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Buhari overthrew Shagari to stop Igbo man from being president – Mbazuluike Amaechi (Part 2)

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Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, popularly known as ‘The boy is good’ is theonly surviving minister of the First Republic and member of the pre-
colonial movement called ‘Zikist Movement.’ He was born in Ukpor in the present day Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State on
June 16, 1929. As a young boy, he developed passion and desire for liberating his people. In this interview with the Orient Daily team of
SIMON NJOKU, Associate Editor; Dr. AZUBUIKE NKALA, Member, Editorial Board; LAWRENCE NWIMO, Reporter and IJEOMA OCHEBIRI, Marketing Officer, the nonagenarian goes down memory lane, juxtaposing past events with the present to show where the nation went amiss while beaming the light on the pathway to the country’s glorious future. Today, we run Part 2 of the Mbazuluike interview which started yesterday. Excerpts

We know this is not the Nigeria you fought for, could  you tell us what went wrong?

Yes. We were building a nation without caring for ourselves. After being a minister for five years or so, when the military took over the country, I returned to my village. What did I have in my account then, just three hundred and twenty pounds or six hundred and forty naira (N640). That was all that I had after five years of service as a minister. But now, if somebody is appointed as a minister or even as a special adviser to the minister he is vastly rich.

The minister is supposed to be the brain of the president, the man to do the job and not the minister appointing a special adviser. Those days, nobody did that.
There are the permanent secretaries and they are the ones paid to help the minister carry out his duties. Politicians come and go but the
permanent secretaries remain. Ministers now just create these offices to embezzle the wealth of the country.

Now, where did we go wrong as a nation?

As a nation, we have gone wrong in many ways. We asked Igbos or Nigerians abroad to return home and invest in the country for its economy to grow but you find out that leaders are busy stealing the
wealth of the country, stacking them in European and Arabian banks.
These countries use the looted money stored in their banks to give cheap loans to their people and boost their economies.

Going by your experience so far, which system of government would you recommend for Nigeria especially now that the National Assembly has begun the amendment of the  existing 1999 Constitution?

Firstly, the problem of the country is not the constitution but the people operating the constitution and where the constitution is
operated. Secondly, the 1953 constitution was only created to give Nigeria independence. It was a British constitution drawn for Nigeria and the declaration of Nigeria as an independent country. In 1963, we decided to give the people our own constitution which resulted in the republican constitution.
In 1966, the military took over government, abolished the constitution and ruled Nigeria without a constitution. They led the country into a
Civil War while ruling Nigeria without a constitution at all, having suspended the constitution. Without Obasanjo taking over power as a result of the death of Murtala Mohammed, there would not have been any chance of a southerner ruling Nigeria by then. It happened that Obasanjo was the Chief of Staff then and there was no chance of Obasanjo not being the Head of State.
In 1978, Obasanjo appointed a Rotimi Williams Constitution Panel and they put up a draft constitution and submitted it to the military.
Obasanjo, being a minority in the military, the military deleted what was recommended by the Rotimi Wiiliams Panel and inserted what they
wanted. They promulgated it as a constitution by decree. So, the constitution was not the will of the people. It was by decree, meaning that it was forced on the people. That decree continued until end of Abacha Government when Abdulsalami Abubakar took over. In 1999, he promulgated another one to replace the existing decree. So, these decrees are not core Nigerian constitution. It means that Nigeria is being ruled as an illegality. No legal constitution has been used to rule Nigeria since 1966 and even the 1979 and 1999 constitutions were not legal.
Again, all the time, it was military from one side of the country, until we came to the headmaster of the true ambition of the North who has consistently shown that Nigeria is their property.

Let me refer you to the book I published when I was 90, titled: Words and Thoughts of Mbazuluike Amaechi, volume II.  In spite of the shaky
nature of the Nigerian federation, the nation attained independence on October 1 1960. But not quite two weeks into independence, Ahmadu
Bello, the leader of Northern People’s Congress, NPC, and Premier of Northern region said as quoted  on page 90 of The Parrot magazine
of October 12, 1960: “The new nation called Nigeria, should be an estate from our great grandfather, Othman  Dan Fodio, we must
ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We must use the minorities of the North as willing tools and the South as conquered territories and never allow them to have control of their future. Our great
grand-father conquered up to Ilorin but we have now accomplished the task which he did not complete. I will dip the Q’uran at the sea.”
This was said by Bello 12 days after independence and that is what Buhari is implementing now. They know that the only people that will offer steady opposition to them are the Igbo. They thought it would be Igbos of our time, forgetting that it is a new Igbo.

What reaction did this statement elicit from the South Eastern and Southwestern Nigeria leaders?

Nobody took him serious because in spite of having said this, the Prime minister, Tafawa Balewa, did not agree with him. In 1961, he
launched islamization campaign, starting with the Middle Belt area in Benue State, where he said, “you either produce a Q’uran or you are killed.” He sent soldiers to Benue who killed and maimed many people. You either take the Q’uran or you are killed was the instruction then. The people resisted and were killed. We in NCNC in the government of Balewa complained to Balewa, ‘do you see what your leader is doing to the people?’ Balewa did not take him serious, saying that Bello was only a regional premier and under his government. He ordered the military to return at once to barracks, then retired the British commander of the Nigerian army and replaced him with Major General Aguiyi Ironsi.

Again, in the North, Usman Dan Fodio had in 1840 when he led jihad, gone to Bornu in his islamization campaign but the people of Bornu refused his own brand of Islam and it stuck like that. That is why
there is no Emir in Bornu instead you have Shehu of Bornu or Lamido of Adamawa. Also, that is why Bornu, Adamawa, that is, Tafawa Balewa’s
place of birth, is in the hands of PDP now. Again, these areas are ravaged by the activities of Boko Haram because the Islamic sects are alleged to be funded by the federal government. It is funded by some persons, though unofficially.

On the constitutional review, some citizens are canvassing for a brand new constitution whereas the government prefers an amendment to the existing constitution, what is your position on this?

Well, you can take something from what is down and put in something new. But the problem is, the country is intended in such a way that the whole revenue of the country which is oil and gas, at the moment, goes to the north. They control and share the oil revenue among themselves. The management of the proceeds of oil, so far, rests with Buhari, no non-northerner will head the sector.

Looking at the structure of the military today, was it the structure the founding fathers bequeathed to Nigerians?

How could it be? It has been restructured and the new structure is created specifically for the north. At the initial stage, we created a general military where qualification and ranks mattered, where capability, specialization, promotion by experience and age are considered. Look at what is happening now. Somebody was appointed on merit, being the
most senior in the army, with CoS 34 as the Chief of Army Staff. The man drew up a programme and they saw that the man was about crushing the Boko Haram, next, they told us he died in a plane crash. Then, to replace him, instead of choosing someone from the same CoS 34, they skipped COS 34, CoS 35, until they got to CoS 37 and they made sure he was from the core Fulani side in Sokoto to be able to carry on with their selfish programme.

The Nigerian President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, when you critically look at the power the president wields over the armed forces and the paramilitary forces, could it be wrong to say that what Nigerians end up electing as a president is a dictator and what is the way out?

Wait a minute! What is he in the first place? In 1983, he overthrew a federal government of the north, a government of a Fulani man from Sokoto (
Shehu Shagari), simply because there was an agreement in the NPN that after Shagari, the next president should be an Igbo man. To stop an
Igbo man being president, he overthrew Shagari. The same man has removed a military uniform and is putting on Agbada, and we are saying we elected a civilian man. We think we have elected, either by Supreme Court or votes, the same dictator of 1983. Just like the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, is it not the same man that crated Umaru Dikko and got him drugged but the British government stopped him from flying him away. It was the same man that arranged with Kenyan government to drug Nnamdi Kanu and return him to Nigeria. So, the change I saw was the dress and not the man.

In view of all these, how do you see the clamour for the restructuring of the country including the military establishment?

If you are running a true presidential system and a federation, and they are copying America, America has regional police as well as the federal police. We are calling for a regional police but as we are
fighting now, how are we sure of our own Anambra , our own Igbo land?
The southern region has held meeting twice but these two meetings were boycotted by the Anambra state governor. It is simply because he does not believe in the meetings. He is pursuing his own agenda as a puppet.

How do you see an arrangement whereby the regions contribute equally troops to the centre for both internal security and international assignments?

Listen, a true country must have one external defense. The military was created to defend the country against foreign aggression and not
to send the military to Owerri or Anambra roads. All these exist here as a result of dictatorship. I only ask people to pray so that the president will last long to see 2023 to vacate the place and let’s see
whether this country can be repaired.

What is the possibility of Southeast getting one extra state under the current civilian dispensation?

It is only a constitution that can do that.

What about the National Assembly?

The National Assembly cannot do that. The house called National Assembly cannot create a constitution. National Assembly is only
created to enact laws for the government of the country. It cannot create its creator because the constitution creates the National Assembly.

What do you say to the review of the 1999 constitution ongoing in the country?

It is an exercise in futility.

So, would you say the National Assembly should set up a new committee
to draft… (Cuts in)

Wait, look at the constitution under which they run now. To amend the constitution, you must have a 2/3 resolution in at least, twenty four states of the country. Who will give Igbo that?

Okay, from what you have said, should Nigerians forget about constitution review?

If Nigeria must forget about the constitution, then they must also forget about Nigeria.
You have to review what exists. It is not possible to review a non entity. It doesn’t exist. There is no people’s constitution. All those constitutions flying around are constitutions by military decree.

The 2023 election is approaching, what guarantees are there for the Igbo man that the outcome will favour the southeast and south south this time around?

The Igbo majority have no voice in Nigeria. They have no voice again. Their voice has been stolen by the politicians. They have sold out the country.

What’s the way forward?

In this kind of struggle, the necessary things required are strategy, diplomacy and politics. When they approach people like us who know the organization, we will tell them how to organize it.  Few months ago, some politicians from different parties came to me and I told them to go home and do their homework. If they can manoeuvre APC to
produce Igbo candidate and PDP produces same for the Presidential election, we will get an Igbo president. Then I will not be bothered about which party that wins. An Igbo president is Igbo president, no matter how bad he is. However, I have doubts how the ambition is being followed.  Look at ordinary governorship election in Anabra State and so many persons that declared interest. PDP alone has 16. All of them want to rule Anambra state, including two who are currently representing the state at the National Assembly already. What are they looking for, maybe, the state treasury, because the state is the only place where you have the
key to loot treasury. Again, most of the governors that are crossing over to other parties do not do it because they want to join the better party but because they are trying to evade the watchful eyes of EFCC, having stolen so much money.

People are clamouring for devolution of power from the centre to the component units what is…(Cuts in)?

Who will give power to you? Power is not given like Christmas presence. Power is not shared, it is won. When people are talking about devolution of power, they think power is cut and shared on a tray.

So, all this clamour for restructuring and…?

I have told you to stop calling this restructuring; that does not exist. When you build a house on the wrong foundation and on the second floor, you observe the mistake at the foundation it is obvious
that the house must collapse.

How do you see the huge foreign debt being accumulated by the Nigerian government?

They are borrowing because they want to put Nigeria into insolvency.

Most parents are encouraging their children to go abroad, what is the hope of the country since most of her youths are not planning to return to Nigeria?

Who is coming down?  None of them is coming down to Nigeria again.

 Could you speak briefly about Nigeria’s education system, what hope is there for the Nigerian child?

Education is not there in Nigeria and Igbo land again. It is only for the children of the rich in cities, where there are facilities to acquire education. They pay highly for their children in primary and secondary schools. For instance, the Igbos are not laying foundation for their own tomorrow. You find out that the children don’t even write or understand Igbo language again.

Back to Mandela, did you visit him when he was President of South Africa?

No. I was waiting to be invited.

Did you attend his inauguration or burial?

Yes, I did. You see, when the federal government declined to sponsor my trip to South Africa and Peter Obi facilitated my going, it happened that the Nigerian delegates consisting of President Goodluck Jonathan and the rest were not noticed. He was among the heads of state that were received at the field. It was only the President of
Malawi that spoke on behalf of Africa and Vice President of America who spoke on behalf of Americans and the rest were not given space to
speak. But when I arrived, right there at the airport, a car was waiting to pick me. It was the Nigerian ambassador to South Africa who is now the Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Okey Emuche. When I arrived, they drew up a programme for me as the official Nigerian delegate to Mandela’s funeral. I was taken to Mandela’s house in Johannesburg where I signed the condolence register. I was later taken to Pretoria for his lying in state and that was where I delivered an oration. On the fourth day of my stay there, they arranged a press conference, where l talked to the world press. That was when many South Africans knew for the first time, Mandela’s relationship with Nigeria.
So, I was treated as a hero but nobody took notice of President Goodluck Jonathan at the funeral.

If Igbo are given a choice for an 8-year term of Igbo presidency and the Republic of Biafra, which one do you think they should go for and why?

I fought for a united Nigeria and for a great country. I would prefer the great country to restore the right of any component of the country. There is no possibility of me being elected at 92 years.
Sovereign State of Biafra is what I have always said should be considered when we have no other alternative. But if there is a true federation called Nigeria, where there will be equity, fairness,
justice and balance, we should belong to a big nation. There is nothing good like being part of a big family. Buhari has already told us that we are a dot in a circle, that they are holding the south
south because they do not want us to have access to the sea. What else are you saying? Gowon conceded Bakassi to Cameroon because
Bakassi was the only part of Igbo through which the Biafrans had contact with the world. So, Gowon promised the Camerounians the Bakassi Peninsula, if they could block Biafra. Today, Nigeria wants to
have Bakassi back with all the oil there but they can’t have it again. I would advise Nigerian governments not to be sentimental in situations. Again, if we create the kind of Biafra we want now, in the next 20 years or so, we will be surrounded by hostile countries east, west and north. When we will be surrounded by hostility, how can we succeed? Our sons abroad are not ready to return from where there are good atmospheres to where there is scorching sun. I still believe that the treatment being meted on Kanu and his men is wrong. When people agitate for freedom, give majority a chance to decide whether they want it or not. If the majority of Ndigbo want to go to
purgatory, hell or heaven, let them decide by voting. But these people in Abuja do not think and if I were in government now, I would say, Igbos, go and do plebiscite.

How do you see the infiltration of Fulani youths into the southern parts of Nigeria?

What have we got to do with the Fulani? Look at what is happening in the north now. The Fulani bandits have gone beyond killing of Christians in the north. Imagine that an Emir was kidnapped recently with 13 members of his family. There is what they call Almajiris in the north. Almajiri are children who are just born; they know their mother
but do not know their father. When they are born, their mothers do not usually keep them due to difficulty of maintaining them hence, they are pushed to the streets where some people pick them and deny them education. They only allow them to read Q’uran and the Arabic language,
everyday they go out to beg on the streets and give account to the Sheik.
Two years ago, or last year precisely, the governors of the north decided to return all the beggars to their states. But when they are brought back to their states without education and training, some of them do anything to make ends meet. They are subsequently found, mobilized and armed by Sheiks to go and kidnap for ransom part of which they are settled with because they have never earned money in their lives.  The man who recently regained freedom in Zamfara state said he paid the kidnappers N800m. So, kidnapping has turned to a
lucrative business for the former Almajiris in the north and it will be very difficult to stop them now. So, the South should be ready for them.

How do you see the forthcoming 2023 election whereby the President has overwhelming control over all the apparatuses of governance…?

There are two types of elections in Nigeria; election by the voters and election by the courts.

What is the expectation of anybody going into this election knowing already that the outcome must have been decided?

Those who will win will do that either by the votes or through the courts. What else do you want me to say?

Whose votes?

The votes of the people or through the courts.

What about the electronic voting being discussed now, how can this restore confidence in the electoral process?

They may have agreed on electronic voting but are yet to agree on electronic transmission. They do not want to transmit electronically.

What does that portend?

It shows you the kind of results to expect.

With six northern governors supporting Southern presidency, what message does that send to the Igbo with respect to their 2023 presidential aspiration?

That is if the nomination is on the platform of one of the two major parties. If any party, whether PDP or APC, nominates an Igbo candidate, some states in the north, even far north, will support them. The other parties are too small and don’t even have the branches talk more of nominating polling agents in all the states.

Nyesom Wike predicted that there will be a mass defection to a new party which is being promoted by former President, Olusegun Obasanjo and others; how do you see such party posing a formidable challenge to the ruling APC?

Obasanjo has never mentioned that to me. We were together when he came to unveil my status built by Ukpo town. He presided over the launching of my book and the celebration of my 90th birthday at Owerri. All this while, he has never mentioned creation of a new party to my hearing.

Why did you decide to celebrate your birthday in Owerri instead of Anambra or was Anambra government not interested in celebrating you?

I told you if there is a governor at Awka, I do not know. It was Ihedioha that celebrated my birthday before he was removed by court. Until his removal by court, he had invited me to a heart to heart talk but the governor we have here in Anambra doesn’t care who people are and what they are talking about. When my wife died, all the governors came and those that couldn’t come sent representatives, but Obiano never extended a word to me nor sent someone to do that. My 56-year-old senior lawyer and first son died of cancer, Obiano did not
care. The road being constructed by him stopped some meters to my house because he did not want road to pass through my gate. For three years now, I have been denied electricity. He came and removed the transformer in my house using Emeka Ofor and EEDC as cover. Maybe he thinks he was punishing me. But here I am and let’s hope he attains my age.

What message do you have for Anambrarians ahead of the forthcoming election in Anambra state?

Let Anambra people register for the election, vote and defend their votes at every polling unit because one may win majority and they will refuse to announce it. The election should be a peaceful affair.

Finally, United Nations Charter guarantees people’s right to self determination, what is your take on the argument that Nigeria should remain an indivisible state irrespective of current agitations by some ethnic nationalities for secession?

People are known to speak grammar whether it makes sense or not. People in power can talk anything that will defend their position. You
can’t say this entity cannot be dissolved. Look at Britain, four years ago, Scotland said they wanted to go out of Great Britain and British government said okay, go and hold plebiscite. They held the plebiscite and majority said no to the secession and so was it. Britain said they wanted to pull out of European Union, and they have pulled out. Wales is now agitating to pull out of Britain and the British government has said if they are serious to go, let them go.

So, your take is that Nigerian government should consider plebiscite for those areas that want to pull of Nigeria?

Yes. If the majority of Ndigbo say in a true vote they want to go and form their own country, it is their right. The same thing is applicable for agitators for Oduduwa Republic and the rest. I can’t say I’m advising the federal government because you don’t whisper to a deaf man.

Thank you, sir.

You’re welcome.

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