Nigeria still struggling in the wilderness -Zebrudaya - CVIEW NEWS

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Monday, 2 October 2017

Nigeria still struggling in the wilderness -Zebrudaya

Veteran comedian, Chief Chika Okpala, popularly known as Chief Zebrudaya Okoroigwe Nwogbo alias 430, an appellation he got from his role as ‘Chief Zebrudaya’ in the TV comedy series, New Masquerade, in this interview with KENNETH OFOMA, speaks on Nigeria’s 57th Independence anniversary, the state of the nation and his memories as a boy
 Chief, can you share your recollections of the mood of the nation as you perceived it during preparations for Nigeria’s independence in 1960?
There was excitement when we were getting closer to independence. Even villagers and others who were not in government were excited too.
And that mood persisted even in subsequent anniversaries shortly after independence before the outbreak of the civil war. Usually schools for children were alerted, flyers were printed and distributed here and there, to say we are going to celebrate anniversary of Nigerian independence and republic.
So everywhere the children are happy, the villagers are happy, the churches are happy, they move around; everywhere is agog, people learn new dance steps they will bring out to the arena, villages had competitions because it’s not all of them that will go to the centre for the celebration of this independence.
So villages compete with different dance troupes, the women dance, the men dance and the youths have their own kind of dance and there is competition. First, second, third are lined up, usually those that take the first position are selected to go and represent the town either at the centre or the divisional headquarters.There is usually a match past, some schools were chosen to go and match at the divisional headquarters.
As a child growing up those days what were your expectations?
As a child I did not know where we were going, but we had hope that everybody had equal opportunity; we were not educated on ‘this is a Hausa person, this is a Yoruba person, this is an Igbo person.The Hausa will get everything, they are born to rule’. There is competition everywhere; if you excel you are taken, there is no acrimony, we lived like brothers and sisters; we compete, their children will be competing, our children will be competing, in fact we don’t know who is who.
When they say you are Hausa, nobody takes it as a derogatory thing or you are Igbo, omo Igbo, omo Yoruba, omo kobo kobo, omo ofe mmanu and all that; no. Those derogatory languages were not used in those days. We were all Nigerians; we have all striving to make the country great.
What was your perception about the kind of leader we had that time?
They were very, very mindful of the post they held and of their family names. There are exceptions but they are very rare.They were God-fearing; they were not as leaders of today. In those days anybody who was in leadership position knew that was accountable to the people and to the state. It was very rare; sparingly you heard that somebody had embezzled or made away with money.
Nigeria has suffered some reversals, starting from the civil war and successive military interventions; do you think our leaders managed the situation well?
The Nigerian civil war, we did not expect it, we did not expect that it should have happened; it was a kind of… because we were living together, we were well mixed together and we did not see anything that would make us to start killing ourselves, no. But some people felt that they were oppressed in the system. I think it was the military that actually came up.
The military saw corruption in the politicians who were piloting the country and some of them were swindling our money any how; they no longer remembered that this money was the sweat of the peasants in the society.
So the military felt, well, I don’t know, I wasn’t in the military or in the barracks; but I think they felt that such corruption should stop. And they thought that if they remove the leaders at that time the corruption will stop. And somewhere along the line according to them, they decided to eliminate some people and amongst the people they wanted to eliminate, they did not go round, either by one technical fault or another, they did not go round to kill all.
And so some people now use it as politics and say it’s only our people that were affected, your people were not affected, therefore we have to show you, and they carried it since that time, 1966 to now.And forgetting to say what exactly happened, those people who were killed were they actually corrupt, were they stumbling block? Those who were not killed, how do we get them to kill them, if they were slated to be killed, why didn’t you arrest them? (Laughter). They should have arrested them to be killed because if you clean all of them everybody stands at status-quo, but if you glorify them and keep them apart and begin to nurse your ill feeling, it will never end. You see what is happening in the country today. The bitterness continues. Some people say they want to go, you say kill them. You cannot finish a tribe, it’s unfortunate.
Most of them, three times the number of people you see in Nigeria, are outside Nigeria and they are busy procreating every day. So anybody who is nursing the feeling to go and wipe out a people is doing that because he is ignorant of independence and ignorant of the existence of human beings; you are not God, you cannot manufacture a hair.
You can’t even manufacture a bomb; there is nothing you can be proud of. I hear the other day; they said Nigeria will begin to manufacture pencil, after how many years you will manufacture pencil for children to go to school. Even then, manufacture it let’s see, whether it’s a good HB pencil or not.
How do you think the issue of agitations for separation and restructuring could be addressed?
The fact is that the person at the head who should actually weigh these things and take proper decisions is biased and he has shown it by these clamourings here and there. You don’t need to be biased as a leader, you should never be biased, you should always open your minds.
All you should do is to advise; because you are not elected to that position if it is by election. But even in military regime some military leaders still depend on the community to say what do we do for you, what are we doing you don’t appreciate? Some military leaders did that but some did not want to know, all they know is go and kill, go and kill; kill who, how many children have you got in the society that will be killed?
I see it as somebody who hasn’t got leadership skills. Leaders don’t kill, all they do is to reconcile and bring out what will never cause problem in the society, call the people together, what do we do to stop all these bickering? Because it has got to stop, if you don’t stop it, it will continue even when you die as a leader.
Looking at the nation’s economic development, have our leaders who are the managers of these things done well?
Let’s come to the issue of leadership and restructuring again. Instead of looking at how to kill people or how to maim them or divide them, we should think of how to boost our development in economy. What are we adding, supposing there was no oil?
Our people lived when there was no oil and encouragement at that time was in tasks: East you produce your palm oil and palm kernel, your palm produce; West you give us cocoa; North you give us groundnuts.Now the north does not give us groundnut anymore, we don’t see the pyramid of groundnut rather it is where to go and kill. East you don’t give us palm produce again rather you are concerned with where to go and fight. West stays in the…they are neither here nor there but they don’t give us cocoa. Less emphasis on what united us before is what we see today.
We used to live without oil; oil came as a kind of succour to make sure that we can have development to accelerate our growth after independence that is if we had good leaders. Unfortunately the thing went into their heads and they didn’t know how to manage the funds. We still have the land, God has not polluted our lands, and our lands are still productive. I think that the leadership is faulty, 90 percent faulty.
And the worst is if you are a leader and you begin to take advice on how to kill a certain set of people it doesn’t make you a leader, it makes you a tyrant. You need to see what to do to bring their minds together; God has given you that leadership to bring the people together to live as brothers and sisters.

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