Prince Ik Tabansi is a businessman and patron of Anambra State Transport Unions. In this interview, he advises Ndigbo to be careful of the way they go about their political engagements. He also speaks on governance in the state. FELIX NWANERI reports
How would you access Prof Charles Soludo’s 10 months admiinistrstion n Anambra State?
I said in one of the interviews I granted a few years ago that the incoming government will have it very difficult to operate. I also warned the people not to expect anything within one year because the economy of the state was in bad shape. This was so because the former governor left everything to his people and they killed the state revenue generation.h.
They diverted the state’s internally generated revenue (IGR) into their private pockets. The wife was concerned about parts of the taxes and diverted to herself. I have always said, we should give him two years to really settle down before operating. But so far, so good, he has started doing some roads.
At least, I drove through Nkpor-Nnobi roads after Christmas and I found out that the roads are smooth. The portholes are not there again. The portholes that were causing kidnapping and robbery are no longer there. Now, that the potholes are not there, the robbery and kidnapping have been minimized.
Do you think, it is right for the government to heavily tax the people in the state?
No, I have advised the government through my channel. I said that heavy taxation will not work. The people are already impoverished. Taxing them heavily will kill their businesses more in the state. I am a patron of the transport Unions for both heavy trucks and buses. They came to me and compliant, they said they are ready to pay N1000 every day they go to work rather than paying N25,000 and N30,000 every month. They told me that it is too heavy for them. They are compliant that they don’t work every and that they cannot pay monthly.
They told me that there are days, they take their motors for service and they will not go to work. They said that they cannot pay when they did not work. That is their argument. The heavy drivers’ trucks that are being taxed N35,000 are also complaining.
Before Christmas, I learnt there were fights in Fegge and building materials Market where the drivers said they will not pay that amount. I am of the opinion that if the government bring down the taxation, they will gladly pay. I now understand that some buses from Enugu State stop at the Amasea because of the government’s heavy taxation. They are refusing to enter Anambra state. Mind you if you tax them in Anambra State they will tax you in Enugu state. These are the things I advised government should do and the people will be happy to work with the government.
Do you mean the government is impoverishing the masses through heavy taxation?
Yes, the heavy taxation is actually impoverishing the masses in the state. The economy is bad, the maintenance of their vehicles is high, fuel is high now and everything about the transportation system is on upward movement. If you charge them all these, after paying, how would they make money to feed their families and pay their children’s school fees? How will they run their business? Any day they don’t work, will the government give them money to feed and take care of their families? The government should bring it down to I will like Peter Obi to emerge as the president of Nigeria and not as an Igbo president the original N10,000 and they will gladly pay.
The buses pay 1,200 every day and they were doing their business. I think if the government bring it down, it will be a good deal for both the government and the masses. With these taxes, they will not be making enough money because people will not be patronizing them as before.
I know that the people who should pay are already down. You said the previous government ran down the state revenue, do you think the government is taxing people to right the wrong of the past? Yes, I think that is what they are trying to do but they cannot right all the wrongs by impoverishing the already impoverished people.
You right the wrong by making sure that revenue money goes into the government coffers and not into private pockets. Once, the government money is in the government coffer, there will be enough money for the government to work. When I was in charge of Anambra State Traffic Agency (ASTA). I was remitting N87 million to the government and I was paying about 1300 staff. We were making so much money for the government.
People are clamouring for change and your brothers Prof Peter Umeadi and Peter Obi are contesting for the presidency, how do you see their chances?
I am not trying to bring any person down, but the facts are there. The way our people do their politics is different from how other tribes do their politics. Peter Obi is a great material, he is my friend and a very good friend of mine, we have blood relation in Agulu, where my grandfather’s mother came from. We have this relationship but when it comes to politics, we do the right thing.
The facts remain that the Igbo alone cannot make Peter Obi president of Nigeria. The way the Igbo are going about it as if not them, let the whole system collapse. It will not serve us right. We will support Peter Obi, but we must balance things.
Supposing that tomorrow somebody other than Peter emerges as the president, what will happen to us? I will like Peter Obi to emerge as the president of Nigeria and not as an Igbo president. The Igboman should be careful how we do our politics. I will give Peter Obi support but we must play national politics rather than ethnic politics. You don’t just pack your all eggs into one basket and expect something different.
What about Peter Umeadi, your brother?
Umeadi is my mother’s brother. I don’t think Umeadi has a chance even in Anambra state as far as Peter Obi’s emergency as labour party presidential candidate is concerned. I don’t see him making any impact because the All Progressive Grand Alliance APGA is not a national party. APGA is not national in outlook and it cannot go far.
Our best, for now, is Peter Obi, maybe next time Umeadi can try but today Igbo are solidly behind Peter Obi. With him, Ndi Igbo feel the chances of producing the president of the country is brighter, especially now the younger ones are gearing up for this election. I hope the youth will not beat up people that day.
You have some PDP senators and House of Representatives members in Anambra state, do you think this Obidient mantra will sweep them out of power? Do you also think Anambra will become an LP state going by the trend?
I don’t think so, it will not be a bandwagon effect issue. I believe PDP will be strong when it comes to national in the state. You know politics is local and all the voters are local. Peter Obi, yes for president, they will vote for him, however, when it comes to the senate and others it will be a different ball game. At that level, some people will have to make choices. Victor Umeh and others believe that once Peter Obi is accepted they are accepted, they will be disappointed. People are wiser now and they will vote according to individuals.
Honestly, it is not going to be a bandwagon effect issue.
Given the level of insecurity and conflict in the state, do you think the election will be affected?
That is the point because from the way these boys are going, I don’t think the boys knew what they were doing to the Igbo race, especially in this political period. If you don’t come out to vote en-mass for Peter Obi because of insecurity we are doing yourselves disservices and not others. Are we doing ourselves or any other people, when we don’t vote? We are going to suffer for it. I have advised those that come closer to me, that this is not the way to go.
We, that saw the last war, experienced and tested the war, and knew what we are doing is going to backfire on us and not others. I think, what we should be doing now is to safeguard our region from external aggression and not our boys attacking and killing us. I remembered during the war when they started calling some Ndi Igbo saboteurs, that was when we started losing the war. I remembered that some Onitsha sons, the likes of justice Ibekwe, Araka and others were dumped in detention, as saboteurs. I also remembered some people who were killed because they were tagged as saboteurs.
When they say you are saboteurs they will come after you without investigation. They killed people for one stupid excuse or the others. And after killing one, the other people will go out in retaliation. Something I read sometimes about one man in Amari, they killed his brothers, the first and the second one, he went and mobilise his own boys for reprisals attack and killed those boys. After he killed the boys that killed his brothers, he was accused of working for Ebubeagu. One of those people that killed his brothers was working for him.
Those boys came to him and demanded he buys them three guns but he refused, and after refusal, they killed his brothers. He killed the four boys at a wedding that they were enjoying. The man said he took the steps because he was the only surviving man in the family, so he decided to die also. He said he mobilised, trained some boys and went after those boys and killed them too.
When they got one of the boys, he told him about the people that killed his brothers and he took them where they are enjoying themselves. These are the kinds of things that will derail the Igbo nation from moving forward. What they are doing now will derail Igbo agitations for the presidency of Nigeria
. But they are not agitating for the presidency but for an independent nation…?
The independence of Biafra is not possible. You see I have always said to people who care to listen that going for an independent nation will not work. What they are asking will be gotten through the decentralization of power to the state and local governments. Alternatively, through true federalism. The region should develop on their own.
If we get true federalism, it will be our first step toward our needs. You know what happened in Spain, the Catalans, when they wanted to secede from Spain, and it did not work, they were forced to stay back.
They said okay, let us develop on our own. Today, the Catalans are the powerhouse of Spain. All the technology know-how Spain is branding today is from Catalan. Now they have more voice and power to control the Spanish nation, economically and otherwise. If we can go down the same road, it will be better for us.
Do you believe that Ndigbo staying in Nigeria is better?
Yes, I believe that Igbo is better off in Nigeria than having their independent nation. We cannot do without other tribes. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe told us before the war that we cannot make it alone.
He said Ndi Igbo cannot successfully secede from Nigeria, and that if we do, the Igbo will suffer It. He advised that we should not declare war. You could remember before the war, the Igbo were controlling virtually everything in Nigeria, the Police, military, customs, immigration and the civil service, the Igbo man was everywhere.
When the Igbo left the civil service, the Yoruba took the opportunity and put in their people and when the Igbo came back they became second-class citizens, we lost everything. We had the positions but lost them immediately after the war. If we had listened to Zik at that time, we will not be where we are today. When he advised us, we called him saboteur.
Now, if the young ones can listen to the elders, who have seen, experienced it and know much, they can give direction. Though, some have already started giving the advice, urging the young ones to calm down. I want us to use democratic means to get whatever we want.
There is no place you go in this country and see the concentration of development as in the south East and if we allow them to come here they will destroy everything we have here. I mean war. If they destroy everything, are we doing it ourselves or them?
Sit at home, how has it affected the business in South East?
The sit-at-home has destroyed and killed businesses in the South East. We now do business for only four days in a week, on Saturday, we go to weddings and others. The Monday which is supposed to be the beginning of the market day, we stay at home. We are just destroying our businesses and not others.
The sooner we realize it the better for us. The truth is that some of the young ones doing these do not have jobs and some don’t want to do anything. They feel the only way to achieve what they want is through criminality. I don’t think so.