Evangelist Elliot Ugochukwu Uko, founder, Igbo Youth Movement (IYM), and Secretary General, Eastern Consultative Assembly (ECA), has strenuously been campaigning for the restructuring of the country. In this interview with MIKE UBANI, he paints a frightening picture of what might happen if the restructuring agenda fails. He also accuses some of his kinsmen of being insensitive to matters concerning the protection of lives and property of Igbos resident in the northern part of the country.
Are you still pursuing the issue of restructuring the country?
Yes. Nigeria will die, if the country is not restructured along the regions. The realities on the ground make it imperative that we must restructure, or the country will die. Last month (December), some states couldn’t pay salaries. The states that managed to pay salaries did so because of the Paris Club refund. The structure created by General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), 50 years ago cannot carry the country into the future. We must go back to true fiscal federalism anchored on regional autonomy. We must go back to the 1963 Constitution if we want the country to survive. We must restructure to make the country great again.
What does the country stand to gain by restructuring?
First of all, the parasitic cabals that have been sucking the country dry since the post-civil war era would be forced to go back to their regions to grown those regions. And no region will allow these characters to destroy their region because there will be competition. Each region will try to out-achieve the other region. There will be responsible government and responsive governance at the regional level just like we had from 1960 – 1966. As a matter of fact, each region will have enough resources to industrialize its space. We are living in a country where states and local governments were created by soldiers from a particular part of the country, and today those, states are not working.
Why have we not been able to restructure the country despite several calls for this to be done?
A particular cabal has been resisting the restructuring of the country. There have been several conferences in Nigeria to achieve this objective. A very successful one was held 50 years ago in Aburi, Ghana, but some cabals killed the Aburi Accord. Late Gen. Sani Abacha, as evil as he was, agreed to rotate power among the six geo-political zones; agreed to have vice president from all these six geo-political zones, agreed that the six geo-political zones will be the federating units. But as soon as Abacha died, the cabals manipulated the constitution. They had another conference under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in 2005, where it was agreed to give the South-East additional states, but somebody inserted his third-term bid into the whole thing, and when his third term bid was killed, he killed the political conference. They had the last one in 2014 under former President Goodluck Jonathan, but the cabals again swore that the report will never be implemented.
Would you say that the refusal of the cabals to restructure the country led to the IPOB agitation?
Yes. That’s what I will call the highpoint of the clamour to restructure the country. The highpoint is that youths from that region where I come from, after pleading for decades to restructure the country, and the leaders of Nigeria refused, they now said they don’t want to be part of Nigeria again. What happened was that political hustlers from that same region wrote proposals in their search of money to the central government on how to crush the agitation. And the central government implemented the proposals through operation Python dance. But they never knew that those who wrote the proposals merely wanted to make some money. There is nowhere in the world where you use violence to stop a genuine agitation.
Will it be right to say that you have close relationship with IPOB?
I can only say that the biggest industry in the South-East of Nigeria today, is to condemn IPOB; make some money, and endear yourself to the government. If you attack Nnamdi Kanu; call him a mad man, abuse him, you get something from the government.
Where is Nnamdi Kanu?
You see, I was so close to late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. I was so close to late Dr. Alex Ekwueme. I am so close to all the Biafra Youth Movements. I am so close to Prof. Ben Nwabueze. If soldiers storm the house of any of them, will you ask me or the soldiers? If soldiers storm the house of Alex Ekwueme, will you ask me why? Why are you scared of the soldiers who stormed Nnamdi Kanu’s residence in Umuahia? You should go and ask them of his whereabouts?
As the country inches towards another general election, what’s your advice to the youths of the South-East?
I fear for the South-East because I know that millions of youths from this zone will not participate in the next general elections. I know that in 2019, they will not vote.
The youths are angry over operation Python dance. They are angry because they claimed that South-East leaders betrayed them, so they have said they won’t vote during the next general elections. And that frightens me, because that’ll be the beginning of the crisis. I read in the newspapers where the South-East governors’ said they proscribed IPOB because the members were trying to create war for Igbo people living in the North. I laughed.
A delegation of Igbos resident in Kano state, who visited me in early 2015, complained that there was a plot by the indigenes to kill Igbos resident in Kano following their alleged involvement in the bomb explosion in a Kano market. They said the attack on Igbos was to take place six weeks to the 2015 general elections. They also said the planned attack was to stop them from voting for Jonathan. I met with several Igbo leaders, including the then South-East governors, Igbo ministers in Jonathan’s cabinet, and the then secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, on this grave matter, but nobody was interested. I even met with then First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, on this same issue. But I found out that the Igbo leaders were all interested in sharing Jonathan’s campaign fund. What saved the situation was that an 11-year-old girl named Zainab Babangida, openly confessed that she was one of the three girls hired to bomb the Kano market. Today, Igbo leaders, particularly the governors, pretend that they care for the safety of Igbo people living in the North. They should tell that to the marines.