Nigeria should restructure, says Amucheazi
Former Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) Prof Elochukwu Amucheazi is the Secretary General of Igbo Leaders of Thought (ILT). In this interview with LAWRENCE NJOKU (ENUGU), he spoke on the Biafran agitation and how Nigeria can overcome it. Excerpts:
Causes of the agitation and protests
I believe we are all worried about these developments but we just have to ask ourselves; why, what is the cause of all these? I believe that Nigerians want a very large political entity. I think the demands of world politics today make it imperative that you ought to have a large and strong country financially and militarily and we all love this
country. But let me quickly add that we don’t have a country or a nation if it is built on injustice and marginalization. Honestly I thought that the first thing President Muhammadu Buhari should have done on coming to power, is to face this issue of national question, which is restructuring the country.
First, let’s go back to the past. The British did appreciate and I think it is a settled affair; any multinational entity ought to settle for federal constitution and that is what the British merchants realized and gave us three regions. Ultimately the nationalists who succeeded made the number four. Then the military increased the number to twelve and from there to nineteen, from there to twenty-one and now thirty six and each of these states is of course not viable and can’t even pay salaries.
These chaps are asking for equity and justice and some of the activities of government these past five months have not shown that there is equity and justice.
In addition, the constitution drawn by the military without consultation upgraded the exclusive legislative list to sixty-six, reduced that of the state to thirty. You can see the same trend in the creation of local governments that they entrenched as constituent unit of a federation. Where on earth do you have this kind of arrangement? Instead of a federation, they have instituted a unitary form of government, which has bred injustices to various parts of the country. You see the Yoruba talking about a federation, every person is talking about a federation and we thought the President would accord it priority with a view to creating a nation. I think this is really the problem.
These chaps are asking for equity and justice and some of the activities of government these past five months have not shown that there is equity and justice. Look the recent appointments. Look at EFCC, have you noticed that all its chairmen came from the North, look at how somebody who was not a staff of Customs was appointed without due process and he went there and started sending people away among others. The president operates as if there is no constitution. We are not running the federation as it should and that is why these chaps are on the streets.
We all want one Nigeria and that is why we are calling on the government to take the necessary steps to address the imbalances. The 2014 national conference reiterated the need for us to go back to true federation. This is the basic structure a country like Nigeria should have. What makes America a united nation is because it is operating a balanced federation with powers devolved to the states. Britain the other day allowed Scotland to go on plebiscite, to decide whether it would continue to be a member of the confederation. Look at many countries in Europe and this is the point many African leaders must accept; that unless you have a meaningful balanced federation, you are not going to know any peace. Those who are protesting now want a meaningful engagement towards creating a meaningful federation.
On the hasty nature of the protest
Buhari has been governing as if he is a sole administrator. I think people should appreciate that a president or governor is usually a president in council or governor in council. You are elected through a party, you have a party programme and therefore, you go into government to implement party programme and not your individual programme. So whether you call it body language or anything, I don’t see that commitment towards being fair to people. Like I said, I felt that the first thing he would have done was to call people to see ways of restructuring the country. If you have a balanced federation, some of the things he is fighting now will stop. The question of time factor is important, but these boys as far as I am concerned, expressing their interests have refused to be violent. It is part of their constitutional rights but it is not a justification
to manhandle anybody.
Outcome of the protest
This kind of protests cannot address the marginalization but it draws attention. The person that holds power is the one to address it. I think what they are doing is to draw attention of the powers that be. For meaningful development of any country, you need two factors – constitution and leadership. The constitution provides the norm within which leadership can operate. Once you have that kind of structure properly delineated, there won’t be problems. The constitution is supposed to have effect on the behavior of the lawmakers, there are certain things you cannot do because of the constitution. The other is leadership. Chinua Achebe clearly said that the trouble with Nigeria is leadership and it is leadership that should uphold the constitution. You see some people can get to power through democratic processes only to turn themselves to dictators. So it is not only leadership but also structure that is important.
Obama said the other day that Africa needs strong institutions like leadership structure. There is need to decentralize power and you will see this country become truly the giant of Africa. If you take an in-depth analysis of what is happening now and what happened in the past, you will agree that Eastern region made up of what you have now as ten states had fewer ministers but there were avenues for the region to survive even on their own. Marginalization is not about appointments alone. The leadership has not brought people along and given them a sense of belonging and commitment and that is what nationhood is all about. When somebody is really a citizen of a country, he is so committed; he can even throw in his life if circumstances demand. The idea is not appointing my brother or kinsman as Minister but restructuring the country and carrying every person along and the country will change overnight.
Silence of Igbo leaders
You must appreciate that Igbo nation is an egalitarian society. It is not hierarchically structured that the young must take advice from the elders. The leadership is not that kind of monolithic body that deliberates and takes decision and that makes Igbo political
culture. In any case, the leaders have been drawing attention. Things are not as they ought to be; there is social dislocation, there is poverty, there is frustration everywhere. All these count together and I believe the elders have called for caution. But there is need for positive response and I feel the country is ripe for reconstruction. It is the most immediate thing. All these things will die down when we face the problems plaguing the country with a view to giving it a thorough solution.
Failure of Igbo leaders
I think nobody should blame the elders because things are not really the way they ought to. There is a limit any individual can take an advise especially on issue affecting his welfare. But we still want this big country as one indivisible entity. I will want Nigeria to
remain as it is as a giant of Africa but we need to work towards it so that it can be sustained. The elders have been talking and given advise to the federal government to start restructuring of the country to give sense of belonging to the people.
Isn’t it one of the options? But the first option is restructuring Nigeria and nobody can stand against it. Buhari I believe will agree that he staged a coup in 1983 to 85 to hold the country and building a strong nation. I believe coming to power again, his priority should be restructuring. I believe there are only few individuals who are telling him that such is not priority. I am only praying that he should muster the courage to restructure the country. When the military were distorting the country, it was basically due to their knowledge with statecraft. It may not be really deliberate. I believe that Buhari will support restructuring of the country and that is really the key to everything.
The restructuring will end the agitations in my own thinking.
Restructuring will strengthen the country for effective development and create a sense of belonging in the polity. Ndigbo have done well for the country and I don’t think they will want to quit now. MASSOB, IPOB, BZM have maintained non –violent approach in
pleading the cause of the country.