…Insists on restructuring
Raphael Ede, Enugu
The President General of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisatioon, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo has said that Nigeria as it is presently run does not represent the wishes and aspirations of the people.
Nwodo, who stated this in an interview with Sunday Sun insisted that the country must be restructured. He also ex-rayed the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and the security system, saying that the Council of State has arrogated to itself the power of the legislature.
Are you worried on what would happen to Nigeria if we go into election without restructuring?
Yes, I am worried. I am worried because at no time in the history of our country has our division been so encouraged. At no time has the confidence of the populace on the governance or the governmental structure of the country been as low as it is now. At no time have we celebrated the level of human carnage that we are celebrating in our country today. At no time have our ethnic and religious differences become so pronounced and used as vehicles for antagonism against one another as they are. At no time have our government become so impotent, powerless and indifferent to the emerging scourge in our polity. Look, my friend, you know how many years ago in the last year of (Goodluck) Jonathan’s administration, secondary school girls in Chibok were captured. That by itself should have raised the security antenna that in all Boko Haram areas, it is important to ensure that there is maximum security, in all the secondary schools to ensure that there is no repeat performance. The porosity of the security in that area leaves one with a lot of disgust that I am beginning to wonder whether there is not something behind all of this. Boko Haram has sought for ransom before and they were given ransom; so soon after the children have been kidnapped, somebody who calls herself Mama Boko Haram said she was now being contacted. When you give them this money, they will use it to re-arm themselves and they will use it, come back and kill more of our troops. Is government part of Boko Haram? Is there really a desire to stop this insurgency? Is insurgency another way to raise international funds for the development of the North-east or holding Nigeria to ransom? Contrary to civil service rules, which are law, the Head of State has elongated the tenure of service chiefs. It has never happened under a civilian setting in Nigeria that a civil servant is due for retirement and he is given an extra time. It is illegal, it is unsustainable in law, but the Head of State has arrogated to himself both legislative and executive powers and decided to extend the tenure of service chiefs. The question is when you are giving such ‘extra-gracia’ extra-legal benefits to a service chief, it must be in return for productivity. I don’t see the efficiency that warrants such elongation of tenure.
110 children are taken away and nobody in the security apparatus has any inclination whatsoever, as to where the children are. Can you imagine 100 children being moved on the road without anybody noticing? Not even the neighbours noticed, they went through a bush and not even the farmers noticed. Does it mean that our security apparatus has no instrument of information gathering? All over the world, the prime emphasizes of security is on crime prevention. You get information ahead of time so that you can prevent a crime from happening. We didn’t get information on time, we didn’t even get immediate post information capable of cracking those people. But now you imagine they could have distributed those children to several different locations that it will be difficult to find them concentrated in one place, nor is it possible to find anyone of them being able to give information as to where the other is.
Now, this is our plight; does it mean that our security forces cannot infiltrate the Boko Haram? All over the world, that is the essence of intelligence. Enter the organization with your own informant within the organization. Does it mean they don’t? Does it mean the $1 billion is going nowhere? Now the Council of State has arrogated to itself the legislative organ. The other day, they budgeted $1 billion to give to states who are prepared to give grazing colonies. Where is the Financial Act they are getting this money from? Was it in our budget? Under our constitution, you cannot spend money from federal collected revenue without a bill in the National Assembly passed into a law, which empowers the executive to draw down on the allocation in consonant with the general order of the civil service rules of the federation. The Council of State meets and they approve the proposal by Mr President to bring out $1 billion funds for grazing colonies. Who in the parliament approves grazing colonies? Who appropriates money for it? This is therule of the jungle and the country is collapsing. Now, we are told by the International Monitory Fund (IMF) that our economic indices are down, poverty level is growing; we are told by Transparent International (TI) that the level of corruption is growing in Nigeria. For a government that said it’s going to fight corruption; we have seen people who have crossed into the ruling party absolved from corruption trials up and down the country and joining presidential entourage to all kinds of places or hosting presidential rallies.
Does it mean that our National Assembly is not alive to its responsibility?
Already there is a tussle between the legislature and the executive, which means that they don’t agree with each other’s priority, but I see more as close to the election everyone is defending his position and everyone is ensuring that his party doesn’t rule him out of the contest. If you want to be president, somebody wants to be senator and everybody is prepared to be a yes member. I don’t know whether it’s agreement of the parties, but we are far away on the issues in contention. The issue in contention is that there is no voice that is national in the country anymore. Everyone is singing his ethnic voice. The president of the country is presiding over security arrangement that is headed by purely Fulani and Northern officers. The average Nigerian has no confidence in the security apparatus of Nigeria unless you are a Muslim or a Fulani man. That is preposterous and unsustainable in a federal system.
The essence of a federation is the existence of autonomous units in the country who have agreed to cooperate to be a nation, but the federal character of Nigeria is in jeopardy by unitary style of government drawn by the Federal Government and perpetuated by military rule, which has refused to subject itself to public approval. We are running a constitution that in a constitutional law didn’t touch us, in other words, it doesn’t have the validity of the adult suffrage of the people. This constitution has never been subjected to a referendum in vote and yet it starts with the sentence ‘We the people of Nigeria. The people of Nigeria have never made a constitution. It is being forced down our throat; therefore, if you don’t restructure the federation and present the new structure to the agreement of ordinary Nigerians, the raison d’etre of the federation is gone. You know my views are very clear, we need to have a constitution accepted by the people of Nigeria before you have déjà vu elections. We don’t have a constitution donated to the people of Nigeria and we are ruled by force, we are ruled by cohesion. Now, the ideal thing will be to subject a constitution to national referendum; call the people of Nigeria together, draft a constitution, ask them to vote on it so that the people of Nigeria will say this is how we want to be ruled. We don’t have anything like that, the legal instrument governing this election was not appropriately enacted. It was enacted by the military government, and it was said to be the constitution of the people of Nigeria. Until you do that, it will not certify the international norms of a constitution of a country.
Secondly, if we must carry on with this artificial constitution, whoever is running in the next election that doesn’t run it on the platform of restructuring of the federation is bound to lose the support of the people of Nigeria. The problem I have is that the dramatic personae in politics do not want an ideological orientation for our politics. They are playing the politics of bread and butter; they are interested in where does the president come from, who is the president? When shall we stop paying high prices on petroleum that is produced in our country. Why must our refineries not be able to produce at full capacity for more than three generations? Why is fuel cheaper in other oil producing countries than Nigeria? The people of Nigeria are saying why don’t we have 24-hour power supply? Why is Ghana reducing power tariff by 30 per cent, but in Nigeria it is increasing? The people of Nigeria are asking, why are our highways not working? The people of Nigeria are asking why are people of other nations who used to come and train in Nigerian universities, why is it the other way round now that we go to Ghana, they make so much money from Nigerians coming to study in Ghana. If you go to South Africa they make so much money from Nigerians coming to study in South Africa. If you go to England, a number of their universities have agencies in Nigeria recruiting students to go there and many of the people who are researching for development in Europe and America are Nigerians. If you look at the scientists in America who have achieved monumental growth in knowledge, a great percentage of immigrants’ population come from Nigeria. Nigerians in America have an average income greater than that of the average American. Why are we doing better in other countries than in our own country? Clearly, we don’t have a government that is responding to the basic aspirations of Nigerians. The politicians are not speaking to the issues; they are speaking to the sentiment and their positions. So, this is why young men like you are not stepping forward. At what age was Azikiwe leader of this nation? At what age was Okpara, Premier of the Eastern Nigeria? At what age was Awolowo, Premier of Western Nigeria? At what age was Amadu Bello, Premier of Northern Nigeria? At what age was Amino Kano, founder of NEPU? At what age was Takar, founder of his political party for the Middle Belt Congress? Our young people are not interested today.
Look at the new President of France, how old is he and it took him one year to move his people around an ideology and to have a national movement that propelled to the presidency; look at even an old man like President Trump who was not in the political apparatus, who is democratic by persuasion; he supported President Jimmy Carter in his previous election and other democratic candidates, but suddenly he turned to become a Republican because he felt that it was easier to fight the incumbent from the opposition, and within one and half years, he engineered a democratic following in America enough to vote out an incumbent party. But in Nigeria, people don’t believe that you can get up and standup on the basis of your conviction and make a national movement. Everybody is afraid and I don’t understand why, especially people of your age. So, I am putting up this question back to you what is your generation doing to change this country?