Evangelist Elliot Uko is the founder of Igbo Youths Movement, IYM, Deputy Secretary of the Igbo Leaders of Thought, ILT and leader of Soth-East Democratic Coalition, SEDC. In this chat with Vanguard, he disagrees with comments that the Igbo are not marginalized in Nigeria. He also backed total war against corruption and stressed that restructuring the country into fiscal federalism will ensure justice, equity, harmony and robust development.
During his first media chat last month, President Muhammadu Buhari said that Ndigbo are not marginalized. What is your take on this?
The world was shocked at the assertion by the President. But Ndigbo were not surprised.
They have his records as a young Lieutenant in the army, a Captain and Major during the civil war till date. Majority of our people believe he has passionate hatred for Ndigbo. His friends deny that but clearly he doesn’t seem to care how Ndigbo perceive him.
The world saw his emotions at the tail of the interview, it was clear to all if he loves Ndigbo or not. But the situation is that we don’t need any body’s love. We want equity and justice that have been denied us for decades. Any oppressor can pretend he doesn’t know Nigeria is built on injustice.
How far we will continue to pretend is unclear. Those who are afraid of enthroning true federalism and those who allow envy to rule them are stubbornly toying with our collective future.
Injustice and peace are incompatible. Equity and justice ensure peace. Only a particular section of the country thinks Nigeria is great the way it is. Other sections want true federalism.
How exactly are Ndigbo marginalized?
Ndigbo are not marginalized. We are oppressed. The deliberate unjust structure of Nigeria oppresses many ethnic nationalities, especially those of the Middle Belt, South-South and of course the South-East. The case of the South-East is about envy really. Everybody else believes they should be checked, they should be held down or else they move on top. The attitude is; “hold them down by all means”. This decades-long attitude is being rejected by the younger generation of Ndigbo. Apart from Ndigbo who are in government and the very wealthy, the other 98 per cent of Ndigbo feel unwanted in Nigeria. Nigeria makes it difficult, if not impossible for Ndigbo to feel proudly Nigerian. Everything is deliberately designed to keep them out.
Firstly, there is an un-discussed fear of Ndigbo and a desire by certain other people to dominate others politically. This cocktail of passions produces a huge dislocation in distribution of resources and projects. Since 1970, Ndigbo have been left with the short end of the stick, strangely, everybody seems not to mind, maybe because we seem to succeed in other areas of the economy. This mindset of “don’t let them climb the political ladder” held on to for so long by enemies of Ndigbo gave the younger Ndigbo the impression that Nigeria is better off without them.
Justice, equity and fair play keep countries like Ghana peaceful and admirable. Those responsible for the bitterness in Nigeria know it, it is just convenient for them to subdue others and pretend about it.
Nigeria’s amusing and impossible census figures are not designed to enthrone peace. Those short-changed by these truly amazing figures will remain very bitter until they are corrected; people believe Calabar seaport is made inactive to stagnate the economic growth of Eastern Nigeria.
So everybody is forced to use the Lagos ports. The deliberate and humiliating exclusion of Ndigbo in the current security architecture of Nigeria is deliberately designed to rub it in that they are not part of Nigeria.
Ndigbo dwell in all of 774 Local governments of Nigeria. Issues of security affects them most, do you know that if the Federal Government is about to declare war today and Mr. president summons an emergence meeting of over two dozen heads of security agencies to take the decision together, with the Vice President, Senate President, Speaker House of Representative, Service Chiefs, Police I.G., NSA, Defence Minister, Chief of Defence Staff, Dg DSS, DgNIA, Dg DMI, etc there will be no Igbo man there. Somebody deliberately designed it that way to push Ndigbo out of Nigeria
There are over 45 million Ndigbo and somebody pretends he does not know that Ndigbo are completely excluded from the Security Council. This fact cannot encourage unity. Hatred as a virus is unhealthy to a heterogeneous and multi-cultural country as ours.
Add this to the unworkable structure of 36 (mostly unviable states) created principally by one section of the country and deliberately skewed against Ndigbo with Eastern region making absolutely no contribution to their creation. 774 local governments were preponderantly created to favour and disfavour some regions.
The stubborn refusal to restructure Nigeria along the lines of true federalism is the biggest disservice those who hate equity are visiting on all of us. The unhealthy delineation of federal constituencies in such a lopsided manner continues to generate bitterness.
The killings of easterners for over 60 years now without any hope of punishing the perpetrators, from the Kano riots of 1953, to reactions over cartoon in far away Denmark, Ndigbo are usually slaughtered like chicken. Others include: Deliberate denial of constitutional citizenship rights of Nigerians wherever they may reside and ethnic and religious sentiments rule the land.
The painful disparity in cut-off mark for UTME scores, politics of exclusion and nauseating nepotism in all arms of the civil service and federal parasatals, decades of deliberate denial of old Eastern region of needed infrastructure, horrific killings and rape by the Fulani herdsmen, total manipulation of the electoral system to enforce predetermined outcomes that would only continue the decayed and offensive format of carpet baggers always influencing the political leadership of our region, the list is endless.
What is the solution?
A new constitution built on equity, regional autonomy, true fiscal federalism is the way to go. It is just that some people love dominating and oppressing others. They think that restructuring Nigeria will cost them certain advantages they are enjoying already.
They therefore conveniently pretend they don’t know that Nigerians are sick and desperate for justice and equity. The truth is the Federal Government is underestimating the resolve, the strength and the bitterness of large number of young people who are completely tired of Nigeria.
How do you rate the South Eastern governors?
The governors have constraints. The current political structure makes it impossible for Nigeria to grow. Our economic growth is strangulated by an unworkable political structure that has a very powerful center and very weak and dependent states. In spite of these difficulties our governors are doing well.