The Politics of Biafra and the Future of Nigeria
Safari Books Ltd., 2016
There has been, in recent times, a steady increase in the production of texts authored mostly by Nigerians of Igbo nationality, whose theme is related to, or virtually fixed or fixated on one theme – Biafra. This is understandably so, to my mind. The month of May 2017 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the commencement of the Nigerian Civil War – a thirty month bloody conflict that claimed the lives of millions of Igbos in their homeland, which has almost overshadowed the earlier but equally horrific pogrom in Northern Nigeria that targeted the same group.
There have been hundreds of chronicles, as there have been chroniclers, of those years of strife. The victorious ones have broadcast their version and vision of the truth for all who care to listen for all of these fifty years of restive peace. The silence of the crushed has also held its sway for all of this half century of post-war reunion. But not anymore. Since the very first book on the civil war, Raph Uwechue’s Reflections On The Nigerian Civil War-Facing the Future was published, a thousand and one tomes on the Biafran tragedy in fiction and non-fictional genres, have made it to millions of shelves across the world.
The other pertinent point is that even among the crushed whose collective hurt still unites the nationality, there is yet no agreement on some of the renditions of important events that happened and the roles played by some equally important individuals during the war and after. No one can answer with certainty the question, “Whodunit?”.
In this book, I have tried to present a complete picture of the relationship between Zik and Ojukwu and his role during the war, to tell a complete story of that era as much as possible, to enable the younger generation have a fuller picture of what happened.
And what poetry can capture the tragedy of war? “It is equal to living in a tragic land/To living in a tragic time”. Not minding the obvious verity in these words by the great American poet, Wallace Stevens in “Dry Loaf”, I think J.P. Clarke-Bekederemo’s lines in his poem on the civil war, “Casualties”, convey the brutal nature and wider extent of the tragedy of this particular strife, in the way they reveal how all contesting narratives and contested truths are overwhelmed by violence:
“The drums overwhelm the guns…
Caught in the clash of counter claims and charges
When not in the niche others left,
All casualties of the war.
Because we cannot hear each other speak.
Because eyes have ceased to see the face from the crowd.”
The publication of Chudi Offodile’s 280-paged tome, The Politics of Biafra And The Future of Nigeria, has offered a moment for the re-examination of the tragic incidents that nearly split Nigeria. Countering the position of some powerful citizens that the issue of the Nigerian state was already a settled matter, he asks: “Settled by who? In any case, nothing is ever settled until it is settled right. Nigeria is still very much unstable and the democratic institutions remain fragile.” Anything to counter here?
The Politics of Biafra And The Future Of Nigeria contains seven “Parts” that are sub-divided into twenty “Chapters”. Part One titled “Prelude To War” contains four chapters: Preview; Igbo dentity Crises; The 15th January 1966 Coup; The 29th July 1966 Counter Coup. Part Two titled “Period of hostilities” comprise: On Aburi We Stand; The Biafran Intelligentsia; Biafra’s Non-Igbo Actors; Britain and the Horrors of War. Part Three, titled “Igbo Political Trajectory” includes: Nnamdi Azikiwe (1904-1966); Rupture…Ojukwu vs. Azikiwe; Achebe Takes On Zik. Part Four titled “Post War Years” has: The Asika Years (1970-75), The Years of Decline (1976-1998); Dr. Ekwueme’s Bid For Power; The Years of Decline (1999-2015). Part Five titled “Biafra: From Surrender To Rebirth” contains: MASSOB, IPOB, BILIE Human Rights Initiative. Part Six titled “The Future of Nigeria” contains: Biafra and Nigeria; The War Philosophy; Sardauna Was A Federalist; Conclusion. Part Seven, the appendix section, incorporates the three-part treatise titled “Reconstructing Nigeria For Posterity”, by a leading Nigerian thinker, economist and former Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo.
Mr. Chudi Offodile, a lawyer and a two-term member of the House of Representatives, who said he was just two-and-a-half years old when the war broke out and was exactly five years and two months old when it ended, states in this new book, while making a retrospective scrutiny of the Nigerian Civil War almost half a century after the outbreak of hostilities on May 30th, 1967, that if General Yakubu Gowon had not breached the Aburi Accord, the thirty-month Nigerian Civil War that decelerated the post-independence promise of national development and integration and claimed millions of lives, would not have happened.
A contestable point here, but the author rewards a close reading of the book with a persuasive analysis of the historic Aburi Accord which was reached between January 4 and 5, 1967 at a meeting attended by delegates of both the Federal Government of Nigeria, led by Nigeria’s war-time leader, General Yakubu Gowon, and the Eastern Region’s leader, Colonel Emeka Ojukwu.
The now famous Aburi, a small town in Ghana, presented a last chance meeting of avoiding an all-out war between Eastern Nigeria and the rest of Nigeria. The Accord broke down due to its contested interpretations by both parties. The war began a few months later. However, that the war happened and millions of Igbos were killed, isn’t contestable. Or, is it?
Retracing the sequences of missteps that precipitated the war, Offodile expresses regret that some officials acting on behalf of the Federal Government circumvented the implementation of an important provision of the Accord and plunged Nigeria into a bloody conflict: “The decision by Gowon to dissolve that conference and then unilaterally set up a ‘political committee’ to advise him on the creation of between 12 and 14 states exposed clearly the real motives for the breach of the agreement. The constitutional conference had the mandate to draft a new constitution and a timetable for the return to civil rule. Gowon and the new power elite in Lagos wanted to elongate their hold on power and state creation was the bait. Yet, they successfully branded Ojukwu as the ambitious one, despite clear evidence to the contrary. It was the breach of Aburi that led to the war and nothing else.”
Projecting into the future of Nigeria in global terms and condemning what he calls Nigeria’s descent into a dysfunctional “Unitary-Federalism”, Mr. Chudi Offodile in this book, also lends his voice to the calls for the restructuring of the federation…
Mr. Chudi Offodile who was elected to Nigeria’s Federal House of Representatives in May 1999 for Awka North/South Federal Constituency of Anambra State and served as Chairman, Special Committee on Joint Venture Oil Operations, 2001-2003, and Chairman, Public Petitions Committee between 2003 and 2005, posits that in view of the prevailing turmoil in the land, there should be an end to the arbitrary use of state power. And, to foster a sense of national belonging, Nigerian citizens need to agree on the terms of being together. Anything to counter here?
The book does not shy away from stating that the non-inclusive exercise of State power by successive governments at the centre has been responsible for the revival of the Biafran idea and the emergence of MASSOB (Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra) and IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra). “They have a strong following and should be engaged”, the author counsels. Hardly anything to counter here. Or is there?
The most important counter-narrative in this book must surely be the three chapters (nine, ten, and eleven) devoted to the controversial rupture in the relationship between the great Zik and Ojukwu, ex-Biafran leader, which the author opines has divided the Igbo politically down the middle into two extreme stances. Those who believe, like Zik, that the Igbos should embrace a peaceful return to Nigeria but seek equal partnership with the other regions and nationalities that comprise Nigeria, are one. The second are those Igbos, like Ojukwu, who wanted out of Nigeria. And portentously, still do, even though the defunct Biafran leader, now late, had shifted ground before his demise five years ago.
Nigeria’s First Republic President, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, suffered a major loss of acceptance among the Igbos close to the end of the war when after supporting the Igbo resistance effort, advocated a peaceful resolution to the three-year bloody conflict. The author clearly succeeds in explaining why there should be more understanding of Zik’s Pan-Nigeria position, against the dominant view also reinforced by the equally illustrious Chinua Achebe’s scurrilous attack on Zik, for allegedly abandoning the Igbo in their time of need. A commendable section that reiterates the author’s major concern in this book emphasises that: no Igbo man or woman should hang another for not agreeing with them.
The author of The Politics of Biafra And the Future of Nigeria, whose father, Mr. Chris Offodile, now late, was the first Nigerian Editor of the Hansard (the official parliamentary reports of the Federal House of Representatives) and the author of a biography on Dr. M.I. Okpara, former Premier of Eastern region, reveals serious concern about what he sees as the unsatisfactory performance of some of the past governments in South-East Nigeria. He also counters this with detailed facts of the accomplishments of one Igbo man who acquired the unenviable description of being one of the most vilified Igbo men while alive and after his passing.
Yes, he dared to praise Ukpabi Asika’s post war administration (1970-1975), as the golden era of governance in the one of the old four regions in the First Republic, which now comprises five states out of 36 in the federation – Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo. He suggests that one of the most effective ways to alter the dismal picture of non-performance by governments in the South-East is through the devolution of powers to the States: “I am persuaded that a change in the structure of the federation will make for better performance by the component units but even with the present arrangement, we could have done better but I leave that for the citizens of the respective states to make their own assessment.”
Projecting into the future of Nigeria in global terms and condemning what he calls Nigeria’s descent into a dysfunctional “Unitary-Federalism”, Mr. Chudi Offodile in this book, also lends his voice to the calls for the restructuring of the federation: “I stand firmly on the side of those who insist that the present consumption structure must give way to a competitive structure, no matter how configured.” Anything to counter here?
Certainly I find nothing to counter in the prime message The Politics of Biafra and The Future of Nigeria has penned for his Nigerian readers and others interested in Nigeria’s well-being: even as its author shares a Pan-Nigeria vision, Nigerians must keep re-examining their history as a first step towards charting a clearer, calmer and kinder future.
An Equitable and Inclusive Federal Structure Will Address Existing Fears In Nigeria…
(A conversation with Chudi Offodile)
PREMIUM TIMES: The Nigerian Civil War that broke out in 1967, almost fifty years ago, ended in 1970, and although you’ve stated in your new book that you were just about two when the war began, what can you recall about that period, especially as it relates to your personal and family history?
Chudi Offodile: I was just two-and-a-half years when the war broke out between Nigeria and the defunct Biafra and by January 1970 when the war ended, I was exactly five years and two months old. So all I know about that whole era are stories and accounts rendered by my parents and relatives, and from books and other sources. I hope that does not disqualify me from contributing to the debate on the issues arising from the war.
PREMIUM TIMES: And, why have you decided, after all this time, that this is a subject that would interest the Nigerian public to the extent that you have devoted over 280 pages to what some would consider an already settled issue.
Chudi Offodile: Settled by who? In any case, nothing is ever settled until it is settled right. Nigeria is still very much unstable and the democratic institutions remain fragile. There is need to reinforce the structures of the country through deliberate inclusiveness in order to achieve stability. The key to a better economy is a patriotic citizenry. No matter what policies you come up with and millions of the citizens don’t feel they are a part of the country, you will have millions of people just trying to cheat their way through. It’s like a basket case. You patch here and it leaks from there. There is no perfect society but we should always strive towards perfecting the union. It is a constant work in progress. Nothing like non negotiable.
PREMIUM TIMES: The Aburi Agreement was signed in Ghana by the two parties to the hostilities, and it’s your position that it was the failure to respect the terms of this Accord that led to the war. And which also inevitably foisted, in your own words, “on a multi-ethnic country, the absurdity of unitary-federalism”. First, within the context of the current national debate on re-balancing Nigeria’s lopsided federation, is it not too late to continue to dwell on the Aburi Accord? Secondly, what are your suggestions for repairing the injuries that the breach has caused?
Chudi Offodile: It is never late to discuss historical matters. Someone once said that history is always current because it always manages to repeat itself. In the case of the Aburi agreement, I am of the view that it was the breach of this agreement voluntarily entered into in Ghana that led to the war. The terms of the agreement were clear and unambiguous. No one disputes the original terms. But once General Gowon returned to Lagos, the so-called super bureaucrats, composed mainly of ethnic minorities in the North and South of Nigeria, persuaded him to jettison the agreement. That was not really a problem, and let me even concede for a moment that they had genuine reasons and even good intentions for all, the problem was that they UNILATERALLY altered it. To suggest therefore that General Ojukwu should have accepted the unilateral alteration, even if it offered the East 95 percent of the original agreement, as argued by Chief Phillip Asiodu, is at the root of the lack of honour and integrity in the conduct of national affairs. As I pointed out in the book, honour and integrity cannot be measured in percentages.
The second point about the Aburi Agreement which may be even more important than the first, is that both sides agreed that the constitutional conference which was ongoing before the counter-coup that brought Gowon into power should continue and draft a new constitution for Nigeria. The decision by Gowon to dissolve that conference and then unilaterally set up a ‘political committee’ to advice him on the creation of between 12 and 14 states clearly exposed the real motives for the breach of the agreement. The constitutional conference had the mandate to draft a new constitution and a timetable for the return to civil rule. Gowon and the new power elite in Lagos wanted to elongate their hold on power, and state creation was the bait. Yet, they successfully branded Ojukwu as the ambitious one, despite clear evidence to the contrary. This is one of those strange paradoxes of history. How can one who wanted a new constitution drafted and a return to civil rule be accused of provoking a war because of his ambition? Ojukwu had his own faults but they manifested in Biafra but not before it. It was the breach of Aburi that led to the war and nothing else.
Let me finally point out that this same matter of whether the people or the government should work out the structure of their government was an issue in 1970 when the instrument of surrender was being negotiated after the fall of Biafra. The Biafran Chief Justice, Late Sir Louis Mbanefo, insisted on inserting clause c of the surrender instrument, which after accepting the EXISTING ADMINISTRATIVE AND POLITICAL STRUCTURES (12 States), says that any future constitutional arrangement will be worked out by the representatives of the Nigerian people. Six years later, in 1976, General Murtala Mohammed and General Olusegun Obasanjo unilaterally increased the number of states to 19. General Babangida added his and General Abacha brought the number to 36. This raises issues of jurisprudence and, of course, the compelling argument that the new states arbitrarily created have been accepted by the people by electing representatives in those states under the existing constitution over the years. Equally compelling, is the concern, in view of existing tensions in the land, of the sustainability of the arbitrary exercise of state power. There is the need to have Nigerians agree to the terms of our union. It will infuse the citizenry with the missing dose of patriotism.
PREMIUM TIMES: I suppose the thesis upon which your book stands is that the dominant view that has prevailed in Igboland has been tragically wrong in protecting the long term political interest of the Igbo man in Nigeria, hence the need to give space to the so-called excluded view. What assurance is there that the counter-narrative will not mislead?
Chudi Offodile: Not exactly! I am careful not to dismiss any narrative, opinion or ideas as wrong. I do not claim to understand the issues better than anybody else nor do I have all the answers. But as is often said, facts are sacred, while opinions are free. Whereas we are entitled to our opinions, we are not entitled to our own set of facts. What I noticed as I interrogated the facts of our history, the Nigerian question or what I call the Biafra dilemma, is that most of the dramatis personae did not and still do not treat facts with the sacredness it deserves, hence the need for the counter-narratives provided in the book. To answer your question directly, the counter-narratives will not mislead but rather would provide a clearer picture for those interested in the truth.
Nigeria is an idea and I believe in that idea, and this book is my little contribution towards ensuring that the idea of Nigeria endures and that it works better for the common good of all its peoples, not for some of its people. It is perfectly in order for citizens of any country, at any time in the existence of the country, to interrogate the very idea of their country…
PREMIUM TIMES: You mnetioned that “the Igbos’ crises of identities” have also been responsible for their maltreatment in certain parts of the country before, during and after the war. Can you explain? What measures should be taken in the short, medium and the long-term to end all discriminatory practices against the Igbos and other ethnic nationalities across Nigeria?
Chudi Offodile: So who is an Igbo? Why would people who bear Igbo names claim not to be Igbo? They do so because to be Igbo is to be marginalised. The bar is set higher for you. That is the downside. But in a way the discrimination may have helped in creating a very competitive Igbo society, which may be an advantage in the long run. We need a more inclusive and equitable federal structure to address existing fears in Nigeria.
PREMIUM TIMES: You have posited in the chapter titled, “The Rupture: Ojukwu vs Zik”, that the soured relationship between Zik and Ojukwu during the war has actually tended to determine the way the South-Easterner thinks and how far she goes in terms of her relationship with the Federal Government. It seems, from your reflections in the book, that you are more at home with Zik’s pan-Nigerian vision?
Chudi Offodile: Thank you for this particular question. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s pan-Nigerian vision, as you put it, did not materialise in his lifetime and was resented by a cross-section of very respected intellectuals of Igbo origin, particularly after his defection from Biafra to Nigeria in 1969. Project Nigeria to which he devoted a lifetime of service failed him and his Igbo people that he organised and lifted from civil obscurity and provided with an irrevocable stake in Nigeria were left unsatisfied. I believe he did his best, and if as Igbo we are unable to realise our stake in Nigeria, its our burden not his.
And if Nigerians have failed to realise his vision, its our shame not his. On the ‘rupture’, both Zik and Emeka Ojukwu believed in maintaining the Nigerian federation by negotiation and diplomacy but by the time Ojukwu, as the Head of State, finally decided that Biafra’s sovereignty was not negotiable, Zik felt otherwise and took the unpopular, and for some the unpardonable, decision to defect from Biafra. With that defection, very respected intellectuals of Igbo origin, particularly Professor Chinua Achebe, set about deconstructing his legacy and ridiculing his national posture. This reminds me of what Chimamanda Adichie refers to as ‘the danger of a single story’. She makes the point that a single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story. In this book, I have tried to present a complete picture of the relationship between Zik and Ojukwu and his role during the war, to tell a complete story of that era as much as possible, to enable the younger generation have a fuller picture of what happened. I had battled with this issue for a very long time and I discussed it on so many occasions with my dad, who like most members of his generation, were saddened by Zik’s defection from Biafra and held it against him. Some people will disagree with me but writing about this has given me peace.
PREMIUM TIMES: “The Igbo require more than one point of view on the question of the future of Igbo nation. No one should attempt to delegitimise alternative views as was done in Biafra.” You said in your book and cited the two reports by Dr. Pius Okigbo and Major General Effiong that could have forced a rethink on secession. Is this your counter-statement to the ongoing agitation for the restoration of Biafra?
Chudi Offodile: People form their opinions on the basis of their experiences, and therefore those agitating for Biafra are entitled to their own opinions and ideas because that is what it is – an idea. No one should be in prison for agitating for an idea or expressing his or her opinion on any matter at all. Nigeria is an idea and I believe in that idea, and this book is my little contribution towards ensuring that the idea of Nigeria endures and that it works better for the common good of all its peoples, not for some of its people. It is perfectly in order for citizens of any country, at any time in the existence of the country, to interrogate the very idea of their country, the basis of the union, and how to strengthen it. For some, it may be how to secure their right to self-determination and for others, how to maintain the status quo. It will be arrogant of anyone or group to consider their own opinion or ideas superior to the opinions or ideas of other people. Managing competing ideas is the basis of modern society.
PREMIUM TIMES: Following from the foregoing, is this also your own way of giving a nod, literally, to the national debate on the need to restructure the Nigerian polity?
Chudi Offodile: No question about that. The future of Nigeria depends to a large extent on how the calls for restructuring are handled. Those who insist on the status quo keep on attacking the patriotism of those who call for a review of the existing structure, instead of giving reasons for the continuance of what has clearly failed. In the end, it is what it is – a contest of ideas. I stand firmly on the side of those who insist that the present consumption structure must give way to a competitive structure, no matter how configured. A lot of Nigerians have become global citizens, living and competing all over the world. The government of their home country should modernise and embrace global best practices, in line with the aspirations of several thousands of its people playing on the world stage. That would help lift millions out of poverty.
PREMIUM TIMES: Your reference to ‘The Surrender Instrument’ read at the end of the war on January 15th implicates the Nigerian state as deliberately breaching one of the most important terms of the surrender that reads thus: “That any future constitutional arrangement will be worked out by representatives of the people of Nigeria”. More states have been created by successive military regimes since the twelve states were created at the onset of the war. How far has this worsened the lopsidedness between the federal and the state governments?
I feel strongly that Ukpabi Asika should be judged, not on the basis of the opinion he held, his opposition to the declaration of Biafra, but on the basis of his achievement in office as the Administrator of the defunct East Central State. He put together an excellent cabinet made up of mostly returnees from Biafra and discharged his responsibilities creditably. Of course, he made mistakes, but who doesn’t?
Chudi Offodile: Nigeria at Independence had three regions or states – the Northern, Western and Eastern regions. The Mid-Western region was subsequently created constitutionally, making it four regions. After the military takeover in 1966 and just before the outbreak of the civil war in 1967, General Gowon arbitrarily created 12 states. After the war in January 1970, the defeated Biafra signed a surrender instrument accepting the existing structure of Nigeria at that time which was 12 states with a proviso that any future changes or alteration will be worked out by the representatives of the people which was not followed in the creation of additional 24 states.
PREMIUM TIMES: How can this particular proviso assist the process of legitimising the call and the eventual convening of a framework to restructure Nigeria?
Chudi Offodile: The calls for the restructuring of the federation are legitimate. I only brought up that point not to legitimise the calls for restructuring but to draw the attention of those who use words like non-negotiable, that the entire arrangement was arbitrary and therefore negotiable, at least from the point of view of a significant population that rejoined the federation in 1970. These are facts of our history that cannot be ignored or wished away.
PREMIUM TIMES: You captured the revival of the Biafran idea in the agitations of MASSOB (Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra), IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra), and BHRI (Billie Human Rights Initiative) as the Igbo response to the failure of former Vice President Alex Ekwueme to be nominated in 1999 in Jos as PDP’s Presidential flagbearer, and as a continuation of the marginalisation of the Igbo in Nigeria. And you said you do not see a resolution of the Biafra dilemma without a Federal Government engagement with these groups. How do you mean?
Chudi Offodile: The groups exist and I have mentioned them and how they emerged and the ideological differences among them – the groups that call for self-determination of the indigenous people of Biafra. They are not secret organisations. They do not operate underground. It is an incontrovertible fact that they did not exist before 1999. Uwazurike formed MASSOB in 1999, I believe, in response to the mood of the Igbo nation after Dr. Alex Ekwueme lost his presidential bid. It is there in Wikipedia. The struggle has gone beyond Uwazurike. There are several other groups but Nnamdi Kanu has emerged as a charismatic leader and captured the imagination of not a few of the Igbo people. They have a strong following and should be engaged.
PREMIUM TIMES: Can you explain how this position relates to the overarching thesis of your book which, as you have stated, is the devolution of powers to the regions?
Chudi Offodile: It is really for the government to decide on how to go about it. I pointed out in the book that Uwazurike’s detention for two years, between 2005 and 2007, radicalised his followers like Nnamdi Kanu, Uche Madu, Uche Mefor and others. Remember how Boko Haram became radicalised after the killing of Mohammed Yusuf and others. We should learn from history, but government is always faced with competing and oftentimes conflicting views.
PREMIUM TIMES: In another instance of the contrapuntal design of your book, and in opposing received popular wisdom side with a counter-reality, you described Anthony Ukpabi Asika, the pro-Nigeria Igbo intellectual and then Administrator of East Central State, as the most unpopular Igbo man alive at a point due to his position on the war. Does this hate feeling still prevail?
Chudi Offodile: Possibly! But I feel strongly that Ukpabi Asika should be judged, not on the basis of the opinion he held, his opposition to the declaration of Biafra, but on the basis of his achievement in office as the Administrator of the defunct East Central State. He put together an excellent cabinet made up of mostly returnees from Biafra and discharged his responsibilities creditably. Of course, he made mistakes, but who doesn’t? Our post-war survival was very important.
PREMIUM TIMES: Again, you seem to have a soft spot for him judging from the manner you detailed his accomplishments in chapter twelve, “The Asika Years – 1970-75”. The picture is that of Ukpabi Asika’s tenure representing a yet unmatched golden era of governance in the South-East. Is this really true? And if it is, does it implicate the performance of those who came before and after him?
I included Professor Soludo’s articles on reconstructing Nigeria for prosperity as Appendix because I found the prescriptions he made quite compelling. Rather than going ahead to rehash the same arguments already well laid out, I sought his permission to include his work as the appendix to the book and he graciously agreed. The idea of restructuring has political and economic linkages.
Chudi Offodile: All we need to do is check out his record of accomplishments and compare this with those of the others. The only government with a better record is that of Dr. Michael Okpara in the defunct Eastern region. This is a personal opinion but I do not expect any objective person to contradict this position; however you know my people are very emotional about Biafra. Once again, I thought it necessary to tell a complete story of the post-war era.
PREMIUM TIMES: You treated your readers to two chapters in “Part Four: Post War Years” with almost the same title. The first “The Years of Decline – (1976-1998)” deals with the failures of military governors/administrators posted to the South-East, while the second “The Years of Decline – (1999-2015)” deals with appalling failures of the civilian governors in the South-East during a democratic dispensation. This is a refreshing self-critical and audacious submission from a South-Easterner. Is this another instance of this book’s counter-narrative to the usual one that blames the Federal Government for everything that goes wrong in the states? So, how do you make the underperforming South-East governors measure up to the expectations of their people, given the stupendous resources they’ve received from the Federal Government.
Chudi Offodile: I am persuaded that a change in the structure of the federation will make for better performance by the component units, but even with the present arrangement, we could have done better but I leave that for the citizens of the respective states to make their own assessment.
PREMIUM TIMES: There are over twenty pages of three parts of an appendix excerpted from essays written by Professor Chukwuma Soludo entitled, “Reconstructing Nigeria For Posterity – I, II, III”. How do the issues in your work, which are mainly focused on finding a political solution to Nigeria’s political instability, connect with Soludo’s economic perspective?
Chudi Offodile: No one is all knowing. I included Professor Soludo’s articles on reconstructing Nigeria for prosperity as Appendix because I found the prescriptions he made quite compelling. Rather than going ahead to rehash the same arguments already well laid out, I sought his permission to include his work as the appendix to the book and he graciously agreed. The idea of restructuring has political and economic linkages. In fact, if the restructuring envisaged will not lead to the improvement of the economy, then it would not be worth the effort. The whole idea is to create a competitive federal structure that will create a productive economy, as against the existing consumption based arrangement.
PREMIUM TIMES: A new national population census is being planned for 2018, for which almost N300 billion is being proposed. What are your views concerning the past exercises and the politics that have surrounded them?
Chudi Offodile: Census is good for planning purposes. It is politicised in Nigeria because of the kind of system we operate. Money accrues generally into the federation account and all the states share from it every month. Factors like population, land mass, school enrolment and other factors are used in the sharing formula. Of all the factors used in the distributing of the funds, only, perhaps, land mass cannot be rigged. And, of course, population gives advantage in elections, which gives access to power. These things will not be so important if a proper federal arrangement is worked out.
PREMIUM TIMES: Again on a personal note, you are a lawyer and were elected to Nigeria’s Federal House of Representatives in May 1999, as the Representative for Awka North/South Federal Constituency of Anambra State, but you said you gave up on electoral politics “after two unsuccessful attempts to get elected to the Senate in 2007 and 2011”. Have you given up on serving the people? Besides the electoral setbacks, is your retirement reflective of your aversion for the way things are being run currently at all levels in Nigeria. Also, what next after this publication?
Chudi Offodile: I happen to believe that if the basis of your participation in politics is service to the people, then it is perfectly possible to serve the people in other ways than by holding public office. Thinking about how to win elections make it very difficult for people to hold honest views. I like to be able to call a spade by its name.