Hardship: Why Ndigbo should not join protests – Muoma, SAN

From Ogbonnaya Ndukwe, Aba

Elder statesman and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN),  Chief Chuks Muoma, has again identified poor leadership as the major factor responsible for the country’s economic woes.

The Chairman of Igbo Lawyers Association (ILA), therefore, called those occupying high positions politically inept opportunists, who have failed to cut out plans to secure and grow the country and its people.

He also warned Ndigbo to heed calls from their elders not to join in protests against the current hardship in the country as they may be singled out for punishment.

Nine months on, the Tinubu-led administration is grappling with the country’s woes, promising Nigerians that it will reposition the economy. How would you assess the steps it is taking towards realizing this?

Like I said when he was sworn into office, I don’t see the president salvaging Nigeria. I still maintain it, nine months into his administration, no clear-cut programmes in place. Currently, Nigeria is directionless and it worries some of us that know what governance is all about. We don’t know where the country is heading to, but all I can tell you is that we haven’t got the right leadership to pilot its affairs. Nigeria’s leadership for now is that of opportunism, someone wanting to wear the badge of having been president of the country or was once one. People want to become president, without any capability of moving the nation and its people forward. The right people are not given the opportunity to lead. To me, it is a fusion of arrangement: “It’s my turn. It’s my turn.” Which country is ever ruled that way? Turn by turn, by agreement of two people; after you, it’ll be me? Nigeria is a disgrace, politically. We may be successful in every other thing, but politically, Nigeria is a disgrace. Like I keep saying, I’ve been involved in politics since the time of NPN, NPP, GNPP, and others in the second republic. I was a foundation member of the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP) alongside the likes oof the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, Chiefs Sam Mbakwe, Solomon Lar, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, and co, after which I joined Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim’s GNPP. I also became Aba urban Chairman of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), in the early 1990s. What I discovered is that there’s lack of sincerity among Nigerian politicians. Everybody wants name and money, whether it is justly earned or not. What everyone wants is the money and affluence at all costs, no matter who is involved. I am not a politician of opportunism, that was the reason I left from participating. I am comfortable presently. There was nothing I made from politics. Everything I have was got through my private legal practice.

Don’t you think the country’s woes got to this level because people like you left the stage at the time you did without taking directional positions to guide those coming into the system?

No, no, no! I didn’t want to continue being involved in a system that exposes a good man to danger of even losing his life, while positioning to say ‘no’ to evil. I didn’t want to be associated with the bad tag Nigerian politicians go with. Also, I saw the system being followed and didn’t want to be a liability to anyone without subjecting myself to any low estate. Those that encountered me in the time we were on stage know that I was a very straightforward person. I still remain and maintain that I am incorruptible. Even if one has to die for it, I will not succumb to selfish living. Nigeria needs good leadership to take it out of the woods. For me, I think that I have lived a fulfilled life….

But doesn’t the plight of Nigerians who are currently passing through hardships touch you, don’t you feel for them?

The leaders who claim that they have been chosen by the people are the cause of the problems the country is having at the moment, not me. I am not a leader nor a politician. I decided to lead a quiet private life in order to distance myself from the turmoil. The idea, we Nigerian youths had when we got independence from the colonial masters have been shattered by bad leadership, struggle for money. Everything about Nigeria is corrupt.

Are you saying that there’s no way the country can be steered back into the deep waters of economic growth and development, even as the present administration is pleading that we have patience while its policies stabilize?

The man who is president, why does he want to be, what are his capabilities, I ask again? I heard him saying he built Lagos. Would that have qualified him or any one for that matter, to boast of being capable of fixing a large country like Nigeria? Lagos is just one state out of the 36 we have at the moment. To me, he came on a personal ambition. “Emilokan, Emilokan.” Which country on earth is run that way, my turn? The truth has to be said. Nigeria has become a disgrace politically to the outside world. We have no leadership presently in the country. What we have is abundance of opportunities. People look at what they will grab, what they will gain and not what to do to uplift the country and its people. The president removed subsidy on petroleum products because of his personal interest in the oil sector in which his family is a key player. Talking politics in Nigeria makes me sad. I am not ashamed to say it rather I am ashamed that my country is in such a mess because of politics. Let our younger generations brace up for the fight to liberate their land and return sanity to the system. Our problem is that we are desperate about wealth acquisition and can go to any length, do anything to get it. The average Nigerian wants money and believes money is everything. They want wealth instantly without working for it. If anyone gives me, say N10 billion, N20 billion or even N100 billion, to say that white is black or that black is white, I won’t take it. We’ve lost the value of life in our country. Nigerians are more religious than being spiritual and it is not religion that makes a nation. The level of people’s spiritual development, contributes to nation building, not the church people attend.

Recently, some members of the National Assembly introduced a bill seeking a return to parliamentary system of government in Nigeria. You had advocated for a return to the 1963 Constitution, what’s your take on this move in the NASS? And are there still developmental processes to be completed for this time, in view of the fact that Nigeria is now a consumer nation?

To me, it may no longer be regional competition as such for us as a nation. Presently, our value systems have changed. Materialism and personal wealth acquisition problems have taken over. It is only God that will revive Nigeria through good, quality, selfless leadership. The few that are selfless are not allowed to lead. People with other interests will work to pull them down as such individuals that may appear to block their personal selfish ambitious, will not compromise. So, they may not be wanted at all by those claiming it is their turn to rule.

Let’s look at the Southeast, recently, Nigeria’s vice president, Alhaji Shettima, was in Enugu for an economic development programme and commissioning of the Aba independent power project sponsored by Geometric Group. Also, with the passing of the bill on South East Development Commission, Senate President Godswill Akpabio, said the region, should now stop crying of being marginalized. Do you agree with him, has light actually come to the Southeast?

Well, while not going to engage anyone on what is being planned or pronounced, we should remember that anything can be promised by politicians. Our duty at the moment is to wait and see the action that will follow. It is the implementation stages following the promises that will tell, if what we hear is true. We’ve seen those moves before, but those charged with their implementation, lined up their pockets with funds made available for the projects. It is, therefore, the profitability of the resolution that will suffice and not just talking about it. Let’s give them another two years and see what comes out of it. The marginalization of Ndigbo is everywhere in Nigeria’s affairs, including sharing of public offices. Like I keep saying, the Igbo are not loved in Nigeria. Let us not be deceived. Why are they (Nigerian government) still holding Nnamdi Kanu, when they have released Sunday Igboho? Why are they still holding Kanu? He has been acquitted as having not committed any offence. Why is he still a political prisoner, while Igboho is moving about freely? Can’t the Igbo understand what is happening that the whole country is anti-Igbo because we resisted oppression during the civil war? Is that our crime? Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (the 3 Rs), or whatever they called it, No Victor, No Vanquished. It is obvious that there was a vanquished and there was a victor. They can’t paper it over. Who are they talking to…? They can’t paper it over. There was a victor and a vanquished and that separation still persists, up till today. This brings us to what Gowon (former head of state) was quoted as saying recently, during a visit to Aso Rock Villa, while speaking to reporters, where he spoke on how he was slow in executing the war against Biafra.  I want to let him know that you can’t annihilate a race. Despite the holocaust in Hitler’s Germany, the Jews have continued to exist and multiply. Let me ask, have the Jews (Israel) been dedestroyed? The Igbo are more in population than the Jews, and I ask, have they (Jews) been destroyed, even with less population than Palestinian Arabs? What exactly was the former head of state trying to portend, talking about? He should remember that he had allowed himself to be used by forces that wanted him destroyed. Let’s face the fact.   I heard they’ve taken Nnamdi Kanu back to court, to recommence his trial afresh and I ask, what did he do? I have a word for Ndigbo. They should not join in any protest in Nigeria, against current hardship in the country. If they do, they will be singled out for destruction. They are not loved by other ethnic groups. It’s good other tribes are protesting because they are now tasting what Ndigbo have been experiencing all the while, crying against domination by the powers that be. For long, our people have been fighting for survival. We are good in commerce and industry; business is hallmark of the Igbo nation. Our people should not allow themselves to be lured by other tribes into unnecessary protests. If they do, the victims would be the Igbo. There’s a gang up against us and they (the authorities) will hinge on it to unleash mayhem on our youths. Let Nigeria be whatever God Almighty wants it to become. Let’s be good onlookers, good audience. The programme is a trick to lure Ndigbo into facing another pogrom. No! We will not go into protest. Let’s continue doing what we are blessed to do – trading, commerce and industry, with buying and selling, for which we are known. Whatever other Nigerians are doing in protest, let our youths, Igbo youths, not join them. We are not loved in the country, this is why some groups get so quick to claim non-Igbo origin, despite having ancestors and abode with us. People from Ikwerre, Etche, Ogba, Egbema including some in Delta areas claim, “We are not Igbo,” yet they have not got anything from those manipulating them. Igboland is more progressive than their areas. What do they gain other than cowardice. That’s what they are inheriting and passing on to their youths. My advice to our youths is: Don’t join in the protests, steer clear of those involved.

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