•Wants Nigeria to return to parliamentary system
By Chinelo Obogo
Former governor of Abia State and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu has warned that continued disobedience to Court orders constitute great danger to the country’s democracy.
Similarly, the one time presidential candidate on the platform of the Progressive Peoples Alliance , PPA, is also advocating a return to Parliamentary system of government, saying that the Presidential system of government was too expensive to run.
Speaking yesterday on a ‘Good morning Nigeria’ programme on NTA, monitored in Lagos, Kalu noted that without some form of restructuring and re-organisation of the current presidential system of governance, the country would never advance economically.
“When we had 12 states, our recurrent expenditure was 30 percent, when the states were increased to 21, our recurrent increased to 50 percent. When we had 36 states, the recurrent went up to 70 percent, so how can you develop?
“When I was governor, my team considered a recurrent expenditure of 25 percent and capital expenditure of 75 percent because that was the only way we could make progress. We will not achieve anything in this country unless there is some form of restructuring. The states are too costly to maintain, so we should go back to the regions. It would be a good thing if we can go back to the parliamentary system, because the presidential system is too costly with two chambers of the National Assembly. We need to come together to discuss how to go back to the regions so that we can cut cost. If we continue this way, one day, the people will rise up against this system and say they don’t want it again. It happened in Romania and it could happen anywhere” he said.
On the nation’s democratic experience, the former Abia governor stated that disobedience to the rule of law and court orders was a sign that the country was still backward democratically.
“So far, our democratic experience has not been too good. We could have been better by now, but all sectors of the country have made it difficult for us to move forward. We are still backward at the stage we are today. We are yet to make sufficient progress in our democratic process and there are indices to show. We came into politics with a lot of zeal to see to it that there is obedience to the rule of law and democratic institutions. People only look at the hardware of democracy, without the software, which is to obey the laws of the land. It seems things are going backwards.
“In a democracy, we are meant to obey the rule of law. When a court says ‘release Orji Kalu from detention’, you must release me the moment the court says you should release me. These are some of the things that solidify democracy.
“Democratic gains are process based. Some of our governors do not even go to their offices and they do not even meet with members of their administration. Most often, at the local government, state and even federal levels, whenever the head of that government is not around, everything comes to a standstill.
“Anyone can be president of America because there is already a strong democratic process in place. We have done well in terms of having a democratic space, but we have not done well in terms of giving back to the people.
“When I was governor, we had various committees which was chaired by commissioners for the purpose of speeding up the process of governance. With the process, money could flow to all the sectors in the state.”
On the issue of local government elections, the former governor condemned the setting up of caretaker committees, insisting that they were unconstitutional, saying they do not serve any purpose.
He said: “The Local governments are supposed to be the focal points of governance. When I was governor, the local government funds were usually given to the local governments in full and these monies were being used mainly to build infrastructure. Can you say the same today?
“Also, both the media and those outside the media have done damage to democracy because rumours have taken precedence over real issues. You no longer do proper analysis about those who worked for democracy and those who said no to democracy. Abia state went to court many times challenging the federal government regarding issues concerning the local governments and we defeated the government many times.
So, anyone telling you that our judiciary is not good is lying. Are we ready to obey the judiciary and respect the rulings of the court? The answer is no.
“Nigerians are not students of realism. The destruction of the local government system started under ex President Olusegun Obasanjo. He did not want to conduct local government elections in the South West states because he knew that the Alliance for Democracy (AD) will win and they would have a strong hold in those states. He wanted the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) to be in control of those states, so he said there won’t be any local government elections and he set up caretaker committees. Caretaker committees of any local government in Nigeria is unconstitutional,” Kalu, declared.
He further said “most of our leaders are half-baked; they are not ready for leadership at all levels. Some people follow some leaders because of religious bias or tribal sentiments. Nigeria’s problem is not political leadership, it is economic. If a leader can drop some crumbs, people will follow him.
If the economic problem is sorted out, other things will follow. It is then left for voters to look for competent leaders to lead them.”