The nonentities in Buhari’s government
Unheard of security crisis in Nigeria
Why CBN must be autonomous
Why Nigeria should be restructured
Why Igbo Presidency Is Not Important in 2019
North better off with a Southern President
Anya O. Anya, professor of Zoology, and pro-chancellor of Micheal Opara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State, has an even handed way of speaking truth to the authority without ruffling feathers. The elder statesman, who turned 80 in January, is also president of Ndigbo, Lagos. He spent 37 years in the University of Nigeria Nsukka, UNN, before moving into the world of business where he has chaired so many boards of companies in Nigeria. He was the first director general of Nigeria Economic Summit Group and a member of the Presidential advisory panel on 2014 National Conference.
Also a delegate to the National Confab, which made far reaching recommendations on restructuring of Nigeria, Anya has fervent ideas on how to move the Nigeria project forward. This can be seen from his forthright views in the explosive two and half hours interview he granted Maureen Chigbo, editor, Realnews and Anayo Ezugwu, staff writer, on the state of the nation in April. He speaks on a wide range of topical issues in the country including the Magu saga, Customs imbroglio with the Senate; crisis in security services; looting of Nigeria; erosion of values in the country; CBN’s monetary policies and its effect on nation’s economy; the Nnamdi Kanu/Biafra struggle; how the North will be better off with a Southerner ruling the country; what the Igbos want from Nigeria and why Igbo president in 2019 is not important among others. According to him, Nigeria is on the verge of a new beginning. It is a must read interview. Excerpts:
Realnews: Let’s look at the state of the nation. How do you feel about the state of affairs in the country right now?
Anya: Well, I don’t think there is anybody who pretends that all is well. Even APC members have started becoming critical of the government. You may say they are positioning for personal advantages like the memo that is supposed to have been written by El-Rufai. You won’t have that memo flying around at that level in government if all was well. And despite the feeling that much has been done on the security front, it is also clear that the security challenges have morphed. It’s okay dealing with Boko Haram. But Boko Haram has got to a different manner. The herdsmen, whether they are Fulani, Niger, from Sokoto, it doesn’t really matter, they are creating all kinds of problems and challenges around the country. The worst situation which is worrisome is the fact that too many people in government and out of government but whose opinion cannot be ignored are complaining about the security services and their partisanship. That accusation has been made in Rivers, Oyo, and even at the Senate given what is going on between the Senate and the Executive and what is going between the DSS and the EFCC. Any of these problems is a major challenge in any country when all of these are coming up at a particular time that makes it more worrying. When all of these are happening in a country and the security services are in good health, it is the instrument you use to stabilise. But when they seem to be in crisis, then the problem is more complicated. You don’t know where to begin from. So, there is no pretending that all is well.
Realnews: Looking at the security services, it is like they are divided with the Police and EFCC being on one side while the military and the Department of State Services are on the other fighting. Have you noticed this and what could breed this type of division among the security services in the country?
Anya: Well, when you come to security, it is best not to discuss it in public. What has happened is sufficient. Let’s not get into it because you can never really know the details. Don’t forget that the security services are also trained in the acts of subterfuge. So they can do something to allow you interpret it in a particular way which may not be what it is in reality. But the important thing is that things are not as normal as they ought to be.
Realnews: When you say the security services engage in subterfuge to make you interpret in a particular way. What do you mean?
Anya: That’s why I said subterfuge. Subterfuge is when you do things, it gives the impression you are going this way while you are going the other way.
Realnews: Are you trying to say the security services are trying to confuse Nigerians…
Anya: Mmmm.mm there are times that security people for their security reasons do certain things that may allow you to reach your own conclusion but that may not be the direction they are going.
Realnews: But that’s deception or dis-informing the people
Anya: What you call deception or subterfuge as I called it is a normal part of security operations. If security is straight forward so that you can read it the way it is then it is not security.
Realnews: Going by your analogy, let’s take the health issue of Buhari – Is it that the security services are doing what they are doing to divert attention.
Anya: I don’t think they are diverting attention on Buhari. Buhari issue is a matter for those who manage him, that is his doctors, his kitchen cabinet, who have to manage affairs. It goes beyond just his health. Even if he was well today, the kind of contraction that is leading to all these will still be there.
Realnews: Why do you think so?
Anya: Well because in some ways it is not often clear which is not the position he is taking on issues. And when it is like that people around you will try to read you. Remember in the early days, they were talking about his body language. When people depend on reading your body language, sometimes they get it right, sometimes they get it wrong. And that’s what’s happening and people will see it from different perspectives. It is worse in security places because in that kind of situation, they are not quite confident on how to deal with issues. So, I don’t think it is a matter of their covering anything. It is just a matter of trying to react to situation and there are not enough clear facts on which to build their strategy.
Realnews: Base on this, do you think the Buhari is in control of the government?
Anya: He had better be. I don’t want to speculate on that.
Every government has its style.
Realnews: So what do you discern as the style of the leadership of government?
Anya: Listen, where we are in Nigeria today, we are going to go through dynamic situations. And the reason is simple. What happened is unprecedented, a sitting president being supplanted by the opposition. But what has also happened is that the opposition which now became government was not prepared for governance. They did not expect to win but you said that had won. So, the preparation of the things that ought to happen before a new government was put in place was not done. It should have been done before the government was sworn in. And we saw it in the early days. First, it took six months for a cabinet to be put in place. For a government that was trumpeting change, change, it means by the time they come in they already knew what type of change they want to bring about. When it took six months to form government, it was clear they were not prepared. And don’t forget that it took nearly a year for the first budget to be in place. And the budget is critical for any government because it is a statement of intention, what you intend to do and how you intend to do it. You can read it from the budget. When it took nearly a year for that to be done, it means that there was really nothing in which people can read what to expect and that created a situation where people being uncertain had to resort to self-help in various ways. And as I argued in the “Genesis of Recession”, it was these uncertainties, difficult interpretation that created an environment in which negative signals started going out about the economy and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy and we are where we are. But now they have started grappling with the situation which has become a case of trying to board a train when it has left the station whereas you should have taken charge of the train before it left the station. So what we are doing now is catch up.
Realnews: You just mentioned budget and now we are in the Second quarter and the 2017 budget is not yet out. How is this going to play on Nigeria’s fragile economy?
Anya: When you see Udo Udoma or (Kemi) Adeosun you ask them those questions (Laughter). I am not an economist.
Realnews: But you headed the Nigeria Economic Summit Group
Anya: As chief executive. I made the economist work with me to do the things I wanted to achieve but I am not an economist.
Realnews: Maybe not by training but you have watched economic events over the years and have evolved to…
Anya: I don’t want to offend my friends who are economists. They believe they are in a world of their own, what you may call insibidi in eastern Nigeria. It is a code of communication of those who belong to certain secret cult, apart from the ones communicated by signals, gestures, there is also a written form. It is the earliest form of writing in the area called Nigeria. The economist regard themselves as a cult of some kind so they are the ones who understand what is happening to the economy and to the world, we are not supposed to be literate in that.
Realnews: What do you think is happening to the economy? The budget is not out yet and Nigeria’s economy is heavily dependent on government expenditure and if government is not spending…
Anya: All I hear is that some businesses are closing; people are downsizing. People no longer find money to bring in the goods they want to bring in. Those that have brought in goods are no longer buying as much as they used to because everybody is holding on to what he or she has. And have you tried to find out the price of garri between April last year and this year? Have you tried to find out the cost of yams between April this year and now. In the meantime, salaries have not increased; they cannot increase. There is no point pretending, the economy is not good. The society is not good. We seemed to have solved the problem in the security but it has morphed into different forms. Under the circumstances, what one can say is that where we are we will come out of it. And these may be the beginning of the real change that Nigeria was working for. And it will not come because nobody planned it. There is the concept of unintended consequences, you expect things to be this way, then things happen differently. Consequences you did not intend may come and out of these consequences some may even increase your capacity to the problem because for the first time you are seeing dimensions of the problem in a way you did not see it before. So that’s my hope.
Realnews: You mentioned security again. So let’s look at the herdsmen problem in the country. It was not like this previously. Today, we heard again of herdsmen killings in Cross River and about 3,500 rendered homeless. Why is there an upsurge in the killings by herdsmen now?
Anya: A government’s duty is to protect persons and property and to advance the welfare of its citizens. When a government does not make that the focus of its attention, there will be problems. You see, the herdsmen thing is amusing, because when it started on a small scale people ignored it and thought it was given advantage to them. But it has now become clear that it is giving advantage to nobody because what it is showing is that we are on the verge of total chaos because the thing that should have been done to deal with them was not done. A government, even if you believe the fiction that is being propagated that these are from Niger, Chad, they weren’t from Nigerian Fulani’s fine – the important thing is that if any group comes to your country to kill your people, the first thing you do go arrest those people, neutralise or kill them so that they no longer threaten. But some people thought that it gave them advantage to intimidate and terrorise different sections of the country. You can succeed with that. First of all, the Fulani’s even if you gave them all the armament in the world, they are few. So, there is a limit to what they can achieve in Nigeria. Now that it is clear they are armed, if government does not face the situation, very soon other people will also arm themselves. And Nigerian borders are notorious for being porous. And when people from West, North, South, and other places arm themselves, they all have weapons to defend themselves, you are inviting chaos and no government can govern in a situation of chaos. So, this government has a challenge.
Realnews: Do you see the country disintegrating because of these herdsmen problem?
Anya: No. I don’t think; I have been consistent in this. People think Nigerian will break up. Let us agree, for the sake of argument: The East went its way. The west went its way the middle belt went its way, the north went its way and so on. We are in the 21st century, the age of globalisation. People are coming together, economists are coming together, so even if we went our separate ways, there would be things that will force us to co-operate. So there will still be co-operation between the various peoples of Nigeria. There will be an entity. You may not call it Nigeria but it will still be Nigeria by another name. And when it comes to that it will be a fall back on what was argued in Aburi in 1967. Because Aburi was let’s separate a little but cooperate on the essentials. Some said it was confederation, some said it was true federalism – whatever it was. When you separate and starts cooperating it’s a confederation. A confederation means you are still one country but you allowing each area to be itself; to solve its problems and come to join to solve common problems. People forget that Switzerland, one of the riches countries in Europe is a confederation. Because when you allow people to disengage a little each one takes charge of itself and in taking charge of itself, it includes finding the areas to cooperate with another person in order to maintain national interest and whatever you call it, it makes for progress. But when you keep saying no restructuring, you are fooling yourself.
Realnews: Even in Spain now, the Basques are asking for independence while in UK, Scotland and Wales want out
Anya: These are people who have lived together for 300 years. Suddenly, this one says it wants to go away. You cannot ignore it. It will always happen. This is why sensible countries make the relationship loose enough in such a way that you need the other person and therefore you go to him because you need him. The problem in Nigeria is that people need each other but they pretend as if they don’t need anybody. It is not true. Indeed, if Nigeria was run freely and southerners were in charge of Nigeria, the North will be better off today. It is not helping anybody. Indeed, if Nigeria was run freely and southerners were in charge of Nigeria, the North will be better off today. Oh yes.
Realnews: Why do you say that?
Anya: Because the things they have going for them, they will be allowed to have a free hand in doing it. And in the process, the initiative, the competence will come true. The time the North made the greatest progress was under Ahmadu Bello. The reason is simple: because the North was on its own; the East was on its and the West was on its own. Each one was now competing to do better than the other, so it was a healthy competition. All the people making noise in the North now; that was when they were educated. They said that they were educationally disadvantaged since 1970 till now, has the statistics changed. It hasn’t changed because people are deceiving themselves by pursuing not things that are fundamental in governance – the welfare of your people and the protection of your people and their property.
Realnews: Talking of the North being educationally disadvantaged, Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi blamed the British Colonial master for not allowing the North to go to school. Is this correct?
Anya: But it was the same British that was in the West, and the East. There is just one fundamental difference. Sanusi represents the Emirship. They were the Aristocrats. And they encouraged their own children to be educated while the children of the poor where not educated. You can’t eat your cake and have it. It wasn’t the British that made that choice for them, because many of the school in the West and the East were built by missionaries. They didn’t allow the missionaries to come in. If they allowed the missionaries to come in they, would be as well educated. And perhaps it would still have allowed Islam to flourish as it has done in Malaysia and Indonesia, – a more enlightened kind of Islam not the type that we are practicing here. So, life is about choice whether it’s for the individual or for the people. What you choose is what you get.
Realnews: Let’s go back to the economy. Everyday, the CBN comes up with one policy, trying to shore up the value of Naira. Is it working and if not, why is it not working?
Anya: You people say it’s working. At sometime this year the Naira exchanged for N500 to a dollar. Not so? Now it’s exchanging for more than N300. It has come down.
Realnews: Why the sudden drop?
Anya: Why don’t you ask the question like that in the Genesis of Recession? When this government was preparing to become government the exchange rate was between N150 – N170. Within a year, it went up to N300 or more. Within months it went up to N500. Why? Because the signals that went out from the government told people to be careful hold on. So, people held on and were waiting for you to decide what to do. But money is a very restless commodity. Once you tell it wait let me make up my mind it will find a channel and it will go and that’s why in the last one year it’s mind boggling to know the amount of money that went out of Nigeria. Capital flight, once that happens you will now have a situation where there is scarcity of dollar. Therefore, more people will be scrambling, trying to get the few. Some are desperate enough to buy at whatever price you name. And in Nigeria when things go up they don’t come down. Even this one that we think has come down, let’s wait and see what happens in three months.
Realnews: Do you think it will still go up?
Anya: (laughs) Sustainability of a policy is what makes you confident that things will go in a particular way. What the CBN is doing is of course having some effect but people do not have confidence that it will last. In other words, people don’t have confidence that it will be sustainable. So, even now, there are people who are busy buying the little there is because they are not confident that in three months’ time they will have it.
Realnews: Still on the economy, there has been call for the autonomy of CBN to be withdrawn. How do you see it?
Anya: The people calling are ignorant. There is a saying in Igboland that when you have the arena for wrestling, the spectators become the best wrestlers because they tell you oh, if only you pull the leg that time you would have won. Because as a spectator it is easier but those who are actually fighting know that the challenge is not as easy as you see it. So, the truth of matter is that the management of an economy is not an easy thing once the politicians gave the wrong signal that they gave in the beginning. Indeed, I can even say that the CBN has done very well because this is the one you called planning without figures. So, they have just been planning in the dark. So they have managed to stablise things. At the end of the day the government has the ultimate responsibility of indicating the direction they want to go. And there is no alternative to a reasonable degree of autonomy for the CBN. Once you remove that you bring in discretionary powers over fiscal policies. And when that happens it becomes politics and politicians cannot be relied on to do what its best in the national interest. They never do. They are looking for what advantage they can get here and now So, the best insurance for the country remains an independent CBN that can tell the government exactly what you can do in relation to monetary policies which we are in charge. You can handle the fiscal policies and if you handle the fiscal policies, we are prepared to help you to ensure those policies work. But a government cannot be in charge of monetary policies and fiscal policies at the same time. You are looking for an incestuous marriage now. (Laughs). The ministry of finance probably thinks that if they were in charge of monetary policy they will do it this way and that way. But they cannot. The reason is simple, what you do with monetary policy has consequences for what you do with fiscal policy. And what you do in fiscal policy has consequences for monetary policy. It is best if independent institutions deal with them so that when there is problem they meet together to solve the problem.
Realnews: From what you have said, the CBN is doing its best with the monetary policy…
Anya: Monetary policy is the responsibility of the CBN. There is no doubt about that. But when you now want to take autonomy from them what it means is that you want to impose monetary policy. It means that the type of discussions that take place in monetary policies will no longer take place. The man in charge of fiscal policy will in addition be giving instruction on monetary policy, it can’t work.
Realnews: What do you think of the double digit inflation and the interest rate. The CBN is supposed to be controlling all these.
Anya: It can only control them on the basis of what the reality on the ground is and the reality on the ground is affected by the signal that the government gives. It is as simple as that. You see, when you come in and you start saying you don’t do this, you don’t that. Immediately, it has two consequences. Either people are not doing anything at all or find an alternative way of doing it without your knowledge. It becomes underground economy.
Realnews: By underground economy you mean..
Anya: People do things that may not be legal in a preferred manner because they have no other alternatives. Like we said with inflation rate, why does it rise – because there is now too much money chasing too few goods. A tuber of yam that you used to buy for N500 and you have too any people chasing it. Those who have N2000 are likely to be the ones to buy it. But once you buy it at N2000 you have created the beginning of inflation because too much money is buying too little goods.
Realnews: The interest rate is also double digit. How does that help to fuel the economy? Will it make it stronger or weaken it?
Anya: Why should double digit make for good business? It cannot. When you have double digit and the rate rises, it means that a lot more money will be needed to do the little things that have to be done. And once you start on that you encourage people not to produce. At the end of the day, production is the basis of an economy. Production and productivity – anything that constrains the production of the individual, anything that constrains the production of the total economy is not good for the economy.
Realnews: How does all these augur for the growth of the economy as it appears that the GDP is shrinking? That’s why we are in recession
Anya: The GDP will shrink once there is not enough production. When you don’t produce enough, you do not have enough to sell. And when you produce and it is not the right quality, people don’t buy it at premium prices – all that contributes to the contraction in your GDP. Put your people to work as Kenyan’s will say. Even if it is just that the dig gutters and they fill it up. They are doing some work and they are being paid for it. But when nobody is doing anything which is why we have the unemployment rate, then, of course, social problems will start, from unemployment you start having arm robbery from arm robbery you start having kidnapping, those are the things we have because the youths in Nigeria have never been employed properly in the last 30 years and the policies that we have had, particularly in the military era, encouraged people to come to the cities instead of staying in the villages. If they are in the village at least if nothing else they will do agriculture, there will be food and the cost of food will be low. Once they are coming in here, there is no work for anybody; you just have masses of unemployed including educated unemployed. In such a situation, you don’t have an economy worth talking about. You may have the little enclaves just like it was in the banking industry, but those golden days are gone; like you have in the oil industry; that also has gone. These are enclave economies. The turnover is high but the number of people they employ is low. It doesn’t make any impact in the employment of the youth.
Realnews: Talking of productivity. The CBN has this anchor programme to encourage production of rice locally. Have you seen the rice? Have you eaten it?
Anya: What they are doing, whether you eat it or not, the important point is that something is being produced. You see, you run an economy by giving incentives and people on the basis of the incentives do what you expect them to do and in the process they benefit. Because they benefit those are their rewards for doing the right thing. But alongside the incentives and rewards, there is also the other side which is that if people are not behaving properly, they should be punished for that misbehavior. It is a price to be paid for not behaving well. That is where Nigeria generally has failed because we have never made it possible for the criminal to know that ultimately criminality does not pay because some day you will have to pay for it. And that brings me to a very important issue in the country. You see, even in politics when there are problems in the country, in the PDP days, oh, they will tell you it is family affairs we will sort it out. That has been one of the worst features of the Nigerian society in the last 20 – 30 years. Because that is what created a situation when something happens instead of following through to say who is right and who is wrong; you confuse matters by saying ‘it’s family, I will settle it’. Once you go settling you don’t define matters with precision any longer. It is best you solve thing to the end and you now this one was wrong here but this was right here. However, out of compassion we forgive you on this. Out of sympathy we will allow you on this. That way you know what is right and you know what is wrong. But because your society does not only operate on the basis of what is right and wrong, there is something called compassion, there is something called patience, sympathy – all these are values you used to resolve situations in a society. When you do that, it becomes possible for the message to go out that this is what the society tolerates, and the society does not tolerate this. However, we can mitigate your punishment but on this issue you are wrong. That is something we have forgotten in Nigeria, we no longer define what is right and wrong. We confuse the two and we think that we are doing very well. That it makes for peace. There is no such peace because it is the genesis of not defining what is right or wrong that gave birth to impunity. Because the man who gained by doing the wrong thing is now encouraged to do more of the wrong thing because he got away with it before. But if you do not allow him to get away with it and he knew that I could be punished here but thank God they had pity on me and left me, he will be a different person.
Realnews: There are so any acts of impunity in the country right now. Look at what is happening in the Customs for instance where the rule says that comptroller general has to wear the uniform but he refuses to do so. What do you make of this? Is it not sending out wrong signals?
Anya: No. What we also forget is that this is a multi-cultural country; and multi-cultural means that the things that you regard as important in the society is not the same in all parts of the country. There are people who are more tolerant than others. The way we see things in the East, or the way we see things in the West is not the way we see things in the North. Let’s be honest, there are sections in the country, particularly in the North, where the rules you make is for the ordinary people. There are people who are beyond rules. So, when we now come in this mix bag that is Nigeria, those coming from that background will still ask you why should they do that because it is not part of their culture. That is what is playing out.
Realnews: Is it correct?
Anya: Who decides what is correct and not correct? You all have to decide first as a nation what are the important values so that everybody will know that it is right when it is like this and wrong when t is like this. When you have a mishmash of cultures in which some things are accepted here and not accepted there ….
Realnews: But we are talking of an institution like Customs where they wear uniform. Is it not indiscipline not to do so as the head of the agency…?
Anya: Wait! The ordinary people wear it. This man that is above ordinary people why do you think he should wear a uniform. His culture has always told him that the rulership and what applies to ordinary people does not apply to them. And that’s why when the Senate talks, the man wonders if they know what they are talking about, do they know who he is. Don’t you know in this Nigeria, it is a famous phrase – do you know who I am?
Realnews: Does that make it right?
Anya: Who judges what is right? What is right ultimately is what the society does not allow you to get away with. If there are things that you know that you can cross, you get to now it is a limit.
Realnews: So, Nigeria has not got to the extent of setting the limits for everybody…..
Anya: When you read this book and some of the essays in it you will realise that there are no pan Nigerian values because there is no pan Nigeria leadership. A pan Nigerian leadership is a leadership that would have decided what the values in the society ought to be. Define your right and wrong and will enforce uniformly and equally the obedience to the rules and regulation and the value system of the society. What applies in the North does not apply in the East and what applies in the east does not apply in the West. That’s where we are. So, there is nothing you can say applied in Nigeria and we all agreed.
And the danger why that exist is because we have never really sat down together to decide what kind of country we want to build and because we have not decided on the kind of country we want to build, we have not decided on the what the characteristics of that country ought to be. Because we have not decided the characteristics we have not been able to decide what can and cannot be done. And therefore, there is no value system that is accepted all over Nigeria. But we will get there.
Realnews: Let’s move to the security challenges in regarding MASSOB and IPOB. What is happening with IPOB?
Anya: Luckily, this week, if what I read in the papers is correct, the governors of the South Eastern states have woken up to say that they will not intervene. I have made it clear that this IPOB, MASSOB, is not a serious issue as people think. The reason it is not a serious issue is that how to disengage Nigeria so that people can go their separate ways is so complicated that it is not an easy undertaking. And the day you say, ‘go our separate ways,’ you find that those shouting for it will say hold it; why don’t we reconsider this? We are already seeing in Britain. They were shouting Brexit, Brexit. Now that embracing Brexit is available, they are a bit confused now where to go. For example, it has now become clear that the English man cannot decide for the Scottish man. The Scottish man says I want Europe and voted for wanting Europe. Now that the overall, with the English vote saying we are getting out of Europe, Scotland is saying fine now that you have it, we don’t want to go. They will have to sit down and agree. And that is why what they said will be done in two years, they are no longer sure that it will be done in five years. Sooner or later, Nigeria will get to a point where we will now face the real issues in the country. No pretenses any longer.
Realnews: What are these real issues?
Anya: How we will live together. How we will accept a common code of values. How we will have the same rules that apply not only in the East and west but all over the country. Those are the fundamental issues. Because when you start that way you will now realise that the rights of one person is as important as mine. Therefore, I will know that I will have to consult him to know what he is thinking. That’s why you are citizens of the same country to interact as Abiola used to put it you have to be close enough to know the smell of the mouth of the other person. That’s intimacy. Intimacy allows you to be close enough to know the smell of the foul mouth and to know how you will deodorise the smell (Laughter). That basic game, we haven’t played it because we have not come close enough to now say this is how we are going to live together. But you have to do that.
Realnews: Still on IPOB, what do you make of the federal government still holding Nnamdi Kanu in detention? (before he was released on bail)
Anya: I said it last week, holding him a 100 years, it is not going to solve any problem. Nnamdi Kanu and people who think like him are reacting to the injustice in the Nigerian system. Change the Nigerian system, restructure it so that there is equal opportunity and there is justice all around you will find that nobody wants to go away. People will now want to belong to the country and be proud that they are Nigerians. Until you face that basic issue of restructuring Nigeria. And what does restructuring Nigerian mean? Create a frame work of relationships so that you know that the rule of law applies all over the country; that there are no first class citizens and no second class citizens. Create a situation where we know that there is equally opportunity that the poor person in the North, East are also your citizens and it is the duty of the Nigerian state to look after them. And when we are saying looking after them, you have to be creative enough, not just to give them handouts; but to create a situation that will allow them use their initiatives to solve their problem and perhaps add something to the national wealth.
Realnews: Talking about handouts, it just struck me that we have had wars in this country. We have had the civil war and now we have the Boko Haram. What is the major difference between the way the East was rehabilitated after the civil war and what is going on now in the North East, particularly in the IDP camps where a lot of money is being pumped in now? Do you think they will recover as fast as the East did?
Anya: When the civil war ended, there were victors and there were vanquished despite Gowon affirming that there were no victors; no vanquished. He spoke for himself and the people working with him thought they were the victors. And so what happened in the East was of no concern to anybody in Nigeria. That’s why the talk about reconstruction and rehabilitation didn’t happen. This is why many of the things that were planned for Nigeria, the East was excluded. The draw up the Gas Master Plan, the East was not part of the Gas Master Plan. The draw up plan for the railway, for a long time the East was not considered as part of it. You can go on. And yet this country can be strong and better with a large economy if all parts are contributing to the common pool. If you now take the most hardworking, the area that take risk and has the most initiative which is the East and you take them out, how do you think you can build a great wealth in the country. Because the East are the people who have it enshrined in their psyche that those values that led to wealth creation in Europe, North America and is leading to wealth creation in China.
Realnews: Why do you say this?
Anya: Why do I say so? The Igbo man for example under normal circumstance it is accepted that Igboman doesn’t beg. He will find something to do which means he believes in hard work. You cannot build an economy unless the people in that economy accept hard work as a normal condition. Second, not only that you work hard but you are industrious. Industry means that you are also creative. Creativity allows you to innovate, which means even old things can be done better. That is also the psychology in the East. That’s why you have Aba. That’s why people think what is not possible in Naija happens. A half educated young man de-assembling things and put it back together until he get what was imported and at times a better version of it. Those are the values that make you create wealth in a society. You remove that from a country like Nigeria, where do you think the country will go to, it will not create wealth. And because it will not create wealth you cannot meet the needs of your people. But if you created wealth in the East, that wealth cannot continue to remain in the East it will move out to other sections of the country. That is why in an economy, the east coast of the US, has things it does; the west coast, California has things it does, the mid-west has things they do and there is equal exchange between them. What you produce the others can have and what they produce you can have it. And then you build a large economy. But if you say, no this will not happen in this area, of course, it means you don’t understand the biblical basis of creating wealth.
Realnews: Relate this to what is happening in the North East where a lot of money has been pumped in; rehabilitation work is on and yet we are hearing of hunger, famine …
Anya: Well, let’s put it this way, God created us all, human beings to show sympathy and compassion to those who are suffering in one way or another. Whether we like it or not the North East people suffered and they are suffering. Therefore, it is legitimate to help them. Having said that, if you now pump a whole lot of resources in it, you will waste it. The reason is simple. The culture that creates wealth; the culture that takes things and know you can turn it around and know you can increase it is not normally in that culture so you have to create it and when you do not have that mindset change; that re-orientation, you will have a lot of resources thrown in there, half of it will be wasted because the thing have not been planned properly and we are getting to the point where the mindset changes that are necessary cannot take place because we have not provided the condition for it to take place.
Realnews: Sir, at 80 you are still bubbling. Where do you derive the energy?
Anya: Well, it is what God gives me; I take it and thank him. He sets the limit of what we can do and what we cannot do. I don’t know if you are familiar with the bible. You know in the bible, there is a man called Caleb, who at 80 had the energy of a 40-year-old. And that’s why at his age he did the things that 40-year-olds were still doing. That is the promise I made to God is that if at 80, he still gives me the energy of 60-year-old or even younger, then I must testify to His goodness by using that energy fully because you don’t light a lamp and put t under a bed. So, if God has been kind and gracious to me I should announce it to the world by the things I do.
Realnews: Do you have a regular exercise regime that you do to keep fit?
Anya: Well, in my younger days I played tennis, football. I played table tennis. In fact, I was captain of table tennis in secondary school. Even at the University College, Ibadan, I still played football. But finally, I settled down to lawn tennis. It used to be a joke at Nsukka that when you come to the tennis court and you don’t see Professor Anya, it means he is out of town. But when I came to Lagos, it was not possible to continue playing tennis. The reason is simple. Even if I went to Lagos tennis club or to Ikoyi tennis club, you know, to join them, tennis is not a game you get to the court and you start playing. You must have a group you play with. Because if you get it into a group and they are better than you, you spoil the game for them. If on the other hand you get into a group and they are not as good as you they spoil the game for you. So, because you have to not only get a place to play but get people to play with. When I was the director general of Nigeria Economic Summit Group, I didn’t have that kind of time to look for who will play with me. So, I abandoned tennis. But right now anyway, I have a thread mill in my bedroom and some days when people like you don’t get me out of bed too early (Laughs) at least I go there do half an hour, occasionally an hour and then I am ready.
Realnews: When you were in the university did you have a specific target you set to attain in life?
Anya: There was interview I gave to the Sun, I said, “I live for each day. I have no worries of tomorrow.” I have always said it that I have been very fortunate because the grace of God has attended my life from beginning till now. When I say this people get surprised. If you take my CV, you will see it has been a full life. But you will see that despite being that busy, you will also see that there is no job I have done as shown in my CV that I applied for. Every job I have done in my entire life have always been somebody will come and say come. I was in Cambridge when I was finishing my PhD the bearer of the message walked into my lab and said I have a message for you from Right Honourable Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe. I said I think you must be in the wrong place. He said no. Aren’t Mr. Anya O. Anya? I said I am. Well, we understand that you are about to finish your PhD, the great Zik wants you in Nsukka. That’s how I went to Nsukka. I had six other job offers but I gave that priority because Zik asked me. And I spent 37 years in Nsukka. I got there in 1965, and I left in 2002.
Realnews: Really? But you have been a member of different boards of companies … you got all of them just like that…
Anya: (Laughs) When I became the director general of the NESG, they were looking for a professor of Economics. I understand that they interviewed two in Nigeria. They interviewed two or three in the US. But they were not satisfied. Then somebody said, but we were just in vision 2010 and we worked with Professor Anya. But someone said he is not an economist. And he said, did he speak like an illiterate in relation to the economy. So, that’s where they decided they wanted me. Of course, I said no initially but when my old friend, Felix Ohiweri, piled on pressure so I came and the rest is history.
Realnews: How do you feel about some group of chief executives in Lagos celebrating you at 80?
Anya: I can only feel gratitude to God. Because obviously, I don’t think they would have had that idea; if God did not put it into the minds of somebody and also if God did not put it into the minds of other people to accept the proposal. So, I thank God. I see it as still part of God’s hand on my life. They are celebrating me but they are really not celebrating me but they are picking me out as an example to the younger people of what is possible in Nigeria that despite all the difficulties, and I have my own share of all the difficulties, it is still possible to compete in Nigeria and attain all the highest international standards. That’s what I think they want to demonstrate not just me as a person. But also we are thankful to God that there is enough goodwill for people to bring out their time, and their resources because this thing they are planning is not cheap. It is going to be at Intercontinental Hotel. A person as important in the country’s history as (General Yakubu) Gowon is going to chair the occasion, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, I spoke with him earlier today, he has been phoning and asking for details. These are the people they have managed to put together for this. So, I can only grateful to God. I am praying to God that the lesson they are teaching will take root in the minds of the younger people. And of course, God’s grace has also made it possible that this is happening at a time the book that these young men have been working on is now ready. One of your interviews, the interview I gave to Realnews is here in this book. Because apparently there were things that were said there that they think is important. Let’s hope that this one will live up to that standard too. (Laughs)
Realnews: You said you have had your share of difficulties. What was the most challenging period of your life?
Anya: The first challenge I had and I have said it in a different interview, to use a cliché, I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth because my father was a man who owned a lorry in 1940. Then he died and from a well-heeled background I became a destitute because you know the Igbo culture, by the time they finished with my mother as a young widow and so on, we were as poor as whatever. But you see, I tell this story not in the usual way you went from grace to grass, no. I do it to point out that when you are poor you have only one way to look up. Move up. Improve your situation. But when you are well off, you have taken it for granted that world is like that but suddenly you are down. The challenge of getting up could be overwhelming and at times most people don’t get up. But God’s grace made it possible for me to get up. And keep getting up. As I said earlier, I never applied for any jobs but I have had good jobs. I never planned a career but I have had a fantastic career, which also is the lesson one gives to the younger people. People say, he is a self-made man. Such an animal does not exist. There is no self-made man. Whoever, you are, you are what you are by the grace of God. So, that’s why for me the grace of God is important in my life. It’s what has made the difference.
Realnews: So what would you like to be remembered for?
Anya: Eee..e, I don’t know. I think that is a judgment that is best left to other people and the reason is simple. You see, like we are here now you can see me. If I want to see myself I can only see from my tummy down. I can see up here and yet the important things like my head are up here. So, it is difficult to say this is what I would like to be remembered for. But what the outsiders see is what is accurate. That is returning to the question you asked about the people who want to celebrate me. That is what is important that I lived my life up to a point that people now want to celebrate me. There are also more important people worth celebrating but nobody is doing the same. So, I can’t take it for granted.
Realnews: Let’s get back to the economy?
Anya: You and the economy. Is it because I told you I wasn’t an economist? So you want to expose me. (General Laughter)
Realnews: No. it’s just that economic issues matter and you are providing a new perspective to look at it. The federal government just released its new economic recovery plan…
Anya: Someone has sent me a copy of it. But I must confess I have not read it. But I am prepared to look at it to see what it says. First, why I think it’s worth looking at is because of Udo Udoma, the minister of national planning. Not only is he Cambridge but we worked together during the Vision 2010 project. Therefore, anybody who took part in that knows one or two things about Nigeria’s economy all these years and therefore, will have one or two new things to say. But there is only one thing that worries me. It looks as if the IMF is giving them a pass mark. For me, that is always a dangerous sign. Oh yes. Look through from China, South Korea, well less, through Singapore, through Malaysia, through India, those governments that have always taken charge of defining their future and planning for it and only making sure that the IMF and the World bank do not take the prime the position in deciding what should happen in the economy; they retain the right to decide what the economy is going to be. But they respect the opinion and good will of these bodies, that they are respected so they do not go on to sabotage them, they go ahead to do what they want to do. In other words, for the Nigeria economy to come to the level we want it can only be planned by Nigerians, executed by Nigerians and pushed forward by Nigerians. Yes, you may need the opinion of these other people not to decide what must happen but to spread the word that you are doing the right things. That’s the only function they have, not approval. Because the last time we listened to the IMF despite the opinion of some of us at that time, we suffered the structural adjustment programme; even the World Bank now admits that it was a disaster. Why am I saying so because economic development in any country is a unique event; you can see what’s happening in other places and what to borrow from it. But ultimately, the circumstance of each country is unique. You alone can plan in a manner that will take all the factors of your environment into account. You alone have the vision of where you want to go. And therefore, you alone can mobilise the resources particularly the intellectual resources to get there. No IMF, no World Bank, no OECD can do that for you. So, I was pleased that they got it together but I was worried when they said IMF had approved and it looked as if they were looking for the IMF approval. These bodies are not set up to help you develop. They are there to make sure that you fit into the world system, which they have defined and they defined your place in it. If you are prepared to accept the place they have ascribed to you, fine you are a good boy. But if you are questioning this and questioning that they mark you down. So, it is best to do what the Chinese and Singaporeans did which is be nice to all of them; when they come they want to see this, that and when they go you say bye-bye and you sit down and do your planning.
Realnews: Back to politics. How do you see the relationship between the Legislature and the Executive arm of government?
Anya: Well you see, if you look at my career, I believe in institutions. When you build institution, you build into it checks and balances. And the checks and balances means that no individual is tempted to think that this will not happen unless I say so or this will happen only because I have allowed it. So, the aim some of us have is to get to a point where Nigeria is run through its viable institutions – the legislature, the executive arm, the judiciary – that’s the government. Executive is not more important than the legislature and legislature is not more important than the judiciary – all working together.
But where we are now I think to a certain extent, the National Assembly has to a certain extent moderated their excesses except in the amount of money they give themselves, but that’s a different matter. But unfortunately in the executive because it does not look that the president sits his people down and give them the limit of what they can do and what they cannot do, there are too many rogue elephants in the executive who are prepared to say that I am now in this position and things have to be done the way I want it. In other words, the executive doesn’t give me the impression as if they are team players.
The National Assembly gives the impression that they are team players. And that’s danger for the country because at the end of the day the real job of governance on a day to day basis is done by the executive. It is because the executive has not put its house in order, that’s why Lawal after the kind of accusation made about the companies he owns will still be strutting around as an important person in the country. That’s why (Hamid) Ali will think that he is bigger than the whole Customs that he is asked to look after. That is why both of them think that the National Assembly which is the symbol of Nigeria’s commitment to law making, and law and order that they can ignore them. And that’s dangerous for the society. In order words, there are elements that if you are allowed in the executive they will not regret if Nigeria became a dictatorship. Because it is only a dictator that will allow you do whatever you please because you are in office. The judiciary has its problems. But I believe that enough of it has come out that I believe that if left to themselves they will sort their problems out. And that is important because without a credible and trustworthy judiciary run by men and women of integrity, whatever the executive does, whatever the legislature does there is a limit to what can be achieved because the judiciary interprets both the actions of the government and the laws of the legislature. So, looking at it we will see what happens but I think this government is learning and slowly. It will get to a time some of these people who are more important than the people of Nigeria that are in the executives the day will come they will go because I don’t think any of them will last the full time of this regime because sometime the president will come to the realisation that they are doing more damage to the credibility of the government than what they are contributing and by that time what needs to be done will be done.
Realnews: You mentioned the judiciary. What do you make of the flouting of court order by the judiciary like in the case of Nnamdi Kanu and Sambo Dasuki?
Anya: What did I say about the executive? When you get the kind of people that are there who think… and for some of them this is their first exposure to power. Power is more effective when you define the limits of your power than when you demonstrate how powerful you are. Strength is the bottom-line for a man of power. But all these ones they think power is a game; and it shows their immaturity. And that’s why they can afford to flout but the judiciary is an institution and there is history. The history of this country will be written and when that time comes all these very important people; history will show that they were nonentities.
Realnews: Let’s look at the Magu saga where the executive sent his name for confirmation twice and he was not confirmed by the Senate and he is still holding forth.
Anya: It boils down to the issue of values I mentioned. If all the people in decision making position shared a common values and there is a pan Nigeria value that can define what you can do and cannot do, the Senate rejecting the same person twice is sufficient; that settles the matter. Whatever the errors of the Senate maybe in a viable society, there are things you don’t do. The president should not represent him. In fact, the first rejection should have been enough. The second rejection draws the line permanently. All the senators cannot be fools if they rejected him not once but twice, there must be something they see that those of us who are not involved may not see. And when it now comes out that they are basing it on an inconvenient report of a security agency of the same government, the government should conserve both its reputation and goodwill by not pushing. It should just let it be. Because you see, by the very nature of governance, once security services pronounce unfavourably, unless you can show that there was information available they did not use or ignored or they did not know, you don’t take chances over the report of a security service. And even if they are wrong, correcting them is not done in the newspapers. It is done quietly behind the scenes. The president should be able to call the head of DSS and call the EFCC and say, “look this nonsense must stop. You are a team. Whatever disagreement you have you have it inside not outside, you are one single team; behave yourselves.” But obviously that is not happening and that is why unthinkable things are happening. When I say unthinkable things, it is unheard of for one security service to give adverse report on another security service publicly.
Realnews: I asked you this before this infighting among the security services, is it peculiar with this administration?
Anya: Well, I am 80 years old. And I have been an adult for the last 60 years in Nigeria. I have seen the governance of Nigeria at various points. It’s never happened before. And that should worry us that unthinkable things are happening now.
Realnews: Can you elaborate on this. Why should we be worried?
Anya: (After a long pause he raises a book) It’s a biographer of a man call Dietrich Bonhoeffer pastor, prophet, a martyr. He is German. His family was one of the top in Germany but he is a theologian. The good thing about this book is that in writing about the life of this man it covers how the Nazis came to power. How they managed power; how it led to war; how they managed the war until the war ended. In order word, it is the kind of book that Nigerian should be reading now so that we see because people forget. Hitler was elected. When he came out he didn’t take over power he was elected and then he started to allow people around him to do things their own way. They started ignoring laws; they started ignoring the Constitution till slowly they took charge and it became a dictatorship. That led to the disaster of the Second World War and that led to the disaster of Germany. But Germany is a big country with long history and they have been able to pull through. But it tells you how societies can go from one extreme to the other particularly if elders are not watching out. We talked about Lawal, Magu, Ali. If they are allowed to get away with the things they are doing it will encourage some people lower down the system, as they become more important they will do worst things. In any society there must be firm line as to what you can do and what you cannot do. And power is best used when you are the one who restrains yourself and know the limits of your power.
Realnews: Let’s get back to where you spent 37 years. The state of education in Nigeria; everybody is saying that the standard of education is falling. In the ivory tower where you came from, the Academic Staff of University Union, ASUU, is always going on strike. They are even warming up for another strike now.
Anya: Education is the most important area of life in any society because not only do you give to young people training and the knowledge they need to grow up but it’s where you impart values of the society. But the people who teach, whether in the university, primary or secondary schools are the ones who exemplify those values. That’s why the people who have most influence on some of us were our teachers.
The careers I choose were influence by my teachers. It is very sacred to teach. Unfortunately, this is one area of life that doesn’t allow you to preach. It obeys the rule not do as I say but it obeys the rule do as I do. Therefore, when you have teachers who are no longer committed to values of the society, the society is in trouble. Then in addition you get to point where those people who no longer share the values of the society and seem to be confused and seem to do the things that were unthinkable before. They are sending a signal to the young generation and they will take off from where the old misguided ones stopped. That’s the danger we run in the country; the values are no longer important in the education system. And it comes back to even in the university – the love of learning – not only that you love learning and always wanting to know more. But even in knowing more there are also rules. The basic rule in a scholarship which is what you do in a university – defining the frontiers of knowledge and expanding the frontiers of knowledge – the most important value is integrity.
Integrity is what is now lacking in the university system and it has gone from there down because the universities train the leaders of secondary schools. The leaders of secondary school train the leaders of primary schools. And if the values have crashed it percolates to the primary schools because it is from the primary schools that you start inculcating those values. This is why in the university – I am just finishing my term as pro-chancellor over the last four years. Now plagiarism is now so rife in the university. In our time, it was unthinkable thought that you will copy somebody’s else work and you pretend that it is your own. It is because they have given it glamorous name plagiarism but actually it is stealing because it is not only this book that you can steal, you can steal ideas. And when you have plagiarism, it means that the value of integrity and honesty left the university a long time ago. It doesn’t happen overnight. That’s one aspect. The other thing you must also remember in the university system is that how you get in is important. If you are concerned about getting into the university, to get a degree, it doesn’t matter how. You younger generation, I hear there is something you called sorting, (Laughs). The concept of sorting was an impossible thought in a university. But now it is there and what is even worse is cheating in exams has now been glamourised to the point that parents are the ones who buy exam question papers; who give money to pay teachers to allow the wards do the wrong thing. So, it’s total collapse in values. How do you change it? It’s a long journey but it is possible. As I hinted earlier, not only does a society has a code of values but it will also have the instruments of incentive, of rewards and of sanctions. I am a biologist and we know that in animal behavior, you can make and must change their pattern of behavior because of the incentive you gave them will make them behave in a particular way. The reward you give them may reinforce their continuing to behave that way. The punishment you give them warns them that you don’t cross this line because there is something unpleasant if you cross it. In this society, we no longer draw the line on this you can and cannot do. Therefore, as they say, the young ones are always testing to see how far you will allow them go. And when you don’t draw the line they go to the extreme where nothing makes sense any longer. So, rebuilding Nigeria will not happen including the economy until you start a programme of reorientating the mindset of Nigerians because its reorientating the mindset set that will allow you to emphasise what values are important and which ones are not important. And perhaps a new generation of younger people will now start to key into it. Because it is quite clear in going forward that we have reached a point of no return unless we draw the line.
Realnews: You are the president of Ndigbo Lagos. Where is the place of Ndigbo in this our country called Nigeria? And the calls for restructuring, how is it going to affect the Igbo cause?
Anya: As I have always told my brothers and sisters, the Igbos are their own worst enemies. We have left who we are and trying to imitate what we are not. And we have started judging what happened to us on the basis of what happens to other people. You see, Igbos don’t have special expectations in Nigeria. Igbos just want a better managed country. A country that gives freedom to its citizens to be the best they can. But a country also that has enough compassion to look with favour on the people who have not been so favoured in the race of life. It means that the poor, the disabled – you should make room for them. In fact, a society’s maturity is gauged by how it treats most disadvantaged people among it. But when everybody is struggling on their own and you don’t care what is happening to everybody you are in the jungle. What I am saying. I am saying that the Igbos have a lot to give to Nigeria. I can even boldly say that the values that build northern Europe, that build North America, that build the Asian Tigers – are the same values that the Igbos show on a daily basis – hard work, thrift and commitment to do things better than your father did it. That’s the basis of wealth creation. If Nigeria allows freedom for people to go everywhere to all its citizens, Igbos will have true effect on its citizens. We create wealth everywhere because we are the people wherever we go we create wealth without saying it’s my country, it’s not my country. It’s my village, it’s not my village. In other words, we spread wealth all over Nigeria. And when you spread wealth all over Nigeria you don’t take it back to Igboland. It remains there. So, you make that place better than where you met it.
Secondly, the Igbos expect you to be fair to everybody, which means that if you have fairness and justice all over the country, the Igbos are not going to ask you to treat them specially. However, there must be a reason despite all our good qualities which I have enumerated, some of our countrymen don’t like us. So, it is time we reflected and ask why? First, we are too boisterous, too noisy and we are always telling the other person the way it is and we think it is a mark of you know. There are things an elder or a wise person does not say even when he knows it is true. Igbos can do with a little bit of the diplomacy of the Yoruba and also do with a little bit of the managed silence of the Northerner. He doesn’t open his mouth just anyhow. Because when you talk so much, you lose the capacity to listen to the other person. And even if you listen to the other person because of the way you reply if it does not create goodwill but create resentment. If we manage this negative aspect, Nigeria will recognise why Igbos are important in Nigeria. Why it is God’s will that we will all embrace ourselves and that is why if we do that there will not be Nnamdi Kanu or whatever. Because they will be the ones showing what is possible with this country because the country is just unfair to all its citizens. As I said at the national conference, the Igbos are not asking for any special favour; they are asking for a better country for all Nigerians knowing that when there is honest competition, honest interaction, the Igbos will always do well and when we do well we share the returns from our doing well with wherever we are. I don’t want to go into it but many of the leaders of the North including Ahmadu Bello, at some stage of their life, owed their life and accomplishments to the Igbos that worked with them. Ahmadu Bello was in Sokoto prison, the Igbos looked after him during that period and you can multiply it all over Nigeria. Because anywhere we go we make friends. But we also have to train our less educated and less civilised brothers and sisters the amount of noise they make in the market or elsewhere it does not endear us to other Nigerians. It creates fear. If this people when they are nothing are behaving like this when they have it aga ebi kwa? (Laughs)
Realnews: You are 80, what will be your advice to Nigerians?
Anya: Well, let me say this, the only reason I am asking that God give me longer years is this. This year is 2017, exactly 50 years when the war broke out. If you are a Christian, this year is a jubilee year. It is the year that things must change. The beginnings of the change in Nigeria not the ones we were shouting about two years ago, that was before time. And there is every indication that we will hit the rock bottom and there is nowhere more to sink but to start moving up. And I believe that we have learnt enough lessons of the things we have mismanaged and even our young generations will start wanting a better country. And I believe the change will start this year. Let’s watch this year. Let’s watch part of next year. As I said in theVanguard interview they asked me that the good old Obasanjo said that the Igbos should prepare for 2019 and I said that 2019 is not important. What is God’s plan for Nigeria that is what is important and if God’s plan is what He is indicating that Nigeria will have to move in the right direction, what happens in 2017, 2018 will be more important than what happens in 2019. By the time they go there God’s hand will be clear nothing will be hidden. He is different from man. So, all our planning and the intrigue that you are seeing between the APC and the PDP and within the PDP, all that will be brushed aside. The beginning of a new Nigeria is around the corner.
Realnews: So this Igbo presidency idea should not be taken seriously?
Anya: It is unimportant. The reason it is unimportant is simple. You don’t become president of Nigeria because Igbos say you should be president. You become president of Nigeria because Nigerians and the majority of Nigerians are non-Igbos; they are the ones who will make you president. Have we started reaching out to our brothers in the West? Have we started reaching out even among ourselves? Have we started reaching out to our brothers in the middle belt? Have we started reaching out to our brothers, the Kanuri’s and all that in that in the North East? These are the ones that will determine who the next president of Nigeria will be.
Realnews: Why do you think Obasanjo made the statement? Is he just flying a kite?
Anya: You must be a very brave person to think you can guess what Obasanjo is up to. Go through his history, he doesn’t follow the normal route. So, if you follow him you may end up in a ditch (Laughs). But the fact that he has said it is a warning. It means Igbos have to be a lot more careful because of what Obasanjo said. Do you notice one thing which I think he is trying to avoid. I said in one of my speeches in this book, when we went to the national conference and said the Igbos did well. In fact, my friend, Olu Falae, said: “Prof, you know, the Igbos seem to be the only ones who got what they came here for.” He repeated it and I said what did Igbos get from this conference that you Olu Falae as Yoruba did not get? He said well…. The truth of the matter as I said earlier is that the Igbos want a better country. And it is not only us who want a better country. Everybody wants it. And because we were toeing the line of what Nigerians wanted that’s why it looked like we got what we have done so well. But it is the success of every Nigerian that we saw at the national conference. If the recommendations out of the national conference are implemented, the North will be the greatest beneficiary. Because that’s where explosive growth in Nigeria will come from. It will be the one place you will have to watch thereafter. But to do that we must go through the period of reassessment and change the cultural practices. And change is not always pleasant. But beyond that the advice I gave at the national conference is the advice I will keep repeating to Ndigbo. First, let’s keep our eyes open; keep our ears open in Nigeria but keep our mouth shut. If there is a time we will say something, let it a product of reflection, meditation and of wise intervention. You don’t just get up to say something because God gave you a mouth. Second, there is nothing Ndigbo wants that there is no other group of Nigerians who want the same thing. Let’s work with other Nigerians, find out what it is they want and align ourselves with what is good for them and for us. And we must do that against the background of our past experience. Our past experience through the colonial period through the early years of independence is such that whenever an Igbo man jumps out in front, making noise and say this must happen even other Nigerians who are minded to go that way will look at him and withdraw including those who may be the greatest beneficiaries of the thing you are pushing because of the intolerant passionate way we push our views frightens other people and they hold back. But if people see you seeking their opinion in how they want it to be and you say what they are going to do is good for Nigeria, go ahead. They become appreciative that you encouraged them to go ahead and that thing is realised. They will benefit from it and you will also benefit because they will not take your own benefit. But there is a mindset change in the process. Because you encouraged them to go ahead and it succeeded the relationship with you is one of goodwill because they think they got what they want because you helped them. Before, because we push ahead, instead of goodwill, you have resentment. So, it is an important change in strategy. If we do that then maybe a great Nigerian president will emerge. And if it is God’s to be an Igbo man so be it. But it will not be because he is Igbo but because he is the best Nigeria needs and He has ordained it.
Realnews: Ohaneze seems to have gotten it right with the election of new leaders led by Nnia Nwodo…
Anya: You know I was the chairman of the election committee. The election went on smoothly. People expected the worse but it didn’t happen. And I will also say this during the period of Gary Igariwe, I was the chairman of the strategic committee of Ohaneze in addition to what I was. Igbos don’t think strategically but thank God that we have started because we have started putting educated people into positions and educated people who know that your progress at whatever you are doing is not measured by visible noise you make.
Realnews: Do you have any other information you want to give us?
Anya: I have already said that the future is bright for Nigeria. I have also said that those playing all kinds of little games like I just read somebody said North must have its eight years; all those are submissions of those dedicated to the past of Nigeria. Nigeria has gone beyond that. Where we are going the people will no longer tolerate all these political games of where you come from or where you don’t come from because Nigerians, the ordinary people, have had it up to their neck; they want a better life. They want improvement. Indeed, in 2011, the post-election violence, I have always said, was an uprising against the leadership of the North – traditional and political. If I was to give them advice, it is to go back home and reach a rapprochement with their own people because if they don’t do it the fire next time will be hotter even with Boko Haram. But thank God it will not happen because we all are committed to building a better Nigeria. And the North will benefit more form that better Nigeria.
— May 22, 2017 @ 01:00 GMT