to own up to what he executed young brilliant and promising military officers. What Orkar and the young officers were crying for was that we should have a structure, which gives every corner of Nigeria equitable access to the National Assembly and to federal revenue. At the moment, that is not the case. One zone has undue advantages in term of numbers of members of the National Assembly and in term of access to federal revenue. The other insult, which my colleagues found very offensive, is about the internal waterway. In other words, in River Osun, the line there belongs to the Federal Government. Many people don’t know the genesis of why the internal waterway was created. The genesis was, a one Adeleke, an army officer started the dredging of Osborne, and when Lagos State didn’t agree, my military colleagues said they will get it and they changed the decree and brought the act. That was how the National Inland Waterway Act came about. It was created as a convenience to allow key federal officials to own part of Lagos they will never have had. And that is why Banana Island is federal. The Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) of Banana Island is federal. All the people who got C of O in Banana Island got it from Federal Government. It is not owned by Lagos State. They got it through the act. I keep on saying that our mumu ti po ju (our foolishness is too much) in South and Middle Belt.

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