From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Hon. Sergius Ogun is representing the Esan North East/ Esan South East Federal Constituency of Edo State in the House of Representatives.
In this interview, Ogun speaks on the zoning of the PDP 2023 presidential ticket, the state of security in the country, among others. Excerpt:
A committee set up by your party, the PDP, to review the 2019 polls, recently recommended that zoning should be jettisoned in choosing the 2023 presidential candidate of the party. And this has been generating controversy in the party. Where do you stand?
I am in support of zoning. I believe power should come back to the South. Not just coming to the South, it should go to the Southeast, for fairness and equity. There is no reason you should have a northerner in power for eight years and then that northerner will hand over to another for another eight years, in a country where people are already complaining of equity and injustice. So, I am not in support of that. Let it be on record. But if my party insists on going that route, I don’t mind; I will probably leave the party and go elsewhere. That is the truth. There is no basis to throw the ticket open. We should zone. If we lose, we lose. What are we scared of? We should always stand for the truth, any day, any time; because we have the young ones coming after us that are watching. What are we scared of, that if we zone, we might not win? We should allow Nigerians to be the judge of that. That is my take. We should zone to the South and then micro zone to the Southeast. Every part of this country has a right to give that position a shot. I think right now, it is the turn of the Southeast.
What do you think will be the likely implication should the PDP adopt that recommendation to jettison zoning?
I have always said that Nigerians should get more involved. The elite should speak up. If I am criticizing this government today, somebody will say, of course, he is PDP, why will he not criticise them? But if a retired civil servant, a businessman that is feeling the heat of what is happening today is speaking and such a person doesn’t have any affiliation with any party or to any party, you are most likely to listen to that person. But if they don’t speak up, at the end of the day, we all go to the same market. Whatever is happening today is affecting everybody. So, if Nigeria really will take their destiny in their hands, they will get more involved in politics and come out and vote. To use the words of Dino Melaye, “all die na die”. If you say I don’t want to get involved. I don’t want to come out to vote, so that they don’t kill me, but you are almost dead.
You are almost dead; because if bandits don’t kill you today, you go to the hospital where you don’t have functioning equipment, you will die. Or maybe you don’t have good road, and an accident occurs, you will die. At the end of the day, whether you do the right thing or you don’t don’t do the right thing, you will still die. So, why don’t you do the right thing and die well. Can people tell me that they are better off today compared to 2015 or even 2019? Things are deteriorating. We have only this country we must speak out.
In the eight Assembly, you sponsored two bills that a lot of persons think would have helped the country. One of the bills sought to bar public office holders from sending their children to school abroad, while the other one sought to bar public officers from accessing health care abroad, but both bills were thrown out…?
They were not thrown out. They went through the entire system. They were just frustrated. The civil servants in the system, I believe working with some people in the leadership just frustrated them. That is all. They went through the first reading, it took a long while for them to be slated for second reading despite my complaints. Eventually, they came for second reading. To even programme them for committee hearing became a problem. Then the chairman, Rules and Business, then in his wisdom said the period the committee had to work on them had lasped. So, he programmed it for committee of the whole, which means we are going to jump public hearing. One of them was listed for clause by clause consideration at the committee of the whole. We became prepared. Then it disappeared. You know we have a weekly order paper. It was listed. But on the particular day, it wasn’t there. They said “ah we have so many things to do, okay, it will come up next week”. Story, story. As you know, it lapsed with the last Assembly. But I have represented them. They have gone through first reading. They are going through the same process they went through in the 8th House; to bring them for second reading is a big issue now. Once, one of them was listed in the weekly order paper. On the day it should be taken for second reading, I came again, and ah ah… Okay, it doesn’t bother me. It is on note. It is on record that these are issues I want us to discuss and to take actions on. EndSARS exposed some of this. It is not whether we are going to have another EndSARS, but when we are going to have another EndSARS. It might not take the shape and form of what it took before. But God will help us. But I want it to be on record that some of us saw today, yesterday, and we spoke up.
There are several suggestions on how the country can get out of its present security situation. The PDP is suggesting a security summit, a national border force. Some persons are saying that there is need to devolve more power to the states and that state police is the solution. What is your take?
It is important to have that summit where people can come together and discuss it. And also, as you are aware, we are doing the constitution review and some of these things can go into the review of the constitution. When you have leaders of thought coming together to discuss issues like this, they also have a way of influencing those that represent them. Because at the end of the day, you will say, well you have a summit, what happens eventually. The president says he doesn’t have power to make such decisions, it is the National Assembly. Now there is constitution review committee that will do this review and send the amendment to the president for his assent. Now that this matter is on the front burner, the summit is important. That every body should come together to discuss this. So, that at the end of the day, that will form the bulk of the review that will be sent to the National Assembly. I am in agreement with some of the things said. But it is not enough to form border police or state police, some thought should go into this. Probably, we should start with devolution of power. And to do that you just tinker with the exclusive and concurrent lists. If you are saying that you are moving power to the state, it has to go with money. This present arrangement cannot subsist. It will mean that the state will be able to generate their own revenue and pay tax to the center; because the bulk of activities are happening at the states. We have a very huge centre. That is what is gulping all the money. You have so many people in the public sector here that are not useful to the system. I have had interactions with heads of some agencies that came from the private sector to head those agencies. And they told me the people that “we met in the system are not useful to us.” So, they come with some few people as SAs and others to do the work. And they select some few people they think they can work with. So, why keep this number in the system and be paying them when they are not useful. That takes us to the recruitment process, how did they come into the system? When was the last time you heard any agency, federal agency recruiting and they advertised? And they followed due process in hiring those people? So, the point I am making is that, if we are going to talk about border police or state police, we should take into consideration that we should hire the right people and the state should have money to pay them. Because we are going to arm people. It should not be like civil servants that they are owing seven, eight months, ten months. And then you are arming these gentlemen and ladies and you say that they should go without salaries for seven months? There will be chaos and anarchy. Don’t get me wrong. I am in support of state police. If you have a state governor, an executive governor, he should be able to put his finger on whatever is going wrong in the state, security-wise. But they should also have enough fund for it. So, that we don’t have a bigger problem latter.
The chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Aminu Tambuwal, a few days ago suggested that the National Assembly should isolate the issue of security, in the constitution review, and give it an expedited passage. Would you subscribe to that idea?
I know why he is talking like that. It is because they want this solution like yesterday. If they want the constitution to be amended so that they will have state police, yes, it is all good. But that cannot go alone. That cannot be discussed in isolation. If today, we say okay we are amending the constitution, they are ready, from the body language. You amend the constitution, it goes round the country in one month. Where will they get money to pay the state police? Where will they get money to first and foremost recruit, train and hire them? Like President Obasanjo said a poorly trained policeman is worse than an armed robber. To recruit, that takes some time and money to go through that process. The training, the equipping and then you put them on salary. So, if we don’t tinker with the Exclusive List, to give some power to them and money; that is why we are talking about devolution, true federalism where they will have money to handle things like that, and we say okay just go; if we treat that in isolation, they are going to struggle to pay them and then we will be back to square one. If not even in a more precarious situation, where they will have state police and they will not be money to pay them.
The debt profile of the country is on the rise, yet every now and then the President comes with request for new loans and the National Assembly is always quick to approve?
I am concerned and everybody should be concerned. The cost of servicing the loan is very high. Just check, the cost of servicing the loans is higher than our capital. And that we taking more is painful. But let’s be fair. If you are not generating enough money, where else are you going to get money from? Because the next thing you are going to hear is that you cannot pay workers’ salaries. You cannot even execute capital project, because in the course of executing capital projects, workers are engaged. There will be contracts. There will be people working. And that can stimulate the economy. But if the country doesn’t have money to do any of that, that will be total anarchy. So, to keep the country going, if they are not generating enough revenue, they have to borrow. What we are saying is if we have a prudent government, we will not be taking that route.