06 May 2014, Abuja – Chairman of Ndigbo Lagos and a delegate to the National Conference, Professor Anya O. Anya, told some journalists in Lagos, weekend, why the ongoing confab will not be business as usual. According to him, every part of the country is now in negotiation mood and the era of any part of the country playing the big boss has gone; now every part has challenges and needs the help of others to remain afloat.
A National Conference Committee, last week recommended that an extra state should be created for the South-East zone. What is the hope that it will be achieved this time?
The obstacles of the state having not been created before now have been with the Igbo: Our inability to speak with one voice as to our choice. I served in the Belgore committee and I chaired the particular plenary session when that decision was taken to create an additional state in Igboland.
When we finished the Belgore Committee, I was invited by the governors of the South-East to a meeting in Enugu. I told them: ‘You can’t expect unanimity among the Igbo saying this is the state.
You are our leaders for now; the five of you decide among yourselves and say this is the state; go to the President and tell him, this is what we have agreed, let him set the ball rolling. When that is finished, we will look at what is left.’
Politics of the time
And I gave them the story: I was involved in the creation of Anambra being divided into Enugu and Anambra and Imo being divided into Imo and Abia. At that time, we had to go to the Ebonyi people and said, ‘listen, Ebonyi cannot make it now because we are talking about what is practicable given the politics of the time.’
My advice to the governors was, ‘if you like, write all the prospective states on a piece of paper and put them in a hat and let one of you pick, whatever you pick, go and present it, when that is created the dynamics will change.’
They decided to vote. I was not there when they voted but the report I heard was that two of them voted for one state, another two voted for another state and the single one voted for a third. So even among five people, they could not agree on the one to present to the president.
Then, they set up a committe to look at the various states. The committee was chaired by Senator Uche Chukwumerije. I served on the committee and was the chairman of the particular area dealing with how a new political alignment will be created.
Again, we did our report and made recommendations. But each time, they (governors) are hostages of the demands from their states instead of looking at it holistically.
In the National Conference Committee I am serving on-Political Restructuring and Forms of Government, we have reaffirmed that South-East deserves an extra state.
Every member of the committee agreed to that. In other words, the decision was unanimous.
If it comes to the plenary, there may be people who will want to shoot it down but since the report of the committee stage says ‘unanimous,’ the person who wants to shoot it down will know that he is biting more than he can chew.
However, at the end of the day it comes down to how the Igbos will handle it. If we handle it right it will be achieved. If we don’t handle it right it will be one hope that was not achieved.
On 13 per derivation controversy and northern demand for reduction of derivation to five per cent
I can tell you that the predominant attitude in the North was that this conference should not hold, but it is holding. When we started, they even talked about walking out but they are no longer talking of that. What we read in the papers or what you even see in documents might not be the final position. Everybody is in a negotiation mood.
As I said in my little speech at the conference, I served in the Lemu Committee (post-Election Violence), the Belgore Committee, the Okurounmu Committe and I am now in the National Conference. The opportunity of serving in these committees, first in the Lemu Committe, gave me the opportunity to tour all the seven states of the North-West except Kebbi and to talk with the leaders, traditional and political, in those states one-on-one. From my tours and interactions, I can tell you that politics in Nigeria have changed decisively. The public postures do not summarise what will happen.
Unfortunately, most people tend to think that once we have taken a public posture that is what the position will be. On the contrary, the position can fly… infact, once you have taken a public position, you are advertising that you should be ignored because there are people who will want to talk with you but once you have taken a public position they will not talk to you again.
The things that will come out of it are happening underground. Unless there is an accident, something will come out of it.
In the Okurounmu Committee, we toured all the six geo-political zones. So in the last three years I have been everywhere in the North and every where in Nigeria. There is no part of the country that does not have serious problems. And there is no part of Nigeria that can solve those problems without help from the others.
Therefore, the days of arrogance, this is what we want, it must be this way, have past. It will not come again. You take your position as a negotiating position and start exploring. If others give way to you so be it as they gave way to the South-East on additional state; on another thing you may give way to them. That is the only viable option at this point in time.
The people, who wrote the derivation thing are intellectuals and academics. I think I am living member of that group in Nigeria. The NUC last December honoured me as one of the 17 people recognised in Nigeria as distinguished professors. Fortunately, academics take themselves very seriously atimes. Yes their ideas are important but ideas that are important should also be practical for it to be implemented. However bright an idea unless it can be concretely used to produce something that improves the life of the society, it is hot air.
The brilliant academics of the North have drawn up a beautiful paper, a 45-page paper, I have seen it.
But not more than one-third of that will fly. When you talk about five per cent from 13 per cent how are you going to achieve it? Are you going to kill off all the people of the South-South who are already benefitting from it?
On comments that the conference is a waste of time
It is not a waste of time. There are practical results on the table to show that it cannot be a waste of time. Nigerians think that rules that apply elsewhere will not apply in Nigeria. If you studied the policy framework whether in the US or Britain, you will see that when a brilliant idea or proposition comes and commissions are set up on how to implement it, it takes between 15 and 20 years on the average between when an idea came up and when it is implemented and you see the practical results. But thanks to our military past, we tend think ‘immediate effect.’
No society operates with immediate effect because it is not only your idea that is important, the people you are planning for should own it; which means they will agree and identify that that problem you said needs to be solve is our problem and we want it to be solved.
Idea of the conference
Before they now come to say you want it to be solved why not do this or that to improve upon it? By the time you do all these that is when the pressure will be on the government or those taking decision to do those things.
Remember, when the idea of the conference was muted, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and others said it was a waste of time. But when it started, the most brilliant thing that happened took us in the committee by surprise. Our tour of the country changed the momentum.
Even as we were going we did not expect that it will enjoy the kind of overwhelming support it had. You know what happened in Benin, Governor Adams Oshiomhole got up, the lecture he gave us in private he now wanted to make it public in order to be popular but his people booed him.
That was why we told Col Tony Nyiam to withdraw because the people had already shown what they feel so you don’t need to add your voice because by adding your voice you compromised all of us.
What has happened since then? All APC states have sent a full complement of delegates they are expected to send. The only delegates not present are the two expected from APC as a party.
What does that tell you? The whole of Nigeria has embraced the conference. The taste of the pudding is in the eating. So it is what comes out of it that we are waiting.