In this interview with ADELEKE ADESANYA, a former lawmaker representing Epe Federal Constituency, Honourable Lanre Odubote, said Igbo leaders needed to call Nnamdi Kanu of the IPOB to order over the latter’s call for the Biafran nation. He advised the government to revert to the1960 Constitution, as he finds holes in the present Constitution. Excerpts:
For some time now, Nigeria has been battling with a major threat to its unity with tribal and ethnic groups threatening to break away from the country. The Arewa Northern Youth Forum, for instance, issued a quit notice to Igbo residents in the North to leave or face its wrath. This and others have given birth to calls for restructuring by some opinion leaders. As a former lawmaker, how will you react to this?
At this stage, I think whatever agitation that is legitimate, Nigerians should be able to appreciate it. Because, what they are saying is that there are some cases of injustice. So it is for the Federal Government to really listen and try to bring out something meaningful and that promotes the unity of the country from the agitation. Agitations are parts of the exercise of democracy. The quit notice that was coming was simply because some people felt they were marginalised. And we thank God that their leaders had condemned it and they themselves had realised that the issue of secession could not even work at this time. We are the ones that have to sit down and negotiate our co-existence, and our coming together as a nation. Agitation for break-up at this time will only put our past efforts in jeopardy.
But the IPOB headed by Nnamdi Kanu is insisting that it is not ready for any restructuring but liberty to go on their own. To what extent do you think his agitation holds water?
You see, Nnamdi Kanu has no legal right in this country to do all that he is doing. He is not in government, he is not a member of the recognised leaders of the South; he is not in any political party or any system. And the constitution we are operating now does not recognise all that he and his people are doing. To me, he is not a serious type. We have a government in place and we also have their leaders who do not support what he is doing. Let me tell you; he is no other person than a miscreant who is frustrated. When we are talking about secession, what I will ask Kanu himself is that, was he born during the civil war? And if he was born, how old was he then? Let me tell you; as a young boy, I was in Warri when the civil war started. If you saw the massive killing of Igbo and Hausa during this period, you will never call for war in your life. It is just that Kanu has not had such an experience in his life; that is why he is leading such a move. He doesn’t know what he is doing. He will lead the Igbo into jeopardy.
But looking at how he is being celebrated among the Igbo, won’t you suspect he has the backing of some Igbo leaders in the country?
I have not seen any responsible leader in Igboland backing; I have not seen any politician in Igbo land that will support this miscreant. I think those are the people that have the legitimate right to clamour for something. You don’t need to give him audience like they are doing; let him organise his own conference, referendum, apart from the one conducted by (former President Goodluck) Jonathan. See, people have spoken; all their leaders have spoken, all their governors have condemned him. Who is Kanu to be disturbing Nigeria? I think government should checkmate him totally.
IPOB’s agitations recently led to the quit notice issued to the Igbo in the north by the northern youth. Will you say the quit notice is justifiable?
The northern youths have no justification asking anybody to leave
their region. We have been going through a lot of things in this country. We have been and living together since 1900. We have been going through a lot of transformation together. Igbos have invested their money, they have been paying their taxes in that region; so there is no way such people can be asked to leave that region. Such a thing cannot work in this country. Well, I thank God that the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, has risen to the occasion. He has spoken, all the leaders have spoken. But what we are saying is that there is the need for us to sit down and do a constitutional review, because the constitution we are using was given to us by the military government.
Recently, one of the Afenifere group leaders said the Nigerian constitution only favours the north. Are you referring to the same thing here?
To be sincere with ourselves in this country, we don’t have a constitution in this country. Any constitution different from what we have in 1960 is not a constitution. Who will you say today in this country is dignified enough to give us a worthy constitution that will truly solve our problems and that will carry everyone along? So, I am in support of Chief Ayo Adebanjo over that. The Nigerian nation needs to be negotiated. We need to sit down and talk, and when you talk about the constitution in Nigeria, it is the only constitution that was in use before the military came.
Leader of Niger Delta Volunteers Force, Alhaji Mujaheed Dokubo-Asari had pledged support to Kanu on the Biafra agitation. He also said his group was ready to suffer Lagos by seizing oil. Dou you see this as a threat to the nation?
I don’t expect anyone to be disturbed about any statement from the mouth of either Kanu or someone like Dokubo. Are they not all having businesses and families in Lagos? Can they survive without this country? They are both clowns.
They have their children in our schools. Lagos is a cosmopolitan state that belongs to everyone in terms of education and others; so it belongs to both Ijaw and Hausa. For him to say that, he may be trying to bring up societal dispute. So let us forget about that.
Lagos state is currently battling with the issue of insecurity in the hands of kidnappers and a cult group called Badoo in the Ikorodu area. Being a federal lawmaker from this state and a constituency where six students were recently kidnapped, what do think should be done to save the state from this mess?
Everything still boils down to restructuring through our constitution in this country. If they allow the state police to be in operation, policing the communities will not be as difficult as this. Funny enough, Epe is 50% water-logged. So If Lagos State is given that power, it would employ more Marine policemen parading borders on the water and forestall the activities of the criminals. But in a situation where the constitution gives command to a central security agency, you don’t expect the exercise to be totally effective. And like I told you, if we don’t sit down and negotiate how to stay together, we are still going to be having serious issues in this country.
Last week, Nigeria commenced exportation of yams to Europe and the Americas. But this development was almost immediately condemned in some quarters as some said the citizens would be impoverished as a result of yam scarcity. How will you react to this?
Those people condemning the move and development do not know what is called farming. At this time of the year, we do not have yam, all the yams that we have are not dried yams. If you don’t export them, they will decay. We produced yam in this country more than what we can consume; meanwhile, we do not have enough preservative capacity. So I don’t see reason they should not be sold. The next season of yam is coming and nobody will eat dry yam. If the country had the capacity to preserve it, they would and use it for infrastructural development. Half of the yam we have now is dry yam. When you buy it, half of it will be spoilt; so it is better we push them out since we are expecting new ones and we do not have preservation for the old ones. We needed to sell them out fast.
How will you rate the current National Assembly?
I have not seen any problem in this Senate, there is no problem. There is no scandal; we have not seen anyone going to jail among the senators. This is part of democracy and there must be issues which must be resolved and for the first time, we have a stable Senate; this is the essence of democracy. We have a balanced Senate. In the Senate, you can’t do anything without negotiating with your people in the parliament.
The leader of United Progressives Party, Chief Chekwas Okorie said that APC has divided Nigerians. He also added that in 2019 if there is no president from the Igbos things will not go well.
We all know how the 2015 election went? The election was done based on the political parties. But the Igbo believed so much in tribalism and all voted for PDP; and fortunately for them, they failed with Goodluck. Today, they are finding it difficult to come to terms with the Buhari because of their disposition to him from inception. If they had given part of their votes to Buhari, they won’t be feeling the way they are feeling today, or calling for agitations. They put all their eggs in only one basket, and unfortunately for them, they failed. I know that they are planning to remove APC in 2019 election but let us wait and see.