Saturday, 1 October 2016

Nigeria fast becoming a failed state – Mbazulike Amaechi

•If we’d part ways as a nation, lets do so peacefully
•The stealing in Obasanjo and Jonathan’s era is still on now
•The path to recovery is not only in agriculture but also in dialogue.

Chief Mbazulike Amaechi is one of the few surviving nationalists and former Minister of Aviation in the first republic. In this encounter, he talks about Nigeria and how it got down to the gutters, saying the country is failing as a state as things are falling apart and the centre can no longer hold. Here are excepts: It’s yet another independence celebration for Nigeria but its different now because of the recession in the country. With benefit of hindsight, where did we go wrong? I think it is a long story. I was part of the struggle for Nigeria’s independence. After independence came, I was a member of the parliament. I was a minister. I remained a minister until the military coup of 1966. Now, when we were in government, Nigeria did not have the benefit of oil. Nigeria depended on cocoa from the West, palm produce from the East and groundnuts in the North. We managed the resources the best way we could.
Then, in January 1966, some unpatriotic military men overthrew the government of the country by force and then the internal struggle amongst the soldiers led this country into a crazy civil war that was fought for three good years. During this period, a lot of destruction was done, a lot of lives were lost. When the war ended in 1970, a year after that, there was oil explosion. Nigeria became a very important and big exporter of crude oil. There was oil-well explosion in the country. Then, the soldiers who were ruling saw plenty of money and did not know how to manage the money because they were not trained to manage the economy. And the military remained in government for 38 years. And these 38 years of the military government apart from the three years of Obasanjo, were controlled by Northern soldiers. So, the North retained the seat of power for 35 years out of the 38 years. Shagari took over in 1979. Shagari got people who were experts in managing the economy but after one term in office, the military struck again and took over the government from him and continued to rule until 1999 when they handed over to another military man. Though the 1999 election was a democratic election, they elected the same military man that was in uniform and transformed to a civilian. So, indirectly, its the same military man that continued and the military government continued. So, for a long period, Nigeria witnessed a government by people who did not want to plan, who did not bother to plan and who saw so much money and did not know how to manage the money and how to save for rainy day. They squandered the money. And then, the governors who were elected became barons and dictators in their various states and pocketed their states Houses of Assembly and did things as they liked. So, there was massive stealing and there was a time there was excess crude oil money. Instead of saving and investing this money in industries and other economic activities to create employment for the people, for the country and development of the country, they kept squandering this money and stealing this money and stashing this money in foreign banks. This continued until after Obasanjo and Yar ‘Adua came in. Yar’ Adua was there for three years and died. Then Goodluck Jonathan found himself as president of the country. Whether he was prepared for that or not, I’m not in a position to say, because somebody who was elected going to listen to MASSOB, that you will mow them down., Well, you will continue to mow down and mow down, until there is nobody to mow down, until the whole building collapses. What we are advocating is dialogue and secondly, Nigeria gathered 500 distinguished delegates for a national conference in 2014. This conference made some recommendations, made some suggestions on the basis of amalgamation and the problem plaguing the country. Do you say because it was under the presidency of another person, you don’t want to use it. Why not appoint a small committee of people who were not members of that particular national conference to study its recommendations and see what you can do about it. But to say you wont use it because it was under the presidency of another person and therefore, you’d throw it away is not right. Or, you say because the report did not favour the North. If it did not favour the North, but the North was there in the conference and their recommendation was unanimous. So, how can you sustain a situation where somebody stubbornly insists, I’ll do it alone, I know it alone. Okay, let him stay there until the house collapses on his head because Nigeria is heading towards a total collapse. This ethnicity problem, was it always there from the beginning or did it just crop up along the line? Ethnicity has always been there but in our own time, when it comes to national interest, we come together. But now, they are using it and religion to divide the country. Nigeria has managed to hold on because there were the oil wells but now that the oil wells are drying up, all the bad sides are appearing. When you see the judiciary no hope, the police no hope, the military no hope, the legislature no hope, then I don’t know where we are going. So, the recent United Nations report that Nigeria is deeply divided is true? Of course, Nigeria is deeply divided and that is why people like us are calling for discussions, dialogue. The division is manifesting more and more now, more than at any time in the history of Nigeria. That is why true patriotic Nigerians are calling for dialogue. Look at our economy. The Naira has become a worthless sheet of paper. In 1983, I had two of my children studying overseas. Dollar was exchanged for 68 kobo in 1983. But when the military came, Babangida introduced what he called SAP. The thing dropped to N21 per dollar, then N30 and so son, until it rose up to N173 and N197 per dollar in the time of Goodluck Jonathan. Now, it has hit the roof. Even the N400 per dollar you are talking about is for today, maybe tomorrow, it can become N500 per dollar. Our economy has become worthless and people are suffering. Alright, tell me when a bag of rice costs N20,000, how can a civil servant whose salary is N30,000 and N40,000 survive? And then, the salary is not even coming regularly. Governors get federal allocation every month and at the end of it, they take away half of the money in what they call security votes and pass it into a separate bank account. What kind of country is this? So, you think dialogue is a way out but what happens when it is not forthcoming? It’s only people in the high echelon of government that are living normal life now. These ones don’t buy fuel or foodstuffs with their money. They have everything provided for them and their family with tax payers money and so they don’t care. The people in government civil service and other employees of private organisations are living in hell. But the people in government services are more comfortable than the other people in private employment. There is a captain in charge of the ship of the nation. It is for that captain to call people together. That captain should forget that he was a soldier yesterday where the language was dictatorship. He should realise he is running a community of two hundred million people and millions of people are crying. If he doesn’t take care, I can’t imagine what will happen. Prof. Ango Abdullahi suggested we go our separate ways if we cannot work together as one entity? Even if we have to go our separate ways, let us go it in a peaceful way. It could be all part of the negotiation, part of the dialogue and part of coming together. We could say, any people who want to go their separate ways, lets vote for or against it. If 60%-70% says let’s go our separate ways, at least, the relationship between the two countries could remain cordial. But if the separation is done in a circumstance of violence, hatred and bitterness, the two nations can never be friendly. But nations need the cooperation of the others to succeed, particularly neighbouring nations. To solve the hunger problem, going back to agriculture could only be part of the solution, but not the final solution. How many people can go into agriculture, and when they plant and its time to harvest, how many people who are not in farming can buy? The whole thing requires cool economic calculation. I advise that the president should involve everybody, not just his APC people but people who belong to other parties and people who don’t belong to any political party who have something to offer, experts in different fields. And now, in government, the stealing is still going on. It’s not only in Jonathan’s era or Obasanjo’s era that there was stealing. There is stealing going on now too, a lot of stealing.

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