Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: North Does Not Believe in Nigeria's Unity - Omo Omoruyi

interview

Professor Omo Omoruyi, a political scientist, former Director - General of the defunct Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS) and former Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Benin in this interview with Vanguard Politics in Benin, spoke on a host of national issues including why fears that Nigeria may disintegrate persist.

You were reported to be close to dying before you were quickly taken to the United States some months ago. How close were you really to death?

In 2008, when I went to the hospital in Boston, the doctors gave me five years to live. They said they had tried for me and that if after five years I am still alive, then I am a 'miracle patient'. If you read my book, I wasn't expected to live more than five years. In Boston, the Doctor said, 'Omo, we have tried for you. For your kind of cancer, five years is the maximum." But I said Doctor, I want to do more. Now I am undergoing a unique cancer treatment plan. This time around, they put me on the newest drug for the treatment of cancer by the name of Xtiandi.

Leaving a legacy

The drug is a unique one that has just been approved by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States. It costs about 8000 dollars a month and I am supposed to take it for 11 months. Days before 2013, I was worried, asking if I would make it but we are in 2013 now. So, I really thank God for my life.

Looking at the way you were treated at the National Hospital in Abuja and the way you were treated in the United States, what can you say about the health system of the country?

I think one has to be selfish here. If President Goodluck Jonathan must leave a legacy, he must do what President Obama is doing in the United States. We must have a 'Jonathancare' like the Obamacare. It must be a complete health package that will take of the aged, the downtrodden and everybody. He must equip one hospital in every zone of the country and make it a specialist hospital for the treatment of a particular disease instead of the present arrangement whereby every hospital takes care of 1000 diseases.

It appears the North wants to kill the Petroleum Industry Bill, what do you think could be responsible for this?

I will go back to what I said in the past. In 1978/79, I delivered a lecture, a presidential address at the Nigerian Political Science Association. I said if oil was found in Enugu Awka, Kano or Ibadan, who owns the oil will not be disputed. I can assure you of one thing, if oil was found in the North many years ago, the North would have seceded long ago. That is what is responsible for the craze to explore oil in the North.

There is still that fear that the country will break up and that whatever you can grab, quickly grab it now. A document I put together for General Ibrahim Babangida when late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua was to become president contained three vital issues.

They (northern leaders) wanted Yar'Adua to pursue the dredging of River Niger down to Babangida's locality in Baro in Niger State. They also wanted Yar'Adua to initiate the construction of a highway from Kano to Tripoli and quick exploration of our oil. The question is why were the three issues so important to them? The reason is that they did not believe that Nigeria will last.

Dredging of River Niger

If Nigeria breaks up, they would not need to go through the ports in Lagos or Port Harcourt. They just didn't want to rely on the South if Nigeria broke up.

As at that time, Jonathan and his people were opposed to the dredging of River Niger. I was in Yenagoa then in 2005 working for Babangida to become president. They said they would not support him because he was pushing for the dredging of River Niger.

They said I should go and tell him that he should make a public statement that he would not support the dredging of River Niger. Jonathan was deputy governor while (Diepreye) Alamieyeseigha was governor. So, sometimes you wonder: at what stage did Jonathan become a captive of the North? It was understandable when he was vice president but now that he is president, he is still pushing forward with the dredging of the Niger. Right now, the dredging is expected to be completed soon. So, to the question, do the northern leaders have faith in the country, the answer is no; they don't believe the country will last.

Looking at the level of insecurity in the country, do you think the warning given by the US that the country may not survive beyond 2015 is real?

The fear of disintegration is definitely real, it is permanently there in the sub-conscious, but whether the country will disintegrate depends on the political class. The fear exists in the minds of northerners and southerners and everybody is not working to overcome it but to see how they can get the best out of the whole situation.

All these people who are saying they don't want the PIB and are busy chasing oil around the Chad (Basin) are doing so because of this fear. Everything is based on this knowledge that the country can disintegrate at any time. So, don't blame the Americans; the Americans are only saying, with this prognosis will this country last? It is not that they wish the country to disintegrate.

If the North succeeds in killing the PIB in the National Assembly, what do you foresee?

President Jonathan should build his own majority to achieve certain goals. He can do that through a realignment of forces. It depends on what he wants to achieve. Whatever the North wants, they usually put together a majority to do it. So, Jonathan should put together a majority to achieve whatever he wants to achieve. The majority should include members of the ACN, ANPP and the CPC because there is no permanent majority for the achievement of certain ends. Jonathan should lead this country; he is not leading now. He is too dependent on the PDP. He should be able to say this is the legacy I want to leave behind.

What about his economic performance?

Dismal, dismal! Jonathan needs a political agenda, not an economic agenda. Political agenda of where Jonathan wants to take us to is not clear. Now, we are gradually going to the third year of Jonathan's four-year term in office. Let me tell you what that means. First year of a four-year term, you are just coming in and trying to balance. It is that year you try to plan and plant something. Second year, what you planted must start to germinate. Third year is a nomination year, whether you like it or not while the final year is the election year.

Nobody will ever believe you if you say you want to start doing something towards the end of your third year and in the fourth year, there is an alternative to you within and outside of your party. For instance, Atiku (Abubakar) is already talking about 100 per cent derivation to oil-producing people.

That is his manifesto and position. So, talks about campaign posters are even too late because preparations for another election start from the day one is concluded. The man should own up and say I am contesting for a second term or whatever term it is.

So, any group that is working for him is perfectly in order. Let him own up and say based on what I have done, though I don't know what he has done, I am seeking another term. He must be able to say I have stabilized the country and I have given Nigeria leadership. So, if Jonathan cannot face those who want to take his job in and outside of the PDP in the third year, he should forget about a re-election.

But should he contest?

Why should he not contest? Constitutionally, is he entitled to contest?

What about performance?

Performance is to be judged by the people, not by him.

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