Writer and political analyst, Chido Onumah argues that many, if not all, of the problems of Nigeria are rooted in the structure of the country.
He makes a case, as he did in his previous books, for the socio-political restructuring of Nigeria. He argues that the country needs to engage episodic political convulsions that threaten its very foundation, including Biafra, June 12, Boko Haram, the “National Question”, citizenship rights, and “militocracy”.
Onumah in this interview, explains the reason behind his new book, ‘We Are All Biafrans’ and the urgent need to restructure Nigeria while hoping the book sparks off a national debate. Excerpts: Give us a hint about the book?
Looking at the title, We Are All Briafrans, the first thing that comes to the mind of the reader is that it’s a book on the Biafra agitation. It’s not.
The focus is about the agitation in Nigeria generally, the feeling of alienation, the complaints and anger, whether we are looking at Boko Haram, Biafra, the Niger Delta Avengers, the different groups in the South West in the country.
It’s just to draw attention to the current crisis in Nigeria, using Biafra as a metaphor for the different agitations going on in the country. What the book focuses on is on the solutions to these problems.
Now that we have found ourselves in this crisis situation where the country is almost on the brink, what do we do about it and that’s where the whole issue of restructuring Nigeria comes in.
So Why are we all Biafrans?
We are all sufferers, we are all casualties whether you are a northerner, the poor man is suffering in the east and other areas.
So Biafra now connotes suffering and…?
No Biafra in a way connotes the agitations to end suffering it doesn’t connote violence.
Level of conjecture
Those who are agitating for Biafra feel alienated and oppressed within the system called Nigeria and they feel that if you give us Biafra we can solve this problem which may be right or wrong. We don’t know what would have happened if Biafra survived.
Whether it would have been a great nation with one person as a dictator with coups and counter coups, I mean we never can tell, it’s at the level of conjecture. What the book essentially is saying is that we are all suffering, we are all casualties of the result and effect of bad leadership in the country and the time has come for us to collectively deal with the problem.
Why the agitations when some people believe that Buhari is doing well?
Well I don’t know who you have been talking to but this thing predates Buhari and I’m sure that it is going to outlive Buhari, that is, the problems of Nigeria.
There’s no way any president or anybody that emerges as president of this country today, no matter the person’s good intentions, can solve the problems of Nigeria just on the basis of good intentions. We have crossed that stage in the history of this country. If our rulers had good intentions in 1960 when the country got independence, they would have been able to do a lot of things to prevent this stage we are in now. The British handed us a country of diverse ethnic and religious groups, our rulers failed in their duty and responsibility to build a nation out of the contraption so to say, that was handed over to us at independence now the chicks as the saying goes, have come home to roast.
For me, it’s not about Buhari, Buhari as a person can only do so much. Corruption in Nigeria is not as a result of the fact that Nigerians are genetically corrupt. The level of corruption in Nigeria is as a result of the structure, this country is more or less corruption, it can’t but breed corruption. The structure of the county makes it almost impossible for people to believe in the country. Look at the recent case of the Chief of Army Staff, you begin to wonder, let’s forget about whether he saved enough money to buy the property or he stole it, that’s why it’s important as well, for the media to be very strategic in their intervention. Moral issue I think the bigger question for me here is not where he got the money, as important as that is, the bigger issue is the moral issue which goes to the very foundation of my point.
How do you explain that the Chief of Army Staff of an independent country finds it convenient to buy two properties outside the country in a dispensation like this. You ask yourself, where does his heart lie.
If tomorrow there is something between UAE and Nigeria for example, where will his interest be? God knows he may have properties in other parts of the world. Our governors and ministers have hotels, schools, hospitals outside this country, it means this country is really no man’s land, nobody is interested in it, people are just here to make money, they couldn’t care less what happens to it. We need to go back to a place where we have confidence in this country and its when we do that, that we can begin to run Nigeria effectively knowing that we really don’t have any other country. If we destroy it, we don’t have any other place to go. Is your book supporting the agitations? No, I don’t support the agitations but I support agitations for Nigerians, for a better life for equity for justice, I don’t support the agitations for Nigeria breaking up into pieces because I think it is likely not going to happen. For such break up to happen, it will be the result of a bloody civil war.
Yes again and that is what nobody wants to get into. This agitations are reflections of how terrible this country has been misgoverned, mismanaged over the years.
Are you saying the method he’s employing is not effective, especially regarding fighting corruption?
I don’t think that at the end of the day this war against corruption, it’s not really about the debate whether the fight is one sided or selective, my own take is from the general perspective of what corruption means in Nigeria and the depth of corruption in the country. I use the term that Nigeria itself is corruption and to that extent, you look at the issue of resources that come from the Niger Delta, nobody knows exactly how many barrels of oil we get or export everyday or the amount of bunkering in that region. Look at revenue allocation formula in this country, all of it is so improper that it breeds corruption. For example, a state like Kano, revenue is based on the number of local government we have. Kano has 44 local governments, Lagos has 20, Lagos has more population than Kano. You begin to wonder is the allocation supposed to be based on human beings or land mass. So when I say Nigeria itself is corruption that’s what I mean and I don’t see Buhari dealing with that unless of course we restructure this country.