Public analyst and former National Chairman of the Labour Party, Chief Dan Nwanyanwu has dismissed the military option in dealing with the resurgent conflict in the Niger Delta. In this interview with Onyebuchi Ezigbo, the politician also spoke on various burning national issues, including the perceived neglect of the Igbos by the Muhammadu Buhari administration. Excerpts:
As a lawyer, who specialises in criminology, how do you assess Federal Government’s handling of the ongoing attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta?
I must say that I am opposed to the destruction of infrastructure whether in the north or in the south. Once an infrastructure is destroyed, you need resources to put it back. I am not comfortable when our infrastructure is usually destroyed, be it power infrastructure such as gas pipelines or petroleum pipelines conveying crude or petroleum products. And I think this present government should borrow a leave from what the late President Yar’Adua did when he took over from President Obasanjo.
President Yar’Adua came in when oil production was at its lowest ebb, and he sat down and articulated his position on the matter after discovering the reasons for this. The reason we have unrest in the Niger Delta region is no longer news. What happens is that you come to their land, you take resources in billions of dollars, you leave the place devastated to the point that they can no longer farm, they cannot fish, there is no water to drink, no school for their children, no medical facilities.
That was the point that President Yar’Adua saw and then took the bull by the horn. He struck a deal with the militants and that was what gave rise to the Timi Alaibe Commission which was later taken over by Kingsley Kuku, to train the Niger Delta people and to give them opportunity for participation and put some on payment. Even President Jonathan widened the scope of the deal by allowing those who destroyed the pipelines to guard the facility.
In Igboland, there is a saying that ‘Dog does not eat the bone hung on its neck’. But immediately President Muhammed Buhari came in, those who think that Nigeria belongs to them and that they know Nigeria more than Nigerians convinced him to start dismantling all these things. You and I read how even those who were overseas on training could not get the payments from government, including tuition and maintenance.
Whether we like it or not, people like me will continue to be blunt. It doesn’t matter how it hurts, whether you take it or not, the wealth of this nation is coming from somewhere and the people are entitled to some substantial percentage of that wealth to check the devastation on the land. Would you be shocked that you may not get somebody from the Niger Delta owning one oil blocks. So you see, if we are one, we should forget our prejudices, our hunches and look at Nigeria as a country that should develop as one.
I listened to the president and he said he would deal with those who are destroying the pipelines, that he would do this and do that. Yes these are powerful statements, but he will not be there when they will destroy it. They will destroy it and go away and wait for you to come and repair it and by the time you blink, they will destroy it again. This thing has been occurring in the past 30 years and President Buhari should know that. The only solution to this problem is to engage them and hand over those facilities to them.
Let anybody advise the president, no it will enhance them and let the person go and handle it himself. It is their land and they know the terrain better. Take the whole soldiers and put there, there would be a time they would blink and they would destroy the place and go away which is condemnable. But we are looking for solution. It is like the warnings that have been given to those who are eking for the independence of Biafra.
It is another warning, good, but the president and his advisers forgot to realise that those who are agitating for this did not see the civil war. They were not born then and so they don’t care. They don’t even understand what you are saying. There is no one that saw the war that is in that group and President Buhari should know this and those, who are misleading and ill-advising the president, let it get into their head that these young people are not afraid of dying. Engage them, where is the position of dialogue?
President Jonathan made some attempts to discuss with Boko Haram but people wanted to do 419 with that and he backed out. Boko Haram has done more damage in the land than any group since the creation of Nigeria and we have said we are going to cut-off their heads. We are still willing to say, drop your arms, come let’s talk. So, why is it ‘I will do this and I will do that, I will kill and I will exterminate’ when it comes to Niger Delta militants. This doesn’t solve any problem in today’s Nigeria’s contemporary politics and governance.
It is dialogue and we should do a rethink and go back to the drawing board. Those who are advising the president just want to praise him and perhaps massage his ego. It will not help the president and that is why we must continue to say it publicly so that way or other, somebody will draw the attention of the president to the other side of the argument because they will shield him and block him. President Buhari should realize that if he doesn’t succeed in all these concomitant of our problems, Nigerian people will not trust any government and we don’t want to turn into either Iraq or Syria.
That is the truth of the matter. Let him engage more in discussion. The late President Yar’Adua did it and it didn’t take him time and there was peace in the land. The destruction stopped, oil production increased and we started getting our funds back. At that time, we were producing less than one million barrels per day and we were making very low turn-over on oil production. President Yar’Adua quickly arrested that ugly trend and solved the problem. The late President Yar’Adua was from Katsina State. We must have an open mind when we are leaders. We should not listen to everything by the advisers, who believe that they know Nigeria more than Nigerians.
That is the problem and I want to also appeal to those who are carrying out these attacks to think about our country. They should think about Nigeria and when opportunity for dialogue comes, they should embrace it because if we continue with what they doing now, we may not even achieve anything with this year’s budget and we will get back to square one. Everybody will suffer it. Both the new militant group and Federal Government should not hesitate to go into dialogue. What matters at the end of the day is not whose ego is brushed but that peace reigned.
What do you say about the delayed passage of the 2016 budget and lop-sided nature of the funds appropriated?
You see when there is imposition of authority that is what you have. There are many people who do not believe that there are other interests and considerations other than where they come from. This is the problem we have today in this government. They don’t believe that there are other considerations, other areas that should be cued into the Nigerian project. The reason we have to say it is because everybody should hear it.
It very, very sad that in this century, people are still thinking the way some other people looked at issues before independence and immediately after independence before 1966 and thereafter. I spoke a lot about the way things were done in this government, the way appointments were made and I am saying so because I am from the South-east geopolitical zone. The South-east and the North Central are the worst hit. Go and check the total project in budget. The reason of the South-east case is simple because they did not vote for the president. So, the president must shut them out of participation. If the constitution had not guaranteed one state, one minister, I can bet my life for it, President Buhari and his government wouldn’t have given the South-east any ministerial slot.
Look at the ministries given to them, Labour and Employment. Where is Chris Ngige going to generate such employment when industries have been shut down? Then, Science and Technology or Foreign Affairs, whose job is just that of an errand boy! I am just saying it. If these appointments have favoured the Igbos as against other tribes, I will speak in the same manner. I am a fair person. Every group, every tribe must have a sense of belonging in this government and every government.
Look at the appointment made by the President in the security sector, one of the legs in the tripod is missing and a decision may be taken there to annihilate the people and there will be nobody to ask why. I have said it in many interviews that my best friend today is one man, an Alhaji in one area of Yakassi in Kano State. We have been together for over 30 years. I can close my eyes and he says Dan, eat and I will eat and vice versa. Most of my northern Fulani friends were embraced by the appointments made by President Buhari and they are sincere.
That was why late last year when I was invited by certain Igbo group to talk to them and I told them unequivocally that they should take the four years of President Buhari as wrong investment and that they should expect nothing from him because he owes them nothing. And the thing has started sinking into them. Forget it, because since after Jesus Christ nothing good has come out Nazareth. So, why are bordering yourself? Just fold your hands and have the faith that this shall surely pass. They should expect nothing and indeed nothing will come to them from this government in the next four years.
Look at the contract for the third Niger Bridge. From Obasanjo’s time, they have been playing politics with bridge because of the Igbos. That is what they are thinking, not because of Rivers or Bayelsa States. This is a Bridge that connects the nine states that produce the wealth of this nation and yet they are playing politics with it. President Obasanjo was there for two times, at a time he commissioned it and they did their design. President Jonathan also went there, they played their politics and they left the place.
So, a majority of the Igbo think that President Buhari hates them, that is what they think and President Buhari should hear it. That’s the perception and they have reasons to say so. I read somebody reacting to an interview I granted and he said let the Igbos go, after all we don’t need them. Well, that was an illiterate from somewhere and these are people, who don’t want to hear the truth. I want to belong to Nigeria; I want a bigger enclave that is more vast because there would be more prospects there.
The Nigeria I want is the Nigeria that is fair, that is just, that is equitable, that nobody is treated like second class citizen and it is possible to reconstruct Nigeria to be like that. People are now looking at President Buhari’s administration and most of them are thinking that it is a replica of the 1986. It is the same thing then, at least, I was an adult in 1984. I was very informed in 1984; it is a replica. So, it goes to show that adults don’t change much and leopard cannot change its skin.
President Buhari must work hard to succeed. That’s why people must be bombarding him with the truth and if his people hear it, they should tell him. Take the message and don’t look at the messenger. President Buhari must always take the message and forget the messenger if he wants to succeed. This is because the problems that he is going to encounter are much. It has not even started. There is build-up of anger all over the land. Is it the case of the herdsmen/farmers conflict or that of the Niger Delta? Biafra now is there. Very soon it will bump in his backyard. Let’s tell the president the truth and let the problem be solved and let nation develop like others. Look at our teaming graduates that are unemployed, we promised employment. With all these distractions, how do you expect President to create employment? The situation is enormous.
Do you think this government is fighting corrupt the right way?
You see, the way the EFCC is fighting corruption on behalf of this government you will not achieve conviction easily. I am a lawyer and in my Master’s Degree, I studied criminology. The EFCC is just dramatising the whole thing. In different climes, they would follow you and they would be investigating and by the time you are invited, your file is complete. You are invited today and as you come, they will match straight to the court.
But that is not the situation in our country, they will arrest someone and detain him and then start investigation. You see all these cases, all these dramatisation and all these people that have been detained and arraigned – I will be surprised if they will achieve any conviction because EFCC is shallow and empty. We don’t have criminologists and good lawyers that can conduct proper investigation. Even where these things were committed, it is difficult for you to achieve convictions because the important things have been destroyed in the process by the EFCC.
So, that is why after, no conviction, how are you going to get a judge to convict someone. The judge will do so based on the evidence before him and that evidence they don’t have. They just wanted to put people on television and conduct media judgment. EFCC should sit down and look for intelligent lawyers not based on where they come from to help it investigate these cases quietly and make report on them.
Let him engage more in discussion. The late President Yar’Adua did it and it didn’t take him time and there was peace in the land. The destruction stopped, oil production increased and we started getting our funds back…The late President Yar’Adua was from Katsina State. We must have an open mind when we are leaders. We should not listen to everything by the advisers, who believe that they know Nigeria more than Nigerians