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Northern Christians’ll teach APC a lesson over Muslim-Muslim ticket – Prophet El-Buba

The General Overseer of the Evangelical Outreach Ministries International, with headquarters in Jos, Plateau State, Prophet Isa El-Buba, speaks  about the implications of the ruling All Progressives Congress Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket for next years’ elections

You’re an influential voice in the North, what are you telling your followers ahead of next year’s general elections, given Nigeria’s critical need for a leader who is truly a nation builder, as opposed to one who sees leadership as an opportunity to advance their personal interest?

If you look at my antecedent and my background, you will realise that I have consistently insisted that we must get it right; we must get people who have integrity, not only integrity but also intelligence in leadership positions. You can have integrity but lack intelligence and with that you cannot run a system. And then, you can be intelligent but lack integrity, the result will be systemic bankruptcy. So, you must have a combination of the two as a leader to be able to drive the system.

By the grace of God, across the board, both the Christians and the Muslims, I have the commitment of a large number of people who identify with my stand, who believe in the message I stand for and that message is that Nigeria must get its leadership right. All of Nigeria’s problems stem from leadership deficit. Nigeria has witnessed very few moments when sincere people sat in the leadership saddle and gave us a glimpse of what is possible if we have good leadership in place. Let’s not go too far away; even within the present government led by President Muhammadu Buhari, there was a time the president was away abroad due to illness and his Vice President took over as the acting President. We saw within that short moment, positive dramatic changes in security, the economy started coming alive, the dollar that had almost become something else crashed down against naira and so on. That development just showed us that the country’s problem is leadership deficit.

This time around, we have decided and are determined to get a leader who can serve Nigerians rather than somebody who is going to use Nigerians to drive his own business. At this particular point, we have to get somebody that is young. The purpose of the young age is because of the complexity and depth of Nigerian problems. We need younger leaders who will be able to contend with the enemy of Nigeria and rescue the country from the hands of the enemies, both nationally and internationally, who have vowed to run it down. It must be a person who has competence, character, commitment and credibility to run the Nigerian nation.

Presently, we have a northern President; the next President should come from the South. And going to the South, the Presidency must go to a southern Christian. That is equity; that’s fairness. It is the only way to give people a sense of belonging in the system. Right now, the right thing is a southern Christian as President and a northern Vice-President. That is the message I’m passing.

You’ve seen the line-up of presidential candidates for next year, do you think the nation stands a chance of getting a leader that exemplifies the qualities you just enumerated?

I’m a student of history and I will tell you the truth. You must realise that the most uncomfortable, inconvenient season is when true leaders emerge. True leaders emerge out of pressure. True leaders emerge out of crisis. True leaders emerge out of a situation where there is  total confusion. For instance, David in the Bible was not among the powerful in the nation neither was he recognised in any way. David was just a shepherd boy. But there was a situation that confronted everybody in the nation and the army and the commander at that time could do nothing about it.  Goliath was intimidating everybody and staring everybody in the face. Suddenly, there was someone who emerged and took the responsibility to drive the process. Remember, when he was driving the process, Saul, the king, the army general didn’t join him to go and confront Goliath. But because David was doing something for the sake of the people, God gave him the support and we saw what happened eventually – Goliath was eliminated. This is exactly what is going to happen in Nigeria. The way things stand right now, I have said it very clearly, Nigerians will not go for the APC in the forthcoming presidential election.

Why do you say so?

It is very clear. Forget about this issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket. The real issue is that the party’s flag bearer is not competent, not to talk about his age. Simply put, he has neither the competence nor the energy required to drive the Nigerian system. And of course, with the Muslim-Muslim ticket, the APC has messed up its chances without remedy. The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party is a northern Fulani man. I supported him in 2019 because it was North-North issue. So, I stood for Atiku and asked everybody to go for him and we know that he won that election but now, I ‘m saying that the Presidency must go to the South. The PDP too shot itself in the foot by allowing Atiku to emerge as their presidential candidate when another Fulani northerner is about finishing an eight-year tenure. I believe there are competent young Nigerians that the people will rally round and the country will get it right this time around.

Does it matter to northern Christians that the APC is flying Muslim-Muslim ticket?

It’s a sacrilege. That decision is injurious to the faith of a people. Nigeria’s population is about 230 million. More than half of that number is Christians. You can only joke with that population at your own peril politically. On the average, there are more than 50 million Christians in northern Nigeria alone. You can’t try to neglect, abuse or look down on a people that control this large number. Even if they are 10 million, they need to be recongnised properly. You can’t say that out of 50 million people, there is no competent person to be the Vice President. Generally, no political party in Nigeria in its right senses should have contemplated fielding a Muslim-Muslim ticket or Christian-Christian ticket. Nigeria has not matured to that level. It will take years for such trust and confidence to be built in the people.

There has been this outcry of Islamic agenda. How do you justify this one faith ticket and disabuse the minds of the people on that? It’s unheard of! Let’s not even go that way but you could see the structure under the APC administration – President, Muslim; Senate President, Muslim; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Muslim, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Muslim; National Chairman of the APC, Muslim; presidential candidate, Muslim and now you are also bringing a Muslim as Vice Presidential candidate. With that, you are already giving credence to what the people are saying about an agenda to Islamise Nigeria. There is a saying that wherever you see smoke, there must be fire, no matter how small it is. That is the reality. So, it is an abuse. Even the Muslims themselves are not happy with the decision of the APC to field a Muslim-Muslim ticket. I have hundreds of messages in my phone  from our Muslim brothers expressing themselves and saying that they are not happy with the APC’s decision because that is like trying to hurt a family that is trying to build itself.

Is this to say that you share the view that the APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket is tantamount to calling the bluff of the Christians in the North?

My understanding of Tinubu’s decision to pick a Muslim as his running mate is that he decided to look at the Christians in the face and say “Uwaka,” which is an abusive word in Hausa. Go to communities and towns in Kano, Kaduna, Gombe, Borno, Plateau, Niger, Nassarawa and every other state in the North, that is the feeling of Christians. The feelings are the same across the states in the South. You need to interact with the people to see the anger.

Some have expressed the fear that terrorism and killings by Islamic fundamentalists may worsen if APC wins with Muslim-Muslim ticket. Do you think this fear is valid?

The fear is valid. I will tell you that the activities of the killer Fulani hersmen, the terrorists that are having a field day now are being organised and sponsored. These terrorists are doing a paid job with a clear mission. They believe that they will destabilise the whole system such that the 2023 elections won’t hold and they will be able to hijack power. And they believe that Nigeria is a conquered territory. I can clearly tell you that truth. That is why the government of the day is treating them with kid’s gloves rather than pound them as they should be. It’s just that it has now started hurting the northern Hausa communities unlike before when it was restricted to areas only inhabited by Christians in the communities. Now, there is the other stage of trying to eliminate the Hausa communities in the North. I have a Fulani blood in me so, I’m not against my Fulani people but against the Fulanisation of the country and they are riding on the Islamic agenda as a driving force and they also want to deal with the Hausa. So, the agenda is true. The ordinary Fulani man, who is used to sticks and cows, where does he have the money to be able to acquire AK-47 riffles? The question is: why is it that the military always announces it whenever they want to carry out an onslaught against the terrorists?   You don’t announce your plans to go after somebody or groups of people who have been terrorising the people. Rather, you invade their territories and sweep them away.

The Christian Association of Nigeria and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria had earlier warned parties against Muslim-Muslim ticket, saying Christians would not vote for such a ticket. Do you see CAN and PFN boycotting the APC in next year’s election?

Absolutely and I’m saying it categorically even though the national bodies of CAN and PFN have made no statement on that but I’m part of the leadership of the Christian body. We are totally boycotting the APC and its presidential candidate and what they stand for. It doesn’t matter if they make any changes, the damage has been done and the intention has been revealed. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. Who they really are is what they have demonstrated in choosing the candidates.

Let me quickly tell you that we are making a move across the whole country. Of course, you will have that two per cent of hungry Christians who would still be singing their praises. We won’t stop that. In life, you will always find that one per cent that will prove to be greedy or act as betrayers. But I can tell you that 99.9 per cent of Christians are going to totally make a collective statement with their votes. And our Muslim brothers, many of them who are solidly behind us, will also flow in the direction we’re going. I tell you the truth, the real northerners are angry. If you check, the people that are really suffering in this country are the northerners. The core northerners have been impoverished by their own people who are leaders and they are tired of the situation. Right now, they have found out that they have been using religion and tribalism to deceive them. Right now, their eyes are open and they have been wondering that since Buhari has been President, what has he done to better their lives or what value has he added to the North? The crisis in the North has become 10 times worse than what he met. It is the same with the economy and other indices of good governance.

I will tell you that work is going on. Discussions are going on and we are very much prepared to make sure that we teach them a lesson of their lives so that no politician or anyone else would ever take the Nigerian people for granted again. They should never test the will of the Nigerian people and we will prove that during this election. Let anybody bring bullion vans to try to buy votes or intimidate the citizens, that will not work this time.

In the past few days, I have received threat messages that I should not try to do what I’m doing. But they don’t know that I have passed that level where I am afraid for my life. I have passed that stage; I’m not afraid of death. There are a thousand and one other people like me. Today, if I’m no more alive, I’m sure they will rise up to continue what I’m doing. So, we won’t stop what we are doing and we will prove to any hired thug that enough is enough because they will be prayed for spiritually and at the same time, prayed for with hands.

What is your view on the submission that competence ought to be placed above religion in the choice of Nigerian leaders?

We try to use English to try to confuse ourselves. As much as Nigerians will love somebody that is very competent, they will not pick a Yahoo-Yahoo guy and make him the leader.  The Yahoo-Yahoo guys are smart and very intelligent but you won’t make them your leader. The fact is that Nigerians are spiritually driven. I hear people talking about placing competence above religion, but the fact is that nobody can divorce the marriage between competence and spirituality. The two go together.  The fear of God is rooted in spirituality. So if you have somebody who is competent but he is coming to steal, does that help the nation?

A few days ago the President lamented that it’s difficult governing Nigeria and that he can’t wait for his tenure to end and leave. Some say the President’s remark was an admission of lack of capacity and he should resign. Do you agree?

For me, I don’t think he knows what he is talking about. It’s just his normal incompetence and lack of the fear of God on verbal display. When President Buhari came on board, check it, for six months, Nigerians were calm and cool and were following his instructions. He was a man that Nigerians were waiting for to give them direction. But when he started acting on the counsel of sycophants that he surrounded himself with; people who do not mean well for Nigeria, he made things difficult for himself. A few competent ones that he has, like the Vice President, he messed them up with the ill advice of some people who claimed that the Vice President was going to overshadow the President.

Is a new Nigeria possible? How soon do you think it can happen?

I see a new Nigeria now with the way things are going on. A new Nigeria is emerging. That’s why I produced a film which will be released very soon to the Nigerian nation, of a vision that I saw, that in two years, Nigeria was turned around to become one of the strongest economies and one of the greatest nations on earth.

 

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I carry the dreams and aspirations of many with me-Dakuku

Being an extempore speech by Dr. Dakuku Peterside, 2015 Rivers’ All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship candidate, and former Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency,  NIMASA, at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, on Tuesday,  May 3, 2022
My dear Rivers People, and especially  members of our great party, the All Progressives Congress, APC,
I want to thank you all for coming out in your numbers, in solidarity, to welcome me home. I truly appreciate your support over the years. I will never take your loyalty to our shared vision for granted.
2. A lot has happened in the last couple of days. There have been a myriad of actions and reactions and many of you have been troubled.
3. Most of you who know me, and I believe the majority have followed my decisions in the past, acknowledge the fact that the greater interest of Rivers State will always guide  my actions. It has never been about myself or my ambition. But had always been Rivers, first.
4.  I am a team player and a product of the moral, material and spiritual contributions of family and friends. Conscious of the place of history and posterity in political choices, I have come back to the people to consult since it is the people who gave me impetus to aspire in the first place.
5. This is a critical phase in my aspiration because I know that I carry the dreams and aspirations of many with me. One thing I can assure you is that I will act with the best interest of our party, our state and our nation, at heart. It will not be about my personal ambition.
7. May God bless Rivers State.
 Dakuku Adol Peterside
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I will like to be remembered as a Priest who solved human problems with the talents God gave me – Father Raymond Arazu.

 

This interview, conducted by media veteran Chuks Emma Ilozue five years ago, with the esteemed Reverend Father Raymond Arazu, famous traditionalist, philosopher and priest, tells all about this enigma who remained a priest while being firmly rooted in his native tradition to the very end.

 

How will you to be introduced?

I am Reverend Father Raymond Arazu CSSP. I am a Holy Ghost Father. I went to the juniorate, Ihiala and from there I went to the Holy Ghost Novitiate Awomama, from there to Ishielu and so on.

In 1966 I was ordained priest, the last ordination Arch Bishop Charles Heery did before he died. Then that same year I was sent to Rome, and that same year the war started and my plane was the last to come to Lagos before everything was cut off. I arrived in Rome and the rest of it are in my book: ‘You have One FATHER who is in Heaven’ which I have given to you. Where I worked and so on are contained in it.

The enigma about you is your involvement in the practice of traditional medicine. How do you feel when people see you as a priest and a traditional medicine practitioner at the same time?

Father Raymond Arazu: Yea, you know the word ‘dibia’ (native doctor) in Igbo, Professor Onwuejeogu distinguished dibia afa, dibia aja and dibia ogu. There was one ‘dibia’ he missed, that is: dibia oje n’mmuo.

Now dibia afa is a fortune teller; dibia aja is the one that offers sacrifices and so on, dibia ogu is the herbalist, physician. The priest is dibia aja in Igbo.

There is no word for priest in Igbo. Ukochuku is not an Igbo word. Somebody coined it; the word for priest is ‘dibia aja’, he offers sacrifices for people.

Three-in-one Dibia

Now, some of them combine the three – dibia afa, dibia aja, dibia ogu. I have decided to combine the three because it is my family heritage. My ancestors were ‘dibia ogu’. So, I happened to be ordained dibia aja so I took up with the one in my family, ‘dibia ogu’, quite late in my priesthood.

I was having a lot of problems and I decided to use during the war the knowledge I have. I knew about herbs without being taught because I have used quite many of them. So I decided in the absence of medicine to start using this. And as soon as I started using this, everything I touched improved. I realized that it was a vocation so there is no need, you cannot run away from it. I started using the knowledge I have to help people.

In other words when you were growing up, that is, when you were in the seminary, you did not get any signs?

Father Raymond Arazu: Not at all. No idea. Even after ordination, even when I went to Rome. It was during the war I realized that I know a lot of herbs that can help people and there were no medicine. I started using it and slowly and the thing developed. I realized that it is the heritage of my family that I can’t run away from it.

How big or famous were your forefathers, in the practice of traditional medicine?

In fact in Ihembosi town, I come from Otukpe village. My own clan is called Ezedibia, that is, king of traditional medicine. It is known: every man is a traditional medicine practitioner till tomorrow.

You said you were having a lot of problems as a result of your call to traditional medicine practice and you decided you cannot run away from it. In what way was it disturbing you?

For example, I wrote an article when I was in Rome and I sent it to my congregation and for no reason I was deported the next day. I landed at Uli Airport at mid-night sitting on a bag of rice. It went on and on like that. It was after the war that I was sent back again to finish up and I just got one year for the PhD.

I wrote an article and my superior didn’t like it, that I criticized Irish Holy Ghost fathers, their approach to things in Nigeria. He thought I insulted him and I was sent back to Biafra. The first plane I was to board, they told me that the five pilots were learning to land in Biafra because they were making a lot of money, that they don’t take passengers. So I waited for the next one. Those five pilots all died; they crashed in Biafra and they were buried there. I came when their plane was burning. If I go on and tell other stories….

Yes, I think you need to tell more to convince me that you were really encountering a lot of problems because that you wrote an article and your Superior General didn’t like it cannot be sufficient reason to say you were having a lot of problems?

Father Raymond Arazu: Except that I did not even know why I was encountering these problems. Even before ordination itself I was so being disturbed in my mind that one day I went to the Rector to tell him I want to quit. He said is it about those disturbance you are having? And I said yes. He said then don’t go, then I stayed. When I was teaching in the juniorate at Ihiala I was teaching Geography and Mathematics and at the same, time I decided to take Latin and English Literature at Advanced level, GCE, London on my own.

Now when the result came out they didn’t show me the result, three years after I got a mail from the post office and I went there. There were three certificates. I didn’t know I passed well in those subjects. They kept them. Probably they thought that I would go if I saw it. So I hid the certificates also I didn’t tell them. If you look at the back of my book earlier referred for example, during an oral examination for the Master’s Degree in Theology at Gregorian University, I wrote my Master’s Degree Thesis in Latin.

The professor took me to task; he said which language do we speak in this examination; Italian, French, English or German? I told him any of the four. He said ok. Where do you come from? And I said from Biafra, the Civil War was raging at that time. Then he said we take English Language. He looked more closely at me and then put the examination question to me: “Can you prove that God created this world out of free choice?” We never did such a course. So, my answer: This world is the worst that God omnipotent could have made. If he were not free in his choice he could have made something perfect like Himself. He knows why he chose this very bad one. The professor dropped his pen and looked at me again. When he recovered he said: my friend that was good, you can go. I was given full marks. That is me.

How do you combine your priesthood with the traditional medical practice?

It is not difficult. I have even co-founded an association for scientific investigation of the medicinal plants of Nigeria. We have published a book on it. We want to leave something for posterity.

It is not just a question of a herbal medicine like my forefathers. They learn things by oral tradition if they learnt anything at all. But now we have some thing that can be used even in the university to teach. My vice chairman is a professor in taxonomy; I am the chairman of the association. They don’t want to change me.

We meet every month in Enugu. We are about 45 ‘dibias’ and we go into the forest at least once or twice a year to look at plants in situ that is to say, in their natural environment so that you will be able to pick the plant you are talking about. And when we pick one the taxonomist will tell you the botanical name and the family so that if you don’t find it you can look for another one of the family. Then every dibia around who knows what he can do with that plant will come forward and begin saying this plant is used for this, or that. We now realize that by coming out with the knowledge you have, you learn more.

By giving, you learn, you get. To say this plant is used for malaria, for example, the leaf or plant of root, somebody says I use it for typhoid or I use it for ulcer then from the little knowledge you have of the plant you expand your knowledge and we have video and camera there and all these are documented and after some years they will be published, so that we are leaving something for people. Probably that is why I was brought into this, to leave something for posterity.

In Ghana now traditional medicine is one of the things they take as a Degree Course. In Yoruba land the hospitals are now using traditional medicine with the so-called orthodox medicine. I used the word so-called because the word orthodox means genuine but their own is not genuine because they don’t produce. It is the pharmacist that uses what we have discovered in traditional medicine to mass produce drugs. So, we produce the drugs we use. When somebody is sick you just listen to him.

And when you go to laboratory, I have learnt not to trust our laboratory here because they nearly killed me last year. I was so sick last year all my body was full of boils, my eyes were red, the itching I was having all over my body lasted for more than seven months. I couldn’t sleep. In the end I weighed 45 kilogrammes. And I went to India. The first thing they did to me in India was to put me on de-toxification to remove all the toxins, because in Nigeria they said my liver was malfunctioning and I had obstructive jaundice. So, after the test they carried out in India they came out with the result that nothing was wrong with my liver, nothing was wrong with my kidney and nothing was wrong with my heart but that I had prostrate cancer and that it had gone into the bone marrow, but that it has not got into the colon. In another two weeks if I was in Nigeria I would be dead.

At least I knew what was wrong and they started medication. At least I have drugs for prostrate, I have drugs for cancer. We have them in traditional medicine and I came back with their drugs after my treatment. In fact my prostrate the PSA 28.65. But the normal thing should be between one and four. That 28.65 was because of cancer. Now I used their drugs and my own and after three months I went back. They took the test again and it was less than one unit.

The oncologist there was quite surprised but I didn’t tell him that I combined my own drugs with his own. Now if the diagnosis here was correct I mightn’t have gone to India. So, all that expenditure and suffering wouldn’t have happened.

So I am happy that I am in this traditional medicine practice because I am getting the traditional doctors to work properly. I am the chairman of Anambra State Traditional Medicine Board; I was the Secretary before and we are trying to, if only Government will allow us and give us the necessary infrastructure to organize the traditional doctors well as the chairman of Lagos State traditional medicine board has done. They organize the Lagos one very well so it is recognized in West Africa. He is the only chairman of traditional medicine in Nigeria that is invited to Burkina Faso Meeting that they have, one of my directors attended last year, he said it is only Lagos State that is recognized there because they do it properly and it is not all the States in Nigeria that have traditional medicine board. We are lucky we have one here but we are not assisted very well to do the job well so we could organize traditional doctors in this State, call a meeting for them and teach them a few new things; tell them how to treat people and also register them so that we can know who they are. If they are going wrong we can caution them.

My question is: how do you combine your priesthood with traditional medicine?

Father Raymond Arazu: What is priesthood actually? I say mass. I teach in the junior seminary. I was parish priest once. Now you could have asked me, how I combine it with music because I have produced 65 psalms of the Bible into Igbo music, Igbo lyric, Igbo language and poetry. It is the best production in Igbo language so far in music. 65 Psalms and the Exultet (Mkpu Onwu nke Pasca). They are so good that the cassette went to University of Nigeria and they invited me and I gave them the cassettes of all these. The faculty of music spent six months putting them into Solfa and Staff Notation. And they gave me an award. Ask me how I get time for all these. I am now revolutionsing church music so that Arch Diocese of Onitsha sent my name to Rome in 1999 as nomination for Religious musician for the Millennium.

If you are interested in anything you find time for it, and find that it even enhances your performance in other sections. In the end what we are here for is to find how we can help human beings, how we can help people not only physically and materially but also spiritually and psychologically. That is why I moved into this area. If you read this book: ‘You have one FATHER who is in heaven’ you find out that we have gone a little further to move our people towards the understanding of God in a universal way with Hinduism, with Buddhism from every aspect of religion all over the world. As the saying goes, you don’t watch a masquerade standing at one spot.

So, we are attacking the human problem from every aspect. Even from economic aspect, I employ almost 60 people who are working for me in traditional medicine in so many clinics, in harvesting and in preparing, now that is a way of solving the economic problem of our people. I did a borehole about 15 years ago when I was building this place and the water is certified as good for drinking and is given to people 24 hours free of charge. For so many students living around here, this is where they line up and get their water.

What can we do for human beings? That is why I am here. So when I am gone I will be very happy that in my life time I helped a lot of people to drink water, to get medicine, to improve on their knowledge of God- so many aspects and until there is no more energy left in me then I stop helping people.

So, priesthood is the basic aspect of my life because as a priest you can stop me anywhere and go to confession. We have mass every 7am every Sunday and that mass is one and a half hours. My sermon doesn’t exceed 10 minutes and people can go to mass and go and do other things.

Esoteric Classes

We have also every first Monday of the month here esoteric class; things like Hebrew Kabala, I teach it here so that people will not be looking for other esoteric organizations or cult organizations. We have it here. We can teach you everything from Blavasky and dean of fortune, even occult masters, how it is done.

If you read my booklet on Witchcraft, we now know that what is holding us down here is witchcraft. Other people use witchcraft to undermine their fellow human beings; they use witchcraft to make sure people don’t progress more than they do. The knowledge of witchcraft is very important, to know how it operates. I have in my book ‘Man know thyself’ I have discovered what can be used to counter that witchcraft with herbal medicine.

These are issues that I feel that God has used me to help people around here. I don’t know whether I have answered your question.

You have but another question I want to ask is: how do you cope with the conservative Catholic Church?

Father Raymond Arazu: When they say the Church, I am part of the church. So that you cannot rule me out. For example, Francis Cardinal Arinze came here two months ago to visit me and I took him round and showed him some of the traditional herbs and so on. When I showed him something that is used for witchcraft he asked how do you know. I told him how I knew and the Cardinal was nodding. The Cardinal eventually turned to the people and said that we need people like Father Arazu. He said that God has created these plants and they can be used to cure people. But there are people who can find out how they can be used and that is why we are grateful to Father Arazu. I was happy the Cardinal said it before so many people; that he didn’t rebuke me for going into traditional medicine, he was praising me.

Which Diocese do you belong to?

Father Raymond Arazu: I am a Holy Ghost Father. As a Holy Ghost Father I belong to the Diocese of the world. We are missionaries. We are in every country of the world; we send people out but our headquarters here is at Onitsha. We have our own set up. We have our superiors and so on. If you are posted to Onitsha Diocese then you are under the Bishop of Onitsha. If you are posted to Owerri you are under the Bishop there. If you are not posted but you are within the congregation itself like this place, it is a Holy Ghost congregation house. It is not part of Awka Diocese but we are in Awka Diocese.

I asked you that question because I cannot recall seeing you during church activities where Reverend Fathers renew their obedience to the Bishop?

I used to go but because of my sickness. I am 75 and I was so sick in the last three years. But I used to be in all these before. In fact in Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province, I used to sit in the marriage tribunal. I was once what you call lawyer or solicitor in the marriage tribunal. Then the Bishop of Nnewi was the chairman.

Also, there was rumour some time ago that you had a problem with the Church and was barred from celebrating mass?

Never! I heard it myself. Somebody told me that and I asked him; can you be barred without being told? I have no problem with anybody.

This place has existed for 15 years. How did you muster the finance to build a place like this?

As soon as I started traditional medicine things get in tow for me. Everything I touch succeeds. I was a civil servant for 23 years even during that time I used to give people medicine under the tree near the Government House. I retired in 1999 and went full time and started getting favours. Everything you see here, people came to beg me to come and buy this place. They needed some money and it wasn’t too expensive – N90,000.00 a plot. So I was able to get that and wall it and put borehole water and I started molding blocks.

I was living in other places like Abagana. It was when my landlord complained that my boys insulted his wife that I had to go. I came here and lived under the deckin and then finished the rest solely. The God with us wanted to help me. I built this place; I supervised it and I didn’t use contractors. There was no help from anybody, everything you see here is a help from the bush.

From my own observation, it appears workers in the dispensary of your clinic keep changing. How do you guarantee the quantity of the drugs sold and produced for you? Are you still in control?

I have brought in my nephew who is the Chairman, Chemical Society of Nigeria, Enugu branch. He is now the Managing Director because traditional medicine is in our family. He now supervises everything we do. If you notice we have got some powdered drugs in their packets. You see that science has entered the thing proper. Slowly we are moving into powdered drugs. With this we go to NAFDAC and get things properly done.

My nephew is an expert, so he is taking charge completely, but I give him the recipe because I discovered you will marvel. Like the drug I call psychic powder for curing mental sickness. It is not the plant only but the root. Only one plant.

God has given us so much but we don’t exploit them. What gets me worried is the amount of bush burning we have around here. People don’t know what they are doing in bush burning. If you know the amount of money that you are just burning, you can’t believe it and some of these plants, when they are burnt they don’t germinate again. We are losing so many of medicinal plants we have here.

There is law against bush burning but nobody enforces it; and especially Fulani cattle rearers. They go to a big forest and get it burnt so that it becomes grass land for their cattle and we don’t seem to notice it. People just mow down big forest for no reasons. Animals like leopard that used to be around here have gone because there is no forest they can stay. If you watch this compound it is about 13 plots altogether. I did the buildings along the edges so that there will be enough land left for planting of medicinal plants and so on.

People should become more conscious of trees. If you go to Enugu, some places like Polo field that has trees have been bulldozed and there are people who don’t know the value of trees even for the oxygenic we breathe.

Do you get some traditional medicine men who prepare drugs for you to buy?

No. I produce about 45 different kinds of medicine. We are getting more everyday. I notice that almost every traditional medicine man specializes in one area. We now know that antibiotics don’t do much anymore. If you take too much of it, it can cause blood cancer and that is why HIV/AIDS can now be cured. For venereal diseases people now turn to traditional medicine for those who can handle it well. So, we are coming in areas where so-called orthodox medicine, so-called because orthodox means genuine but it is our own that is genuine.

The so-called orthodox medicine, a lot of it is fake. So many people are new manufacturing it in Okpoko and they go to Taiwan and bring empty capsules, come here and fill it and sell to people. So, some people die while taking medicine, why? Because the doctor doesn’t produce the medicine, he has to buy and doesn’t control those who sell it to him. There are doctors that are doing very well but they cannot produce the medicine. They have to use the medicine produced by the people he can’t trust.

But that gives you the challenge, the traditional medicine people should go into producing their orthodox stuff in powdered form as it is done in Western Nigeria?

What they are doing now, some traditional doctors have joined us. We have about three or four medical doctors even pharmacists are now joining into producing their medicine in traditional way and some are coming to us now to collect drugs for treating people. The more we get these people we will be happy.

Congratulations on your 75th birth day. How do you feel at 75?

Last year I was sick; I was almost dead. But now I feel younger than when I was 60. I can now do a lot of things but I can’t play football again.

When you are finally gone, what will you like to be remembered for?

That is why I am writing these books, you have them. They are there in the books.

You will also like to be remembered as one Priest who did the much he can….

… to help human beings, in whatever way I can. Just solve human problems in whatever way God has given me the talent

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Manchester United Appoint Ralf Rangnick As Interim Manager

Manchester United announced on Monday they had appointed Ralf Rangnick as interim manager until the end of the season following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The 63-year-old German joins from Lokomotiv Moscow, where he was manager of sports and development.

At the end of the season Rangnick, whose appointment is subject to work visa requirements, will take on a consultancy role at Old Trafford for a further two years.

He takes over from first-team coach Michael Carrick, who has been in caretaker charge for two games since Solskjaer was sacked just over a week ago following a terrible run of results for the 20-time English champions.

“He was our number one candidate for interim manager, reflecting the invaluable leadership and technical skills he will bring from almost four decades of experience in management and coaching,” said United football director John Murtough.

The former RB Leipzig boss said he was excited to be joining United and focused on making it a successful season for the struggling club.

“The squad is full of talent and has a great balance of youth and experience,” he said. “All my efforts for the next six months will be on helping these players fulfil their potential, both individually and, most importantly, as a team.

“Beyond that, I look forward to supporting the club’s longer-term goals on a consultancy basis.”

United are eighth in the Premier League table after a 1-1 draw with leaders Chelsea on Sunday, five points off the top four.

First-team coach Carrick — who has overseen a Champions League win over Villarreal and the draw at Stamford Bridge, where he dropped Cristiano Ronaldo — will remain in caretaker charge until Rangnick’s work visa is finalised.

Club bosses sacked Solskjaer last week after a 4-1 humbling at lowly Watford despite keeping faith with the Norwegian after humiliating home losses to rivals Liverpool and Manchester City.

Solskjaer, who scoring the winning goal for United in the 1999 Champions League final to complete a historic treble, was in charge for nearly three years.

Under his leadership United finished in the Premier League top four in back-to-back seasons for the first time since Alex Ferguson retired as boss in 2013 but they failed to win their first silverware since 2017.

United can boast abundant riches in attack, with Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford, Sancho, Marcus Greenwood and Anthony Martial all vying for starting spots.

But their leaky defence has already conceded 22 goals in 13 games, more than four times Chelsea’s total of five.

Rangnick could take charge of United for the first time against Arsenal on Thursday if his work permit issues are sorted out quickly.

Former United defender Gary Neville tweeted: “Welcome to the Greatest Football Club in the World Ralf Rangnick.

“A contract for 6 months to coach the team. A contract for 2 years to coach the club.”

AFP

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Southern PDP governors are sell-outs…Secondus was sacrificed to get 2023 VP position –Farah Dagogo, Rivers Rep

 

A member of the Peoples Democratic Party representing Degema/Bonny Federal Constituency, Rivers State, in the House of Representatives, Farah Dagogo, speaks on the controversies in his party, the Road Tax Credit Scheme, Excess Crude Account and the activities of the Central Bank of Nigeria

The Senate once declared the Excess Crude Account as illegal and asked that it should be scrapped. Do you think the account has fulfilled its purpose and should be maintained?

It beggars belief that the Federal Government could admit to the depletion of the country’s Excess Crude Account from $2.1bn in 2015 to $60m as of now. Yet, the masses who are supposed to be the underlining beneficiaries are still in perilous conditions despite such a humongous amount. It is just mind-boggling. So, on the face of it and actions inherently exhibited, the Senate can outright be excused for putting out such calls. I still maintain my earlier stance that today, in Nigeria, the cost of living has risen astronomically. Making a comparative analysis of what was applicable in the past and now as to what majority of the masses are facing and passing through daily is enough a barometer to know that the depletion has no positive bearing on the lives of the ordinary people. To feed a day in Nigeria is akin to the dromedary camel passing through the eyes of a needle. Yet, we hear mind-boggling depletion of our commonwealth with nothing tangible to show for it. If it was meant to reflect positively on the lives of the people, it clearly didn’t. No need of mincing words.

To answer your question succinctly, the purpose of the Excess Crude Account that was set up in 2004, and later metamorphosed to the Sovereign Wealth Fund in 2011, has been clearly defeated. Its three cardinal objectives of supporting the budget in times of economic stress; hedging against volatile crude oil prices, saving for future generations of Nigerians and investing in domestic infrastructure, have clearly derailed.

On whether the Excess Crude Account should be maintained, we need to start interrogating issues. Is the ECA for the government or the governed? Why the loud silence on this from the state governors, particularly those from the South where the excess crude is from? The reaction of the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, on moves by the Federal Government to commence deductions from the September allocation of the Federation Account for Paris Club loan consultants should give you an inkling. Let me quote him, ‘As far as states are concerned, they do not accept that funds belonging to Federation Account could be arbitrarily deducted without the input of the states, and that is why we are insisting that until this is clarified, we would rather leave the money in the pool until we have all agreed on the direction.’ If the governors are not complicit in the depletion of the Excess Crude Account, why the loud silence? It is left for me, you and the people to decipher.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has committed to spending N621bn on rehabilitation of roads through the Road Tax Credit Scheme, following the suspension of the planned strike by the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers. Is this really the primary responsibility of the corporation?

It is one thing to have a good intention and another to ensure its execution is done with fairness, equality and transparency. You recall that President Muhammadu Buhari, on January 25, 2019, signed Executive Order 007 on Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme to address the overwhelming road infrastructure challenge of the country. That scheme was a call for Public-Private Partnership to step in the construction and refurbishment of roads in Nigeria. Private businesses are expected to leverage the scheme by utilising the project cost as a tax credit against their future Companies Income Tax liability, until full cost recovery is achieved. While on paper, it seems laudable. In reality, it is not.

Take the NNPC approval for instance; is that not an admission and advertisement of the incompetence of the Ministry of Works and Housing by the Federal Government? I view it as a major gaffe by the government. How is the NNPC going to generate N621bn tax credit in comparison to its total paid-up capital? What then happens to the Ministry of Works? The entire budget for the Ministry of Works and Housing for this year is N272bn. Is that a certification of their incompetence; which then begs the question; what structure or competence does NNPC have for road construction?

Take a look at the breakdown of the areas where the road constructions would be carried out; is there fairness in its distribution, where a particular region will be overly favoured to others? Nigeria and Nigerians are hugely divided along the lines of tribe and religion. It behoves the government to be responsive and responsible to use its actions to dispel those notions and not lend credence to it, as majority of government policies and actions tend to suggest.

The CBN has also at various times introduced projects and schemes on agriculture, entrepreneurship and infrastructure. Is this not usurping the statutory powers and responsibilities of relevant MDAs?

These are some of the issues that have retarded our progress as a country. Weary government officials are occupying apex positions, chasing shadows and you think our economy will not be the worse for it? The MDAs are gradually becoming redundant and sadly huge sums of monies are being expended on these unproductive ministries and agencies. Our financial institutions are in competition on how to outdo themselves in fleecing customers through repugnant bank charges and the apex regulatory body that was supposed to step in and come to the rescue of customers who are at the mercies of these 21st Century modern-day Shylocks are rather busy with ventures that are basically not part of their functions. That explains why our currency is in its near-comatose state.

The PDP recently had its elective national convention. Is it true that governors have taken a strong hold on the party, with the choices and the way the new leadership has emerged?

I will just take that as a rhetorical question, because you and I know that is the reality on the ground. The governors are not only dictatorial; they are now garbed in military democratic attire. The so-called consensus has the imprimatur of the governors, their determination to bulldoze their agenda and force it down the throat of others and it was glaring for all to see.

Do you think the PDP has been fair with how it handled the outgoing National Chairman, Uche Secondus, who is also from your state, Rivers?

Definitely not! As a Rivers man, I cringe that Secondus could be treated in that manner and I felt very bad and sad that Rivers people could be gloating about such folly. What happens to fighting for Rivers’ interest? This is all about 2023, and the southern PDP governors, in unison, decided to sacrifice Secondus to position themselves for vice-presidential position. I can tell you authoritatively and for free that southern governors from the PDP are all sell-outs; none of them is contesting for president. They are all jostling and lobbying for the position of vice-president. And that was why Secondus was sacrificed.

One of the major problems we have as a party is the insincerity of our governors. Apart from being dictatorial, they are treacherous and always out for their selfish interests. You see, in 1896, the revered artist, Jean-Léon Géromein, in his paintings, ‘Truth Coming Out of the Well,’ had this set of politicians in mind with his drawing. He narrated how the Lie said to the Truth, ‘Let’s take a bath together, the well water is very nice. The Truth, still suspicious, tested the water and found out it really was nice. So, they got naked and bathed. But suddenly, the Lie leapt out of the water and fled, wearing the clothes of the Truth. The Truth was furious as she climbed out of the well to get her clothes back. But the World, upon seeing the naked Truth, looked away, with anger and contempt. Poor Truth returned to the well and disappeared forever, hiding her shame. Since then, the Lie has continued to run around the world, dressed as the Truth, and the society is very happy, because the world has no desire to know the naked Truth.’

With the above, it is very glaring that the Lie is now still masquerading, fully dressed as the Truth and continues deceiving the society, because the society itself has no desire to know the naked truth. That is exactly what the PDP governors from the South are doing. For some of us, we see through their antics and deceit and are miles ahead of them. Secondus is being unjustly vilified today for insisting that he will see out his court cases. But you see the deception in the ‘Lie dressing as the Truth?’ Nobody is asking who first took him to court. As an individual, I abhor injustice in all forms and I strongly believe Secondus was unjustly treated.

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has sent the Petroleum Industry Act back to the National Assembly for amendments and some members of the House, especially from the Niger Delta, have said it is an opportunity to revisit the issues of payment to host communities. Would you be asking for further amendments too?

The core content of the PIA is still regarded as a sham and a bogus display of an infamous fluke orchestrated by the majority against the minority people of the Niger Delta region, whose land and people are afflicted amidst affluence. It demonstrates the unending reasons for the vociferous calls for restructuring because of disorder and injustice that currently permeate the Nigerian state. A critique of the law shows some enervating factors that are highly disturbing: first, the reduction of compensation payment for host communities from five per cent to three per cent against the cries and appeals of the people from that region. Second, the redefinition of host community to mean any ‘community that an oil pipeline passes through; By implication, ‘host communities’ will now imply all states that do not even produce oil but have an oil pipeline passing through them. Before now, host communities were communities that produce oil or have petroleum facilities and installations on their land.

That jargon of ‘Frontier Exploration’ for which the law now provides 30 per cent of NNPC’s profits to be servicing these Frontier Explorations yearly, is another angle my constituents are demanding an amendment. It is still interpreted to mean that a certain percentage of revenue, say hypothetically 30 per cent from mines or gold from the North is set aside for gold and mine exploration from the ocean in the South. How do you justify that barefaced farce? For us, it is just another avenue of exacerbating corruption and appears to be a desideratum to fraud. It does not guarantee the fiscal direction and original intent of the PIB, which later became PIA after the President’s assent. The PIA is still an anathema to natural justice. It is hoped that these amendments will this time encapsulate the yearnings of the people.

President Buhari has laid the 2022 Appropriation Bill which the National Assembly is presently considering. It is the biggest Federal Government budget ever. Is it about size or implementation, revenue generation and judicious management of resources?

It is always about the implementation and not the size. Most times, you see the MDAs poorly funded, and some not even funded. For the few that are so funded, you see this display of high level of rascality added with irresponsible and corrupt use of resources. Until there is that will and gusto to address these issues, poor implementation of budgets will continue.

 

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VAT WAR: Those who are paying the most should benefit most. – Idika Kalu, ex-finance minister

 

The Minister of Finance who introduced Value Added Tax during the late Gen Sani Abacha regime, Dr Kalu Idika Kalu, shares his views on the controversy surrounding VAT collection, the state of the economy and related issues

As the man who introduced VAT to Nigeria, what are your thoughts on the controversy surrounding who collects the tax?

This sort of development should not arise. I was part of a small group that introduced VAT in South Korea in the mid-1970s. I was a staff member of the World Bank at the time. It is natural to be looking for ways to introduce something that has been done successfully elsewhere, so I was eager for us to have a system like that, to complement our tax system, diversify the economy and create more sources of revenue. The question of who collects VAT and how you distribute VAT was not the priority then. I was far more interested in making sure we introduced it. In fact, I almost lost it. It was my second time in the Ministry of Finance under the late General Sani Abacha, having served under General Ibrahim Babangida (retd.) So, at the Council meeting we were arguing about introducing VAT and I began to feel some chest pain. My wife, who is a medical doctor, was summoned from the military hospital to come and attend to me in the corridor. While I was in the corridor, Abacha was telling the cabinet members inside, jokingly, that I was trying to con them into agreeing with my proposal by saying ‘my chest, my chest’ (laughs). When I went back to the meeting, Abacha, knowing what he had done, was looking down. So I asked Alex Ibru, who was the then Minister of Internal Affairs, what the joke was about and he told me.

Were there objections from your colleagues?

Yes, there were objections from some cabinet members. Most people were opposed to it, except the financially minded among us. People oppose tax everywhere, even in the United States. So, we introduced the five per cent VAT and I deliberately kept it that low. The committee that worked on it – I don’t even remember all the names now – and the Accountant General of the Federation pushed to make sure it went through. So, we introduced VAT at five per cent. The Ghanaians came to ask me about the VAT and I gave them some advice. They didn’t tell me the rate they had in mind. They went and put theirs at 15 per cent and there were riots in Ghana. I think they backpedalled a bit; I can’t remember correctly. Afterwards, there were different stories.

How would you describe where we are now?

When there is good governance, clearly this should be a national tax and from the narrow base we started, it was to expand over time, to bring in more products and services. Clearly, a tax system is most equitable where the benefits accrue to where the burden is high, meaning those who are paying the most should benefit most. If those administering it at the state and federal levels know that state services should spread evenly and they are providing these services people won’t be complaining so much. This whole debate mirrors the fact that people are suspicious of the administration, politics, equity and the extent to which we go to make sure there is fairness. If the economy was growing as it should have been growing, say about seven to 10 per cent annually, by now, VAT should have moved to about 17.5 per cent like you have in a lot of the developing countries. But if the economy is not growing, you can keep the tax at that rate but expand the base. Since 1994, we have been stuck there and I remember when I was to head the Niger Delta Technical Committee and one of the recommendations was for us to move the VAT to 7.5 per cent. That was during the tenure of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. I suggested that we dedicate the 2.5 per cent as a development tax to be paid by all Nigerians for dealing with basic infrastructure in the Niger Delta, like a compensation for the region for all the money being derived from there. That was to take care of their rural roads, health centres, primary schools and such things but the report never saw the light of day. The only thing that came out of the report was the amnesty programme, but there was a whole lot I wanted us to do.

Why do you think successive governments remained fixated on oil when they could do better?

The fact that we got royalties from just taxing the oil and gas sector and we haven’t really taken time to make sure we identify the basic needs of the citizens and sustain a higher quality of infrastructure, education, health, etc., is the reason why we didn’t mobilise resources so we can spread things across. However, you also have reasons like lack of equity, lack of awareness of what needs to be done and the political consciousness of the citizenry that should demand these of any government. We really didn’t do much in that regard.

The VAT law was silent on who should collect it, which led to the ongoing legal dispute. Looking at today’s reality, who do you think should collect VAT?

That aspect has bordered me a little because we didn’t pay enough attention to the nitty-gritty due to the other issues we were dealing with at the time. So, it’s like saying the revenue from oil should just go to where the oil wells are situated. Since it’s a business turnover tax and not a resource tax, it should really be a function of where most of the transactions occur is where a lot of the revenues should go. But it’s difficult to explain it in those terms because there should be equity. If you want to build railway, you do it because of the overall benefit to the country and not where tax is paid or earned. That already gives a pointer to the fact that a lot of the collection comes from federal institutions, even if they are located in states. By the time you do that, you find that some states clamouring for VAT collection may not necessarily be the ones that would get the most. Like I said, depending on where federal institutions are located and headquarters effect. One of the analysts on the television mentioned it and I was very happy. If we decide that we should disaggregate the collection, don’t forget that collection is not necessarily coterminous with usage, meaning it does not mean what you collect was all used in your state, because some of the very heavy collections come from federal establishments and headquarters of big companies. By the time you do that, it would throw up another set of issues as to the equity in the distribution of facilities. For example, the southern states have been complaining about how those ports have not been developed and how the concentration is in Lagos. In the north, they could also say because they are landlocked and do not have ports, they are at a disadvantage. However, we are so full of suspicion of one another in this country.

How could we have avoided this?

If we had moved as fast as I had envisaged; spread the base of the tax to other services and goods that are in all parts of the country, it would make it more even. But where you don’t have those services, it would be like you are depriving those people when in fact they are indirectly contributing to the collection. Even if the states are to collect the tax, you may give a time frame for them to start collecting so that when they do, you know they are quite prepared to do it according to the new law which would be much more directly indicative of how the distribution should occur. There would be a lag for you to develop the infrastructure, manpower, reporting system and oversight system. Somebody already raised the fact that this may result in lowering collection.

What do you think should be done at this stage?

What government should do is to quickly summon the stakeholders, get experts knowledgeable in this area, let them sit down and advise the government on how to manage it. That is how a government should operate. We should not start a polemic that is based on ethnic or political factors. The issue should be how do you really distribute the revenue. Many of the people clamouring to collect their VAT may not have the system to collect effectively. Yes, they could train people on how to do it, bring in the infrastructure to make sure there is efficient collection, but ultimately it’s a question of where it is coming from. A lot of states may lose, which again goes to the issue of equity and distribution of federal facilities. Those that have these facilities would gain more than the others and that would be another thing. I also think it is better for the government to recognise that there are loopholes in the current tax structure. Like I said, these are issues a small team, maybe comprising lawyers, economists and social development specialists, can quickly deliberate on within two weeks, put all the factors into cognisance and come up with the solution. It is better to resolve it rather make it a legal issue. We should be hesitant to push it in a direction we know would create more cleavage in the system. However, when an environment is so poisoned by ethnic issues, politics and regionalism, it is difficult to have a solution. But again, if the economy was growing as it should have been, we could have increased VAT. If people were getting more revenue, maybe these clamours would not even arise.

With Nigeria’s population and its enormous natural resources, why has the economy refused to grow?

That is a very big question but there are no straight answers. You can bring in politics; the way we evolve our leadership. Also, and this is not just peculiar to Nigeria but ours is one of the special cases; economic fundamentals have been very difficult to get here. What is wrong with our economy; how do we repair the economy; what do you need to do and how do you mobilise the resources to rebuild it? If you don’t mobilise enough funds to do it, you cannot do it within the time frame you want to do it and you cannot do it as well as you should. People are quick to say we don’t want IMF or World Bank loans but whether you get them or not you still have to rebuild your economy. If you have those and they are the cheaper ones you get before going to commercial borrowing. The role these institutions would play in addition to supplementing your resources is to say, having identified your problems and got the right policies but you don’t have enough money, here is our own to add to what you have, being a member. Our politics is also a major area and that is the question of leadership, which is very intractable.

Where did we get it wrong with leadership?

Almost everybody has talked about the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He was focused on the needs of the people and on institutions. You also had Michael Opara and a few others who did the same thing. In the north, you had Ahmadu Bello. We didn’t maintain that kind of leadership focus and commitment to the good of the citizens. That is why institutions are not running the way they should be running. You can list up to 30 issues. There is no magic to growing your economy. Right from the 1960’s, Nigeria was a darling to almost every country in spite of all our politics. All we needed was to develop our resources but somehow, we came up with all kinds of things to dilute what should have been a fairly efficient system of policy making and implementation. Nigeria should have been growing at an average of seven per cent almost indefinitely, but look at us. How many of the by-products of our crude oil do we even make use of? We keep exporting crude.

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In 2012, you headed a 22-member task force for the refineries to ensure self-sufficiency, what became of it?

Yes, I did and we recommended building three green fields and made suggestions about privatisation. Look at how we messed things up. There is no way to explain why we did relatively nothing to bring ourselves here. A lot of foreigners still see that potential in us and they can’t believe that things can be like this for us. Look at our public transportation; look at the industrial content in our GDP when we should have doubled where we are. Look at agriculture in terms of modernisation. Look at our productivity in so many of these basic products. We are behind for no reason. We should have been producing enough fertiliser and exporting it. For years, we should have been into petrochemicals. We should have been producing steel but look at what we made of Ajaokuta and Delta Steel. Look at Brazil; they had their plant set up when we started Ajaokuta. Look at them today, they are producing planes, but look at us. By now, we should be building 90 per cent of vehicles that we drive here. I don’t even know what we shouldn’t be producing by now. You can go on and on. I went to Korea with Abacha and if you see the way they welcomed us. I used to say if you want to know how economies fail, Nigeria will give you all the ingredients. The United States and European countries thought our country would be a major country now, but we started blaming the British and others. I think we should be more humble to see how we unknowingly contributed the biggest factor to where we are today. Look at the VAT issue, just call a few people together to review the situation and come up with an honest solution. Solve the problem quickly and move ahead. But no, we need to quarrel over it and issue threats back and forth and later we would blame others for our woes. It is very disturbing.

There have been calls for the restructuring of this federation, what would you suggest?

The way we should restructure is to try and redraw the map on the basis of the number of local governments that we have. Let us restructure from the local government. Everybody comes from a local government, so all the people in a local government would have that as their local government. They register there, they can vote there and can be voted for. The idea of people running back to their states to vote would stop. Of course, people can migrate but everyone there would have the same rights; political and citizenship and you would still belong to your ethnic group and religion, but once it comes to politics, anybody within that local government can be chairman, councillor, etc. However, the first question we have to answer is if we want to evolve into a modern nation state. If we answer that question in the affirmative, then let us get the experts to draw up about 350 local governments across the country. Some may be larger than others but you would have near-equal development areas. If Nigerians can accept that, we know that in another 50 years, Nigeria would emerge as a great nation. That would be the ultimate equity for development, representation and fairness in the distribution of assets. When I first mentioned it, some people said the north wouldn’t allow it and I said must you propose what they would like. The issues around indigeneity would be addressed. It sounds utopian but we have to take steps if we really want to develop this nation into a modern industrial nation. All the gerrymandering and struggle over resources and distribution would stop a true fiscal structure would emerge. It is not good to start with the fiscal angle. You must start with the political angle. This was what I planned to raise at the last national conference but my governor said I wasn’t supporting him so he replaced my name with someone else’s. I first raised it during the time of Abacha and he was very open to the idea but we had disagreements about certain policies. We agree to disagree. So, I left it.

There are concerns over borrowing but the Federal Government insists it’s about the only way to finance infrastructure. What do you make of this?

You cannot talk about borrowing in the abstract. It is not the absolute size of the borrowing that should alarm us, but whether what we are borrowing would yield the wherewithal to pay back even though we are also financing things that don’t necessarily yield high returns to pay back, but indirectly they benefit the economy and therefore benefit those sectors that would contribute to the means for repayment, like health, education and other social services. Not everybody has the expertise, and that is why the economists have to step up and discuss it in those terms and not just the absolute level of the debts. You cannot say we have borrowed N30tn and it is too much, no. If you borrow N30tn, maybe you are getting N40tn, but we know that is not true. We waste the money, we don’t appoint the right people, we don’t agree on what we want to do and we don’t do it in time. So, we lose time and so the cost rises but the benefit does not, proportionately. It’s a great concern but the discussion has to be more focused on the cost and benefit of borrowing rather than the level of borrowing per se. In essence, the rate of return must significantly be above the interest on the loan. In whatever way you measure the returns, it should be higher than the cost. However, people are worried about the way loans are being taken because I think we are not sure rigorous analysis goes into determining the net benefit of the borrowing.

Many countries generate huge revenue from tourism but Nigeria struggles in that sector, why is that?

Sometimes, I laugh when we talk about tourism. Why won’t we generate little revenue? Where are security, infrastructure, like transportation, communication, hospitals and tourism facilities for people to come in? You have to address those things first. What are you doing to make it work? There are myriads of issues attached to generating one per cent increase in revenue. We have so many things to compensate for not having too many wild animals here. The culture, music, dance, climate, the people, etc can generate so much, but each of these areas would require targeted investment to develop them. We need to maintain a very healthy environment so that someone can leave Australia or Canada to come to Nigeria and spend two to three weeks.

Many people find the value of naira compared to the dollar as embarrassing, how did we get here and how can we get naira to rise again?

It is a function of economic policies. The number of the Bureau de Change operators is not the problem but the pricing of the foreign exchange. You can rubbish whatever deleterious effect they were having by making sure they get the currency at the proper rate. When you give it to them with an arbitrage of N100, for example, that is the problem. That poor margin is a problem. If you give the BDCs at the normal arbitrage, their advantage would just be the ease of getting it by the roadside. But when you have about N100 difference, that is where the problem is. The commodity should command a price which is equivalent to the clearing rate between the supply and demand. Once you do that, you look at your profit before you decide whether to be a BDC operator or you go into another trade. If the profit is not worth it, you are not going to set up shop as a BDC. So, it is the improper pricing, ridiculous arbitrage and ridiculous give-away. That was what destroyed the pricing system.

Some people have blamed the CBN governor for coming up with policies that are not working while some say it is the Federal Government. What do you think?

I won’t address the issue of whose policy it is. CBN and the government are one and the same. No government, no CBN. No person worth his salt as a leader in the financial world should allow such arbitrage, because for example, why would anybody want to buy it at N500 when others are buying it at N400 or less.

There is a debate about the region to produce the next president. Some people say it’s fair to zone it to the South-East while some say we should jettison zoning. What is your view?

That goes to the fundamental question of leadership in Nigeria. Politics involves participation, especially in political parties. It is not when it comes to elections that you would say it should be zoned this way or that way. If they zone it that way and they don’t have grass root support from that area, it is more difficult. But again, you cannot talk about that without talking about issues around marginalisation and equity and so on. However, at our level, we don’t just go with general notion. Some days ago when someone from the South-East (Ifeanyi Ararume) was appointed as the chairman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, I was amused when someone said there was now a balance and nobody should talk about marginalisation. These were the same people talking about it a few weeks earlier and I laughed. I said see how shallow people can be. Is it one appointment that will ease all the complaints we have been hearing? I think it goes back to my question on modern federal state. I think the way people like Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the Afenifere leader, have been saying ‘don’t talk about election, let us restructure before the election’ is the way to go.

Do you think that is feasible?

We have enough time if we believe in the future of this country. I don’t believe we need more than six months to agree. What matters is the willingness to do it. People who are against it must tell us why they are against it. What are the major issues? You thrash them out. What we need are people who feel Nigeria in and out; people who are objectively focused on the problems and are ready to solve them in a way that would benefit everybody. Else, the election would bring up the wrong people who are only concerned with their own ethnicity. I don’t believe we should start talking about zoning or Igbo presidency. For me, I hate the sound of the phrase. It is as if Igbo president is less than any other president. I think it is a misnomer, but clearly idealistic and utopian and that is where we have to start from and we have enough time to do it. We would be saving time by solving the problem and that would give us a smooth sail and recovery which we need. We need economic recovery, including jobs. We also need structural recovery. Those things would move faster if we honestly identify the problems we should solve before we jump into elections. Look at all the noise about the electronic transmission of results. It’s very shameful. How can we be debating e-transmission of results in 2021? We are supposed to settle and look at how to make it work. We should restructure. We need to do it. It can be done very fast because it is a sine qua non for future stability. So, it is better we do it now. We need to set up a proper structure. There should be a level playing field with representation from the grass roots. If we don’t restructure, we might be carrying all the rubbish forward again. We have lost about two to three years, so let us face it now. Korea is a modern state now and it is highly industrialised. We were talking about the issue of artificial intelligence, and Korea was mentioned as being among those in the forefront. That is what would determine who the super powers would be, not a matter of population. Already, we can see how 200 million is not making much difference. Your purchasing power can bring you under a nation like Ghana that is less than one-quarter of your population. Your purchasing power overrides your numerical strength. Artificial intelligence would override nuclear muscle and the rest of it.

 

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Ikpeazu: The State Has Failed to Protect Our People, They Have No Choice

 

In this interview, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State says that although he is still tabulating losses from the sit-at-home ordered by the Independent People of Biafra, but he was sure that it will be huge

How is your government working around the sit-at-home order that has been largely based on fear of attack and sympathy for the cause of the IPOB because it seems the people are obeying and complying with the order?

You see, the state of security and people’s perception is key. Our people here in the South-east feel that they are uncared for, that our country is insensitive to the plight of the ordinary people here. You know, I can go on and on and on. Imagine that our people are predominantly traders. If you look at how long it will take you to go through Apapa Wharf. Assuming a trader borrowed N10 million to do importation, even if it is for raw materials and he has to pay interest on that money and it takes four, five or six months to clear. Plus, all the time it stayed at the wharf. By the time you know it, the poor man would have lost all the money, all his capital, paying interest on the money. And you’ve got a factor in how long it will take his container to pass through the treacherous route of coming from Apapa down to Onitsha, Nnewi, Aba, and so on and so forth.

So our people feel that there is a deliberate attempt to asphyxiate them and condemn them to poverty. To that extent, whatever it was, the demonstrations through disobedience, our people are now at a point where it is difficult to mobilise them socially, that is the first point. The second point is that the fear for reprisal or what will happen is also valid. You recall that a few months ago, we had this unknown gunman, attacking government installations, killing policemen, killing soldiers, attacking prisons with impunity, snatching arms. So, if the security apparatus of the state has been so assaulted repeatedly, then, who do you want them to rely on?

The third point I would like to make here is that there is proliferation of small arms in West Africa and in Nigeria in particular. And when I talk about small arms, I’m talking about the Kalashnikov AK-47. And that rifle is a monster. You don’t play dice with somebody with an AK-47, even if the person is your child. Once you see somebody with an AK-47 arm, you are on the wrong side of the nozzle. You cannot but be careful and cautious. So it is a combination of these factors. One, our people are beginning to feel uncared for, they’re beginning to feel that the nation is insensitive to their situation and their plight. Look at it from the economic perspective. Look at it from a political perspective. Look at it from a social perspective. Then there is also the issue and the problem of proliferation of arms, and what has happened in the past, the experience in the past, such that the police station you will go to report has been burnt or will be burnt. So it became very, very difficult to convince our people, even when it is not reasonable, or economically advisable for them to continue to comply with sit-at-home situation.

So do you think that this could point to the people outside the South-east that the South-east people have accepted IPOB?

The South-east people have not accepted the IPOB. But what option do they have? If the state is not able to protect them and their economic well being is not protected, and nobody’s listening to them so they don’t have options, and we know that if a man is hopeless at times, he begins to hope on hopelessness, hope on nothing, cling on nothing.

The South-east caucus in the National Assembly is beginning to work on the option of dialogue and all that. What is your view?

I think that this initiative of the National Assembly should have come so many months before now. But, be that as it may, it is better late than never. The worst war, altercation, fracas, are resolved on the table. And some of us have said this thing from the beginning that we should begin to engage. One of the pillars of democracy is that a true democrat that finds himself in a leadership position, to be able to dredge up sufficient courage, to listen, even to the blabbing of a fool, even when at the risk of people, standing in your face and telling you that you are a foolish leader, knowing fully well that there must be consequences for every action. But the way to go is to listen at all times. Listen, engage. It is only when intellectual ventilations fail that kinetic approach becomes the option. So, I want to say that their idea to engage should have come before now, but it is better late than never.

As a person, did you lose anything during this attack? And looking at the larger picture did you lose anything personally, your productivity, your economic activities. Did you suffer any loss?

Oh, quite seriously. Part of what I had evolved as my strategy to create a better life for my people, is to enable trade and commerce, to enable small and medium enterprises, and to enable both foreign and local direct investments. Through them, we try to deal with the issues of unemployment, job creation and capacity building. All of these policies suffered a major setback as a result of this sit-at-home. The most critical of the setbacks, is the fact that the socio-political milieu became somewhat unpredictable and there is no investor who would like to invest in a place where there is no referable predictability in terms of socio-political stability. So, the South-east as a people, the government of Abia State as an entity suffered so much as a result of this sit-at-home. You can look at it from the economic dimension, you can look at it from the dimension of foreign and local direct investment, you can look at it from point of view of putting down our economic base because we are in a place that thrives as a result of influx of people. Trade input coming into Abia is gauged at about N60 million. And once that happens, people won’t come, and we were running a risk of people finding alternative places to shop, even our clients and customers from across West Africa and other parts of Africa would begin to look for options, and once an individual begins to see options and alternatives, it is usually difficult to convince the person to go back. I’m not even undermining the lives that were lost. Those were very important. Sacred lives. Everybody’s life is sacred. I’m not even talking about the psychological trauma on our children and women and wives. So, all facets of socio-economic life were threatened and seems to suffer some form of dislocation or the other.

Have you had time to put the losses together, in terms of Naira and Kobo?

I have not. I’m still working on the Mathematics and I think I’ll be ready after Monday, because this week’s Monday was not bad. I mean, people have become tired. People have become lethargic. In some places in the South-east, you heard stories of individuals coming out to fight, to say that they were tired of staying at home, I knew this was going to happen sooner or later. So, it will be too early to put a figure to it, but I’m certainly sure that if we improve on what happened this week Monday, if we improve on it next week, then one thing we can be able to say is that, that may have come to an abrupt stop and then we can tabulate our losses but it will be huge.

There appears to be a division or crack in the rank and file of the IPOB. Have you noticed that? Because their spokesman said they have called it off and it should only happen on the days their leader is taken to court. But some people still went about to enforce it, which they have denounced also. What do you think this portends to the future of IPOB? Will continue to obey them?

I want to say that what we saw or what we are seeing is a betrayal of… or let’s say tacit support for what some of us have advanced earlier that the struggle as presently constituted does not seem to have a sustainable framework. It doesn’t seem to be coordinated sufficiently to lead that kind of deep struggle for self determination and secession. It is not a tea party. And it needs to be rooted on a strong ideological framework that can sustain the support and popularity among the masses. But in a situation where some of the decisions of the leadership of the struggle become inimical to the economic well being, and in fact, academic well being of the people that you have vowed to protect, then it puts the whole thing in a serious joke pattern. So that is where we are now, what will happen eventually going forward will evolve, and we are watching. What I’m sure is that the people are becoming lethargic, weary and tired. And how that will pan out eventually, we will know, going forward, but it is now clear to everybody that the struggle lacks coordination. The struggle lacks a think-tank that can evolve policies that are sustainable and must also have a framework for engagement, because you cannot just take up arms and then that will be it. They must have a framework for engagement, both locally and internationally. But if that is not what the case is, then I’m afraid, it may fizzle out.

There’s a study on this sit-at-home and it came out that Abia State was the least compliant while Ebonyi had the highest compliance, why do you think this is so?

I think that, here in Abia, our people are traders, our people are small-scale manufacturers and they understand the value of time. And they understand also that time lost can never be recovered. And some of us have continued to drum it into the psyche of our people, that this struggle should be ideological, it should be driven by strong ideology to cancel out all forces of oppression, and everything that seems not to include any part of Nigeria. As far as I’m concerned, if this struggle that they are leading is about marginalisation, about equality, about social balance, about political balance, then there is Biafra in the heart of many Nigerians. Go through the Middle-belt, go through some, some ethnic groups in Southern Kaduna, go to Adamawa. There are so many places where all kinds of marginalisation is happening, and therefore there is Biafra in the heart of everybody. But what we are saying is that can we come to a point where we can focus on the real issues, and not on total dislocation of the fabric that holds us together as a country, because that is a very costly and dangerous route to travel. I was old enough to see a few things during the war, and I don’t want a repeat of that kind of thing in my lifetime again.

 

In a situation where some of the decisions of the leadership of the struggle become inimical to the economic well being, and in fact, academic well being of the people that you have vowed to protect, then it puts the whole thing in a serious joke pattern. So that is where we are now, what will happen eventually going forward will evolve, and we are watching. What I’m sure is that the people are becoming lethargic, weary and tired

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Count Igbo’s Out of Presidency, Until Nigeria is Restructured.

 

Dr. Mike Okonkwo, the presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), is one cleric who rarely dabbles into political matters in the country but who does not mince words when he chooses to. Two days ago, he was his usual self when he spoke with select journalists, at the TREM headquarters in Lagos on the state of affairs in the country. He condemned President Muhammadu Buhari’s style of governance, especially the manner of his appointments and his handling of the security situation in the country, warning that the situation in Afghanistan was a big lesson for Nigeria. Okonkwo also lambasted the governors of the Southeast states for losing the confidence of the people, condemned the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for beating the drums of war in the Southeast and stated why he does not want an Igbo man to succeed Buhari in 2023. He also spoke on the qualities Nigerians must look out for in people that will present themselves for the number one position before making their choice.

The talking point in the country now is the level of insecurity. You are renowned as someone who doesn’t mince words any time you hold an opinion you voice it out. What is your take on the state of the nation right now vis-à-vis the security challenges bedeviling the country?
Well, it is only somebody who is blind or dishonest that will say that he is satisfied with how the country is now. For me, I think the nation is going through a period of gestation; something new has to be born. We have gone round this mountain long enough and it’s not working. To be honest, something is fundamentally wrong in the way we have operated since our independence in 1960. We should be doing better than we are doing now. In fact, at times you feel ashamed to call yourself a Nigerian.

 

Few years ago, we said, ‘Ghana must go’. But today, Ghana is far ahead of us in their national development. Our educational system is run down, security is run down and economy is run down. Everything is leveled to the ground; everyone is on ground zero.

So, definitely, no one will say that he/she is satisfied with the situation in the country. I mean, people are afraid; they cannot travel; you cannot confidently go to your village. The insecurity has gotten so bad that they can even invade our armoury and carry arms and nothing will happen. Then, where do you turn to?

The most recent was the invasion of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in Kaduna by bandits. If these people could walk into the NDA and kill people and escape, then where do we stand? Kaduna happens to be a very stronghold in terms of military presence and these things are happening there. So, there is no more hiding place for people and we should seriously look into it as a nation.

I was watching the Minister of Labour when he was being interviewed in terms of doctors that are leaving the country; and he said for him, it does not mean anything. I was shocked! How many doctors do we have in Nigeria for him to say we had surplus? We have surplus, but we go to hospitals and will be looking for doctors? That is also the situation at the health centres. I told myself that this man must have been living in another world not in Nigeria. We are having brain drain; people are leaving the country and when they get out of the country they excel. That shows that Nigerians are resilient, brilliant and know what they are doing. It is a matter of having a system that works in the country so that the citizens will be able to reap the benefits of what God has endowed Nigeria with.

The other day, a woman was crying out over the state of the hostels at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where she went to drop her daughter to resume school. I couldn’t believe my eyes, as she was showing the hotels that students were living in to study. And I asked myself, ‘is this a higher institution of learning and we expect them to turn out to be the best for us?’ For people to even live in that type of environment is a shock. So, there is rot everywhere you turn.

So, the state of our nation is becoming very scary. In fact, at times, I ask myself how the people in the National Assembly see themselves. You are supposed to be in the National Assembly to pass laws that would be beneficial to the nation; and these things are happening in your eyes and you go to the National Assembly, walk back home and sleep? You don’t take drastic actions or decisions that will address those issues?

 

You said Nigeria is going through a gestation period and that something new has to be born before the country can move forward. What is that new thing you are envisaging?
If you notice, there is strong agitation that the entire federal system we are operating should be looked into. And from my understanding, it is even in the manifesto of the ruling party; I heard that it is the number one item in their manifesto. Pastor Tunde Bakare, who was part of the drafting of their constitution, said that it is the number one point in their manifesto. True federalism, restructuring. Now, the question is, why has it not been done? So, there is agitation from every area.

Initially, it was the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB); it’s no more IPOB alone. Oduduwa people and the Niger Delta Front are also saying ‘look, we are tired of this contraption called Nigeria’, which was not the case before.

So, definitely, when there is such agitation all over, the truth is that people who are trying to either sweep it under the carpet, run away from it, threaten people are wasting their time. We must come to a point where we will look at the country and re-address the present situation we are in because that is why there is tension everywhere. There is lack of trust everywhere. Nigerians don’t trust anything again; they don’t even believe in the government any longer. So, obviously, this is an indication that there is something that has to give way for another thing to rise and that is where we are going. I believe that there is need to give birth to what will be beneficial to the entire land so that every region will develop at their own pace. I mean we can’t continue with this type of mediocrity.

What we have on ground now, to put in the native parlance, is like you beating me up and saying I shouldn’t cry. It’s not possible; if you beat me up, I must shed tears.

What are these ‘beatings’ that gave rise to these agitations?
Let me give you one example. People are complaining of insecurity. If you are complaining of insecurity and the security apparatus is in the hands of a group of people, the only way I can convince you that I am sincere and serious about what I am doing is to balance it, standardise it, get people from different parts of the nation to handle different areas so that there will be no suspicion. Currently, there is suspicion. Now, no matter what the president says, people will not believe it until there is a decentralisation of the security apparatus. People are saying that the insecurity in the country is now virtually across the whole nation and you are saying that there is no agenda that the North has to take over the country, how do I believe you?

Like they say, it’s you people that have the knife and the yam; whomever you give, he takes. So, why are you not delivering? The natural thing for anyone to do is to take it from them and share it. You can say, ‘look, I don’t have any agenda; you from Niger Delta you are in charge of this; you from Kwara you are in charge of this, you from Kogi you are in charge of that’. You distribute it so the security apparatus is spread across the whole country. That way, if it’s no more working, you are not calling one group of people. So, this pointing at a particular group of people is not an attempt to label them, it’s simply because the right things seem not to have been done. Who else will I call? I won’t call an outsider because you are in charge. If you are in charge why are things the way they are? That is the way I see it.

In as much as I am the type that does not play ethnic politics, just look at the agitation that is going on in the East. The Miyetti Allah will come out and take ownership of certain things like the misbehaviour and violence in some areas and nothing is done. Then the IPOB carries their flag without arms and you will go after them and mow them down. What do you want people to say? Do you want them to say that everything is fine? It can never be. So, these are the issues that people are agitating for and crying out.

 

To the best of my knowledge, the easterners are not asking for anything other than live and let live. They are not saying, ‘give us everything’. For me, to be honest with you, I am not in agreement with any easterner saying, ‘it’s time for us to be president’. So you should beg to be president? If it’s going to be a case of making you president so that you can be appeased, that is stupidity; I don’t want that. You are a Nigerian; you have equal right to everything that every other person who is in Nigeria has. So, it’s not a matter of being appeased. In fact, I don’t even want any easterner under this situation to be a president because he will fail. Do you know why? The present system can never allow you to succeed. That is why we have to look at the system.

The other day, somebody was boasting that they have the largest number and therefore, they are the ones that will determine who rules the country or not. What type of audacity is that? What type of audacity will make you to be saying that you are going to be lording it over the entire nation? It’s unacceptable.

So, what are your thoughts on the situation in the Southeast where there seems to be two governing authorities, the state governments on one side and the IPOB on the other side, as evidenced in the recent sit-at-homes ordered by the IPOB, which was obeyed by the residents despite a counter directive by the state governors?
Let me first say that the reason most people sit-at-home is not that they necessarily want to obey the IPOB, it is simply because they are afraid as IPOB will threaten them. They will tell you that if you do this, they will kill you or burn down your home. Who wants to be the scapegoat? So, I would rather stay away; I don’t want their trouble.

The other day they sat at home, I saw somebody who was cooking in front of his house even though the streets were empty and they came and poured away what he was cooking. There were people who had their drinks on their corridors and they broke all of them. When you do that type of thing why do I want to come out? Does that mean that I am respecting your orders? No! It’s the threat to life that makes people to obey them.

And that is what I have been saying; much as I know that the state governments have not played the way they should play; they are supposed to be the voice of the people and stand and address issues that have to do with them. The easterners have lost confidence in the governors; that is why they are looking for a new voice that will lead them.

I am not a strong advocate of IPOB for one singular reason – one person cannot be the final authority in a thing. No other person can make any suggestion. If you make any suggestion you are under fire no matter how good your suggestion is. That’s wrong! It’s almost becoming a dictatorial issue. So, it’s difficult to accept that; one person cannot be the only custodian of an idea. And a lot of them who are jumping up and down did not see the Nigeria-Biafra war; they never saw it. I think that even Nnamdi Kanu was born after the war or during the war, so he was a boy who didn’t know anything.

One of the songs they used to sing in those days was ‘Ojukwu give me gun let me go and kill Gowon.’ Is it easy? Gowon is still alive today. Let us be real; war is not a good experience. When the bombs begin to land, no one will tell you to run for your life. So, people don’t understand the implications of war; there will be no medication, no food and everything you have laboured for over the years will be lost. The implications of war are so much that you don’t want it. If you can have an alternative, no matter how long it takes, sitting down round the table and discussing your issues, is the best way.

At the end of the war, easterners were given 20 pounds. I am a witness; I worked in a bank before the war. For Igbos to be able to bounce back to the dimension that they have been able to bounce back now is a miracle. Why do you want to destroy those things over night and start again? Why would you continue with a vicious cycle? It doesn’t make sense. It’s not being a coward; it’s being wise. Wisdom is better than weapons of war.

So, for me, there is need for both the younger generations’ strength and the old men’s wisdom to meet together so that we will know which direction to go. You can’t just label any person who brings an idea contrary to yours a saboteur. How can I be a saboteur for advising you based on what I know about the way war goes? So, I think that the Southeast governments should win back the confidence of the people.

How do they do that, as the sit-at-home orders is said to be seriously threatening the economy of the Southeast?
I thought so myself that the instruction is counterproductive. I have asked myself how sitting at home on Mondays is beneficial to IPOB. Does that affect the Federal Government? It’s not their business; it’s not going to change anything. So, I’m still trying to understand how telling easterners who are basically traders to sit-at-home and do nothing on Mondays is beneficial to IPOB. At the end the Igbos are the losers.

You see, that is why I keep harping on the need to do a massive enlightenment so that people can understand where they are coming from. This issue of I don’t want to hear, you must hear. When you listen to another argument that is more superior, you will be able to understand. But as at now, they are too violent; all they want to do is whatever Nnamdi Kanu says to them, whether we like it or not. When you tell them to sit down and hear the other side, they say no.

So, I think the governments should still continue to try and see how they can get their people and say, ‘look, we are also seeing the obvious partiality against the Southeast, but at the same time, there is a better way to approach the situation’.

What lessons can Nigeria learn from the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan?
We are supposed to learn lessons from it because those are the issues we have been talking about. They (Taliban) were granted amnesty. What happened in Afghanistan is simple – the people were carrying guns and fighting outside, but inside, they were still terrorists. Yes, you trained them, but it didn’t change anything because there was no internal change. So, immediately the Taliban came into the place, they surrendered. They just said, ‘come, we have been waiting for you.’ That is why we must be careful in this country.

Recently, somebody made some massive revelations while being interviewed by a television station. Even when Goodluck Jonathan was on board, he mentioned that there was Boko Haram in his government. You see, these are things that upset me. If we really took those things serious and we truly wanted to address the issue of security in the country, why would I not as a president invest money and call foreign countries that have intelligence to come and investigate these things and fish out the culprits and deal with them drastically. You don’t just hear some things and fold your hands and expect the thing to go off like that.

So, we are really sitting on the keg of gunpowder; that is what I can tell you. If truly our military and security outfits have been infiltrated by saboteurs, it will take only God to help us out of the situation. I have been thinking about it, but I have always had one faith and confidence that God will help us out of this. We are in a limbo.

There have been talks about the removal of petrol subsidy. If that should be done, the product will sell for as high as N300 in the country. What is your position on the issue?
Let me ask you: Are we not buying petrol up to that amount in some places in the country? Much as I understand, the Southeast has never bought petrol at the official pump price. So, this issue of subsidy is lopsided; there is a mafia in this thing that we are not seeing yet. There is something that somebody is not telling us. How are we having subsidy, every time they are collecting money and yet fuel is not reducing? This issue needs to be addressed critically and sincerely so that we can now know where our problem is. I don’t believe we have addressed the issue.

That is why I said that we are going to have a new Nigeria to be born and until that happens, we will keep on running round and round, because there is obviously a group of people in this country who are sitting down, doing their calculations and all they are after is how to milk the nation while the rest of the people will be suffering. So, all these things will be addressed holistically; it’s not an isolated issue.

I was telling somebody recently that for five or eight years, people were Registrars of JAMB and all they were able to give to the Federal Government was just about N5 or N8 million. Then here comes Prof. Oloyede who remitted over N1 billion in his first year. How do you explain that? And within his first tenure, he was able to remit about N14 billion. He even reduced the cost of JAMB forms.

So, I am saying that what we are faced with in this country is more than Buhari. It’s not about Buhari; it’s more than Buhari. In fact, somehow I just feel that the man is overwhelmed. May be he didn’t even realise the dimensions of the rot he is going to face and was saying that he would do this and do that. This is not military; this is democracy.

That’s why I said that we need a totally new structure in the country. The thing we have now is not going to curb our problems. Fuel subsidy is a minor issue of the issues. Everything has to be looked into completely and then we will know where we are headed.

We recall that in 2014, you were part of the people that endorsed Buhari for president…
(Cuts in) No, what made you to come up with that submission? Did you here where I came out to say, ‘this is where you will vote?’

But you were part of the people that spoke about the integrity of Buhari as a leader…
(Cuts in) Where did you get that?

It was reported…
(Cuts in) No, no, no! I have not seen where it was reported that I endorsed and spoke of his integrity. Now, my statement is not to question his integrity. But I want to know where I said that, because one of the things I am careful about when it comes to the issue of politics is never to endorse any political party. Why? In the church, people have different political leanings. So, for me as a Christian leader to get on my pulpit and begin to tell people, ‘this is the person you will vote for’ I will be operating in error. My part is to teach you the scriptures and based on the scriptures you will now follow the scriptural standard to know what direction you should go and not to sit up and endorse any person. The best of men is still a man. So, I am careful never to do that.

At that time, CAN actually came out to endorse Jonathan and you were part of the people that kicked against that decision?
How? How did you arrive at that conclusion? I want to know. What made you to say so?
May be we should leave that for now. But I would like to know your rating of the Buhari Presidency?

Without your asking me question, I have already laid down a lot of things that are wrong in the country. In fact, at times, I ask myself if he is really in touch with reality. I mean there is no human being no matter how terrible you are that the country will be the way it is now and you will not be concerned. So, sometimes I have had to ask myself: ‘What type of legacy does he want to leave? What would he like to be remembered for?’

Some of the things he said like, ‘foreign exchange is going to go down, insecurity is going to go down (of course this insecurity did not start today) and many other things, what we are seeing is the opposite. That is why I wonder why it is so difficult to tweak the security apparatus despite the level of insecurity in the country. That is why I am asking: Is he really in touch with what is going on that is making him to just seem indifferent? That’s my own way of looking at it.

So, obviously, I am not happy. That is why when I hear some of the things the people in the government are saying I will just conclude that they are not serious. Funny enough, some of them cannot go to their villages and yet they don’t see anything wrong. You don’t see them complaining. I don’t understand it.

The Vice President is still a member of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN)…
(Cuts in) Of course, a spirit filled Christian.

How much do you communicate with him over some of these inefficiencies in this administration?
Let me ask you: Have you been a vice president before.
No!

So, vice president’s assignment is to do what his principal tells him. Let’s be real; let’s not fool ourselves. I have my respect for the vice president any day irrespective of what they are bandying in the newspapers. I know that he is a spirit filled born again believer. He is not playing to the gallery. His primary constituency is the church. At the end of the day, when he finishes serving in the government, he will still return to the church. That is a no go area.

But the point is that I have people working under me; they take orders from me. As long as they want to remain in my organisation, they must obey my instructions. They can’t just get up and say they will do what they want to whether I like it or not.

I hear people saying, ‘resign, resign…’ I always ask them, ‘would you resign if you were the vice president?’ I mean don’t tell people to do what you know you cannot do’. You think it’s so easy to resign? Let’s be sincere. The thing that is so sad about our country is that we have a group of people who are not sincere in dealing with the issues and putting themselves on the other side of the stick.

One of the things that have helped me concerning the political issue of this country is simply that I am not partisan; I am not interested in where you come from. I have no ethnic bias; I have no religious bias; I have no party bias and I have no personal interest. What is my interest? My interest is who will deliver the dividends of democracy to Nigerians. If you like, be an idol worshipper; you will have my vote because Nigeria is not a church. Nigeria is Nigeria that has different people with different types of persuasions and beliefs, who are citizens of the country. There are idol worshippers; there are Muslims; there are Christians; there are different kinds of people.

And so as a president, you are not supposed to go there and begin to serve the interest of a particular group of people or your own interest. You serve the interest of everybody. I am not an advocate of we want a Christian president; that’s wrong because we have had people who claimed to be Christians but delivered nothing. Once there is ethnic sentiment, then you are going to tilt towards your ethnicity, which is wrong. You are a national leader as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, your interest should be what you can do to make Nigeria beneficial to every person big and small, rich or poor, no matter where you come from. The problem with us is that when people begin to agitate, there is always personal interest colouration to it. I can always read it and those are not going to move us to anywhere.

So, what kind of leader do you think Nigeria needs in 2023 with all the challenges at hand?
I have just told you the qualities I am looking at: A person that would be devoid of ethnic sentiments, party sentiments, tribal sentiments or personal interest. Any person who will be devoid of those things and see Nigeria as his/her constituency is my ideal leader. If we are still going to have the situation where people are tied and bound with ethnic sentiments, I don’t need such because it will be the same story; nothing will change.

We need somebody who has Nigeria as his constituency. It’s not your tribe; it’s not your religion. Such a person, because he wants to leave a legacy, will look for the best of the bests from anywhere and give them responsibilities. Some people got upset with me at a time when I said that I don’t care whether the person is a Christian or not. They asked why I should not say that we need a Christian president as a pastor. I told them that I will not say so because there is no guarantee that because somebody is a Christian president he will deliver the dividends. I want somebody who can be able to deliver to Nigerians the dividends of democracy. Do you think that there would have been agitations if we have such a person? If you can go to schools and they are good, if the roads are good, if the economy is thriving and everything is working, will you be complaining about who is leading? If you see somebody who knows how to service your car, would you ask whether he is a Muslim or Christian? That is my concept.

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