Former federal permanent secretary, governor of Anambra State, and presidential adviser, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife in this interview with Vanguard responds to issues arising from the Boko Haram insurgency, the 2015 presidential contest among others. Excerpts:
What is your reaction to Dokubu-Asari’s war threat that there will be no peace if President Jonathan is not returned in 2015?
You have to put that statement in the context of Nigerian history. I wouldn’t want war. We have had more than enough war now. But he has a point he is making. The point he is making is that we have had well above 50 years of Independence and out of those years, thirty-eight and half, the North supplied the headship of Nigeria. It is not that everybody was happy, but nobody made war. Nobody tried to make the country ungovernable for Shagari, not the talk about the military people. But now, a southern person from the eastern part is president.
Before his election, we heard talks of making the country ungovernable if he wins. In fact, he won, and; look at what is going on. Blood flowing everywhere. Don’t you think that people from the south-south even south-east will think that this is going on because somebody from that part of the country is President?
There is something Igbo people say “Eji ndu eme gini? (What is the use of life)? There is a situation you may say “what is the use of life?” Let’s fight to the end. Death is welcome. So, it is a bitter statement made by Asari Dokubo and it will not be advisable to take it as an idle threat. It is not an idle threat and people should think. I had said before that each month Boko Haram remains active, it will mean one year of the north being out of power. And let’s us calculate the months and see how many years the North is already pushed out of power. Are you ruling cattle? We are human beings. At a point, we will say, “eji ndu eme gini, what is life for?
Some allege Asari’s statement was a response to earlier comments by Lawal Kaita in 2011 of making Nigeria ungovernable for Nigeria if Jonathan won in 2011?
That is what we are talking about. A number of prominent Northerners not just Lawal Kaita said the country will be made ungovernable if Jonathan wins and he won and what are we getting? The country is being made ungovernable. Blood all over the place.
Are calls to arrest Asari justified?
Well, we are idle people in Nigeria talking nonsense most of the time. This young man blows up out of accumulated tension and frustration and you say, arrest him. Start arresting from the beginning.
Do you foresee Nigeria hitting the rocks by 2015 with all these perennial problems?
My view is that Nigeria must remain a permanent Nigeria. But there are things that must be done to make it permanent. As for the prediction of some foreign countries, it is their own interest that they are serving. Some powerful nations on earth decided to themselves that an Islamized Nigeria, in her position, mumbled, will be difficult to manage and therefore they think it will be best for the country to break up into pieces.
Where does the Igbo nation stand in 2015?
I see Jonathan as an eastern person holding the office of the President and put there by principally the south-east. It is the confidence oozing out of the south-east that enabled south-south to galvanize. In 1987, we had a meeting with the Middle-Belt and they told us the moment they see the south east standing firmly on an issue, they will go with us. What happened in 2011 presidential election?
The Middle Belt went with the south-east. South-south went with the south-east. So, we put him there, it will not be just to hound him out. But when he is looking for his second term, we are requesting for our first term. Hausa has ruled. Yoruba has ruled.
Of the major tribes, only the Igbo has not. By 2015, every zone shall have supplied leader of Nigeria except south-east. So, we have legitimate interest in 2015 yet our man is there. I don’t think it makes sense to go and compete against Jonathan but what I have said from the beginning is that we play a game of cooperation with Jonathan. He would understand us fighting to be President. We understand him fighting for second term. Before the primary election, we should meet and look at the field and ask him, “Mr. President, do you think, you can win in this field without damaging everything?”
Game of cooperation
If the answer is yes, we support him. But we have to convince ourselves that it is yes. But if on the other hand, it looks like he doesn’t win, we will ask him to support us. That is the game of cooperation I mean.
Are you corroborating what Senator Ben Obi said sometime ago that Igbo should forget 2015?
Well, it is a matter of a language that is used. There is a way you can say “thank you” and it looks like you said “go away”. And if he said it blatantly like that, it is not good. But I am sure what he means by that is that ultimately, we will have to support Jonathan for 2015.
Opposition parties have gathered to form APC so as to unseat the ruling PDP by 2015. Do you see that happening?
I think that APC is red light for Nigeria. I was one of the eight permanent secretaries who recommended two -party system for Nigeria and we found it fantastic. It worked very well. People didn’t understand how it came about. They thought it was the military that imposed it. It was people like us. We first of all worked on it and recommended it, then IBB announced it. Every body who lived through that two-party system knew that it’s the best thing for Nigeria. We were bonding. A person from Sokoto coming to Anambra where I was Governor will think he is going home if it is SDP. A person from Anambra going to Sokoto where NRC was ruling will think he is going home if it is NRC.
So, there was bonding along two lines. So, if any other major party is developing to rival PDP, such major party must be based on ideological ground; a little to the left, a little to the right. Any thing geo-religious is dangerous for us. And we don’t want risking the radicalization of western Muslims who are the best examples of how to live with different religions. So, APC is not the party we are looking for to make a two-party Nigeria. It is a danger signal to Nigerian polity because it is not based on ideology.