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How Buhari can save Nigeria from break-up – Prof Anya

As the
clamour for restructuring and implementation of the 2014 Confab report
gains more ground and support from eminent leaders across the country,
erudite scholar and prominent Igbo leader, Professor Anya O. Anya, has
come out with the things President Muhammadu Buhari needs to do to tame
the wave of agitations and save the country from possible break-up.
Speaking with VINCENT KALU,
in Lagos, Anya who is the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing
Council, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State,
also spoke on other major national issues.
Nigeria seems to be on edge, with crises and agitations from various quarters. How did we get here?
Nigeria ought to be on edge, because
there have been cumulative injustices, cumulative unrighteousness, and
we are now in the time of judgment. But the good thing is that this year
is going to mark the change from our ignoble past to a brighter and
better future. We have to pay the price for it. Take the Nnamdi Kanu
phenomenon that is fully and completely created by the Federal
Government for example. He has been running his Radio Biafra, and nobody
paid attention to it, and he has been coming and going and nobody paid
attention to him.
Then suddenly, this time he came, you
pounced on him. Not only that, you get to the point where not only one
time, not two and three times, court said, release him, but you didn’t
do so. That served two purposes. One, people took notice of him, because
you have been unjust to him, and the human mind reacts to injustice,
which is why we tend to sympathize with the underdog than the big man.
Second, Nnamdi Kanu is only a symptom of a
larger malaise. Let me give you example of the so-called Northern
youths’ quit notice. According to them, the reason for the quit notice
order was that the whole of Southeast was obeying Nnamdi Kanu. Again, I
say, the government created the situation that made it mandatory for
people to sit at home.
These boys have been going on non-violent
protests all over the places. It happens in the history of any nation,
there comes a time when the youths are not satisfied and they show
dissatisfaction in peaceful protests. But each time these people went
out for peaceful protest, the military would be there to welcome them
with bullets. It happened in Aba, Onitsha. Some say it also happened in
Asaba and Port Harcourt, and the people were buried and that was the end
of it.
I was in the village in the Southeast and
I was to travel back to Lagos on that day, but I decided to travel the
next day for just one simple reason.
I asked myself, traveling from Abia State
to Onitsha, to Asaba, am I likely to find groups of youths protesting
because it’s what they called Biafra Day? The answer was, it’s most
likely. If that is so, it meant immediately that the military or the
police would be nearby and if they start shooting, it would be a
collateral damage and I didn’t want to take that chance. I’m sure
greater majority of people in the towns and villages of Southeast stayed
home in order not to run into government’s problem in the attempt to
rein in the youths.
Instead of blaming the aggressor, you now
blame the victim; the victim being we, the ordinary people, going about
our businesses.
When you have a situation like that, something is bound to give.
There is a fundamental and spiritual
dimension to this. This is 2017, it is exactly 50 years from 1967, which
was a year that one crisis led to another and we ended up in war that
lasted for three years. To the Christians and those spiritually minded,
they will recognise 50 years, as what we call the Jubilee year. It is a
year deep things are bound to happen in the spiritual realm and they
will manifest in the physical realm.
When I said earlier in an interview that
this year was pregnant, that was sometime in March, then everywhere was
peaceful, but now look round the country, the things that people said
must not be done are the things people are saying must be done – call it
restructuring, call it fiscal federalism, call it true federalism, the
important thing is that people are saying that the structure of Nigeria,
as it is cannot carry its burdens, and so it has to be changed.
Between now and October, some momentous
situation will take place, whether we like it or not, it will force down
the hand of everybody to now get back and say this country has to be
fixed, what do we do.
You may say because I’m part of it, but
the truth of the matter is that you cannot ignore the report of the 2014
National Conference and think you have peace in Nigeria.
The reason is simple: It was the first
time that the selection of Nigerians cut across all ethnicities, all
religious groups, all professional groups, etc, they sat together to
look at the problems of Nigeria.
It was the first time also that no
government said don’t go here, don’t go this way or that way. Nobody
interfered. All the problems that the conference chose were the problems
that everybody contributed in the conference as they see them.
At the end, there were over 600
decisions. These 600 decisions enjoyed the kind of majority that no
group has experienced in Nigeria. When we started, in a constitution
matters, usually, it is two-third, but some people insisted that it must
be 75 per cent (three-quarter); ultimately we used 70 per cent as a
compromise. When that happened there were people who jubilated because
they thought that they were likely to have their way in frustrating the
outcome of the conference, but it didn’t happen.
Some people faulted the composition of the conference, saying it was not representative
There was this Committee on National
Dialogue that toured the entire country. Nobody teleguided us and nobody
made any suggestion to us.
It was headed by Senator Femi Okoronmu.
If you know Okoronmu and you think you can go and impose anything on
him, go and try. He can be cantankerous when you dare try to bend him.
So, no government will like to dictate to a committee like that.
However, there was a group in the country that didn’t want the
conference to hold.
At the National Dialogue, we went to all parts of the country, and the information we got was clear on what people wanted.
If you remember, then Governor Adams
Oshiomole, we met him in his office in Benin, and he gave us his views
and we went to the Town Hall, having finished with us we thought that he
wasn’t going to come, but he came, and when he wanted to say those
things he said in private, he was booed by his own people, which meant
that the ordinary people knew what they wanted and the type of country
they wanted, and that was what the committee recommended to the
government.
When it came to the composition, Jonathan
said he didn’t want to have a hand in selecting who came into it and we
should do it. Not in terms of persons, but in the criteria that we
would use.
All the ethnic formations, Arewa,
Ohanaeze Afenifere, etc selected or elected their own; all the
professional associations – Nigerian Academy of Science, Nigeria Bar
Association etc, the civil society organizations, all the governors
including APC governments selected their delegates. I can go on. There
was no major stakeholder group in Nigeria that was not represented,
including traditional rulers. When you have a group like that, how can
you say it was not representative? All the major stakeholders chose who
they wanted to represent them.
That certainly is more legitimate than
your sham elections, where politicians distribute money and do what they
wanted and you say you have elections. So, let anybody tell who was
excluded and should have been there that was not there.
It’s an argument people make.
Unfortunately, ignorance, you will be surprised, is present even at the
highest quarters in Nigeria. We have to change the story; we have to
change the way we think.
Those who are reorganizing and saying
that we don’t want it were in the conference. What they say is wrong,
why didn’t they bring it there? I can name them, but it is not
necessary. On every issue they raised, they lost. What they did not know
was that even in the North there are people who wanted these changes
that some of us want.
In Bauchi, there was one person who got
up and said, let the country be divided and let everybody go his way.
From the same Bauchi, somebody got up and said, ‘ you people have been
saying that the North has been in charge and he said that his life is
worse now despite the fact that the North has been in charge for 42
years out of 52 years. That line of thought is there in the North, but
people pretend that those problems don’t exist, they exist, but they
have come to a head. There is no way to dodge and there is no way to
hide any longer.
How does the confab report get implemented when President Buhari, who is at the helms of affairs appears not dispose to it?
He happens to be the president, so I
should not use the kind of proper word to be used when a man expresses
that kind of view. The first principle, which is why God gave us a
brain, is to think through situations. You cannot think through what you
have not seen. So, that is where you start from, and then you can then
underline the things that you don’t agree with, and make the basis of
discussion.
When you just say, ‘I will not’. Are you God, did you create yourself?
In many ways there are things I respect
Buhari for, because I have sat side by side talking with him, and like I
said in an earlier interview, his passion for Nigeria is not in doubt,
but it doesn’t mean that he knows everything. Indeed, if you line up
those who have ruled Nigeria, he may not come up the first half in terms
of the knowledgeable ones that have ruled Nigeria and that is reality.
We have seen him before and we are seeing him for a second time.
My prayer is that God will spare him and  let him survive his present travail and get well  and return to Nigeria and see the new Nigeria that will emerge, while he is still alive.
You are talking of 2014 Confab, some
are talking of restructuring, others are also talking of true federalism
and fiscal federalism, where do all these dovetail? Also,  there
seems to be no clear -cut definition of what restructuring is. The last
time I interviewed Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, he said as much?
Tanko Yakasai is a man I respect, he is
one those who have been consistent from NEPU days, but he is also an
elderly man and you do not expect him to remember everything. Saying
they don’t understand restructuring and what it means is subterfuge of
the ignorant.
Restructuring means that when there is
structure and you want to make changes to it, whatever the changes are,
they are restructuring. Even those who say they don’t know what it is,
when they make suggestions as to what they think should be done, they
are already contributing to the debate on restructuring.
When you take the decisions of the confab you will find that the decisions fall into three groups.
There are decisions that have political
implications, and there are suggestions to amendments and changes in the
constitution; there are others that you can take care of by enacting
laws; and there are also others that you can take care of by change in
policy. They fall into these three groups.
Take the ones that have constitutional implications.  The secretariat of the confab did a fantastic work by taking thos                   e
decisions that have constitutional implications and lined them up
serially, and they then took the 1999 Constitution and lined up those
areas against what the conference decided and they invited the legal
draughtsmen of the Ministry of Justice, and asked them to reconcile the
two and they did.
The document that emerges from that
exists really, and it reflects what Nigerians said they wanted from the
National Dialogue/Town Hall meetings throughout Nigeria. They equally
reflect what Nigerians wanted from all the people you gathered from all
parts of Nigeria across ethnicities, political parties.
By the way, it was only APC that didn’t
send the two delegates that each political party was supposed to, but
all the state governments sent.
APC cannot claim that it wasn’t there, because majority of the APC decision makers were there.
When you take all that, you know that the
people were not serious, because if they were, they would go back to
the beginning and ask, of all these things we have agreed, where did I
differ. I don’t argue with lazy people, because if you are not lazy you
go and find out what the other person said.
Will the confab report not conflict with the current popular clamour for a return to regionalism?
There are even people who are saying that
we should go back to the Republican Constitution of 1963, because that
was an improvement on the Independence Constitution that the British
gave us. From 1960 to 2017, have there been changes in Nigeria?
Therefore, anything you are putting forward on how to govern Nigeria,
which means a new constitution, must reflect some of the experiences we
have gained in the last 57 years. So, to that extent, how can you now
say, return to that era? You can’t return, because there have been
changes and you must reflect the experiences we have had living
together. These problems that are coming from east, west, south and
north, we now have enough experiences to reflect them on how we can live
together. We have been living together and we have gained experiences
and we should reflect them. So, it cannot be a return to the old way, it
must be a return to what has worked in the past and has been tested
over the years and in addition, those things we have learnt out of our
experience of living together.
In your opinion, what should be the
federating units of the Nigerian federation- the 36 states or the ethnic
nationalities as some have canvassed?
Nigeria is not a federation. I don’t like
people who asked questions without providing possible answers. If you
look at the report of the confab, if you also look at what people are
saying in the newspapers, it is clear that the states are too weak to be
federating units. When you have 36 states and only four or at most six
can pay their bills without help, then something is wrong. In a
federation, powers flow from the bottom up and not from top down, as we
have now. At the local level people give you ideas on how they want to
be governed and then you go the state level, then to the regional level
and finally to the national level.
The military made it so and Nigerians
have been avoiding the regional groupings. Nigeria being a multi
-cultural society, a multi religious society etc, and when you look at
Nigeria, some were kingdoms before the British came; some were
republics, some were just free range or freelance people before they
were brought together. The people must agree on what suits them. When
they agree on that, you then reflect it in your constitution.

You cannot ignore the regions. Actually
the regions exist now, the only thing is that, Nigerians like to live in
denial, we are pretending that they don’t exist. What are geo-political
zones? They are the regions of Nigeria. People don’t want it be given
the powers and authority they ought to have as a regional grouping. That
is where the problem is. But whether they like it or not, it will
happen.
At the National Conference, that issue came up, but we handled it  by
saying that the various states should either merge, regroup themselves
or divide themselves, but whatever they do, they should have certain
things in common and work together along those lines. Why don’t we stop
pretending and give them responsibilities? They are closer to the states
than the Federal Government is, and they are more likely to take into
account the realities at the local level, which the Federal Government
is not likely to know and should not bother itself about. All these
problems have actually been looked at. If you want, you call another
conference to look at those specific issues, but don’t pretend there is
nothing.
Is the National Assembly likely to support restructuring, given fear that members nurse that it may likely affect them?
Naturally that is the way human beings
are. That which affects me first, and every other thing can wait,
because they are benefiting from it, even if the country they pretend to
be representing is dying slowly. Nigeria is dying slowly and unless you
face these problems and give new live to it, it may die. Out of their
selfish interest, they say, no, we are the ones elected. Who elected
you? The people who elected you are the ones saying this is the way we
want things to be done.
If you are doubtful, take the draft
document of the National Conference for a referendum by the people who
elected you. When that happens, we will then know what the people want.
The truth of the matter is, where we are now, and because Nigerian
politicians have proved to be so shortsighted, to be so self- centred
and to be so selfish, nothing really that is in the long interest of
Nigeria should be entrusted to them, because they have tunnel vision.
Did the 2014 conference address the question of Sovereign National Conference that many had clamoured for?
Sovereign National Conference is where
all the stakeholders of Nigeria meet and they say, this is what we want;
this is the relationship we want to maintain. That has happened
already. If there are other people who have strong feelings on other
areas, let them bring them forth and we can look at those areas. The
people who hold that view don’t understand what Sovereign National
Conference means. Sovereignty lies with the people and not with the
government.
Whenever you have a group of people
representative of all the formations you have in the country meeting,
sovereignty lies there, and therefore, it is already a Sovereign
National Conference. There is no prescription to what a Sovereign
National Conference will be, just as there is no prescription to what a
federation should be. The important thing is that once you respect the
principle that power flows from bottom up and you now put in checks and
balances at each level, and you make sure that they do not interfere
with the other levels, that is a federation.
But each nation organises its own
federation to suit its own history and circumstances. Example, United
States is a federation, but the rules that apply there are not the same
with Switzerland, which is also a federation. It is not the same rule
that applies in Canada, a next door neighbour of the US, which is also a
federation. That’s what works for a nation, so long as it recognizes
the principle of federalism that power starts from bottom up and not the
other way round because bottom is where the people are and they have
the sovereignty.
Once you recognise that, you then tweek
those other areas to fit the circumstances of your history and
circumstances of your cohabitation. Nigerians were living together
before the British came. According to the renowned historian, late Prof
Adiele Afigbo, the Igbo had relationships with all other ethnic groups
and we were all living peacefully, each one respecting the other and it
was peaceful until the British came and put us in one straitjacket.
For almost 57 years of independence,
when we were supposed to have emerged as a nation state, we are still
grappling with how to move forward, and like Bishop Kukah said, Nigeria
has not been as divided as it is today, even during the civil war. Why?
It is not quite true that we are
grappling with problems. We understand the problems, except that there
is too much hypocrisy in Nigerian politics. There is too much pretending
in Nigerian politics, because there has not been justice, and where
there is no justice, truth can never thrive. Because we have come to a
head and like I said earlier, the beginning of  the
change that will make Nigeria the pride of the world is starting now,
because we have come to the point where all sorts of subterfuge,
pretensions have ended, and whether people like it or not, there are
problems we must now face, including problems that we have been talking
about in the last 57 years, which we have never faced.
The basic principle of federalism –
resource control. What people are frightened is the word, ‘control’. I
call it resource management. Wherever I am God has put me there,
whatever that is there, God has given me the right to look after it.
So you can’t from anywhere come and
interfere with it, but because you and me have to coexist, there are
things you have that I want and there are things that I have that you
want. We sit down and agree on how I can give you a bit of mine and you
can give me a bit of yours. That is what federalism is about.
You can’t come and pretend that this land
is no longer mine. You can no longer pretend, as the Federal Government
has been pretending, that everything under your land belongs to her.
When God created the people, was there Federal Government? People must
be fair. God has told us to be our brothers’ keepers; the challenge now
is, how do we make sure that you and me can share this thing, so that
fairness and justice is done to all sides?
What happens if the government doesn’t buy into this restructuring?
It loses legitimacy. If you are in
government you should listen to the people who put you there. Right now,
whether in the North, East, West and South, people who had never
expressed opinion on this subject are expressing the opinion and are in
support. Even traditional rulers are in support now. If you are a
government of the people you cannot ignore what the people are saying
now.
What should Igbo do, especially those living in the north, against the backdrop of the  quit notice by Northern youths, bearing history in mind?    
Igbo should not live in fear. 2017 is not
1967. Things have changed. The people who are threatening have no
capacity to do the things they said they wanted to do. The reason is
simple: Whether we like it or not, there have been fundamental changes
in the way things are run in the country. The question is where are all
these problems coming? They have always been there, but they were better
managed than this government is managing it.
When Buhari came along and said his
responsibility was to look after the 95 per cent of people who voted for
him and not the five percent that voted against him, he was undermining
the basis of his own authority as the President of Nigeria, because
when you are president, you swear to do good to all manner of people-
those who voted for you and those who voted against you; those who
abused you and those who praised you, they are all your citizens. When
he said that, people recalled the long line of injustices.
At end of the civil war, Gowon pronounced
the 3Rs- Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Reconciliation, and none of
that happened. You have a problem; the unfortunate problem in the
Northeast and the National Assembly quickly passed a bill for rebuilding
the Northeast. The East suffered war and nothing has happened.
Do you expect, not just Igbo, but the
rest of Nigerians not to have taken note? And in taking note, they
realized that this government is not being just, and justice is the
foundation of any government that God approves.
You notice that in this period unlike in
the past, non-Igbo have jumped to defend Igbo more than ever in our
history, why is it so?  Because Nigerians are responding to the demand of justice and fairness.
Igbo should go about their businesses,
look for nobody’s trouble, but also anybody who comes your way, offends
you forgive him, because ultimately non violence in this situation will
win over the violence promoters.
The Kanu phenomenon we mentioned is an
example. If the government has not adopted violent means to suppress it,
he wouldn’t be where he is. Somebody that nobody really knew or cared
about has suddenly become a superstar, and it’s a creation of this
government. Igbo have nothing to fear and they are capable of defending
themselves, because God is there  to defend them.
What Igbo went through… I was in the war,
I played active role, and at the end of it, I was one of the last to be
given what they called security clearance. At the end of the day, the
people who have clean hands, God will always protect. God will not only
protect the Igbo, but will teach them how to build goodwill with our
neigbhours.
In doing this, we start the dialogue of
how we will live together in peace with everybody. Another thing I want
to say in relation to what the Igbo should do is that all the prophecies
about Nigeria… I’m a scientist, but there are areas of life beyond
science and that is where prophecy comes, because it belongs to God.
All the prophecies that have come say
that Nigeria has a special role that God has assigned it for the end
time event that will bring God’s own kind of government.
Before that, God is going to give
Nigeria, what He calls David, a man after His heart who will govern this
place in righteousness and justice. Igbo have a major role in that new
Nigeria that is coming.

From Senate comes a relief for gunshot victims

At the end
of 2008, there was a tragic story in the newspapers about a young
8-year old boy that died from a single gunshot wound that could have
been treated.
The story was about a bank robbery that
happened in Lagos, which culminated in the death of eight civilians.
However, the death of the eighth casualty, the young boy, who was hit by
a stray bullet, could have been easily avoided. This is because when
the child was rushed to a nearby hospital by passersby, the staff of the
hospital refused to treat him without a police report. Needless to say,
in the time that it took for the police report to be requested for,
written out, and transported back to the hospital, the 8-year old boy
bled to death.
Issues like the aforementioned story are
rampant. We hear about them everyday; read about them in the news; and
watch news reports about victims that could have been saved.
However, based on current legal
practices, many lives have been lost. This is why, this week, the Senate
fast-tracked the passage of the Compulsory Treatment and Care of
Victims of Gunshots Bill. The Bill, which was sent to the Senate for
concurrence by House of Representatives, seeks to ensure that all
victims of gunshot wounds receive necessary treatment from medical
workers and assistance from security agencies.
The Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola
Saraki, was right when he stated after the passage of the Bill, that
with the Compulsory Treatment and Care of Victims of Gunshots Bill, the
Senate has moved to ensure that everyone is entitled to medical
treatment irrespective of the cause of the shooting. This is because so
many lives have been lost in the absence of this law.
As things stand, innocent victims who
have been shot by robbers, must first be rushed to a police station to
secure a police report, before they are rushed to the hospital for
treatment. This situation, creates victims of people who would otherwise
be survival. This is because having a system in place that forces both
the good and the bad people who have been shot to first request police
reports before going to the hospital, makes the innocent people among
them victims of circumstance (i.e. robberies, or stray bullets); victims
of the hospitals, who refuse to treat gunshot victims without police
reports; victims of the police, who oftentimes do not process these
requests in a speedy manner; and victims of Nigeria’s current laws that
make police reports mandatory for both law-abiding citizens and
criminals alike.
    By
the passage of the Gunshot Victims Act, the Senate has moved Nigeria
one step forward to saving tens of thousands of lives each year. This
law has addressed several inadequacies — like ensuring that society has a
burden placed on it to ensure that there will be no unnecessary loss of
lives.
Moving forward, based on certain
provisions of the new law, every person, including security agents must
render every possible assistance to any person with gunshot wounds. This
assistance includes ensuring that the person that has been shot is
taken to the nearest hospital for treatment.
Additionally, the Bill preserves the
fundamental rights of gunshot victims by mandating that no person with a
bullet wound shall be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment and
that no person with a gunshot wound shall be refused immediate and
adequate treatment by any hospital in Nigeria whether or not an initial
deposit has been paid or not.
    Finally,
the Bill takes the approach of several nations, that have a ‘treat
first, ask questions later’ mindset. This is because it specifies that
it shall be the duty of any hospital that receives any person with a
gunshot wound to report the situation to the nearest police station.
This amendment puts the horse back in front of the cart, because saving
lives must always come before due process.
Moving forward, Nigerians must commend
the National Assembly for the passage of this Bill, and urge that it is
signed into law by the Acting President. On top of this, the Presidency
and the Executive arm must properly orient officers and men of security
agencies to comply with the dictates of this law. Doing this, will show
the world that we have society that values the lives of our citizens,
more than we value the ‘perception of adherence’ to the rule of law.
    I rest my case.
Onemola is a Legislative Aide to the Senate President
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