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Nigerians won’t accept Northern version of restructuring –Uko


•Bullets, guns can’t stop agitation

An Igbo leader, and a member of Southern Leaders of Thought, Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu Uko, has said that the Northern version of the restructuring, which seeks to recognise and give autonomy to the 774 councils and the 36 states as federating units would not be acceptable to Nigerians. According to him, only a new constitution premised on regional autonomy and subjected to referendum will save Nigeria from extinction. In an interview with VINCENT KALU, Evangelist Uko who also doubles as the secretary, Eastern Consultative Assembly, noted that guns and bullets can never stop agitation, but the enthronement of equity, justice  and fair play.  

Why is Nigeria troubled?

The people who took certain advantages over others and created 12 states and reduced Igbo to one state. These states were created not because they were viable or politically realistic, but as punitive measure to deny Ojukwu the support of Eastern minorities. This was the reason Gowon created the 12 states and abrogated the regions. Subsequent state creations followed the same pattern of reducing Ndigbo to unacceptable minority.

As they proceeded to reduce Ndigbo to a minority, they continued to deny the race justice and equity and they created a Nigeria of first class and second class citizens. This wicked agenda was made worse by the very fraudulent census figures, where the North gave itself very bogus and unrealistic figures just to hold down the South. When you add this to the fact that the Northern generals who have been ruling through military coup created local governments to favour their region and enslaved Southern Nigeria.

It became clear that the younger generation from the South would rise one day and begin to ask questions. That day has come.

I have been interacting with the Igbo youth for more than 30 years. At every conference and seminar that I have organised for them, the question they kept asking me is, “where were you people when they created these states and local governments; were you people asleep, why did you accept it, you ought to have rejected it, this country is evil”.

When the younger generation began to ask questions, and began to reject the structure, it became clear that one day they would say no, and that day has come.

The structure of Nigeria is evil, the military constitution is evil, and the creation of states and local governments was skewed against the South East. Everything about Nigeria is unjust, inequitable, unfair and evil; that is why the younger generation of Southerners, especially South East would never accept Nigeria the way it is structured.

This fake Nigeria continues to thrive because the angry youth had not formed a critical mass, but today they have formed that critical mass under a very charismatic leader, Nnamdi Kanu, whom they trust.

If the government thought that Operation Python Dance could stop the agitation, it is only deceiving itself. This military exercise has even deepened the hatred and bitterness for the system in the hearts of the south Eastern youths.

Nigeria is merely postponing the evil day.

The only solution to save Nigeria and the window is fast closing is to return Nigeria back to the regions, back to the 1963 Constitution. There is no other way out.

The southeastern youths don’t have confidence in their political leaders, who are products of this military constitution and structure; who are cowed and intimidated by the fearsome central government held by the Fulani that control the military, security and the political heads.

South East political leaders are like jelly, vegetable and scared of their lives, and that is why the younger generation of South East doesn’t trust them, and they have so much faith in Nnamdi Kanu.

Operation Python Dance has deified the IPOB leader and millions of South Easterners now know that the reason the government wants to kill him is because he has refused to be compromised. The Easterners love him more, pray for him more and believe in him more because the reason the army wanted to kill him was his refusal to be bought over.

Had he accepted like the other man to drive in limousine, build houses, hotels everywhere, buy properties in UK, they won’t like to kill him.

The decision by the army to use force to quench the agitation is unintelligent, unworkable, and they would soon realise that bullets and guns can’t kill an idea whose time has come. The windows to save Nigeria through going back to the regions is fast closing. The more they continue to delay, the more it becomes impossible to save Nigeria.

They are deceiving themselves if they think they have crushed IPOB.

The Kurdish independence has been on for years, and they just had referendum the other day; Southern Cameroon is simmering, Catalonians are working to opt out from Spain, Scotland in future will leave UK.

When you oppress a people and refuse to give them justice, you can never hold them permanently as slaves by the threat of guns and bullets. It has never worked anywhere in the world.

President Muhammadu Buhari and the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua are from the same Kastina State, but you can’t compare them, they are miles apart.

Yar’Adua was one of the best presidents we have had. Buhari believes in intimidation of the Igbo political class and using the army to hold Nigeria together, instead of justice and equity. This is funny.

He sent soldiers to go and kill Kanu, if they had succeeded, the country would have been boiling by now.

I don’t know where Nnamdi is, whether they killed him and took his corpse away. The thinking of the army is unrealistic; it believes that fire and blood would hold Nigeria together and hold South Easterners as slave is funny.

You have painted a gloomy picture of what awaits Nigeria, where do we go from here, and how do we avert the danger lurking around?The president should raise a team of eminent Nigerians to advise him on how to save Nigeria. That team would develop a template for constitutional drafting committee. The team will bring together all the past reports of constitutional conferences, and they would begin to develop a constitution that would be similar to the 1963 constitution.The new constitution would be affirmed at a referendum. Each region would develop at its pace, so that my region would create jobs and win back the confidence of our youths. The problem in Eastern Nigeria is complex. I fear that the masses will overthrow the political leadership. What is happening in that region is that Buhari, Buratai, the South East governors and some other political leaders are standing on one side of the shore, while 99 percent of the people are standing on the other side with Kanu as the leader. The political leaders of the region don’t know that they are risking an uprising, where the masses would turn against them.  The government using the oil resources has penetrated the media to air its false narratives about IPOB, hoping that they would stick. They didn’t realise that those lies are making people to lose respect for the government.

When Easterners watch Lai Mohammed lie in the UK, they lost respect for the central government, and the Information minister because they knew he was telling blatant lies, as IPOB doesn’t collect tax, doesn’t snatch gun, are not ritualists and they don’t block roads.

Because IPOB has huge following, the authorities felt that Kanu was removing the carpet under their feet, and in order to stop him, Lai, would go to UK, and begin to tell blatant lies.

IPOB unlike what Lai said wasn’t collecting tax from anybody, if they were collecting tax, the people should be the ones complaining not Lai Mohammed. Nobody in the East has said IPOB collected tax from him or her except Lai Mohammed who lives in Abuja. He has turned this administration to a lying government. The government is belittling itself by telling lies just because they want to stop Kanu.

It was reported that Prof Ben Nwabueze was on the verge of pressuring Kanu to drop his agitation, what happened?

The South East governors approached me and pleaded that I bring Kanu for a talk. The IPOB leader gave condition that he would not attend a meeting with the governors except if Prof Nwabueze or Arch Bishop Anthony Obinna was present. We agreed. Arch Bishop Obinna was abroad, so we brought Prof Nwabueze, who is our leader and our father and in whom we have absolute trust and who in spite of his ill health, at 87 sacrifices so much to see a better Nigeria.

The meeting was very successful. They pleaded with Nnamdi Kanu to shift ground on many areas, he didn’t disagree, but told them that it was their first meeting and that they should be another meeting in few days so that he could bring IPOB leadership in Nigeria and in the diaspora, so that they would all agree and IPOB members worldwide would know that it was not about him, that he didn’t sell them out. The governors agreed.

Prof Nwabueze suggested to Governor Umahi who was writing the communiqué that Kanu’s demand for referendum for Biafra and stopping Anambra election are not absolute. What that means was that he was ready to shift ground at subsequent meeting.

Everybody was happy and dispersed to meet in less than two weeks time.

Before the next meeting, some people invited the army, which stormed  Kanu’s home in Umuahia.

Those who brought the army to kill Kanu must have an agenda for halting the peace process between him and the governors under the supervision of Prof Nwabueze. Maybe, they don’t like Nwabueze to be the one leading Kanu, they want to be the ones so that they would take the glory, and package themselves as Igbo leaders to bargain for vice president.

Secondly, some people wanted to stop the peace process completely because they were angry that he has changed Nigeria, just as some people killed Martin Luther King in America, when they saw that the has changed America and they didn’t want him to live to see the change he had brought about.

Kanu has altered the face of Nigeria forever. He has forced the international community to put pressure on the North to begin to talk about restructuring.

In less than few months, Kanu has changed what proponents of restructuring could not achieve in 30 years. Thirdly, some political leaders felt that their reelection or election was at risk with Kanu around and they wanted him dead.

Fourthly, there could be a secret agenda that some leaders are trading off the restructuring we are talking about and to sell the northern version of restructuring. To achieve this, they believe that Kanu must die.

Assume the rumour was true that certain Igbo political leaders have entered into secret deal to force the northern version of restructuring in the South, it will never work.

The northern version is to retain the current local government structure and grant them powers to become autonomous, and make the 36 states as federating units and devolve more powers to them, maybe to mine solid minerals and state police.

This northern version of restructuring will not fly; it will even increase the anger, and the situation will rebound and get even worse. These Igbo leaders who are conniving with their northern masters are endangering their lives and that of their families.

Your group, Southern Elders Forum headed by Prof Nwabueze is talking about restructuring in line with the 1963 Constitution, but APC and the North are talking about devolution of powers, where do we go from here?

The North is just perverting the real thing. Their version is to retain the current local government structure and grant them powers to become autonomous, and make the 36 states as federating units and devolve more powers to them, maybe to mine solid minerals and state police.

Ibadan Declaration was about returning to the 1963 Constitution.

The North should realise that its position will provoke and anger the young generation and the agitation would get louder. About 2002, Admiral Ndubisi Kanu (Retd) marked his 60th birthday anniversary. The retired Admiral had earlier at Aka Ikenga lecture introduced me to the late Pa Abraham Adesanya.

At Ndubuisi’s birthday party, I went to greet Pa Adesanya, he held my hand and frowned that, “you Igbo youths are not doing anything, you see OPC is active, Niger Delta is active, you Igbo youth, you are not active, you should be active, we need action from you”.

I told the revered old man, that the other sections of the country can agitate, and Nigeria will still stand, but the day the Igbo youth would wake up that Nigeria will never be the same. When I told him this, he smiled. I wish he were alive to see Igbo woken up. Igbo youth have woken up.

Any day IPOB will take up arms, Nigeria will be a history.  What I told Pa Adesanya 15 years ago is playing out today. Nnamdi Kanu has altered Nigeria, getting stubborn people who said the status quo can’t change to now be running from pillar to post organising Town Hall meetings on restructuring.  Whether they want to give him credit or not, history will credit Kanu.

How do we reach a compromise, since the Southern version of restructuring is miles apart from the Northern version?

The North wants to retain the current local government structure and grant them powers. There is nowhere in the world where local governments are under the centre, it is at the regions. It is the regions that create as many local governments as they want.

There is nowhere where the Fulani culture in Sokoto or Zamfara will be the same with the Ijaw in Bayelsa. The Ijaw in Bayelsa have the right to decide what kind of local governments they want, and the Fulani in Sokoto have the right to decide the kind of county councils they want. It is unacceptable to use the 774 local governments created by the military to force down the throat of everybody.

The people who will break Nigeria are those pushing for local government autonomy. Local governments should be the prerogative of the regions and each region decides how they will run their local governments, whether they would use their traditional rulers, emirs etc, how many they can afford and the resources to run them.

The North also wants to use the 36 states structure as federating units. Why are they so committed to make sure that Yoruba don’t come together to develop Yoruba land, why are they so committed to make sure that Igbo don’t come together to develop Igbo land? What do they have against the Yoruba coming together to form Western Region and grow their economy to have another Dubai?

Why has the North decided to have many local governments and many states in order to control them centrally and cripple everybody and force everybody to be moving at the same pace.

Why are they against people developing their area the way they want? They boast that they were born to rule, let them have their region and bring to bear their born to rule ability to turn the region to Dubai.

Why are they scared of having their region and turning it to Eldorado with their leadership dexterity?

Why are the Northern leaders scared of going back to regions; they want to hold everybody in poverty and misery. States can’t pay salaries, the country is standing still, over 40 million able bodied unemployed youths are all over the country.

The only solution is going back to the region, and some people don’t want that, what are they afraid of.

The Southern Leaders of Thought’s position still remains that only a new constitution affirmed at a referendum will save Nigeria, and give component parts of Nigeria confidence in the country, if this is not done, the agitation will grow worse.

The fact is that most regions do not have confidence in the military constitution of 1999, designed by one Prof Awal Yadudu.

Nigerians don’t want that constitution. The enemies of progress want to retain that constitution forever and do what they call amendments. Amendment to the Yadudu made constitution is unacceptable.

Nigeria is standing still just because a tiny minority want to hold unto archaic military legacies that brought us to where we are today, in penury, in misery. Some people are afraid of change.

If we do not create a new constitution, a people’s constitution affirmed at a referendum, if we don’t go back to true fiscal federalism anchored on regional autonomy, if we do not enthrone equity and justice and fair play, it will be impossible to save Nigeria.

Those who believe that Operation Python Dance or Operation Crocodile Smile would save Nigeria by fire and by force are deceiving themselves.

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