SAYS ISSUE OF RESTRUCTURING WAS SETTLED AT ABURI IN 1967, 1994-1995 ABACHA CONFERENCE AND 2014 NATIONAL CONFAB
Professor A.B.C Nwosu, First Class Commonwealth Scholar and academic, joined the political arena with his appointment in 1986 as Commissioner for Health in old Anambra State. He served four miilitary administrations in that capacity including the new Anambra State. At the return to democracy in 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed him first as his Political Adviser and later as Minister of Health. Professor Nwosu spoke to Global UpFront Newspapers (GUN). Excerpts:
Igbos Must, Not May Run for President in 2023
Come 2023, are the Igbo’s going for Presidency or restructuring of Nigeria?
The two, Igbo Presidency and restructuring, are not in one basket. I don’t see any linkage between restructuring, which was settled in Aburi in1967. We shouldn’t be talking of restructuring again. We are talking of restructuring because a sitting President has ignored the decisions of Nigerians taken at the 2014 National Conference, which I was a member of. But preceding that was the more important one, the 1994-1995 Constitutional Conference set up by General Sani Abacha.
The Igbo’s sent their First 11 – Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Chief Odumegwu-Ojukwu as the chairman, Dee Sam Mbakwe as his deputy. And I was brought in with Chief Ben Obi and others. I was the head of the Igbo Secretariat to that conference. Before that, I set up the Mkpoko Igbo where Dr. Ekwueme was the Lead Speaker and zoning of the six geopolitical zones were clearly explained and rotational Presidency was enshrined in it. Before this, there was Aburi. I still have the original papers. That when I knew that the real leader at that time was Dr Pius Okigbo.
The meeting was held in Dr. Okigbo’s house. Professor Godwin Odenigwe representing Enugu; Dee Sam and Engr Eric Iwuanyanwu representing Imo; Ike Nwachukwu, Professor Ben Nwuabeze; everybody came. I have that Memorandum presented by the Igbo speaking people of Nigeria to the 1994 Constitutional Conference. And the decree setting them up said they had the power to draft the next Constitution. With that power, they drew up the next Constitution and submitted to General Abacha under the signatures of Mr. Justice Adolphus Karibi-Whyte and Justice Seidu Kawu, who was Chairman of the Constitution Conference committee. His deputy was Dr Joseph Wayas.
I was at the International Conference Centre when Dr. Ekwueme raised his hand to raise the motion for rotational Presidency and pandemonium broke out. Eventually, I know how the pandemonium was resolved and I have the draft by Government Printer of the Constitution, that the Presidency of Nigeria shall rotate between the North and the South, full final sentence.
We finished it at Aburi. Every Igbo man and woman knows we didn’t go to war on purpose on July 29 or January 15. The war was fought on ‘Aburi We Stand.’ What was the ‘Aburi We Stand,’ – Restructuring. What was the Abachas conference – the Presidency shall rotate between the North and the South – restructuring. What was the 2014 National Conference – restructuring. Anybody who says he doesn’t understand what restructuring is gains my suspicion. Let’s structure what we are doing. Its an English word, we now structured it, let’s restructure. And you say what do I know about restructuring. When people do that I look at then with disdain and suspicion. You either want restructuring or you don’t want restructuring.
Nigeria is currently in disequilibrium and restructuring is not in discussion. Restructuring that was done in Aburi, fought over it, we came back reaffirmed it in 1995. Who else can restructure. The 1994 National Conference meetings was held for six months. I don’t see any people who can change what has happened with the founding fathers or any Igbo person who will say that his own views supersedes that of Professor Odenigwe, Chief Jim Nwobodo, Dr Ekwueme, Chief Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Professor Nwabueze, Dr Okigbo, Dee Mbakwe, etc. All that new arrogance is prohibited. But I have recorded on a note book what each person said before the conference paper was submitted.
Restructuring is completely out of question. Nigeria will either restructure or cease to be Nigeria in time. We can either agree or not. I am not the first person to say so. I am not the 10th neither the 100th person to say so. Those that have ears let them hear. Deriving from this unwritten agreement which we had implemented strictly till today, the Presidency shall rotate between the South and the North. That is why Dr. Peter Odili was not President. At least, that was what we were told. I don’t know who Dr. Odili offended. Is it the leaders of the North who he visited to ask for their permission? Or those in the South? The problem was that by convention, the Presidency shall rotate between the North and the South. And since we took the decision in 1999, to shift this decision of power shift was one of the striking points in the formation of PDP.
Those who joined the PDP may not know how many nights that tempers rose in Professor Jerry Gana’s house at Maitama until finally the leaders of Nigeria, incidentally, the same leaders who have formed the G34, the same leaders who also had the guts to tell General Abacha that we have to have democracy. And the letter was handed over to him by Chief Solomon Lar. People like Alhaji Adamu Ciroma and the chairman, who was Dr. Ekwueme.
Sometimes I ask, where were all these other people when all these were going on? Were they not the people cheering Abacha forever? These respected leaders of Nigeria risked their lives to do this. And they came back with the little they had to say is power will shift.
I was at the meetings in Abuja at Jerry Gana’s house. I was at the meetings in Lagos. I remember four people who are still alive of those of us who were asked to write the guidelines. It was agreed power must shift to the South. When it shifted to the South was when the argument came. Look at what happened with June 12? Everybody, in the formation of PDP, Dr Ekwueme was to be the chairman then. But because it was to go to the South and he was the most likely candidate, so it went North to Solomon Lar and Ekwueme was getting ready until the argument came.
Before then, remember the argument of June 12 came that pushed it to South West. But remember again that before then, the same PDP said if you don’t win your ward or local government, you can’t qualify to contest. To answer the June 12 question, those rules were flouted and somebody who didn’t win any of those was the person who contested. In managing our diversity, plurality in Nigeria and in order to build the nation based on justice, equity, and fair play, we have often done the right thing from 1999. I don’t see us not doing it in 2023 on the basis of equity.
In that 1994, if you look at the Draft Constitution, it is we South East that proposed that there should be three Vice Presidents in Nigeria, one from the zone of the President so that if the president dies, the Vice President from his zone will complete his tenure. We thought through these things. Those who opposed us did not know we will have such a situation. And so, when the situation arose, they went to the back and invented doctrine of necessity which would not have been necessary if we had adopted this. If they like, let them listen again. If they don’t like, the evil haters take it and put it in their innermost closet and lock it up. We will just record it for them. But I don’t see why the matter should be under discussion now.
When Chief MKO Abiola ran election under SDP, running mate to Alhaji Bashir Othman Tofa of the NRC and Governor of Central Bank of Biafra, Dr. Sylvester Ugoh, lost in his Local Government Area. The Igbos in Dr Ugoh’s place wanted Abiola instead of Tofa. When sometimes people start posturing and say they want to be your friend, yet you want to be my friend and you want to take away what is my rightful position.
The initial stage, the Igbo man was asking himself, why am I coming to be President of Nigeria that is not restructured? Why am I struggling to be President of Nigeria where of all the Security Chiefs, am not involved? What really am I coming to add with a bloated federal government that consumes about 80 per cent of the expenditure when this wasn’t what our founders intended? Our founders did not intend that federal budget should be up to 35 per cent. Why? But the Igbo man has forgotten all those arguments. The central question now is that of the ethnic groups in Nigeria, we want to know those who sprang out of Nigerian soil more than us? We want to know which ones were created from the Nigerian soil and we were not?
The Igbo man being President in 2023, somebody coming from South East, is imperative because as of now, North West, North East, North Central, South West South South and South East, who hasn’t been. When our brother from South South Jonathan came, who gave him more votes than Igbos? Did we not yield to the argument of June 12 and voted for Obasanjo? Who have we not voted for? But when it comes to our turn, story starts. So, the Igbos are saying two things. First, we must run in 2023. It is not we may. We must. It’s as sure as the day follows the night. We are saying it; give us a DNA test because our paternity is being doubted.
It’s a settled matter. As the time nears, by 2022, you may not hear multitudes of Igbo voices. You will hear one definite voice from the South East that will show that the Igbos don’t want to come here for the sake of coming here. We will come here with an agenda that will benefit everybody so that it will prove the fact that what Nigerians have regarded as their problem has actually been the solution to their problem.
When the Igbos they are afraid will dominate comes, they will see it is not good for the Almajiri’s to be out of school. We want then trained so that they and our children can grow in the same pace. You will find it is the same people who will ask why people are out of jobs in Nigeria. You will find that these charlatans jumping all over the place thinking that the Igbo’s wants to be President of Nigeria so that they will loot and loot maximally disappointed, as the Igbo’s themselves will deal with them in the normal Igbo way.
Those people saying that Igbos cannot be asking for Presidency and at the same time ask for Biafra, are they making sense?
They know they are talking nonsense. I would have simply said bunkum. What has happened to those also asking for Oduduwa Republic out there? Have it stopped people from the South West from trying to run for Presidency? Arewa started a long time ago. The people who invented the word Arewa were the Northerners. So, what if the Igbos are IPOB. They are ignorant.
They can give any reason. What has happened is that some people wanted to be richer than they are and want to be President so that they and their relations will become richer than they are. Igbos wants to be President for very different reasons; to show that they are as authentic as any other Nigerian who wants to be; to show that the Igbo DNA is in favour of Nigeria and that in the past history of Nigeria, the Igbos have been the nation builders.
Anybody talking about IPOB and want me to get up tomorrow and say Nnamdi Kanu is an idiot, Nnamdi Kanu is a bastard, no Igbo man born of his father will say such nonsense about his son. Our children are very angry seeing the way we are treated as bonafide Nigerians. It’s not me saying this. It was Rosa Parks who said: “I am in favour of anything that my people do to show that they are dissatisfied with the way they are being treated by America.”
If you translate it here, it will be, I am unhappy with the way Ndigbo are being treated by their country Nigeria. No matter what you do, no matter if you die for Nigeria in ECOMOG, no matter what you do, nothing. I am unhappy with that and I want to know any Igbo man who has any pedigree who will say that he is happy with the way we are being treated. If there is anybody who says, daddy sit down, you have done your bit. Let me do this. And you other sons say let us do this IPOB.
Nigeria must stop treating us as if we are not Nigerians. I can also say that Nigeria must not treat us as us non-Nigerians. When Nigeria treats us as fellow Nigerians, you will find that our sons will say by themselves, that the objective has been satisfied and all these issues will fizzle out. Let people use IPOB and blackmail. Let then say whatever they like to say. All I know is that in 2023, Igbos will run for President and Nigeria will hear that cry. Accept it because it is right. It is the cry of a brother, an anguish of a son saying where have I gone wrong? Nigeria will choose between EQUITY and INIQUITY.