Former member of the Enugu State House of Assembly (1999 -2003), member House of Representatives (2003 -2007), Chief U.S.A. Igwesi laments that the scope of insecurity means that the country is sitting on a keg of gunpowder. He supports the desire of the South East on the presidency in 2023, as non-negotiable. Excerpts from an interview published by the African Examiner.
WHAT is your view on the growing agitation for the South East to produce the President in 2023?
This is the best and acceptable project for the emancipation of the country from lopsided leadership since the return of democracy. Since independence in 1960 there is ample evidence to show that a president of Igbo extraction will do the magic. Equity, fairness and justice demands that the next president of Nigeria should be from the South East to assuage the the pockets of agitation for secession and cries for marginalization meted on the Igbo since after the civil war. The Igbo did not escort other ethnic groups to the country Nigeria. It has equal rights with every other tribe and it is one of the three tribes on which this country rests. Only the South East has five states while other zones have six states. What’s the reason for such imbalance? This is one of the indications that the Igbo have not been re-integrated into the mainstream since the end of the Civil War.
The Igbo are enterprising, resilient, technically endowed to reposition the country. We need a creative mind with good spirits to return Nigeria to its past glory the Igbo man can churn out policies that will move the country to the next level.
Countries like China, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia etc were once like Nigeria but with good leadership they were able to return good governance to their country. The industrial revolution in Aba, Nnewi and Onitsha is an example of what an Igbo man can do given the support. The great economies of the world are driven by technology, entrepreneurship and Nigeria cannot be an exemption. But to achieve the dream of leading the country, the Igbo must unite and do the necessary lobbying. Power is not given freely. They should be ready to reach out and fight politically and ensure that all political parties field an Igbo man as a candidate.
How do you think Nigeria can manage the growing insecurity and collapsing economy?
The scope of insecurity from kidnappings for ransom, armed robbery, banditry, herdsmen and terrorism is like a keg of gun powder waiting to explode. The primary responsibility of any government is to protect lives and properties, so the incumbent government should sit up. The government should task the new service chiefs to end the insurgency. Again, the Police should be decentralized. Power devolution is key to the problem of insecurity. Nigeria is a federation and should be able to allow its federating units to deal primarily with security in their various states. The attacks are perpetrated in the states and as such those states should be in a position to deal with the situation without recourse to the Federal Government. Speaking as a former legislator, a constitutional amendment can be achieved in months provided the various stakeholders demonstrate the will and willingness to do what is necessary. All that is required is to have an executive bill or private member bill on ground, the leadership of the National Assembly, the President and his team, Governors and Speakers of State Houses of Assembly must be agreement primarily to have the bill passed into law and signed into law. If this is done, the Security architecture will begin to work effectively and Nigeria will have peace. The police today do not have enough manpower, capacity to deal with the growing menace of criminality. The problem is not only in the lack of manpower, but in the command chain. Proximity is the key and central to the fight against crimes. The arrangement will give the State Governor the powers as Chief Security Officers to deal with the situation in every way. Another cause of the insecurity is poverty and the raging hunger in the land. The government should create wealth by empowering small and medium scale enterprises, invest on human capital development and poverty reduction related programmes. Once the youths are kept busy, crimes will reduce. Every state has a peculiar problem and should be able to develop its own solution to deal with it.
How do you rate the success of rehabilitating so-called repentant criminals by granting them amnesty or absorbing them in the military?
The Igbo say that even if you cure a madman of his madness, you can’t stop him from murmuring. It is wrong to give amnesty to the so-called repentant criminals and terrorists who have maimed and killed innocent souls. The truth is that if he is caught, he should face the law. Giving them amnesty is encouraging others in the business. What should then serve as a deterrent to intending criminals? The so called amnesty only encourages more youths to embrace crime knowing that when they are caught, they will be rehabilated. This can be a conversation in animal kingdom and not where human beings are in charge. A criminal is a criminal any day, crime is crime any day and those who live by sword should also die by same.
A criminal should face the law. I agree with Mr President who have said, though late that no criminal is qualified to be given amnesty and also commend the Kaduna state governor, Mallam El Rufai who have also lent support for punitive measures instead of amnesty. I condemn those state governors who are advocating that amnesty should be given to terrorists.
What do you make of the trend of kidnapping school children in the North?
It is wicked and worrisome that crimes have moved to a point where innocent and harmless school children are forcefully taken to the bush by hoodlums. Do they imagine the damage to the psyche of the students? The safe school initiative launched in 2014 to promote safety of pupils, students, teachers, and facilities in the schools should be reviewed. This has exposed the inability of the government to provide security to pupils. The insecurity has degenerated to the level of packing our children like goods in buses and taken away unchallenged. This will get to a point where parents will be afraid to send their wards to schools.
This will create more problems for the country in terms of criminalities. I enjoin governments at all levels to do everything possible to confront the criminals and create a safe environment for the school children. We should have security presence in vulnerable schools to ward off these criminals. A situation where criminals move about unchallenged does not show that the government is serious. Something tangible need to be done to stop these nefarious activities that is constantly embarrassing the government. This is why the call for state police comes in. If a government cannot protect its school children, then there is no secured future. This is an emergency, and all hands should be on the deck.
As a former lawmaker, how did you see the remarks of Senator Adeyemi on Abia Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, which is seen in some quarters as uncalled for?
An elected member of the National Assembly should lead with dignity and must at all times exhibit that in their utterances. For a Senator to veer out from an entirely different debate and call a sitting Governor names capable of exposing the governor to ridicule is unfortunate and condemnable. The leadership of National Assembly should in addition to their standing rules of debate, instill decorum and decency to members during executive session because the world is watching, moreover, it is the image of the National Assembly that is on trial.
How did you see the recent attempt by northern traders to push for a food blockade on the South?
First, I saw it largely as a wake up call for the South, and for the Igbo man to resuscitate his enterprising and resilient spirit. It is a challenge to ensure food security and sufficiency to the region. It will remind the Igbo that what they need is not to go out of Nigeria but to establish and make the region economically and technologically viable. The South East governors should agree on a comprehensive template on how to grow the region’s economy because they have what it takes to do that. A strong region should be self-sufficient and exist on its own when challenged.