Chief Nduka Eya is a former Secretary General of Pan Igbo sociocultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndugbo when late Ambassador Ralph Uwechue was the President General. Eya is also a former Commissioner for Education in the old Anambra State and former Resident Electoral Commissioner in Ekiti State, and today an elder statesman, who has remained vocal and critical on regional and national issues. In this interview with KENNETH OFOMA, Chief Eya bares his mind on a number of issues including the imperative of a president of Igbo extraction in Nigeria, community policing and need for regional security outfit in South East
Following heightened security threats, South-East Governors not too long ago announced that they would set up regional security outfit. Today many critics allege that the governors have reneged, and now talking about community policing. What’s your take on all of these?
I’m an angry old man at 82 years old. I have lived through generations of governance in this country and I know that governance in Nigeria was based on federal republicanism.
That is to say on a federation matter, the other side of it is, we have each state running but they can contribute to the center. I’m one of those very disappointed by the leadership of the South-East states. Look, Amotekun came, took us by surprise one day and all the Attorney General of the federation said was that it’s illegal. And they said let him go to court. When the federal police cannot protect you and you are saying don’t protect yourself; are we animals or slaves in our society?
So when some of us said let’s copy Amotekun, somebody said no we are already establishing, we want regional something, they called it ‘Ogbunigwe’ and so on, and we were very excited. The thing started falling apart when our governors from the South East instead of pursuing it the way the South West has done, decided to invite the IGP (Inspector General of Police) to Enugu to talk about community policing. And you know what happened that day, some traditional rulers sat there for so long and they became angry and left. Obi of Onitsha was there and so on.
Then, Ohanaeze, I’m sure that they prepared a bill on this matter, made it easy for each state to now go and pass the bill, but none of the states passed it. And I understand, how can you be talking of peace in the South East when Uzodinma (Imo Governor) is following those who put him in power? And that sort of thing is what destroys an organisation; Ndi Igbo aka amutaro (Ndigbo have not learnt) that nobody wants them united, and people are paying money and sponsoring people to scuttle it and they are playing into their hands. Nnaa, ana azota ani tupu azoba ute, (you secure the land first before struggling for the mat). Ndigbo seem to be struggling for the mat, leaving the land.
That was a great disappointment and South East Governors should know, Umahi (Ebonyi Governor and Chairman of South East Governors’ Forum) should know that Ndigbo are not happy, whether they want to know or not, about the failure of the regional security arrangement. What is community policing? Did you hear the IGP on this?
Oh if you want to work on community you have to relocate to the community but the state will pay for those special people. I mean, the thing died on arrival. Let’s take it this way. Security is under the Nigerian police, as a federal agency. You complain about shortage of man power, let’s give you more hands. But what we are saying is that in getting this more hands, you come to Enugu, recruit the indigenes of Enugu for community police in Enugu and pay for it because it’s your responsibility.
Why do you now recruit the people and then bring it to state and say pay, state is saying we can’t pay, you are killing the thing and you want to blame it on the sates. I don’t know whether our governors say this thing but they won’t talk because of their present comfort zone.
Let me say that for all those who work on comfort zone in Nigeria today and you see what is happening, the insecurity, and the strategy, hidden agenda that you know; let me prophesy but I’m not a prophet of doom. You see what they did about open grazing land, it failed, they tried Ruga it failed, have you seen the water resources bill coming? It is part of it.
When they try all these and it’s not working, you know they will attack. Didn’t you hear Obadiah Mailafia, they are all over the place, and our farmers are still being prevented from going to the farm. Our people complain, they see people being dropped somewhere.
What’s your advice to South East governors since according to you community policing will not work….?
Community policing will work, it will work if it is… but the way IGP is going about it is that community policing people will be paid by the state, why? Monkey de work, baboon de chop. If its community police let everybody agree that police is short-staffed, let the Federal Government and the Police Service Commission enlarge their number so that you can cover 1000 people for one policeman, but in recruitment if you want community policing you will recruit it, don’t bring Hausa people here. If you go to the North you will hardly see an Igbo man on the check point, let them go to their states where they know the ground more than they know here.
Let our people be recruited for the state and you pay them because they are your staff, otherwise, why have you stopped state police? You want to bring community police which you will control? But the 2014 conference was made clear, state police should be made part of… in America where we got our presidential system; there is state policing provision there, why didn’t we copy their style?
If our people want to cut their nose to spite their face, oh if you do governors will use them, and I say you people are not thinking. You think governors will use your own people against you more than the federal is using their people against you? What kind of people are we?
If there is a state police, there is nobody from Nkanu posted to Igboeze North LGA who will go there to commit atrocity, people will know, my friend are you not from Nkanu? But look at the people they give to us? So they should come out either allow the states, since they are going to pay, allow the states to recruit their men and form the state police for their security and pay them. But for the federal to come and recruit and let the state pay, the thing is dead on arrival.
Why should the IGP be involved in regional power of South East to have their own security? The first culprit is federal police. Amotekun came and Dangote gave them 60 vehicles the other day, why should our own be different. And why are our leaders not protesting, why are they silent? Why are you shy in saying things that everybody here in South East is saying, the people you are leading? That’s my worry. I don’t want to demonize our leadership.
Yes, you don’t want to demonize the leadership but somebody must make suggestions?
Yes, I don’t want to demonise them, no, it’s like ikpo ite gi nkporo, ewere ya kpo ntu (if you handle your cooking pot carelessly people will use it to dispose refuse). You should never do it, but when you put up a fight, I’m asking, why are they silent in matters where almost everybody in the region is complaining? I was expecting that they should come out, joining their people to say, look, my people will not accept this. Where do you belong in this matter?
Talking about silence, recently there was a reported clash between security agencies and members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), where more than 22 people including security agents lost their lives?
We must play the role that belong to us, people are making comments. I have heard the governor of Enugu State say that he will get to the root of that matter. We are waiting. My only hope is that it should not die quietly with time, let us hope that they will get to the root of this matter and tell us what really happened. Whatever it is, some boys were somewhere doing exercise; is exercise prohibited in Nigeria, who said it was IPOB? When you see people at Okpara Square every morning jugging why don’t DSS come to disperse them, but these are speculations. I’m one of those who think that Nigeria is a curious country. Who declared IPOB a terrorist group? It is Buratai (Chief of Army Staff) and Enenche in Umuahia. That was after Justice Binta Nyako had struck out that charge, out of 11 charges against Nnamdi Kanu as a terrorist group, it was one of the charges that Nyako struck out leaving six. Enenche the PRO of Army and Buratai, Chief of Army Staff knew that there was a court ruling on this matter and after they had gone to bomb people at Umuahia they now declared the thing terrorist. After realizing that they are not in a position to declare them, what did they do? Malami, the Attorney General went and got experte order from court confirming that. You see the irony of it all. The agitation for power shift particularly to South East come 2023 is a burning issue now, how feasible do you think it is? Well, it’s feasible, in political architecture of a federal system you must take into consideration the other parties; it’s different from unitary government. But we are pretending, we are wearing a robe of federal republic of Nigeria in a unitary government. Can you see in a federal structure where exclusive list is 68, where federal has control of 68 items? Okay let’s put it this way, Enugu state could do well with foreign investors to resuscitate our coal mine, is it not possible? But can you do it because mining is in exclusive list? You hear what they are talking about gold in Kano. But this coal mine, the former minister of Mines who is now Governor of Ekiti state (John Feyemi) visited there ones, that was all we heard about that coal mine. Look I said that I lived in a generation from colonial masters when we flew the Union Jack (British flag) we waved it as we now wave Nigerian flag during ceremonies. I was there when the Union Jack was pulled down and the Green-White-Green (Nige-rian flag) went up. How did it go, it came in Eastern Nigeria, Northern Nigeria, Western Nigeria and later Mid-West Nigeria, four, right. Each of those regions has its cote of arm of the center, the white background.
So when you have the flag of Nigeria, the one without anything on it or the federal coat of arms, you know this is federal flag. When you come to South East, the man with a spear you know its Eastern Nigeria. You go to North, Arewa, this popular sign of Arewa is the one that is at the center there.
We talk about groundnut pyramids, we talked about cocoa, we talked about palm oil.
This University of Nigeria was not built with the money of Eastern Region government, it was built with money from the parastatal of Eastern regional government, the Eastern Nigeria Marketing Board, they brought the money, 5 million pounds at that time.
And they provided 500, 000 pounds every month for maintaining the university. And the university was one of the best before the war.
In terms of power shift what are the specific examples for the people of the zone to have their turn?
Let’s start; we are going to be 60 in October, correct?
The Yorubas ruled this country within the military regime plus, five years. Remember that Obasanjo who took over from Murtala Mohammed ruled for three years plus, then Shonekan for one year. Military ruled us for 38 years, out of the 38 years, the Yorubas ruled for five years. So for 33 years Nigeria was governed by military generals from the North.
But on return to civilian rule, Obasanjo was there for eight years, after that President Umaru Yar’Adua and then Jonathan from South-South. So that for 60 years of a federal republic, Ndigbo through Agui Ironsi was only in power for six months, while the Yorubas and Hausas, and of course, don’t mind the fact that the South South, had its turn under Jonathan; we want to prove that all of us are one.
Ikwere people after the war with the intimidation of the army said they were not Igbos. But we know they are. Rotimi Amaechi is from Ikwere, but he is saying they are from Rivers. But you know all these things, success goes with friends, but lack of success you don’t have a friend. The zoning was clear in the party.
Why is it that in Nigeria today we have never had a respectable census figure? Some will say if you go on merit they will win, but you will not win in our constitution because you must meet two thirds of the population. So with your population you will not win without going to the South to make your two third. When Uwechue, my boss was the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo we wrote a book on how by any standard the presidency must come to the South East. Nobody listened. As if we are begging.
That’s why I said, Ndigbo you cannot beg, it’s your entitlement. But if they decide because there is coalition to deny you, come and make your home what it should be. There is a saying that he who is rejected does not reject oneself. But to go and be complaining to people who are never listening, did you hear Buhari? Oh you gave me five percent vote why should I give you something. Which president talks like that?
We have federal character, but we are running a unitary government. And that’s why I said the Constitution of 1999 as amended is a hate document, H-A-T-E in capital; because it appropriated what belongs to all of us and made it so favourable to the North at the expense of the rest of us. I’m sure that our South West brothers don’t see all these things because they are there benefitting, but they know they are just there because the big master is shielding them.
And the South West is helping the big master to destroy South East hoping that they will be safe, by the time they destroy South East, when they finish they will chew you like meat.
They are talking about IPOB; did IPOB create the name Biafra? Who created Biafra? It’s the elders who urged Ojukwu ‘declare us independent. And of course they called it secession. Why don’t you conduct a referendum? Why don’t you put in the constitution of this country, why we come from different ethnic groups, when any group feel they can do it alone a referendum should be conducted. If it is their wish, popular vote, let them go.
The separation will go on as long as you are maltreating people. Igbos have a right to the presidency now if you check the statistics on how Nigeria has been ruled. If there are three of us and there are three pieces of meat we take one each. But if you take one and come back and take two, then there will be problem. The governor of Taraba said the other day, ‘yes you are entitled to it but you cannot be doing IPOB at the same time.’ That’s rubbish. Didn’t Jonathan become president in spite of Niger Delta militants? You see, have we finished with Boko Haram? Are the Northern youths not fighting for the establishment of Islamic state yet Buhari became president?
We had OPC when Obasanjo became president. What kind of rubbish, why is it only different with the Igbos? You realise that these people don’t like you, come and put your house in order, show them that this country cannot exist as Nigeria without Ndigbo. I’ll give an instance. Before the war, you go to Western Nigeria you find the Igbos, you go to Eastern Nigeria, majority of them; you go to Northern Nigeria civil service, the Igbos are there and Nigeria was working.
Why? Because only the Igbos believe that Nigeria is their father land and they can settle in any part of it and develop it. These are facts. Let Lai Mohammed come and challenge me on that.