Agu Gab Agu is a former Dean, Faculty of Law, Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), Enugu. In this interview with KENNETH OFOMA, Agu, a Law Professor speaks on Nigeria’s restructuring, President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid, proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, local government autonomy, 2019 general election and sundry issues
What is your appraisal of Enugu state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s three year’s administration?
Well, I think the governor has endeared himself so well to the people; he has been reaching out, he has shown sympathetic disposition to the feeling of the people that he is leading. I think he is one man, in recent times, in the leadership of Enugu state that seems to have cut across the ºpolitical, language groups and geographical divisions to entrench his views and personality. People now see him as somebody they can trust, I think that is the major thing. The problem of whether he belongs to party A or B does not arise. People have been endorsing him; all the community leaders, the Igwes, everybody is scrambling to endorse him because he is doing well not because he is looking out for those who will endorse him; professional groups and all that. He has received such endorsements because of the way he has been developing the state; the way he has been accommodating the people’s views and interests.
For example, in my local community, you will realize that sometimes I was shouting about the road that links the Milliken Hill and 9th Mile, that road is about the best in the South-East now. And then he has gone into the Milliken Hill that was not solicited for, and that is a major federal highway, a major link into Enugu except the now written off express road. He has done the roads, beautified the area, there is electric light so that people can move at night. So, if somebody is doing such a thing, what do you need, what do people even need from government? Water, electricity and roads; they can go and do whatever they are doing, people will be happy.
What about President Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection bid? I, mean, does he deserve another term in view of some recent developments in the country?
Well, I’m happy you said my assessment which is purely subjective, but I think in the other way round, is objective. Buhari may not be the oldest person in leadership position but I think the circumstances that we have does not call for somebody of his age looking at the stress and those things. Secondly, it does not appear to me that he is intellectually equipped; I’m not talking about going to school or not, but for capturing the issues as they arise and being able to analyze and interpret them. I think he hasn’t got that. Thirdly, there has been all this lethargy about taking a step in respect of herdsmen and those things, a leader should stamp his authority on issues like that and state where he stands. It doesn’t say well of him to be evasive, it doesn’t say well of him to be a taciturn, it doesn’t say well of him to keep away over issues that really call for decisiveness and talk about things that are irrelevant.
You can’t be asking for $1 billion and approving $1 billion to buy military hardware from America and on the other hand, even though I’m a church person, you begin to ask the people to go and pray; they have been praying. So, he should as well share this money out to all the Bishops and Imams so that they pray more if there is no need for the equipment. God helps those who help themselves and you might as well know that even the Boko Haram and the herdsmen are God’s own children too; God will take care of them if they do well and God wants them to change and become better persons.
So, I don’t think, looking at what he has done in the last three years, it does not appear to me that he is eligible for promotion, that is to say to take a second chance. He should go out; and let other people, there are very many other capable people in his party that can do that, that was what Mandela did. I respect him for his ascetic lifestyle, the way we have always heard about his probity and other things that he appears to stand for. But in terms of going again for another term, let’s finish with what we have started because I’m not sure we have ended well.
Why do you think Ndigbo should take a shot at the presidency in 2019?
If you say if it’s their problem, it is not their problem; if you talk about whether it is ripe or timely or something, there is no time that is inappropriate or auspicious; every time is good. The only thing is to have that man, that man that represents the Igbo idea of leadership which is courage, which is independence, which is valour and which is knowledge. We need such men, they are very rare, the society has been robbed of men of stature that we can rely on for things like that. If such a person comes on board why won’t he be; look at Kingsley Muoghalu, who will be a better president than him? Call all the names I will bet my all in him. The only thing is being at the right place at the right time; is he a politician, is there any political springboard that will elevate him to that position? That’s all. None of all those people parading themselves and pretending to be presidential aspirants is good enough to challenge him. So, the Igbos are people who are good enough and if you ask Igbo people to present somebody now they will go and get one local he-goat and say he is our presidential candidate leaving behind those who are good; and they will look at the person’s war chest and all that. That is not it. In the olden days when Igbos were Igbos, republican as they are, it’s only the man who has achieved intellect; read about Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Look at the way real men are known; it’s not by trying to sell your people or doing things that are not proper.
How would you want the unending issue of Ndigbo marginalisation be addressed?
We don’t need to reinvent anything we have even overcome. We have done much more than anybody could get for himself with 20 pounds after the war and with abandoned property and all the shenanigans of the leaders then we have done more. Who amongst the tribes can say they are represented in the tiniest part of Nigeria? There is no community you go in Nigeria, living community, that you will not find an Igbo man either as a chemist or selling grocery. In fact any community without an Igbo man is a dead community in Nigeria. So, what do we need again? All we are saying is that because we have our standard and its high and we have not met it; that is all. I’m not thinking about a situation where we begin to feel dejected, feel that things should have been better, it’s good enough. When we re-engineer ourselves to take over the positions that are meant for us, we will take them.
Proscribing IPOB and labeling it as terrorist organisation in the face of killer herdsmen, what do you make of this?
I don’t share the view that IPOB should have been labeled a terrorist group, they may be a very strong pressure group but they have not caused stir or coerced anybody for a political action; they have not killed like the other people. But what did the Igbo people do? The federal government followed a process, went to court, what did we do? And what are we doing because it is the court of first instance that even labeled it; did we appeal, did we join to do anything, did we show that we are not terrorists or are we afraid to be identified with IPOB? If we had identified with them we would have gone to say this man, this man, this man is a member of IPOB, they are not terrorists, look at their credentials, this is their standing before the world, can these people who are known and who have been participating in government and contributing to the development of the world even, not even Nigeria, can they be termed terrorists or is the agitation for whatever they stand for a terrorist agenda? It is not but we continue to say on the sideline, this is not good.
I think time has come when we will evolve a leadership that will be proactive; that will take steps to check, Igbo leadership; that will take steps. I’m happy the way Nnia Nwodo is going but there is still room for improvement, he cannot do it alone if people don’t give him support. I learn that governors of the South-East states do not even give him support by paying, he uses his car; I heard that from the grapevine that all these while he has been using his car, fuelling the car. And look at other organizations, like the Afenifere and all those other people; they have the opportunity of the governors, whenever they come around they are treated like royalty and given some diplomatic respect and rights. And we have an Igbo leader who will be using his car, funding and paying himself and everything and the states are there who can afford to pay him and even the pittance are known, they agreed to pay him; most states have not even paid a dime. Abia, Imo; they have not even paid anything and we have even Ebonyi owing up to 15 months, why should that be? If we want a veritable, strong and virile Igbo organization we should be able to fund it. And when we have such a man, the young man is bright, outgoing deep. If we fund him and support him strongly, he will bring ideas, you will see he has constituted some lawyers as a team. How can he pay them? He can’t pay them because there is no fund and these are the people who should have fight some of these perceived injustices. But the money is not there.
What are your thoughts on Biafra?
Biafra is an idea that will not die, better believe it; people identify with it because they have been with it. And it’s just like saying there is no killing the beetle, it’s better not fought so that it lives in the heart of those who know it. But once you fight it, you try to bring out the things that they have been keeping, that have been agitating their minds and they want to know and search more. Go out outside Nigeria and see the people.
Do you think that if some perceived injustices against the Igbo are addressed by the federal government, Biafra agitation will whittle down?
As an Igbo man I don’t think I’m asking for any special dispensation. What we are asking is that the country as whole be good; restructuring, give everybody the same pedestal to thrive. Igbos are not begging, they are not saying that they should be shown some preference; what I think and I know and I believe Igbos are fighting for is to be given the same pedestal and you can only do that by restructuring the nation. To who work hard there must be recompense, there must be benefit for working hard. Anybody who is indolent and lazy should stew in his laziness; that is all Igbos are asking for. Igbo are not asking for any special dispensation as people who are marginalized, no, not at all. What they are asking is give us a level playing ground so that if Ahmadu or Ogedengbe is going to look for a particular thing, the Igbo should be allowed to compete and the best should be taken. And it is working in so many other areas. Look at the private sector. Apart from those from the part of the country that gained majority share through the indigenization decree, the other ones that are fair enough they compete and you find an Igbo man doing well. How do you have Emeagwalis, how do you have Barth Nnajis, how do you have all those? It’s because of their intellect and you cannot suppress them, I said there is no killing the beetles, what is good will continue to be good no matter how raw gold is, just by washing it, you are making it even better, it adds value to it. There is a saying in Igbo parlance that the rain that is falling on a stone is bathing the stone.
What are your thoughts on state police and additional states for the South-East?
Sometimes the things that work in a political system or work against a political system are beyond what we ordinarily think. I don’t think a state police is a bad idea; it’s always a good idea but I think the other bad side, but I now ask, if you say the state police will be put in the hand of the governors, the federal police in whose hands are they, are they not human beings or from the moon? So, what is sauce for the goose should also be good for the gander; we need state police for goodness sake and it’s only that that will help, even the jurisdiction of the federal police will be reduced and they will be able to interface and know who they are dealing with. If they make you now, let’s say a police in charge of your village, there are people you grew up with whom you know have been stealing in every other place; you know them as thieves, you watch them. And when there is robbery anywhere these are people you move immediately, where was this man when that robbery took place and they will say they didn’t see him that day, then you know that he is the person who stole.
And the issue of additional state for the Igbo, we did not play our games as fast as the others. You are asking about state, what about local governments that are enshrined in the Constitution.
Look at Kano, the number of local governments that they have, look at the whole South-East and they share from the same pool as local government areas. First of all, the National Assembly should have the will power to expunge that local government from the Constitution and allow states to create; if they want 100, they can do that. Unless that thing is done forget about all these things about states and all that. Unless that is done most of these states cannot even fund themselves. Remove local governments from the constitution and allow states, even they don’t want local governments let them leave it.
Do you mean that local government should be abolished as third tier of government?
Not abolishing it, you can provide it but you do not determine for states the number they should have so that if a state wants two or four or hundred, they should do that, not straight jacketing the states to the number of local governments and the allocation is skewed in favour of some people.
Do you share the view that the 1999 Constitution be jettison for a brand new constitution as part of the restructuring process?
There is no constitution that is perfect, the constitution of every country is always work in progress, no constitution is permanent and life is not even permanent.
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