Professor Anya O. Anya, former director general, Nigeria Economic Summit Group, NESG, has made worthy contributions to the development of Nigeria. He has chaired many committees which made many recommendations to uplift the country. He was a member of the presidential panel on national dialogue whose lofty recommendations led to the convening of the National Confab early this year. He was also a delegate to the conference. In this extensive interview with Maureen Chigbo, editor, Realnews, Anya speaks on the state of the nation and made so many thought provoking comments on Boko Haram, the economy, Nigeria’s strained relations with United States of America, what the Igbos lost because of their support to President Goodluck Jonathan and the new Constitution Nigerians must adopt. Excerpts.
Realnews: You participated in the national conference and so many things are happening in the country. Many Nigerians are wondering if we are going to see 2015. Could you reflect a little bit on the conference and how it’s going to solve the myriads of problem we have in the country?
Anya: Let me say this. There is no country where members of the elite speak so derogatorily and negatively about their country as Nigerians do, especially we the favoured ones, members of the elite. And the result of that is that when you read Nigerian papers there are times you wonder, are they talking about the same country because despite all the challenges in Nigeria good things are also happening. And important changes that are slowly putting us in the direction of irreversible long term changes are taking place. And I was just reading something today (October). The World Bank is saying that our economy is growing at 7 percent. If you take Europe and other countries any country that is growing at1 percent 2 percent is making progress and 7 percent is the threshold. Any economy growing at 10 percent has the capacity to double itself and that’s a good sign. But having said that we have serious problems particularly insurgency and a certain kind of attitude that is almost nihilist. And when you have that it is not something that is Nigerian only. It is the way the world has changed. It is a global thing. There is rise in terrorism. Even the things people do, the intensity with which people indulge in violence, unthinkable behaviours, which all over the world, we are secretly being glamourized. For those of us who believe whether in Koran or Bible, it is an abomination. But people are approbating and clapping for them. I recognize that that exists. And therefore makes it easier for Nigeria to be in that direction. So that sets the Stage. Now, come to the 2015, I know that people are full of foreboding and I dare predict that 2015 will be an anti-climax. It will go so smoothly that people will not believe it. And I am standing on the basis of what came out of the conference. In the conference, you know I was involved at two levels. First I was a member of the presidential panel on national dialogue, that was for packaging it and I was now a delegate of the conference. Many people did not expect the conference to succeed. Many people expected to wake up the next morning and it broke the next day and there will no longer be any conference. And indeed there were people who came with that agenda. Even in the Okoronunu Committee, there were one or two members, it was clear that there was a clear mandate for the conference not to take place. They did everything but we were able to go through it. What is more the president accepted our recommendation and the conference took place. All the contentious issue people feared were on the table. Things went so smooth. And when we finished that day people were filled with relief and there was a sense of brotherhood, a sense of accomplishment. To summarise, the conference was a major watershed for Nigeria. If half of the recommendations are implemented, Nigeria will be a good country It will have a new beginning. And I don’t think that despite all the obstacles to implement it are as onerous as people think. Just as we had a tremendous shift in position, when the implementation starts I will expect the same phenomenon. So for me it was an important watershed, it was an important experience. Prized in many ways and there is a lot to build from it. It could be a different time not today that I will address the issue of apparent crisis, the way it was engineered, the way it was resolved, people responsible for it. But each time it happened, it was resolved. You know there threats of people walking out. Each time it happened, nobody walked out (laughs). People gave all sorts of impossible conditions but when the chips were down, they mellowed. But at the end of the day, because of the kind of role they played they were the ones who left the conference a bit ashamed. Ashamed that there were so much good potentials in the country and they were playing the kind of role they played. Like I said a time will come when people will give the insight of what happened. Infact, I will be bold enough to say that neither Kutigi or Bolaji Akinyemi, chairman and deputy chairman can fully account for what happened. Because there where things that happened they didn’t know how it came about. But one must congratulate them because the management of the conference proceedings was outstanding and made it easier for those of us who worked behind the scene to get the resolution of issues quietly. You see, one of the thing people have to recognise, because the cameras were there on the conference day in day out, it meant that when people stood up to talk they were not talking to conference delegates. They were talking to home people and often they took extreme position so that their people will clap for them that those things they want them to say have been said. But people sat down realistically and by the time we finished their position were hitherto contrary to what they had said. But people did not know that what they saw are fiery speeches which made it seem as if no agreement was going on but agreement was being reached. Of course, they were not addressing us. I had the privilege of being in a non-official group that I chaired, where the real negotiations between the north and south, between the east and west; where the real negotiation took place.
Realnews: What you are saying is that for some of the delegates when the chips were down found that some of their posturing are not realisable and they had to shift their stance to accommodate other views…
Anya: And also when I saw it first, when as a member of the Okoronunu Committee, we toured through the six geopolitical zones. The Okoronunu Committee, we packaged the conference. Of all the multitude of memoranda, off all the speeches we heard, only one person from Bauchi talked about the country breaking up. But all the others said things are not good things, are so bad but we will live together. And that same thing was also reflected in the conference itself. Even the people who made fiery speeches when push comes to a shove the sort of back pedaled and that was how it was possible for realism to take charge. Having had the privilege of being in the Okoronunu committee, and having toured the zones of the country, two things became clear to me. First, there was no part of the country that did not have problem. But there was no part of the country that could solve its problem without the help of other people. So the inter relationship and interaction, the basis of that was already set. Secondly, it was also clear that despite all the fears and so on, the country was moving forward perhaps not as fast as we would want, perhaps slower than we would want but definitely the country was getting to a point where things are changing slowly and we are getting to a situation where the system will now have to drive itself and the changes will now become irreversible and the country is close to that. If you take even the economy over the last 10 years, the fundamentals you need to build the economy has taken place. The last 10, 15 years, take the pension for example, it is a major watershed. As director general of Nigeria Economic Summit Group we pushed for it. The committee was set up with Fola Adeola as the chair. I was a member of the committee. Why we were pushing for the pension is not just to provide for people in their old age but because in any serious nation pension provides the sources of long term funds for development. Because a long man joins a service and he is paying something each month and his employer pay something each month, he does not need that his money for the next 30 years. So you have a pool of funds that you can use to build roads, bridges. So long that you are using it for the kind of investment that can yield return, so that when the man needs his money you will not only give him his money but also give him the profit that has been made from the investment. But because that didn’t exist misused set in with all the scandals we had but that’s a different kind of problem so you can see that somethings have changed but not faster.
Realnews: You have talked so much about the economy and the insurgency. And this insurgency has dragged on for some time. Even the effort to arm military is being smeared with scandal. The recent scandal of $9.3 seizure by South Africa, should it be happening?
Anya: Listen. I also happened to have had the privilege to have served on the Lemo committee, the presidential committee on the post-election violence on 2011. If you remember, after the election there was violence in some states of the federation in the north west and pockets of it in Akwa Ibom etc. We toured from Jigawa to Katsina, from Zamfara to seven states of the north west, only kebbi did not have any violence. But you see, people tend to think it was the election; that violence was more fundamental. It was an uprising of the people against their leadership – traditional and political.
Anya: You see, a certain consciousness was developing in the north. That consciousness suggested that they have been dominant. Out of our 54 years people from the north have been out of the heads of government and heads of states for 38 years and it will be 41 if you add the years of the Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. So some of the ordinary people in the north will say that condition of living for them was now worse in 2010 that it was in 1964. So they were asking themselves the question of if I have been in charge why is my condition getting worse instead of better. Of course, it became clear that it was their leaders who will have to account for it. So there was that kind of ground swell. What now happened was that when Jonathan emerged, the reaction was not against Jonathan. You have held sway and you have not helped my life. Don’t forget that during that period things that nearly erupted around Sokoto near the Sultan place. Things erupted around the emir of Kano place, things erupted around the Emir of Zaria place. These are the strong potentates of the north. When we toured round the damage to the properties tend to target the leading members. For example the damage to Alhaji Tofa’s place was estimasted at over N700 million. So you can see…
Realnews: N700,000 million? Was it Alhaji Bashir Tofa, former NRC presidential candidate?
Anya: Yes. That was the estimation. When he appeared he confirmed the figures because he got estate agents who evaluated the property. So that was the state of the North. On top of it, the leaders of the North were not facing it as a serious problem. And we in the south tended to regard it as a northern problem, so when this thing was coming to a head nobody even tried to understand. When you added now the grandstanding of the politicians like when you remember the one who said that when Jonathan wins we will make the place ungovernable, they created an atmosphere that added fuel to already inflammatory social situation in the north and there were elements among the northern elite and establishment that thought it was a good thing because it was going to give them advantage. Because of that people misread it. When people talk about Boko Haram, there are three phases in the development of Boko Haram, it started off as a very minor skirmish, a little bit in Borno, a little bit in Yobe. And it could have remained like that. But when these other phase of politically motivated violence started developing, people now started instigating and probably, this is speculative, because some of us who took part in that Lemo committee had the suspicion that some people started sponsoring people to attack churches, markets in the Sabon gari and so on because evidence of that particular violent period showed that it was a different kind of violence. It was a response to the leadership, northern leadership. We have had violence in the past and it tended to be religious. But these one was not that way so, some rogue elements started hiring people to attack churches and so on. It will look as if it was the old pattern and not the new pattern because if people realised that it was a response to the northern elite, peoples’ attitude would have been different. What it meant was that at a certain phase. Boko Haram became a brand such that people will do things and say it was Boko Haram. But the fact was that it was not Boko Haram. That was the second phase. Then the third phase was whether it was Al Queda in North Africa or Al Shaba in Somalia became involved; international terrorists have always been interested in Nigeria. They have made effort it didn’t work. But when the now saw elements in Nigeria doing things they thought was not possible in Nigeria. They took advantage and that was the third phase. That was why our security services were taken by surprise in the early stages. That’s why the responsible leadership in the north were taken by surprise. If you go back to 2011, for nearly a year no northern leader of standing made any comment on the violence.
So genuinely, they did not understand and were not going to speak on it. There were those who thought it was a problem for the government in power and they didn’t see it as a problem. And then there were the third group who were actually instigating it. By the time everybody rose to the realisation that it was a problem for all of us the thing has gone from local to pan northern thing to an internationalise thing. That was the point at which we started facing it but by then the sore has grown into a gangrene. But to fight it, you can see that things are changing
Realnews: What about this money that was seized?
Anya: Remember I said earlier that Nigeria elites talk irresponsibly. In any country, covert operations are part of intelligence, you procure arms, you do that and you do that and they are never really things you talk in public. It is known that these are standard practices within the intelligence services. You don’t go writing an invoice or you don’t go advertise a tender for arms. But the way we talk, we talk as if they are purchasing vehicles for the ministry. In the name of politics we have become very irresponsible. We imagine the worst in any situation. The realistic rational ways that government is organised. Admittedly I don’t blame people if the get suspicious. But you cannot expect a country in an emergency to go through the normal process in approaching governments and normal sources when in a war if you want equipment you pay for it in the black market and you get it from whatever source. All I that is needed is that perhaps they didn’t factor in a certain kind of hostility that existed in South Africa against Nigeria because otherwise it is a normal transaction between governments, between intelligence services. So the people are making a lot of noise about it because of the irresponsible politicking that we have developed. Otherwise, it’s no big deal.
Realnews: Yes, to you, it’s not a big deal. But do you know why it has become a big deal. The first one happened and people were thinking that government will learn to do things better. But look at the second one that happened. This kind of things happen in US they do it. Remember the Iran Contra deal, it was such a big scandal in the US. So people are bound to raise eyebrow when slush funds are involved in arms deal
Anya: Remember that I hinted that our people misread, they presume South Africa was a friendly country. But you know within intelligence services you can have rogue elements who will want to embarrass the government and probably embarrassed us. That is why things that are not supposed to become public knowledge became public knowledge because some people in the know obviously exposed it. And like I said about that country, it is standard practice among intelligence agencies. You see, you said this one happened and that one happened., it could probably be the same thing but the payment was in tranches but when this one blew the people who had covered the other one decided to blew it. It became part of the myth apart from the irresponsible attitude of the people wanting to embarrass the government, its no big deal.
Realnews; There is the belief that Jacob Zuma may be friendly with the opposition, All Progressive Congress, in Nigeria and may have acted to support them against the ruling government in Nigeria.
Anya: I know that Zuma and Atiku have very good relations. It will be irresponsible of me to assume that Atiku is behind it. Atiku is one of the misunderstood and understated politicians in the country. I don’t think it is as simple as that that it happened because Zuma and Atiku … no. This is not at the level of government. It is at the level of rogue elements within the intelligence services. I won’t go as far as saying that it is necessarily politically motivated as far as APC is concerned. No. But there are political elements not so experience, not so responsible in political parties which could include APC who in the facile way they interpret things see it as another way of embarrassing the government. But as I have said where the elite are united in matters of national interest, and in matters of national security they close ranks as it is done in countries like the US where only a select few may be briefed and thereafter every other person shuts up. You see it in Britain, this question of whether Scotland will become independent because it is a national issue the major parties close rank and they spoke with one voice. But in Nigeria because they are too many people who got into politics because it is lucrative are irresponsible. People get into politics as a means of service. Here it is not so, people are comfortable to say anything to discomfort some people and collect some money from it and then it is politics.
Realnews: Some people are thinking that the Americans have a hand in what is happening in Nigeria. They don’t want to sell arms to Nigeria. Why will America be working against the interest of Nigeria?
Anya: Let me say this. Like I said earlier, I don’t like the fascile speculation that goes on. Governance is a serious business and relationship between nations is even more serious. But let me put it this way. Some of us have been watching over the last two years. Perhaps, particularly over the last 18 months, there seems to be shift in America’s position. It is not yet obvious. They are things and decisions they have taken that are not as friendly to Nigerian as they used to be. And the issue is, is it a reaction to this specific government or a reaction to Nigeria itself. So it is too early to say what it is. But certainly American policy to Nigeria seems to be shifting. Until we know how fundamental how that shift is we cannot speculate. But they are position American government has taken that has not been friendly to Nigeria in the same old way. Whether you talk about corruption, those of us who have been around have seen there are more corrupt governments in Nigeria and America was still friendly towards them, untenable things and America was still protective of them. So why do we see Americans come down to lecture in Abuja. What has happened? When we are small we get affronted that anybody will think that you can lecture us but it is our own leaders who are instigating it. Instead of us asking fundamental question where are they from, where are they going? If this is an indication of a shift what does it mean to our country? Because if there is going to be a redefinition of the relationship, it is in your national interest to evaluate it and know whether the friend is still a friend whether they have shifted position, more importantly to know why he is no longer as friendly as he used to be.
Realnews: It was the State Department in America that said that by 2015 Nigeria will disintegrate. Could it be that they are doing it and fueling. I was doing a research on the internet and read a literature that listed one American Ambassador as being behind the Boko Haram insurgency. This Ambassador I read about also played a war game about a possible disintegration of Nigeria in 2015. Could it be that they are invariably working towards the disintegration of Nigeria in 2015?
Anya: It is human. If I have a piece of paper in which I ask you to write something. You know once you have written that you know you have the responsibility to defend what you have written. While if we just discussed, the same argument I give you, you make whatever you want of it. But we tend to be defensive of our views. If people have expressed opinion they will sustain it and anything that is going contrarily you play. It is not a predilection that you find in Americans only. It is human. It is also within the phenomenon of self-fulfilling prophesy. If you express an opinion, you start thinking along that line. Remember I told you at the beginning that there is no other elite I know in the world who speak against their country as Nigerians do. Some of that is being amplified by Nigerians themselves thinking erroneously that they are doing okay instead of thinking more deeply.
Realnews: Do you think Nigeria will ever break up?
Anya: My gut feeling says no. My experience at the conference says no. As I said, even those who were grandstanding, and when the chips came down they were the ones who sought accommodation. After a hundred years, the relationship is like marriage after the husband and wife have lived a long time, the pain of separation is worse than living together. They may decide to stay in separate rooms and put on the facade that all is well (laughs). So we have reached that point. But having said so, let us also recognise that the instinct for self-determination is a very strong cultural issue in all countries. People want to feel that we are in charge of our affairs. Otherwise why would after 300 years some people in Scotland will say that they want an independent Scotland because that element of self-determination and that was why at the conference some thought that it was necessary to reduce the power of the federal government and devolve some to the zones and then to the states so that the marriage enjoys a little more flexibility. Because when you embrace tightly and it gets tighter, that’s where the embrace might become painful. But if you loosen it up a little, you will like each other even more and you will need each other even more and your will need each other to cooperate.
Realnews: As an insider what is happening to the recommendation of the conference now?
Anya: That I wouldn’t know. The president said the day we handed it over that it will be implemented. The president also said on the first of October that it will be implemented. Let’s take him at his word, but of course, there are practical problem on how to implement it given that this is a political season. Politicians are thinking about election in three months’ time, in four months’ time. There will be election so that is bound to affect the momentum of this thing. But there is something that can be done very easily. This is where the secretariat of the conference was brilliant. There is a document which some people want to use to create an apparent crisis towards the end which at the end was not a crisis but it was contrived when they collapsed they collapsed totally. They were embarrassed that they even raised the issue. This document, how did it come about. We had the 1999 Constitution now. So the took this document and they put the 1999 document in a column. They put in another column beside it all the decisions of the conference and the constitutional implications and then they got brilliant legal drafts men who will look at the constitution as to what it is and look at the decision and in the light of the decision, and they rendered it marrying the decisions of the conference and marry it with the constitution. So we now have a marriage document which is the Constitution as it is and the amendments and additions as has been proposed. That document brilliant. If you read it, it is a new Constitution. If I were the president I will take that document as it is and take it to the Nigerian people. Do you approve of it yes or you don’t approve of it. No. If they say yes then we have got a new Constitution. All these rigmarole of 1999 Constitution as amended will stop. It is a holistic document of its own. Kutigi said a very simple thing, point to one thing in the document that is not the decision of the conference. And there was nothing anybody could point at. There is a document that is new in the sense that it has integrated decision of the conference but still faithful to the 1999 Constitution.
Realnews: Which group did that marriage of the conference decision and the Constitution?
Anya: Legal Drafts men.
Realnews: Who put them together?
Anya: It is the secretariat of the conference that put them together. These are not strange people. These are members of the government, that’s what they do for a living in the ministry of Justice. It’s their assignment. In whatever you decide you send it to them and they are one who should put it together. There is nothing unusual about it. They did what was their normal function.
Realnews: Is the Igbo interest well protected in these marriage of old and new document?
Anya: It’s not a matter of protecting Igbo interest. All Nigerians interest was protected in the document that has emerged because every single decision in the conference was passed with consensus. Consensus meant that as far as possible the greater majority agreed to them which is why our brothers who were raising issues were quite embarrassed because there was nothing they could point to that was not a decision of the conference. There was nothing they could point to that showed an attempt to amend anything that the conference had decided on.
What you should say is, are the interest of all the various groups in the country protected in the new Constitution. And my answer is yes and that include the interest of the Igbos. The things that Igbos consider as important, Nigerians agree to it. And this is why the conference was important because everybody came with their interest and when we discussed, everybody agreed. It then became Nigerian decision, not Igbo decision, not Yoruba decision, not Hausa decision but Nigerian decision. And those decision will favour all parts of Nigeria and make governance in the country easier.
Realnews: As at the last election in 2011, the Igbos were talking about a president of Igbo extraction. But right now nobody is talking about it. It appears the idea has petered out.
Anya: What does a president of Igbo extraction mean?
Realnews: A president who is an Igboman.
Anya: The truth of the matter is that if Nigeria is reorganised and things are functioning, the best in Nigeria will rise to the top. Igbos have always thrived when merit is the basis of any decision making in government in Nigeria. As I said once at the conference, there is nothing that the Igbos want that other Nigeria’s do not want. Nothing. Which is why the Igbo delegation went to that conference with an open mind. In fact people will ask how come it is Ike Nwachukwu who led the Nigerian delegation. Not only did he fight on the Nigerian side of the war, he is half Igbo half, Hausa Fulani. But in sensibility and in psychology he is an Igbo man. The reason why we chose him as I told Comasie, there was a discussion, it was then Comasie told me he is my cousin. I told him he is your cousin. Why do you think I would come to a meeting with you with your cousin whom I know will tell you of my secrets. Because it was one of the ways Igbos were sending a signal to others that we are open, we have no hidden agenda. All we want is a better Nigeria. That was the Igbo position. And that was why it was easy to push for extra states for the South East or extra States for all the zones. We were able to do so because they were Nigeria problems no longer Igbo problem. It is important for the Igbo to know, we are the most dispersed in the country. All the Yoruba live in Nigeria. Igbos are the only Nigerians because they are the people live everywhere. And wherever they live, they invest there, they work there wherever it is whether in Lagos or Kano. Who bothers to go to the east and live the comfort of his place. Hardly! So we have a stake here. So we have a stake for this country to work. And this country can work and if this country starts working, it is a fantastic country. When that happens Nigerians will appreciate the Igbos more because that drive that the Igbos have, that intelligence that the Igbos have will all be needed to build a new Nigeria.
Realnews: Some Igbo people are worried about this blanket support for Jonathan. They are asking was it discussed?
Anya: You know, I am the president of Ndigbo Lagos. We had an interactive session. Ndigbo Lagos invited our men in government. Anyim was here, Ihedioha was here, Ekweremadu was here? The ministers — Wogu, Nebo, Osita Chidoka, Hope Ezedinma and the one the called Senator Nworgu. They were in a meeting with me and my team and the issue you are talking about was the issue raised. You see the Igbos want a Nigeria that will work and we are prepared to make sacrifices on Nigeria that will work. When you are saying we want this we want that, we are actually pushing for the thing that has kept Igbos back in Nigeria. So long as Nigeria is run on the basis of sharing and nobody cares how the thing to be shared is produced. This country will not go anywhere. And if you look at Jonathan, I have said it sometime ago in an interview Igbos have not gained anything from Jonathan, if anything we have lost a lot from Jonathan. But Jonathan is an investment. He is there playing a role for a transitional Nigeria. And the Igbo are ready to invest in that Nigeria because it is where we will thrive. Yes, we could do better roads and I just came back from the east two days ago and I went by road. Once you cross Asaba, Onitsha to Enugu is a problem. Enugu to Port Harcourt is a problem. If you now want to go from Aba to Uyo, Ikot Ekpene road no longer exists. If you want to go to Umuahia to Ikot Ekpene, the road has collapsed and you have to go down and swim through the bottom of the river to get through. And this is a federal road. Some of us are aware of that. Indeed the situation was so bad that on the 20ieth of July I sought an audience with Mr. President and he granted the audience and I begged my elder brother Emeka Anyaoku and I confronted him because we had to learn that shouting and jumping around is not the way. Why did the delegation of Igbo at the national conference succeed this time. Because we are not grand standing. We are not shouting. Whatever we did we did quietly bearing in mind the feelings of other people. And by the time you have finished and you sum up what you have, we gained more than we ever had, more than we would have gained if we were pushing the case for our self. We were looking at other peoples’ problem so it became a cooperative thing. At the end it was more than what we would have had arguing the Igbo case. We were strategically thinking. There is need for a better intellectual leadership in Igboland and Igbo affairs.
Realnews: I understand all about sacrifice for a better end. All these support for the president. Was it discussed in such a way that after he has finished his tenure, he will in turn support the Igbos. People from other part of the country are also very angry with the way Igbos are carrying the campaign to return Jonathan for second tenure on their head.
Anya: In the speech I made yesterday night, you have to guard against creating the impression that we can be taken for granted. When you analyse the details, Jonathan might be our best bet for now. But that should not be taken for granted. There should be an indication that Jonathan knows. We are helping him to bring about a truly transformed Nigeria . Igbos are not asking for anything new. There is nothing we are asking that other people will will not want. Look at the Jews. I am reading a book called the Jewish Phenomenon. In the US, Jews are only two percent of the population. They are in the business circle, they control 20 percent. In the top universities, 25 percent of the professors are Jews. And because they are in those strategic places, the Jews are not shouting that they must an American president. Not necessarily but anybody who wants to be president of the US knows that he had better find out what the interest of the Jews are and factor it into its agenda. The truth of the matter is that our people have to understand the nature of power. Power is not position. Power is not authority. Power is influence. And it is not the person who is holding these things that has influence. This humble man talking to you, I was never a president. But I have chaired committees where vice chancellors are members of the committee. I am not a minister but I have chaired committees in which serving ministers are members. Does it mean that the ministers are more important than me? It depends on how you package yourself and what your priorities are. It depends on the position you occupy and what you do to help the life of other people. If you do it people will see it. That is also why my priority is not what I possess. That is why people are acquiring what they don’t need. So there needs to be a need for paradigm shift in values. At the speech yesterday, I made the point that Igbo values are the ones that can drive this country, because Igbo values are like the Presbyterian values that developed Capitalism in Western Europe and which is what developed capitalism in North America that created opportunities for people to create wealth. And because it comes naturally to Igbo, if you have a free country … but we will not thrive for ourselves only, if you create new industries other people will enjoy it. If we create new opportunities other people will enjoy it. It will no longer be important about the genealogy or the ethnicity of who is the leader. And that’s where the country must get to and that’s where the Igbos are driving the country to. But since people are suspicious of what the Igbo do let them judge us by what we do like when we went to the conference when they saw that we are not threatening anybody. Let us build a nation not a nation with different component parts.
Realnews: Let’s talk about the economy. We are being told that the economy is growing and they are pushing numbers at us. But the poverty in the land makes the GDP look like a lie. Deep down the masses are worse of even with the so called GDP growth of 6 percent…
Anya: You are right. You are right there because no government in Nigeria since the end of the war paid attention to the needs of the people. The Constitution we have says that the objective of government is for the welfare of the people. There is no government since the end of the war that has paid attention to the welfare of the people. And that is why because it has not been the emphasis, there has been growth. But how to make that growth impact on the life of the people, there is a disconnect. But less have the growth. Let’s have the wealth. The distribution of the wealth will be a matter of policy. We will have to create new policies. We attempted to do that at the conference. There are some decisions if we implement them will ensure a more equitable distribution, creating the opportunities that if you are prepared to work you will get it. This is where you talk about the quality of leadership, put intellectual input into the politics of Nigeria. You can’t ignore politics because politics is where you decide who gets what and when and how. So you can’t ignore politics but the thing is to use your influence to promote the interest of the general good. But right now people are using it to promote the growth of the individual good. Aliko Dangote is somebody I am proud of because I have watched him grow. He has been amply rewarded personally but at the same time look at how many people he has employed because he is investing in the country and using his money to create wealth. If we have such 10 times in the country you will find that opportunities will open up for those who want to be a millionaire. …….. everybody should have a roof over his head and everybody should be able to afford enough money to provide for the education of his children to the highest level that their abilities can carry them. If you do that you will have a happy citizenry. If you do that nobody will care if you are having your billions so longer as they are having a good life. I tell people what it takes to have a comfortable life is so small. Having a quality life is a matter of style and priority. I have friends who are fabulously rich but I pity them. Some of them do not have the kind of quality of life I have. Whether it is food as you grow older, one thing or another forces you not to eat those things you like. In a big house you can only occupy one room at a time, if you go to the bed you can only occupy one little space. So really what it takes to have a quality life is not much but the way some Nigerians steal that they did not even no any longer how much they have stolen. But that time will pass and give way to build institutions with checks and balances with new values that will encourage industry, hard work capacity for creativity, the pursuit of innovation, society will start moving.
Realnews: The power problem in the country is ruining the economy….
Anya: Let us be honest, Obasanjo spent billions and billions of dollars on power. Yes, billions and billions of dollars have been spent. Today, I have been on generator longer. On Sunday and yesterday, I have 10 hours and probably 18 hours of light here. There have been incremental changes. People are still shouting as if the way it is today is the way it was two or five years ago. There has been improvement and we must be fair. The improvements are not good enough. But certainly nearer where we want to go. And if you look at the government, you can see that they are shifting emphasis from generation to transmission in building the infrastructure that makes better distribution of what we have generated and conserving it. If you conserve electricity, you are sure to reach other people and if the transmission is not efficient you will generate power but you will not reach many people.
Realnews: There is another thorny issue about the economy. In the oil and gas industry, investment is no longer coming because the international oil companies are uncertain about the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB,
Anya: But let me confess I don’t know so much about the PIB. But people whose opinion I respect, told me it is the way to go. And I believe them because if you look at the local content regime, the differences are already clear. Nigerian participation in the oil and gas industry tells me that we are going to push those changes further. But we must ask some fundamental questions. Why has it taken so long for this bill to be passed? There ae three things to take into account. It is easy to say corruption. It may well be so. But are we saying that we don’t have enough Nigerians in the National Assembly to control their appetite for acquisition. My answer is that chances are there are a lot. My information is that people you mentioned, the large companies are themselves creating the obstacle in the legislature either by hiring or paying people, it is a serious allegation but it‘s been made. There is also another issue one has to consider. In a nation if we are really serious and national interest is our guide, we should be able to reflect and say they are not investing, why? It is not enough to say it’s instability. Is it possible to that they are not investing because they see it as pressure point. If they are putting pressures for things to remain this way, are they then our friends? In any case, if they have made so much money out of Nigeria over the last 50 years what we are asking for is it too much. The answer is no.
— Dec. 22, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT