Chief Eugene Enahoro is the Son of the late Nationalist, Chief Anthony Enahoro from Uromi in Esan Northeast local government of Edo State. He spoke to Victor Ofure Osehobo on the way forward for Nigeria in the wake of the #EndSARS protests which has gone violent with prison breaks and burning down of Police stations across the country.
Q: What is your position on the #EndSARS protest which has been taking place, in the country?
A: The problem of #EndSARS protest is symptom of the same problem. First the total incompetence of security chiefs, which arises from the fact that rather than use meritocracy you use Federal character. So there is no doubt that these people should be relieved of their duties with immediate effect. It is a disgrace that the Chief of Army will actually dare come out and tell people that he is prepared to deal decisively with protesters. Meanwhile there are people who have been busy slaughtering our brothers and sisters who were uniform at the battle front and you are showing yourself completely incapable of dealing decisively with them. These people have parents, sisters and brothers. Yet you don’t seem to be able to handle that one. It is unarmed protesters you want to deal with, which shows already that the man is not supposed to be there. And he also came out to say his loyalty is to the President as if we are in the sixties age of coup. His loyalty should be to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not the President. What he is saying is that if the President ask him to open fire on the protesters, he will gladly do so! Look at it, soldiers were rescuing civilians from Police harassment. Everybody is beginning to see that we all have a common problem. Even the Police has supported the #EndSARS protest because it is not anti-Police but anti-SARS. You see them asking for higher pay for the Police. Suddenly you notice that the Police are not fighting them because they are learning that they all have a common problem rather than people who are not educated, enlightened or competent enough insist that they must rule the country and this is the end result. As far as the Youth is concerned it just shows the ignorance of somebody not to understand that you have kept the campuses closed and you have kept these people idle not because of Covid-19 but because you have problems with ASUU. That is why the campuses have remained closed. Are they not the people on the streets? Have you told them of any plan to reopen Universities? Have you told them of any plan for their future? So all are in support of the youths. The reason we support them is because they are our future and we taught them to know to know the difference between right and wrong. What is happening in Nigeria today is wrong. I go to London and enter a tube train, the man standing not because there is no seat for him, is a public servant. He does not have police escorts all over him all over the place. Over there our governors here are just persons. It is even only when they are at home that they carry on with the police, mobile police, security and all that. The banditry in the North is the real failure of the Buhari government. When Goodluck Jonathan was there we all had this impression that maybe he did not care. It was like once a month and it will be big news. In Buhari’s time the news of massacres is now a daily occurrence. Its not even a headline anymore. He came in there because many though he is from there and as a retired general he should know what to do. Unfortunately the situation has gone worse. First as a retired general instead of making himself Minister of Defense, he made himself Minister for Petroleum. And we can see the mess that sector has found itself in. So why did he not stick with the aspect he is supposed to know? Now you see the whole of the South full of refugees. Why? They are all running away from being slaughtered. And the way they are invading the South, people are mistakenly saying its a jihad and I say look, these people are running for their lives. And nobody wants to leave their place and want to be a nothing elsewhere. So if he is not going to be able to solve the problem, I don’t know what he is doing there. Meanwhile he says it via those who have him 95% of the votes that he will concentrate on but we are not seeing any of that. President Jonathan opened Schools for Almajiris but what do you find in Benin City these days: the almajiris all over the place. They call them Buhari children. Beggars. In the south we don’t have it. Why should these people be allowed to constitute a nuisance when they should be in school or learning a trade? Even if you don’t want to go to school in the South they tell you to go and learnt to became a mechanic or welder. But not begging. We you going to beg for the rest of your life? Only mad people beg in these parts. In fact they don’t beg they go to the rubbish heaps and get rotten food to eat. So begging is not part of our culture. If you go to Saudi Arabia it has the best hospitals, it has a space program, it has Saudi Airlines and that is the home of Islam. Islam did not say people should not be educated. This idea that Islam and Education does not go together is a lie which certain people have been using it to keep their own people down. And the problem with Nigeria is that people are not ready to be kept down”.
Q: Some persons have canvassed the view that restructuring Nigeria is the way forward ? Is that also your position?
A: Restructuring is a very funny concept and a word which many have not defined. First of all political restructuring. I believe in restructuring in as much as the money goes to the local governments. This takes us back to for example to the Old Western region which takes us to Ibadan. At that time when my father was Mnister for Home Affairs there were eleven Ministers and about 20,000 civil servants. There was he premier one deputy premier, one speaker and one deputy speaker. That’s same land mass has been divided into 11 States so you new have with the same space , 11 governors, 11 deputy governors, 11 speakers and 11 deputy speakers. And each of the States have more Commissioners now, one per local government. When you take it to the national level and consider the fact that we have even conceded Bakassi, the land mass has shrunk. So actually what we have now does not make any sense. When they talk about restructuring they should forget about drawing boundary lines. What the country needs is restructuring of the Federation Account. Instead of the federal government taking the bulk of the money let the bulk go to the local governments. The majority of Nigerian do not ever live their local governments. They are quite happy living in their local government areas. They do have plans to ever get out to go live somewhere else. So what is this Nigeria that everybody is carrying on their head? Let the money go to the local government and let’s have less of this Nigeria, Nigeria, Nigeria that requires restructuring. I am an Esan person. Onewa village that I know has always been Onewa village. The same Onewa village was part of Western region, it was part of the Midwest and is now part of Edo state and has since remained a village. Talks about restructuring is actually politicians playing pranks with themselves whereas what you really need is restructuring of the finances of the country and putting local government in charge. I give an example of why Abuja is the way it is and tell you a story. An international organization wanted to come and put primary healthcare centres in all the local government areas in the country at the rate of N1.5million per local government. What is primary healthcare? It is prenatal and antenatal care, you do not need to rush to Hospitals. They will tell you whether you need to go to hospital or not. To stop people from buying drugs because they don’t want to to hospital and pay Medical bills ,they can go there first and see a Nurse. That’s not a lot of money. But now what happened ? Somebody in the Federal Ministry of Health decides that the project must be monitored from Abuja. So he gets involved as a consultant and pockets ten per cent per local government a and becomes billionaire for doing nothing. In order to get the PHCs constructed since he cannot to each of the 774 local governments, he gets middle men to buy batches of states, no to construct but taking them to find contractors in very local government to do the actual construction. And these contractors must make profit so at the end of the day, the civil servants sits in the office and makes millions for doing nothing. So for me this whole federal government idea is to gather all the money and that’s why they eat it. If any money is to go missing, I would rather it be at the local government and not at the federal level and when you look at all the billions they talk about at the federal is just a pittance when you divide it among the local governments. How does a government for example say it wants to go be out 2,000 buses to 774 local governments? London buses last 25years but here in Nigeria there are buses bought two years ago that are heaped in some compounds, dead! In Edo state, between Oyegun buses, Comrade busses and now Obaseki buses it’s not yet 25-years yet and you cannot see them on the roads. Go to Kubwa in Abuja and you will lots of El Rufai buses parked. So when we talk about restructuring and is at political level , I say No it cannot solve any problem, the real restructuring is fiscal restructuring in which case the money goes to the local governments. People know what it means to be a local government chairman. Not the type we have that have been sidelined for a long time now. That is where you have doctors, professors coming out to run for public office. If I really want to run for a public office it will be in my local government as council chairman. I do not want to repair Nigeria everybody should go and repair their own place. We have so neglected the local government which is really closer to the people by taking government faraway. The school in my village is my local government, the disposal of waste is my local government, so I really don’t care”.
Q: As a son of foremost Nationalist Chief Anthony Enahoro, many believe you should be playing a vital role in Nigerian politics. So why are you not in politics?
A: “It is the people who never suffered that are enjoying power in Nigeria today. They are the ones in politics. I was following my father from one prison cell to the other, not because he stole money but because he was fighting for Nigeria. That is why I am not into politics. You don’t see any of the children of the old school nationalists playing politics like Balewa, like Awolowo, and so on. I am 65. Am not a retired general who believes at the age of 70 he should still be holding office. So my idea is that governors should be in their late thirties while Presidents in their late 40s. If we want a governor who can become a President, he has to be 40, so that when he spends eight years in office, he is in his late forties and old enough to contest for President. That is why I came up with the whole idea of Ahuesan. Its a philosophy arising from the Movement for National Reformation which my late father led that everyone should go back and develop their places. That is why we have to step down the age group because those in government today do not represent the future of Nigeria, they represent the past. Former this or that, ex this or that. Now you have a government with Vision2050, when most of them cannot reasonably expect to be alive by that time. So it already tells you that vision 2050 is for those who are under 40-years of age. Even at 40, it means you will be 70 before the vision becomes real. And they say that people who have vision are very longsighted. You need to be shortsighted to look at the one that is on ground. Nigerians are the ones who are always talking of a greater tomorrow. We don’t need a greater tomorrow but a better today. It is false and it is fraudulent. In the eighties, they say Millennium development goals, because millennium looked far. But when we were getting close to the millennium they called it Vision2010. By the time God survived us, they called Vision2020. Now they have called it Vision2050. If you live till then you will get Vision2100. What we we are saying is that government has no plan. Politicians, you see all of them just looting the treasury. So people should plan for themselves and add any small thing the government can contribute. Also although the government claims it has no money, which is not true, the fact of the matter, is that all over Nigeria, nations like my people of Esan have our problems; so it is with every ethnic group. So government cannot afford to cope with everyone’s problems. So even if you have a government that wants to try for you, it cannot solve all your problems. So the idea is that every ethnic nationality, go away and articulate an agenda. Ahuesan is not political because politicians do not have anything to offer. In Edo here one man renovated the State Secretariat and I ask is there anybody in Edo who says the Secretariat is their problem? Now in what way has it improved anybody’s life. Whereas if you get to the village you will discover that N100,000 can radically change somebody’s life. Are you trying to jail more people so instead of building hospitals you build high courts and judges quarters? You begin to wonder what is wrong? Where is their passion for the people? How are they by trying to reshape the society? If the governor repairs a government building, he does not need to be congratulated because it is his job! Nigeria politicians hold meetings with no plans for any development rather than brainstorming for ideas and solutions to improve lives! So the Ahuesan came from the MNR philosophy that charity begins at home. You can’t start by carrying Nigeria’s problem on your head. What have you done in your place because you can come and start talking about Nigeria.
Q: You said you are not a patriot and that you do not believe in one Nigeria. Why is that?
A: “Let me also say that I am not a believer in one Nigeria. Unity is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. So if we have not achieved that end what are talking about and this is what they are using to deceive a lot of people. Soviet Union broke up and out of it came countries like Croatia who got to the semifinals or finals of the World Cup. Meanwhile before now no Croatian could make it into the Soviet National team. It is not an insult to say I am different from you. It is statement of fact. Most progressive countries in the world like Japan, Norway even Saudi Arabia, their population is homogenous. When the white man came to Nigeria he saw nations but because of the color of our skins he called us tribes. We are not tribes. Edo is a nation and inside that nation you have Benin, Esan are nations. Yoruba is a nation and inside you have tubes like Ekiti, Ogbomosho and so on. So we don’t really have any thing in common as Nigerians. We just have the black skin, no common language, no common culture. There is hardly any country in Europe that is as big as a state in Nigeria. So how come they can divide themselves and manage but here we must be together with someone who does not like you and does not know anything about you. Nigeria was never structured in the first place so there is nothing like restructuring. Its an insult to say that Nigeria should go back to 12 states. How did we get 12 states. Nigeria had 4 regions. The creation of states was about restructuring. Do they want to create more? Its not the polity that needs restructuring its the mind. Education. They dropped History as a subject in schools and you can see the result with children carrying Biafra flags. They don’t know their history else they will not be asking for Biafra. Whatever they want to do if theyvrealy know aht Biafra was they will not wwntvtobbe associated with it or want to use the name. I say this because Biafra was not a good time for the Igbo. I do not think that anybody can romatozsize that period and make them think they want to go back there. Just call it another name if you like – Movement for Igboland but not Biafra please. Its because theyarenot reading that is why. It was the worst time ever that the Igbo man went through and would not want to go back. History has to be a compulsory subject in our schools because you need to know where you are coming from else you will not know where you are going to. But the problem is that the same people who are responsible for our history of rubbish are the same people sitting there today. In 1974 in England I was in A-levels and we were studying the second world war. That was 30-years later. In years to come a lot about Nigeria would be confined to the real dustbins of History. I am not a patriot.Why should I be? But I have the interest of the Esan people at heart because Nigeria means nothing to me. If you look at the country all those who suffered for the country died stupidly. But one thing I would tell the younger generation is they should stop criticizing four generation. My father had the same problem. They started and were dealing with a civilized enemy. The white man would salute you and give you a white paper which is a warrant of arrest. He took you to prison where you had books to read and you started writing books. Let them take you to prison today and see whether you can see a paper to write on. Our generation fought its battle which was to make democracy happen. It is now their turn to fight their own battle. They should not look back and say we did nothing. They should be happy that they can now demonstrate without fear of soldiers killing them”.