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Thursday, 21 April 2016

It’s foolhardy to hope in a dead Biafra at this time -General Momah

Former Minister of Science and Technology and pioneer Nige-rian War College (NWC) Director-General, General Sam Momah, is a disciple of the change campaign which brought the present government  into power. In this interview with Paul Ukpabio, Momah, x-rays the first few months of President Muham-madu Buhari in office.

You were one of the lone voices in the last two years who spoke consistently about a General Buhari in power. You also called for a change of ex-President Jonathan’s administration in his last two years in office. Today we have Buhari in power are you fulfilled?
 I must say that I am
fulfilled because we know the state of our country before Gen. Buhari came on stage; Nigeria had been on the brink, the economy was very bad. We were saddled with a debt of $60bn or about that range, our police force was not properly organised, our borders were porous, unemployment was terribly embarrassing and was getting to the magnitude of having over 40m youths unemployed. Also the state of insecurity, the problem of Boko Haram, kidnapping, armed robbery and cyber crime were all getting out of control.
 There was also the problem of smuggling of illegal arms across our borders, which remained much unguarded. Then of course the worse of it was the vandalisation of the oil pipelines and illegal sale of our oil by individuals, the looting of the economy was rampant and we were being told that stealing was not corruption. So, it was inevitable that we had to look for somebody to salvage the nation.
 So, I feel very fulfilled. Indeed, if not for Buhari’s coming on board, who knows, perhaps Nigeria would have been written off. But we thank God that a miracle happened and he won the election despite the odds. I believe that his coming is a divine ordination and I hope that Nigerians will see his coming as an opportunity to rebuild this country. I am happy. His coming to lead Nigeria is the dawn of a new era, an era of respectability for the country, an era of exemplary leadership, an era of visionary leadership and an era that Nigerians will aspire to actualise that great nation that we have been waiting for.
With the situation in the National Assembly do you see the president succeeding as far as he would love to do?
 I believe that Mr. President is determined to succeed. He is not an accidental leader. He had to plan for his coming in the last 30 years. From 1985 to 2015; he has been thinking how to salvage Nigeria. And we know that from 2003 to 2015 he has been contesting for leadership. He is experienced at this game. So whatever is happening at the National Assembly is a momentary obstacle and I believe that ultimately, with PMB tenacity of purpose we will surmount it and move ahead.
 Still on the National Assembly, with the groupings, the Saraki group, the supposed PDP group, the core APC group, do you see all coming together to move the nation forward?
 Well that is my hope. I hope that someday common sense will prevail because Saraki is APC. I do not see why he should not work in tandem with APC as a party because the party came in for a purpose and we believe that they have to be unanimous for that purpose to crystallize. Trying to be an obstacle on an issue that has been agreed upon will definitely not augur well for those trying to do so. So, I believe that somewhere along the line, Saraki and his team should do a rethink and work along with other party members. As a true democrat, the president has said that the three arms of government are independent of each other, but ours is an evolving democracy, not like that of US and other developed countries where the principle of separation of power is strictly adhered to. Here, we are still learning, and therefore we need that cohesion to enable us surmount major problems. The President in consonance with his party and in this era of change should be interested on who are the leaders in the National Assembly. So whatever happens, they should talk and think like a party and not in factions as is presently the case.
The arrest of some Nigerians running Radio Biafra has brought once again to the surface, the struggle by the Igbo people for the actualisation of an independent Biafran nation. As an Igbo born Army General and a technocrat, what do you think is the problem? Do you support the call for  Biafra Republic?
 I do not. I think it is preposterous, subversive and felonious for some people to be talking about the survival of Biafra at this time. It is very sad because this is the time we need to pull ourselves together as a country. I do not know what those young men want, but they should realise that they are, pushing the nation backward. Their activities are not helping the development of Nigeria; neither is it going to help the development of Southeastern region of Nigeria. They must realise that what they are doing is counter-productive and unnecessary. They should advice themselves and get out of this wishful thinking, because the world has come to a stage where, the bigger you are, the more chances of survival. Therefore, we have more reasons to come together as Nigerians. What we should be looking for is to find a way of embracing other African countries, and ultimately make African countries to become Union of African States (UAS). That is what we should be thinking of, that is the answer to our current poverty of the mind and of the body.
Yours truly with team of journalists at General Momah's interview
 We cannot survive as small ethnic groups because the competition is no more between the Hausa man and the Yoruba man or between the Tiv man and the Edo man. The competition is now between a Nigerian and a Ghanaian and between the Nigerian and the South African etc, in a larger context between Africa and other continents of the world. And so, thinking of Biafra is demeaning. We must realise that we have to use our majority power to synergies African vision of being a global power. What is happening in Europe and America today, should give us food for thought. This gay or same sex marriage will definitely destroy western civilisation. I can see that in the next 35 years, western power will decline so badly. For us that are strategists and analysts, we are foreseeing a vision where the Chinese, the Indians and the Africans will form a club of global powers. And we can only do that if we remain united not as small entities or fiefdoms under one warlord or the other in a banana republic.
 But some of these young folks do not see beyond their nose. They see today, what they can get out of today. I am therefore advising them to lay down their arms, pick up their shovels and let’s produce, feed ourselves and project ourselves in the global arena as the powerful country that we should be and not wasting time talking about a Biafra that in the present context, is gone and gone forever! In effect, I’m totally against it, I feel embarrassed myself, and I am totally against it. I have talked to the leader of MASSOB group personally and tried to convince him that it is foolhardy what they are doing, and he promised that he will change. I am surprised that the good advice that some of us have given to them is not being used. It is my opinion here, that they should call off this madness and let us see how we can build a new Nigeria of our dream.
The President of Ohaneze Ndigbo recently accused President Buhari of deep hatred for Igbo people, because no Igbo man is on the Service chiefs list, do you agree with him?
 That is in tune with my last answer; I do not agree with him. Some of the president’s best friends are Igbos; so also some of his aides. Those of us who know him personally, know that he does not hate Igbos. It is a misnomer for Ohaneze president to make such a claim.  It is very unfortunate. We know that twice he appointed an Igbo man as his running mate. The first one was Chuba Okadigbo and the second was Chief Edwin Umezeoke. They were Ibos. You cannot say that somebody who did that hates Igbos. That is a wrong assertion and the president is someone who is patriotic, nationalistic and humane. He hates tribalism and cronyism. He has come a long way to prove to us that he is a democrat. We see it in the way he is handling the affairs of the nation, trying to give a good ‘listening ear’ to all. It is therefore unfair to blackmail him into something he is not.
 With the revelation by Edo state Governor that a minister in the ex President Jonathan government stole as much as $6b couple with other forthcoming revelations, as a statesman, how do these make you feel?
 I feel bad that we have over 40m young ones who are unemployed graduates, some unemployed for seven years or more. Most young men are of marriageable age but are unmarried because they have no jobs and this, is now affecting our girls with no suitors. And that cycle of social problem is what is giving rise to kidnapping and the misdemeanour of our girls on the streets. Therefore, I totally agree with PMB who said during his campaigns that looters of the economy are worse than terrorists. Imagine one Nigerian looting $6b, meanwhile, America is giving us $5m as their widow’s mite in the North-East, because they know that a citizen of ours has $6b looted and kept in their country.
 It is absolute madness. I think they should be accordingly dealt with and money repatriated. And when that happens, the money should not be shared as it was done in previous administrations, where such looted money was shared between federal and state governments. Instead it should be used for infrastructural development such as rail network country-wide, power, steel plants, textile industries, drainage of water ways, building of dams, massive low cost housing in the Federal Capital Territories and in the state capitals, so that workers will have affordable houses, and basic transport to enable their take home pay to take them home comfortably.
The Boko Haram crisis is still here getting messier, can Nigeria win this insurgency war?
 Of course, Nigeria will win the war.  Boko Haram will fizzle out. What they are doing now is the ‘dying of a desperate man.’ How can anyone use innocent 8-year-old girls to fight his war? They tie bombs around innocent children and then tell them to move out and they then use remote control to blow the innocent girl up. Is that how to fight a war? They can’t even confront our forces. They are using innocent girls to cause havoc. It is the sign that they are at their ebbs-end. Eventually that will be taken care of. We are mobilising forces all right but we must also involve indigenes of the North-East. They must defend themselves too. If they can stop Boko Haram from recruiting their boys/men and using their girls, we would win the war from that point. Also, our Muslim religious leaders should be given police protection to enable them speak up against Boko Haram teachings. Our troops should be able to destroy Boko Haram headquarters, get hold of their ring leaders, stop their supply lines, and then employ anti-guerrilla tactics using vigilante groups and civilians in gathering information and then use precision bombing in our aerial attacks on them.
 It’s probe here and there. The president says he will probe the last government, but people say that is selective. What do you say?
 It is his prerogative. I know that one probe determines what happens thereafter. You do not start counting two when you have not counted one. If it becomes necessary to do that, he could. But in the interim, he has to start with the immediate regime. If a fraud that concerns one regime dovetails into an earlier administration, then of course, he will take it to its logical conclusion without witch-hunting anybody as he promised.
 You released another book a couple of months back. Why are you busy writing now?
 It is all I have to bequeath to posterity. Being a pensioner, I haven’t got wealth to give anybody so I want to leave in the hands of Nigerians documented legacy of how the country has been managing itself all these while. When you tell most of our children that there was civil war in this country, they cannot believe it. So, I have to write more books and hopefully get Ministry of Education to approve of them to be used in our schools.
 I am presently writing my seventh book. The reading culture in Nigeria is very low.  People do not read, and it is said that you have to read in order to lead. Consequently, we have to encourage people to read by getting our books into the school system, which I’m not succeeding, in doing presently. These local books should be mandatory so that people will know what has transpired in Nigeria in the past. I have written a book on the amalgamation of Nigeria. It is crucial this time around.
 For instance, what was the essence of amalgamation and what have been the implications? Was it a mistake or a mission? How can we benefit from the amalgamation? These are the issues that I dealt with in that book. I wrote another one, ‘Nigeria on the brink,’ where I analysed Nigeria’s problems and proffered solutions to them. The book I am writing now is titled, ‘Nigeria and the miracle of a new dawn.’ Again, I am trying to document what really took place during the 2015 elections and the hope for the future. These are the kind of initiative I believe that posterity needs. It is worth reading and making use of such knowledge.

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