Former Commissioner for Education in the old Anambra State and pioneer Registrar, Federal Polytechnic, Idah, Chief Nduka Eya spoke to MAUREEN IKPEAMA
WHAT is your appraisal of Nigeria at 60?
Nigeria has become a total failure. I am sorry that’s not what we worked for. I clocked 82 years on August 28th, 2020. I have just added 26 days to my age so far. You can say that I am older than Nigeria’s independence gotten in October 1st, 1960.
Nigerian’s first Governor -General , Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe established the first university, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in October 1960 .That was Azikiwe’s gift to Eastern region on independence in 1960.
I lived through the colonial era and I flew the union jack , the British flag and recited the anthem,” God save the Queen” .As a young man , I hoisted the Green White Green Flag. So, we have thrown away the colonial cloak and wear Nigerian colour.
With Ahmadu Bello in the North, Awolowo in the West , Michael Okpara in the East, with Azikiwe as Governor- General , Nigeria worked in spite of differences in religion and perception. If you looked at any Nigerian flag, you have the Coat of Arms in the centre with every region depicting their region, showing we are a different region but the Green White Green is common. We agreed we are different people from different region. We agreed to live together and Nigeria worked. You heard of palm oil in the Eastern region, you heard of cocoa in the Western region, you heard of groundnut pyramid in the Northern region and Nigeria worked. As a Nigerian, I schooled anywhere in Nigeria. You heard of Nnia Nwodo, who schooled in University of Ibadan and won students union election as an Igbo boy. You cannot do that now.
Where do you think Nigeria got it right or wrong?
60 years, where did it start? It started with the military. The military showed us the part to division and let us give kudos to the military that it was during their reign that the famous coal in Enugu collapsed. Let us give kudos to the military that it was during their reign that there was corruption When the military did the constitution, who did they consult? They consulted themselves. The best election was conducted and it was annulled by the military and they called it June 12, a day democracy was truncated “Democracy Day”.
This background is important for our people who think that Nigeria is what they wanted to know better. Let me remind our young people that they lost a generation of their age. It was during the military that we had sole administrator in the universities. One man who decides what should happen in our university. The Colonial masters taught us about the treasury; a semi officer called Sub -treasury. What do I mean? You cannot go to the coffers of the government without the middle man . They used AIB – Approved Internal Expenditure System. Until the man signs that paper, money cannot leave the treasury without the young man. The colonial masters taught us about Auditor-General of the region. He raises question the permanent secretary must answer. If he refused, it goes to a regional auditor and he will be sanctioned.
All these gone during the military; the civilians that came in became more military than the military because for 38 years, the civilian system of government seems to vanish because of the military rule.
Lest we forget, it was the Nigerian civilians that invited the military because civilians failed. The first military leader, Aguiyi Ironsi made it clear that they were not administrators. It was clear that they were not administrators. It was clear. They promised to return to civilian rule and it was not done. Aguiyi Ironsi lasted for six months before he was assassinated, followed by coup upon coup. What did they do? They set aside the constitution. If you are appointed a minister, you must have climbed the ladder, been a permanent secretary. So, they killed the civil service. We have some states where level 12 officers were made permanent secretaries and things were going down.
The military is the cause of all our woes. The military destroyed our system. Now, we talk about persons instead of system. In the colonial days, system worked. Today, we do what we like. See Boko Haram. After killing, they were pampered. Nobody announced amnesty for them. They returned their weapons .This 600 persons where are they? Who trained them? What are they doing?
Lest I forget, Boko Haram hoisted a flag different from that of Nigeria’s for 11 years and Boko Haram named Buhari their negotiator with Jonathan and Buhari told Jonathan that fighting Boko Haram is fighting the North . How can ambassador of Boko Harram fight Boko Haram and defeat it? How is it that service chiefs are not changed? Their best is not good for us to celebrate. At 60 years, we are short of where we are supposed to be. Where is our next level? Taking Nigeria to the next level would be below their next level. It’s below what they want us to believe.
When the Chief of Army Staff , Buratia pronounced Indigenous People of Biafra ( IPOB), a terrorist group, and an Attorney General went to court , all IPOB were saying is that you are not treating us well, leave us, let’s go our way. Justice Binta Nyako cancelled five ,leaving one and out . Boko Haram was not declared a terrorist group..
Where do we go from here?
They said a fool at 40 is a fool forever and we are 60 years. A fool at 60, does he know where he is going ? We should advance more than we had but because of lack of vision , ethnicity, religion. We destroyed the foundation that we inherited from the colonialists , never mind that the British played their tricks . In 1914, they united us forcefully and we collaborated too. Obasanjo came on board. In 2014, instead of talking about state of origin, we talk of nationality. We now practice exclusiveness not inclusiveness and Jonathan called for a national constitutional conference; how we are going to live together . NADECO cried for it. Jonathan convoked a national conference in which billions of naira was spent . There were agreements. At the end of the day that body came out with 623 unanimous resolutions on the social, economic , political and religious issues. The decisions of the constitutional conference was not added to our constitution. Instead of adding them to the constitution, Buhari decided to put that resolution in the basket because of one reason, his party , All Progressives Congress (APC) refused to attend .He did not do anything.
What the military would have done for us when they moved out, they made their own constitution. That constitution started with”We.” Which we ? That’s why I said we should throw that constitution out. Let the people sit down and draft their own constitution and then, it can start with “We”. What about our social part ? Up to Jubilee year, we saw militias, terrorists, but I think we are unfair to the Fulani herdsmen. For me, the killing is organised by some people and for the fact that they have not brought anybody to book , it means the sponsors are there.
Igbos are marginalised and we have a president who said we are bonded in the ethnic myopia. Are we running a true federation when the centre has taken over our resources and they are giving us remnants? When you talk, they will say it’s hate speech; what about their hate action ? I call our constitution hate document and we are celebrating diamond jubilee. It’s a failed nation and it is a shame. This is not the Nigeria we worked hard for. Of course, our young ones did not have such opportunity we had when they had no job. We have lost our values. Once you’ve made money , you can buy the whole of Nigeria and I thank the Catholic Church because they came out to talk against it.
They kill people sectionally and I ask Gowon, where is one Nigeria ? Silent killing, why was Aburi resolution not implemented? I hope Gowon is still praying. What is happening in Nigeria is God opening our eyes.
Lest I be misunderstood, I say that if Muhammad Buhari as the president of Nigeria has stood firm that he belongs to nobody , which is not true because ,after five years, everybody knows where he belongs . Otherwise, how can Miyetti Allah, Fulani people say they own everywhere in Nigeria? Benue passed a law against open grazing, Miyetti Allah said they will not obey the law. Don’t forget we have three tiers of government, the executive, legislature and the judiciary. The Chief Justice of the country was pushed aside and another appointed. When money belonging to pensioners was taken away, I was affected. Rasheed Maina that took it was left . He is now being charged. Who went to bring him back ? I remember Buhari saying “give me the report in two months” but it’s now two years .
What are we celebrating ? Is this where Nigeria wants to be at 60? They will be overwhelmed by a no answer . What haven’t we seen in our country ? But we are praying God to bring us a visionary leader; not one who says one and does another. Not one who creates hate action and turns around and say one is doing a hate speech. Good governance means equity, justice and fair play. Any government that has these three principles and rules for 30 years will be supported. Hate speech and hate actions are the same. Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. I have written Buhari, Dogara, Tanko Mohammade on this . Did they read my letter? Did they acknowledge? Of course, we did not matter because they had their way.
There is hope. By 2023, President Buhari will go out. Allow the system to work. In Edo State election, didn’t Benin people show strange ? But even in that election, why were people arrested Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), showed that they can do a good job without interruption.
What are the opportunities for Nigeria in the ‘new normal’ world that has been presented by COVID-19 pandemic?
COVID-19 pandemic has put the whole world on new normals. An unseen enemy, it’s better than Boko Haram. Nothing will be the same again. NCDC has given us guidelines . Let us observe it and God will help us . Most people do not observe the guidelines. To God be the glory that devastation is not much in Nigeria.
Where do you want Nigeria to be in the near future -10-30 years?
Nigeria is a great country with abundant resources. All we need to do is to manage these resources. Who is deceiving who?