Former Military Administrator of Ogun and Rivers States, Group Captain Sam Ewang (rtd) in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, speaks on efforts by the federal and state governments to combat the Coronavirus pandemic, resource control, 2023 presidency and other issues. Excerpts:
As Nigeria continues to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Government and some state governments have declared a lockdown without providing palliatives for the people. What is your assessment of the situation?
It’s unfortunate. Normally, I wouldn’t have loved to make any comment on the issues today because I don’t want to compare our nation with anybody. But I think the federal government is trying its best. The state governments are equally trying their best. I really appreciate Lagos state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. I very much appreciate him for his preemptive actions so far in tackling the Coronavirus disease. I also want to thank those that are working with him. Otherwise, this thing came like a thunder entirely; even though I believe that we should have prepared for it because it is a pandemic as it has come to be. We shouldn’t have wait but plan ahead but I still thank the government for the efforts made so far.
The problem we have has to do with our population. The population we have is not such that you can lock the people in and bar them from coming out but unfortunately, the situation requires that. I am very sorry to say this but the reality is that so many people are dying of hunger rather than Coronavirus. We are still moving backwards with the way we do things. This calls for our politicians to begin to think again, to plan for Nigeria and not themselves. I am also a politician too. We need to think about our people; people are dying not on account of the disease but hunger. Right now, there are some places that people are dying because of the disease but we are not able to identify them. I will keep emphasizing it; people are dying but unfortunately, I am not in a position where I can help so much.
One major issue that has always dominated discussions during election period is the issue of restructuring. Why do you think successive governments have only paid lip service to this issue without taking any action?
Well, it depends on how people look at it. If you look at the nature of our politicians, we are not prepared as leaders to handle the affairs of people. We are still very selfish people. Even when we restructure, is it going to stop people from taking the monies for themselves rather than helping the populace? On one side, restructuring is very good especially when you look at the situation in Nigeria, such as restructuring of the federal policing system.
Restructuring depends on the side you are looking at. People are preparing to become president of the country and they are doing all manner of things simply because they want to take everything for themselves. So, it is unfortunate. Depending on what you mean by the term ‘restructuring’, it will be good for us but we must think twice about the generality of the people. In all we do, we must consider the plight of the people.
With the declining price of crude oil and the Coronavirus pandemic, the House of Reps recently took delivery of exotic cars, an action that has generated public uproar. Don’t you think the cost of governance is a huge burden killing this nation?
That is exactly what I have been saying. Everything depends on the attitude of our politicians. No one is out to work for the benefit of the poor. I go on our roads and I see people in very terrible situations, begging on the roads. I then begin to wonder, ‘where is our social system?’ We have no social system at all. Nothing! The politicians keep thinking about themselves alone on how they can accumulate things. I was discussing with my friends recently and I said unfortunately, by accumulating things, you are not helping yourself because you cannot accumulate things for your first generation, not even your second generation. So, whatever you think you are accumulating today at the expense of the poor will only help your generation to become very poor. Whether we believe it or not, that is the truth. So, why not work on building a nation where the generality of the people will be happy? The bicameral legislature that we are practicing doesn’t benefit the people and it doesn’t benefit the government either. I would have rather thought that if we needed to do things right, these lawmakers should have worked part-time and get their allowances. That is when we will see people who are really willing to work. But now, the politicians want to kill themselves and there is enmity all over the place because of what they stand to benefit while holding political office.
What is your take on zoning and do you think the rotational arrangement between the North and South be adhered to 2023 after President Buhari must have completed his tenure?
I have heard that a lot and a lot of people have been struggling on the issue. I don’t even believe that zoning system is the best policy for Nigeria with the situation we are in. I have never believed in zoning because it always props up selfish people. Even for those who are agitating for zoning, if you insist on zoning today, it is the rich that will come out and they will only serve their personal interests. So, the problem is a circle. I believe that we need to sit down, select honourable people and have a conference to determine so many things in so many areas. The situation we found ourselves is very unfortunate. Let me just speak on the surface for now, I don’t want to go deep because this is not the time to hit the system with hard words.
Do you think resource control has really benefited the South- South?
Resource control has not benefited the poor or anybody except the rich. It has also benefited those who can kill and take office. When people talk of resource control, they talk of allowing the South-South states to take control of their resources, oil. Even if you give 50 percent to the Niger Delta, what is going to happen is that you are going to find young people who will come up. The truth is that most of our politicians are cultists; let me not say all of them.
If you don’t belong, you can’t get there, no matter how prepared or educated you are. This encourages so much evil in the land. It discourages even the righteous from getting there even when you know what to do. Unfortunately, if you carefully observe the system like I do, you will discover that most people who go into office don’t know anything about governance. They don’t know what to do in a particular situation, except very few of them. So, on the issue of resource control, I have always believed that a better arrangement should be made. Even now, if this government had been a planning government, I cannot see why we are unable to do certain things for the poor during this Coronavirus pandemic.
Even if we can’t do anything some other time for them, I think this is the best opportunity to show that we care for the poor. Wrong decisions are being taken all over the country. They just want to make noise so people cannot say they haven’t done anything. They are restricting movements yet people are dying. You have labourers who go to sites on a daily basis and they feed their families with what they get from there. If they don’t go out, they can’t eat. I tell you that within this period, I have received visits from over 200 people but unfortunately, there is a little I can do since I am no longer in government. It is very, very unfortunate.