‘Why Nigerians must embrace real change, experience rebirth’
Prof. Chuks Eboka is the National President of Nigeria Christian Graduate Fellowship (NCGF). In this interview with MICHAEL EGBEJULE, he spoke on state of the nation and why citizens must demand good governance from leaders.
What is the vision and mission of the Nigeria Christian Graduate Fellowship (NCGF)?
The Nigeria Christian Graduate Fellowship (NCGF) is a trans-denominational faith-based organisation with chapters in many states of the Federation. We are a group of intellectually equipped Christians with the capacity to positively impact our society and the world at large. Our spiritual and talent development is a product of our in-depth Bible studies and discussions with the emphasis of their applicability to practical living.
Vocational training of members and regular intercession for the Church and the Nigerian nation also form part of our regular activities. We carry our missionary mandate through massive publication and printing of Christian tracts.
How would you react to the recent massacre of peaceful worshippers in Owo Ondo State?
The recent killing at the Owo Catholic Church in Ondo State has become worrisome to many. How did we find ourselves in this alarming insecurity? First and foremost, the Nigeria Christian Graduate Fellowship, like many other Nigerians, were again shocked and traumatised by the news of the wanton killings in the Church. Dead bodies of men and women, boys and girls were carried out of St. Francis Catholic Church, Owo in Ondo State like butchered cows from the slaughter House. For how long should we live with this carnage?
This has happened over and over again, with lives of Nigerians being at the mercy of Boko Haram, killer herdsmen and the so-called bandits. We are grieved that there’s no longer safe place in our country today. Nigerians cannot go to church to worship and feel safe; they cannot travel by road and by train in safety. Innocent lives are being wasted every day. We call on President Buhari to urgently arrest this headlong descent into anarchy. We refuse to believe that our Military is unable to effectively rein in those who are terrorising our people; enough is enough.
Many have called for a constitutional review as a way of arresting the situation in the country. Do you subscribe to that too?
In the last few years, notable Nigerians, distinguished scholars, corporate chieftains, Afenifere, Ohaneze, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), the Middle Belt Forum, the Northern Elders Forum, Nigerian Christian Elders Forum, several other regional groups, the media, faith-based organisations, as well as the international community have expressed great concern over the fragility and precariousness of the state of affairs in our nation. The dominant view for many of these groups is the urgent need for constitutional review to enable the nation experience a rebirth through some form of restructuring or a referendum.
Other resonant calls are for resource control, fiscal federalism, as well as self-determination. Many of these demands were made through interviews, newspaper articles, letters, social media and protest slogans. A careful study of these agitations and demands for the overhaul of the nation obviously shows that majority of our citizens want real change to advance the nation on all fronts. From insecurity to genuinely securing lives and property in the country, from hunger/poverty to food security/wealth creation, from a poor and educationally weak to educationally strong country… in order to achieve the lofty United Nations (UN) targets encapsulated in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Amidst these plethora of opinions in the public sphere was one expressed in a recent publication titled: The egg is about to be broken again, which went viral. Most of the practical solutions proffered by individuals and groups referred to above are in tandem with the position of several other persons and organisations, including ours.
How has the Nigeria Christian Graduate Fellowship (NCGF) contributed in proffering solutions to these problems bedeviling the country?
Following the depressive state of affairs in our nation, the NCGF recently convened a national family meeting where it examined current national issues in a practical, scholarly and solution-driven session. The idea is to provide a clear answer to Nigeria’s now often-asked question: Which way Nigeria? The meeting, which also offered a good framework towards finding a solution to the present political debacle in the country came up with the following resolutions: As Nigeria heads towards 70 years of independence, there is certainly an urgent need for a return to true federalism and nationalism as was practiced in the First Republic before the January 1966 Military incursion. Given all the indicators, this present structure is not working and, indeed, cannot work. It is, therefore, expedient to unbundle Nigeria for efficient and effective performance as the current structure has failed.
A secure and equitable environment should, therefore, be provided urgently for free and fair elections to be conducted. Right now, free and fair elections to produce credible leadership is not likely given the present circumstances in the nation.
Ahead of the 2023 general elections, are you optimistic that we will get things right this time?
The Re-Work Eminent Personalities Team – REPT should be set up to fashion out a way forward between now and the general elections. This should help to stem the growing tide of agitations and insecurity and provide a context in which free and fair elections can be conducted. Only credible individuals with proven integrity in their public and private lives, and with democratic credentials should be chosen to serve on the team.
The Re-Work Eminent Personalities Team – REPT should be charged with the positive transformation of Nigeria. The Elite should unite and support this trusted group of men, women and youths with a national aspiration agenda to really make Nigeria work. The Team should also be guided by the 2014 National Conference Report, as well as other reports (e.g. Justice Uwais Committee) whose recommendations contain elements that would help chart a new and progressive course for our country.
Laying the background for free and fair elections includes listening to the plea and cry of the South East for justice. The Southwest should recall how other nationalities sympathised with them leading to the emergence of General Obasanjo as a balm on their wound after the annulment of the June 12 Election. The South-South should remember that they just handed over to Buhari.
The warning-cry of some of our elder statesmen, including Chief E. K. Clark and Chief Ayo Adebanjo, should be heeded in the interest of justice and peace. There are still some reliable persons across party lines who can be seen to be competent and very capable candidates and can provide good leadership for the country at this point in time even from the South East. Thus, that region should not be ruled out of the scheme of things. We reject any attempt to foist on Nigerians clueless presidential candidates who obviously have nothing to offer in this digital age.
From your observation, do you think the country is moving in the right direction at the moment?
The time is overdue to harness Nigeria’s resources properly, beginning with her vast human resources of technocrats and teeming youth population for good governance. The Nigerian elite ought to know and agree that a team of lawyers should not go to court and argue in favour of murder and jungle justice, in the case of Deborah Samuel if Nigeria is to make progress. Any aspirant for any political office, especially the Presidency, who cannot take a public stand on the constitution, is not fit to lead.
So, what’s the way out of the economic woes facing the country?
Pleasure without productivity has ruined our economy and is ruining our youth population. Jumbo salaries are being paid to unproductive political office holders who fail to make laws in line with good governance. They are not creating jobs, but rather causing industries to shut down and making Nigeria a country with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. Our young people are, therefore, turning to cybercrime and other illicit ways of making money like kidnapping for ransom. The continued closure of our universities is vexatious and counter-productive in our quest for a great nation.
Other nations who had successfully managed their similar heterogeneous cultural and religious configurations and made progress at all fronts, while building their GDP and human indexes should be examples to help our nation’s elite/leaders in making strategic decisions. We should be ready to learn from other nations; the wheel does not need to be re-invented.
In view of the huge and unprecedented debt profile of the country, the alarming cases of fraud and corruption by senior Government officials, the devaluation of the Naira, as well as the impunity with which bandits and terrorists carry out mindless killings of innocent citizens, it is important to note that Nigerians have lost faith and trust in the current ruling class, regardless of the parties to which they belong. The poverty in the nation, which has earned us the disgraceful title of ‘the poverty capital of the world,’ has obviously been of no concern to our political leaders, as demonstrated by the glee with which they paid obscene sums of money merely to obtain nomination forms for Presidential and other elective positions, as well as the further rain of money to buy the votes of Party delegates at primaries.
Are challenges you listed above, including insecurity, surmountable?
It is time to rescue our nation from this blood-sucking group of people. A state of emergency and tenure elongation under the guise of present circumstances as an excuse is unacceptable to Nigerians. The National Assembly should invoke the doctrine of necessity to give a legal backing to the Re-Work Eminent Personalities Team – REPT suggested earlier. This can serve as a legal framework that will not only put the team in place, but also streamline how it should work so that political self-interest will not jeopardize National interest.
There should not be any political interference from the presidency or any other group/groups to influence the work of the Team, whose members should be given a very modest sitting allowance. If this insecurity and social crisis continue to escalate across the country, the National Assembly should do the needful by invoking the relevant provisions of the constitution to salvage the country.
Does NCGF see any hope for a better Nigeria?
NCGF is confident that out of this glaring decadence in the nation shall emerge a greater Nigeria in the mighty name of Jesus Christ… Amen