Old Health Minister Professor ABC Nwosu said the myriad of challenges facing the nation were a consequence of Nigeria’s mismanagement of diversity under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. In an interview with VINCENT KALU, the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) BoT member advised the government to dust off the reports of some of the constitutional conferences held in the past and implement some of the recommendations.
How do you see the state of the nation?
It has never been so bad since 1966, before the Civil War. There are too many insecurity issues. No one now wants to hit the road with their car and go home. If there is a theft, he will prefer that, and even the short trip to your home remains a problem. Nigeria has never been so precarious; no one can plan in the economy and schools are systematically closed. The future is threatened. There are so many separatist movements. It’s not about belonging to PDP, APC. This is not a review. It’s just about stating the facts, but once you say it, the ruling party is likely to say it is an opposition speech. We’ve never borrowed as much money as we have, and no one really knows the real state of our finances. Thus, the nation is economically, security and politically bad. Mr. President should pull Nigeria from the brink.
What brought the nation to this unsavory situation and what is the remedy?
The first cause is the terrible management of our diversity, unprecedented since our independence. Managing our diversity is at an all-time low and it has never happened. Nigeria is made up of so many small nation states, and they are culturally, linguistically and politically different. The colonial masters recognized it. That is why there was a negotiated document for independence. There were so many constitutional conferences here and in the UK before the Independence Constitution was finally published in the Official Gazette in 1959. You had the Federal Constitution; it was not dictated by a president. It was negotiated by the majority, the minority and eventually the minority issues were referred to the Willinks Commission. Income issues were discussed by a commission, the Raisman Commission. The terms of the commission were there in this constitution, which says, 50 percent bypass, etc. This has been negotiated; it was not dictated to the other. There were no senior and junior Nigerians, where senior Nigerians tell junior Nigerians how the country should be run. When you act in this way unlike a constitution that was negotiated by our founding fathers before we achieved independence, you may run into friction, which is likely to bring about an imbalance, the kind we see now.
So the remedy comes back to dialogue; start talking again. My recommendation is that we have talked enough about Aburi at the Jonathan 2014 conference. We should therefore take these elements back. I attended the Jonathan conference. All summaries of previous agreements have been provided to us. There are settled issues in Nigeria’s existence. People are now trying to reverse it because they have the power and they think the situation has changed, and they are creating problems. George Obiozor will always tell you that anyone deprived of justice is not interested in peace. There have been many arguments and separatist movements and agitations in Nigeria. People seem to forget that there was the Tiv riots of 1960 and 1963. It was the first time the army was stationed there. It was about resistance. After independence, many were unaware that the coup d’etat, which they mistakenly called the Nzegwu coup, was in fact the coup d’etat of Ifeanjuna and Ademoyega. They talk about the revenge coup, but the Igbo have not thought of anyone, either by Ifeajuna or by Nzeogwu or the aftermath. No. What really mattered to the Igbo was the May 29 pogrom; why did citizens start killing their fellow citizens? This is the main thing and with every attempt to correct it, they will say that old wounds should not be opened. Then there was anger in the regional areas. Isaac Boro, who was a University of Nigeria student on a government scholarship, was resisting what we ultimately call “control of resources.” In the West, there was unrest after Awolowo’s imprisonment. I had the opportunity to speak with Mazi Anyaogu Ukonu, he told us how he was hiding in Ikenne, broadcasting the right result while the bad result was being broadcast by Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service. We have also tried to examine this. People rejected injustice; refusing injustice. The turmoil led to Operation Wetie, which was resistance to injustice in the Western region. Then, the essential, the rejection and resistance of injustice by the East and the secession that followed. We went back in 1970 to ‘No winner, no loser’ and we tried again, working and everything was going well and by 1979 we were almost back to rebuilding the country. We had the most remarkable conference in 1995. The West, naturally because of June 12th, couldn’t attend, but the East came with its best from Ojukwu to Ekwueme to anyone. I was in charge of the Igbo secretariat and I know what happened and I know the consensus team led by Olusola Saraki, Shehu Yar’Adua. Everyone was talking about Nigeria. I still have a copy of that report and of the constitution that was produced by the late Karibi-Whyte. The key element is the agreement on the six geopolitical zones. A rotating presidency – from north to south and vice versa – was also agreed. It’s a settled case, but you’re going to disrupt them again. There was a balance and you’re going to create an imbalance, and you’re wondering how to fix it. What caused the civil war were the pogroms, as well as the violation of the Aburi Accord. Without any reference to the parties, the agreement was broken. Every Igbo man in the East will tell you that the protests were “on Aburi We Stand”. I took minutes between Chief Awolowo and Ojukwu at the May 6, 1967 and May 7 meetings. Nigeria very well. It’s just injustice, the creation of senior and junior Nigerians, unfairness, etc. Once you have someone who sits at the top and allows these things, then Nigeria is heading for imbalance. No, we shouldn’t allow that. We have enough issues resolved in Nigeria that we can act on.
Why has PDP been experiencing an exodus lately? Do you have a masquerade in the party that hunts people?
I love the masquerade, and I am associated with it. I am seriously reconsidering my retention in politics. If I quit PDP, is APC better? I wonder if I should continue with politics at this point. I’m barely two years old to be 80. I can’t stand the shock of accepting something today and changing it. I am happy and privileged to be one of those who attended these meetings which led to the creation of the PDP. I was part of the Contacts and Mobilization Commission chaired by Lawal Kaita and I have said over and over again that the PDP has four pillars. We started as All Politicians Submit at Eko Holiday Inn, Lagos. One of the pillars was the purity of politicians, where Nigeria’s problems were defined and we find solutions. Education is a problem and it is not something we should politicize. There must be a declaration that every child born in Nigeria has the right to education and that is how he will get it. Every adult has a right to jobs and that is how they would get them. It’s not like, this job is for the Fulani, the Igbo or the Yoruba; it is for Nigerians everywhere. Bola Ige and others were at these meetings at Professor Jerry Gana’s house in Mandela Street, Abuja. Ekwueme was the interim president. Ciroma, Isa Kaita and others were there.
The second thing was that there had to be a rotating presidency, and the first had to move south. Northern politicians with integrity were there and they forced and forced Abubakar Rimi not to show up. The third depends on the economy and we should run a mixed economy – private sector driven and we were going to privatize. It was all discussed. When you hear people who do not think seriously tell you that political parties were not founded on principles, no, it is because people who were not there when these principles were completely analyzed, stated and distillates have come looking for what they can use the platforms for, and they have started to bastard those principles.
So I reviewed these things and in the last few weeks my heart got worried because I no longer see what I’m still doing in politics. When you sit down and agree on something, some people that weren’t there, the new generation comes along, they look at their pockets, their many houses and how rich they are and they say, why can’t – I do not review these principles. Until we change that attitude, we can’t really build a country.
The PDP has not provided the necessary opposition like the APC did to push it back in 2015, and the PDP is talking about returning to power in 2023. Are you as confident as they are?
I have a completely different point of view. The APC is not a political party and has never opposed. APC is a conspiracy to get power and they have devised a road map to get power. It is not opposition. It doesn’t have a master plan on restructuring, it doesn’t have a master plan on education in Nigeria, job creation. If they had, they failed in all of them. Unfortunately, PDP does not. That’s why I said I was reviewing my entire entry into politics. All over the world, politics provide the platform for anyone who wants to have the maximum effect on the country; who wants to improve the life of ordinary people. It was only recently that I was in Ebonyi State because I was invited.
The governor plans to create a school run by the Catholic Church, where the best students are gathered, it was the first time in recent times that I have heard such a thing that people think to produce the thinkers, the innovators of tomorrow .
The first time I saw a government have that as a program and give it to the church, because they said the church has the best organization, the best system to train an individual both in morality and in education. Nigeria should think in that direction so that by 2050 many of these things that we import are ours. We need to rethink what politics is. The more I think about it, the more I ask myself, what am I still doing in politics?
Aren’t you worried that the way things are going, Nigeria could eventually turn into a one-party state, given how PDP members and others are flocking to the APC?
It’s not my problem – whether Nigeria becomes a one-party state or a half-party state. I have two problems. The first is whether Nigeria will continue to exist as it is; if he will now proceed to the route designed for him. When you see Professor Lumumba say, when Nigeria wakes up, Africa will fulfill its mission… these are my concerns. Whether it is a half-party or a one-party state, human beings will stick to having their needs and some will fight for more than others.