Igbo will either be a full part of Nigeria, or will find their way
*Ndigbo Must Strategise, Build New Bridges If They Want Presidency In 2023 Nonagenarian and the country’s first Minister of Aviation in Nigeria, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, told LAWRENCE NJOKU, in his country home, Nnewi, Anambra State, what Ndigbo must do to actualise Igbo presidency in 2023, among others.
Politically and economically, what would you like to see Ndigbo become in the country in the recent future?
Nigeria and Nigerian politicians have been very unfair and very unkind to Ndigbo. Various governments have treated Ndigbo not as full partners in the federation, but as second-class citizens. As a matter of fact, right now, the present government is treating Ndigbo as a conquered race; as a race that is irrelevant. After the civil war, Ndigbo have continued in their characteristic way of not minding what is around them, but trying to accept challenges of life. They have succeeded and will be succeeding, but the actions of the present government against Ndigbo are very painful.
Any Igbo man, who wants to rise even in business, they try to crush him. They have tried it with Innocent Chukwuma; they have tried it with Cosmas Maduka; they have tried it with Ibeto, and now Allen Onyema, the owner of Air peace.
They started from the end of the civil war to deprive the Igbo of their property in Port Harcourt and declare them abandoned property. They said Igbo should only earn pittance for the property. Every Igbo man who was an adult started life again with only £20 (N40). But see where we are today, nobody can stop us. Politically, they don’t want the Igbos to belong. I am one of those who fought for independence on the platform of a party that believes in one Nigeria –the NCNC. Even up till now, I still believe there are advantages in the greatness of a nation.
Nigeria should be a big nation and Igbo should be part of it, but the government of Nigeria (as at today) is not the government for Nigeria … There are people agitating for a return to Biafra, but this government wants to crush them; it wants to kill them. I have hope that Ndigbo will succeed in spite of everything. So, the Igbo will either be a full part of Nigeria, full part of a federation, or leave them to find their way. They are not begging to be part of Nigeria, but it is good to belong to a nation, and particularly in a nation that was founded by Igbo.
Igbo principally led Nigeria’s struggle for independence, and for anybody to think that he can set aside the Igbo in an issue that concerns Nigeria, that person should examine his head. So, while I live, I shall be happy should the Igbo become full part of Nigeria, and in doing that, there is need to reexamine the Constitution that binds people of Nigeria.
The present Constitution of Nigeria is not a Constitution of the Nigeria people. It is constitution of the Military people from northern Nigeria imposed on the people. That is one part of Nigeria. There is need for the real people of Nigeria, and not military personnel from one part of the country to come together, negotiate in a spirit of true fraternity, patriotism and fashion out how they will live in Nigeria.
How can you explain a situation where the wealth of this country, produced by one section of the country, and being managed, shared and controlled by another part of the country to the exclusion of the rest of the country? It does not make for peace.
So if by 2023 an Igbo person becomes president, will it make the Igbo to become full part of Nigeria?
It is not satisfactory to me when the Constitution that binds the country is still defective. In any case, the whole system has been so organised to make it impossible for an Igbo man to be president in Nigeria. The lopsidedness in the creation of states and local governments; the appointments that has now become a one-sided affair; the continuous enslavement of the rest of the country in the guise of leadership have further made Igbo situation worse. But there is nothing impossible with God. Ndigbo can become anything in 2023 if they work for it, if they strategize for it. They have to plan for it and do less talking and more action. They have to rebuild old bridges that have been broken down by this hatred of the ruling class. They have to build more bridges in order to make the presidency if they want. It is not going to be an easy task because nobody hands you over presidency on a platter of gold. Nobody will come out in 2023 and say Ndigbo, it is now your turn to bring a president; it is not true. If they want to be president, they have to work for it. They have to work with other parts of Nigeria. Igbo nation alone, Igbo population alone cannot give them presidency.
That is why people like us are counseling them to reach out to other zones and present the case of Ndigbo as one entity that has been denied and relegated in the country. These appeals are genuine and we think the rest of the country should listen to us.
Could this be what Isa Funtua meant when he observed that the quest for the Presidency in 2023 might elude Ndigbo because they don’t play inclusive politics?
I didn’t listen to the man, and I don’t have to listen to anybody who gets up and talk. I am far above that level. Who’s he and what’s he in Nigeria? What history is he referring to, and what does he mean by inclusive politics? Is he saying that we have not paid our dues to deserve a shot at presidency? Why do they like distorting facts anytime it’s Ndigbo’s turn to become something in Nigeria. Who are the people that championed independence? Was the North in the forefront? How did we end up getting independence in 1960 as against 1958? Couldn’t we have proceeded when the North was not ready if we wanted to go it alone? In all the military regimes that ruled this country from the North, did the Igbo not play supporting role? What is he talking about? It is unfortunate I must say that Nigerians distort facts. That is why federal character has been translated into another thing, but the current administration. Nonetheless, it is all part of politics.
He probably wants Ndigbo to troop en masse to the APC
Ndigbo need not join the APC to become president. Ndigbo are scattered in various political parties. Everybody in the North did not join APC for Buhari to become president. Go to history, you will also see that past presidents did not bring their entire zone on board to win the Presidency. I have said that it is only Ndigbo that are not myopic in their outlook. If you go to Lagos, you will see the amount of landed property that the Igbo have got; go to Abuja and see what Igbo are doing, and what they have built. Go to Kano, Igbo have built several houses there. Other people don’t come to Igbo land and build houses. So, how can anybody say Ndigbo are not accommodating? Ndigbo have made the greatest sacrifice anybody could think of that has held this country together. Even the civil war that we fought was fought for the sake of the country because there was a seeming injustice that had come to play and people needed to react to ensure the right things were done.
How do you see views that power rotation is between north and south and the rising agitation?
At a time in this country, we had three regions – the Northern Region, Eastern Region and Western Region. In 1962, the Midwest region was created making it the fourth region. The problem with Nigeria is that people like distorting facts, especially when it favours them. If we had these regions and now there are more regions that came up purely for administrative convenience, why don’t we treat them as part of the country? You can see that when they talk about power sharing they are not looking at Ndigbo. It is not because Igbo is not part of the country, but simply because there is hatred for Igbo race.
In a country called Nigeria, certain persons believe it is their property and that every other tribe is their colony. That is the problem. They don’t allow free election, they take power by force. They have taken over the armed forces, the police, the navy, air force and every other institution of the land. They said it belongs to them and that they own Nigeria. That is the situation. They have not allowed elections to hold. The last election was no election, especially what happened in Bayelsa, Osun and the rest. How can a country thrive under the kind of policies and arrangements that we put on ground to ensure that other Nigerians don’t survive? I am a retired, patriotic Nigerian and I sit at home. I would say let the people of Nigeria face their problem because in my time, we confronted the problems that we faced, and we conquered them. We did not have guns; we did not have missiles; but we used nationalism; deep patriotism; we sacrificed; we defied imprisonment, we defied death, we defied poverty and we succeeded against imperial powers way of running the country. So, the problem of the present generation of Nigerians is not imperial power controlling Nigeria, but for the constituent people to fight and liberate themselves. We did ours in our own time.
I say this because the Nigeria we have now is not the Nigeria we founded. The Nigeria you people have now is a creation of unpatriotic military personnel from one side of the country that has conquered the country. Now, it is left for the present generation to liberate themselves and re-found a nation of equal citizens; a nation built on equity, love and fairness.
How do you feel at 90?
At 90, I must say that I have started to enjoy the sweetness and pains of the old age, and I must say I feel very happy about it. I feel grateful to God sparing my life till this age, and also for having my total mental balance. I have good health, and I have a reasonably strong body, and my senses are still correct. I feel grateful to God for that and in particular for what he has done for me.
I am the only surviving political leader of the First Republic, and the colonial era, and among those who fought for the Independence of the country in the South East I am about the only one that held a national office that is still around. I was in the radical wing of the NCNC that pioneered the struggle for independence. I can count about two or three of us still around. Two of them were around during my birthday celebration at Owerri, Imo State last month. One is Tanko Yakassai from Kano, and the other one is Dr. Idemudia from Benin City. I must say, I am most grateful to the governor of Imo state. He hosted the ceremony. In the preparatory stage, there were Senator Ifeanyi Uba; my representative at the House of Representative, Chris Anibogu; Okey Ezenwa and others who played important roles in the planning. I am grateful to all of them, and God that has spared me.
How do you want to spend the rest of your years going forward?
I am already spending the remaining days of my life happily in my country home here. I have a very happy family. I have children doing very well; I have grand children in universities in Nigeria, Britain and the United States. I feel happy. Elders visit me here and we hold discussions on local issues, especially cultural matters.