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

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’


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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

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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)

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