Dr. Dozie Ikedife is an elder statesman and former President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo. In this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he speaks on the recent governorship election in Anambra State, clamour for restructuring, marginalisation of Igbo and the 2019 presidency, among other issues
What is your take on the recent governorship election in Anambra State?
To me, the results did not seem to reflect the popular view of the people, but it teaches a lesson that if you hold a view and you don’t translate to vote, then that view is as good as dead. It looked good to be true that Governor Willie Obiano, in spite of the campaign mounted against him, won in every local government in the state. That is the result and we have to accept it.
Why do you think the result did not reflect the popular view of the people?
Because when you talk to people on the streets, many of them will tell you that the governor did not perform, but yet they returned him. You can ask the people how popular was Obiano before the election. Before the election, some people kept saying, he did not perform, but yet he had what you can call landslide victory, winning all the 21 local governments in the state. How do you explain that except to say that it is strange? I am not a political scientist; I am a medical doctor.
Some people are of the view that the outcome shows clearly that Ndigbo still have a lot of respect for late Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu and that the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has great acceptability in the state. Do you agree with that school of thought?
If you talk to 20 people, you will always get different opinions. For example, Tony Nwoye, the governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) was described as a youth, but I don’t think the youth actually came out to support what they are talking of.
They didn’t convert the support to votes. May be they hearkened to the call to boycott the election. And somebody who is supposed to enjoy the support of the youth lost. There was heavy support from the civil servants and it is understandable.
What is the implication of that to elections in Nigeria?
Nigerian politics is gradually turning to money for hand and back for ground; cash and carry. I hope we will graduate to voting according to ideological understanding and analysis of party manifesto. But you know this is going to come a long way when you look at the way politicians jump from one party to another.
They are not jumping because of ideological differences or ideological changes. They are jumping to where they think they have the chance of winning and some are prepared to sell their mothers to win. It is a great pity. We hope that along the line, we shall evolve better into voting according to ideological differences and the way we see the candidates, manifestoes and promises that are likely to be kept as some promises in politics are often not kept.
Are they keeping all their promises? Have they kept the promises to the peoples’ satisfaction? Of course they have not. I want us to be frank in this interview; no question of painting things; painting what is yellow, green. I am not part of that. I say things as they are. At my age, if I don’t say it as I see it, then it is high time I should join my ancestors.
In the contest of keeping to promises, President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC made a lot of promises to Nigerians during the 2015 general elections. Do you think he and his party have delivered their campaign promises more than two years in office?
We have to take into cognisance his physical fitness. I can’t assess him yet. I am still watching, so that when my verdict comes, you can quote it as authoritative. I am still giving him the benefit of doubt because of ill-health. Let us see how he will finish the second half of his first term.
As far as I am concern, I have given him credence, credit and commendation for his determination to fight corruption head on. Because if he doesn’t kill corruption; corruption will kill all of us. I think he is doing his best in fighting corruption. Now, some people are saying he is doing a selective anti-corruption war, but if you know that I have enriched myself in a corrupt way, blow your whistle. If it is proved right, you get your reward. You cannot just be saying people are corrupt without concrete evidence. We have to be very careful about false accusation.
In that regard, I think the President is doing his best. He has empowered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) and even the Police and Department of State Services (DSS). If you have any evidence, bring it formerly forward; don’t whisper in your kitchen or bathroom and when you come to the sitting room, you close your mouth.
If you know that anybody has enriched himself in a corrupt way and you are sure of it; the government has encouraged people to blow the whistle, promising that you would be protected and you will be rewarded if you are a honest whistle blower. But, if you are fictitious and a character assassinating whistle blower, then you will go for it. I think that is a very bold attempt.
What about the economy?
In terms of the economy, I want to tell you frankly that many of the economic problems we had are beyond Buhari. One, the price of oil at the international market is not controlled by Buhari. Even the need and use of fuel is beyond the control of his government. All these happened the time he was coming in as president.
There are certain things that experts play with. They talk about recession and disappearance of recession. To me, all these are high classroom talk just to be spoken to the marines and not to the ordinary man walking on the street. Until the price of gari come down for people to get eight cups instead of six for a unit of currency; until people buy kerosene, petrol and diesel at affordable prices; until a man is able to pay school fees of his children and the children, he sold his underwear to train in university or secondary school is able to get employment, talking about recession or no recession to me is just a folk.
We want to know what we can buy with N10, N100 or N1,000; whether it is buying more or less gari and yam. How easy it will be for people to afford and pay for good medical care and also send their children to school. These are the things that will show whether Nigeria is out of recession or not.
In the area of security, President Buhari has done well. I will also praise Governor Obiano for improving security in Anambra State. He has made it possible for people to now travel again at night and you can go to the place you don’t know and ask somebody to show you the way to your destination and they will show you the right way instead of showing you the way to a den of robbers or kidnappers. He has done that and he has to be given credit for that. He is building on what Peter Obi started.
But, there are certain things that still need to be done to address the problem of security. Boko Haram still needs to be controlled because they are still active. The militants in the Niger Delta are still there. It is paradoxical that Boko Haram and perhaps the Niger Delta Avengers have not been declared terrorists and yet the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), who doesn’t really carry arms, were declared terrorists groups. After they declared a terrorist group, I went to the dictionary to seek for the definition of terrorist in case the meaning has changed. That it is not the way to control excesses.
Legislations are coming in to make kidnappers pay the supreme price; that is in the right direction as far as I am concerned. But, it takes time before you squeeze some wings in a place where there is trouble. There are certain things I think government is doing wrongly.
What are those things?
They went to Niger Delta and said they have destroyed 20 illegal refineries. That is a negative and wrong policy. The country’s refineries are not producing enough and we are importing fuel. That people are able to do illegal refineries shows that refining petrol, diesel and kerosene is Class Four Chemistry. All those doing it should be gathered together to form cooperatives and allowed to produce and ensure that what they produced meet standard rather than destroying what they are doing and flashing it in the newspapers. Government should organise them and encourage them.
Distilling petrol is not a rocket science; so people doing it should be encouraged. During the Biafran war, we never lacked diesel, petrol and kerosene; they were produced here because we were under total blockage. But, we didn’t lack the products because we were able to scoop crude oil from somewhere, distilled and used it. It is something that should be organised, encouraged and make sure that standards are met.
Another thing is the way government is treating the people, who are talking about self-determination; turning deaf ear to people who are calling for restructuring. Government is for people and not people for the government.When people say something that is generally acceptable, government should listen to them. Restructuring will save this country.
So, you support the demand for restructuring of Nigeria?
Many people are demanding it and there is a need to do it. Some people have said Igbo should forget Biafra; how can you tell the people to forget Biafra? Can I tell Yoruba to forget Oduduwa? Can I tell some people to forget Arewa? Can I ask you to forget something that took away your father, mother, brothers, sisters or friends? It is another idiotic statement to ask people to forget Biafra.
No person who experienced Biafra will ever forget Biafra; even in his grave. People should stop telling Biafrans to forget Biafra. It is an insult on the sensibility of the people who called themselves Biafrans. It is an insult and provocation. What do we do with Biafra should be the question? How should we handle the Biafran situation; the agitation for self-determination in Biafra land? That should be the approach; not to say that they should forget Biafra.
One man came to Nigeria; he said he is from United Nations; a Muslim from Ghana, to come and tell Igbo that they should forget Biafra; that they are better off in Nigeria. Of course we are better off in a bigger country.
Economically, you have a wider area to travel and do business, but you must be alive first. If you are dead, whether your country is as big as China or USSR means nothing to you. If you are alive and your country is as small as Fiji, that is alright. When you are given the back hand almost all the time, showing that that you are not welcome and accepted, how do you want such a person to develop true patriotism?
Are they being treated well? The answer is no.
In what ways are they not being treated well?
I can tell you that since 1945, the Igbo have been singled out for elimination, massacre and genocide from time to time. If I search, I can find the document that has the lists of all the attacks on Igbo and it will shock you when I read them. It started in 1945 in Jos, 1953 in Kano and another one in 1966, where over 60,000 civilians were killed; then the war, 1967 to 1970, where Nigerians used starvation as instrument of war. At the end of the war, there were no prisoners anywhere.