By Onochie Anibeze, Emmanuel Aziken & Emeka Mamah
Jonathan: We conclude, today, the interview one time Vice President Dr Alex Ekwueme granted us to mark Nigeria’s Independence anniversary. Last week we published his views on the state of the nation. He said what we have today as Nigeria was not their dream that day of October 1, 1960 that Nigeria became an independent country. He would like Nigeria to be restructured in a way that will see the regions developing at their own pace rather than depending on the federal government for everything.
He advised President Buhari to dialogue with the Niger Delta to end the militancy in that area. Ekwueme revealed that the 1983 military coup was aimed at stopping him from becoming Nigeria’s President in 1987. He also gave reasons for declining President Olusegun Obasanjo’s offer to be Senate President.
Enjoy the last excerpts from the interview:
How do you think PDP can be revived?
There are a lot of… I won’t call them hooligans, characters who have taken control of PDP in various states of the federation, including my state and they are allowed to go away with it because the NWC in Wadata House is easy to compromise.
So you find these people dictating terms; they would arrange with them and be the ones to produce a list of delegates to vote at congress or convention. Until people like that are shunted out of the party nothing good will come out of the party. I have distanced myself from the activities of the party; I haven’t been to a Board of Trustees meeting in the last three years.
Haven’t they been inviting you?
Yes, I am a life member. I haven’t been to NEC meeting in the last three years because as I said there are a lot of characters there who shouldn’t be there.
Now people have suggested at one time that we should call a meeting of the original founding fathers who are still around and see how we can start afresh but I said that I am 83 going to 84, and that I cannot go through the same process I went through in 1998, that people younger should take it from there.
Some have, however, alleged that you had a hand in the problems of the party in Anambra in that you replaced ABC Nwosu who allegedly won the governorship primary in 1999 and replaced him with your former press secretary, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadiniju. Please, can you clear the air on this?
That is not true. I have challenged them for anybody to tell me where I said people should vote for Mbadiniju. None! The only person in all these years whom I have supported is Soludo.
Mabdiniju won the primary?
So there was no issue of replacement or that ABC Nwosu won and was replaced with Mbadiniju?
First of all, ABC Nwosu should not have even contested because the agreement was that as secretary of the party he would not contest.
Sir, what is the way out of the economic recession?
Long term I have already addressed. Build up our capacity and Nigeria will be better off. In the short term, I am surprised at the government’s stance. The price of crude oil is less than one-third of what it used to be at its peak, and production level was 2.2 million barrels per day and right now we are producing about 900,000 barrels which is much less than half of the production and selling at less than one-third of the price of the former selling price. So you can see what the impact could be on an economy like ours that is mono culture and dependent on one product.
The Niger Delta Avengers and collaborators are responsible for the drop in production; they are not responsible for the price.
Yar‘adua, when he had a similar problem was able to start the amnesty programme and at that time, our production had also dropped to 800,000, and we had been overtaken by Angola in Africa. But once Yar‘adua settled with the restive youths through the Amnesty Programme, production went back to 2.2 million barrels.
Now with all that information at the disposal of the present government they did not see that the best course of action would be to negotiate with these boys and reach some understanding; instead they want to use the force of arms and even with all that, they are still blowing up facilities.
I read a few days ago that they said that they killed 23 militants, and it is not something to brag about. You kill 23 of the boys, and you are bragging about it; it is not a very good thing to hear.
There is no short cut of getting out of recession which is mostly caused by the lack of foreign exchange to run factories, to even import goods and services…there is no shortcut than to increase production.
Instead of facing it squarely we are still battling with the force of arms to try and subdue. I am not a soldier, maybe soldiers always think of force, force as a means of solving problems, but I don’t see a quick end to the recession without solving the problem of low oil production.
The Igbo question. Do you feel they lack of leadership in Igbo land?
It depends on what you mean by leadership. We have about five governors in Igbo land, we have a deputy president of the Senate, we have a lot of ministers, we have a lot of political leaders.
President Jonathan when he was campaigning did a lot of things for the North and West, and it is alleged he even mobilised the traditional rulers in the North and West, but the Southeast backed him without negotiating even with its bad roads.
As I said in an interview in the past, Jonathan didn’t treat us very well for the support he got in 2011; which he confessed to me himself was more than what he got from his people in the South-South.
He gave an example, that the people who were running against him tried to get a running mate from the Southeast, but none of them succeeded in getting a running mate from the Southeast to run against him; but even in his own South-South, Oyegun was a running mate to somebody; and when the election was over the Youth Corps members who were brutalised in Bauchi were people from the Southeast, not people from the South-South.
He told me this himself. So, he had every reason to be fair-minded and equitable in his distribution of resources. But we could not go from Enugu to Onitsha on a federal road, you couldn’t go from Enugu to Port-Harcourt on a federal road, we couldn’t go from Aba to Okigwe on a federal road; you couldn’t go from Owerri on the federal road. None of the federal roads in the Southeast was motorable.
So, would you support the actions of MASSOB and IPOB for self-determination?
I am 83 years old going to 84 next month, my attitude to life cannot be that with those who are in their twenties or in their thirties. But there is something the emir of Kano said about the young Igbo people, that those who are in MASSOB or IPOB never knew Nzeogwu or Ojukwu and they may think that instead of living like slaves in their country that it may be better for them to wage war and lose, if they lose they may get a more honourable peace than the one that their parents got at the end of the 30 months civil war.
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