Thursday, 12 January 2017

Breaking away from each other will not solve Nigeria’s problem—Gen. Sam Momah

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General (Dr.) Sam Momah (CFR, Ph-D) former Minister of Science & Technology, Federal Republic of Nigeria

General Sam Momah (CFR), a two time minister of Science and Technology can be described as a credible interventionist in the affairs of the nation whenever the ship of the state is facing rudderless challenges. Momah a soldier and gentle man has always intervened with books on nation building, technology and economic policies that can liberate the country from the pangs of mystery and poverty. The writer who just returned from a writing retreat with his 8th book “Nigeria’s Break-Up: Grave Consequences & Solutions” is a patriot who has held several appointments in the country including, Adjutant General of the Army, Commander, Training and Doctrine Command, Council Member of the University of Jos and Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka; Vice President, Third World Academy of Science with headquarters in Italy and the pioneer Director of the National War College, Abuja. General Momah spoke about the reason for writing his new book in a rare encounter with the media in the last week of December 2016 in Abuja, Federal Capital City of Nigeria.
Your Africa’s Number Celebrity Encounter blog, Asabeafrika was there to bring you opinions shared by the elder statesman, which he believes will give Nigerians a re-think about divisions and wars in the land.
Sir, why did you write your 8th book titled “Nigeria’s Break-Up: Consequences and Solutions”?
General Sam Momah to Asabeafrika...'I wrote my 8th book to correct so many impressions about Nigeria'

I have watched for long and seen the pillage and wanton destruction by Boko Haram. We also noticed the activities of the pro-Biafran youths and then of course in the Niger-Delta, we have the Avengers blowing up our pipelines. And recently in the House of Representative, we have had the second reading for the Christian Court bill; all these portend a lot of dangers for our country. When you mix up physical insecurity with religious antecedence, it is very dangerous for our country. Of course, the Christian Court bill is the consequence of the Sharia law; they are trying to counter it. All these bring up a very complex situation for the country. I feel that Nigeria is too big and too precious to be allowed to just disintegrate. I felt like alerting especially the youths, the danger inherent in agitating for the breakup of Nigeria because I believe that Nigeria basically was built on a tripod of the Hausa-Fulani, the Yoruba and the Ibos and if one leg is broken, I believe you can no longer stand on two legs and it will definitely collapse.
General Sam Momah's brand new book launched on December 20th, 2016
This is why it is important to let those that are agitating for Biafra to know the consequences of their actions. Nigeria has the potential of becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Nigeria has the potential of becoming a global super-power in a number of decades to come. I am doing enough to alert Nigerians to make the necessary give and take that will make the country survive. This is the essence of the book, it is just to alert and alarm the war mongers on the grave consequences of the situation of Nigeria. When we watch what is happening today in Syria, we see what is happening in Libya, we see what is happening in Yemen, it shows you the magnitude of violence that could engulf our country if we go the wrong way. In the past, examples have been made of countries that disintegrated and till date, they are still in the war mood.
One of General Sam Momah's book on the power of Nigeria's amalgamation
We can start with Sudan, Sudan fought a war for several years and eventually by referendum carved out Southern Sudan but today, Southern Sudan is at war with itself. We have the example of Somalia, Somalia has been at war since 1991, that is almost 25 years and Somalia is still at war. Eritrea went through 30 years of civil war and it is still restive. We have other examples like in Korea, you know what is happening between North and South Korea since 1950, the conflict have been on, making about 66 years that they have been in conflict. We have the example of India and Pakistan since 1947; they have been at war in Kashmir for over 70 years. So, the examples are unlimited and this is what I foresee that if we ever go to war, we are not just talking about Biafra, if we go into a second civil war, the war may last upward of 50 years and I can see most of our cities being obliterated.
General Sam Momah to Asabeafrika....'We need to start a total re-orientation for our people to get to work and build Nigeria'
Because a war that will last 50 years will make us lose about 30 million souls. So, let us not take that route. I believe in dialogue, I believe in give and take. I believe in looking up and having a peaceful legacy for our grand and great grand children. We went through the civil war for just 30 months and the ill-effect of that war is still on, it is that war that caused the economy to stumble. We went into creating space, creating new Local Government Areas, over stretching the economy and today Nigeria is where it because of a civil war of 30 months. Now, if we go into a war that will last decades, can you imagine the magnitude of calamity that will happen? So, I am appealing to the youths, I am appealing to the adults, I am appealing to everybody to let us see how we can build up a new country that can accommodate everybody.
General Momah's most auspicious book 'NIGERIA: BEYOND DIVORCE'
I am not saying that Nigeria is perfect, a lot of things ought to be made right and this is why the second part of the book focused on what should be made right in the Nigerian society. A lot of things are wrong; the book talked of restructuring and so many other things like respecting the secularity of Nigeria and other issues. So, it is a book that is not saying that Nigeria is perfect. Nigeria needs to take a bold step to make good most of the lapses that has been constitutionally enshrined in our constitution. And those things are things I believed should be made good so that the nation will move forward. The re-structuring we are talking about is to cut down on the over head expenses. Instead of having 36 states, can’t we cut it down to 12 states? Can’t we remove the local government areas and have provinces? Let’s say 60 provinces for instance? Can’t we have 36 Senators instead of 109? Can’t we have just 120 House of Representatives members instead of 360? These are the re-structuring I am talking of and once we do this, we will be saving almost Five trillion Naira annually and that Five trillion can be put into infrastructural development and offering employment to the youths and cut down on the restiveness of the youths, and then of course, neutralizes militancy among the youths. So, it is a matter of taking the right approach and we will be killing two birds with one stone when we do so. My new book is basically to alert Nigerians on the consequences of a second civil war and then, suggest what should be done to make sure Nigeria becomes acceptable to all the nationalities that make up the country.
General Sam Momah & Wife with eminent Nigerians during his 70th birthday and launching of his book 'Nigeria: Beyond Divorce' in 2013
You were one of those who campaigned profoundly for President Muhammad Buhari. As his former PSO (Principal Staff Officer) you said he meant well. But do you think the government has lived up to her change mantra after a year in office?
General Sam Momah to Asabeafrika....'We need to kick start our change mantra with an ethical revolution'
Well, everyone is saying that the change is not with human touch, that the change is yet to be felt by the grass root. And the change is still looking theoretical. And I believe this is what the government of the day should try and look internally and see what has actually gone wrong. For instance, the jingle of change to me is not powerful enough. We want a jingle that will ginger people and motivate them. I used to always like this (jingle) of War against Indiscipline (WAI) when we had it. It had an impact. So, I think the jingle, maybe have to be reviewed and made more powerful. I believe there has to be more coordination between the federal and state government. Change out to be total and holistic to be effective. Today, Change seems to be only in Federal Government. The 36 states are still on their own not to talk of the Local Government Areas. Change has to be total so that, nobody reverses it tomorrow.
The General speaks as the GDA listens
So, the platform for enforcing change or making people to imbibe change should be widening. I believe no matter the party in the state, what we are talking about is change for the survival and prosperity of Nigeria. And to do so, whether you are in PDP or APC, whatever party you may belong to, the survival of Nigeria is the ultimate aim of everybody. We must agree that Change should be total and then, thirdly, I agree with the Change slogan. People tend to think that change is just a means of allowing milk and honey drop from the sky. Change means you, how much have you changed? Look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘am I what I should be?’ Are mine too fat or too thin, what do I do to myself? How do I change?’ Then, families should also look at themselves. If a family has a young man who is an armed robber and they just keep on benefiting from his armed robbery and you don’t change that attitude, of course you are not contributing to change. So, change should be attitude of the mind. Change should come from the heart. It should not be really enforced. It is something that should come from within and this is what I think is missing. I thought this administration should have gotten into ethical re-orientation of Nigerians. Our value system should change; our sense of patriotism, our sense of oneness, clean clear spirit should have been promoted by that ethical re-orientation organ of government. And once that is done, everything will now change from within. But without giving back people the opportunity of re-orientating them, nothing will change. And then, of course, government should practicalize it by showing that we all belong to the same country, we are equal, there is a level playing field. Issues like federal character system should be reviewed.
General Sam Momah to Asabeafrika....'Only a united Nigeria can make us great for ever'
You may limit it to only the political appointments and only security posts. But when it comes to productivity, the yard stick has to be by merit. Particularly our education, you find out that most countries of the world that has prospered, their education is knowledge best. Japan, Switzerland, Austria, Netherlands, they have no oil but they are leading the economies of the world. They are human based economies and human beings can move mountains. It is not only oil and others that should make a nation. So, if we now kind of demoralize those human resources through ineffective and lopsided application of federal character, we are in trouble. Federal character seems to dampen competition because whatever you get is as an entitlement. You are getting it because you come from A or B part of the country; and when you get that job; you are not getting it because you merit it but because you are a Nigerian from this particular part of the country. So, this is why most countries limit that to political appointments and for the senior security top jobs. 
General Sam Momah to Asabeafrika....'Nigeria has no reason to divide'
When it comes to who is the vice chancellor of your university, who is the lecturer, when it comes to running your parastatals, when it comes to running your factory or running the power sector, it should be purely on merit. So, that the person will go there and defend that merit and perform it. These are issues I think that has damped change and I think along the line, these are issues we need to look in to make this change thing to be real
One of General Sam Momah's books
There have been a strong call for the restructuring of the country by eminent Nigerians including ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar but this government seems not to be too interested in doing that. Do you think that is a good way to go?
I think with many people speaking up now, I think Mr. President would have to re-consider his stand on re-structuring. I am totally in support of re-structuring and that is why in my book, I tried to highlight what I mean by re-structuring. Restructuring does not mean the breaking of Nigeria. Re-structuring essentially is to see how you can re-jig the system so that you can have a breathing space. I remember what (Professor) Soludo did when he was governor of Central Bank of Nigeria and I feel it is a good example of re-structuring.
Then, we use to have 160 banks and he was able to re-structure and collapse everything into about 60 banks. If he didn’t do that, I don’t think the economy of Nigeria would have been standing. This is exactly what we are talking about re-structuring, we have 36 states, out of which 27 cannot pay salaries. We have 31 of them that cannot run local government elections; they are just sending their cronies to be chairmen of Local Government Areas and all that. For some years now, nobody has run a local government election because the state can’t do that. So, the states are not functional. Few days ago, I saw Osun State in the news and they said he has not appointed commissioners since he came for second term. The Governor just run the state because he cannot afford to pay his commissioners, there is no executive councils after two years of his second tenure. So, really, if you look at it, it is only Lagos State that is fit to be a state because it has remain in the same geographical boundary from pre-colonial times till today. It has not been mutilated like others. It has built up it potentials and cumulative potential has been built up and that is why the state till today, gathers almost N30 billion Naira IGR (Internal Generated Revenue) every month. It does not even bother about federal allocation per se; and that is what a state should be. So, the remaining 35 states are neither here nor there. They have one problem or the other; they can’t pay their pension services, they can’t look after the potential of the people; ordinary water, they can’t produce for their people and health service delivery is in comatose.
The General with family and friends during his 70the birthday in 2013 (Ex-First Lady, Mrs. Maryam Abacha, and present Minister of Science and Technology, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu and Mrs. Momah)
Therefore, the recession we are talking about is how to cut down on the number of states. Personally, I feel 12 states would have been the best thing for Nigeria because we have six zones; all you have to do is just divide six zones into two and you have 12 states. Of course, I would like to see Lagos remain an entity, I don’t want us to go and disturb them. So, I say let us have 3 states per zone so that you have a total of 36 states. The present 36 states structure will be a nucleus of the new provinces we are going to have. You know we have 36 states for now, they will remain but you would have cut off the state status thing.
One of the General's recent books on crisis facing Nigeria as a nation
Then, of course, you have to now add some places where the demand has been for autonomy. Like the Idomas have been talking about Apa State and the Ijebus have been talking of autonomy, such states can become provinces so that you can now have a total of additional 24 states and add to the 36 and it becomes about 60 provinces. But only the states will have states of assemblies to legislate, the provinces would not have any of such because these are the things that are consuming the resources in the state. You have state houses of assembly that are there collecting money and doing nothing, what law are they passing? They are just rubber stamps of the governors. This is why I believe that we must restructure and I believe that Mr. President must take this very, very seriously because he has the opportunity to become the founding father of modern Nigeria which will be based on a re-structured Nigeria. I believe he must build that legacy.
Another of the General's books on the Power of Science & Technology for development of a nation

But the report of the National Conference carried out by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s regime is said to be meant for the dustbin by President Buhari which shows his disdain for the document. What do you advise Mr. President to do on this? 
General Sam Momah welcomes Mr. John Achelenu of PUNCH to his ambiance
That is similar to re-structuring because this re-structuring cannot take place if there is no national conference. I believe the best way to get it done is through a national conference where a consensus can be raised on what would be the content of the re-structuring. The National Conference would back it and of course, a referendum would be held to now make a people mandate to exist. I believe too that Mr. President would have to, for the sake of posterity, do something about setting up a National Conference. It is virtually inevitable. Because some of this changes we are talking about, some of the baggage that has been dragging Nigeria backward, it is a national conference that can address those things, a national conference where we have all the nationalities, all the stake holders and you say ‘let’s talk’. The militancy we have today, if you don’t allow them to talk, then, the madness continues. I believe the National Conference would give everyone the opportunity to vent their anger and we discuss and see how we meet each other half way and see how we can get a new Nigeria established and like I said before, it is a golden opportunity for Mr. President to try and take the mantle of being the founding father of a modern Nigeria by instituting a National Conference as soon as possible.
The General gives Mr. Paul Ukpabio of Nation Newspaper copies of his books
The other burning issue is the one concerning the Christian Court Bill which has passed the second reading in the House of Representatives. What do you think this portend for Nigeria and Nigerians?
Yes, it is a very, very serious issue. I have always felt very disturbed that the 12 northernmost states in Nigeria passed the Sharia law and are practicing Sharia in their respective states. I don’t know how they manage with the Christian community there. But our constitution enshrines that no state has a right to have a state religion. Our constitution that made that very specific, that both Federal and State (Government) are not allowed to have a state or federal religion. But when it happened in the time of (President) Obasanjo, I think he compromised and allowed it. But today, some Christians are now asking for a Christian Court of Appeal.
L-R; The GDA, Mr. Paul Ukpabio of Nation Newspaper, General Sam Momah, Mr. Leonard Jude of Daily Trust Newspaper and Mr. John Achelenu of PUNCH Newspaper after an encounter with The General in Abuja
And so, it means that we are heading for a theocracy, government by religion and you know religion is the opium of the people, once it comes in, people will fight to eternity to defend it. So, we hope that we don’t get into a religious war and this is why we must diffuse the effect of religion in our country. We must make religion a personal affair between the citizens and their creator. It is not something the government should dabble into. The pilgrimage thing and all those activities should be left to private individuals; that is how it is done in most countries. I was in Pakistan to run a course and when it is time for pilgrimage, government does not know about it. Individuals pay their fair and go. How you go and return is your business. But here, we have government’s input in religion. We have pilgrim board for Christians, pilgrim board for Muslims. We must hands-off everything that has to do with religion and allow it to be a personal thing. Cut out state’s involvement in religion and make sure that we do not sow the opium that will destroy us.
The GDA & Mr. Soni Daniel of Vanguard Newspaper in a rare pose with General Sam Momah after an encounter in Abuja
We have groups like IPOB calling for secession yet the President said Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable. Do you think Mr. President is right?
I am not too sure of Mr. President’s frame of mind when he said that. There is nothing on earth that is not negotiable. The only issue he pointed out was the fact that he will not be the president of a disintegrated Nigeria.  He will not stand by and watch Nigeria disintegrate. That is to say he will not see Nigeria disintegrate under his watch. That is what he is saying by that; after all, today he is negotiating with the Niger-Delta; he has been talking with their leaders. I think the press just misquoted Mr. President. What he means is that Nigeria will never disintegrate under his watch and I think he has a right to his views on issues. I do too, I believe that Nigeria should remain one and Nigeria should not disintegrate.
GDA, Mr. Soni Daniel of Vanguard Newspaper & General Sam Momah
We should negotiate every other thing but let’s remain together because I don’t want to face 60 years war. Not just me, it is for you guys and my grand children. I don’t want to mortgage their future for one stupid war, especially when you are looking at what is happening today in war torn countries. You wouldn’t want Nigeria to be part of it. So, Nigeria should try to remain one, let’s solve all our problems internally and lead the black world because we have the potential to lead the black world.  
(To get any of Gen. Momah’s books call 080-3-596-35-26 for delivery in any part of the world or for direction to e-copy)

Gbenga Dan Asabe

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