Tunde Adeleye is the chairman, Christian Council of Nigeria South-South Zone, and the Archbishop of Anglican Communion Niger Delta Province Cathedral of Holy Trinity Calabar. In this interview with MIKE ABANG, he spoke on the state of the nation. Excerpts:
What are your thoughts on the recently appointed service chiefs?
First of all, we are grateful to God that the government of Muhammadu Buhari listened to our cry. It was in Abuja where I joined my voice with those who were saying that we should change those people; so, I must tell you the truth, we thank God he did it, even though it was long overdue because the people were becoming moribund, unproductive; they did not know what next to do. They had tried all their best and they did not know what next thing to do, even their propagandist method did not work well because imagine a security man saying that today we laid ambush and captured some terrorists. Security men don’t talk like that; you don’t discuss your methodology in the public. I think Wole Soyinka said a tiger does not shout its tigritude; you cannot see a tiger going about and shouting I am a tiger; it means that there is something wrong about your tiger. They were busy announcing that they have conquered this, they have captured this, destroyed this and that. In my opinion was basically because they had nothing new to say again and nothing new to do, they exhausted their ideas and then one or two of them were already having some bad names or images across the world; one of two of them were also known to have some challenges; so, it was just better for them to go, and we were now told they resigned. Some of them had been in the army for more than the number of years expected that they should be there before they retire; so, one will wonder what they were doing, not that they were so perfect, good or excellent and we cannot get another person to do their job; but we thank God they are gone.
What is the way forward?
I want to advise Nigerians not to always expect too much from anybody; you can encourage the people to do well but don’t expect too much so that when they do nothing you will not be disappointed. For example, Nigerians expected so much and our hopes were very high and that time changes people. All of us wanted change, we taught that the corruption, bad governance, were already maximised, we didn’t know that it could be worse than what we were seeing; we wanted change and when this was actualised we saw that we merely exchanged a monkey for a wild baboon and that is what we are suffering till today; for the past few years, this country has never been in this kind of standstill where there are psychopaths, deceivers, liars all over the place; wickedness, callousness, killings and they are on the main road; betrayers, attacks, suddenly a cow became more valuable than human beings and suddenly we are not talking about anything other than insecurity, and this insecurity is everywhere; it’s in the house, main road, it’s just everywhere; honestly, somebody said that the country has failed and I want to disagree with the person that the country has failed, the truth is that there is no country at all. If there was a country, then we could say whether the country has passed or failed but this one there is no country; is this a country? This is not a country; the number one job of government is to provide security; it’s not there; job is not there, food is not there, treatment for sicknesses is not there; are you following what I am saying, the payment for its retirees is not there, I have been talking about those retirees for more than 15 years now, even for the government to say that they want to take money from the retirees’ account; is that not a shame ad they are so shameless about it; you want to create roads from Niger to Nigeria whereas the road from Calabar to Itu, the road is not just bad, but does not exist and nobody is bothered, nobody cares, nobody is worried and everyone is just talking about his own pocket; thank God for a few governors who are trying to see what they can do to revive their states and all those things and they will just gather people and pay them N20 or N30 thousand for one or two months and say that we have done that. As I talk to you now, one or two governors are already talking about how to become president in 2023 – shamelessness, wickedness, callousness, when the people are suffering, and are hungry, you are planning to become president; what is wonderful bout you? what is excellent about you? What have you done on record? I was in Okene two, three years ago; the road in Okene leading to Ogoja is hell on earth and you want to transfer that punishment to Nigeria again, upon what we have suffered so far; then we will just be like – now your suffering continues (NYSC), and you will say we are looking for youths which part of you is youthful. Nobody bothers and already there are paid propagandists that are announcing names of who is next. I don’t know, I have been in this country for this number of years and I have never seen any time as bad. The creators of Nigeria did not know that Nigeria will be like this; I am very sure if people like Ahmadu Bello, Awolowo, Zik; if they wake up and see Nigeria like this, they will die back, saying this is not what they fought for. So, there is no country.
How do you see the current threat to ‘Fulanise’ the country?
You call it threat of ‘Fulanising’ Nigeria, but I must let you know that it is glaring; this thing you are seeing has been on with the planners for many years; those days we slept with both eyes closed and not one eye open to be watching what is happening. This is not today’s plan and they are going slowly into all parts of the country and some of our people in the south, particularly one or two governors are so absent-minded that they have sold themselves, states and communities to the Fulanis; it is a big problem in this country. Obasanjo did say and I believe him, that the Fulani insurgence and attack on Nigeria is a sufficient cause of any war at any time. I am not afraid to mention places, look at Ebonyi, why is he changing his ground because he thinks he is going to become something and in the present system in Nigeria, quote me, he will become nothing; he will have just found out that he cheated himself. Of course, it’s a selloff. For anybody to want to declare for a government that does not exist as a body, a government that is not taking care of its citizens; for anybody to want to be part of that government as a declaration, that person I think in my mind has some basic problem. You know that this government is not caring, this government is not doing what they should be doing, this government is not just failing but is going into a kind of extinction and killing the state and yet that is a government you want to become part of; haba, it is very bad. This government, what is it? Is it religious bigotry, is it just Fulanisation, islamisation, is it religious bigotry, the constitution provides that you can practise your religion free of charge. In my own Edo State, there is a particular town in that area where they were not allowing the non-Muslims to be buried in the town, that is as far back as over thirty to forty years ago and today, the town has extended to where they were burying Christians and they are discussing to see whether they can exhume those bodies that have been there over the years to go further into the bush; is that a country?
Are you saying that Southern Nigerians and Christians in present day Nigeria are facing extinction?
Christianity cannot face extinction because nobody can destroy or wipe away Christianity. Let us put it this way; southern Nigeria is suffering in this country, suffering marginalisation, ignored, terribly set apart, cheated, it’s a known thing. They are not remembered in appointments. The Chief Judge who came from this place where is he today? And that was the only man who in the first election petition of this present president agreed that the man won election among the judges in the court; the Head of Service where is she? When a southerner is placed with a northerner he will go with the northerner: we are terribly marginalised, ignored; we are seen as not existing and then our properties, rights and inheritances are being taken away. I have always talked about our having true federalism and unless we come to that in this country, these problems will continue. Now, look at it, the youths of Arewa or something in one of those programmes on AIT or something and the man was saying that the reason the problem is continuing in Nigeria is because the cattle rearers said that they wanted land to rear and feed their cow and some governments in the south refused and that’s where there is problem. My dear, can you imagine that any human being can talk like that about a property that does not belong to you? It’s like saying that I wanted to sleep with your wife and since you refused that I should sleep with your wife, I will take her by force and keep her for as long as I want; I can enter your house, bedroom, anytime I like since you cannot give a regulated time that me and your wife can meet, if you want us to be meeting a day in a week then she will stay with you for six days and come to me for one day, somebody else’s wife, another man’s land, you are saying that because they did not allow you to use it, my dear, God will fight; I’m just telling you the truth; if this is good, God will be quiet, but if this is wrong then God will fight. Look at some of the streets in Calabar even in satellite town, you see cows walking on the road and passing their dung on the road; meanwhile, there are people that are paid in this Calabar to sweep these roads and you know there is no rain now; so the dung are there; the car will drive on the dung and it will rub your car very well and you will carry cow dung to your house and in any case, is it normal for somebody to follow cow from Kano to Warri; is it a normal thing for somebody to be trekking? The man has plans; it’s not only cow and that is what is manifesting smoothly and firmly, and nobody is talking; very unfortunate.
The people are talking about revalidation of members of APC; what are your thoughts on that?
My view is that it is rubbish; what we should revalidate is food on people’s tables, health, children’s education, our health system, roof on our head; how I can build a house. How can I pay my children’s fees? That is what should be revalidated; revalidating APC, what does APC do? APC is a condemned drug; what has it done for you? We should be revalidating health, welfare, accommodation, education, and all that; that is what we should be doing.
Recently, former president Goodluck Jonathan came out to say that restructuring was not the answer to Nigeria’s problems, citing ethnicity, tribalism and all that as major problems of this country; do you agree with that?
I think Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was misled by the confused lexicon of descriptions and the use of words in Nigeria. What you have just said now is actually restructuring; restructuring the ethnic arrangements, making sure that one particular tribe does not dominate others. He has actually talked about restructuring. I was preaching to a man some time ago and I said you must be born again, and he said I don’t like the word born again. By the time we investigated his remarks, we discovered that he was even born again. He hated the phrase- born again- so, it is possible that somebody is not in agreement with the word restructuring. No particular ethnic group should be allowed to dominate the country; that is restructuring. What is restructuring? We should allow the people that are producing the cake for the country; we should give them the giant size to eat; that is restructuring.
The President recently threatened another lockdown unless Nigerians abide by the COVID-19 protocols; what advice would you have for every one?
I would advise that we should re-advertise, reinforce and re-educate our people about Covid-19; you know as I talk to you now, even some of our governors say that Covid-19 does not exist; that shows that even the people in highly placed positions belittle this sickness and don’t know that it is a very serious case. I wish to join every serious-minded Nigerian to say that Covid-19 is very real; it has affected some people very close to me and even if it did not affect me. This morning I was telling my wife because by November last year to December, we were very ill; I have never seen that kind of sickness before in my life; I could no longer eat food; I would want to eat dinner; do you know that I would sleep near the food till 3.00am and by that time, I would not be able to eat. I did a series of tests, except for Covid-19; but my wife and I were saying it could even be Covid-19, because we never experienced that kind of sickness before. The sickness is real; nobody should take it for granted, whether it came from China and it is travelling to UK, or is travelling from Germany to Asia or from South Africa to Egypt; whatever the route it is taking, it is real; so, I would advise that we should re-advertise and reinforce, re-educate and intensify the explanation to the people about how serious the sickness is and not take it for a joke.
What is your take on the agitation for Igbo presidency in 2023 by the people of South East geo-political zone?
I don’t see anything wrong about it; anybody from any tribe is qualified to become president even you are qualified to become president only that nobody will vote for you because you don’t have the wherewithal; but anybody is prima facie qualified. However, the Igbos should keep their house in order. The way our Igbo brothers arrange themselves, they don’t speak with the same voice. They are not together and among them, just like in any other tribe, there are betrayers. So, unless they put their house in order, they will not win anything; I am telling you the truth. The Igbos should be united in order to fight to win, without this they cannot win anything.
Transparency International recently rated Nigeria poorly on corruption and rated Nigeria as the second most corrupt country in West Africa, but the government has faulted this. What’s your take on this?
When this government came in, what they were telling us was that corruption would be killed. Anybody that has been in Nigeria since then would know that the corruption that was to be killed is now, not only bolder, it is stronger, more fundamental, huge, in fact, the corruption now has acquired greater techniques of operation such that even the protagonists or those who said they wanted to kill corruption are bereft of ideas of how to kill the corruption. Corruption is worse now and more horrible than ever before at any level. The only thing that has happened now is that in the past when one person is corrupt, the person is shouted down; everybody hears, but now when you are corrupt and you are in a particular party or in a particular coverage, once you can be in a particular party the sky is your limit, you can continue the corruption and nobody will say anything. It is obvious; we don’t need to deceive ourselves.