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BORDER CLOSURE: We may suffer repercussions for 10 years — Anya

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In an interview with Elder Statesman and Pioneer Chairman of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, NESG, Professor Anya O Anya, 82, on the state of the nation and the way forward where he spoke on the dangers of emasculating the Judiciary, the danger of lopsided security appointments among others

Talking about China, supporters of the government’s closure of land borders are citing the example of China, which they said did so for 40 years

China did not close borders, they prioritized the things they wanted to be done locally, and they also made sure that they kept the doors open to take from the outside world what they wanted and to use it in the way they wanted. They did not want anyone to dictate to them, which is why, when it became necessary to introduce the market economy, they did, and when it was necessary to develop their science and technology in competition with the rest of the world, they did but they wanted to be sure that they are the masters in the house.

It is not the same as mindlessly closing the borders without thinking about the consequences. First of all, it’s already creating a lot of unpopularity for Nigeria in West Africa (ECOWAS). Yes, if these places had been the staging posts for smuggling, first tighten your own borders to make sure that smuggling is not facilitated by your people and for your people. Second, insist on certain conditions to be reflected in the bi-lateral relations between you and other countries, insist that certain things must be done but not this draconian measure. You don’t close the borders because they are consequences for that action and Nigeria may spend the next 10 years explaining and asking people to forget. You cannot sign agreement and renege on the agreement. We signed recently the African Free Trade Charter, we have been the people who developed ECOWAS, so closing the borders is contrary to those things you are already committed to. There are other ways of making sure that smuggling stops and there is no short cut to educating your people and creating an environment in which there is mutual understanding.

His assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Administration on the economy and security

I think I have said enough on that in two major lectures. On the economy, poverty has increased. Before we were talking about 70% of Nigerians living in poverty, I hear some circles in government are saying it’s up to 90%. If the people have been impoverished across the board in all sections of the country, because even in the North that we in the South are shouting that they are running the government in every way, it’s not benefiting them.

If there wasn’t that kind of poverty, maybe the banditry that we see ravaging the North would not have been there. So,you ask yourself who are the ones gaining from the disorganization of the functional government of Nigeria?

Never in the history of Nigeria, not even during the civil war, do you have the volume, the deluge of blood that are shed everyday through banditry, armed robbery, kidnappers, herdsmen. Thousands of suffering Nigerians, innocent people are killed. As we speak a judge of the court of appeal was kidnapped and her policeman killed, which means nobody is safe, that even going around with armed security is meaningless, it does not guarantee anything, no government in Nigeria is protecting anybody.

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On the controversy Ruga policy

When you talked about the border closure, there is one consistent element, and that is decisions are taken in a rush without thorough examination of the pros and cons of the benefits, short term, medium term, long term that come from a particular course of action. It is only human nature, nobody wants to admit he made a mistake. So, when government makes a mistake, it’s easier to climb the high horse and say, I am government. But you are not government in isolation, you are government of the people, you must listen to the people you are governing.

We are not in the 18th century when you had herds of cattle moving across borders and so on. We are in the 21st century, the most productive animal husbandry systems in the world are located in a single place, science and technology is now called to help. So, when you have masses or people carrying their cattle all over the place, you are advertising your primitive level and you do not expect people to clap for you for being primitive.

People have said ranching is the way. Ultimately ranching would be the way because the challenge is to bring those people to a settled place where they can have a normal life and perhaps become prosperous by adopting modern methods. But some people keep their people in permanent poverty because those who own the cows are not the people who sleep under the night sky, but something has to change, we are in the 21st century.

On agitation for the presidency in 2023 among the North, South-West and South-East

It is a discussion I do not want to be involved in because it is so crassly stupid. The new government came in, in the first week of June, we are in November, five months, you have not even allowed the government to settle down, and you are talking about its successor. The alacrity with which the people started talking about 2023 is an indication that even the supporters of this government are tired of the government. Otherwise, why should you be talking about a government that has just come with all the promises it has made? Does it make sense?

It was a campaign issue. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo asked the South-West to re-elect President Buhari so to produce the president in 2023 and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation made a similar offer to the South-East…

Well, if nobody had the intelligence to know that such empty talk and political talk at that time is meaningless, then the person has himself to blame. Some of us didn’t think it, because you do not promise what you are not in the position to give. What role does the secretary to the government play in deciding who will be the next president? What role does the vice president play? Absolutely none. They are just like you and me – voters.

Given the state of the country right now, do we know what will will happen in 2020? If we cannot see clearly into 2020 aren’t you advertising your irresponsibility to be losing sleep over 2023? Let’s worry about how we survive tomorrow, it is the most ignorant display of shallow thinking and I irresponsible attitude to serious matters of state.

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Still on the issue, some pundits predict that the Igbo may not produce the president till 2039…

Since you are talking about Igbo, let me speak Igbo: mmadu aburo chukwu (man is not God).I am a scientist and chaos theory is what leads us to understand how the universe is organized. Chaos theory also tells us that in the best land system whether it is of the universe or economy, all things that you often ignore is what leads to phenomenal events of great magnitude, Nigeria is getting close to chaos. Therefore it is likely that chaos theory must start applying in which unintended events seemingly minor can set off fundamental changes. So, those who are planning for 2023 and 2027 are welcome to wait.

His take on the bill proposing death penalty for hate speech

It is part of the evidence that we are regressing, going backwards because it is in primitive societies that you fall for brutal punishment. Even this government has started thinking about reform, they have changed prisons to correction centres, that is the way to go. I think it’s death by hanging, when you go that way it just means you are close to being a beast and that’s not what you should be. You cannot be in a situation, where you say you want to ‘correct’ which means you want to reform, then you are talking of death penalty for hate speech. It only in a society that has lost his way that you will consider the kind of thing you are considering.

The way forward for Nigeria and advice to Nigerians

The change in Nigeria will come so sudden like it was in China. In a few years, you won’t believe it’s the same country, indeed what we are seeing are the last struggle of the unproductive forces that held this country down. Now it has reached the point where we cannot go lower than we are, there is only one thing, to get up and move forward. At The Niche lecture, I reminded people that feudalism in France was abolished in one day. Feudalism that has been there for thousands of years was abolished in one day. Our problem is leadership but slowly that leadership will submerge, and the new leadership of Nigeria is not going to come from the politicians. Some of the younger people, who think that those who have anything to do with Nigerian politics for the past 30 years is not fit to work in the new Nigeria, and in actual fact, that is what it is likely to be, because they would have made themselves irrelevant.

My advice to Nigerians is to use their brain and go back to the things that lead to peace. There are already young men, doing fantastic things in this country, nobody is, even their parents may not even know that what their children is doing is going to shape the future of this country but it will happen. We must learn patience.

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