My Generation Was Greatly Betrayed —Enahoro



Excerpts Of The Interview With Pini Jason In 2005 Under The Chinua Achebe Foundation  Series

•Pa Anthony Enahoro.

The first and obvious question to ask you, chief is — at 82, why are you still  in the struggle that you started around the age of 21?
I have often said, in answer to this question, that we “the youth of my  generation”set out to struggle for freedom, modernization and democracy. As you  know, we succeeded with freedom. We also succeeded, to a great extent, with  modernization, but it is sad that Nigeria has had a deplorable record with  democratization. We have failed so far. Until that goal is realized, I consider it a  betrayal of the dreams of my generation and colleagues “ many of whom died in our  struggles “ to retreat. I refuse to believe that destiny has let me live so long in  reasonable health for me to betray our struggle and selfishly confine myself to  personal matters.

What would you say, to use Chinua Achebe’s memorable term, is the trouble with  Nigeria ?
Trouble with Nigeria is monumental. The country’s structures are wrong, its  system of government is wrong, and the policies of the party in power are wrong. Can  right come out of so much that is wrong?

You were part of General Gowon’s wartime cabinet. Given the trend of agitations  today, which tend towards ethnic self-determination, would you say, with hindsight,  that the civil war was necessary, given that the Biafrans insisted on a  confederation?
I have always held that the civil war was unnecessary and avoidable. The  delegation of the Midwest Region, which I led at the 1966 conference, held  behind-the-scenes, discussions with leaders of each of the other delegations; we  made proposals, which the leader of the Eastern delegation, Prof Eni Njoku, agreed  to go to Enugu to try and sell to the then Military Governor of the Eastern Region,  Colonel Ojukwu. The Conference therefore adjourned for a short period; but Prof  Njoku and the Eastern delegation never returned to the Conference, and that was the  end of our efforts.

You were the leader of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, which fought  the military for democracy. The question people often ask is — how come many of the  pro-democracy activists are not active participants in the post military politics?
Many of us in NADECO, including myself, held the view that it is not the business  of the military to impose a constitution on the country. We believed that this  constituted the danger of a subtle continuation of military rule, and that if we  participated in validating military rule by supporting Gen Abdulsalami (Abubakar),  the military might find a way to impose one of its own on the country as Head of  Government.

When, in the fifties, you moved the motion for independence, what type of a  nation did you have in mind?
There was no general agreement on this question. What was important was that we  should be free from alien rule. Some of us, particularly the youths in all parties,  were agreed on the issues of democracy, the parliamentary system of government, and  staying in the commonwealth. On the latter, I can say that if India had not chosen  to remain in the Commonwealth, we the youths would have been opposed to Nigeria  remaining in the Commonwealth.

Some say our glory is in the past. And they say this when they look back and see  that Nigeria , no matter the post-independence problems, was on the right path.  Where would you say we missed the road?
Some might say that the turning point was the 1959 elections when the Premiers of  the Eastern and Western Regions decided to compete personally for control of the  central government while the Northern Premier, the Sarduana of Sokoto, chose to  remain in power in Kaduna in the Northern Region, and send his subordinate, Abubakar  Tafawa Balewa, to Lagos as Prime Minister. Briefly, the consequence was that the  National Prime Minister was superior to the leaders of the East and West, but  subordinate to the Leader of the North. The consequences were weighty.

Nigeria was an emerging economy, so much that the Eastern part alone was  described as the fastest growing economy in Africa . But today we are a poor-rich  country. How, in your view can we begin to fix the economy?
My theory is — through Agriculture and Exports. We must feed ourselves  adequately, and we must produce abundantly for export.

If you were in any government, what would be your recipe for reviving our  agriculture?
I would call it developing rather than reviving. We are importing too much of our  food, and exporting too little to other African countries. We have no justification  for being a poor-rich country, given our abundance of raw materials and our  production potential.

There has been a controversy over our debt relief. Should we exit the debt trap  the way the government has gone about it, or would you have recommended a  repudiation of the debt?
It has been suggested variously that repayment should have been spread over a far  longer period, and that debts of dubious credibility should have been repudiated. I  have not heard persuasive arguments against these propositions.

Part of the nation’s problem relates to corruption and unethical conduct in  public office. It seems that the fine line between the ethical and the unethical has  disappeared. For example, in your time, would it have been ethical for, say, Awolowo  or Zik to have appointed their wives or sons to boards of corporations then?
It would generally have been considered unethical, and it would certainly have  been resisted. I assure you it would have been not merely unacceptable, but  unthinkable! None of the parties in power would have accepted it in their areas.

Do you think that the Immunity Clause — as set out in the Constitution — has  contributed to the level of corruption in public office today?
Certainly! There may be a strong case for immunity to apply to the Head of State,  but there can be no case for immunity to apply to the Head of Government from the  consequences of his misdeeds!

There are people who point out that corruption started not with the military, but  with a particular military regime. Considering the influx of retired military  officers into politics, and the speculated return of some Generals to power, would  you support a blanket ban on retired military officers from politics?
The promoter of corruption is not so much the profession of those in power as the  system by which they come to power!

There are people who say the just concluded National Political Reforms Conference  was a failure. Others say that it was a success, notwithstanding that it was  inconclusive on the issue of resource control. Has the conference offered you any  incentive to go on with the PRONACO conference?
Very much so! If what you say is correct, and some Nigerians allege that the  Abuja Conference was a success, while others argue that it was a failure, I can only  say that such differences are natural. After all, there are very many people on  earth who justify the presence of evil by arguing that without evil, freedom of  choice would not exist.

What value can the PRONACO Conference add to the production of a people’s  constitution?
It is a vital aspect of the PRONACO approach that the options should be explained  to the public, and that the decisions of the conference should be submitted to a  popular referendum, for a free choice by the people.

What important political act do you think needs to be taken to fix Nigeria ’s  problem?
As I have said earlier, delegates must represent the views of their  constituencies, and the consensus decisions of the Conference should be subjected to  a popular referendum.

The National Population Commission is planning to count Nigerians without  annotating their ethnic origin or their religion. As a man who takes ethnic identity  seriously, how do you feel about this?
Can you imagine a census of the United Kingdom in which citizens must not state  whether they are English or Scottish or Welsh or Irish, or a census of the United  States of America in which you must not state whether you are Native American or  some other race?

You are reputed to be Nigeria ’s youngest Newspaper editor ever. At that time,  what were the challenges of an editor, vis-à-vis the nationalist struggle?
In those days, a nationalist newspaper was a monitor of wrongdoings by the  colonial government of the day, and the newspaper was an advocate and promoter of  the termination of colonial rule. Our newspapers were advocates of democracy and  social advancement.

King’s College today is a shadow of itself, and that is true of many great  schools; meaning that a lot has gone wrong with our educational system. First, what  was life like in King’s College in your days? Secondly, what must we do to bring  back the old glories in our educational system?
King’s College was inevitably different from what it is today, in many respects.  For example, the anglicisation of students was the rule everywhere-in the classroom,  in the dining hall, in the chapel and in other ways and other places. I do not think  you can restore the old glories in our educational system purely as it was. As the  system was intended to promote anglicisation, it paid no attention to the diverse  cultures of our people. I think the way forward is through re-orientation of the  system based on our present and future needs and ambitions.

Your political life has seen you as chief editor in Zik’s paper, then as a member  of the Action Group, a cabinet member of Gowon’s  military regime, a member of the  National Party of Nigeria, a leader of NADECO, a pro-democracy group against  military regime, a leader of MNR which was once in alliance with the ruling PDP, and  now PRONACO chairman. What informed your political choice at each stage?
As I said earlier, the grand goals, to my generation, were independence,  modernization and democratization. To these I would add the integrity of our  country, a concept usually referred to as One Nigeria. In retrospect, these have  never been far from the forefront of my option, at any given time.

How far and how much longer are you prepared to be in the trenches?
Who knows? The answer to that question depends partly on destiny, and partly on  desire. I am a deep believer in destiny, so I would say that the answer to your  question depends on destiny, of which I do not believe that anyone has ultimate  control!

Are you grooming successors to the struggle? I ask this because people would say  that the fact that you are still at the frontline of the struggle is a sign of a  failure of the leadership of the past to nurture successors?
If the challenges of today were the same as those of yesterday, and if our means  of meeting the challenges were the same as yesterday’s,  I might agree with what,  according to you, people might say. Besides, it is arguable whether there hasn’t  been at least as much failure of followership as failure of leadership.

  Copyright protected by Digiprove © 2010 P.M.News

Load more