Interviews Politics

Nigeria at 60: Lets go back to our religious, cultural heritages-Eze Ohiri

HRM Eze Samuel Agunwa Ohiri (Eze Imo), is the Chairman, Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers and South East Coordinator of Traditional Rulers Council of Nigeria in this exclusive interview with EVEREST EZIHE, of The Authority newspapers in his Obi Orodo, Mbaitoli, Imo State ancestral Palace . He talked about Nigeria at 60, her catalogue of woes and proffered going back to the nation’s cultural and traditional heritages as the plausible strategic redemption. It’s a must read.

Your Majesty Nigeria just celebrated her 60th year independentAnniversary what is year message to the populace?

Thanks for this golden opportunity of making my views known to Nigerians; first of all, I have to thank God Almightywho in His infinite mercy have kept our country together for the past 60 years.This is not a simple feat and during these periods, the nations have gonethrough so many challenges, which included Civil war. I equally, thank God wewere able to get over it and have continued to remain together. I want tospecially thank our fathers who worked so hard to ensure that Nigeria got herindependence in 1960, some of them even paid the Supreme Prize. Am talking ofpeople like Late Dr. Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Michael Okpara, ChiefObafemi Awolowo, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Sir Herbert Macaulay, the Sardunas andso many of them. May their Souls rest in perfect peace, Amen! However, sometimes youhave to wonder, if today, this is the kind of Nigeria they had in mind asa country or nation.

Talkingabout the Nigeria they had in mind, some people are still of the view that Nigeriaat 60 is a failed state, as an elder statesman and a royal father what is yourtake on this?

To tell you the gospel truth, sometime youhave to wonder if we were so quick getting away from the leadership and administration of the British colonial masters even though these colonial Lords had their ownulterior motives for colonizing Nigeria as a nation, but if we can in all honesty andsincerity give assessment of how we felt as a nation since independence, the obviousis that we have not done well. However, we have done well or improve in someaspects of life but there are so many areas we have really not done well. It ispertinent, we ask ourselves this question as Nigerians, If the life of averageNigerian in 70s, 80s, 90s and life for average Nigerian based on their pocket books,the misery index and all that are they better today than they were in the 50s,60s ?, if you do a critical analysis on these, you can now see if truly we havebeen improving or marching backwards, an honest and sincere assessment willreveal to you that, Nigeria as a nation have not done well. I think we have madesome giant strides and gains after the civil war, we were able to rebuild thecountry to certain extent, however, deepening democracy, governance, interms ofrelationship with various ethnic groups or tribes that makes up the country, Idon’t think we have done a very good job.

Becausewe have not done a very good job, what then do you think as a patriot that canbe done to move the nation forward?

The way forward is this, be it known to allthat every country or nation God created, He gave them their traditional andcultural ways of life. The food they should eat. What they should drink. Thelanguage or languages they should speak. The way they should be administered ortheir mode of governance, in all these things I have mentioned, tell me inNigeria which one are we doing, preserving or hanging on? Is it the language he gave us that we areappreciating and promoting? Or is it the food that God gave us that we areappreciating and promoting? Or is it the drink, the culture and traditions ormode of administrations and governance that God in His infinite wisdom gave us.We threw those things away and often we began to look far as par the origins ofour problems. I think it is time for us to look within. I think we need to go backto the basics.

Whatthen are the basics?

The basics entails going back to our goodcultural and traditional heritages.

Talkingabout going back to our good cultural and traditional heritages, there is thisongoing agitation for traditional rulers in Nigeria to be given a constitutionalrole(s), what is your take on that?

Honestly, if Nigeria is thirsty of movingforward, definitely that is the way to go. The biggest problem we have inNigeria is corruption; from hindsight, corruption is a product of lack ofpatriotism. If you have system that builds the administration or governance onthe basis of their cultural and traditional beliefs. Honestly, if it is thecultural and traditional beliefs of our people that are guiding what we do andthe way things are being done I can assure you that we will have the lowest indexof corruption which is the bane of Nigerian society as of today. The truth isthat, until we go back to the intention of God Almighty who created mankind andeverything thereof, God is not stupid. He created us, gave us the complexionand made us whom we are, gave us our different languages, gave us the food weeat, language we speak, our mode of life, ways of administering our people,unfortunately we ran away from all those things and think that it will be well withus. My candid advise is that we must go back to those basics, if not, we may bechasing shadows. It is important that we ensure that our traditional ways oflife, the traditional ways of doing things and administering are adopted and implemented, these cannot beachieved if you don’t give constitutional roles to traditional rulers who arethe custodians of the people’s cultural and traditional heritages. When we ranaway from all these things as I earlier mentioned as endowed to us by God asAfricans, as West Africans and as Nigerians and took and swallow hook line andsinker the Western ways of doing things which are alien to our culture andtraditions. Look, I lived in United State of America for years, what is tradition there?The tradition in United States of America is there constitution. It is thereconstitution that determines what they do and how they operate. Thus why thereconstitution says, you have freedom of sexual orientation. It implies that aman can marry another man and a woman can marry another woman but here we have our own rich cultural heritages that anchors on respect, norms, and values and of Ofona Ogu (i.e. justice and equity). The culture and traditions God gave to us, entails respecting one another. You must respect your parents. You must respectyour elders. You must respect constituted authorities. You must respect yourself,you must be honest and sincere in all you are doing, you must be part of the community, you mustbelieve in your village as well as the larger society and others. Thus, if youas an individual is an embodiment of all these, you will definitely not engagedin disrespecting others nor engaged in stealing or thinking how to kidnap your uncle son, nephews and other relationships. You will never be involved in corruption or embezzling money that was entrusted in your hands asa civil servant, Permanent Secretary, community leader or as a Governor or as a President orwhatever you are. You will be guided with all those traditional norms andvalues, definitely you can’t go wrong.

It is important to inform that last week,the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria of which I am the SouthEast Co-ordinator just submitted a memo to the Senate,as their inputs in the on going review of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria. The National Councilsubmitted a memorandum and we pray the distinguished Senators will find itworthy as it concerns the constitutional roles to be ascribed to traditionalrulers in Nigeria. We are optimistic that they will find reasons for the nationto go back to certain basics as a strategic means of moving the countryforward. It will also go a long way in correcting some of the ills andchallenges we have in this country, it will be in the overall interest of thenational assemblies to take an honest look at the memoranda we submitted anddo the needful by given some roles to the nation’s traditional rulers, once this is done that giant of Africa will start roaring back again.

Therefore,your Majesty with these litany of woes you have x-rayed, do you attribute theproblems to leadership or followership?

I think it is more of leadership than followership because ourleaders are not showing examples, as a leader, it is important you live byexample. Let me tell you what Nigeria politicians have succeeded in doing to this great country, thepoliticians have institutionalized selfishness, forinstance, now that we are canvassing for traditional rulers to haveconstitutional role(s), an average politicians will start thinking that thetraditional institution are trying to poise a sort of threat to their positionsor that their leadership ambition is being challenged, butthere is no threat whatsoever. Honestly,the actions of the politicians have decimated the core foundations of thenation’s cultural and traditional ways of life and that iswhat is causing all the problems in Nigeria. After independent, we forgot allthe things God bless us with, before the colonial masters, our forefathers werehere. They have a way of communicating with one another, they have a way ofadministering the people. They have their behavioral patterns before the whitemen came. Unfortunately, when the colonial masters came, we did not only acceptedthem we equally accepted their ways of life at the detriment of our rich cultural and traditional heritages. We threw away our God given good cultural andtraditional practices. Thus, we have experimented with western ways of life,their ways of administering our society, our country, our states, our villagesour communities for 60 years and it did not work. Dam It!

As you are canvassing for a return tothe basics, now there is serious agitation for restructuring of the nation, isthe agitation part of the need for returning back to the basics?

Look!Any restructuring without given a definite constitutional role to thetraditional rulers will still not work. Definitely, it will not work.

Are you then an apostle of restructuring Nigeria?

Obviously, yes. It isimportant to restructure the country, but it must be planned towards taking us backto the basics. There are too much powers at the centres of government in Nigeria, be it atthe Presidency, the Governors exercise much powers, local governmentadministration in the country is virtually dead. This is a gospel truth thatwill set us free. This is not only in Imo State but in the entire federation.

Asa Royal father and a renowned farmer, are you not perturbed with the level ofinsecurities in the country, moreso as food scarcity is ravaging the nation,people equally attributed it to the nefarious activities of the hardsmen, sohow worried are you?

Truly, there is genuineconcern in this country especially on security. It is not news anymore on theinsurgencies of the Boko Haram Islamic religious sect. just few days ago, theconvoy of the Governor of Borno was attacked for the second time. Everyday thereare issues of conflict, rape and banditry here and there, it does not speak wellof a nation being described as giant of Africa. The issue of security needs tobe addressed with priority attention, because if an average farmer does notfeel safe, the country is in trouble. Recall we call those of them from Benueto Jos as middle belt and the food basket of the nation, what is happening inthose areas now is an eye soar and dent to the nation’s securities apparatus. Ifthey no longer feels safe going to their farms to cultivate, definitely thenation is in trouble. For Instance as am talking to you, a bag of local ricesales for N30,000. Is it funny? And the probability of its being high by nextyear is certain therefore, the issue of security should be everybody’s concernand our leaders need to step up to the challenges and do us proud by curtailinginsecurities. The number one responsibility of any government is the security oflives and properties of her citizenries.

Howhave it being been the chairman of the traditional institution in Imo State?

We have been trying tocollaborate with the government in the execution of their policies andprogrammes. We disseminate information about government programmes and policiesin our various communities and make sure they are put into practice as directed.This is our number one job and to make sure we secure the lives and properties ofour people in the various communities. We are equally committed in ensuringpeace and tranquility in our various communities. However, often times these arevery difficult to achieve more especially often you hear of communities in turmoil,Boko Haram and Herdsmen unleashing their mayhems and conflicts.

More so, the authorities andpowers of traditional rulers are being cheaped away everyday by successivegovernment be it Federal, State or local government. The gospel truth is that itis not possible for us to get the Nigeria of our collective dreams until werealized that God has a purpose for the nation and God has a way of life andthat destined to us which is our cultural and traditional ways ofadministering, moving around, living and belief among others.

Your Majesty, you are too deep into this your crusade of returning to the basics,I’m here in your magnificent Hitech Diagnostics Office, what do you do here?

Okay, may be at the end ofthis interview I will take you round the complex. I am not just a traditional ruler, I do something for a living and I’m the architect that every traditional ruler musthave something doing, otherwise he may not meet up his daily financial obligations. Thestipend being paid to the traditional rulers are too small to meet up theirdaily needs. This morning when you came here (referring to the reporter) youknow how long you have to wait because of the various groups and personalitieswaiting for me. Every day I wake up by 5 am and as from 6 am people are alreadywaiting for me in the palace with one problem or the other. Naturally, you mustpresent drinks and Kolanuts to them. All these costs money. Therefore, you musthave something doing to meet up with the challenges of that stool becausedefinitely people must come with their needs, their wants and request.

Sowhat do you do here?

Apart from being atraditional ruler, I am also a Medical Scientist what we do at Hitech Diagnostics LTD is that we manufacture diagnostic test kits like HIV test kits, pregnancytest kit, hepatitis test kits, test kits for glucose as it concern diabeticpatients, test kits for kidney functions, test kits for liver functions etc.this is the only company in entire African continent that manufactures HIVtest, I don’t know of any other company.

Sir,there were media reports months ago that your company manufactured test kits for Covid-19,what is the journey so far?

Yes, we produced Covid-19test kit and we sent it out for validation and fortunately and unfortunately,they sent in a report that we just got this morning (Thursday 30thSeptember, 2020).

We sent the test kits aboutfour months ago and they just responded this morning. The essence of sending it out to regulatory body is for validation; it is equally a known procedure that when you do your researchand development and you come out with a product based on internal qualityassurance and quality control measures. If you are satisfied, you can then goto regulatory agencies and say, this is what we have developed, you can test itto confirm if it meets the standard.

They have tested it, eventhough it took so much time for them to respond, they confirmed that thespecificity of our test kits is 100%, which they agreed with us but on thesensitivity they said that we need to improve on it and that is the normalpractice. It all means that there is no problem with the specificity as theredata agrees with ours but sensitivity is where there is a problem. All we will do now is to go back to the Laboratory, identify the fault(s), correct the fault(s) and go back to them for reconfirmation. It is the wayit goes, whether you are into the manufacturing of drugs, vaccines or test kitsor medical equipments etc. if you do your R and D, and you come up with a productand do your internal monitoring of the product and you get your own data and you setit out to the regulatory agencies to see if those your claims arereproduceable. If they are very good, they will okay it but if they are bad, courtesydemands you go back to the drawing board to discover the causes of thediscrepancies, and that is where we are now.

Fortunately andunfortunately we just had from Medical Regulatory Council of Nigeria were theyare saying your products are very good, congratulations, the specificity ofyour product is 100% but the sensitivity is low, thus we need to improve on it.All we will do is to go back to the laboratory, look at their data and compareit with what we got, it may be their fault and it may also be our fault,probably the time we were testing we overlooked certain things or equally maybe when they were testing they overlooked certain scientific procedures. We will now look at it and go back tothem to say look, you have been able to identify the problem(s) and we havecorrected it, here again is the product for them to re-examine. We can with ourexpertise tell them that we have scientifically gone through the complain(s) butwe couldn’t agree with your data, could you please look at yourmethodology or your processes again, because this science and it isreproduceable and the same result will be gotten no matter where it istested, so far, the approved procedures and guidelines were adopted. It will yieldthe same results. That is where we are now, with the Covid-19 test kit, but forthe HIV, Hepatitis, Pregnancy and other test kits, we are still the best.

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