Prof. Elo Amucheazi, a senior citizen of the state started at Ibadan as a lecturer and moved to Nsukka. Then, got involved in the war and later went back to Nsukka and later became became Director General, National Orientation Agency (NOA), among others, spoke to CHARITY UZOAGBA
SIR, what is your appraisal of Nigeria at 60?
In the light of what we have now as Nigeria, we dreamt in the 1950’s and 60’s, I always regard that as a golden age of Nigeria but since then, things are going down, down down. After the war, one naira was two dollars; a dollar was 50K. Now, you have N500 for one dollar. Can you imagine that? Then, where are the roads?
The other day, they were saying, oh that they wanted to congratulate the president for reconstruction of Enugu Road. I am just coming from Enugu. What is going on there? In those days, it used to take us one hour from Enugu to Awka. What is happening there now? It will take you three hours or more.
What about the school system? Look at what is going on in schools. If you get to any of the universities, they have abundance of students but I can tell you, I am not sure half of them are really there to read. Do they understand? There is no employment. The infrastructure is not there, facilities are not there, electricity is not there, schools are not functioning, and food is not there.
So what are you celebrating? I mean 60 years of being subjected in the last few years into this kind of abject poverty. Where I live in Enugu, boys and girls gather; they really plead for money to eat. Some will confess to you that in the past few days that they have not eaten anything. Even if you give him or her 50Kor N1, they will be grateful. It is a lot for them; that is the situation that we are in now.
What is our relation with the world?
Look at the vehicle that they bring in now – old vehicles. Those days, we could buy new vehicles. In those days, there were garages in this country where you could really assemble Peugeot, Mercedes, Volkswagen and other vehicles. What is that you have now?
As conflict is everywhere, there is inter-religious division, inter-ethnic division and also there is intolerance. Is this a country? So, if you are talking about celebration of independence, yes of course, we are free in the sense that the British are no longer governing, directing or exploiting us.
We are supposed to be free, but they are still exploiting us in one way or the other. I mean, they structured the system and so it is; inflated populations, manipulated some people, handed over to some people.
Have you ever looked at the employment facilities?
Of all the 25 persons in the inner circle, there is not a single Igbo man. Also, of about thirty something in the high parastatal, there is not a single Igbo man. You have people from only Katsina and every other places going round everywhere.
They are attacking Benue, Taraba and then invading South- East and South- South, threatening that they own the land. Is that the country that we are celebrating? So, I think we have a problem to solve. I don’t know whether to tell you, yes that we are celebrating independence. Yes, we are Nigerians; Nigeria is a country created by the British but I don’t know what to celebrate.
Where do you think that Nigeria has got it right or wrong?
With all that I have just enumerated you can make up your mind where we have got it right or wrong. When you go outside the country, of course, they respect you that you are from Nigeria. I mean they know you. In those days, it was 419ers. I don’t know what to say that we are getting it right.
People are struggling on their own to survive. Remember, many Igbo were given only N20 after the war. Thousands and millions of people were given nothing but look at it, every person is struggling to come up. We are struggling, we are working.
As I was coming down this morning, I saw small boys who ought to be in school running after vehicles, selling water and so on. I was sad, but that is the situation. They ought to be in school but they are not and they tell you look, I am hungry. I think we have a problem.
Where do you think that we should go from here?
I think that the problem is leadership. We need to get proper leadership that understands where we are going. Every country has to develop; to provide means of livelihood to the indigenes or members of the state, want to protect their property, grant them rights and privileges and they have a sense of belonging. That is really the responsibility of the state, are we really working towards that?
How about the followers Sir?
Who inspires the followers? The leaders inspire the followers. Every Nigerian is anxious to do something, tell you that he or she is a Nigerian. I mean, look at our footballers, look at individual entrepreneurs, businessmen everywhere.
Every individual wants to survive; they are not waiting on government. Look at the road being constructed. The other day, like I said, people were saying that they want to congratulate Buhari for constructing Enigu/Onitsha Road. Have you been to Enugu/Onitsha Road. You will spend about one hour alone in Enugu Agidi Road. If you go to other places towards Enugu Milky Hill, Port Harcourt, you don’t pass there; and they are saying congratulations.
Congratulations for what? Are we not citizens of this country? I have already told you that they don’t appoint any Igbo anywhere;, that is the part of the suffering. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo said it all – that they want to punish ndi Igbo and they are systematically doing that . Do you see yourself as a Nigerian? Do they think you are a Nigerian or are they just punishing you because you wanted to be on your own and save your lives? So, it is a problem.
What are the opportunities for Nigeria in the ‘ New normal’ world that is presented by the coronavirus pandemic?
Other countries like Madagascar within a short while, they were able to come up with something – all these traditional ways. We have traditional ways of curing all these things. Every person that is down tells you that is malaria. In those days, were our parents not suffering malaria, but did it throw them down? They knew that they would go to the bush and get herbs that they used and cured themselves, but not now that they get you these synthetic materials to drink and you take them and it doesn’t cure anything.
So it is an opportunity for our pharmacists and the rest to do something but we are now in the new normal world and the world is changing. We want to change, grow up; want to have industries, build structures, infrastructures and the rest of them and move on. This is what we want. I look at Singapore that started the other day after us; they have overtaken us. People always talk about Singapore. Go to Europe, what do they have? They don’t have anything. Borno is bigger than Belgium, but if you go there, everything you want is there. They will come here, exploit us and use it to develop themselves. Why can’t we develop our place?
Allow people to move on, express themselves and this country can be transformed overnight. If you are there, they remind you that you are Igbo. Two or three days later, they can evict you from office. Is that the way to survive and yet, they want to dominate us. Well, I think that we still have a long way to go. I pray Almighty God to listen to us and come to our aid.
Where do you want Nigeria to be in the nearest future, 10-30 years?
I want Nigeria to have electricity, roads and railways. In other words, have infrastructure for movement and the rest, including health care system, educational system; compete with other countries of the world. With our population and our people as industrious as they are, we can transform these things overnight, yes.
What do we lack? Let me not go back to our days when we were in the university in the 1950’s and 60’s. I know what it meant; Nigeria being great despite the fact that we had little then, because Nnamdi Azikiwe and few of his men were struggling and mobilising people; starting educational system and reforming it and lots of things.
That was how we got up. The challenge is to see what others are doing, copy them and overtake them. That is what every country wants; to move forward. Look at Britain and all the countries of the world. They are not even as populous as Nigeria; Brian, France, Portugal, Holland and all of them.
It is a pity actually. I hope we see what to do to change the situation. It is not a question of everyday; they tell is to have faith, do this and that. What are we really doing? May Almighty God be with us.