Northern Leaders, Not Jonathan, Should Negotiate With Boko Haram -Monarch
Igwe Patrick Eze (Igwe Waziri), a prominent traditional ruler, is of Amalla community in Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State. In this interview with JUDE OSSAI, he lends his voice on the security situation in the country, the impact of democracy so far and the recent plane crash in Lagos, among other issues. Excerpts:
There have been too many deaths in Nigeria in recent times, from tragic road accidents and suicide bombings to communal clashes and the latest, the air crash in Lagos. What do you think is wrong with us?
Let me use this medium to commiserate with the families of the victims of the plane crash in Lagos. May God give them the fortitude to bear the loss.
Honestly speaking, it is unfortunate that we are recording these calamities even as a developing nation. The implications are grave. One is that foreigners will view us as people who are not organised.
Even some Nigerians now prefer to invest in other countries that are not more naturally endowed than Nigeria rather than their homeland. Rich parents now take their children to study abroad where they pay fees in hard currency because they feel that the future of their children is not guaranteed in Nigeria. What is your reaction to all these?
In my own assessment, I think the causes of the problems vary. First, I observe recklessness among road users; I’m talking about road accidents. Some commercial drivers, knowing full well that some roads are bad, don’t drive slowly and carefully, they want to turn over trips and make more profits. Most of them don’t bother about vehicle maintenance; all they want is to drive out and look for money, regardless of the condition of their vehicles. Some drive under drugs and alcohol; some are amateur drivers that are not qualified for commercial driving on the highway. Under these circumstances, road accidents could be inevitable.
In this case government, should strive hard to fix roads and drivers too, mostly the commercial ones, should strive to always keep their vehicles in the right shape before putting them on the road. The road safety commission, Vehicle Inspection Officers and government agencies have the task to check vehicles and drivers too. They should endeavour to do their work properly and protect the lives of travelers against road accidents.
The same thing is applicable to air travel operations. I learnt that the National Assembly has commenced probe into the Lagos crash. I believe in their abilities to do thorough investigations, issue a report and possibly review the laws regulating air travel in the country with a view to enacting and promulgating stronger laws capable of guiding the sector.
The issues of communal clashes and suicide bombings are consequent upon hatred and intolerance that cut across economic, tribal, political and religious interests of some sections of people in the country. Some people don’t want to see others occupy a particular land. Maybe they want them to go and live in the moon or ocean. Some, on the other hand, want to establish monopoly over economic substance in their domain. Some want to occupy political offices by all means. Some don’t want other religious denominations across their territorial cities and villages regardless of the fact that our constitution approves freedom of religious practice.
In summary, I observe that people are looking for what is not possible to achieve in this country. The solution for goodness is for people to stop looking for what is not possible to achieve.
Nigerians and the international community are worried over the Boko Haram insurgence because the solution seems not to be on sight. Do you have any piece of advice to the authorities on how to check the devastating menace of this deadly sect?
Let the northern leaders and elders find means or ways to negotiate issues with Boko Haram and make recommendations for President Goodluck Jonathan to review and possibly implement. Those northern leaders and elders who visited President Jonathan recently should be the ones to negotiate and talk with the sect. I believe they are the ones in a better position to do the negotiation because Boko Haram has conventional interest on issues. For instance they want to flush Christians out of the north.
Following the recent bombing of churches in Bauchi, Jos, Biu and lately Kaduna, it appears that Christians are the major targets of Boko Haram and some are suggesting that Christians, mostly Igbos, should leave the North. Do you support this idea?
No, it is not possible for Christians to leave the North. My suggestion is that Christians in the North should not fold their hands and wait for Boko Haram to destroy all of them instead, they should join the Islamic band wagon for better or for worse. Maybe in the process, the entire North would become Islamised for peace to reign in the region, then the South would also embark on the process of becoming an entirely Christian region.
There is an impression among observers that President Jonathan is weak or rather too soft in tackling ing the Boko Haram menace, do you share this view?
No, I don’t buy the idea that the president is weak because nobody is God, and he is not God either. The security operations require all hands on deck, the president can’t be everywhere at the same time to monitor and ascertain what is happening. Looking at what is happening at the National Assembly where the police pension scam and other scandals are being investigated with a committee set up to probe existing committees, you discover that Nigerians are being wicked against one another which has resulted in the problems facing the country.
What is your assessment so far on Jonathan’s administration?
People rush to judge. For goodness sake, the president has three more years to work and possibly another four years if it pleases God and Nigerians. So, one year is not enough to assess him.
The country celebrated 13 years of democracy last month. How do you feel about how democracy has impacted on the country in the past 13 years?
Democracy has made a tremendous impact. Nigerians have enjoyed freedom of speech, association and choice. You see people like us granting press interview to criticise the power that be. In those military eras, you can’t grant interviews. Democracy has also taken power to the people as members of federal, state and local governments. There is also access to justice. People even sue government in pursuit of their right. I read in the papers where somebody defeated the Edo State government in court over non-conduct of local government election.
Also if you are to perfectly assess democracy in Nigeria, you have to bring in the state governors.
In your candid opinion, how has democracy fared in Enugu, your home State?
It has fared well under the administration of the current governor, Sullivan Chime. I’m sure you know that Enugu is among the states that have elected local government administrators in Nigeria. Enugu had consistently held local government election three times since Chime came into power in 2007. That is functional democracy at work.
In the area of infrastructure, he has also proved to be an achiever; the roads have been given facelifts with street lights and dual carriage ways. At this moment, there is on-going road construction project to connect Opi in Nuskka from Nike side of Enugu. That is democracy in action for you. His achievements cut across all sectors and they are there for people to see. Fortunately again the elected council chairmen are working in line with the state’s four- point agenda.
Some people are attacking Governor Chime on the grounds that he achieved nothing in the first year of his second term...?
Shortly after his assumption of second term, he initiated billion-naira-worth Nike Opi-Nsukka road and purchased over 500 hummer buses which the state government disbursed to all the secondary schools in the state, the shopping mall otherwise known as Shop Rite situated on the site of the former Polo Park among other things he has done to consolidate on his achievements in the first term. Considering the political situation in Enugu state whereby the oppositions are firing him with court cases left and right, the governor is not doing bad at all.