•Military sowed seed of corruption, impunity in Nigeria -Dubem Onyia
As the major political parties and political actors continue to indulge in permutations on who grabs the 2019 presidential ticket, a former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Chief Dubem Onyia, has asked a former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, to leave the South East out of his calculations and encourage the North to serve out its eight-year tenure.
Onyia, who spoke in an exclusive chat with Sunday Telegraph, dismissed a recent suggestion by Obasanjo that the South East should prepare to take the Presidency in 2019.
According to Onyia, the contemporary political dynamics in the country and the antecedents of Obasanjo did not suggest that the elder statesman was sincere in his proposal. He accused Obasanjo of plotting to use the South East to settle personal political scores by dangling the presidential ticket at them. Although Onyia did not explain exactly what “personal scores” Obasanjo might have to settle with any political actor or region, the former minister vowed that the Igbo people will not allow themselves to be used to settle the said score.
“Obasanjo was my boss. I have tremendous respect and regard for him. He is a great man. As the President of this country, he was patriotic and worked very hard. You can call him a workaholic. At the international arena, the West African sub-region, African Union and even at the United Nations, his presence was felt everywhere. They also had tremendous respect for him and that is because of the many things he did while in office.
He brought democracy to Niger, he was able to assuage the late President Muamar Gadaffi to stop supporting the rebels and allow democracy to thrive across the West African region. I was quite thrilled working with him and I think he had the interest of Nigeria at heart.
“But I totally and completely disagree with him on his latest suggestion on presidency going to the South East in 2019. I don’t think he has the interest of Igbos at heart because in the political equation of this country, the Igbo man has always been made to play the second fiddle. Nigeria is run on a tripod – North, East and West – Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba.
The East originally included what we now know as the South South region. “Under our democracy, an Hausa man has become President, a Yoruba man has been President but the Igbo man is yet to be.
Was it not Obasanjo who brought Jonathan, a man from the South South, to become President before the Igbo man? Didn’t he know that the Igbo man existed when he brought Jonathan?
Did any minority in the West become President before the majority? Did any minority of the North become President before the majority? Did he not bring a minority to become President before us? We are happy because Jonathan is our brother. But what happened then? “Why did Obasanjo suddenly wake up to realize that the Igbo man deserved to be there?
Perhaps, he has a score to settle with some people and he is trying to use the Igbo man to settle that score. He wants to use us to settle a score. If you see him, tell him to please, leave the Igbo man alone; at the appropriate time, they will be President,” Onyia said. The former minister said that beyond the permutations for the next elections, the political elite should not ignore the clamour for some political and economic restructuring of the country.
He lamented the absence of a people’s constitution, insisting that the political class needs to come together from the North, South, East and West to produce a genuine democratic constitution for the country.
According to him, the massive corruption, which Nigeria has been grappling with, has its roots in the prolonged era of military rule, adding that the constitution that the military bequeathed to the political class in 1999 was meant to protect the military and certain persons in their clique.
“We have a lot of retired generals who are stupendously rich and you know the salary of a general. Majority of the houses in Victoria Island and Ikoyi belong to these retired military officers. One of the retired generals said he had so much money that he does not know what to do with it. He set up a foundation. What did he really do to earn such money? Was he a businessman? Was he in the private sector? No.
He was a military officer. He had no industry. How did he make his money? They gave themselves oil blocs. “We are fighting corruption and I say that if you want to fight corruption and kill corruption, go to the roots. If you cut a tree from the middle it will grow again but if you want to kill that tree, uproot it from the roots. We are fighting corruption with our lips. We are not serious about it. Let’s get down to how we made our money.
“Nigerians are no longer surprised when they say that they found $9.8 million in someone’s house. The average Nigeria is no longer surprised about such reports because it has become part of the system. We need to restructure our economy, our political system and be honest to ourselves. We need to return the assets of the people to the people. We need to do a very holistic and transparent fight against corruption.
“Many retired military men today have investments beyond what they earned when they were in service. I said when I was a member of the National Assembly that the seed of corruption was down by the military.
The politicians just took over from where they stopped because after the 1966 coup, you remember the cement armada. The seed of corruption and impunity in our country was sown by the military. So if we want to fight corruption, we must go back to its roots.
These oil blocs that the military regimes gave to themselves and some privileged Nigerians should be returned to the people,” he said.
Onyia lamented that the huge sums of money stolen by politicians and public office holders in Nigeria has been providing employment in the economies of other countries while creating unemployment and impoverishing Nigerians at home. He said that the gap between the rich and the poor will continue to grow until the assets of the people were recovered and returned to the people.