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…Says oil industry cabal too strong
By Alvan Ewuzie
WHEN this reporter entered his Glass House office in owerri that afternoon and beheld hundreds of people, who turned out to be politicians, his hunch was that Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu might reschedule the appointment.
He was right. The meeting held the next day but not in his office.
At his home in Orji in the outskirts of Owerri, the businessman, philanthropist and politician fielded questions after some ground rules: No questions about his family, evidently about the young wife he married in 2013. No questions about President Muhammadu Buhari. Thankfully, he broached the
matter without prompting. Before the tape rolled, Chief Iwuanyanwu would tell you how he provided the seed fund for the Imo Airport, how he was detained for months after the Nigerian civil war, insisting that contrary to general belief, Ndigbo love themselves and can rally round in support of a worthy cause.
He was born on 4 September, 1942 in Atta, Ikeduru Local Government Area of Imo State. He studied Civil Engineering at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and thereafter worked at the Hardel and Enic Construction Company, later acquiring it from the foreign operators. His business grew into a conglomerate of over 20 companies.
But the 73-year-old elder statesman says he has retired from active business. He had a promising political career and at different times ran for the office of the presidency of Nigeria.
He was once Chairman of Raw materials Research Institute, Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) and other top rate appointments. He is currently a member of the Board of Trustees
of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and represents the South East zone in the party caucus.
He founded the Iwuanyanwu Nationale Football Club (now Heartland F.C.), which won several national and international championships.
Below are excerpts from the interview:
The peoples Democratic Party has zoned the chairmanship and presidential candidate of the party to the North, do you think that is right?
I was not at the meeting where that decision was taken. I am a member of the Board of Trustees and I represent the South East in the national caucus.
We have a meeting coming up and I know these matters will be revisited. They must have a reason for such a decision otherwise it is a curious situation because what normally happens is that when the presidency is in the North, the chairmanship will be in the South.
That is how it should be and our party has agreed that the presidency should go to the North; it was the unanimous view of all the six zones. I talk for the South East and I know we agreed that the North should field a presidential candidate come 2019. However, I need to get further explanation, concerning
the zoning of the chairmanship. I travelled when that meeting held.
One of the problems of the party is imposition of candidates; has that been taken care of in the ward congresses just held?
I agree with you, part of our problems in the past has been imposition of candidates. The truth about the politics of today is that imposition can no longer work and if the PDP continues along that line, then it will continue to have electoral reverses. The elections are becoming more transparent such that it is becoming difficult to manipulate results. There is no question of impunity, tyranny or arrogance.
Power must be handed back to the people. The party was established with the principle of ‘power to the people’. The party grew from that background and operated as such until some people corrupted that system with money.
People have become conscious of this cankerworm and are now fighting it. Here in the South East, we have done our best to let the people know that if you impose a candidate, the people will not support you during elections, so the best thing to do is to ensure that internal democracy prevails in the party and that is what we are doing now. We have finished our ward congresses around the country and I can talk about the situation in Imo. I know that the case in Owerri Zone went on well apart from one local government, which had a minor problem that we shall resolve. In Okigwe, there was no problem. In Orlu, we have some complaints that we are trying hard to resolve. They will meet in my house.
They accept me as a leader and I play the role of a father; we shall resolve the issues. The issues are not beyond redemption.
There are strong indications as we speak that the chairmanship and the presidential candidates of the party would come from the North, is this not anomaly?
As I told you, I was not there when the decision was taken. What has happened is that the last chairman was from the North-east. It was Bamanga Tukur, who started from that zone and later stopped; then Adamu Muazu came in and some North-east people are arguing that they ought to be allowed to complete their tenure. So, even if somebody comes from the North, it will be to complete that tenure,
since Muazu spent less than two years.
You once contested to be the President of Nigeria, what did you intend to offer Nigerians at that time. Do you still see some of the problems unsolved?
I had the best of intentions when I offered myself. I believe that God gave me the intellect to serve at that capacity.
One of the fundamental things I wanted to do was to ensure that we stopped exporting raw materials without adding any value to them. This issue of foreigners taking raw materials from here, processing it in their place and returning the finished goods for us to buy should stop. In fact, I am opposed
to Nigeria selling crude oil because I believe that we should be able to refine oil here and sell the refined products. That time, we had 21 states and I had wanted to build a refinery in every state. I knew that government might not be able to finance it, so I got in touch with foreign partners, who were ready to provide the funding and at the end of the day, there would be equity between government and
the partners. Government would take between 49 and 51 per cent while the partners take the rest and they would be there to run them as commercial entities in order to recover their capital.
The plan was that our petrol, diesel and other by products would be made here and by that we would no longer have shortage of supply. We would have had 21 refineries, functioning since they will be run by private people. After 10 years, government will now sell those shares to indigenes, who would now
own the refineries in partnership with the foreigners. In those 10 years, government would have recovered what it spent and got some profit. By that plan, we would have had 21 refineries in the country and this issue of subsidy and all that would have been a thing of the past. But even when I suggested it to the successive governments, it became clear that there was a cabal in this country whose duty is to sell crude oil; that powerful cabal will never want anything to interfere with the sale of crude oil. Selling crude oil in Nigeria simply means somebody sitting in his house, getting a piece of paper that he has been allocated crude, he makes a phone call and money enters his account. These people are
just making money without making serious effort; they do not want anyone to stop them. America,
Britain and some other places produce crude oil but they do not sell to anybody. We are just lazy
and would continue drifting if we continue that way.
That is one thing I wanted to stop if I had the opportunity. I recommend that Buhari should stop
that cabal. The other area that pains me is the issue of power. I believe that centralised power supply
will not work. I said it then and we have seen it. You do not need to have a centralised national
grid. It will not work and it has not worked. We have had countless committees, working on it, yet
it has not worked. I had said that power should be left to the states. By my calculations at that time, it
would have taken about 10 years for every state to be self-sufficient in power supply. The money we
have spent on power so far can give regular and adequate power to half of the entire African
continent. As you know, most of the money go to wrong people and wrong equipment.
There are so many sources of power and all these states have them; those that do not have can combine with those that have.
Thenthe other issue that has held the nation down is corruption. To be honest, I am impressed
with Buhari’s courage. It requires courage to fight that big monster. People now know that there will be accountability. See what is being revealed about the oil industry, also the war against insurgency. How can people pocket the funds meant for such serious national challenge? They did not bother about those Nigerians being killed. I commend Buhari for his courage although I am in the PDP but I am happy with his war against the monster called corruption.
As a party, we may disagree with him because we are fighting to take back power but my type of politics
is not the type that call black white and says that a good thing is bad. We are all looking for the betterment of our country; if someone is doing well in any area, we should commend the person. We may disagree in some areas.
You have spoken as a nationalist. What other areas do you give kudos or disagree with him and what would you advise?
The president is someone I know. I know that he is a selfless and courageous leader. His ascendancy was divine up to a point. It was not expected, even in PDP we did not expect it. Anyone who is in metaphysics will see that his rise is divine.
I give him credit for the fight against corruption.
How can people steal the kind of money they do not even require, what would they do with it? Some of them are even bold enough to make the very stupid statement that their children and grandchildren can never be poor. What it means is that your heirs will be idle and redundant. What would I do with that kind of money? I have retired from active business. When I was in active business, when I made money, I invested it. Now I eat only once a day; what will I do with all that money. These days, I spend money on charity.
These people are just stupid; do they not know that one day they would die? Have you ever seen anybody who was buried with his money and houses? When they steal so much and die, they create a lot of trouble for their children, who would be fighting over wealth instead of struggling to make a living.
The other part of the Buhari’s regime is that he has also done well in the fight against Boko Haram because those who used to see him as a religious
bigot would have a rethink given how he has fought the insurgents, who say what they do has a religious connection.
We now see that they have nothing to do with him and he has fought them with even greater ferocity. He has fought them to a standstill. I was shocked to hear that some Generals, who are supposed to prosecute the war were busy embezzling the money meant for the fight.
However, I am worried about the activities of the so-called herdsmen and I think he should tackle it the same way he has tackled Boko Haram. The other problem is unemployment. Something must be done because much of this restiveness is an offshoot of unemployment.
Now that the budget has been signed and he has his full cabinet, they should look into that issue because the army of jobless youths can be a threat to peace. The issue of vocational training is good but those trained must be given seed fund to start something.
Those who qualify after the training should be given money and monitored so that they will be in business and also employ other people. They must be closely monitored so that they do not walk away with the money.
You touched on an important issue, the Fulani herdsmen attacks, which have resulted in loss of lives in Enugu and other places. How can we overcome this problem?
Honestly, I do not understand what is happening. For years, we have lived with these people peacefully. As a child, I saw them here in my area, we have been with them. When their cows strayed into farms, they apologised to the owners and they settled amicably.
There was no case of impunity. But it has now come to a situation where the people are armed with guns. They now come with impunity and destroy farmland.
They now kidnap people and ask for ransom. They now rape women.
Things were not like this in the past. The president must know that this is no longer cattle herding, it may be a continuation of the insurgency. But it must be contained now because they are spreading all over the country thus widening their dragnet. They have attacked in Benue, Taraba, Enugu and other places. If they erupt simultaneously in these places it would be dangerous.
That is why the president must take the matter seriously.
Do you think the solution is the grazing bill?
No. I do not even understand what the bill is all about and from what I have heard, I don’t think any government should try that. The president should not sign such a bill, even if the House and Senate pass it, because it will create a lot of problems. Take the example of Imo State, whose land would be given
for that purpose? Since these people have shown the capacity to destroy property and lives, it will be dangerous to give them a base in every state in the country. It will compromise security in the country. We should have ranches, not grazing field; that is the practice in other parts of the world. I am also
telling the people from the South that raising cows should not be for Fulani only, nothing stops them from getting involved. I do not agree with that bill and I do not think any sane president will sign such a bill into law.
What is your advice to the young men now agitating for Biafra?
I put my life on the line, as a soldier during the civil war. I was wounded and those who know me know that I used to walk with a stick. I had to go for surgery to correct it. In Nigeria, the Igbo people are everywhere. I do not believe the figures given to us during
census is correct because our people do not go home during the exercise.
They are counted where they reside
thus boosting the population of those places. The indicators are that we are the next after the indigenes in every state. But the issue is that the people are not fairly treated. Some of these boys are angry because when they want jobs, they are sidelined for people whose kinsmen are at the helm in government
and they have no one.
Our people have businesses all over the place but they are not happy how they are being treated. That is why they are agitating. They should be made to feel that they are integral part of the country.
They should not help build every part of the country and yet be treated like second class citizens. If Nigeria is a corporate entity, the Igbo have well over 70 per cent equity but they are not
being treated well. I do not want to say more on this.
A lot of people, especially younger people, may want to know the inner workings of the man, who had Iwuanyanwu Nationale Football Club, Hardel and Enic construction company, Magil Industires, Champion Newspapers, Oriental Airlines and others.
Like I said earlier, I have retired from active business. But Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu is a child of God. My mother waited for long before she had me. I graduated as the best cadet in the army. It is a big thing in the army to graduate as such. As a young man, I was an athlete and I did well in the university.
Everywhere I go, people accept me as their leader. I did well when I was active in business. I ascribe everything to the grace of God and human beings, who have shown abiding love for me.
I believe in the sacredness of human life. I believe in dignity of labour. All the things I achieved in my active days as a businessman came by the grace of God. I made a lot of money. The two million naira seed that was needed to commence the building of Imo Airport was brought by me. At that time,
the naira was stronger than the dollar.
All these things will appear in my biography, which is being written. Now, I can tell people that there is more to life than making money. Nobody ever gets buried with the money he made.
People are rather remembered for what they did with the money, which is why I now spend the little I have on charity. I am no longer active in business. I now play my role in politics as a nationalist, to contribute my quota towards national development.