Nigeria is a failed State
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IF there is anything anybody could readily say about him, it is that he is very genuinely concerned about the affairs of Nigeria. That explains the passion in his eyes when perusing about the country’s potential, afflictions and lost opportunities which would have turned it into an Eldorado for its teeming populace. Anya Oko Anya, 82, is not just an exciting encyclopedia to consult about events in Nigeria and the way forward, he has the knack of hitting the nail on the head without mincing words when discussing challenges concerning Nigeria with choice words which will not offend, but compel whoever is being criticized to listen. Whether the advice he gives is adhered to is also of interest to him given his parting shot to Realnews after more than an hour interview with him at his residence in Lekki, Lagos on June 24, “Let us hope it serves the best interest of our nation in this epochal moment in history.” The holds no bar interview dealt with all the topical issues troubling Nigeria, ranging from insecurity, Fulani herdsmen stealth, almajiri saga and wobbling economy. More importantly is why the Nigerian professor of Biology, who distinguished himself for his work in Parasitology, viewed Nigeria as a failed State, while proffering what can be done to get it out of the stupor.
Anya, who was awarded the Nigerian National Medal of Merit by the Nigerian government in 1992,
hails from Abiriba, Abia State of Nigeria. He attended Hope Waddell Training Institution, Calabar, University College, Ibadan, Saint John’s College, Cambridge, England and Moleteno Institute of Biology and Parasitology. He began his working career as a Science Master with Qua-Iboe Mission Secondary School, Etinan, Akwa Ibom State in 1957. He was appointed Research Officer, Federal Fisheries Research Service, Lagos, 1961–1962; Lecturer, Federal Science School, Lagos, 1961–1962; Research Officer, Federal Department of Agricultural Research, Ibadan, 1963–1967; Lecturer in Zoology, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 1965–1967; Senior Lecturer, University of Science and Technology Project, Port Harcourt, 1967–1970; Senior Lecturer, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 1970–1973; Professor of Zoology, University of Nigeria, Nsukka since 1973 and he was the former chief executive officer, Nigeria Economic Summit Group Ltd.
In this vintage exclusive interview with Maureen Chigbo, editor and Anayo Ezugwu, senior staff writer, Realnews, Anya, who rarely speaks to the media, details how “stronger forces will converge to redeem Nigeria and then let go of the old one”. It is a must read. Excerpts.
Realnews: The last time we interviewed you was in 2017 and a lot has happened since that then. At that time, you talked about a new Nigeria that will emerge. What has changed between then and now? Do we have that new Nigeria now?
Anya: What has changed is that the need for that new Nigeria has become more urgent than it was three years ago. You have published the lecture I gave in Port Harcourt on the 27th of May. When you look at it, it is a very dismal picture, a frightening picture. But in that lecture also I ended on an optimistic note that a new Nigeria is about to come and that confidence is based on two things. First, we have reached the bottom and when you are at the bottom there is only one way to go and that is up. All our problems have surfaced now. We can no longer hide them. So, sooner or later some people will say enough is enough and start taking risks, and start pushing and that is when the new Nigeria will emerge. The framework of that new Nigeria is now here because we know what the problems are. The other reason why I’m as confident as I am, is also as I said in Port Harcourt, there is no way we can be as disorganised, as disorderly, and sometimes evil as we are and still be holding together as a nation, but for the grace of God. And if God has consistently shown us that grace, it means God is about to intervene because He has a purpose for us. That sounds, you know, to many people they say what is the basis for that, but even in the situation you can see some bright light. First of all, the younger generations of Nigerians have started demonstrating that they know what is wrong and that they have grown to adulthood and can therefore take charge of Nigeria. What I’m praying is that they will take charge of Nigeria not for their selfish ends as has been the case, but to take it because they have a vision. And if you look around Nigeria, people don’t know that there are young Nigerians who are doing fantastic things in this very difficult circumstances. So they are being trained for leadership. And the final point why I’m hopeful is that China used to be referred to derisively as yellow peril.
Realnews: Yellow what…?
Anya: Yellow peril – meaning that they are not good; dirty people and all that, but they knew who they were because they have civilisation that is older than any European civilisation. And at a certain point in history, they knew what they knew was being exported to the West. But you know what? This change in China took precisely 11 short years. But for 40 years, 30 years, the contentions of the forces between the Communists, the Marxists, the Mao tse Tung people and the new intellectual group that emerged within the Communist party that knew that there was a possibility of reconciliation with the Communist ideology as they saw it but practice it differently from the way it was in Russia. And they thought that it was possible to manage an economy not only on the basis of planning, but on the basis of market forces and competition also being integrated into it. The founding father of this principle, Den Zeme, was even in prison at a point in time but when the contentious forces got to the point where it was clear that the ultra-Communist could no longer run the economy they yielded to the alternative. The alternative started putting things in place. First, they started emphasising leadership among the younger generation. Second, they also started emphasising merit among the younger generation. Third, they started emphasising mentoring the generation for leadership. What they did was that they now agreed that the leadership must be changed every 10 years and in those 10 years, they are already preparing the brightest in the society and trying them out at different levels of leadership. At the end of 10 years, they are ready to be moved. The old guard will step back and the young will take over. That is what produced the current President of China. But because of this preparation when China took off after 11 eleven years you couldn’t recognise it. That is what has made China to surpass US because they were quietly doing what they were doing. They weren’t guided by what anybody believed in because they knew what they were doing. Right now, despite all that noise if China decides today to shake America in the economic space, half of the dollars outside the US is in China. So, the day they want to destroy the dollar they can do it very easily. All they need is to offload what they have; and the dollar will crash and it will no longer be international currency of choice and that is a different thing. In that situation, which can happen if Trump continues the way he is going, we all will be the casualties because China can afford to lose some of its money because ultimately it will get to a point where their money will be the currency of choice. But they are patient. They take their time. But they also have moral values. You cannot have leadership if there is no vision and a set of values that guide it. All that is happening now in Nigeria. Indeed, the violence we are seeing, if you like are the birth pang of a possible new Nigeria. But there is danger because when we are stopping and now moving back on upward trajectory is very easy. But the other alternative is there which is tipping over and getting into the abyss. That is where we are right now, but I believe that as time goes on stronger forces will continue to coalesce to redeem Nigeria and then let go of the old Nigeria.
Realnews: You said we have reached the rock bottom. What are the indicators and does that mean that Nigeria is a failed state?
Anya: Actually we are a failed state now. The truth of the matter is that the indications of a failed state are there, but it just happened that God has been gracious. He has not allowed the worst manifestations of what we are now to be seen. We are still struggling as if we mean much. Let me give you the three indications. Two weeks ago, the Debt Management Office published the debt profile of Nigeria. When this government came into power in 2015, the total debt of Nigeria, according to the Debt Office, was about N10 trillion. As we speak, the figure that they gave two weeks ago was N24 trillion. In other words, in three years we took more debt without repaying the old ones more than we took in 30 years before 2015. That is the true state of Nigeria’s economy. Right now, we are still borrowing, but we are not borrowing to invest in projects that have the capacity to repay. We are borrowing to pay salaries, to pay pensions, these are recurrent expenditures. None is capital. So, the structure of our borrowing and what we are doing with it is not sustainable. We are on the road to bankruptcy unless something happens. Thirdly, we are at the stage where the leadership that we have are still thinking that they have a choice. They are government and can do what they want. The truth of the matter is that there is no government in Nigeria today. And the reason is simple. Nigeria needs the best we have from everywhere. The best we have should be involved in retrieving Nigeria now. Let me give you an indication why we have confusion there. Have you noticed the World Bank, the IMF and any of the think-tank like the Heritage Foundations that publish the way things are; each time they publish something which is factual because they have the statistics to back their opinion, there is a reply. They say the presidency replied, who is the presidency and what do they know? But it is indicative of how serious our problems are because it means that we have a leadership that does not recognise how serious the situation is and does not recognise that we are in a major emergency. So they still think that they can fight it on partisan ground, but we cannot afford partisan division in Nigeria right now. We need all that we have to retrieve ourselves. It is as bad as that. And the worst part, of course, is that those who can see and may even have a suggestion because of the atmosphere of contention not of ideas, but contentions of opinions and whatever else, because of that what is happening is that those who have something to contribute say nothing. You just pointed out that I spoke to you three years ago because I didn’t see the need you know. If you remember this government started in May 29, 2015. In August that same year I gave a lecture at Eni Njoku Memorial Lecture. By that time, the first act of this government had been shown. I used that opportunity to give advice on how to go. But advice to people who are not prepared to receive advice is wasted. Everything I suggested in that lecture we have seen it in the last three years and where we are sentiments are not enough. To say that we will come out of this, how? Put a plan on the ground and attract the best Nigeria has. Mobilise the people to know that hard times are here, but if you sacrifice we will come out of it because this is the plan. But that is not happening. God willing in next one week or two weeks, we may see the new cabinet. But I could almost, I don’t believe in betting, I would have said I could have told you what will happen. That cabinet is not the one that will see us out of the woods.
Realnews: Just for the benefit of government, can you recap the advice you gave then that was not implemented?
Anya: First of all, I said Nigeria is a plural society and because it is a plural society cultures differ, tongues differ, religion differs and even the way of lives is different. You must create a situation where we harvest all the possibilities in this plural society and make the diversity our strength. How do you do it? If you look at all Nigerian peoples you will find that there is always something good from anywhere you look. Harness those good things so that we will become a learning culture. The Igbos will be learning from the Kanuris, the Kanuris will be learning from the Gwaris and the Gwaris will be learning from Yorubas and vice versa. That is what brings a nation together. Two, I said we have to have a productive economy not a consuming economy. A production in any society doesn’t depend upon the public sector, it depends upon individuals. It is the individuals’ productivity that when you harness it, it becomes high productivity of the nation. So emphasise on the lives of the ordinary people and improve on it. In fact, I wasn’t saying anything new because the second chapter of our Constitution, what we called the directive principles tell you that the main reason for governance is security of life and property of citizens and welfare of citizens, but what do we have? On Sunday, June 23, newspapers, calculated N493 billion as what the people we elected are going to take over the next four years in a country that is near bankruptcy. When will we have leaders who are prepared to sacrifice? And of course, you must accept that in a plural society there will be competition, but the point where everybody meets, there is also merit. Things are done on merit. But the fact that I’m giving a lot because of my merit doesn’t give me more rights than the next citizen. Indeed, it becomes my responsibility to bring to bear all my gifts so that the general pull will have enough to give to ordinary people, but that do not happen. The rich has gotten richer and the poor poorer because the gap is increasing and Nigeria is not producing. And when you do not produce, how can you have a productive economy? If you don’t have a productive economy, how do you then meet the needs of your people? So there is also the issue of the value system and I did draw attention to that in that lecture too. I think I have said enough on that.
Realnews: You raised a number of issues, the issue of debt that has tripled. How do we get out of it?
Anya: Well, I believe that there is a solution, but I’m not going to start speculating what solution is preferable at this point until we see an indication that we now have a leadership that is prepared to face the truth and prepared to work for the greater good of Nigeria. What do I mean by that? You see, we have gone through this route before. Do you remember how much Nigeria owed $32 billion. We were able to negotiate to the point where nearly $20 billion were written off and we were able to pay the remaining $12 billion and over time we were able to reduce it until the direction changed again. So the truth of the matter is that we have to restore confidence in Nigeria’s ability to manage its economy to the outside world because knowing what happened before they are not going to take you serious when you say look, let’s see how you help us. And what is more, do you notice all the money the federal government was distributing to states to pay salaries are from the Paris Club. Those were the monies that were credited to us when the debt negotiation took place. You would have thought that the money should be for investments, but we have also eaten it. So we have also eaten the seed yams. So where do we go? First of all, it means that our relationships with the international bodies have to be re-examined and our diplomacy will have to be different. You can no longer pretend that you are in good state, but you are not. But because people expect so much from Nigeria and expect it to have a dominant leadership position in Africa, there are people, who are prepared in the international community to help us, but nobody is going to help you if you are not confident that you are already helping yourself and you know when you need help and what can happen. So that is where we are.
Realnews: How do we build that confidence?
Anya: First, the level of insecurity must be addressed. Sincerity and confidence and trust have to be restored. But that is where our current president has a problem. It is difficult because of what he said and did in the past for people to believe him when he now says I want to build a new Nigeria where everybody is welcomed, so he needs himself to give signals that this time I’m serious, this time we need everybody. And he would have to show to Nigerians that he is not only president of Fulanis, he is president of Nigeria. The signals he gave us why the Fulanis are important, remember soon after he came to power he wanted to build the railway system to now go from Katsina to Maradi in northern Niger Republic. Is Maradi part of Nigeria? In our economy, what is it that we are receiving from Niger that we need to have a railway to evacuate it. Secondly, he also said he wanted to build a new refinery, but the crude for that refinery will not come from Nigeria, it was to come from the crude oil in Niger. So, he is giving the signal that the welfare of our neighbours is more important to him than the welfare of all of us. But I know he does not mean that and he can change the picture. But it seems nobody can do it for him because it is when he takes the first step and say this is the new direction. Then people like me and others will now start saying we need to rebuild this nation. In fact, the two groups of people, who need Nigeria more than other Nigerians are the Igbos and the Fulanis because they are the ones that move around everywhere and make their home everywhere and prosper in those places. The difference is that the Igbos are more tolerant of and respectful of where they go to and are prepared to integrate. Once an Igboman establishes in Funtua, the problems of Funtua as far as he is concerned are his problems. But that is not the situation with the Fulani, but they are people among the Fulanis and some are my friends who see the only viable goal is for the Fulanis to cooperate with other Nigerians to build that great Nigeria that can now benefit the whole of Africa. It is still possible, but the signals have to come from the Fulani leadership, neither from Miyetti Allah or even what we have seen of Buhari must signal that these other constructive thinking group in the Fulanis can work with them.
Realnews: You raised the issue of governance and the amount of resources that will go to the legislature in the next four years. How do we reduce that amount because it is a recurrent expenditure and is going to increase the debt and will not turn the economy around in anyway? What do we do to change that situation since you have identified that problem?
Anya: The responsibility is that of the elders like me and a few others. You know, I have been working with Christopher Kolade on what we called the ‘Burdened Elders’. It was one of the few things we have done that you the press gave us the title of the “Burdened Elders” and our role has been to look at problems as they emerge and to warn about them. But to warn about them not in a lecturing tune, but in a tune that says these are problems that if we all cooperate, if we all trust ourselves we can fix. More of such elders need to stand up and say look enough is enough, we cannot be accumulating debt in the state that we are in. We cannot be impoverishing our people. We have impoverished our people presently, sufficiently and long enough. It is time we stop impoverishing because what we are now doing is to try to impoverish the posterity. The younger generation will be left with a debt burden that is unmanageable. When that happens of course, it is curious. Whether it is the banditry or violence, it is gruesome and as I showed in that lecture in Port Harcourt, it is all gruesome fulfilment of what Awolowo said in 1967. So we don’t have time. But the elders have to give leadership and they have to bring the younger leadership in so that we don’t lose hope and so that everybody knows that there is work to do. And thirdly, we have to have a vision that captures the diversity of Nigeria so that everybody is part of this new movement. In that kind of atmosphere, you will find out that those who go into politics for what they get they will become afraid because the population has been mobilised and if you step out, you can pay for it with your life because if we don’t restrain them, the bandits, the armed robbers, cultists and so on they don’t see the difference between me, who is talking responsibly on how to build a new nation and how to protect our youths. They will not see any difference between me and those who are exploiting for their benefits the national resources on a personal level, which is what the politicians are doing. We all will be consumed by the anger of the youth. So that is why the elders need to step out and start mobilising for the sake of ourselves, for the sake of our children and for the sake of our grandchildren. Maybe, our children and grandchildren will now see that there is hope for the future and start changing the way they see things. Right now if you look round, the youths have given up on Nigeria. As far as they are concerned, the elders are irresponsible without exception. That is the picture. But it is not a true picture. So people like us need to be more assertive and we start by telling ourselves the home truth among the eldership and Buhari is among the eldership. So, we have to start by telling the truth, but I don’t believe that it is in hectoring. I don’t believe that it is when you use sectorial voice as if you are the only wise man. In my interaction with him many years ago, I came to the conclusion that he is sincere in his love and his vision for Nigeria, but that his vision needs to be updated.
Realnews: To be updated …?
Realnews: From what you have said so far, is it right to say that the democracy we practice is the problem of the country?
Anya: Democracy is not our problem. What has happened is that we think democracy is elections. If you again read the lecture I gave in Port Harcourt, I addressed that matter. The Americans we are copying has set up three competing arms of government. Co-equal but each has its responsibility and none pretends it can take over the other. But every Nigerian president from Obasanjo down has always thought that he can as it were, they start by controlling the legislature. The legislature is the most important because the legislators are the ones representing those who have the sovereign authority – the people. But unfortunately, the legislators are easily as we see in the States Houses of Assembly, they are the ones, who hand themselves over to the Executive because they are looking at elections and are looking at what to get. The Americans not only did that in terms of, they also did another thing which is to say greed and power do not go together. You must not have a person having the mandate of the American people to govern them who has too much money because he will be thinking of how to make more money. So you must separate money and power. Thirdly, they formed what I called firewalls, which are the rules that will govern things so that people don’t over step. So that people are bad, there is no point pretending that they are angels. Human beings are normally bad. It is those bad people that you will rule that you will bring in to run a government that is sincere and trustworthy. So you must put in checks and balances that will in itself control them that is what the Constitution is. But if you have the Constitution, unless you follow through with rule of law and people knowing that there are things you don’t do when you are in government then you are in trouble. And that is where we are because there is no rule of democracy that we have not breached. The reports of various observer missions have just been released and as diplomatic as they are, we all ought to be ashamed that people are pointing out to us avoidable tragedies. They are doing it diplomatically, but it is us who have to face it and say this is not good enough for our country because we have descended to the lowest depth where the military started being used to force people not to vote so that some people will win. Can you call that democracy? But I’m not going to give up hope. It is still possible to talk sense in Nigeria and re-organise ourselves because if we don’t we will all be consumed.
Realnews: You talked of the reports, what do you make of the European Union, NDI and IRI reports concerning the 2019 elections?
Anya: There is no point trying to differentiate what EU, IRI or NDI said. They are being diplomatic. They have told you that what you had was not an election, it was not democracy. But they also told you that it is not us who are going to tell you what to do in your country to fix your country. Those are the two lessons from it. That the things the opposition and ordinary people said have been collaborated by what the observers saw. So there is no need to pretend. We are dancing naked in the public square internationally.
Realnews: What is your assessment of 2019 elections and the outcome?
Anya: My own assessment?
Anya: How can I have different assessment? What they reported didn’t it happen? Didn’t we see it in Rivers State? Didn’t you see it in Lagos? Have you forgotten what happened in Lagos? The thing is that we have a short term memory in the country once things will come to a dangerous spot everybody is watching, thinking that the crash is coming and it does not come and we will dance away merrily in our old ways. But you don’t run a society like that.
Realnews: Let us go back to what you said about the president creating impression that he is the president of the Fulani….
Anya: (Cuts in) He is the president of Nigeria. He took an oath to bear true allegiance to Nigeria, but I’m saying that some of his actions contradict that in the signals he seem to give. And I talked about the railway and the refinery.
Realnews: I’m talking about the Fulanisation allegation that was made?
Anya: I don’t like that because it is a simplification of a complex situation. It is easy to talk about Islamisation, Fulnaisation. The truth of the matter like I said, I have friends among the Fulanis who love Nigeria may be even more than me and want peace in Nigeria even more than me and are frightened by the way the Fulanis are being or shall I say demonised. But it is also what a flank of the Fulanis are doing that is creating that problem. So the two sides have to come to a resolution and that resolution is what Nigerians are watching. We are ready to cooperate with all parts of Nigeria, including the Fulanis to build that powerful Nigerian nation that God intended.
Realnews: What do you make of these rampant allegations of Fulani herdsmen, kidnapping, rape and banditry across southwest and southeast?
Anya: Then you have not read my lecture. If you read, you will see that there are enough indications that all the isolated forests in the southeast, southwest, south-south and the middle belt, there are Fulani colonies in them armed. Which is what is giving confidence to Miyelti Allah to now say that they are going to be the vigilantes in the southeast because that is what they are saying. They will be armed, but the native vigilantes will not be armed. So who is in charge and even the thought of it? These are the things I called the firewalls, the lines you do not breach.
Realnews: I was getting to this establishment of Fulani vigilante in Southeast. How did it even come about in the first instance and the governors in the Southeast appear to be doing nothing about it?
Anya: I think that we are often too simplistic in the way we dismiss the governors in the Southeast. They are maneuvering through very difficult situations. You cannot say you want to build a peaceful society and you are also at the same time being seen to be arming for reprisals and fight back. Anything that will involve shedding blood and don’t forget most of the Southeast people are Christians and the last thing a Christian should do is to act in a situation where there is shedding of blood. And even Igbo tradition forbids shedding of blood because blood is sacred. So to that extend there is a dilemma, how do you balance the two. But you are dealing with people who do not have those considerations and because they don’t have such consideration therefore there is no restraint because they have even broken away from their own value system. Like I said, there are Fulanis, who are horrified by what they see. As I also said in another public lecture, the North needs help, but it is for them to identify those violent and aggressive members around them. We need to help them to regain control of their society and then for us to cooperate to build a new Nigeria that is responsible. I said it in 2011 when as a member of the Presidential Panel on Post-Election Violence, which gave me the privilege to seat with President Buhari as then General Buhari in his house in Kaduna, to address the issues because at that time there was suspicion that he was involved in the post election violence and so on. But by the time we finished with him we knew that people were mixing up a lot of things. But he himself has not come directly to regain the confidence of the ordinary people. The contraction that brought him to power as APC in 2015 was contraction for power. It was not a contraction to actually settle down to solve Nigerian problems and that is why in four years there is no problem they can say conclusively they solved. This problem was there and we came in and fix it. There is none you can say. But that has to change and circumstances are now coming to the point that they know that the road they are travelling cannot take Nigeria anywhere. And that change will be induced on all of us cooperating.
Realnews: When we talk of change, you can’t talk of change without proper education, and recently the crux of the matter is how the recruits for banditry are the Almajiris and the federal government made a statement with regard to out of school children and the Almajiri system, but they recanted and they have not reached any decision on whether to outrightly ban the Almajiri system. Do you think it is a very serious issue that should be addressed?
Anya: That we are even raising it as a problem makes it clear how ridiculous we are. Education is what changes the value system of a people. Education is what changes the capacity of an individual. The Almajiri system has not allowed the North to deploy its full resources through education so that it can build a prosperous society. There is no way you can salvage the North without fixing that and returning all the children there to school and re-orienting them on the values that show how education… have you forgotten how Boko Haram came about; they said western education is a crime. The western education is not all the education that exists. We still can have Nigerian education that can meet Nigerian needs and we need that Almajiri as we need all the other children of east, south and west. The truth of the matter is that if you do not align yourself with education and a visionary education system, there is no way the society will grow. But that is the contention where the north is right now and they have to sort themselves out. No outside can help them solve that problem. But the only way we can help is as Awolowo said, put resources together for free education across board not only for the Almajiri, but for every northern child, every western child, every eastern child and every southern child. All this money we have been borrowing, if we put half of it into education and health, we will not be where we are.
Realnews: You said that there are Fulani colonies in forests in Southern Nigeria?
Anya: That is the allegation and nobody has changed it. And the empirical evidence of what is happening suggests it. Good, Olu Falae was kidnapped in his farm in Ekiti State. In Ebonyi State, some people were killed in their farm recently. In Delta, people have been killed in their farm. In other words, of course, we know about Agatu in Benue State. We know about Adara people in Kaduna State. So, it is all over the country.
Realnews: What I’m talking about is the Southeast in particular where they have actually established Fulani vigilante in Enugu. If they are establishing the vigilante groups, is it not preparation to wipe out the region if there is crisis because their people are armed and the indigenes are not. Are we not preparing ourselves to witness the worst form of genocide that can happen in the Southeast?
Anya: Listen, the mistake to make is to single out any area of Nigeria as the one most in danger because as I said in the lecture the evidence that people have put forward is that armed groups are in all the isolated forests across the country. So, if you isolate the Southeast, they can come a time they can move out and move back and the truth of the matter is that we should not see it as a Southeast problem or Middle belt problem. It is a Nigerian problem that all, including Fulani leaders will seat down and call Miyetti Allah to order.
Realnews: But it is only in the Southeast that this idea of establishing a vigilante group has come up …?
Anya: The reason is simple. They have confidence that there is nothing you can do. In the Southwest, the Inspector General of Police went to see Gani Adams. That is because they know that there are things if they do in the Southwest there will be a response. In the east they don’t think there is any alternative force that can stop them, but that is where they are making a mistake. There is a major principle in diplomacy that says you can’t be stronger than me and be weaker than me at the same time. What does that mean? It means that even the person you think is weak recognises one thing that their weakness has advantages and just as it has disadvantages. Strength has advantages and as well as disadvantages. Whoever manages his advantages better and minimises problems from his disadvantages that is the person that will win. That is basic strategy. As I said in the lecture, let us not forget that the Fulanis armed or not, they are in the minority. They are 7 million. Even if they conquer the whole of Nigeria how do they police it? So, they are setting themselves up for a tragedy that we need to help them to pull themselves back for their sake and our sake. In other words, what they are doing is not sustainable, but of course, lives will be lost, but when lives have been lost, it will end around a table and a new kind of peace would emerge. But do we need to lose lives that may be lost if we go on the route we are going? And that is a decision that only President Buhari can take on behalf of all of us in Nigeria because he is our president.
Realnews: From what is going on, can we say that the North or Fulani is the problem of Nigeria?
Anya: Nigeria is the problem of Nigeria because what God has given us we have not made use of it. Don’t forget that from Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, even Central African Republic, we have Fulanis there. Why is it that is the Nigerian Fulani that has become problematic? In Guinea, where they have a sizeable number, no Fulani person has held political office there. In Cote d’Ivoire, even Ghana, their Fulanis and other people are living and working together. Why is it different in Nigeria? That is the question we together, the Fulanis and the non-Fulanis have to answer. And maybe when we start answering, we start telling ourselves where we went wrong and what we ought to do. Do you even know that the Tutsis, some say, infact, they are Fulanis of Central Africa? The difference was that while the British under colonial rule pampered our own Fulanis, the French and the Belgium trained them and I don’t want to say, it is because they are Christians, but they now have a different value system. And that’s how you have Kagame. Kagame is Tutsis and he is the poster child of how Africa can develop right now. So Fulanisation and all these things are words and not the problem.
Realnews: Given the security situation in the country, do you support the call for state police?
Anya: We agreed in 2014 at the National Conference that there will be state police. Whatever the augments were had been finished by that time remaining the implementation. The truth of the matter is what does the police do? Police maintain peace and order and make sure that people live together. The criminals are identified and put in check and the policeman can patrol as the case maybe and follow up cases of misdemeanor and so on. In otherwise, there is no effective police unless the police know the environment in which he is operating and that is the basis of community policing and therefore state policing. You cannot stay in Abuja and know what is happening in a major country with over 300 ethnic groups. Only those ethnic groups will know the area and will lead you to do the right things. Those opposed to state police talk about it being misused politically, what of the misuse politically of other resources of Nigeria that we have been living with?
Realnews: We are looking at the situation in the country whereby the military have been deployed, according to Buratai, to 36 states and FCT and a war is raging. Recently, he said that the soldiers are sabotaging the war…
Anya: The truth of the matter is simple, the military has been pulled back from the territorial boundaries of Nigeria, which should be where they should be to the cities and hamlets to do police job. The military has no business getting involved in looking out for breakdown of law and order. It is the responsibility of the police. The military is to defend us against external aggression and to assist the police where there is threat to law and order. The military is to assist, but right now they take the initiative. The military has lost its ways and that is why it has become easy to politicise the military, but that phase will pass.
Realnews: How did the military lose its way?
Anya: Because they are now doing police job rather than military duties. In the main time we have an insurrection. They should be in the war front dealing with that. What Buratai is trying to do is to have an alibi for the obvious failure. You cannot tell us that you decimated this people a long time ago and every day we see evidence that they are still active. It is a contradiction. Which is why I said earlier we start from telling ourselves the truth. When we start from the truth, we then mobilise ourselves to meet our common enemy to solve our common problem. You cannot go on pretending that the problem that stares you every day in the face doesn’t exist. That is what we are doing.
Realnews: Is there a way to strengthen our military because what he said was like an admittance of failure and the president is not changing any of the service chiefs?
Anya: (Laughs) Well, I don’t want to dabble into military affairs. The president should know better because he is a retired general. So he should know things better than I do.
Realnews: There are also allegations that the Air Force plane dropped ammunition in a particular community in Enugu?
Anya: That is the recent one. If you go back two years ago, there were similar allegations of dropping of ammunition in some communities in Delta communities. So there is nothing new. You see, when you are not dealing with the truth and the cards are on the table, you give room for all kinds of speculations and all kinds of conspiracy theories. And you will get to a point where you don’t know what is true and what is false. That is where we are. And you see when you come to a situation which is also a matter that only the president can address because he alone will know whether it is true or false. There is the allegation that they dealt with the Boko Haram people and they paid them money. There is also the allegation that they met with Miyetti Allah and they also paid them money. These are the people who are destabilising the nation and when you give them money you are admitting that they have succeeded. You do not know how to deal with them by meeting their force with your own force so you want to buy them. What is their priority? Their priority is to continue destabilising you which means that the money you have given will be applied to buy more arms. So the condition will be worse and you solve no problem, but nobody is addressing that. Whether it is true or false the government, which owes us an explanation and a response has said nothing, which again goes back to the issue of signals. If this is true, then the oath that Buhari took to defend me, is he being true to it?
Realnews: Let’s move to the economy. The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria has been reappointed. Is it a signal of stability and is it going to bring any good to the economy? What is the significance of Emefiele’s reappointment?
Anya: One thing we must say is that Emefiele has tried in managing a very difficult situation. Therefore, understandably, he is being rewarded for that. But my suspicion is that in the next four years, the priorities in Nigeria and therefore, the economy will change. Whether the medicines he has applied to the economy over this last three years or so will apply under the new circumstances. I don’t think anybody can say not even Emefiele himself. The economy is entering an unchartered territory. People are still losing their jobs, industries are still closing and foreign direct investment has continued to decrease. So frankly, it can only be a bold man or woman despite your degrees from Harvard, Cambridge or Oxford on the economy can tell you what will happen to the Nigerian economy in the next two years. I won’t go to the next four years, I said in the next two years.
Realnews: Emefiele is supposed to be in charge of monetary aspect of the economy, what happens to the fiscal side, does it mean that there is absence of any fiscal manager?
Anya: The fiscal manager is supposed to be the minister of finance, but then the question is, given where we are those who have manned this portfolio in the last three years, do they have the cognate experience that goes with managing fiscal policies in the kind of confused economy that we have. Some may even suggest that if you bring the hottest professor from Harvard or Oxford to manage the fiscal side of Nigerian economy that they won’t succeed because the rules that apply in managing fiscal policies are subverted in Nigeria by many disorderly things that we do. Whether it is managing of Customs, Immigration, and industries, government takes disproportionate share of functions that belong to the private sector and when you have that kind of contradiction what comes of it cannot be what you expect. It will not be the things that those who design the fiscal policies expect to happen because the conditions that are supposed to be present that make possible the application doesn’t exist in Nigeria.
Realnews: Corruption is another issue in the country and it has rubbed off wrongly on the economy. Do you think we are making progress in the fight against corruption?
Anya: Let me say this, much noise has been made over corruption. But we have made corruption look as if it is one great invincible giant in Nigeria. If the economy is moving in the right way and wealth is being created not public funds being appropriated for private purposes, corruption will not loom so large in our consciousness because it will just be a little irritant if the economy was doing well. And the reason is very simple. There is no country that doesn’t have corruption. The challenge of even fiscal policy is to bring out policies that can control the temptation for certain things that are not allowed because that is what corruption is. And then you sow impunity. People will do things that are not acceptable and you will now start saying that it has happened before. When you make rules, the rules are supposed to apply across the board. It is when you differentiate the application of rules between A and B you create the opportunity for people to subvert the system and that is what corruption is. Some believe that corruption is worse now in 2019 than it was in 2014. I don’t know which is which, but that is what some people believe and they are people I respect their views because they are in the economy and they are operating in the economy. So they know what their experiences on a daily basis are. Can corruption be controlled? Of course. In any society there is incentives for good behavior. There are rewards for doing the right things and there is punishment for doing the wrong things. Our situation is that our reward system does not reward integrity and does not reward production. Our punishment system in fact rewards the very person who has done wrong and he becomes the model of how to succeed in Nigeria. It is that conflict, that contradiction that gives the impression that we are more corrupt than any other. But it is not true. It is a small minority but we have allowed that minority to loom so large in their control of our system. I don’t know if you remember. Many years ago a former deputy inspector general of police retired and contested elections and became a senator and he looked round the Senate and said some of those he investigated for all kinds of malfeasances are now his couples here. In any country when that kind of thing happen you will call him and get all the details and you now decide how to deal with it as a national issue not to cover it up because those 419 and other people he was talking about served their term and went out. They were replaced by groups that are even more blatant in their 419 practices and we are where we are. Instead of men of integrity being the once who run the system, we have all kinds of charlatans. And what is more, they have now infected our entire political system. You were talking about the elections? The elections have become transactional because the people that are now running for offices most of them have no rules except to get to power by all means. You know this 2019 elections is the first time people are actually talking about going and giving money to people that lined up to vote. You give them money for their votes. Before people did it, they recognised that it was a bad, but now people are emboldened to do it practically because we have done nothing about dealing with it despite all our noise.
Realnews: We can’t roundup this conversation without looking at the leadership of the National Assembly and how it emerged?
Anya: I don’t want to go there.
Anya: The people with the kind of antecedents that they have before they got into politics and what we have seen of them over the last 20 years is sufficient to know that in any society every one of them except probably one or two I do not know should not be in the office they are in. That is the reality. I don’t want to name names, but they are none except probably the Senate President that you do not have unsavoury details of what he did in the past. Obviously, I’m sure that security agencies round the world are in touch, when they focus and look at the leadership of Nigerian government, leadership of Nigeria’s political parties and leadership of the operators of the system, I’m sure they will be laughing. Those are the people societies have spent money to keep out of the system. But they are the people that we are paying to keep in government.
Realnews: Finally, is there any other information you would like to share with us concerning the Nigerian situation, the state of the nation and how to make progress?
Anya: Well, you are already doing prayers, continue your prayers. (laughter) Unfortunately, God is in heaven and we are here and God created us and gave us all the fantastic opportunities He has given us. He is not going to come from heaven to do those things He expects you to do. That sums up the Nigerian situation. The day we are ready to do the things that need to be done so that God can now do the things that only Him can do, then maybe we can start.
– June 28, 2018 @ 19:25 GMT |