From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Bishop Dan Nkemjika Olinya is the Anglican Bishop of Eha-Amufu Diocese. In this interview, he expressed fears on the chances of Igbo producing the next Nigerian president.
What’s your assessment of state of the nation as regards security?
Every right thinking Nigerian knows that we are in a serious trouble as far as security of lives and property is concerned. We shouted recently that Security Chiefs should be changed. The president pretended as he wasn’t hearing. After a long period of time, he listened and changed the Service Chiefs, but things have not changed for better. Non-state actors seem to have overpowered the state actors. Miscreants have continued to unleash terror on innocent Nigerians. Evidently, no part of Nigeria is safe anymore. Everyone is living by the grace of God. It’s time we look for external help to tackle the insecurity situation in Nigeria. Howbeit, we can deal with this security situation, but that will depend on the willingness of all Nigerians particularly the northern leaders to tackle the issue. Farmers/herders crisis has gone beyond the North. It’s being recorded in every part of the country. Solution to the problem, ultimately, depends on the cooperation and readiness of the northern leaders to end the insecurity.
Heads of most of security agencies are from the North, and the region seems to be under siege of the bandits and other crimes?
That’s surprising to all. I believe they are totally aware of what is happening in the region as regards security, but are not yet ready to bring permanent solution to it. There’s unverified reports that the North is deliberately building local military for the defence of the region in case of any major ethnic crisis. They know that if war breaks out today, it won’t be like it was in 1970s when the entire nation turned against Igbo people in the Southeast. The situation won’t be the same because people are more prepared and ready to defend themselves.
Do you think President Muhammadu Buhari is doing enough to tackle the insecurity situation in Nigeria?
The president is obviously and evidently overwhelmed by what is happening in Nigeria, particularly the security issues. He has exhausted all his plans. It took him a very long time to change the Service Chiefs probably because he didn’t know who to put there. He finally arrived at the people he presented to us and they are all northerners who have been part of the system for long. If he is honest to himself, he should have used people from other regions as Service Chiefs. That would have been better for us. They would have tackled the insecurity issue. At the early stage of this insecurity issue, former President Goodluck Jonathan wanted to tackle the issue, but Buhari who wasn’t president then was shouting that the then president was trying to kill his people.
But security issue is not peculiar to the North alone. There are different security issues in the South-south and Southeast too?
I agree with you. But let me tell you the truth, whatever you see happening across Nigeria now is as a result of what the Fulanis are doing to host communities. People are trying to guide their territory against invasion by Fulani people (response action). There was military invasion in Orlu, Imo State some weeks ago. What happened in Orlu is quite unfortunate because the state government left what they are supposed to do and started beating about the bush. Nothing was actually happening in Orlu that would require military invasion. The military invasion that led to the destructions was needless. It’s what the state could handle, but because of the perceived hatred the Federal Government has for the people of Southeast, they sent the military to go and kill our boys.
But the governor denied inviting the military to Orlu?
I may not believe him. We know that Imo State governor, Hope Uzodimma, is pro-North because they made him governor. He is obviously working for people that made him governor. He’s, undoubtedly, interpreting a written script in order to remain in office.
Do you think the Southeast governors are doing enough to secure the region given the level of insecurity across the country?
The answer is no! They are not as proactive as governors in the North and other regions. Our people usually respond to critical situations very late. And if care is not taken, the same thing will happen again in this security issue. One thing is that Southeast people are always careful not to provoke other parts of the country. As long as the North is holding the power, everybody is careful.
With all these suspicions, the president has maintained that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable. Do you agree with him?
The truth is that since amalgamation in 1914, Nigeria has never been united. And Nigeria may not be united again. The issue of the unity of Nigeria being non-negotiable as stated by the presidential iss laughable. Are we really united in the first place? The answer is no! A Yoruba man knows his brother, Hausa man knows his brother, Igbo man knows his brother and so is other tribes. Whoever takes over power always favours his or her people. If the unity of the nation is not negotiable, what is the president doing to unite us or strengthen the unity when all the appointments into key positions are given to people from same religion and region. That’s not sign of unity. I had expected the president in 2015 to appoint people from different ethnic, religious groups and political parties, as long as they have all it takes to deliver quality services, but that never happened. In some cases, the president gave appointment to dead people, meaning that he’s unaware of what he’s doing.
Do you think government policies, lately or since 2015, have been responsible for Nigeria’s disunity?
This administration has been the worst in the history of Nigeria. It’s verifiable and I challenge you to do that. All their policies are anti-South. At the beginning of the administration in 2015, the Yoruba people in Southwest supported the government, but they have fallen apart because they saw that the government has no direction. They have seen what the Southeast people saw at the beginning of the administration. If anything happens now, the Yoruba won’t support the North. For instance, they are the first to raise local military called the Amotekun. It means that they have seen what they did not see before. Obviously, the Buhari administration is not for unity of Nigeria, but for division.
Do you think EndSARS protest of last year would have brought some desired changes?
EndSARS protest was actually going to bring solution to so many problems in Nigeria. But the powers that be saw that it wasn’t in their favour and they hijacked it and messed it up. They hired some hooligans to disrupt the peaceful protest that was being used to demand for changes in Nigeria outside the police brutalities. EndSARS protest was simply messed up by the government because the youths who are wearing the shoes and know where it pinches were determined to make changes. However, I still believe strongly that there will still be another national protest/massive uprising if things continue in this bad way. It may come in form of EndSARS or any other form. Cost of living has gone beyond what the common man could afford.
Southeast people are clamoring for presidential opportunity in 2023 general election. What are the chances that they may produce the next president in 2023?
I may sound pessimistic in this matter. Politics is a game of number. The North has the number. The easterners don’t have. Northerners would not willingly relinquish power to the Southeast. If it’s by zoning, it may not be zoned there. By voting, the North may not willingly vote for Southeast man. The entire country is afraid of the Igbo man because of what they saw during the civil war. Northerners are not always free with the Igbo man no matter how friendly they are. Southeast people may try their luck at the presidency, but it will be difficult for them to get the presidential slot. The highest an Igbo man can get is the position of vice president. People believe that Igbo man will divide the nation if given the opportunity to superintend over it. They know the Igbo are not comfortable in Nigeria and they may desire to pull out of the union.
So, there’s no hope for an Igbo man to be president of Nigeria any time soon?
With the way things are, there is no hope for Igbo man to be Nigeria’s president in 2023 or any time soon. The only way that could happen is by accident, that is if an Igbo man becomes vice president and something happens to the principal that may require change of guard.
What is your assessment of your state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State?
Our governor has done well with the little resources available to him from state internally generated revenue and federal allocations. Enugu State is purely a civil service state. Hardly you see any family in Enugu State without a relative working and receiving salary from the state government. The first thing the governor does every month is to pay salary. If he fails to do that, people would suffer. After salary, what remains is meager. With that, he has been able to achieve so many things especially peace, unity and security. People go to bed and sleep peacefully. He spends lots of money on security and that has yielded result. He recruited local vigilante, neighborhood watch, forest guards and several other local security services that have provided security for the communities.