Chief Nduka Eya, 83, is an outspoken elder statesman, former INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, former Commissioner for Education in the old Anambra State and former Secretary General of pan Igbo socio – cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo. In this interview with KENNETH OFOMA, Eya speaks on burning national issues, including the ill-fated South East security outfit, Ebubeagu, the recent threat against Ndigbo by President Muhammadu Buhari, the general insecurity in the country and the review of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly
The Coordinator of Ebubeagu, the South East regional security outfit, General Obi Umahi (rtd) recently resigned his appointment citing lack of office and funding. How do you react to this?
I was in Ohanaeze Imeobi (inner caucus), when (Gen) Umahi was appointed chairman of this regional thing.
Has (Nnia) Nwodo (former President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo) told you his own experience about contributions to Ohanaeze? That is why they crushed Ohanaeze. When we started, how much did you spend in this election, and how are we contributing to Ohanaeze for normal running?
You will see how Ohanaeze got broken. I think Nwodo was in a hurry to go. Ofujuru anya (he saw a lot of things). Like (Gen) Umahi said that his activities were funded by his brother (Gov David Umahi of Ebonyi State), Enugu State funded Nwodo to the letter. That’s why he was able to stick for four years because he comes from Enugu and Enugu was funding him. When they agreed to form Ebubeagu… (Gov) Umahi was talking about funding.
How much does he owe Ohanaeze as chairman of South East Governors Forum? Who decided that each one of them will contribute so much to Ohanaeze? How much has he contributed in the last four years of Ohanaeze? How much did he owe Ohanaeze by the time Nnia Nwodo’s tenure ended?
That’s why I’m appealing to you, journalists, to ask critical questions. I was critical of the questions they were asking the president (Buhari, in the Arise Television interview) but I understand the protocol will limit you to what to say but Arise crew, I watch them every morning with guests in the studio and questioning them.
They are very robust but in the case of the president, that robustness disappeared. They were mellow; they were overwhelmed by the aura of the State House. You ask questions, no follow-up, nothing. The man just answered and you take it. But Nigerians are wiser.
We listened to him and recently, in a radio programme, I analyzed it and said, look, maybe, we have only one solution, pray to God to keep us alive; those who will survive, so that after two years, Buhari will go and those who believe in Nigeria will pick the pieces and build up again. If the man (Gen. Umahi) resigned for the reasons he gave, he is right. How can you give him such a job and you don’t fund it? Afenifere, have you heard them complaining about money?
This is because the governments for which Afenifere is an umbrella, consistently and religiously push some money. I don’t know how much they give to Afenifere but quietly, without anybody asking, they make the money available.
Afenifere opens an office in London, opens an office in America and gets into the plane and goes to their offices and talk to people without any reference to any governor. When I was the Secretary General (of Ohanaeze Ndigbo), former Governor (Sullivan) Chime said as long as Nduka Eya is there, he is not going to contribute money to Ohanaeze.
Nduka Eya went to tribunal against him to see what he scored in the election, which led to the cancelation of that election before he won at the Appeal Court. Is that how you run a country? And I hear people oh! Chime was the best governor in Enugu. Everybody has his faults.
I still tell Chime, the difference is clear. You believe in a beautiful city, you converted Enugu to a beautiful city. But that’s not all; human capital is the basic thing in the leadership of any country. These governments are not thinking about the people and that’s why we are going how we are going. They (South East governors) came
out; you know the emergency that brought about the creation of Ebubeagu? You know! You journalists know! And they came out and announced we now have Ebubeagu! At the time, they announced it; did you see any plans on ground for Ebubeagu? I’m asking you as journalists.
Did you believe there was a structure called Ebubeagu? Compare it to Amotekun. By the time Amotekun was launched, there were security vehicles. The people had uniforms and they launched it and the Federal Government started challenging it. Malami said it was illegal… but they are still there doing their work, protecting their people. At 83, if I don’t speak the truth, my father will be angry with me because he said only truth will make you free.
So Christ taught us also. We are not sincere. We say one thing and we do another. Umahi could resign because he thinks he has no office but you see the irony is that his brother (governor) should have created an office for him.
He gave him money but he has no office. Look, the Secretariat of South East Governors Forum is in Enugu. The current Secretary to the Government of Enugu State (Prof Simon Ortuanya) is the Director General of South East Governors’ Forum. Did he come out to complain about accommodation? He was given accommodation by the governor, where the thing was sited. When you created an outfit, where did you say the headquarters will be? They said Enugu. Why haven’t you persuaded the governor to give them accommodation?
So what do you think is the actual problem Ebubeagu is yet to fly?
They don’t tell us the truth. They are having disagreements based on the political differences in the South East Governors Forum. Anambra is APGA (All Progressives Grand Alliance); Enugu is PDP, Abia is PDP; Imo was PDP until recently APC. Umahi decamped to APC.
So, they have 2-2-1 and everybody is not thinking about the South East. How can they agree? If they agreed, if Enugu accepted that headquarters will be in Enugu, why not give the office to the Coordinator of this Ebubeagu, and then fund it? You see, this is what we are talking about. True federation and this is my answer to you: they are all joking.
The President, Muhammadu Buhari recently used a threatening word against the Igbo, reminding them of the Biafran war and saying that he would treat them in the language they will understand. What’s your take on this?
Yes, that’s the president’s mission. And I want you to know; yesterday, I was on a radio programme analyzing the president’s interview with Arise TV. Nigerians seem to be helpless. They know who this president is and what he came for and the plans that he has. Everything that is happening is part and parcel of his programme
Let me ask you, that threat came when the chairman of INEC went to see him. And the chairman of INEC listed the number of offices burnt.
Was it only in the South East? The figure he gave you, was it only in the South East? Did it start in the South East? Remember that attacking police did not start from the South East; it was a later day because it was those who carried it out, where it started that are bringing it down to the South to make it look as if it’s all of us. No Igbo man destroys his property because he is a businessman. No Igbo man destroys his property. There is evidence.
Look, bandits, Boko Haram, they started with Boko Haram; they moved to bandits; they moved to kidnappers, killer herdsmen. Now, you heard about unknown gunmen whom Nigerians in their great humour call ungun known men (laughter). Who said they don’t know who are doing these things?
Who said that Buhari does not know who Boko Haram is? That’s what Nnamdi Kanu has been hammering on and getting the boys over to him. He talked about how this people think. You see, the danger facing you, you don’t confront the danger. You decide to play. Boko Haram hoisted a flag in the North East. Many local governments were unreachable.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan tried and went out. One of the things Buhari said when he came was to fight Boko Haram. He said in 10 days, Boko Haram would be a thing of the past. Lai Mohammed said they have defeated them technically; they have been decimated. Each time they said that, Boko Haram struck and he was saying in his interview when he was asked now with the killing of Shekau, can we zero in on something? You know he didn’t answer that question.
He said, oh, the governors of North East are doing very well; they are working very hard and the trouble we have is unemployment and hunger. You see the point? So, I’m asking him, before the election in Edo, they broke the jail there; the jail was broken.
Nobody, I don’t think they have rearrested all the prisoners who fled. Who did it? They are trying to say they know the language. One woman said we know the language you are talking about- kwashiorkor, hunger, death, genocide. That’s what we know and that’s what is happening. Again you listened to the president. He asked the governors, are these people Nigerians?
He said yes, they are Nigerians. Then, let’s treat them, don’t kill a man and say Allahu akbar (God is great). You heard him. That’s the solution to the problem, not go and pick them out and deal with them the way you are now threatening the Igbo. They know them. Sheikh Gumi has gone to negotiate with them.
They know where they are. Gulak, before his death, had said we risk our lives to go and negotiate with them. So, they know them. Why haven’t you treated them like you are treating IPOB? There is a saying in Igbo which says give a dog a bad name and hang it. It is part of their mission to destroy Ndigbo and I’m asking South West brothers, if you don’t see this picture clearly, they are just using you like they used the Middle- belt people who now have opened their eyes to know that they are being used and they are resisting it and are being killed every day. Ndigbo, do you know when they came ‘Munshi’, shoot at sight. Munshi is Tiv language, kill at sight. They killed so many of our brothers during the war because they took orders. Google says Ahmadu Bello, will manipulate the Middle-belt until we dip the Koran in the Atlantic. Why do people think these things don’t mean anything and that it’s planned? I must give something to the jihadists. They have their good plan; they plan many years ahead of time. Why should a Fulani herdsman come to Onitsha and say this land belongs to me and I can do anything I like in your ancestral land? In the interview, the man was thinking about grazing route, First Republic. I asked them yesterday, how old was President Buhari in the First Republic? Things have changed.
Railway lines have crossed those grazing lands. New roads have crossed those grazing routes; oceans have taken over those grazing courses. They are no longer there, and we are talking about a more modern way of livestock. And I say to my people, in Igbo land, we had family ranches.
When I was a school boy, after school, I went for animal feed outside and brought it to my family ranch where we fed goats and so on. We didn’t allow our goats or cows to graze outside, and they say oh, traditional. All he knows is about taking cattle; we said take your cattle to where you can graze within your own area. And some Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) compare that with motor spare parts dealers and Nigerians are keeping quiet. Malami!
Malami!, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, which spare parts dealer from Nkanu in Enugu State goes to Kano as a businessman and decides that he owns Kano land without negotiating with the government or local government for renting of a house and paying for a house and putting his wares in that house?
Let Malami tell us. So, there is no comparison at all. I listened to the spokesperson of Northern Elders Forum; allow them to go if they want. Nobody wants war. I fought the war. I retired as a Major on the Biafran side. Olusegun Obasanjo signed my papers. I still have it.
The BBC came and interviewed me, and took a photograph. I was an administrative officer in the university but when things came to a head, you know, when they push you to the wall, you only die once. If you keep quiet, they will take you alive and take you but you can turn. By the time they kill you, you would have killed somebody.
So, you don’t go home alone. What Buhari is doing is to lure us into a war and our leaders are keeping quiet. They don’t want to get involved in a war of words and they are now accusing them of being silent. What do you want them to say? They said it in the last 50 years, 40 years after the civil war. Look at what you are doing to us. Buhari, the other day said, what do they want?
Are they not running the country according to the Constitution? Did the Constitution tell you to have Fedral Character? Look at your appointments. That’s why I was very angry and so, I didn’t follow up. When his brother, Daura was sacked by the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Buhari was sick in London and Osinbajo was acting. If Buhari were here, Daura would never have been sacked. But this man sacked him; he is still walking free, a man who is guilty publicly of treasonable felony.
You went around taking over the National Assembly. A woman challenged you, shoot if you want or get out of here. Didn’t you see the video? And when Buhari came, what did he do? Daura is walking free. When Daura left, in seniority there was acting DG of DSS, who I think came from Bayelsa State.
He is saying oh, he is acting within the Constitution, seniority. He waved the man aside and brought a retired army officer to head that organization. In the Customs, Hameed Ali was put there instead of the seniority of the civil service, who should be the Controller of the Customs. How many times have you seen Ali capture illegally imported arms and reported on television? Where are those arms?
Did he give them to the military? Why didn’t you show us like the NAFDAC does? They impound them and show you where they are destroying it. Buhari carefully is appointing people who are part of his plan.
There is no Igbo man in the security outfit, who will advise him that what you are doing does not favour to certain people. When he came back from London, he called a security meeting, closed-door.
When they finished, what came out? Operation Python Dance in Igbo land. And you know what it meant? They took armoured vehicles. The man called Buratai, Chief of Army Staff, and Enenche his spokesman, he is Benue man and he is not concerned about what they are doing to his people every day. So, they went to Nnamdi Kanu’s home. You saw the video, what they did there.
They killed a lot of people and nobody wants to talk about it. And people were throwing stones like Palestinians and Israelis. In somebody’s village, in his home; the man at that time was not carrying arms. Probably, he had a flag which he said is the Biafran flag. Why they are afraid of the Biafran flag, ordinary paper? All you have to do is collect them, put a match on it and burn them. They will go and print more, cat and mouse. But how did they come to proscribe IPOB?
Buhari did not talk about that. Let me remind our journalists and Nigerians, when Nnamdi Kanu appeared in Court, before Justice Binta Nyako. She handled my case as a former Resident Electoral Commissioner. We sued INEC and we got our judgment from Binta Nyako.
They sacked us before our tenure lapsed and we said okay, give us our money and keep your job. You cannot keep your job and keep our money.
We won the case after four years and we got the money after two years. So, out of the 11 charges (against Nnamdi Kanu), in the court, Nyako nullified six, ruled, and left five. One of the six is that they are not a terrorist group. Have you people forgotten? There is no evidence that they are a terrorist group. If you know what terrorism means, like Boko Haram. They have no arms; it’s just word of mouth and marching around, and police can handle that.
When they went after him, they couldn’t get Nnamdi Kanu. Very clever, very well read, very educated. He is more educated than most of them and that is why he is winning the spirit of the young boys and he escaped by hair’s breath. Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, who stood his surety, the case is still in court because he went and chased him out. The man was granted bail; you went to his house and drove him away. You wanted to kill him.
The man escaped and you want me to pay. Let’s start from the beginning. Is this justice? The man left.
Then this Buratai, who has retired after pressure and given immunity by making him an ambassador, so you cannot do him anything. He has ambassadorial immunity. You see how they are going? With all the atrocities he committed, including now questionable, there was an accident that killed the Chief of Army Staff (Late Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru). He said I will look at it. I have not seen the evidence of the equipment they said they bought.
Then suddenly, there was an accident and he died. To God be the glory! It’s only God who will decide, who knows who is next? But the man was given a shield, noncareer ambassador because he had retired. He will become an ordinary citizen; the law can catch up with him, law of genocide and so on.
Nobody is talking about that. Buhari doesn’t think about that but he is ready to remind us of our suffering during the war when you transported headless bodies of Ndigbo from the North and dumped them at the railway stations.
And you expect their children to keep quiet? You are threatening us again? Why? How did Malami again went and got an interlocutory injunction in court; not an appeal or a court ruling? You see the difference? If you are not happy with the striking out of that thing, that is not treason, you go to the Appeal Court.
You didn’t go, and you go to a judge and get an injunction that they are a terrorist group. That’s why Nnamdi Kanu cannot come home. Even if you reach him, he knows if he comes to you, you will kill him. Like you killed the people you said are IPOB, who you said killed Gulak. IPOB said we have nothing to do with it. Why did you kill them? Why didn’t you arrest them so that we interrogate and know who these gunmen are? The police trained to restore peace are removing evidence like they did in Lekki. They killed and took away the corpses so that you don’t have evidence.
What’s your position on the National Assembly’s’ current review of the 1999 Constitution?
It is a jamboree and they know why. Each time they go, N1 billion to the House of Rep, N1 billion to the senate and they go to the states, pay their hotel bills, pay the allowances and listen to people and say the same thing over and over again. Let me tell you. Why hasn’t the National Assembly all this time, the 9th Assembly, why haven’t they started where the 8th Assembly stopped?
Remember the 8th Assembly went on this spree, they went around and why are the two houses doing it separately when you can have a joint committee of the house? Let me tell you why I said it’s a jamboree. Since the economic downturn, you cannot pay N30, 000 minimum wage, you have to negotiate. At the last count, each member of the senate went home, according to what they said, N31.5 million. That is the salary or minimum wage of 1000 families in Nigeria.
Why hasn’t it occurred to them as patriots, please let’s review this thing, the economy does not permit it. Nobody; either in the Senate or the House of Representatives has said let us contribute five per cent of our salary to the national economy, to the national grid as we do it in electricity. I wrote Hope Uzodinma because he came after I had sent my letter to members of the South East Governors Forum and I wrote to him.
I said I want to draw your attention to one thing. I heard you say something about hunger; that there is no hunger because you are producing local rice. I said Uzodinma; you were a senator for eight years under PDP. You collected, from what you said, N31.5 million every month for eight years.
How can you know there is hunger in Nigeria? We don’t expect you to know because you buy rice at any cost in the market. The man who has N30, 000 which is his monthly payment will have to pay house rent; he has to pay electricity bill, pay for water and so on and so forth. You have to pay school fees and survive. So, I understand you but please you are now a governor.
There are certain things… Since you ascended you are now saying things to please those who put you there and I said to him, you see, you cannot be angry with those who call you Supreme Governor. What is it? I said the Supreme Court made a mistake but since they are infallible, we have accepted it; their infallibility has exposed them anyway, that all they did was instead of asking INEC go and include this number and come out and tabulate and give the result, the Supreme Court decided to do it itself. And in doing it, they committed an error.
The number they added to you came out to be more than the people who voted. In other words, the Supreme Court endorses rigging and they are there. I’m sure it’s staring them in the face. And you came to power from number four to number one, using votes that INEC said we don’t know where they came from. That was INEC’s defence and the Supreme Court did not listen to that defence. These are the umpires, who said these votes we don’t know and those who came second, third are saying you didn’t even consider our own votes.
The thing is clear. Uzodinma, what is happening in Imo is evidence. He is fighting for his existence. He said that he invited the army. You, in a peace time? Inviting the army to air raid your home? Bishop Obinna told him something like that. Ndigbo nwelu ofor (Igbos have retribution). You see a young man you pick him, he must be IPOB. I don’t know Nnamdi Kanu but he has the charisma that won the heart of frustrated young men.
You have to address that thing that made the young men follow him rather than you. You are governor because you are elected but if you are governor having been elected and nobody obeys you, you must look at yourself again. You know, 31st or 29th May, I’m saying we are not talking at Democracy Day; I have written an article, June 12 cannot be a democracy day because it was the day democracy was stopped by our own military.
The democracy day is when we gave away the shackles of the military that is May 29. Buhari may celebrate democracy day on June 12 but I’m sure the next government will reverse it. You cannot make the day when the military, his own constituency, destroyed democracy. You call it democracy day. Abiola deserves to be remembered and the West has remembered him every June 12.
You can call it Remembrance Day for our hero who fell. Incidentally, he didn’t gain the support of his people when he was fighting and they killed him or he died. His wife died. We cut our nose to spite our face because we won’t speak up in time and challenge the irresponsibility of governance.
Once you are in opposition, they want to eliminate you so that you will not talk. Those who traced Gulak’s killers, you know them. You trailed them and when they were killing him, you didn’t trail them. And you got from the driver who was released