Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu is foremost scientist, researcher and manufacturer of the first made in Nigerian car, the Z600. He is also a Chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Speaking in this interview with our Abuja Bureau Chief, Tony Ailemen, and Correspondent Paschal Emeka, he bared his mind on a wide range of issues.
What is your assessment of the 2015 General Elections In Nigeria?
My view is very positive. Before the elections it was clear that many people were not going to support former President Goodluck Jonathan. Though he is a friend, I also refused to support him. It became veryvery clear that Buhari was the man for this country. As early as December last year, I had addressed a conference in Owerri of about three thousand people. I told them that Buhari was going to win the election; they were shocked because that was a group that was told that Buhari is a Muslim and that he is going to force everybody to become Muslims. I never believed that. I shocked them when I said that Buhari was the next president and that our salvation remained with him. That was December last year. I held another press conference in January with about two thousand to three thousand Christian leaders in the East and I told them to quote me that Buhari is the next president and APC is going to rule this country. Again many of them were shocked. These were leaders that came from Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Cross River, Abia, Imo. They were shocked. I gave them my phone numbers and I said, on the day the presidential election result is announced this is my phone number call me so that you can confirm what I told you. That is exactly what happened. You see God is a miracle working God. You know a lot of us who are in politics don’t reason with God. Power belongs to God. It is God who makes and unmakes. Jonathan had good administrative ideas which had my sympathy at initial stage, but after sometimes he degenerated. People were doing all kinds of things in the name of governance and I know that God is not very happy when we use power anyhow. I knew that the next election was going to bring an end to that method of governance and that is what has happened. The people of Nigeria have cried to God to make a difference because they are suffering. Be they Muslims or Christians, they were suffering. Jonathan is an Anglican like myself but the people were suffering and they were crying to God to make a change. A lot of Christian leaders in Nigeria were dishonest because they were holding what they called prayer meetings for the government receiving a lot of money and went and misinformed the people. Some of them used the pulpit and said if you vote for APC, you are going to hell. It is not true. God didn’t say so. Those who don’t hear from God should not quote God incorrectly. So I am very happy that I campaigned for President Buhari. I went round with him and I wrote a lot about him. Buhari is unpretentious. He is a man that is very pleasant to get on with, he is very straight forward, very outspoken and he doesn’t hide his views. That is Buhari for you. All the pretences for which Nigerian politicians are known, you won’t see them in Buhari. That is what makes him special. So, I strongly believed that Buhari will give Nigeria a new lease of life.
You Seems To Have A Lot Of Confidence In Buhari. How Do You Assess His First Few Days In Office?
As far as I am concerned, Buhari has started well. Look at the way he went to Niger and Chad immediately in the pursuit of fighting Boko Haram. He has gone there to consolidate the neighbourhood to join him because he knows he cannot do it alone. Secondly he has moved the armed force headquarters to Borno. That is what I was advising Jonathan to do three years ago. This is a fight and some people are fighting you and the war fronts is in Borno, so, move your troops to that place and face it, but he didn’t do that. Immediately Buhari was sworn in, he moved the army to Borno. Some people are saying he won’t fight Boko Haram because he is a Muslim. You don’t know Buhari, you don’t know him. The greatest enemy is Boko Haram and ISIS or whatever is they are called. These people are not even true Muslims. Look at Syria, look at Iraq are there Christians there. Boko Haram is the same thing as the ISIS, no difference. May be, only in local language. So God has brought the kind of man called Buhari in answer to Nigeria’s prayers.
What Kind of Cabinet Should Nigerians Be Expecting From Him?
I believe Buhari will go for the best people. I believe so. Buhari doesn’t believe in bribery; he doesn’t believe in corruption. So you can’t expect an incompetent fellow to be his cabinet. He is not going to do that. You see that is the crux of the issue. Nigeria is too corrupt, I am sorry to say so. Everything about Nigeria is corruption. In Christianity there is corruption, there is nepotism. Everything has to change. In the judiciary there is massive corruption. The agencies that are supposed to enforce anti-corruption are also corrupt. They are being used to oppress innocent people. So there is corruption everywhere.
Talking about corruption, first he said he was going to declare his asset publicly. His wife is reported to be wearing a wrist watch that is worth N10 million. There are even revelations that he has property here and there and you still have a lot of confidence in his ability to successfully fight this corruption?
Well, I expected to hear this from journalists. I don’t think Buhari’s wife is wearing a wrist watch of N10 million. The Aisha Buhari I know is a pleasant young lady who is unpretentious. She wants to do things right. In fact, she said she does not even want to answer first lady, but to be known as the president’s wife. That she is wearing a watch of N10 million; I don’t believe it. It is being exaggerated.
You have posited that corruption has taken root in Nigeria. Buhari may be a saint, but those around him may not allow him to fight corruption. How is your party the APC planning to ensure that he succeeds?
My judgment is that as a decent man he should check those around him. If you are incorruptible, your personal assistant should be incorruptible. Look at how Elisha judged the servant that went behind him and collected something from the Syrian General, Namaan the leper. He went and collected a lot secretly. But the prophet knows. Immediately he came, he was confronted with it and the leprosy passed unto him. That is what I expect Buhari to do. If you are Buhari and you have a minister who is corrupt, you have to expose him. Don’t allow other people to do it for you. If you are incorruptible, those around you should borrow a leaf from your life style and not be corruptible. That is the type of leadership we need in Nigeria, we don’t need anything less than that.
Looking at Igbo now what does Ndigbo stand to gain in an APC government?
Thank you very much for asking this question. As I am answering this question my heart breaks. The Igbo are the greatest enemies of themselves. I am sorry to say this. We think we are intelligent, but we are intelligent only to the extent of satisfying our personal egos. That’s what we are. Three years ago, the Igbo had the chance of producing the next president and through the South East Forum I was psyching them up on that. Do you know it was the Igbo that turned round and sabotaged the south east forum because they wanted to share N28 million and these are big men, former senators, former governors, former this and that and they shared the money and sacrificed the interest of the Ndigbo. That is not the type of thing expected from a race that is fighting for survival. The Igbo lost it. We should have been producing the President of the Senate, the Speaker of House of Reps, if we didn’t vote the way we did, but none of that, now. So it is like we are starting afresh. I want every Igbo man who calls himself Igbo man to learn something from this. When we were forming the APC some of them said why are you working with the Yoruba; the Yoruba doesn’t like the Igbo, why are you working with the Hausas. Azikiwe worked with the Northerners; Azikiwe worked with the Yoruba. NCNC had the Yoruba land as its base with Macaulay and later Nnamdi Azikiwe took over. That’s why he nearly became the premier of Western Nigeria. So Igbo should stop this idea of tribalism. Let us look at people for what they can do. When I was campaigning for President Buhari, I was campaigning for him as a patriotic Nigerian who can fix Nigeria. I was not campaigning for him because he is an Igbo man. You can bring out some Igbo to run for president and I will never campaign for them because they believe in corruption. They believe in all kinds of tricks and they are not truthful even to their children. Even to their wives they are not truthful. There are Igbo people like that. So to answer your question where do we go from here? Where to go from here is to examine ourselves and make amends. We must be humble. We must say, oh we will still make it.
What’s your reaction on the political marriage between the North and South West?
In politics, people look at what will be good for themselves viz–a-viz what will be good for Nigeria. If the North and the west are cooperating in order to get a good leadership for Nigeria and the Igbo leave themselves out, the Igbo are to blame. You don’t have to blame anybody. If somebody is campaigning for president, he has to go to where they will vote for him. He will campaign where they will vote for him. If the Igbo say we do not want you; we do not want your party; we will not even touch your party, it is wrong. But I am happy that APC is not a North or West party. The Igbo are fully in APC. They funded it. I have been a progressive for the past 30 years and for the past 30 years I have almost laid down my life for progressive movement in Nigeria. I joined the APC from the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. When I resigned from PDP three years ago, I wrote to President Jonathan; I wrote to the chairman of PDP and told him the reason why I was resigning. The PDP had become a monopoly of few people where they decide who becomes what.
Do you think the APC can dislodge PDP in the South East widely regarded as the base of PDP?
I am happy to answer this question. South east is not the base of PDP South East was deceived by PDP and I will tell you how they were deceived. Ekwueme was running for president and the Nigerian characters saw that Ekwueme has the support of Ndigbo. They never wanted to give the presidency to Ekwueme. Never! But they wanted to use him as a front to get South East for PDP. So they used Ekwueme as a front. Because of that they never did presidential nomination until after governorship elections. The presidential nomination of PDP was not held until after the governorship election. They wanted that Igbo to vote for PDP. After the governorship election, they dumped Ekwueme. That’s what happened. I followed it very-very closely. I took part in the governorship election of 1999 which I won hands down, the PDP rigged it. When they went to Jos, they dumped Ekwueme and picked Obasanjo. And after they picked Obasanjo, they now ensured that Igbo land was already under the control of PDP. What did PDP do for Ndigbo? Nothing. Even though Jonathan was gathering his votes from Igboland, what can you point out that Jonathan did for Ndigbo. Nothing. Take their second Niger Bridge, up till now contract has not been signed. The 6th Igbo state which everybody is shouting about; which everybody knows is justifiable and a right, nothing was done about it. Which first class industry is in igboland? Not one. So what did Jonathan do for Ndigbo?
Doesn’t this amount to running down the Igbo?
If you want me to praise you say the truth under God. A Christian leader must say the truth under God. If you are not able to say the truth under God, then you are less than a Christian leader. That’s what I keep telling myself and every other person. To be a Christian leader is not a joke. So every leadership responsibility has a commitment. You must show commitment. You must show an example.
Nigeria has witnessed dwindling revenue in the last few months and there is no sign that this will abate soon. What advice do you have for President Buhari as he settles down to take charge of the economy.
It is actually because of corruption that brought Nigeria to this position. A lot of money was looted by those we put in various positions. That is exactly what I am telling you about, that if there is corruption, it is going to affect everybody. A lot of people in power looted and there is no money to pay salaries and all that and all that. That’s what we are facing today. That’s why Buhari came at the right time. Buhari has the personality and mindset to handle the problem. Then of course the way to handle the problem is to generate money and appoint those who can implement it. Buhari visited my factory in Owerri 31 years ago when he was the head of state. It was science equipment we were producing. It was my company that produced the first science equipment in Africa. Buhari was there. The science equipment was manufactured locally. If Nigeria did not become so corrupt, a lot of things would have been manufactured here, not only science equipment, but cars. We still have photograph of the car I produced. It may look so crude but it was something we did and the rest of Nigerians celebrated it. Then the world celebrated it. I went to America and there was celebration; oh a black man builds his own car and people were celebrating. Assuming government was proactive and started to support it, by now Nigerian cars would have filled our roads and we will be happy. All these multitudes who are now roaming the streets of Abuja without jobs they will be in the factories. When I first visited Taiwan, Taipei about 20 years ago my friend Don Lee was taking me round his office and all that. I was shocked that in the streets of Taipei the roads were empty and this was around 10 am. I was shocked and I said how come that nobody was in the roads; he said they are in the factories. Everybody is working in the factories and nobody is in the roads by 10 o clock in the morning. I said no wonder. That’s why they pump all those goods into Igboland; made in Taiwan. They produced all those things and pump them out and import hard currencies into their system so everybody is rich. But look at Abuja; by 10 o clock the roads could not be passed. People are everywhere trying to go to work. So Buhari’s leadership is to get Nigerians to work. Nigerians should learn to sit down and work. By our labour, we shall be happy. The children will be taken care of and your neighbours will be happy. If our neighbours are happy we will be happy. If everybody around you is happy, you are also happy. So that is the secret. Nigeria has all the ingredients of greatness. What we have always lacked is mental leadership. Mental leadership has been our lack and if we get it right, we will always get it right.
What happened to that beautiful concept and the car you produced? Did you abandon it?
The issue is I spent eight years working silently. Where I had the factory in Owerri, people looked at it now and they laughed because in the night you will be hearing noise until 5 am but you will never see anybody. We were doing the car and nobody knew what we were doing. We did it secretly until the car was completed. It was when it was completed that we decided to announce it. General Abacha was in power then and he was very pleased with it and the Chief of General Staff, Oladipo Diya, came to represent him. And many Ambassadors travelled to Owerri to come and see it. They celebrated Nigeria. After that there was a lot of noise and they said mass produce the car. I said well I have gone this far to show that it is possible to do it. If Nigeria is ready for its mass production I will make my blueprint available to them. I will help them. I will not be ready to settle down for mass production, but I will give them the intellectual know how on how this thing can be mass produced. Then the jealousy came. Some people said they want to see this thing in Nigeria. There were a lot of write up in the newspapers and all that. I had a research on what we call Electromagneto Dynamics, more important than the car. That research started before this car. Yes because it is a major research. We are doing something that has never been done in the world. So of course I was also in politics. So politics and that research took the better part of me including service to God. So I said the car I manufactured is not patentable. People have been doing cars all over so you can’t patent the car; but this new invention, it the first of its kind in the world. It is patentable. Now we have started to patent it. It is now in 139 countries of the world and that is the first of its kind in the world. We thank God for his mercies.
Can you let us into what this new invention is all about?
It is going to make life easier for everybody. It is going to make energy available for all Nigerians. You won’t suffer so much travelling from Lagos to Abuja because this is going to provide the energy. If you are paying N5,000 in a bus, to come to Lagos from Abuja, you will pay less than N200 because the bus will no longer run on fuel and all that. It will power the aero planes; it will power the train; it will power the TV sets; it will power the generators and help industrialize the world. That’s the essence of it. We won’t say so much about it because it is an intellectual property. When you are trying to patent a product you don’t make so much noise about it because you want to secure your patent first. You have to make sure it is yours before you talk of any other thing. But at the appropriate time you will hear more about it. 22 countries have signed the patent already. Another 17 countries have signing making it 41 countries who have signed total agreement with the inventor. This is the way a country patents a product. If Nigeria is to patent, they will consult their experts. Professors of Physics and Engineering will sit argue and experiment and say this is correct. They accept it. Government will than patent. So patenting is not easy. It is a highly intellectual issue that brings the best brains in a country together. That is what these countries are doing and we thank God for his mercies.
To what extent have you received support from government?
Zero! I discussed these things with President Jonathan. I thought he was going to help. I wrote him three letters; passionate letters; no response. Some friends of mine; Alex Ekwueme, Ochendo and many others rose together and said they want to see him in respect of this research which will help Nigeria for good he did not respond. Jonathan is a good man. I liked him and we have worked together and seem to get on well. But why he kept quiet over important thing for the good of Nigeria, I did not understand. The letters I wrote to him are there. We received no support from government. No support. Not even one. In fact there is one research fund that they said whoever is doing research should apply. We applied 4 years ago, no response. Then they said we should bring a University and a University applied together with us. We brought Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka and submitted. We applied for only N150 million to pay for patent and everything. Up till now no response. The last time I visited there, the Executive Secretary threw me out. They have billions up to N15billion to N20 billions to support research. So I don’t know what is happening to the country. Only God knows. And when you go to America, the government and her establishments are pursuing you if you have anything new that will benefit humanity. They will like to dump money on you. They wanted to attract me to America. A University in America said come we will fund you; we will do everything for you don’t stay in Nigeria; Nigeria is not a good place. The preaching was good but I didn’t listen to it. This is my country; I prefer my country. My country is better than any other countries. That was the answer I gave them. They now sent a delegation of four professors to come and see what I was doing. When they came they said they have never seen this kind of thing.
Do you see APC moving the country foreword?
APC has taken a good decision by giving their mandate to Buhari. If APC has taken a wrong decision by fielding the wrong candidate, it would have been disastrous. God is just guiding this country through the APC. The prayers of many Nigerians who are not politicians is what God is answering through the APC. By choosing Buhari that’s a wonderful first step. Buhari himself is a person who can say no. He doesn’t know how to pretend. So if they want to mis-advise him, he will say no. When he says yes, his yes is for the good of all Nigerians.