Elder statesman, Chief Nduka Eya, 83, has held many public positions including Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Resident Electoral Commissioner in Ekiti and Commissioner for Education in the old Anambra State in the past decades. In this interview with KENNETH OFOMA, Eya among other things, weighs in on recent political developments in the polity especially recent assertion by spokesperson of Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed that the North can still produce President Muhammadu Buhai’s successor in 2023 because they have the population
What is your reaction to the statement by the spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) Dr. Hakeen Baba-Ahmed that the North will continue to rule the country because they have the population?
Part of our problem in Nigeria now is the arrogance of people who use the media not to talk about concrete issues, like if you put Pat Utomi on an interview, he talks about concrete economics, in their words now, the Nigeria Recapture Project, (NRP). Himself, Attahiru Jega, and Abdulfatah Ahmed, in their group, there are other groups.
But part of the problem we have with the media is that the way interviews go, Nigerians are in such confusion now such that except you are careful, and this is why I feel sorry for our youths because they are now between the Devil and deep blue sea, and they can fall on any side anytime because of their inability.
We are talking of graduates of the university, most of them are unemployable because they are not studying; they are not learning. Now coming to Ahmed, the Southerners said ‘look this President should now come to the South,’ must. Maybe the word must was strong.
Okay, why did we say so? Throughout the military rule, which is 38 years of our independence, Northern generals ran the show throughout.
The only intervention was one year of (Ernest) Sonekan, four years of Olusegun Obasanjo and six months of Aguiyi Ironsi. If you subtract that, that’s about five years and half out of 38.
So for 33 years this country was run by Northern generals one after the other, one coup after the other including Buhari, Abdulsalam Abubakar, Ibrahim Babangida, including the one who started it all, whom they killed, Murtala Ramat Mohammed, who would have made a difference because he started well. He was too emphatic about Nigeria, his impact was too much.
I named my first son Ramat. I don’t know what Ramat means but I called him Ramat because of that man but they bombed him off and that’s where it started. (Gideon) Orka tried. Orka was from the Middle-Belt, and he came clearly and saw what is happening now. We need to separate ourselves to our cultural zones and live according to our understanding and culture and come together for what is common for us.
Orka excised the far North and he was court-martialed and killed. So if you check the history of Nigeria, what did we do? Let us not forget that Nigeria invited the military. It was not a military coup, but there was a failed coup. Some call it an Igbo coup, but it was partly a coup by young officers who saw something and were trying to stop it.
Unfortunately, that coup was mismanaged by the onesided way people were killed and it was misunderstood. I was clear in my mind that those young men did not mean to spare any Igbo leader; they saw all our leaders as corrupt people. People like Theophilus Danjuma who was the ADC to Aguiyi Ironsi, and what do ADC’s do?
They protect their principals. Did he protect him in Ibadan? That was Danjuma of the Northern Youth element. Where is Danjuma now? Is he not complaining? Hasn’t he complained?
Time is a healer. That’s why I’m asking Nigeria not to forget the base. This man (Hakeem Baba Ahmed), is talking from the perspective of Ahmadu Bello and people have forgotten, except a Northerner in charge of Nigeria will not work. We forget so easily, and everything that happened has happened on that line by the same people.
But even what they are in charge has Nigeria worked?
Look, Nigeria worked in the 60s, I’m a living witness, and I always make reference. Zik (Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe) was a ceremonial President, Tafawa Balewa, Golden voice, was Prime Minister.
Nigeria was working because people understood people, everybody played his role, Zik didn’t mind because you know that’s the difference again. Zik saw Nigeria, being a pan-Africanist, Nigeria a giant that can mold Africa together, so he didn’t mind.
After playing such a noble role in getting our independence, whether you like it or not his role was a marathon. He was the fulcrum leading them, Herbert Macaulay and them, were under Zik. The Zikist movement was all through Nigeria. He spoke Hausa, he spoke Yoruba, he spoke Igbo and he was an influence.
He won election in the West and could you have imagined, Zik the Premier, Igbo man, Premier in the West because his party won there and wasn’t Umaru Altine a mayor in Enugu, did anybody care whether he was a Fulani or not?
But because of his impact in the locality he was made a Major of a major city.
Until you know people who don’t qualify for anything, when it is difficult they call in their religion.
‘Oh, because I’m not a Muslim that is why they are treating me this way.’ And of course human beings are gull ible; they buy it. ‘Oh, because we are Muslims;’ they have different interpretations of Islamism and people are exploiting it for their political gains.
Hakeem Ahmed talked about population?
Yes, population, but when did we have the last population count in Nigeria? We have always moved on world statistics of so much percentage of the 1964 population to decide.
Each time we try the population there is always a controversy because we knew uncanny things were happening. Let me ask; is it by accident or happenstance or a coincidence that Buhari thinks its best for Nigeria to build a railway line to Niger Republic and build a refinery there when three of our refineries are not working in Nigeria? How do you classify that?
That’s the question we should be asking, and some of the people in All Progressives Congress (APC) say ‘oh he is the best leader.’ You listen to them and you begin to wonder. So what Hakeem Baba was saying is in line with their thinking. It’s the same thing.
Oh they have always be-lieved that they have this population, have we proven it? If you go to that North, you can count 10 million non- Northerners living there. That’s part of the population.
If you go to Lagos, I listened to Joe Igbokwe of APC on TV this morning, you know satirically asking (Femi Fani-Kayode) FFK you give him a red carpet, we have been working for APC, we have not even had a cup of tea with you. What are you celebrating FFK for? And these are sycophants that we honour in Nigeria, pursuing shadow, leaving the reality.
And all through we have been pursuing shadow. Does anybody not know now with the hindsight that all the efforts Buhari has made to be a President were for a purpose? Can any average Nigerian not conjecture, ‘Oh is this why this man has made four efforts to become President?’
Finally he got it, you saw the 2019 elections, and Prof Mahmud, (he is doing well now); he wants to leave a legacy as Chairman of INEC because he has delivered Buhari on his second tenure, and he has done his job. Now his own legacy, Buhari will not come back, ‘APC sort out yourself. I’m going to keep to the rule.’
But people alleged that they are still trying to block him by no-passage of electronic transmission of results?
Don’t worry. You see, if you listened to INEC recently, they said that the Constitution gave them power.
I listened to Festus Okoye, a fantastic fellow, the constitution gave them power to conduct elections and no law that the National Assembly makes that gives them directive, to that extent is null and void. So you can make your laws, but they said we have tried it, we have shown evidence, we have practiced it and we think we can do it.
Why does the National Assembly want to stop it? Because they know that the only place where they rig elections now is by rewriting results, that’s basic and Nigerians know it.
The only blame I have is our legislators, all those people who walk out as a way of demonstration, if a chunk walks out, the remaining people should be worried that this thing is not acceptable and review the situation. Instead, because of our numbers again, we can go our way.
And is it not ironic that the very Chairman of the Committee that said INEC should do it whenever possible voted for a communication company to be cleared with them before, you see. You saw what is happening in PIA, Buhari gave it assent, but within how many days, he gave it out for amendment. What kind of country are we running? And Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina will come to the public and be saying blablabla! as if they are talking to fools.
Does it show the caliber of people we have as legislators or the executive?
Nooo, the legislators. You know, some weeks ago a young man said ‘there is no job, I’m going into politics.’ Did you get it? That means I can’t find a job. The only job that is available is politics where anything happens.
Therefore, you go there coming out from primary six; you play on in the party and the governor names you as the chairman of a local government. You have never been a prefect in your school, class prefect of 30 people, but you are now chairman of council; you have never run a budget.
Look, when I talk about it, I’m so passionate. Who talks about autonomy of local governments? Local governments were never meant to be autonomous from the word go. I can spend the next two hours telling you.
All those who are indulged in the autonomy of local governments are military apologists who were given the opportunity to serve as chairmen of local governments, controlled by the centre, federal and they ended up by telling us there shall be 774 local governments in Nigeria. Who the hell told them that? There shall be 774. Why did they come to that figure?
Who created the 774 local governments, was it the federal government or Babangida?
I like him. He was good. He tried his best, but he has still not told us. He came out recently and said there was going to be a coup, that was why he abrogated what should have been a democratic change in Nigeria where a Muslim principal and a Muslim running mate were voted for by Nigerians across the country and nobody asked what religion you came from, but he annulled it.
And you are Head of State. He said that if he hadn’t annulled it there would be a coup. He knew those planning the coup, but he did not retire them.
He did not bring them to justice to make sure that that coup did not happen. Yes of course when I heard a coup happened, Abacha, you are just looking for a lame excuse. It is selfish interest versus our common wealth. The Nigerian people are shortchanged by our leadership.
Now that an average Northerner like Hakeem Baba is still thinking like their progenitors with the bornto- rule mindset, what should the Southern leaders be doing since they want power in 2023?
It’s not a question of power. Let me tell you. I’m sorry for whoever is going to be President in 2023. They messed up this country so much. I can bet you. You hear about them wooing former President Goodluck Jonathan?
I heard one woman from Rivers State is saying Jonathan has not spoken, until he speaks and stops speculating. Maybe Jonathan will behave like FFK but this is a man who said my position, ‘my power is not worth the blood of any Nigerian, take power.’
And that made him a statesman. I will be surprised if he still wants to come and contest for President.
Are you saying that this quest for Jonathan has an undertone?
Of course. The core North, people like Buhari are looking for surrogates from the South who they will put there in name but not in action.
That’s my analysis; they are looking for surrogates like David Umahi and Hope Uzodimma, whom they will put there. I’m sorry for any Igbo man who is going to be President of Nigeria in 2023 because you are either a surrogate going by their way or they will deal with you.
How are you going to repair this damage? Look at the loans they are taking to be repaid in 2050 and so on. How are you going to manage them? Petrol is not going, agriculture too.
You know when you sum it up, that’s why some of us are saying ‘God, may your will be done, when it is time may we have our rest because we lived through Nigeria.