• Since President Muhammadu Buhari started the belated key appointments of key officials of his administration, the people of the South-East zone have been raising their voices about the exclusion of the zone. In this interview the erstwhile governor of old Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, the elder statesman bared his mind on this development and other issues affecting the Ndigbo. MIKE ODIAKOSE reports that Ezeife also touched on the fate of former President Jonathan’s 2014 confab report under the present administration saying Nigeria’s unity depends on it. Excerpts:

You played an active role in the 2014 Confab, but the ovation on its implementation seems to be fading, especially after the transition to the new government. The APC has also made it clear that they have nothing to do with the conference or outcome of it. What is your view?
The permanence of one Nigeria depends on implementation of the recommendations of the confab. A President is for four years, a party rules for some year, but the country is forever if it is well structure. What the 2014 conference does is to restructure Nigeria to the happiness of the majority of Nigeria. The core north disagreed with some of the recommendations simply because going by the status quo, they have advantage over others. If the core North thinks deeply they will realise that these advantages will kill Nigeria, they should notice that what makes Nigeria thick was the amalgamation.

But some Nigerians see it differently that amalgamation is the bane of the country’s progress?
What amalgamation meant is to use the surplus of the South to cover the deficit of the North, and today, the deficit of the North is wider than the deficit in the 1940s. Assuming we don’t have amalgamation, all the houses built by Igbo in Kaduna and Kano, Lagos and every single town in Nigeria, even, the majority of the houses in Abuja belong to the southerners. But we need to look back at what the host communities think about us, whether what they think about us is correct. My suggestion on our own part is that we would find a way to improve our relationship with the host communities.

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Looking at the new administration holistically, how would you advise Buhari as an elder statesman?
Though it appears he has a programme we don’t know and he continues with it. But in fairness to him on assumption of office, there was a recommendation for Buhari to immediately scrap the fuel subsidy regime, but Buhari rejected it, which was a very wise decision. I also monitored a television programme and listened to elements of would-be Buhari’s policy on petroleum pricing. I must confessed to you, that is the best thing that can happen to Nigeria because the cost of petroleum products affects virtually everything you do.
There are some clear policies that are anti-corruption policy, and there are some glimpses of implied policy by actions taken by government, which also are good. I call those ones clear policies. Even today, there are changes in the Nigerian system, people are thinking before they act. I do not think there is anybody stealing oil now, that has been put under control. Anything you that was done with impunity before, now is being done with great fear. So if Buhari want to succeed in this war against corruption, he should adopt ‘do as I do’ principle, what I mean by ‘I’ includes his immediate family and those associates around him. That is, he must keep himself clean and pursue those who are corrupt.

Since the new administration came into office, there have been cries for equity and justice for the Igbo nation, especially over complaints that they have been practically shut out from the government. What is your take on this?
We have been more united than any other Nigerian group, but if we have never been President how do you expect unity in the land. United force in the polity is the office you are holding. If you are President, everyone knows you are the President; but if you have not been in power, there is tendency of you to be dispersed. But that is not enough for the Igbos to nurse. We must do more; the Igbos must learn how to speak one voice. Though, our people don’t know that some people are working overtime on how to move our region forward. If those people survive, the economy of the South-East and the South-South will be so massively developed that nobody from that area will look outside for economic survival. Though a gradual process, it may be twenty years but we shall get there, and we hope our people are listening. As for the system, sometime you think you are doing something damning to your people, you end up waking them up from their slumber just as Buhari is waking the Igbos up, and I can assure you this intervention may become a blessing in disguise.

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How would you justify the federal government’s recent offensive against MASSOB?
MASSOB is primarily a pressure group which does not go with arms, I mean never been armed against the authority, apart from demonstrations unlike the insurgents. I do not know what the recent upsurge in the attack means. Recently, in Onitsha, 12 youths who participated in peaceful demonstration were killed and many injured by the Police. In addition, there were those who went to church to celebrate their anniversary, and police went killing and maiming them. This is uncalled for. I do not know whether to call this injustice or another form of genocide against the people.

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Why genocide?
This people are protesting injustices to the Igbo, they talk about Biafra and it is only now that politicians are picking interest in what they are doing. Though they have made some mistake in the past to have prevented our people from being counted during population census, which was a major loss to our area. But to kill people when they stage peaceful demonstration is genocidal.

Does the group have absolute support majority of the people of the South East region?
The problem with MASSOB is that they are not fully accepted by mainstream Igbo politicians, this is because you cannot be asking that you want to be President of Nigeria and say you want disintegration from Nigeria. In fact, some Northerner are capitalising on this because they know the truth and tend to use it against the Igbo political interest and now Buhari is growing MASSOB by his disposition towards the Igbo people, since assumption of office. He seems to be saying, “You people can go I don’t care.” Even one of the Buhari’s strong supporters, Junaid Muhammed made it clear in one of his recent outburst.

What is way out to ensure sense of justice and fairness is spread to every part of the country?
This is a major problem not too good for the polity, I don’t know how it would be solved, but killing people, committing pogrom, and genocide against those who are going for mass to worship their God, all of them in one is indeed incitement of MASSOB against the nation by the authority.