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Back You are here: Home News Personal Interview States should be autonomous ---Prof MAC Odu

States should be autonomous ---Prof MAC Odu

Eze (Prof) Mark Odu, a writer, teacher and political thinker is a seasoned estate surveyor and valuer. He is not new to public discourse and has been a very active and vocal participant in Nigeria’s public narrative space in the last 40 years. He taught Estate Management in three Nigerian Universities. He was instrumental to the setting up of the Department of Estate Management at the University of Lagos in 1983, infact he personally took over the headship of that department and  tuned the academic programmes in line with the standards set up by The Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) and the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON). He has contributed immensely to the field of estate management in Nigeria and has written extensively on issues pertaining to land laws, regional and urban planning, politics, culture and tradition. He has been the President of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, he was the National President, University of Nigeria Alumni Association from 1989 to 1993. Eze Mark Odu has been a nationalist for all of Nigeria’s post Biafran War period. He ran under the platform of NPN for House of Representatives in 1979 and in 1999 ran as candidate of Alliance for Democracy for Imo State Governorship position. Presently, he is the traditional ruler of Amohuru Autonomous Community, Nguru Mbaise and is involved in grassroots economic empowerment projects through cooperatives as a way of tackling growing poverty in Nigeria.. In this interview with KKELECHI DECA, he takes a stand on the National Conference, expectations, and burning issues that must be addressed. He highlighted that for Nigeria to move forward, there is utmost need to restructure virtually every aspect of its national life. Excerpts:

How would you describe the state of the Nigerian nation?
It is disappointing. We have lost direction as a nation, if we were ever one, we are a country, and we are a country still, a country of disparate interests and groups. There is no core national ethos holding us together, that is the sad part of it. The joyful part of it is that we can build the nation; we can create a people out of this amalgam of disparate people. We can develop an ethos for all nationals of the country and we can make the size pay because not very many nations have the benefit of the size and numbers that we have in Nigeria. So that is the two sides of the coin.
Presently, there is too much trouble in the land and the security situation is getting out of hand coupled with the upcoming elections, how do you situate all these?
Actually, there will not be an election because the conditions for our relationship will change at the National Conference, so focusing on election that will be based on the old constitution will be fool hardy at this time. We are probably going to come out federating as a nation, that is true federation which means the centre will no longer be as attractive as it has been. You can see the greed that powered this over-concentration of power and resources in Abuja. Abuja was designed for 100,000 maximum but today it is sitting over four million and still expanding. You can see all those thriving with the will of the people are the negative traits of over-concentration of power out of a strong centre which is not wholesome for our existence. On the other side of security, I have written about Boko Haram and you have read some, it is a warning to the northern political elite to be very careful how they handle their people if they are prospecting for a stop to this carnage, that is good, but the signal should go out loud and clear that the status quo will never be the same again. For an oligarchic thin layer to hold the populations of people down for so long without a revolt has been the mystery, that revolt having started is unlikely to stop till they reshape society into a consciousness of the bottom of the social pyramid. They are stronger, they are more numerous and they would continue to dictate the law of happiness of any given group of people?

You made mention of restructuring the society. Is that need for a restructuring a challenge only in the Northern part of Nigeria or is it a general problem?
It is more in the north because of the oligarchic system there. In the north, there are very rich and powerful people at the very top, while below, you have poor and helpless people. There are no middle class, that is wrong. And they sustained it this long because they were drawing from the exchequer of the federal government. A man comes and hosts people to a meal in his house and after that, he takes them out and uses them to cause havoc when there is such a need for his selfish purposes. And he does not lift them up because he prefers them there so they will remain instruments for his desires. He calls them out to unleash mayhem on the neighbourhood as he wishes. That is the problem we have up north and unless this is tackled, there is no going forward.
If they can lift the people up with the activities of a sustainable nature that will make them self-sufficient as human beings not enslaved, not as disposables, then there will be positive change, but they do not want to lift those people up because lifting them up will work against the selfish interest of the very rich. These are the causes of the challenges they face in that region.
Looking at the National Conference, the way it is constituted and how it was set up. Do you have hope that this will at least provide answers to some of the questions facing us as a nation?
I am certain that if only there are ten genuine people inside there and the terms are crisp, clear and sharp, they won’t come out without achieving something worthwhile. Ten, just ten, out of the whole morass of hundreds of people, just ten, and if those ten can be found from the various tribes, the matters are so cogent, so clear, that it can’t be glossed over any more, that is my take on that. I don’t have to be there, but from where I will be, I will stoke the fires that will see to a better agreement for the future of this country.
If you were to be at the National Conference what are the issues which you will ensure that no matter what, that they must be tabled and be addressed?
I will first of all cardinalised the issues of autonomy of states. That states are sufficiently autonomous, to exploit resources within their states and manage it for the benefit of their people. That is one. Second, I will call for the witling down of central government, except for the major issues that should be on the exclusive list such as international affairs, defense and monetary issues, but the states should be made strong and autonomous enough to handle issues like education, health, taxation, resource management and the exploitation of all natural resources within its boundary. I will also ensure that all the unwieldy legislations at the federal level is whittled down while the states take responsibilities of the laws within its jurisdiction.

One major challenge we are facing as a people is the dearth of genuine or would I say quality leadership. How best can this be tackled?
We should have a constitution that emphasis on talents and how best to use such talents to serve the people. Also we need an election that will help in the emergence of quality candidates. If I have the opportunity, I won’t give fools a chance anywhere I find myself. In any constituency I have an interest; I must ensure that fools will not have any room to operate. You know I accepted to run for Ezeship in my community, and when I finish with them there in in my community in Mbaise, and in Imo State, and by extension the South East, they will know that Ezeship is not for self-aggrandizement. When I take on anybody and put paper down, that person will be done for. And you know in doing this, I will be guided by truth, fairness and honesty and dedication. I have written our people and they believe in me. That is enough for me at this time.
What is your outlook for Nigeria?
Nigeria with this National Conference will start again, it will start afresh, take it or leave it. Thing will not be the same again. Your own generation should now take the lead on the basis of accountability, on the basis of probity and on the basis on fairness, with this, the national will rise. That is my take.

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