From Wilson Okereke
Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), South East chapter, and Senior Special Assistant to Ebonyi State Governor on Religion and Welfare Matters, Very Rev. Fr. (Dr) Abraham Chukwuma Nwali, in this exclusive interview with Sunday Sun, has suggested that there should be a legislation granting Nigerians the power to possess weapons for protection.
He also spoke on other sundry issues aside the spate of insecurity in the country. Excerpts:
Father, can you emphasize more on this your advice for Nigerians to bear arms?
I’m saying this because Nigeria at 62 years as a nation, we should have been old enough as other nations to enjoy a lot of things, but surprisingly, the nation has not done well security-wise. It is clear, one can’t see any nation in the whole world where criminals have taken over the security of the nation more than the military, we need to beef up the security, there should be a bill to clear our forests so that transparently, we can see everywhere, we need the political courage. And if life is threatened, there should be a projected law as found in America and Europe permitting everyone to be carrying weapon, one needs to be armed to secure his life, some people will say that such will bring about proliferation of arms and killings, but I will ask, are the same killings not going on now? Are people not killing by strangulation?
What can you say about the recently celebrated Independence anniversary of Nigeria and 26 years of the creation of Ebonyi State?
As Ebonyi State celebrates 26 years of creation and Nigeria celebrates 62 years of independence, it is a course to be grateful because in all things and situations, we need to be grateful to God, who knows what would have happened, if the Lord was not on our side, probably our dear nation would have collapsed by now, the nation would have been disintegrated, who knows what would have happened, if the Lord was not on our side, perhaps, Ebonyi State would have been consumed by now, the development we are seeing would not have come our way, thus, in all things, we remain grateful. About Ebonyi State at 26, we have every course to be grateful, I keep saying that no human is perfect, in all our foundational leaders, they have left their imprints, the first is our dear Walter Feghabo who left us with imprints of the gunning, with what is called the map of the gunning which was drawn in the early 70s and he set up the foundational imprint. The second was Simeon Oduoye, who came and continued especially with the discipline of civil service, I think that was the time, we had what we called disciplined civil servants and civil servants’ role, 8 O’clock in office was 8 O’clock. The third person was our dear father, His Excellency, Senator (Dr) Sam Ominyi Egwu who was in crazy pursuit of education, having known our background foundationally, he became the Commissioner for Education, thereafter, he became the governor. He gave education the first face, since then, he was the person that made the first set of Ebonyians especially from Abakaliki bloc to go overseas and become professionals in the areas of medicine, law, engineering, medical sciences, among others. That was when we began to have the best graduating law, medical students of Ebonyi State, since that time, things have not been as sweet as they were then. Followed by our dear father, His Excellency, Chief Martin Elechi, we call him “the builder of bridges of unity,” through his administration Ebonyi State became closer, the areas where people were crossing with canoes became a thing of the past. So, one can walk from his door to his neighbour’s door. I remember that in the early years of my life, no one had crossed Azu Inyaba in Ishielu LGA, during that period, we usually go on a rope and tumbled bridge, I remember then that we used to go on canoe between Ezzama and Oshiri in the present day Ezza South and Onicha local government areas respectively. Presently, if one tells those who were born recently that there was a time when there was no bridge except rope and canoe, they will hardly believe, but it was Chief Elechi that changed the narrative. After that, came our dear, His Excellency, Apostle David Nweze Umahi, we call him, the father of infrastructure who enthusiastically and passionately and also in a hurry to make Ebonyi, Dubai of Nigeria and every blind person can testify that Ebonyi State has the best infrastructure development in this political dispensation. No state has beaten the fact, courtesy of him and we saw the distinction in “let there be light” with him, he is in hurry to put light even in caves and people have turned night business to be louder than the day because there is no IGR. When one wakes in the morning, the person will take his nap and prepare, and once it is 5:00p.m or 6:00p.m, the person will leave for his place of activity, the light has equally reduced the level of criminality except the daring ones as pick pocket, hand bag snatchers and Okada snatchers with riffles and little pocket magazine. Therefore, for these, I said we are grateful because it is 26 years of fulfillments not that we have arrived, but we have made an imprint, we thank our leaders and the entire Ebonyians. There is still much to do, hopefully, His Excellency will finish the airport and it will help to boost the economy of Ebonyi State because outside the few markets, the Federal Allocation and IGR, there is no economy, but in other states as Enugu and Anambra, there are companies littered all over the places, if the airport is concluded, it will boost the economy, people can move from here to Delhi in India; to China and other places. Hopefully, the Olympic Stadium will be completed and we will have a way of arresting the youths who are already in obsession with “Mkpurumiri,” they will be able to do exercise and express the youthful exuberance in a positive way. Hopefully, the Ring Road will be completed and we shall have a way of evacuating our products so that even those in rural areas will be affected by the development. So, with these, I say that we have done very well. In the entire Southeast, it is only Ebonyi that is free to move on Mondays because the discipline has been created and we thank Ebubeagu people no matter that some persons are criticizing them, but without the Ebubeagu officers, we would not have enjoyed the relative peace and security that we are enjoying, we thank the vigilantes of the various communities, we thank the town unions, the traditional rulers and the chairmen of all the council areas. It does not mean that we do not need more developments, our rural areas are yet to enjoy grassroots development, that is why the Ring Road will be of a big help, we also need a lot in education. In the western world as Europe or America, they are handing over schools to the mission, we should summon the political will and courage to handover our schools to the mission because government is no manager of any business, it cannot manage schools, everyone is struggling to go and study in Europe, the mission can open doors and play a supervisory role in the public schools because despite the effort of the government in infrastructure, most of the buildings are without pupils and the ones with pupils are without teachers. Let the government hurriedly hand over the schools to the mission. I can recall that Mr Peter Obi when he was the governor of Anambra State held the bull by the horn by handing over the schools to the mission. Chief Elechi wanted to do the same, but time was not on his side. Governor Umahi tried the same, but because of the limited resources, all those old schools need to be renovated, but someone somewhere will take the challenge.
What of the area of social development?
In the area of health, we have also done well because almost everything can now be found at FETHA, especially at the Emergency Unit and there were all provided by the state government, but God has been so kind in sustaining us because without that, there would have been a serious epidemic, Ebonyi would have capsized, we need our general hospitals which everything had been invested to be funded in order to make them functional. Regarding the health centres, this administration has done a lot and I am appealing that the next administration should try in staffing both the primary healthcare centres and the general hospitals, they do not need expensive doctors, the housemanship doctors are okay, the youth corps members who are in the health system can be engaged and they can be provided with supervisory consultants from time to time. It is the way of harnessing brain and intelligence and I also call for Local Community Health Insurance where our elderly ones will access free medical care. During my studies in Europe, I enjoyed free medical healthcare and social security. If such can be adopted here, we shall do well. When one moves round in Southeast, the person will discover that it is only Ebonyi State that has roads; the same thing applicable to light, it is in Ebonyi that the victims of crisis have gotten help, empowerment is not exceptional, it is in Ebonyi that patients are being discharged in the hospital courtesy of the government. Widows are helped in their thousands in Ebonyi, churches are carried on ecumenically with other assistance, thus Ebonyi State is unique, we are not only the Salt of the Nation, but also light of the nation, we have shown example in security, infrastructure, ecumenism, help to the sick, downtrodden and the abandoned; we have shown a lot of examples despite our little resources. We need to do more nationally in the areas of security, economy because the dollar has crashed our naira. Around 1970s and 1980s, a dollar was equivalent to one naira, during early 1990s, it was a dollar to N100, but today, a dollar is over N700; the naira has crash-landed even some economic prophets are talking about a dollar to N1,000 before the end of the year.
What do you think should be done to arrest the situation?
Nigeria as a nation should invest in infrastructure, build companies in various states and engage our youths. There are so much crises among our youths which have led to a lot of crises nationally and the people have no assurance of tomorrow. In Europe, the citizens built for their great grandchildren, but here in Nigeria, there is no arrangement for that, so, we need a mandatory courage and the political will of the nation to build companies across the 36 states of the federation so that there will be employment. If the infrastructure are provided, if access to our mineral deposits are allowed, by removing it from the Exclusive List in a way that any state with mineral deposit should harness it for the good of its people because is a gift and each gift has a purpose given to the beneficiaries. Nationally, we need to do more in the area of security, economy, religious freedom, if we are a secular state by our constitutional provision of “be and let be,” that is equity, justice and fairness. In Aristotelian knowledge, he said “Be and let be,” meaning that people should live in mutuality and that is the freedom of worship, freedom of expression and freedom of movement. We need to know that we are a nation of multi-lingual, multi-cultural, so, we need to carry everyone along, there will be absence of fear of marginalization, but in all, we thank God and we need to keep our leaders in our prayers and more importantly, our religious leaders because they are also challenged, the society is influencing us very fast, the stories that we never heard in the past are becoming common in the religious sector. We need prayers so that we will remain samples and light, we also need to pray for 2023 to have a fair, credible and trusted election where we will allow God, fairness, security and justice, no one knows, if it is time for God to hear our prayers, by giving us a leader after the heart of Moses, a leader after the people of Israel, a leader who will lead us to the Promised Land.
What is your advice concerning the 2023 general election?
Let us campaign freely without insulting one’s neighbour, avoid hate speeches and malicious talks, let the aspirants sell their manifestos and policies, our people should also grow above money politics, let them grow above Maggi, salt, matches, rice and wrapper.
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