Exclusive Interview with Prof Anya

Thu, Aug 12, 2021
By editor


Prof Anya’s solution to Nigeria’s economic, socio-political dilemma.

*National Assembly’s PIB and Electoral bill reform shambles  

*Governance deficit driving security challenges

* Digitisation and Nigeria’s future development

* Trust deficit and security challenges in South East

*  Nnamdi Kanu and tackling of challenge youth unemployment and engagement

* Solutions to governance deficit and non-inclusiveness

 Ohanaeze and new leadership approach 

PROFESSOR Anya O. Anya, an octogenarian, and former director general of Nigerian Economic Summit Group, is an elder statesman who seldom grants interview unless he believes that it is absolutely necessary to do so. The last time he talked to Realnews was about two years ago when he raised hope amidst uncertainty that afflicted the country then that there would soon be a new Nigeria. Since then, the situation of the country (politically, economically and socially) has become so toxic that babies, children and students are being kidnapped at random for ransom by bandits. In July, Realnews went back to Professor Anya to ascertain his views on the current state of the nation choked by insecurity, insurgency, banditry, huge youth unemployment; stagflation, near comatose economy with high debt servicing figures at about 72 percent, hopelessness among the masses with unscrupulously ensconced elite, especially politicians inebriated with power that they are perpetually blind to the hardship in the society. The ugly scenario in the nation is not helped by a recent report on genocide, religious persecution, among other crimes in Nigeria, entitled: “Nigeria’s Silent Slaughter: Genocide in Nigeria and the Implications for the International Community” which revealed how the Boko Haram terrorist group killed more than 40,000 Nigerians in the past 20 years, according to the International Committee on Nigeria, ICON, in collaboration with the International Organization for Peace Building and Social Justice, PSJ. But this is not enough to dampen Professor Anya’s optimism. In this exclusive interview with Maureen Chigbo, editor, Realnews and Anthony Isibor, reporter, Anya poignantly and pungently x-rayed the state of Nigeria and propounds a way out of the present morass in the country with some shocking revelations. It is a must read. Excerpts

Realnews : Let us talk about the state of the nation.

Anya: laughs

Realnews: How do you see what is happening in the country? Where the country is moving? Because I remember the last time we had an interview, you said that we are going to see a new Nigerian. That was almost two years ago. Is what you are seeing right now the new Nigeria you talked about?

Anya: It is not the new Nigeria. Those are the birth pangs of the new Nigeria. Where we are now, I think it has become clear to most people. That the problems we have, the present political class, and I’m not making party differentiation here, the entire political class are incapable of dealing with the problems we have. Nevertheless, a number of things are happening. The Young people are getting more assertive, and many of them are still writing their name in Gold on the international scene, which means that the job for some of us the elders is to try and redress the balance, the noise and the violence. Reduce it to the point where these younger people can be encouraged, some to come back and some to pursue their dreams. That’s where we are now. When you say that the entire political class, people ask the question who then are going to sort things out. Well, let me say two things on that. First of all, events in the National Assembly this week (July 19) over the PIB, and over the electoral bill, have shown clearly that the politicians in the National Assembly are very short sighted. They do not understand where the country is. They are focusing on their own interest and they even think that by voting against electronic voting, against technology because that is what it is. They think that the inglorious past that they brought on us will continue, 2023 they will all be returned, that is their hope. That is what they think. But if you go back to history, when the Industrial Revolution in Britain was taking off and technology was disrupting everything, there was a group called the luddites, who said no technology and they actually went from place to place to destroy factories and so on. Did it stop industrial revolution? It didn’t. That’s where we are. There are people who do not understand, and the situation is not made easier by the fact that there is a problem of mindset. There are people stuck in the mind sets of the 17th century and some in 18th century, but we are in the 21st century and to a large extent, the younger generation is already in the 21st century with the rest of the world. So the coast for them will continue expanding, and then one day, we will certainly look around as it happened in China and we will see that in 10 short years, you could not recognize the country you thought was in trouble. It will happen in Nigeria.

Realnews:  That will be good if it comes. Did you just say that majority of Nigerians are still in the 20th century?

Anya: No. There are people who are still in the 17th and 18th century. That’s why you have all the arguments about open grazing and no open grazing. Who in the 20th century, not to talk of the 21st century is taking about open grazing. Go to Argentina, Brazil. Go to all the people who really export meat and all those kinds of things, there’s no way you will do open grazing because science has developed to where you can raise your livestock and they get fatter and even get better in terms of the quality of the meat and so on and of course you get richer. But what do we have, people will stay in the comfort of their homes and then leave some uneducated young stragglers to suffer in the rain and the day and be there to lead the cattle all over the place, and they think that is good for the economy. Well, they are only advertising how bad our situation is, but it will give way.

Realnews :  You have talked about electronic voting, the petroleum industrial bill, the PIB; how there were manipulated, and then the 5% the Niger Deltans were asking of was removed. How do you see the voting pattern, especially that of senators from the Southeast, South South and Southwest?

Anya : You see, the voting pattern if you have been following the Nigerian politics from 2015 to now, it shouldn’t surprise anybody. Because during 2019, most people think they can’t understand what happened, some think it was abracadabra, whatever they call it. But nevertheless, suddenly people who had not done much were declared as having won the election, but I’m happy that most of us decided that let it be. It’s not the basis for violence after all. So long as they keep to the spirit of the Constitution and keep the term. First term has gone, second term has gone. And when they have gone through God’s will we be able to reorganize our country? But the confusion that we will leave behind, but even that can be sorted out.

Realnews:  What kind of confusion? Can you be more elaborate?

Anya: Take two things. First, no government in the entire history of Nigeria has been a sectional and nepotic as this government. When in 2023, he is gone, whoever inherits it, is going to inherit a bedlam in terms of the management of the human resources because many of the unmerited officers that were put in different places are not going to vanish overnight. Then low productivity and the confusion in terms of the modern management tools will continue to be in the system when it ought not. So you may find that some of the legacy of this period will continue in this system over the next, if I say, five years that will be short. Don’t forget most officers appointed into office usually are tenured for five years and 10 years as the case may be and until that flows out through the system, there is going to be confusion in the management and administrative structure of the country. That is one, the second is where we are with debt, the management of our resources, the management of the fiscal and monetary policies of the country. Right now, we are doing, you know, dancing “Kokoma” as it were, trying to make sure that we can keep managing so that we keep pushing the crisis away, but there will come a time when we may not be able to push it away anymore; in which case people whom you owe will like to be paid, they will call their debt. Right now, the latest information about debt over the last week, tells you that 90 percent of all the earnings of the government goes into servicing of debt. You know what that means. It means you are not yet paying the debt. You are paying the interest rates. If that is the reality, we are living now, where will we get the money to start repaying the debt. Because the way these things go, if you do not do it, there will be conditions that will keep on growing. It will not get less, it will get bigger and there will come a time where it’s impact on higher exchange rates, impact on the economy in terms of whether its agriculture or manufacturing, the ability of those sectors to perform the way they should will not be there. Because the resource to manage them will not be there. Those two central problems will be there long after this government has left.

Realnews : People are quick to react when you say that this government has been nepotistic and they will refer you quickly to when Jonathan was in power, that you had a lot of Igbos, who were in high and prominent positions. Did they use those positions to the advantage of the country or even from where they come from? They will tell you that the then finance minister coordinating the economy was Igbo, aviation minister; they will just tell you that the Igbos dominated that government. Did they use it to their advantage or for the country, did it favor anybody?

Anya: You know, when you mention that, it tells you how primitive our people are in their thinking. The statistics of office holders in the country during the Jonathan year does not bear out that the Igbos were dominant. No! What you may say is that some of the leading lights; the ones that because of their activity, people could not help but notice. They were people who were gifted. People who were giving everything to the country. Whether it is in Obasanjo’s government or Jonathan’s government’s, the least you can say is that the highlights, the bright lights of the people who ran that government were Igbos. But they didn’t do it on quota. They were there because they were exceptional people. Is it Soludo, is it Ezekwesili, is it Ngozi? name somebody who was not over qualified for the job during that period, name one. But people who are lazy in analysis will throw out such banal statements. And if you go back to the Obasanjo government, I was chairman of the Nigerian National Merit award. Well, let those, you know, who have watched me over the last 30, 40 years in Nigeria decide whether I had an Igbo quota. So we must not allow ourselves to be, you know, confused with all these, those people you can’t lead them up. Let them be where they are.

Realnews : While we are still talking about happenings in the political terrain, you mentioned the passing of PIB and I asked you about the voting pattern of our people. Was it what you expected from people?

Anya: Who are the people you are talking about?

Realnews: I mean the voting pattern of the senators from the Southeast. Is it something to reckon with?

Anya: Listen, nobody in the South East in the National Assembly was voted on basis of what is best for his people. Nobody was voting, maybe the nearest you can say is Abaribe, he may be the only person who understood because he played smart politics there. What did he do? Okay since you people are determined not to see the bright things of this times, lets allow you, but let history record who and who stood well. And by forcing them, we now know the people who history will judge as responsible for the mess that we are in. So, it is a defining moment, but beyond that all the other people voted on the basis of their personal interests. I hear Orji Uzoh Kalu said that there is no network in IgbereIgbere has better network than anywhere else I know in Abia because when I’m traveling to the East on the road, it is when I start getting to Igbere that, I start using my phone. But he tells the nation that in Abia there is no network. The good thing is, two things have come out. First, in 2017, INEC and the NCC sat down look to at the whole question of using electronic transmission and so on. And they looked at it and both agreed that it was possible. I’m talking about 2017, four years ago. This year NCC has even said that there is 89% coverage. There is no country, including the United States, Britain, Japan, and China where you have hundred percent coverage. And because Nigeria has passed the threshold of the people who will be using it, there is no excuse not to be using it because we have already passed the level where it ought to be and it is documented by NCC and has been announced by INEC. Well, if I were in INEC, because in some of the things I am reading suggest, they have already been using it. They used it in the Ondo election, used it in the Edo, and used it in the Ekiti election, so it is not new. If I were INEC, I will allow this people have their day, let them think they have won. Will they come to stop INEC from transmitting results; are they even intelligent enough to know how these technologies work? You don’t get into things you don’t understand. Like here, they said it is the digital age, and that’s why I depend on the younger generation to guide me in the things I do because you must know that technology is disruptive of many things. And if you recognize that as the reality, the thing is to lean on those who know and understand. That is why merit is important, that is why education is important. None of which the people who voted the way they voted did not even know how it operates. But I am still confident that the good days are nearby. We are right in the middle of the worst. But we will get out of it.

Realnews: What gives you confidence that the good days are nearby just like you have just said?

Anya: Let me tell you what I did this morning. You know, I am involved in one of the companies in the Leo Stan Ekeh’s Group. They moved to new offices and have been inviting me, but I have not been able to go. So I decided that this morning I better fit it in and I went there. Was I proud to be associated with what I saw? And the most interesting thing like in the speech I made to the workers, I said look at your young bright faces, you have renewed my confidence in Nigeria. And the things those people are doing there, people will not know that those things are happening in Nigeria. As you see that one, I am sure there are others that we do not know that exist. When the network of them start joining up to do greater things that is how the transformation will come. It will then not matter any longer whether you want to put the hand of the clock backward as they say. Unfortunately, you may find that you may have a clock that you can no longer see a hand. So first all, there is a technological challenge of being able to do what you want to do and you find that you don’t have the capacity to do it. That is what will happen.

Realnews: Don’t you think there is a need to confront these South East senators who voted against the will of their people. Should they be recalled?

Anya: Isn’t it a waste of time? Recall them for what? Listen, when things change, they change permanently. In any case, have they been of any use to their people, say over the last 10 years. You mentioned about the people from the Southeast who served in the Jonathan government. People who talk glibly about how everywhere was dominated by the Igbos. I have already taken care of that by telling you that it is not true, that those people were only in the public eye because they were the best in those government. But having said that, let me tell you something that will shock you. Jonathan got into office in 2010 was when he finished the Ya’Adua’s term. He contested election on his own term in 2011. In 2013, he did a smart thing. Although that smart thing also was not in his favour. He decided that since we have been in office for two years, he asked his people to compile per geopolitical zone, what the government has committed to do in those geopolitical zones in the last two years. Not just the ones that were promised, but also the ones that they have actually done something and the money for it has been provided and to sum it up. You know when they finished that exercise, I was fortunate to have come across the researchers, who were researching what was happening. They used the opportunity that Jonathan had given to sum up what was going on, and they discovered that: North Central had N4.2 billion committed to it. Northwest had N3.9 billion committed to it, Southwest had N2.15 billion, the South South had N2.12 billion, and by that time don’t forget the South South had the ministry, the NDDC and the amnesty, so when you put all these together what it will come up. The Northeast had N1. 14 billion But do you know what the people that were supposed to be in charge; the Southeast had N74m. They had the lowest in Jonathan’s government in 2013 of the commitments that the government had made. There are other things that one could make from there, but that would involve revealing the discussions I had with individuals and I think I should spare them. Because of this question you asked, I had to ask some of them. I said listen, this is what has come out from your government, do you know about it? What are you doing about it? Because ultimately, when this government is over, the issue will be, what did you get for your people? I raised that issue with some of them. They tried to do what they could, but it was too little too late. I actually on this matter saw the president. I went with another distinguished Nigerian and an easterner. The two of us saw Jonathan in the State House here. He was very concerned that I wrote and said I wanted to see him and granted the request. So Igbo people benefited from Jonathan, where is the evidence? The only evidence of what was planned showed that we were at the bottom.

Realnews: This shortchanging of the South East that started a long time ago as evident from the figures you gave. It shows that the Southeast didn’t really get much despite its people being in prominent positions. But one of the evidence is the Port Harcourt – Enugu and Enugu – Onitsha roads that have been bad for a very long time now. Even the South South is not left out. I just came back from Bayelsa, the East-West road is still very bad. What do you make of these? What happened? President Goodluck Jonathan was from there. If you travel by air to Port Harcourt, you must go by road to get to Bayelsa.

Anya: (cuts in with laughter) Have you forgotten that there are vehicles called helicopters. They don’t have to pass by road.

Realnews: What of the ministers? Don’t they pass through that road? For the six years he was in office he didn’t fix that road and, even the present administration is also not doing anything on the East West Road.

Anya: They cannot because those are not their priorities. The truth of the matter is that slowly, people who think more of themselves than of the nation that gave them the opportunity are dominant now in the Nigerian political setting, and you are not going to change that overnight. It will take a whole lot of effort. But the good thing is what Abaribe has started. The more you bring out things that are hidden into the open, then the real discussions can now start. Like this is the first time I am revealing the allocations to the various zones in 2013. The good thing is that government is still there. The committee that looked as it were doing it from the secretary to the government’s office so the data and the details will still be there. I had access to it in a summarized form. In fact, maybe, you should leave the actual figures, but proportionately, it is the way it was. Infact, it is better to use a proportionate description. As I told Jonathan then, what North-Central had was six times than that of the South East, what the North West had was four times, what the South West and South South had was three times, and what the North East had was nearly double what the South East had and yet the secretary to the government, minister of finance and so on were from the South East.

Realnews: You mentioned the PIB, for years we have been on this. It was the big elephant in the room. Now it has been passed and there are still grudges from the South South over their demand for 10% derivation for host communities, but they got 3%. Do you think there is equity?

Anya: There cannot be equity. You said you went to Yenegoa and went through the East West Road?

Realnews: Yes.

Anya: Well, last year I had to fly to Port Harcourt and then I used that road to get to Warri because for I had to go to the convocation of EK Clark’s University. Not only did I see the worst of road in the route, but I have also saw the devastation by pollution of water resources available. I mean the South South is devastated completely, and anybody who had sense and compassion will be making sure that their situation is ameliorated by using the resource that come from the soil of that region to improve on their condition. If that is your priority then you cannot give them anything less than 10%, you can’t. But they gave 3 percent. Even the 5 percent that the House of Representative gave, the Senate brought it to three and if you don’t take time, they might even remove it totally. So, there is no point pretending. God has his purpose for giving us this particular generation to be in charge of affairs so that we will know that when we pray to God, we have to pray from the sin of we, the people that God is using because many things don’t make sense in Nigeria because of the kind of people that we have, the mindset. But it comes down to the issue of values, what are the things you are prepared to give your life for, if you ask that question, or take a poll around the National Assembly, if you get up to 10% prepared to give their lives for Nigeria, it will be a fantastic situation. I will not be surprise if the statistics shows that more that 95% of the members of the House do not care what happens to Nigeria. They care what happens to them. Because if they cared, none of them will sleep well with the kind of resources they give themselves either in terms of allowances or in terms of their pay in a society that has the kind of problems that we have. That is where it begins from

Realnews: Do you think that the passage of the PIB and the electronic voting the National Assembly did recently showed that the politicians we have in this country really don’t care because they know they didn’t come there because of the peoples’ vote?

Anya:  Consider the presidential election of 2019. Look at what came out of Kano, does it make sense?

Realnews: No.

Anya: So, this is why they can afford to do anything because you cannot call them to question. But the days when they will be called to question is coming slowly because history does not forget. #EndSARS gave a warning, but they misunderstood and misused that incidence. #EndSARS like I said in an earlier interview showed the capacity of the young in Nigeria; shows that Nigerians were capable of planning in detail and executing flawlessly and still have compassion for one another. It was the redeeming feature of this entire post military era in Nigeria and people think that what it stands for mean they wanted to overthrow the government. Where did you see the sign that they wanted to overthrow the government. Indeed, the violence introduced was introduced by agent provocateurs from the government side. The politicians who use agbero, the area boys, they are in charge of them, they run them, they introduced them. The question of whether the military shut or didn’t shoot, who controls the military? It is again the government. So left to the people, it would have been peaceful from the beginning to the end. But the two areas from which violence could come were areas controlled by either politicians or the government. And there is really no difference between them.

Realnews: It is really a pity what is happening in the country. Let’s look at the situation in the South East which four months was considered the most peaceful region in the country. But between May and June, tension in the zone escalated. What do you make of what happened at that particular point in time?

Anya: Hope Ozodinma, the governor of Imo state, has said that they have arrested over 400 people, so called unknown gunmen and the rest of it. That 70 percent of the people out of that 400 were non Igbos. Are there non Igbos in the South East to the point where they will be the majority of the people creating trouble? He had also said that Gulak’s death was a political assassination and that the people that had been implicated were also non Igbos. Doesn’t that tell you that somebody was exporting violence into the South East. And the question will be why? And the reason is obvious. If as you claim, the place was peaceful, stir it up, provoke it so that it will now give you an excuse for deploying real anarchy into the place. But then Eastern people I am happy are being uncharacteristic of themselves. They have not been rushing out into the streets to protest or fighting back. And that is why we are interested in the security services going to the bottom to find out who these unknown gunmen are if they are not Igbos, and on whose side are they. Even the Gulak’s incident, the only people who would have told us who they are and where they are coming from were all killed by the police who should be interested in whatever information these people are giving. 

 Realnews: Somebody wants to silence them…

Anya: Because they expect them to say things that will not be consistent with the government story. It is as simple as that.

Realnews: If this violence is exported to the southeast as you said, who exported it?

Anya: That is what the security agencies should be telling us, because it is their job. But if elements of the security forces are involved in it, do you expect them to be anxious to investigate to establish what the truth is?

Realnews: The second question arising from this is if it is the security agencies that exported….

Anya: (cuts in)… I am not saying that the security forces are involved. I am saying that we cannot rule out complicity, the involvement of some rogue elements in the security forces. And when it is like that, it is the security services that will discover it and will be able to discipline those responsible. But we are not seeing that happen.

Realnews: What is the motive? Why would they do that? Why would they want to cause violence in a place that is peaceful?

Anya: (laughs) Maureen, I don’t think you should ask me questions that you already know the answer.

Realnews: I ask because elders see things younger ones, people at our level can’t.

Anya: Do you remember when there was so called the python dance. That python dance went through Umuahia, avoided the Government House and went to Afaraukwu, Nnamdi Kanu’s place that was behind and did what they did there. In the press and social media at that time, there was a speculation that that python dance was deliberately put together to provoke the young people. The idea was that if they now came out as you expect them to do, they will kill them. And when you have killed sufficient numbers, the evidence will be that there is no security in the place, there is chaos. So, what does the government do when there is chaos in a place, you declare a state of emergency. If you declare a state of emergency at that time and Abia is under emergency rule, from Abia you can establish yourself and you can at your time go into Imo, Ebonyi. Hopefully, if it worked out at that time by this time, we would not be guessing where Southeast would be in 2023. It would have been clear that Southeast would be in the bag before now. But God works in mysterious ways to protect his people. It didn’t happen, so they had to look for other ways, including what we saw happen in Imo. You see, there is something about the southeasterner that is good, but that thing that is good is also the danger. What do I mean? We are always talking. We are always shouting in public. There are times when it is necessary to say nothing, to watch with your eyes, listen with your ears and to think with your head. These things that are happening, could it be this way, could it be that way. This is why serious people in strategy start from building scenarios. You build the worst case scenario; you build least case scenario and build the cases in between. When you have that, you start seeing things you would not have seen and therefore you are better prepared for the possibilities that unexpected things can happen. And you are better prepared. 

But if you are not prepared and something happens, you do not know where to go or what to do. That is the case of the Southeast because we have not invested enough into thinking about our circumstances, where we are, about our neighbours, and about our fellow countrymen. How can it be that as an average southeasterner finds that the best way to get Nigerians agree on an issue is to make the southeasterner the center of the discussion. It is when this one can attack the southeast and the other one can attack the southeasterner that everybody agrees. But that was until recently. Everybody now knows that this thing that was being planned for the Southeast is not only for the Southeast. It is for the whole of the South, and that is why we are finding new unity. But some of the oppositions to the Southeast and its plans were from our neighbours, from the south. But those days are gone because people now know that the reality on ground is the reality and there are no exceptions.

Realnews: That’s really very profound thoughts. Earlier, you mentioned Nnamdi Kanu and this Nnamdi Kanu’s case has dominated discussions, especially with the abduction or re-arrest or some people will call it, the extraordinary rendition.

%%%%Anya: This is not the time I want to talk about Nnamdi Kanu. Nnamdi Kanu is not something that just emerged. We forget that Nnamdi Kanu was moving around this country, going to Britain and coming back and shouting about his Radio Biafra. Did anybody take notice? Then suddenly he comes to Nigeria, you pick him up and you lock him up. You created a hero,, especially for the young ones. So anybody in the Southeast that is anxious to discuss what to do

 %%about Nnamdi Kanu, my advice is to watch and pray first because what happens to him does must fit in the pattern of what we are aware of. What do I mean is that Kanu by his style… I saw a video clip where he was telling his people if they do this kill. Anybody who encourages shedding of blood and is Igbo you cannot have my endorsement and the reason is simple – Igbos abhor blood. We are not known for killing. Therefore, if you are working in my interest, then I do not expect you to be looking for whom to kill. There are other ways of dealing with such issues. That’s one. More importantly is that Nnamdi Kanu has also been part of a major problem that we have in Igboland. There is a distance between those who govern and those who are governed in Igboland. Unlike the time of Okpara, for example, who took his endorsement from the ordinary Igbos at the grassroot. These days it doesn’t matter what an average Igbo man says or does, how good of bad his condition is, it doesn’t concern the government in Igboland. There is a wide gap between the governed and the governors. That is one. Second, and that is the one that is worrying because it is the one that created Nnamdi Kanu. We have not taken enough interest in our youths to understand their problems and to start thinking what we ought to do. And the result, of course, is that we have the masses of young people, they come out, there is unemployment, there is poverty, and you could have said okay let them go to school, but they can’t even go to school because they don’t have the resources to train the people. So what you do with the youth and the gap between the youth and the elders is wide. Unless Ali-Igbo  deals with those two problems, everything else to return our society to what we used to be proud of will be difficult to achieve.

Realnews: How do we do that? What do they do?

Anya: You know, there is something called empathy. There is something called compassion and those are ingrained in the Igbo psyche because that was the basis of running of the Igbo society. The Igbo society is run by communities, which is why when people say:  Igbo enwe Eze (Igbo have no King), it is not trueThere is an Eze, but the fact that you an Eze doesn’t mean you run roughshod over everybody, no! Find out what your people want, what they regard as their priorities, and you shape your governance to fit to that. Which is why when central government came under Okpara, because he still retained that empathy and compassion, and still asked the ordinary people what are your priorities where, and when he thought that there were other priorities, he explained, and recruited people to carry the placard to say this is where we are going. So, the result was that development was taking place which is why in 1964, data from Michigan State University showed that Eastern Nigeria was the fastest growing economy in the world. I didn’t say in Nigeria, I didn’t say in Africa, in the World. We were ahead of South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia. And when you look at development history of these countries, including China, you will find that there are no complications. The things that make nations develop are clear, and the things that become obstacles are clear. But because of what you may call the inequalities in Nigeria, and the contradictions of that, it is not easy therefore, you could do what you did to the Southeast, in Igbo land, in Eastern Nigeria, but you cannot necessarily export it to the other parts of Nigeria because the value systems may be different. However, if the Eastern Nigeria experiment had succeeded or was succeeding, it would have started influencing the other parts. For example, in terms of education, the north did better in the days of Ahmadu Bello than at any other time in their history. Why, because the North saw what was happening in the western Nigerian with Awolowo and free education and what was going on with education in the Eastern Nigeria with Okpara’s government consistently voted 40% of his resources for education. So education was important because it is education that changes people. It is also education that leads people to get the right values and the right productivity.

Realnews: I know you said that somebody has to think deep before saying something about Kanu. But I can’t help but ask if it is the wisest thing for the government to, the abduction of Kanu, was it the wisest thing they could have done at this time?

Anya: This government is not a new government. It has been there since 2015. It has done six complete years. It’s now in its seventh year. Is it easy for you to point to one or two cases let me not say three, where they have shown wisdom in the running of this government. Is it in the economy? Is it in the North itself where you have bandits, insurrectionists, kidnappers, and you have people who do not want education for the young, and in the meantime, the number of the uneducated young is increasing. Are the priorities you see with this government in accord with these problems I have mentioned, which are the problems on ground? So, you can’t ask me of wisdom in a situation where wisdom has not been a way of life. Even the way that the president has dealt with the Southeast doesn’t show wisdom. He announced that those who gave him 5% will not be treated the same way as those who gave him 95% and he has been true to his word. I had in August 2015, in a lecture I gave at the University of Lagos, when the first indications of his first appointment came out, I not only drew attention to it and what it portends, but gave him the benefits of the doubt that he would change, but I sounded the note of warning with the way he was going. Now the government has been there for six years. Seventeen units of the security services, there is none that contains any southeasterner. Even if you were dividing it turn by turn, at least by the time you deal with the five geopolitical zones, one will come the way of the Southeast. But it hasn’t happened. Not only are the 17 northern and Moslem, the others when they have picked somebody from another geopolitical zone has always been when they have no alternative. When you look at it closely, you will find that even in the North, as we are complaining about his sectional and sectarian priorities in recruitments, northerners, who are not Hausa-Fulani are complaining as bitterly as we were because we are all in the same soup as it were. Isn’t this short sightedness? You are talking about wisdom. Wisdom includes identifying who are your potential friends, who are you potential enemies, but there is no differentiation in this government between friends and enemies. All are treated the same way. If you have evidence to the contrary, let me have it (laughter). as we are complaining about his sectional and sectarian priorities in recruitments, northerners, who are not Hausa-Fulani are complaining as bitterly as we were because we are all in the same soup as it were. Isn’t this short sightedness? 

Realnews: How do you access the leadership of Prof. George Obiozor as the leader of Ohanaeze Ndigbo vis-a-vis the development in the Southeast?

Anya: Let me say this, I encouraged George to run for the office because the times we are in are dangerous and uncertain. Therefore, you need a man who has experience and who is well educated and who understands what strategy is all about. George Obiozor fulfills all three conditions. He has been the ambassador of Nigeria to Israel. He has been the ambassador to the United States. If you have been an ambassador to those two countries, then you know something about how the world runs better than any other person, and because of that, that is the kind of person the  Ndigbo needs now. But I blame him for two things. First, when he told the governors that he is interested in this, he should have ended with question of, well, a matter of courtesy. But consciously or unconsciously, he may have given the impression that they were the ones, who were supporting him. They may have supported him, but they could not really have recruited him. Because which of the eastern governors will not (man to man) not respect George Obiozor. So when it looked as if he was a candidate of the governors, it immediately created doubts in the minds of some people. And when of all the governors, his governor, given the circumstance of his emergence and all that, again, he is the wrong person to be seen with. He needs his support alright, but it shouldn’t be in the open, but there it is. And that is why there are still people who are saying that the election was illegitimate and so on. I do not agree that, and the reason is simple. The election that brought out Nwodo, I was chairman of the committee that conducted it, and I don’t see what we did better than the people who saw over this. But once with the social media, and the wrong kind of misinformation is planted, you create a different atmosphere. But I have told George to pursue the priorities we defined as the needs of Ndigbo now. The results will convince those who doubt him. This is the time that  Ndigbo  requires their very best in every position. Because it is becoming clear that the less educated and moneyed ones do not even know how to use their money. So if a people have only those to recruit as their leaders where do you think we will end up. And yet it is education that brought Ndigbo to the commanding heights of Nigeria. So we should be the one investing and celebrating education. But what do we have now? Everybody is saying, don’t mind, when they finish talking their grammar, we will have our way. Have your way where? Nigeria is not different. Igboland is not different. How things are done and done properly are very well known. They are no longer secrets.

Realnews: So what are these priorities that the Ndigbo has and should pursue?

Anya: First, we have to work to reclaim our youths and reeducate them, their psyche. Because it is the lack of that education about how the world runs, that’s how in the vacuum that was created, many of them embraced Nnamdi Kanu’s ideology. Because Biafra showed one thing clearly, and I played a major part in Biafra. Not only locally, I even went on an international assignment for Biafra. You see, Biafra demonstrated the capacity of the Igbo man to overcome all odds, but we did not build on it. Second, the achievements in Biafra were also by the educated. Whether it is the science and technology people that created new weapons and so on, whether it was some of us who got involved in the international diplomatic area; whether it was even those of us who got involved in the information dissemination and management, the educated advantage that Biafrans had was what helped us to survive. We were not meant to survive. And to now have a situation, where those who benefited most from education, are now the ones now turning their backs on education, it doesn’t make sense. But it is also our creation. We got so engrossed in trying to solve our personal problems that we forgot that there were communal problems. So we abandoned the youths to their devices and we are now grappling with how to reengage with them. But we must find a way. The second thing, there is no point pretending. What AliIgbo needs, is to create out that little dot, in Singapore. And it can be done. And the people who made it possible for Nigeria to be forgiven of all the debts it owed are from the east. The people who managed the Central Bank resources when it mattered most are from the east. The people who as it were managed relationships both internationally and otherwise are from the east. We now need to harness them to serve the purposes of the east and recreate a completely new picture in which we will reengage Nigeria not because we want to separate or anything, but we want to live peacefully with everybody because Igbos are not sedentary, we are nomadic like the Fulanis. The difference is that they have no central place from which they take off, but we have our home. So the challenge is to make that our home as comfortable as possible so that people will want it; and to build it, we must engage with other people. The entire West Africa is available to the Igbos. Even now most of the money that is made in Anambra comes from all those other countries. And the way the African development is going, with the establishment of the AfCFTA with the way it is going means infact that both East and Central Africa are also available to develop a well-organized Igbo society. These are the priorities.

Realnews: So many people, the Oduduwa people are chanting for self-determination, having a nation of their own, the South South, North Central, Everybody wants….

Anya: It is a reaction to the kind of government that we have. The day the excesses of this particular type of governance reduced, people will start looking at what is best for them. What is best for Nigerians is to engage each other and build a civilization that will benefit everybody.

Realnews: This engagement with each other, does it amount to what we had before, because people are advocating a regional setting where we had the regions being in charge and taking care of their resources. Is that what this will be?

Anya: Of course, there is no way, first of all, the intellectual capacity to run Nigeria in a centralized setting does not exist. Not with what we have seen so far. So long as you do not believe and give priority to merit, you cannot look up to the centre as where your salvation will come. No. But if everybody gets back and organizes himself but have loyalty to a central agreement on how we run our affairs, and everybody is doing it faithfully, we will have peace and understanding all around. There will even be the dispositions to help each other. Many years ago, I think in the 1980s, I said it. When you look at the educational situation in Sokoto, I was prepared to be traveling to Sokoto when they started a new university, to give lectures for free. But there was no structure to manage such parity. When you engage other people, everybody benefits;

Realnews: Do you think that those who are benefitting now will ever allow such a situation of parity to come to be?

Anya: They have no alternatives. You know why? Nigeria is near bankruptcy right now. So all these things they are getting very soon, it will dry up. Those who can will. Those who can’t will either depend upon the goodwill of those who can, or accept that their time have past.

Realnews: So what other advice do you have for government and the Nigerian people?

Anya: First is that we must ensue violence no matter the provocation. Because as Igbo adage says that “those who carry the knife to cut off people will themselves perish in that”. Nigeria has shed enough blood in its history, and we can’t afford one drop more. Two, there is no area of Nigeria that does not have good people. There is no part of Nigeria that is so self-sufficient that it does not need what the other parts can give. So we must create the situation where there is interchange of gifts and of resources and whatever. And for those of us who say we are Christians in Nigeria is a challenge to actually apply your Christianity which is to help the poor, to help the people who are not as well off as you, but now on an organized level between a group of people and a group of people elsewhere. Sokoto, for example, is the state that needs the greatest help in Nigeria. In education, they are at the bottom; in health services, they are at the bottom; in poverty they are at the bottom, and that should not exist in a country like Nigeria. But it also means that they have to be re-educated as to our priorities. Nobody is born to rule, and when you start getting that into your head, you are on the wrong side.

Aug. 12, 2021 @ 17:54 GMT |