PROF. Any O. Anya speaks on the State of the Nation, the issue of vacuum in the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the forthcoming 2023 presidential and general elections and concluded that “we no longer have any value system by which we judge what is right and what is wrong. It is in times like this that leadership and men and women who are willing that God will use as instruments to do what He wants to do. That to me is where we are.”
An octogenarian and former Director General of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group and an elder statesman, Prof Anya’s responses are as incisive as ever and in his usual manner, Prof Anya says that people do not realize, there has been a fundamental shift in Nigerian politics in the last two – three years. And that fundamental shift means that the kind of way that people approach power, accept power and use power can no longer work. In this exclusive interview conducted by Maureen Chigbo, editor, Realnews, Anthony Isibor, reporter, and Chukwuma Ejenike, an intern, Prof. Anya predicts the unexpected in the result of the presidential poll. It is a must read. Excerpts:
Realnews: This is an auspicious time in our country because so many things are happening. So lending voice to the discuss will also help Nigerians to get it right, especially with the forthcoming elections.
So, how do you see the scenario playing out with the State of the Nation, the elections that will take place beginning from February 25?
Prof Anya: Well, I have told friends that I can see the hand of God in what is happening, even as ridiculous as it may sound, even the candidates who have emerged; at least with the three major parties, it is clear to me that God’s hand is in it. But are we prepared to patiently look at what God wants to do, and therefore what He expects us to do?
First and foremost, it is clear that the moral basis of governance, and the moral basis of practicing politics is no longer alive in Nigeria and that is why we are in this mess that we are in with the level of violence, the level of deceit. But nevertheless, as I said recently in a different context, other countries have gone through it and have come out from it. They have done it because they identified what the problem was with them. And more often than not, the centre of the problem has always been leadership, and I believe that God is showing us the various levels of leadership in the society; therefore those who are acceptable to Him, and those who are not acceptable. May we see, may we hear, may we push for the right things to return as the dominant ethos in the country.
We no longer have any value system by which we judge what is right and what is wrong. It is in times like this that leadership and men and women who are willing that God will use as instruments to do what He wants to do. That to me is where we are.
We have four candidates, three in particular, but let’s just add the fourth. Four dominant candidates who are vying for this election, how do you see them, how do you rate the four of them, and who in your perspective, is most suited to win the coming election?
I don’t think we can talk about winning or losing. Yes, they are four, like you said, candidates, who are visible, and you can see. But you know, even the emergence of those, I believe God’s hand is in it. He picked up who he picked up in APC, he picked up who he picked up in PDP and he picked up who he picked up in Labour Party. And the differences between them and what they have told Nigerians could not be clearer than it is. And I think it is God who is putting them and is saying, look, I have been with you for the last 20 years, helping you to reorganize your society along democratic process. At the end of it, these are the ones you brought up, ok. Out of nowhere, a third emerges. With what they have done with the lives and the opportunities they’ve had, the differences cannot be clearer. That’s all I can say for now.
Realnews: But why do you say we can’t talk about winning or losing, election is about winning or losing, so why can’t we talk about who will win it?
Prof Anya: Where we are, the problems we need to solve in our country now need everybody. You know, there are times that negative people teach you a lesson, even if the lesson is to teach you what should not happen, that’s also something meaningful. Indeed, I can even go further and say that at times people who in man’s eyes have failed, if they learn from those failures could be the beginning of real success; the one that will endure. So where we are right now, it’s not going to be easy to say this has won, that has won, because we need everybody to start in reorganizing and rebuilding this nation.
But the young men and young women are giving us the indications of the way they want us to go, and let’s not forget, they have more stake than I have. At 86, I have seen the best I can see, for them, the future is still ahead, and this year will shape that future. So what the children want is what they are clamouring and it is what should guide us.
You see, people do not realize, there has been a fundamental shift in Nigerian politics in the last two – three years. And that fundamental shift means that the kind of way that people approach power, accept power and use power can no longer work.
As I said in a recent interview, where I looked at the problem in the PDP for example, they are trying to do things the way they have always done it. It’s not working, because the moral basis for action has been redefined in the way they have chosen their candidates and the rest of it. So, what we should pray is that God’s intervention should continue and be more evident, so that people can be guided.
Realnews: You say that the young men are showing us the way, what is that way? Could you be more explicit in the way that young men are shaping the future of Nigeria and the outcome of the election?
Prof Anya: You remember the end SARS.
Prof Anya: You would not have thought that a group of young Nigerians, so disappointed in the way governance is going could stand up and organize themselves in a protest which was nonviolent. And they did everything so smoothly, even the organisation; you couldn’t have thought of that level and capacity for organisation is possible. But they did it. Where did it go wrong, because strong armed men, men of politics in the old way, did not even listen to what they were saying. They were saying, this and this, and this, must change, and we must embrace change. But some people said they want to remove the government, and government did what governments do very easily, particularly governments whose commitment to the interest of its people is not obvious. Such governments believe in strong armed method, violence, and that’s why some young people were killed. But it was not necessary, it was avoidable. So, at least they have shown that, first, that it is possible to organise this country and run even a mass movement smoothly.
Second, they have also shown that the ideals and the expectations that are important in the development of the society, and they were prepared to pay the price. But they were not prepared for the violence.
Realnews: If I take you back to when you started, you said there are no value system again to do the right thing; nobody knows what is wrong or right, but from what you have just said now about the young men, do you think that what they are doing is based on values, so actually the values are not really lost, right?
Prof Anya: The values are not lost, they can’t be lost because they are part of the society. But depending on if it is guided by them is what is lacking. But among the young people, there are still people who know what it takes to be fair, to be just, and to a large extent, to be your brother’s keeper. But our politics in the recent past has not been built on those values. That’s what I mean.
Realnews: How has Nigerian government been unjust, unfair to all in the society?
Prof Anya: If you go to the statistics, how can Nigeria have the level of poverty that we have, how can Nigeria have this number of children that are out of school, how can we have the kind of humongous sums that are being mentioned; we have the case of the Accountant General where we are talking about billions, N100 billion or more being taken away from the treasury, it doesn’t make sense. What do you do with that kind of many anyway?
All those things that the young men say have happened and are happening. So ultimately, the sorting out of all these problems is by restoring Nigeria to a path of growth, in the economic sense, of peace and justice. And I believe it will start this year.
Realnews: Do you think the outcome of this election will really bring this peace, this just-society kind of utopia that we are talking about?
Prof Anya: I believe the beginning will start. The reason is simple. If you look at these three men that we have talked about, the differences between them are so clear. In their career, with what they have done, they are all very rich people. But we also know how each of them managed to get the kind of money that they have. That already is an indication of the way we should go.
Realnews: So what other indications do we have to guide the electorates, or the gullible, or those who will be carried away by money?
Prof Anya: Well, as a people, we did notice; remember the Anambra election, one of the news channels aired an interview of a woman who said ‘yes, we are hungry, but this your money we won’t take it this time, we will vote for who we want.’ We saw it publicly. That is the sentiment that is also going for Nigeria. They are people who are saying that the power of money has a limit and that they will use this election to illustrate it.
Realnews: Now, that runs contrary to what Afebabalola said recently in January. I think he said that the person who spends the most will win the election, which means the power of money is still very much potent. Well, there is a lot that money can do.
Prof Anya: When you are voting at the end of the day when you are there before that ballot box, you are alone, there is nobody else. It has been known that people will take the money and still vote their conscience, and this is likely to happen this year. It may not be as wide spread as we think, but it will be sufficient to make the difference.
Realnews: So what you are actually saying in essence is that the politicians will spend the money but the likelihood of people collecting that money and still voting their conscience is higher this time around?
Prof Anya: Yes, I believe so.
Realnews: Why, why will that be so?
Prof Anya: Let me take you back to the primary elections that chose the candidates, one candidate was supposed to have paid 30,000 dollars for each delegate’s vote, and many of them were influenced, but at the end, information filtering in suggest that some of those who took part in that regretted it. And what is more, some of them are now the people campaigning against those whose money they took.
So, things like that will happen, and is happening. When you even think about it, 30,000 dollars at the exchange rate of that time was N21 million. How many of those delegate have seen N10 million before, and when you have that kind of senseless spending, it disturbs the people who received it. And if you don’t take time, that money may not have solved any problem, because they would have gone literally into wild spending of money they did not expect. More of it will happen.
Realnews: Who is this candidate that spent 30,000 dollars?
Prof Anya: It was in the APC.
Realnews: Was it the person who won?
Prof Anya: You are a journalist, you people reported it. What I am quoting is what was in the press. So this time around, they can spend as much as they want, it will not really make any impact, is that what you are trying to say?
I am not saying that it won’t make any impact. It may make some impact, but it may not be enough because the value system running Nigeria today has shifted.
Realnews: How deep is this paradigm shift in Nigeria’s electoral process because if you see the people arguing that money will still rule, they argue based on the poverty we talked about, that Nigerians are so poor, that stomach infrastructure is what matters to most people, especially during the election, especially with the agonizing poverty that we have been seeing with the redesigned naira and the scarcity of money.
Prof Anya: Well, you have indicated the situation as it is. I am saying that despite all that, there will be enough people who are tired of the system as it is and want to make a positive statement, and that statement may not be sweeping the poll, but it will be sufficient to make a difference.
Realnews: So we just mentioned this naira, and you can see the chaos all over the country due to the redesigning of the naira which is a good policy, but it appears that implementation is where the problem is.
TProf Anya: ell me one thing from May 29th 2015 that this government has done smoothly without any hiccups. It is difficult to find one. And I am sure that when you look at the various statistics that indicate how the state of the nation; not just in poverty, but also in education, economy, in the level of violence, insurrection in the North East, banditry in the North West, kidnapping and the rest of it across the south, who would have thought that Nigeria will be in this situation. But it is happening right before our eyes, and we have seen how we came from where we came to that point.
In normal places, where people are thinking, where people are feeling, the way things are in the country, is such that nobody who is associated with this government could look anybody in the face. The option left to them would have been to apologize to Nigerians; things are much worse than we thought it will be. I remember in South Korea, many years ago, there was some military people that came, one of those military people when he was removed as head of state went back to his village and said, he owed the Korean people a lot of apologies and he vanished from public life. That is why I mentioned about the level of morality in the society.
A moral person will look at the suffering of the people which has come as a series of botched experiments and policies. I mean at this point in time, we should not be talking about partisan politics.
Anywhere in Nigeria, there are problems. Everywhere! But the thing I keep reminding people is that there is no area of Nigeria if left alone can solve its problems. We can only solve the problems before us if we gather together, think through the problems, and decide on the things that are important and need to be done. But that is not possible when the people responsible for the state of the nation are refusing to take note of the things that have happened under them.
I have never seen this country as it is today. And if you look at the president today, you will see that his disposition is please, let this end, let me go. Left to him now, just hand over and go. The problems are beyond him. But the problems are not unsolvable. We have to return to the values that are important. We talk about fairness and justice, but we also have to talk about merit, excellence, those were the values that ran this country, and that’s what produced people like me. Those loads of young people in Sokoto being deprived of education, some of them, if it was in our time, will be standing in the place where people like us are standing. Because many of us, without a public school, with the scholarship and the rest of them, many of us wouldn’t be anywhere. But those are no longer available to the young people of this country, and nobody seems to be losing sleep over the deplorable conditions we found ourselves, and nobody wants to take responsibility for mismanaging the nation, instead they are talking about those who were before them 10 years ago, that is not responsible.
Realnews: Yes, still talking of the new Nigeria, is it really possible, the country is bleeding. Even if a new government comes in, there is no guaranty that the problems this country have right now will be solved in a year.
Prof Anya: Well, let me say this, you see, when we talk that way, we have forgotten that Nigeria is not unique.
There are countries that have gone through the same difficulties that we are going through now and they were able to sort themselves out. China is a good example.
Realnews: Was China in this kind of quagmire that Nigeria is?
Prof Anya: Of course, go back and talk about the period and so on. But the difference is leadership. When a leader that has empathy for his people, that is compassionate, that feels for its people is in charge, he goes to the people to find out what they need and what needs to be done, that is where it starts from. In other words, a government that is not sensitive to what its people are saying, to what its people are doing, is really not a government, least of all a democratic government. You see, we have gotten to a point where really, the problem in Nigeria, we will no longer be talking about APC said, PDP did, because they are equally guilty. Therefore, they are elders who can remind us how things can be and have been, so that you create a new group of experienced leaders who can point to the young ones and say, this problem can be solved, but we need your help. And that’s why I said that the problem cannot be solved by any individual but by a leader that people can trust, and a leadership that people can trust is who we begin from.
Realnews: Yes, you talked about these leadership qualities, abilities. I want you to take us back to these three people who are vying, could you look at them one by one, and tell us their abilities, and the downside, what is their strength, at least to guide those who will be voting.
Prof Anya: Do you need anybody to tell anything about whether or not you should vote or not vote for the APC candidate? If you go by all the things coming out every time he stands up on the podium, and let us be honest, all the indications are that he is not healthy, and people are pushing him. Obviously those people don’t love Nigeria because we should be double sure about the health status of our leaders having seen what happened in Musa Yaradua’s time, even what has happened in Buhari’s time, but for the Grace of God. This is enough to warn people admissibly. It is only somebody who is 100% fit, or as fit as God allows can dare to say he is solving the problems of Nigeria at this time. But, people are still shouting, and do you know why, because there is a source of money that seem not to be exhaustible that come from that source, and people are more interested in that than either the health and life of the candidate.
They are more interested in that money than the interest of Nigeria. Because if you know somebody is not well, and you want to give him responsibilities, obviously, you are not serious. So that should take care of that.
When you come to the PDP, you ask yourself the question, how come a party that has been ruling this country for 16 years, and has produced the kind of people that it has produced, why is the party in such crisis, it is because they turned their back on moral principles.
Like I said earlier, when you start tempering with the constitution of a country or even an organization; it is a fundamental document, and if you do, then I don’t take you serious because the signal you are sending me is that if you can temper with your constitution and ignore it, then whatever you are telling me, you can ignore. It is fundamental. But not only did they temper with their constitution so that they can have things the way they want it, to have the candidate they want, not the candidate that is best. At the end of the day, they compounded it by making sure that they changed the rules. Even the rules they made. Because they set up a committee to decide whether the zoning or no zoning will take place or not.
Their constitution says it should be this way, but they were prepared to set up a committee to say do we or do we not, while that committee was yet sitting, they advertised the sale of forms. That was a deliberate action to undermine the process because ones that happened, people now rushed in, they no longer waited for the report. You have compromised the fundamental principle of your constitution, and you have now introduced confusion, and that is what, I call it perfidy, lack of faith, lack of trust. That is why a reasonably well round party like PDP is in the mess it is in today. Because, again morality is also the fundamental problem of Nigerian politics. If you look at all the talks going on, you can hardly see any Nigerian politician looking at the moral basis of the action they take, or even suggest that there are things that should not be done. In every society, there are things that cannot be done because there is a limit.
To the Nigerian politician, what are the limits, which is why all kinds of people are in the National Assembly, including 419, drug pushers and when you mention that, in any honest society, when your name has been associated with the possibility, proven or not proven of drug dealing, that’s enough to take you out of contention, because there is a moral basis for it. But that is not happening, instead, we are talking about whose turn it is.
Realnews: You have talked about two parties, remaining one. What of Labour, is there any morality in the action of the Labour Party?
Prof Anya: We are talking about the candidates.
Prof Anya: The candidate of the Labour Party, we know how he made his money, we know how he manages his money, and we know how he applies those principles in managing the resources of Anambra State when he was governor, and throughout the 8 years that he was there, he didn’t have the noise associated with the movement of men of power. I met him at the airport many times in those 8 years, he would just have his bag, and there were just two people following him. And during that period, he was sitting, not in the first class, not sure in the business class, but in the economy because he believed in not spending Anambra people’s money carelessly. Those are the values we require. He may not be a perfect person, but at least, he has indicated those values that could conceivably rebuild Nigeria.
Realnews: In effect, what you are saying is that the youths need a role model that they can look up to, because right now the other politicians are not like when I was growing up, those we were asked to look up to as role models on how to build our lives, work hard, live honestly. Is that what you are trying to say?
That’s what I am saying. You see, if you look at those two and look at that one, is like night and day. As said in a lecture I gave in Enugu, I had infect implored Atiku to give up his ambition because the problems of Nigeria are more complicated now and needed younger people who can call on his experience, and I said he has an advantage because he had worked with Obi. That if he gave his support, and Obi emerged, not only would he have contributed to the final end to the civil war, but more importantly, he would have addressed the issue of fairness and justice in our political system, and he would have become a Nigerian hero.
Realnews: Somebody who has that kind of moral baggage, don’t you think that working with him will still subvert the values we are talking about, because, from the discussion we are having, it shows that those values have been trampled upon by the PDP that he belongs to? He is a member of the PDP that has trampled on those values.
Prof Anya: Well, that time, I was appealing to him. And I had reasons because I have worked with him. When he was vice president there was a problem they had and they called on me and a few others, and we were able to do what they wanted us to do. So I have had a relationship with him. But there comes a time in the history of a nation, the history of an individual, when we will have to look at the broad issues and decide what is best. At times, the time you appear to have lost by not doing what people expected you to do, is at times the time you win. Because Its that time that you underline the guiding principles of the society and you may become a hero because of that.
So they had the opportunity to do the right thing by history, they have not done so. So, God will at the end of the day hear the cries of His people.
Realnews: So, you are actually asking him to step down right now?
Prof Anya: At any time, there is never a time that is too late to do the right thing, and the right thing is not for any of them…
Realnews: The right thing is for Atiku to step down, is that what you are saying?
To take the decision that will serve the Nigerian interest, and that one seems to be that he should step down?
Prof Anya: Yes!
Realnews: Ok. Now let’s look at the economy of the country, it is bleeding. How will the outcome of the election affect the economy of the country?
Prof Anya: Let me put it this way, whatever may be the result that is announced later this month or next month, Nigeria cannot be the same. You cannot run Nigeria any longer the way it used to be run, because it will be obvious that the greater majority of the people in Nigeria are not only suffering, but have decided that they have suffered enough, and therefore a change is necessary. The details of that change will develop on the way, the details of that change will also depend upon the leaders of Nigeria. When I am talking about leaders, I am also talking about elders. Men who have shown, by their service to Nigeria in the past have shown integrity, shown commitment, shown passion for the affairs of Nigeria, and if you like, you can even say have been patriotic. They are still there. Some of them are not looking for office now, some of them are not looking for money now, but their wealth of experience, the wisdom that they have accumulated is needed now to guide the younger ones, who have the energy, who have prepared to try new ideas.
You see, trust is so important in leadership that you will be surprised if the right kind of person comes, and people trust him, you will be surprised at the kind of sacrifices that people will make, and out of those sacrifices, a new mode will arise; out of that, brilliant young people who have been thinking about Nigeria will emerge and will be prepared to sacrifice themselves to do the right things for Nigeria. That is leadership, and is the elders that will lead that, not by doing anything, but by saying that this can be done, this and this should not be done, and so on.
Realnews: The Igbos right now seem not to have a very strong leadership, (condolences again at the death of Prof George Obiozor, he died at the very point in time when it appears the Igbos needed him the most. How do you see the vacuum created?
He died and his deputy died also, so there is a vacuum in the leadership of Ohanaeze, how is this going to affect the Igbos?
Realnews: There is no vacuum!
No vacuum, let us talk about it.
Prof Anya: You see, the Igbos are not led like an individual, the Igbos believe in communal democracy. Out of that communal democracy, you choose leaders who enjoy the confidence of the people. It means for example that the people don’t say this must be done. Instead, Igbo decisions are by consensus. Very soon, when George is buried, as soon as he is buried, you will be able to know who the new leader is, because that leader is one who brings people together. You must consult people, out of the consensus of opinion, you decide the thing that should be done. That’s the Igbo leader.
Realnews: This thing that you just talked about is very important. Most people don’t understand the Igbos, they believe there should be one leader who should be speaking for the Igbos. Even when Obiozor was alive he once said in a video that how can you say that only one person should be speaking for the Igbos, that we should be speaking with one voice.
Prof Anya: This leadership thing about the Igbos, can you please talk about it because it is very important in order for people to understand the Igbos and what guides them, and that they are not really the type of people that kowtow to just one person to be speaking for them.
You see, I have identified and have actually given lectures on it. There are seven values that the Igbos use in determining both leadership and conduct. When you step out of that, it does not matter who you are, you have lost confidence. But when you work within those parameters, you will find that people will say, ye, this ideas, I support you on it. As we speak, there are discussions going on as to how do we transit to a new leadership to complete the term of Obiozor, but we have to give honour to the dead man. He served to the best of his abilities. So, we won’t mix it up. When that is finished, a new leader will emerge, a new leader that will complete the term.
But what has happened to the Igbos is that we started forgetting that we had those seven values that I mentioned.
Realnews: But you have not mentioned them.
Prof Anya: I will soon mention them to you. Those values guide what we do.
Have you noticed that really, if you want to be fair, Igbos are the only true Nigerians because we are everywhere, in any place you go to in Nigeria, after the population of the indigenous people, the next largest in number are the Igbos. And where an Igbo man is, he gives to that community all his best, he builds the best house, runs the best business and so on, as though he didn’t have a home land. That is because, if he has found welcome in a community, he serves that community as if it was his own, indeed they are now his own. That’s the Igbo spirit. That is also why, wherever the Igbos go, they tend to come together in order to make sure that the relationship with the community where they are is on good terms. And if there is anyone among them who is not doing the right things, they are the ones who discipline the person.
The Igbo’s ethos is moral, and the Igbo ethos is such that it recognizes the community as the basis of who I am. Yes, we talk about the individualism in the Igbo society, the individual uses the opportunity to serve, to pursue his ambition. But there is a limit to what you cannot do as an individual. In my part of the country (Abiriba) for example, you know, even somebody who is a slave, when he comes into the community, the family he is from, he is treated as any other young man, and he will do everything like any young man. From that point in time, he is no longer treated like a slave, he is now judged as an individual, how good he is doing within the family and so on. And that is why many of them; you know we don’t have any slaves, not because there were no slaves, but because they have all been integrated back into the family, and nothing stops you from rising to any level because you were a slave.
What is more, you will find that; how do I put it, in the land tenure system in my community, they will tell you that a land, a piece of land, a communal land, you can own it with others so long as you use it for farming, but you cannot sell it. The reason is simple. Those who started that family are the ones who bought that land. So it is not yours. It is yours to use, but it is not yours to sell. That is part of the Igbo ethos; you treat people fully, and integrate people fully, which is different from what exists in some other parts of the country.
What I am really saying is that those values are the core values that can be translated into pan-Nigerian values. I have said it in different fora, there is no area of Nigeria that does not have the rules that guide conducts, the things that are acceptable and those that are not acceptable. If we can; as I have done with the Igbo one, we can do the Yoruba one and then the others, and we can get the point where we can see the similarities and the differences, identify them, and build out on them a comprehensive value system for Nigeria. That is the first thing we need to do. Because if we do that, then it becomes possible to take advantage of the diversity in Nigeria for the growth of the nation, and for the good governance of the nation, because nobody is outside the cycle, everybody is part of the nation. But it is because we do not have common values that it looks as if there are differences. But if you analyze the values that are important, you will find that stealing is stealing everywhere, adultery is adultery everywhere, and you can identify all those things, and you will come to the conclusion that the things that unit Nigerians are more than the things that divide us. But because we have not emphasized the things that unite us, it looks as if we are going our separate ways. No!
Realnews: What I want us to discuss really, is the vacuum in leadership in Igboland due to the death of its leader Prof George Obiozor, that is what I want you to discuss.
Prof Anya: I have already told you that there is no vacuum. The most important position in the Igbo leadership is the Ime-Obi. It is the Ime-Obi that directs the president and its executive, what they do and what they cannot do. And I know that an Ime-Obi meeting is pending, waiting for the burial of George; fantastic man in many ways. But we will not discuss the details while he has not been buried. But there is no vacuum. In the Igbo society, there cannot be a vacuum in leadership. However, one of the unfortunate things that happened along the way is that there were people who were now trying to choose and impose leaders within the Igbo society. Which was why you heard about authenticity of autonomous communities and the multiplication of Ezes, and quite often, some of those who became the Ezes were known 419ners, some of them were people who merely, have that as the first job that they were doing, and some who made money as contractors and the rest of it now became Eze and so on. So the leadership structure of Igbo land was undermined by that action. But despite it, in every society in Igbo land, people still know those who are their authentic leaders. So they are people who go into politics and usually, those who go into politics are not usually the best in the community, they tend to be those who have either made money, or their character is not good enough for the community to trust them, and the result was that you find that the kind of leaders that the community chooses as the president or executive of their community is different from the ones they send for politics, because they have to trust you sufficiently to handle the finances of the community. They can’t trust these other people. So, if you really want to see the locus of power in Igbo communities, go back to the town unions and know who are in charge, and who runs it. Those are likely to be the more authentic leaders of the community.
Realnews: Yes, you said that some people were appointed leaders for the Igbos. Who are those people?
Prof Anya: Let me tell you a story, I first mentioned this story in a different interview. You know, during this period, let me confess, many of us have been moving up and down round Nigeria talking with our colleagues, there has been consultations around Nigeria among the elders. A northern statesman who is friendly with me told me that Igbo land confuses him. And I said why, so he said, “Let me tell you a story.” Before the war, Eastern Nigeria was the preferred friend of the north. Whether it was Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, and all those people, they preferred to deal with the East. Which was why, according to him, at the end of the war, they pushed for Ekwueme to become the vice president because they wanted to rebuild the relationship after the war. But what happened, instead, all kind of characters will come to see them and say that they are speaking for the Igbos, that they were sent by the Igbos, and it looked to them as if what the Igbos have decided was that they will send to them our drivers, our stewards, our servants; our domestic servants are the ones we now sent to them as our leaders. So the attitude was that if these are the kinds of people that the Igbos were comfortable with, we would not have any pact with it. And that’s where the problem began. And he actually gave me five names of current “Igbo leaders” two of whom have been governors. And he said, can you in all honesty regard these as leaders.
So there is that problem. But there are people also who took advantage of that situation in the land that now started with the friends they made either in business or so, who are no leaders in the context of Igbo land. They were now the people they supported to become leaders in Igbo land. So we now have a class of leaders who draw their affirmative from outside Igbo land. What their people say, what their people do is not important decider of whether they are leaders or not. But the Igbos still know who their leaders are. When the chips are down, they know those to consult.
Realnews: Let us talk about what is happening now with regards to the election, we have had this problem of PVC, collect your PVC, make sure you collect your PVC, but we have been having difficulties, people not being able to get it, do you see this as something that will thwart or affect the outcome of the elections?
Prof Anya: You see, what we tend to forget is that a national election is a huge logistic challenge. So to that extent one can sympathize with INEC because to manage the details can often be a challenge. But let me also say that I am not unaware that there are politicians who do not want Igbos scattered all over the country to vote. Here in Lagos for example, there is a sturdy effort to make sure that people in certain areas cannot vote. We do get report of what is happening. Why is that, because they think that the Igbo vote is already predictably, so it is best for them not to vote than for them to go and vote. They hope that way, it will still give them an advantage, but unfortunately, it may not be enough.
You see, the humongous numbers that have registered to vote are beyond the calculation of anybody in Nigeria. So because of it there will still be a huge number of votes that will not normally have voted, who will vote, despite all the obstacles. Whether it will be sufficient to change anything, we will wait to see. But this is what I mean by saying that Nigerian politics has changed; the numbers have changed and anybody who tells you he can predict how this election will go, should have his head examined because he is being over confident about what he does not know. What I know is that what will happen will be new, and that people who have not voted before will vote this time, and many of them will vote, not for the household names that we have seen over the last 20 years because they have run this country as a democracy for 20 years and this country has never been as bad as it is. But we will never give up hope, because I believe that the darkest part of the night is the period before dawn and there are enough signs that change has come. Those who want to stop that change, God help them because as Kennedy said, “Those who want to stand in the place of change often find that they are part of the casualty that will go with the change that will come.”
Realnews: Yes, we are talking about these household names that you mentioned, but there is a particular candidate; presidential candidate of the APC was recently quoted as saying that the Naira redesign, the fuel queues, and the other challenges in the country are targeted at him, but that he will not lose the election. He is so confident that he will win this election, what could be giving him that confidence?
You are asking me a question, that really, for me, I view with contempt because, he is not God. And when a human being wants to make himself into a God, history tells us what has happened to big gods in the past. That is one. Also secondly, between you and me, I can even say there was a time that we had a relationship. I was one of the founding members of NADECO, and that time, he was one of the small boys that when we are having a meeting were outside. The rest is history. But when you watch the tapes of the various gaffs that have come from him in various places all over the country, can you really confirm that you believe that he knows what he says. I will not waste my time after finding where he gets his confidence from because like I said, in my believe, God has taken over this country, and anybody who ignores that fact has himself to blame when the time comes.
Realnews: Another problem we are having, since I know you were once in the university and you know pretty much about what is happening in the education sector, is that students, who registered at that particular point in time will be on holidays. How do you see that, do you think that the student population who are now in the new order will affect the outcome of the election on one hand, and that the decree that authorities who run these federal universities should give the students a break so that most of them who registered, will be able to vote, how do you see that?
Prof Anya: Frankly, the way I look at it is, let all the arrangements that should be made for the smooth running of the election be made. The ones that are possible, so be it. The ones that are not possible, you know you can’t do everything. Because like I said the humongous number of new people that will be voting will more than make up for whatever the numbers that wouldn’t vote because the school will be closed.
Realnews: So that will not really affect the outcome of the election. That is what I want to know.
Prof Anya: It may not.
Realnews: So whether they are allowed to vote or not, it shouldn’t be an issue?
Prof Anya: It should not. This is a very big country, and we have the largest population in Africa and we were just being told that we are now the sixth largest population in the world. So organizing anything in Nigeria is not easy, but people have also done it. Even in China, they still manage to organise things to cover their population which is probably ten times our own.
Realnews: So what will be the biggest challenge that Nigeria will face after this election so that people can prepare their mind?
Prof Anya: Nothing new from what we have known in the last 5 years, probably in the last 10 years. Security, security, security, economy. Security and economy are the two basic ones. There are other problems, but those are the two. You know the reason, because the situation with the security reduces your ability to deal with your economy, the deterioration in economic situation, reinforces the insecurity. If you can take charge and stop the mindless killings arising from kidnappers and so on, and reduce it to a manageable level where the security services can once more take charge that will now give you time to start dealing with the economy. And then to quote Peter Obi, bring Nigeria back to work. When you do not have a Nigeria that is producing, you will only increase the poverty. So if you take charge of the economy and the people are producing, things will start moving up.
Realnews: There is this one last question that I want to ask. It has resonated in the last few weeks; Nnamdi Kanu, different people have called for his release, the court has also called for his release, and this week, the court gave him leave to see his doctor, but we have not heard whether those holding him in custody have allowed that to happen.
How do you see Nnamdi Kanu, what will his release bring to Igbo land, peace or chaos?
Prof Anya: Listen, you may be surprised that if you release Kanu today, the Kanu you may see now will be different from the Kanu that went into that detention in the first place. He is a man, and I am sure he has had a long period for reflection. And as he said recently, this nonsense every Monday don’t work should not continue because he doesn’t want to destroy the economy of the people he wants to help. Which makes sense. Nnamdi Kanu was created by this government because he has been coming and going doing his Radio Biafra thing, and nobody was losing sleep over it. Then suddenly, they caught him and put him in prison, suddenly he became a hero.
That hero thy created, they will be forced to release him because the basis for his being held has; although some of us will say that there may be some information that the government has, the law, the court has pronounced in his favour. Nobody has any basis for continuing to retain him. But I believe that the elders of Igbo land are capable of dealing with him and getting him back into a more sensible position for the growth of our people.
I don’t think it is a big issue any longer. The government is creating a problem for itself by keeping him there.
Realnews: But the elders of Igbo land have not been stringent in calling for his release?
Prof Anya: You see, this is the Igbo problem, the question you just asked and the way you reacted. Ndigbo thinks that because I wasn’t there when certain things were discussed, nobody is taking care. They are people who are missing sleep over Kanu, and they are travelling at their expense and having meetings at their expense, not with the Igbos, but with Nigeria. I know because I have been involved in some of it. So let us have confidence that things are changing, and that things will change in our direction, and let us also find the grace to bring our children together to teach them once more the things that are important in life, and help them to pursue their ambitions. Which means we will go back to education; the kind of education the people like me were given. There was nothing special, the important thing was that the government took interest in education, the communities took interest in education, and the sons of poor people if they were bright could reach any level. Let’s restore that in Igbo land, and it can be done.
In fact, Igbo land now has a new role in Nigeria. We will no longer speak in mere talks about the unity of Nigeria, we will be the ones carrying the fight, because we have a lot to defend in Nigeria.
Take Lagos for example, Lagos has been kind to Ndigbo. So, an Igbo man cannot be wishing Lagos any ill for the simple reason that many have made their money here and live well here. The same applies to those based in Abuja, the people in Kaduna and so on. So the Igbos will once more start pushing as they did in the colonial days for the good of Nigeria and we will now change the narrative.
One of the things that have come out of this period is the fact that Igbos cannot take their neighbours for granted; you can’t take your neighbour for granted. But working together, we can build a better nation and all will benefit from it.
A.ITags: Anthony Isibor Chukwuma Ejenike Maureen Chigbo Nigerian Economic Summit Group Ohanaeze Ndigbo Prof Any O. Anya Realnews