By Christy Anyanwu
Rev Moses Iloh speaks on the agitation by the now outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the Federal Government anti-corruption drive and calls for a restructuring of the country, among other contemporary issues. Excerpts:
AS an Igbo man, what would you say about the happenings in the South-east?
It is a manifestation of godlessness. The problem with the Igbo till date is that they have got to the stage where people became so educated that lots of the very educated people started a theory of godlessness. And I knew in my mind that one day, that feeling is going to land them in a mess. Maybe this is the day.
I was brought up as a child both by my parents who are Igbos and White missionaries. I grew up to know that there is a God; his name is Jehovah, creator of the entire universe. I also grew up as a radical politician. I was in the Zikist Movement. We had problems in Jos. I don’t know what we did that offended the policemen then. All the police officers became so angry; we were children. When we heard that Zik was coming to Jos at that time, we said we were going to protest on the streets. Some people told us, go on the streets but we decided to talk to Zik first before doing that. He came and we went to him, we were talking and rattling. Then he said we should listen to him.
He told us the story of a woman who was very rich and had a lot of children and wealth. So one day, some of the children came to her and said that people had been cheating them, people had been doing all sorts of things to them and that they were willing to die. She just listened to them. When they finished venting their anger and complaints, the woman told his children that she was rich enough and had enough for all of them; that she had no room for the death of any child and that she does not want any child to die.
So, he warned us not to ever open our mouths and say we are going to demonstrate or that we are ready to die for Nigeria. He said Nigeria is a very, very, rich woman who has everything for every child. And the last thing she would want to hear is that a child wants to die for her. All of us have grown up now, but since that day, none of us has come out to demonstrate because of what Zik told us.
That was good training; it came to us raw. Look at another point of view. Nigeria is principally a Christian nation. In Igbo land, the Muslims are just trying to infiltrate now. If you look at the Igbo’s rioting, killing people, there must be a lot of stupidity about the word Christianity. Do you know my anger with Ndigbo today? They are so richly blessed and our young people are coming out in the streets, provoking the soldiers, provoking the police, shooting front and back, losing lives and you are there; you are the big governor, you are the big senator, you are the big House of the Reps member. Do you realise that if the Igbo people have anything near following Christ, all they need to do is to call the leaders of the youths and say ‘we do not want any of you to die’ like Zik told us and I have never forgotten?
The governors as the leaders we have now should work out the kind of industries to start in every state so that the youth can have enough employment. Do you know that if develop industries in the South-east, nobody will want Ndigbo to go; they will come to you.
I wrote a memo to some of the governors a long time ago, giving them proposals. Firstly, why don’t you governors come together? If you go to the East, there are lots of bush areas. Why don’t the governors come together and start a company? Have a contract with a Japanese or Chinese firm and say to them, ‘we want to have a construction company’. They can come together and do low-cost houses in every state where the Igbo who are outside can buy and pay little by little. I wrote this piece during the Jonathan period and nobody replied.
I also wrote that sport is a unifying factor. Get all your commissioners for sports to meet and draw up a programme that every two years you have a sports festival in one state capital. Bring your youths together with a broad mind and let them have a game with each. Thirdly, have a festival of arts, also change from one state capital to another and bring all the youth together. Nobody said anything. The governors can put capital together and bring up a big, big business. Get some of them to manage the business and then let every Igbo man be free to buy shares in the business; that is unifying factor. Wherever you are, you would want to know how that business is going on. Nobody said anything.
What is the benefit of our education? All that the governors need to do is come together, open up industries in the East, give the boys/girls job and encourage them. If you develop the East, people will want to come there; nobody will want to leave because the boys from the East are brilliant, the girls are brilliant. Give the support; technical knowledge, advise them and watch them and you will be very surprised.
But what do we see? The governors in the East, they all have houses in Dubai and almost everywhere in the world. They are so rich but they can’t develop the youths in their own states.
What is your view on the agitation for Biafra, which is being championed by Nnamdi Kanu?
Some of the young boys came to see me last year about Biafra and I said to them, it would be difficult to come with you. I said when you people don’t listen to your elders, the elders you will put together one day and you will kill them in one year. I said to show respect. So many elders have spoken with you. Then Kanu has not even shown up. Now, what is Kanu looking for? To be president of Biafra? All of them were not born when Biafra problem was on. Any Igbo boy or man who will declare to be part of what will make an Igbo boy or girl die will be killed by somebody else and that fellow will go to hell. You have no right to do that. There is enough incentive in Igbo land.
In Igbo land, when somebody is dead it’s something serious. But when they kill you on the streets like a tout or like a dog, what do you want our children to remind us of. It makes no sense. What is Nnamdi Kanu looking for? If he is brilliant, he studied in England, he should build an industry at home, take youths to form a company and show other youths an example of how they can make progress. Instead, you are touting them to be killed and buried. I don’t think Kanu is sincere; I think some influence is behind him. If that young man has gone to the university, educated and come out and thinks that all that is good for his colleagues is to drag them out of the streets to be shot, then I don’t think he is sincere. What do you want? To be president or what? It is wrong.
There is no excuse for the blood of any Igbo youth that has been shed and God is going to ask those who did that. Why don’t you die yourself or rather be shot in the street? What are you calling Biafra for? We were in Biafra from day one to day zero and we know what it caused our youths. I want to insist that no Igbo boy, no Igbo girl is to be slaughtered like a dog or a goat. For who? Who are you that somebody else’s child will die for you.
So, IPOB’s agitation is wrong in your view?
It is wrong; it’s not just wrong, it is a defect to the youth and a dangerous enterprise. It is not right at all. What I’m saying is, there is no excuse to do what they are doing.
What is your take on anti-corruption special court and corruption?
My view on anti-corruption is that it is going at a snail speed. I agree that the president has had a challenge with his health. I’m waiting to hear that they arrested so and so and tried them in the courts.
Look at the fun they made with the Judges. They found cars in their houses; they caught them with this and that; they jeered them and while they were still under bail, they allowed them to slip into the court and try criminals. How much ridicule can we make of Nigeria? The fight against corruption in Nigeria is one of the most confused ever. Why is it so? Most of those who claim to be helping to fight corruption want to inherit the inheritance there, so you can’t get the truth. If Buhari were not sick, I could have blamed him.
Some years ago, there was an interview I did where I said, ‘if you arrest the thief, try him and jail him in Nigeria here. Put an ole uniform on him; when there is a football match, put him on a glass shelf and let the youths see, let the family see. Put them to such a shame that when they tell you to steal kobo you will think of the shame you will go through. Put them in the stadium; wherever there will be a large gathering of people, bring them out and let people see.”
In Nigeria, the more you steal the more, you get respected; you are honoured so that you can start stealing. You have done nothing for Nigeria and they have given you OON and big, big honours. What have you done to merit such honours? In other countries, it is when you show integrity, fruits of good work, that they honour you. Today, who cares about honours? I don’t think Nigeria is fighting corruption.
The worst thing is the hypocrisy of Christians in government. The Christians in Nigeria who are top in government are the problem. They are hypocrites. How can we have 83 million people who go to church on Sunday and you cannot change one corrupt habit in Nigeria? All they are doing is to compete on who gets richer.
Do you think Nigeria should be restructured?
Nothing like that. The only thing instead of restructuring is to get us back to a unity government. When they fill the form for us, there should be no space for the tribe, local government or religion. That is rubbish. That is not necessary. But to imprint an evil of corruption, you put your name, you put your tribe, and you put your religion, it’s incredible.
I have never seen a country so naïve with all our degrees and everything. There is no country as naïve as Nigeria. That is why Buhari is sick now; that is the President who has the courage to fight corruption. You look around, and you ask yourself if Buhari should die now, who is going to take over? Nobody!
Is Buhari high-handed in handling the IPOB agitation?
I think that the Buhari I supported is not this Buhari. I supported a Buhari who sees black and says he wants to make it white and he makes it white. Today, all the brilliant Christians around him in government have completely caged him with the word democracy. They will impeach you ooh, if you do so, so, and so. Buhari is not the same Buhari; he is not. If something is bad, call a leader of the group; they should take the fellow to court. Let the whole world watch what the court will do. But they don’t do anything because it’s a democracy. They tell him that they will say you are autocratic. What kind of thing is that? This is not what I expect of him. He is the president and he should allow the law have its way. This one, the law never had its way. No one has been punished; they all go round and round and only God knows where it will end.
In all these, if Buhari is coming out in 2019 will you still vote for him?
If he’s coming out in 2019 I will vote for him. The reason is, I can’t find another person. Show me? Look around; I see fraud in everything. Even the water you drink there is corruption in it. Look around you and show me if you can see transparency. So, I will vote for him because he still has the reputation to fight corruption. As it is now, I can’t vote for somebody else. Show me the Nigerian who can take over from Buhari? If you show me one, let him come out. Let him tell us that if he wins the election, he will be better than Buhari.
You are so passionate about Buhari. Why?
Yes! Because Buhari was the army General that ruled this country and did a good job. People went to work on time; everything was right.
Now, he is back as president. Who knows whether it’s Nigeria that made him sick? Who knows whether they poisoned his food? He became sick and they started praying for him to die. Ha, ha, ha, what kind of country is this? Now he has not died. Who knows what they are planning for him? (The Sun)