Chief Ebere Ubani is the President-General of Igbo-speaking community in Lagos State. To him, restructuring the country to true federalism remains the only way forward that will ensure economic recovery and development.
In this exclusive interview, Chief Ubani said he believes in restructuring, fiscal federalism and devolution of power as the only way forward for the country to attain greater height.
According to Ubani, restructuring the country is the way to go if the country must move forward, “definitely, I’m for restructuring and that is the way out. If you ask me my understanding of restructuring it is simple; a true federalism, because a lot of people are mixing things up. And what is federalism? It is weaker centre and stronger federating states in a short form, removing a lot of things from the exclusive list.
“For instance, you have mineral deposits in your state, you are not allowed to mine it except the Federal Government, it is wrong. Each and every state in this country has one form of mineral deposit or the other, but the current structure does not allow them to mine it.
“Everybody is hoping on oil, they should ask themselves, the three years the Nigerian-Biafran war lasted, was it the oil that sustained Biafra, the answer is no. Necessity is the mother of invention. Every month, states rush to Abuja for subvention and before they come back, they would have planned how to share half of the money.
“People are clamouring for state police, if a state is viable to fund its police, good luck to them. But for me as a person, I see that as a no go area for now. Ok, look at what is happening in Kogi State now where the governor has proscribed ASUU in his state because they are asking for their right. See what is happening at their House of Assembly and all hands are pointing at the governor.
“Now, if you give that man state police without the federal police, he will kill all his opponents. Another example is what states are doing with their state electoral commissions. Let me give you a typical example with Abia State.
“In the last general election, APGA and the PDP were very close even at some time; APGA was ahead of the PDP but in the just concluded council election over night the PDP won everything. What does that tell you? Those are the reasons people are now asking the INEC to start conducting council elections too. These are some of the reasons why we are clamouring for restructuring. And the corruption we are talking about has its base with the Federal Government because there is so much money to steal there.”
He called on the National Assembly to initiate the process that would address the issues of imbalance, inequity and injustice in the system.
His words, “It is still the same problem. At the National Assembly, the North has the majority and things are decided by voting. So whichever way they want it to go, that is where it will go. They are holding us to ransom.
“Look at our education; they have their own quota and their own cutoff mark different from our own in the South here. Look at the South East, we have five states and the North-West has seven states. This means that North-West alone has six National Assembly members more than the South-East. So, if they have to decide any issue by voting as it is often done, you already know where it is going. So, how can we come out of this kind of situation?
“We must continue to talk to them to make them see reasons to balance this lopsidedness. There is no peace, there is no justice and there is no equity.”
Reacting to the quit notice handed down to the Igbo in the North by the Arewa Youth Congress, Ubani expressed dismay at the failure of security agencies to arrest those behind the development even as he acknowledged that Nnamdi Kanu’s approach towards his belief does not represent the position of the majority of the Igbo.
He noted that Igbo are stakeholders in the project called Nigeria, but believes in the principle of peace, unity, fairness and justice for all.
His words, “I had expected the Police, the DSS or the SSS to have arrested those boys by now. In law, you don’t take laws into your hands. You don’t have to punish one person because another person committed an offence. Agreed, Nnamdi Kanu has done wrong in the way he is going about what he believes in, two wrongs don’t make a right.
“But it does not warrant one group to issue a quit notice to innocent people who do not even understand what Kanu is doing. As far as I’m concerned, Kanu is on his own and does not speak the minds of the majority of the Igbo on this issue, because Igbo are stakeholders in the project called Nigeria.
“Tell me a single state where you don’t have Igbo there and if you check what they have, they make up to 30-40 per cent of meaningful developments in those states. And can you invest and destroy your investment, the answer is no. Kanu has no investment anywhere in this country. Assuming he has investment here in Lagos or anywhere in the North, he cannot be talking the way he is talking.
“The Northern elite know this and they allowed their youths to say this. Be that as it may, the quit notice by the Northern youths is unacceptable by us. As far as I’m concerned they have no reason to issue a quit notice to any group. Offence is not transferable. You cannot transfer another person’s offence to me.
“For instance, I know an Igbo man from Anambra State who owns one of the biggest plastic factories in the North.
His factory is worth over N20 million. It’s not like he cannot cite the factory in the East, but he has lived all his life in the North and then you want him to close the factory in the name of quit notice. Ok, can anybody tell Dangote to leave his investments in the South-West here because somebody does not believe in one Nigeria?”
He argued that the development was against the principles of peace, unity and national development. “Things are not done like that. Ok, can you ask the foreign investors here to leave because somebody offended you in their respective countries, it is not possible. Things are not done that way. The inability of security agencies to arrest those boys and bring them to book has explained the whole thing that what some people are crying for is real,” he said.
The President-General wondered why there should be double standard in the practice of the laws of the land.
“We practice two laws here, one for those who believe they own this country and the other for the rest of us. If that comment was made by any other people, they would have picked them up that very day. Despite all the speeches made by the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai and his Borno State counterpart, all that was a deceit by my own understanding. They are deceiving us.
“Those boys should have been arrested and tried. Kanu is undergoing trial for his alleged offence. Nobody has the right to give any Nigerian a quit notice. Those in the North they are asking to leave now, were they meeting with Nnamdi Kanu? Do you even know whether they believe in the project called Biafra or not?
“If you ask me, the ardent supporters of this project do not have a meaningful thing they are doing, that’s the truth. Check all those who have invested their money outside the Igbo land; they cannot support what they are doing.”
On the ongoing efforts by the military to curtail the heinous activities of the Boko Haram, he charged politicians to stop playing politics with the situation in the North-East, adding that the enormous resources deployed in prosecuting the war could have been used for developmental projects in the country.
I’m for restructuring and that is the way out. If you ask me my understanding of restructuring it is simple; a true federalism, because a lot of people are mixing things up. And what is federalism? It is weaker centre and stronger federating states in a short form, removing a lot of things from the exclusive list. For instance, you have mineral deposits in your state, you are not allowed to mine it except the Federal Government, it is wrong.