Former Military Administrator of Akwa Ibom state and Chairman of South-South Peoples Assembly, Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (Rtd) in this interview with our Reporter, Edoamaowo Udeme, bares his mind on the security reality in the country and cautioned that President Goodluck Jonathan should not be blamed for the activities of the terrorists. He also explains why the President could not apply Zaki Biam or Odi solution to the menace of Boko Haram in the North East.
How did you make it to become the Chairman of the South-south Assembly?
I fit into the position because I was the Deputy Chairman of South-South Peoples Assembly and the Chairman, Chief (Odigie) Oyegun tendered his resignation last year for personal reasons so as to fulfill his political desire. So, it was necessary to occupy the seat.
In a communique you issued recently, you are asking everyone to stand solidly behind President Goodluck Jonathan for 2015. What informs your decision because some schools of thought believe that he is a non-performer?
Everybody has his own opinion. Opinion is cheap, so anyone can access it. But, facts are sacred and when we lay down facts, that informs our decisions. Number one, constitutionally, he is allowed to run for a second term. Some people have challenged this in the court of law and it has been put to rest that he is free to contest but most importantly, he has performed exceedingly well and I challenge anybody to bring out one former Head of State or President to come out one on one, issue by issue that has done better that him. It is not enough to make generalized statement that he isn’t performing. We are seeing it in every sector of the economy; some people are now compelled to admit that the agricultural sector has never been this well. Since our independence in 1960, our country has only been able to generate barely 3000 or sometimes less megawatts of electricity and we all know how we are all groaning because of lack of energy, how do we develop our economy? For the first time this man is courageous enough to unbundle PHCN, that is just the beginning, other administration didn’t do it. You can recall when we voted approximately $200 million for power and it all went down the drain. Sometimes they just changed their name but this is the first time we are going to see the results. That is how communication was unbundled and today everybody is enjoying mobile phones. Energy will be like that soon. Inflation rate has gone down in one digit, its not just by coincidence. Today, International Direct Investment has not been as high as we have had in the last two years since the creation of the country.
Some people complain about insecurity, but if Nigeria is so insecure, why would some foreigners still come to invest?
The exchange rate is between 150 and 160 to a dollar, how was it before? Let’s put together sector by sector and let all those complaining mention one that he has done so bad. If Jonathan was in some other clime, people would have begged him to run for second and third term or for life, maybe for some other reason people are not seeing it. Look at the national conference, some people were agitating for it but the moment Jonathan said let there be a national conference, the same people said no, this is not the time. We are standing beside him because he is a good man and we thank God for having him at the right time in this country. If it were some other impatient presidents, Nigeria would have been in a state of anarchy today. His patience shows that God ordained him to be here at this time and whoever is fighting him is fighting God.
Are you now saying that he is being attacked because he is from the minority and that if he were from the majority it could have been different?
Well, I cant really tell but you know that there are certain people in this country who believe that power belongs to them and so for Jonathan to have become the President was a virus that has entered Nigeria. So, they insist that power must return to them. These same set of people were those that said that if Goodluck becomes the president, there will be bloodshed; that the country will be made ungovernable. The constitution of the country allows you to grow to the pinnacle. Everybody must have that right. If Nigeria decides to put someone there as President, so be it. It is not for a handful of people to choose for all. Apparently, those people are dissatisfied and they will continue to be until God shows them that he created men to be equal.
Some schools of thought have it that if Jonathan were not the President, there wouldn’t have been Boko Haram insurgency, do you belong to this school?
If somebody said he will make the country ungovernable, this is classified terrorism and has generated into a well organized insurgency. It did not just spring up, people are behind it, but I am appealing to people from those areas particularly from the North East that they should open their eyes, it is not Jonathan that is behind it. If some people are sponsoring it to make Jonathan unpopular, they should also know that that sponsorship is impoverishing them and that development in those areas have been taken 100 years backward. Insurgency or terrorism won’t survive unless there is sanctuary, they are hiding those behind it. Jonathan is not a spirit to dictate them, the moment you refuse to give them sanctuary, they will disappear. They should rise up now and fight. Why is it not thriving in other parts of the country? Because the inhabitants are not ready to accept it. Terrorism is everywhere even in America but the only difference is that America will never give sanctuary to terrorists. That is why they always nip them in the bud and the terrorists can’t breakthrough. If you open your house and allow them to stay, it will continue to be like this.
Some people are complaining that Jonathan is slow in tackling of Boko Haram; that he is too patient and that even when state of emergency has been declared in some of these states, insurgency still thrives in those areas. What is your take on this?
You cannot say that Jonathan is slow. One thing Nigerians need to know is that we are operating a democratic system of government, and if you must operate on this, you must apply it to the full tenets. Maybe because the country was ruled by the military where things were done with immediate effect and they expect him to operate like that. Even if the result was good, the fact still remains that you still did not give the person the mandate to rule you. So if you want to take the freedom of democracy, you must also go by its rules. In democracy people are given the rights to say what they want and achieve what they want to achieve as long as they are not causing problems to others. So the rule of law is paramount. Even a terrorist, until proven guilty, cannot be punished. Do you want Jonathan to go and level those places like it was done in Zaki Ibiam and Odi?. Obasanjo wouldn’t have done that if those were not minority areas of the country. He couldn’t have done that in the majority areas. We all know that the world is not happy with such actions. If that is what Nigerians want, Jonathan can do it but it is not the right thing. There are rules of engagement, so he is not slow, he is only doing it right.
How do you advise Nigerians especially South-Southerners as regards Goodluck Jonathan 2015?
I am appealing to them that you cannot clamor for justice in an unjust society. If the majority in this country wants to enjoy democracy they should know that everybody in the country is equal, there are no second class citizens. If Jonathan became the President and the constitution allows him the right to contest, let Nigerians decide that they don’t want him; that right must not be taken away from him for whatever reason because the constitution says so. As for my people in the South South, l am also appealing to them, the fight cannot start here. We did that during the civil war. The collateral damage was more on the minorities of this country; we saved Nigeria during the civil war. We are producing the oil that keeps Nigeria; we have contributed and paid our dues we must also be allowed to be first class citizens like every other person in this country. So, I would like them to support Jonathan for the fact that he is ably qualified and has brought in innovations that will see Nigeria in the future not just of today. So, I call on Nigerians to support him because South-South cant do it alone. But I think it will be more enduring and our children will be happier with us that at a time when we were faced with this challenges, we rose as a people to make Nigeria even greater after 100 years; now is not the time to divorce in our marriage.
Back home, there has been agitation for zoning. Uyo Senatorial District has had its fair share of governance, so has Ikot Ekpene. Now, its Eket’s turn but some people from other senatorial districts insist that they are contesting too. What is your take on this?
Well, I think we are mixing up things here. We have the senatorial districts and ethnic groups. I belong to PDP and I am a loyal party person. What is required is in the constitution of the party and it supports zoning and rotation. We should check and see how it relates to our own case. That is the much I can say about that, even the rotation does not rotate on ethnic basis. If it were so, I believe the Igbos in the South East would have taken their turn by now. We have at the least 250 ethnic groups in the country. If we were following that, we wont be able to go round and that is why we talk about, Senatorial districts, States, North or South, geo political zones and not on ethnic basis.The issue in Akwa Ibom, I think some are borne out of misunderstanding. Be that as it may, people should go to their respective parties’ constitutions and check what it says and apply it.