Igbo not satisfied with Buhari, says Ikedife
Former President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Dozie Ikedife, spoke to LAWRENCE NJOKU on how the Igbo have fared in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in the last two years. Excerpts:
Igbo’s perception of Buhari’s government
Ndigbo see the administration as one that has truly continued in their marginalization. The suffering is very obvious and it is clearly written that they are not part of this system. It is clear to any observer that Buhari’s administration has not accommodated Ndigbo in the process of governance and it looks like a deliberate effort to put them way outside the system, because so far, apart from the statutory appointments in the constitution, that he should appoint a Minister from each of the state of the federation, I don’t know what else Ndigbo have benefited. In the reactivation of the railway, the eastern line was not included and we are being told that it will be reactivated under a PPP arrangement. That is that investors will invest and recoup their money from the users.
It doesn’t seem right. The road maintenance efforts have eluded the roads in the Southeast. The roads in the Southeast have not received much attention like the roads in the North. The Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, which is a federal hospital, is still in its temporary site since it was taken over by the Federal Government. The place is crowded and uninteresting. The work on the permanent site has been abandoned. I can go on and on to show that the Southeast and even the South-South are not on his drawing board for anything.
But it is only two years
Certainly I agree with you that two years is not enough to make an honest assessment of any government but what about the activities that are going on in other zones. There are more activities in other zones of the country than in the Southeast. His appointments have been skewed against the Southeast zone and he has not hidden it. It is not fair. Suppose at the end of the four years it continues like this, what will people say? Two years, I agree, is not enough to appreciate programmes of government, but two years is enough for any government to demonstrate magnanimous approach, your readiness to serve the people, your plans to do things right and create the impression that the country is your constituency. Two years is not enough but the trend is already there and from the way it is going, I will be wrong to accept that things will change for the better for Ndigbo in this government.
But Ndigbo voted against Buhari
It does not matter. What matters is that he is now the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, not president of those who voted for him or president of his friends and associates. He is president of everybody. Once you have been elected president, then the whole country is your area of interest. You cannot shy away from it based on what you perceived was wrong during the election. It is also part of your responsibility to ensure that such measure was corrected by including them in your development programme. But if you feel that you will continue to treat them as “five percenters” like you have always said, then that will continue the agitation for Biafra secession. Are you trying to encourage the unity of the country or are you trying to promote virtues of disunity? If the people feel that they have been left out in the scheme of things, they will agitate and if they are already agitating, it will heighten the agitation, knowing that you do not accept them. You have said that roads should not go there, that appointments should not go there, that other developments should not go there. It is a wrong way of governance to encourage division other than accommodation.
Solution to marginalization
We don’t need to reject ourselves as a people even when the system has rejected us. The option is clear. That is why the agitation for Biafra is spreading like wild fire. Those who would never mention Biafra before are now flying the flag of Biafra because that is the only solution that they can think out, to be on their own. The neglect of the Southeast is very glaring. If you are denied the posts, you should not also be denied patronages and development. In our own case, we have been denied everything and the last two years says it all. You don’t live on primordial sentiments to put a people down; your performance should really be above that. Don’t forget that in the east, there are people who fought tooth and nail to support the APC and Buhari election, people who were ready to lay their lives to ensure the emergence of the Buhari presidency. Now you have denied them and those who did not support you are making mockery of them. The people of the Southeast and South-South who supported him have nothing to show for that support. That the entire zone did not support you does not mean that they don’t want you, even if you have a certain percentage, you should recognize that percentage. That you didn’t get 100 percent in a class does not mean all the students have failed. So you should recognize that fact.
Do you think that Biafra can be realised?
Of course, it will have headway. It only requires assistance. Nobody likes to see his kingdom divided or reduced. So, the ruling class will not want it. The clamour for Biafra is increasing daily and if you keep chasing them away, you are only encouraging the establishment of Biafra. In many parts of the world, such clamour starts like a joke but with time, it becomes an irresistible force. Look at Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR), nobody will like to hear anything like that in the time of certain rulers of the place but down the line, about 11 countries broke away from it and they went for their own independence. You won’t hear about Yugoslavia again or Czechoslovakia. Britain recently voted that they want to move away from European Union. France and Germany didn’t like it but they have voted. If by any chance there is a referendum on Biafra land today, I am sure you will be surprised by the percentage of votes that will vote for support. You can suppress the people for as long as you like, but eventually, people must have opportunity to ventilate their feelings. I don’t know when it will happen but my own position is that, it is better you call these people to round table discussion rather than physical encounter that could lead to loss of lives. The people are no longer interested in restructuring; they only want to be left alone because they have discovered the insincerity in governance.
Can Biafra stand up alone?
We have what it takes to stay on our own. Double yes – Geographically yes, resources yes, human resources yes and natural resources yes and willingness and capacity and capability, yes. Size and population – yes. We have all that it takes for Biafra to survive. It is only a matter of time; this thing will come to reality.
Assessment of Buhari’s two years
The country has done well in some areas; it has not done well in some areas. In terms of corruption, some of the people who looted are no longer comfortable and there is fear of trying to loot. That is a good development. Security in the country has not really been the best because the Fulani herdsmen still kill people, ravage farmlands, rape women and cause destruction here and there. Economically, we are in a situation called recession. My own understanding of recession is that prices of goods and services are on the high side. We have a situation where goods and services are not there and the ones there are out of reach. The increased repatriation of Nigerians even from our own brothers in Africa, from countries like Libya, South Africa shows that something is wrong somewhere. So in some areas we have done well and in some, we have not done well.
On Buhari’s ill-health
I think it is a devilish and shortsighted position for anybody to call on the president to resign because of ill health. The country does not depend on one individual. The running of the country depends on various leaderships, though the president is the Commander-in-Chief, but the entire thing does not wholly depend on him. Many bands can play whether the conductor is there or not. Nigeria is like an orchestra with many institutions. Buhari did not swear on oath that he would never fall ill as the president of the country. People should pray for the man to recover and nothing more. It is unchristian to call for his resignation and Christians do not wish somebody dead. I am ashamed of those wishing the president dead.
On the high rate of defections by politicians
In every 12 there must a Judas. There are people who are principled politicians and there are those who are selfish politicians. I call them food is ready politicians. They will go to the table to eat, only when the food is ready. Many feel that if they join APC they will be able to hide what they want to hide. We are not playing politics of ideology and it shows how mature our democracy can be. We are playing politics of hunger and my feeling is that the National Assembly does not also have the right to continue to load the budget. They have through several actions contributed in bringing the country down. Their duty is to make laws but when they leave that to now start talking about constituency projects, it tells you that something is wrong somewhere. That is why some people are calling for unicameral or part time legislature where their salaries and allowances will be prune down and through this, the burden of elections will be reduced.
Any advise on two years of government
It is important that the government listens to the people. A government that thinks that he knows it all is bound to fail. It is the people who feel the pains that can complain. If you are cocooned in the comfort of the seat of power, you may not know what is happening to the people. You should listen to the people, open up to them, extend your catchment area and see the entire country as your constituency, not just a part of it. Think in terms of what will make your people happy and contended. Patriotism can only be engendered if a government cares for you. Lack of government support does not engender patriotism. The government must try to ensure that every segment is carried along and when this is done, it will discourage looting.