Ibuchukwu Ezike is Executive Director, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO). He says the leadership positions in the 9th National Assembly should be distributed among the geo-political zones that are not represented in the central government.
President Muhammadu Buhari has just begun his second term do you see him performing better than he did in his first four years?
In the human rights community, we believe that respect for the fundamental human rights is the basis of the society. So if the first four-year of Mr. President was flawed by loads of abuse of human rights, insecurity, discrimination against certain section of the society especially the South East geo-political zone and women then nothing much can be said. There is need to encourage President Buhari to ensure that certain things he did in his first four years that are not in consonance with modern society are not repeated. He should run an inclusive government based on respect for the fundamental human rights of the citizens and see everybody as members of his family. When President Buhari came in 2015, he said he belongs to everybody and belongs to nobody, but the actions he took immediately after that shows that he belongs to a section of the country. He should run an inclusive government where every part of the country is carried along.
Talking about carrying every part of the country along, the Senate President has been zoned to the North East, the Speaker of the House of Representatives is zoned to the South West. Where does the rest of the country fit in?
It shows that Nigeria does not run a just federation. Nigeria is a country of six geo-political zones where you have only two or three occupying leadership positions? It shows that it is not a just federation. A just federation should include the North and the South, Christians and Muslims men and women in leadership position. It is only when your own agenda is included in government that you can say this is our government. Right now, Nigeria is run by a section of the country, so we can’t call it our Nigeria. The worst is that the people we have there are not the best because what we have seen in the last four years shows that Nigeria is drifting.
Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended states clearly that the composition of the government shall be carried out to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and also ensure no few state or ethnic or other sectional groups dominate the government. Why has no group tackled the President on the issue?
Dictatorship does not respect rules and regulations. President Buhari is behaving as if we are still in the military era. This is reflected in some of the Executive Orders he has proclaimed, some of which are in total disregard of the rule of law. Look at the Decree 24 which was promulgated as the 1999 Constitution on May 29, 1999, it does not reflect the will of the people. What makes a constitution is when the people who make up the society come together and say this is the way we want to live. However, there have been many instances where the president was challenged for violating the constitution. People have obtained court orders but they are not respected. We all know the issue of Colonel Sambo Dasuki and Sheikh El-Zakzaky. The court has granted bail to both men but they are still in detention. It is a big problem because we have a government that has a tradition of disrespecting the law it swore to uphold.
What is your take on the agitations on the zoning of leadership of the National Assembly?
Nigeria like I have said is a country of six geo-political zones. That means each zone should produce one of the leaders at the national level. The president is from the North West, the vice president is from the South West. Now it remains four zones that are yet to produce leaders at the central government. For fairness and equity, these four zones should produce the leadership of the National Assembly. For equity and justice to be seen to have been done, the South East, North East, the North Central and the South South should produce the Senate president, Deputy Senate president, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Deputy Speaker. It negates every principle of justice that after the South West has produced the vice president, they will again produce Speaker of the House of Representatives going by the zoning arrangement of the All Progressives Congress (APC). It means that the South West will take two positions and you will automatically exclude one zone. The members of the National Assembly should find a way to ensure that every zone produces at least one leader at the central level of government. I will appeal to the lawmakers to ensure fair representation and to in fact ensure a woman is in leadership position.
For us in the civil society, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha is eminently qualified. This is her fourth time in the House of Representatives. She is credible; she left the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), joined the APC and still won election. She has sponsored important bills that have to do with the welfare of the people. Before now, somebody with a gunshot wound will not be treated without a Police report but she sponsored a bill which now allows gunshot wound victims to be treated. As Speaker she can bring her experience in transforming Nigeria to bear.
In politics, it is not always about ability and experience, you need negotiation and lobbying. Of the 360 members in the House of Representatives, the APC South East has only three members. How will that work in her favour?
That is why I am making an appeal to the entire House of Representatives members-elect especially the women to support her. The women are almost totally excluded from leadership in this government. Women groups all over the world must begin to appeal to the members of the House of Representatives to see reason to support her. We are done with politics and what we have to face now is governance and members of the House of Representatives should know who has the intelligence and capacity to lead them.
In the last dispensation President Buhari gave the lawmakers the free hand to elect their leaders. This turned out a mistake because he blames Senate president, Bukola Saraki and Speaker, Yakubu Dogara for frustrating his transformation agenda. What should happen this time?
A failure will always blame others for failing. He should ask himself what he has done to run a credible government. Did the National Assembly ask him to totally exclude the South East from the Security Council? Did the National Assembly ask the Fulani herdsmen to go about killing people? Look at the money donated to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in various camps, it was stolen by highly placed people in the government, is it the National Assembly that did that? This government is one that is sunk in corruption, abuse of due process and human rights and is insensitive to the plight of Nigerians. I cannot see any good project initiated by Mr. President that was obstructed by the National Assembly.