By Chinelo Obogo
Ndukwe Ikoh, a public affairs commentator, was a governorship and House of Representative aspirant in Abia State. He has weighed in on the agitation by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) for secession and the military invasion of Abia, saying that only restructuring and efficient governance could end the agitation. He also spoke on the 2019 election and what it portends for the country.
There have been arguments on whether the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu is constitutionally right to agitate for self-determination. Do you think that he got it wrong recently warranting the military invasion of Abia State?
The Biafra struggle that started since 1957 by Odimegwu Ojukwu has a very serious concept upon which it was built and this concept was and is still very vital to Nigerians, especially those from the Southern part of the country. It had to do with those who were marginalized and not allowed to develop their potentials, and then there was the serious issue of ethnic mistrust between the north and the south which led to the attempt to break away from the rest of the country.
Kanu’s cause is a little divergent from the original because Biafra was a cause that was built on the need for equity and justice. And it involves people from the South East and some part of the South/South that felt that they were unfairly treated, that was what gave rise to Biafra. Kanu has reduced the struggle to an Igbo struggle and painted the Igbo as if they were at war with the rest of the country, that is one of the areas he got it wrong.
If you will remember, Ojukwu was the ‘president’ of Biafra while Brigadier Effiong was his deputy. So you can see that Biafra was not entirely an Igbo cause. He has no clear plan to push the secession drive. There is no way the Igbo can secede from Nigeria without alliance and representation from the global bodies like UN and AU.
I don’t know the plan Kanu put in place to attract the sympathy of such bodies. Locally, he got it wrong because there was no way you can be enemies to the neighbours you want to join to become a republic. For instance, he called Ijaws all sorts of names and once referred to Niger Deltans as cowards. Even calling Nigeria a zoo was an error because if Biafra eventually secedes, Nigeria will still be their neighbour. He also failed to galvanise the Igbo leadership and make sure that they were on the same page with him. At a certain stage, IPOB members became miscreants. People who sell or consume hard drugs in the South East as well as some petty thieves became members of IPOB.
Is there a positive aspect in his audacity in calling for secession?
Through his agitation, we saw what we already know in the country, which is that things are not working well. His voice was heard over the deprival in the Nigerian system. Nobody would have agitated like he did, because the elected representatives, the governors in their comfort zones could not have come out boldly to raise a voice for deprived Nigerians. But then, the fight like that of Kanu over deprival remains a continuous one. At every stage, there will always be somebody, who will come out to drive the message of maladministration in the country. Those in the South East and other Nigerians are daily crying out over poor governance and it will continue as long as the country remains the way it is. Despite all the lapses, I think it was right he came. We should listen to the voices of those crying out against marginalization and poor administration in his overall message and do the right thing in the country. This is because there will still be more of such agitations if the country is not fully restructured.
What lessons should be learnt from everything that has happened in the South East, especially the agitation?
The most important lesson is that the country is divided. Politicians may come and tell you all sorts of things about one Nigeria but the truth remains that nation-building in the country has failed. Nigerians are not proud to say that they are Nigerians. If you are born in Lagos, you should be a Lagosian and should have all the rights reserved for Lagos State indigenes but tribal sentiments are still high in Nigeria because we do not like one another. If you have a potential, you should develop it to any level and that remains the essence of humanity, but if you are limited by man-made potentials, you feel very bad as a human being. Maybe that is why Kanu said Nigeria is a zoo.
Another important lesson is that if we fail to heed to the voice of reason and address the imbalance in the country, then Nigeria will continue to struggle and possibly disintegrate. The lesson to the Igbo is to make sure there is good governance in the South East because Ohaneze Ndigbo is a dead body that cannot rise to any occasion. The governors should make sure that South East becomes a very strong region. While the agitation is seen as an anomaly by some people, it is equally a product of a failed system in the country and the South East and the governors should galvanise efforts and address a lot of issues in the region.
In your view, do you think restructuring is the solution to these agitations?
Restructuring means reducing items on the Federal Government’s exclusive list and devolving such powers to the regions or states. Resource control means you develop what you have and maximize it for the use of the country. But in a situation where people are limited, they will not be able to develop fully. With Nigeria’s current structure, even if you bring Jesus Christ to Nigeria to rule, He will fail.
The strongest power at the centre remains finance and the military and realistically, these are the two strongest powers any national government can have and nobody will contest that with them at the centre. That is the way it is done in the United States and other western countries. Apart from those two, every other element of governance should be devolved.
So many Nigerians are already disillusioned by the present administration, what do you think the approaching election year holds for the country?
2019 looks bleak in the sense that we have a government we hoped will do well but not much has been achieved. The biggest tragedy of a nation is going back to its vomit. Just two years after ditching Jonathan and the PDP, people are clamouring for them to come back and all this is because of poor governance. It is not about Buhari but the poor foundation on which Nigeria was built. Nigeria was built on a very wrong foundation. That APC has not been able to do much in over two years is due to structural defects in the country where every contractor or industrialist want to identify with the government in power for their patronage. That is a structural defect. Now Buhari is sick, yet some people are asking him to contest a second term; seriously something is wrong with this country. If we don’t change the structure, 2019 holds little or no hope for the country.
What if Buhari decides to contest the 2019 election?
He has the right to contest, but there are lots of unresolved issues. The ethnic and religious as well as the money questions are very serious. Ethnicity plays an important role in elections in Nigeria and it is the biggest problem the country has now. It is also fuelling corruption because people say, I come from this place and that place, so let me use the opportunity I have in government to grab and help my people. So the chances of the president coming back to power in 2019 are high on the strength of where he comes from. Ethnicity and religion will help Buhari come back to power but in terms of performance and the aspiration of Nigerians that he has failed to meet, it will be a very big injustice to political development. (The Sun)