We Need ‘Jerry Rawlings Option’ to Flush Corruption – Apga Chair

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Tony Adibe, 5 August 2011

interview

Chief Victor Umeh is the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). In this interview with our Enugu correspondent, he speaks on President Goodluck Jonathan’s proposed single term of six years for the president and governors, and why he wants “Jerry Rawlings revolution” as a way of tackling the monster of corruption in Nigeria.

 

Recently, former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, called for the resignation of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and his Deputy, Emeka Ihedioha. Many Nigerians have lambasted Obasanjo for that call. What, in your view, is the implication of such call?

Well, it is no surprise that former president Olusegun Obasanjo, could ask people who were elected in a transparent democratic process to resign from their positions. I think it is borne out of his lack of respect for democracy.

The leaders of the House of Representatives, apart from the fact that they were elected by their people, their colleagues had, in an open and transparent process, elected them to take charge of the affairs of the House. Obasanjo should have known that it is wrong for him to call for people who have been elected through a democratic process to resign. They did not commit any crime; they offered themselves for service to the country through the House of Reps and they were elected to serve.

So the call is mischievous and therefore not tenable. The manner Obasanjo’s call received stiff opposition from members of his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), even from within the members of the party’s Board of Trustees, shows clearly that Obasanjo is no longer in this world.

And if there’s anything, it is Obasanjo that should quit politics. He should quit politics because Nigerians have had enough of him. He was given a golden opportunity to govern this country for more than 11 years and today he has nothing to show for it except the destruction of democratic institutions in Nigeria. It is high time Nigerians heard less of him for the wounds he inflicted on this country to heal.

Are you saying that he has expired politically?

Yes, politically he is finished, not expired. This is a man who squandered a golden opportunity given to him by God to help Nigeria chart a proper cause of development. If Obasanjo had been visionary and patriotic in his actions, there is no way Nigeria will be facing the multiple problems threatening its existence today. He ruled this country for eight years in a democratic dispensation, apart from the three years he ruled as a military Head of State.

 

He had eight unbroken years of civil administration to re-define the affairs of this country and he played to the gallery and left the system in comatose; he entrenched corruption in governance; he was the one who made sure that elections were never credible in this country. In fact what he midwifed in Nigeria was hopelessness. Nigerians need apologies from him instead of him coming back to make comments on who should be speaker and deputy speaker of the House of Reps. The Nigerian state is failing as a result of his failure to lay solid foundation for sustainable democracy in Nigeria. He did not fight corruption, instead he promoted it. Nigeria is still groping in the dark because the country was placed under his care for eight years.

If President Goodluck Jonathan wants to help the country further, he should probe Obasanjo’s administration. Under Obasanjo, billions of naira were spent on the power sector and Nigerians are not enjoying electricity yet.

Brazil is spending $10 billion to generate 10,000 megawatts of electricity but Obasanjo spent $40 billion and Nigeria has only 2,500 megawatts of electricity. Where has the money gone to?

You advocated a probe of his administration, wouldn’t that be a distraction for Jonathan’s government?

It won’t be a distraction. Any country that does not take a deep look into its past and its leadership will never create good leadership for itself. So if people are opportuned to provide leadership at the highest level and the citizens have nothing to show for it except misery, it is important that that administration be looked at the second time. If there were things that they did wrongly, they should account them; that leadership should be punished to serve as a deterrent to people who would want to assume leadership in future.

The reason things are not working in Nigeria is because all the people who looted the treasury are living in Nigeria and flaunting their ill-gotten wealth. A society that corrects itself can never condone corruption. Ghana had to fight corruption frontally by shooting corrupt previous Heads of State; that’s how Ghana turned around. General Akwasi Affrifah, General Ignatius Acheampong, all of them and their associates were tied to the stake and shot in a revolution that was led by then Flt. Capt. Jerry Rawlings.

People have forgotten that Ghana didn’t become a new state to copy just like that; some drastic actions were taken. While I’m not prescribing executing people, am saying that such people should be arrested, their administrations should be probed, monies they stole should be recovered and they should be sent to jail. In our case, let them die in jail instead of tying them to the stake and executing them by firing squad.

I am trying to tell you that for a country to experience new progressive leadership, the failed leadership of the past must be punished so that nobody will go back to the old ways of doing things.

 

How do you see the single term of six years being proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan; some say it’s another tenure elongation agenda?

Well, whatever intention the president has for bringing up this proposal, one thing is clear; that today the problems facing the country are no longer things you can tackle piecemeal. There are so many items of discomfort facing Nigeria as a country and they are not things you can handle on ad hoc basis. Our systems have all failed and the only thing to do is to tell ourselves the truth. The president may be courageous to admit the need for comprehensive reform of our system. We must think about having a national conference.

People are scared about sovereign national conference, so there must be a national conference where Nigerians must come together to discuss the various problems facing the country. In that conference, we should be able to look at the system of government we are operating; I mean the presidential system and compare it with the parliamentary system or any other system of government that may be suitable for Nigeria. In that conference, we shall look at the cost of governance. In that conference, we shall define the basis of our relationship. Nigeria is operating a federal system of government but our federalism is based on false premise. The federating units should be largely independent of the centre; they should be in a position to do things for themselves in many areas.

If you use America as a federal system, you see that all the states in America have their state police; all the agencies are internal to the states, although they may be uniform in operation but they are internal. That is, the command of the agencies rests with the states.

But in Nigeria we are operating a federal system with unitary command. So it is a federal system based on a very false foundation and that is why there is no clear demarcation between the activities of the state governments and those of the Federal Government which make up the federating units.

It is only in a national conference that Nigerians can come together and then decide what type of federal system of government we can operate. Are we going back to the regional arrangement? When we had regional governments with federating units, the country fared better. The regions developed very progressively; the Cocoa House in Western Nigeria still remains the tallest building in that part of the country till date. Cocoa House in Ibadan is 25-storey. It seems the tallest building in Lagos now is the UBA House at Marina. I don’t think the UBA building is up to 25-storey. So the Cocoa House was built with cocoa money.

In Eastern Nigeria, we did landmark things then. At that time there was nothing like oil and yet so much was done across the regions. Then in the Northern region, the people achieved a lot using the revenue from groundnut and other things. Then there was nothing like oil but so much was done across the regions. Development was there and there was competition both in the education sector and economic sector.

Today, there is nothing like that, every governor goes to Abuja to collect money and go home to spend. That’s the only thing happening in Nigeria; the governors go to Abuja collect money (federal allocations), pay salaries and then they go and buy their private estates abroad.

 

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