Power Game SERIES
By WILLY EYA (email@example.com)
For Oscar Onwudiwe, a lawyer and social commentator, Nigeria can only move forward if her people denounce corruption and collectively fight it to the roots. He believes that corruption has become part of our body politic. The legal practitioner also concludes that one of the worst legacies of former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar is the 1999 constitution which he foisted on the people.
Sunday Sun engaged him recently and he spoke extensively on the state of affairs in the country. Excerpts…
Judging by what happened last year, what are your expectations for the current fiscal year?
One of the things I would say to you is that I happen to be a lawyer and a social commentator, not a prophet. It is only the prophets who would tell you that this or that would happen or not happen in 2013. For any other normal person who is reading Nigeria as it unfolds, the number one thing you know is that our nation is full of surprises either in the positive or negative. But we have seen more of the negative than the positive.
So, when we start a new year and people say even the president said this year would be better than last year, one wonders whether he did not say the same things at the end of 2011. The truth is that Nigeria is unpredictable. This is a country that runs a system that makes it conflict-prone. It is not individuals but the system. It does not matter how well you do it, you can have the best of intentions in Nigeria but how it will turn out would be different. Why? This is because we have not addressed the fundamentals.
We are all slaves in this country. We are slaves to a constitution that was dashed to us by former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar. That constitution seems to bring out the worst in us. It has ruined Nigeria. So, it is not the laws you make or the intentions but who are the people to implement it. What is the mindset of those people? When the president says Nigeria would be better in 2013, if we line up 90 per cent of the people working with him who are supposed to execute whatever dream he has in mind, what is their mindset? What would the word better mean? Would it mean better in the sense that my pocket would be bigger or would it truly mean better in the sense that I would do my best to deliver dividends to the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
These are the issues to be discussed. When I was younger, if I heard statements like that, it would boost my optimism. As I get older, when I hear it, I say until I see. We were so sure that by last year, we would probably even get to 7,000 megawatts of electricity. Today, we are proud to announce just over 4,000 megawatts. Over the Christmas period from the 22nd until January 4, there was no light in my area. I was burning generator every single day. Let it be that there is a problem in my own area but I went to some other areas and not many had fun. So, to predict Nigeria is one of the most difficult things that anybody could do. First of all, we also have the problem of the black man.
The black problems were mentioned by some racists in South Africa. They say we find it extremely difficult to plan beyond one year. We go from January to December and our lives end and that is the way it goes. But the truth is this, in other civilized areas, even within our own tradition of old, we could have five year development plan. If you see a five-year old child, he would be planning what he would do in the next five years.
Who does that any more? Now, it is only one year. So, to predict this year to answer you appropriately, I would not even make an attempt. These days I do not listen to what people say but I watch what they do. If I see the president developing the courage to begin to discipline the people working with him and giving them targets to say this is it and by so and so month, I want to see this happen, then I would see it happen.
If he does not see it, he would not remember the emir of your village or the Oba of where you come from or the Eze and he throws you out of office, then I would know that the president is serious. But as long as Mr President can still be influenced by other things including making some people happy because in 2015 he may need them, there is a problem. If all these happen, 2013 would go like 2012 with more people making money in preparation for 2015.
Despite promises by the Federal Government to win the war against insecurity, life is still not safe in the country especially in the northern part of the country. What is your take on that?
My take truly is that government means well. Government intends to win. Government hopes to win. Government is praying to win. But how do you win a war against somebody you do not know? And the system of approaching this war is the most wrong system I can imagine. The system is let us go and look out for these people and arrest and kill them. If I were Mr president, all those areas where you have these insurgents, you have leaders there and people others look up to for leadership. Call them and say you know why I am giving you this task and you should tell me what it takes to stop insurgency in your area. The people are not ghosts or spirits.
Majority of those carrying the guns and killing are very ignorant people. Who are the people deceiving them if you are not the ones and then make sure that this thing stops. If it does not, what would I do? I would declare a state of emergency in that your area and I would not tell you when I would lift it and it does not matter how much you would cry. I would now get people of other tribes in the Army who would be ruling those areas and then democracy ends for you. But if you must do that, go ahead because part of my duties as Mr President is to ensure that there is safety for life and property in the country.
If the government elected in that place to protect the lives and property of the people cannot find out those who do not want peace within their areas and destroying the economy, I would declare a state of emergency. Nobody makes it alone. There must be external investment and nobody including their sons would ever go to such places to invest. So, if I were Mr President, that is the task I would give the leaders. All the Senators, House of Representatives members, governors and traditional rulers, I will tell them this thing is now in your hands.
I would tell them that if there is any help they need from me, they should let me know. If you do not stop it, I am not going to declare a state of emergency in some areas but the entire state and every other person that is representing that state would go. When you do that, they would know that you are serious. But when you just send soldiers to that place, give them a lot of money, they go in there and they do not really know who they are going to kill but anybody who looks rough or carries a gun, they go after him. That strategy can continue forever.
You are reinforcing the will of those people and they would say they have come to kill us but we would not let them because Allah would protect us. Do not forget that they have been indoctrinated into believing that they are killing for Allah. I do not see how the president is going to win this war except the strategy changes. We are talking about a religion that encourages somebody to take his own life in the process of trying to destroy another person’s life or a people’s lives.
The truth is that people are still joining the sect every single day and they are not doing that to come and announce to you. They are joining to look for when you are most vulnerable. How then would the President win? But it is the job of the president to continuously give us hope but is Mr President going to win the war with this strategy of just putting the Joint Task Force (JTF) there. I sincerely do not think so. This is because that war is local.
That politics is local and you must use the locals and not the Federal Government. The locals themselves must be made to feel this is not in our interest and they must be preaching it. They must be prepared to fish out anybody who wants to destroy their state. Let us face it. I have not heard anybody from the North sincerely repeating and reminding the people that the word Islam is peace. But how do you get peace by killing. Prophet Mohammed never fought and never killed anybody. And the perpetrators are supposed to be followers of Prophet Mohammed. What is going on? Somebody somewhere is playing politics and using religion because religion means a lot to the people in the North.
They do not joke with it. It was a way to say, if this is where the people go, why not? It is a great opium. We can use this opium and manipulate the minds of the people for political reasons. Was there not a promise that the place would be made ungovernable before Jonathan even became the nominated candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
It was published everywhere and not long after, they started the implementation. Nothing has happened to all those people who made all those promises. Even if one of them was from the East and may be a member of Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), may be the whole place would have been leveled by now. Those are the people that dare not break the law, it is easy to level them and guess what, even the world would not say a word.
That brings us to the issue of corruption. Do you think the Federal Government under President Jonathan is determined to fight corruption in Nigeria?
The government cannot fight corruption. This is because corruption is official in Nigeria. We run a system that begs you to be corrupt. You are bound to be corrupt. It is only your personal morality that can now make you to know when to stop. The only reason any human being behaves well is the fear of sanctions. When we get to the level of being so civilized which we are not, you begin to think about your name and integrity.
How do I want to be remembered? That again becomes your own sanction. But other than that the society can place a sanction that if you do certain things, you would be punished and it does not matter who you are. In a place like the United States, if a president does something bad, he goes down for it. Here, the president has immunity and he can do what he likes just like his vice, governors and their deputies. You do not question their powers.
If you question them, they tell you that you are a detractor. When it is your turn, you would do the same. There is a mindset that it is my turn. These are the things that give birth to corruption. We have a constitution that rather than create competition in various states by giving them freedom and develop at their own pace feels that we have a unitary government and the lie is that it is a federal government.
We have a unitary government foisted on us by Abdulsalami Abubakar. A forced marriage would always give birth to a dysfunctional family. If you want to breathe in Nigeria, you would be corrupt as a government official because corruption is official in Nigeria. I do not like hearing that people are corrupt. This is because you finish saying it and tomorrow you find yourself in a position, then the old Boys association would have a meeting and have a reception for you and tell you that it is our turn. The entire family and all the wives of your friends would tell you that it is our turn and so on and so forth. This is because there is this sharing the national cake mentality.
You remember at Azazi’s burial, President Goodluck Jonathan said people keep talking about corruption but what they call corruption is not really corruption and I was waiting for him to explain further and he talked about attitude and stopped. I like the president so much but he is not particularly an orator and we have never really had one. Nigeria has never had one president that would mount the podium and inspire the people. Zik was good but he was merely a ceremonial president. When such a person comes, he would arouse the feeling of inadequacy in the minds of all the political godfathers who would automatically feel we cannot control this one and they pull him down.
You must understand that there is an unspoken agreement by the political godfathers that Nigeria should not move forward. I am talking about those who do not do any other thing but politics. But it is not their fault. We, the people allow it. You call a man corrupt while you are sitting in the comfort of your living room. Then you attend a function and they mention his name and call him ‘Honorable this and that’ and you get up and you are clapping. May be you are even the one organizing that function and you call him with such reverence and you think the next man would not be corrupt. Has anybody been punished for corruption in Nigeria? The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is busy dealing with people who are doing 419 businesses above N2 million.
When you give them money, they would see whether they could get the person and punish him. There is nothing else. It was in London that they could deal with Ibori and not any EFCC in Nigeria. In those days, if Obasanjo wanted to deal with you, that is when the EFCC deals with you. I do not like talking about corruption. We have all consented to the fact that corruption is what is feeding us. If you go by the economy of Nigeria according to Sanusi, 52 percent of the annual budget of the country goes to Abuja.
Now, all the people working under Abuja are not up to 3 million and this number would spend 72 percent of that 52 percent on servicing debts-recurrent expenditure. So, what is left for development and yet all of us are looking up to Abuja to come and develop everywhere including our villages? The state governors now sit down and they are happy feeling that they are handicapped and they take care of themselves. Things would be the way they are until we say with the little funds available and within the bad law and fraud called the constitution, we can do something rather than the practice of some governors not interested in making a name but making money for his great grand children.
If we find such a person and he could build a team within his own small enclave, he would show that it can work. What it takes is determination. For as long as Abuja remains the way it is and for as long as 52 per cent is given to Abuja and there is a rat race for Abuja, if Jesus Christ comes and becomes the president of Nigeria, if he tries to stop it, we will kill him. This is because corruption is the only way we breathe.
Corruption is what is uniting Nigeria today. Because of corruption, you would see a man who goes preaching to his villagers that the other man from the other tribe is his enemy but you see two of them sitting down and eating from the same plate and patting each others back. The idea of telling the lie to his own people is so that they can send him to do their battle for them but he comes in there and he sits with this other man of the other tribe and they divide the money. That is the unity we have in Nigeria.
We do not have a system that creates the competition of old where the groundnut pyramid would be there. The palm kernel is moving and agriculture is happening in the South West with cocoa. Awolowo sets up a television station and says the first in West Africa and M.I Okpara would counter it and say it is second to none in Africa. Then Ahmadu Bello moves, Zik sets up a university and Awolowo says for what and sets up his own. Ahmadu Bello sets up his own and there was a healthy competition.
But today, the competition is which governor has a bigger house in Dubai or in South Africa? But in the good old days I was referring to, the constitution allowed competition. Make your own resources and keep majority of your resources and you cannot take your resources away from your people because they help you to make it. They know you and your family. But who knows anybody in Abuja? It is very far from Otuoke where the president comes from and you have 52 percent going there. Let people stop criticizing corruption because we consented to it. And there is only one way out.
Take that constitution and throw it away. And go back to 1960 constitution and mend it to now suit the presidential system of government if that is what we want and bring it back to zonal arrangement. Let them manage their own economy. Nobody is talking about Abdulsalami Abubakar who dropped the 1999 constitution. He dropped the bomb that is killing this country. That thing is Hiroshima bomb. Where he got that constitution from, I do not know and I believe working alone.
He was working in concert with people who sincerely believe that for as long as the lie remains that they would continue to control Nigeria. And what is the lie? The lie is that population is more in the desert than in the forest region and that was the lie created in 1953 by the British. It has been sustained over the years. When you tell a lie for a long time, it would be perceived as true.