David Onwuchekwa, Nnewi
Elder statesman and former aviation minister in Nigeria’s First Republic, Chief Mbazulike Amechi has taken a critical look at some nagging national issues including killings perpetrated by the herdsmen in parts of the country, President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term bid, restructuring, the Igbo and their crave for equal treatment in the comity of Nigerian nation. He disapproves of President Buhari’s 2nd term bid, describing it as re-electing an analogue president in digital era. He also addressed some other issues of national importance. Excerpts:
Nigeria is witnessing Killings here and there. What can you say about this?
I wouldn’t call it total failure of the present administration. But there are things I can’t understand myself, as it were.
In the Southern Nigeria, when there is a problem, the Army is used to quell the problem, like one in the Rivers State. There were killings, the military and State Security Service (SSS) had a joint operation and were said to have arrested a few people who were said to be responsible for the killings.
When the IPOB and MASSOB issues arose in the South-east, the military with armoured vehicles and highest military weapons were deployed to attack a private compound of somebody, Kanu and since then the young man has disappeared miraculously and the family has been crying out, saying they looted their property, and so on but the military had not said a word about that. And nobody has said a word about that.
But when those so-called herdsmen who are of the same tribal origin as the President invaded in Benue State and Plateau States, in Enugu State even in the Christian area of Kaduna State, Zango Kataf area, we were told that the military was not invited but the police were sent to arrest and the next thing they would do is within 24 hours to charge them to court with a bailable offence in a place where they attacked and declared war on the Federal Government because people they attacked are citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And the case will just die away like that. So, it is difficult to know what is happening.
Who issues these military weapons to these herdsmen? Who trains them on the use of the weapons? I’m sure if they give you AK47 rifle today as a journalist, you won’t know how to use it unless you are taught how to use it. That is it. But these so-called herdsmen carry these weapons and they know how to use them.
They operate when people are dead in their sleep. They attack, burn houses and kill people, men, women, and children. And government is silent about it. They will tell you they are sending the police to investigate and this happens mainly in the Christian parts of the country, in Taraba State, Benue State, in Ondo State, in Enugu State, in Southern Kaduna. So, the President owes the country a serious explanation over these happenings.
One, who arms these people, who trains them on the use of the weapons and why are they so closely protected by government as they commit these heinous crimes. That’s what I can say about that.
So, you are saying, Sir, that when it concerns the Igbo the President will take drastic measures but when it concerns his own people, he will treat the issue with kid’s gloves?
What I’m saying is when it concerns the Igbo, the entire Southern Nigeria, the President will use the military. But when it concerns the so-called herdsmen who commit heinous crimes, the president uses the police to investigate, not even to do anything. Look at the case in Plateau State. Was any arrest made, Taraba State, Benue State, Enugu State and Ondo State? Has anything serious in concrete terms been done about herdsmen attacks in those states?
Should President Buhari go for a second tenure in 2019 even as his party, other groups and individuals fan support for him?
First of all, I really can’t understand why the INEC is busy registering more political parties. Must we have a hundred political parties in one country? It is clear that two political parties are strong and are controlling substantial parts of this country – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). So, instead of deregistering all these other mushroom things (political parties) the INEC is registering more political parties. How many of these new political parties and some of the old ones have branches perhaps in more than one or two states and one or two rooms as offices with Abuja as headquarters?
Be that as it may, on the President contesting the election in 2019, I hear that he has declared his intention to contest and that he has even appointed somebody to be a director general of his campaign organization.
Eh…..m, by the constitution, by the laws of the land, he is entitled to contest for a second term. But then, the question is: is it right; is it in the best interest of this country? Here is somebody who has ruled this country as a military dictator and again after four attempts the country gave him a chance in a democratic election and elected him President. And he is serving out a full four years. If it were a country other than Africa, he would say ‘I’m alright, the country has shown confidence in me.’
By his age and by his health, I don’t think it is in the best interest of the country for him to contest. Nigeria is developing like any other country in a digital era and it is not in the best interest of the country to re-elect an analogue president in a digital era.
From his health point of view, I don’t think the man is strong enough to do the rigours of a president in a vast country like Nigeria. And I don’t believe what he gave as his age. That could be the age at which he joined the army and so forth. But I believe he is older than the declared age.
So, what a true and patriotic Buhari would have done, in my opinion, is what Nelson Mandela did in South Africa, to say ‘I have led the country, the country has shown enough confidence in me. Now by my age, I stand aside. Let somebody else step in’ because we do not want to have a Mugabe in Nigeria.
What do you have to say about people who fan support for him for 2019?
What do you want me to tell people who are hungry, who want money but will not tell Mr President the truth? Are they supporting him because they believe in him? They are supporting him because they want money, they are hungry, they want positions, they want offices, they want to be part of the embezzlement of the public wealth of the country. They want to be part of all these. That’s why they fan support for him.
Between APC current administration and PDP former leadership of the country, which of the two would you choose?
It is left for the country to decide. Who am I to decide whether APC or PDP will rule the country. At most if I want to vote, I can only cast one vote. So it is not for me to offer an opinion on that, it is left for Nigerians to decide.
The question is for the country to decide which to choose of the two evils. None of the two political parties is patriotic. They are made up of looters. None of them has nationalist outlook. Look at the cabinet of the present government. Don’t you know the number of looters who are there like in the Jonathan’s government? So which one do you think is better? It is a matter of the country choosing the lesser evil. The two political parties are evil.
In his New Year broadcast, President Buhari insisted that he would not restructure Nigeria. What’s your take on that?
That is more reason the country should reject him, if he eventually contests the election coming up. Who is he as one man, when the whole country, over 90 per cent of Nigerians call for restructuring and then he said he would not do it or listen to the voice of reason. That alone is enough for the country to reject him at the polls. The country is long over due for restructuring and as long as the country is not restructured it is moving towards explosion or implosion. I have said it many times that it may happen unawares.
Northern youths are reportedly calling for Igbo Presidency in 2019, promising their support. How do you look at that?
One or two people can meet and issue a statement and say they are Northern or Arewa youths. You see, they have the right to say that. But the issue is that as Nigeria stands now and based on principle, the North should run their full eight years tenure before the Igbo should think of coming in for presidency. That is my personal opinion.
That is the North should be supported and allowed for full eight- year tenure for that to simplify the chances of the Igbo to produce the next president in 2023
That is the way the country has made it. The ideal thing is for the presidency to come from any part of the country according to the choice of the people. But because of the nature of politics in African countries or in Nigeria in particular, zoning is the order of the day in order to allow for peace. When people are elected into the office of president they begin to make appointments according to their place of origin and their political parties. That’s why people are asking for zoning, every zone wants to have a chance. Otherwise in developed countries, leadership could come from any place because leadership is for the whole country.
So, I believe that because of the nature of politics and thinking of our people, Nigeria should continue like that until it is developed enough not to bother where one comes from.
Just look at how the Igbo are marked out because they did not vote for President Buhari. The Igbo, the South-east is marked out for non-development, for treatment as not being part of the country, as non-equal part of the federation.
So, you mean, sir, nothing has changed in Igbo marginalization since Buhari took over?
If anything has changed, it has changed for worse not for better. It has been from bad to worse for the Igbo since Buhari took over. He doesn’t hide it, neither can he hide his hatred for the Igbo.
What do you think Buhari should do to please the Igbo?
What a minute, in a federation like Nigeria, the whole security services – the Army, Navy, Police, Air Force, the State Security Service – where can you find an Igbo man? Where can you find somebody from the South-east? Tell me.
In the petroleum industry of the country, where do you find the Igbo, look at the recent one where over 16 appointments were made, no single person from the South-east. In political appointments, ministerial appointments, if they want to give at all, they will give you a portfolio that is not strategic. Think about that.
Now that IPOB has gone underground, as it were, should the Igbo relax every hope for actualizing Biafra?
I believe in one united Nigeria. I belonged to a political party that headed the struggle for independence for Nigeria. We worked for one Nigeria. We manifested it in all our actions and words during our own time. But we belong to Nigeria not as slaves. We must be equal partners in the federation of Nigeria. I’m advocating equity for the Igbo not separation from the Nigerian federation.
Up till now Nnamdi Kanu has not been seen after the military invasion of his Afara home in Umuahia. What do you have to say about that?
Why not direct this question to the security operatives who invaded his home.
You say the IPOB has gone underground. It is not true. Don’t you read about somebody Powerful who from time to time issues statements about the group? They are there, even though we don’t know where Nnamdi Kanu is.