JONATHAN SHOULD MAKE SECURITY HIS PRIORITY-ONYEOZIRI
With the general election over, a professor of political science, who was formerly of the University of Ibadan (UI) and lately political adviser to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national chairman and special adviser to deputy director-general of Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organization, Professor Fred Onyeoziri, has advised President Goodluck Jonathan to take the issue of security as number one priority.
He also wants the President-elect to show appreciation to the Igbo for their overwhelming support for his Presidency during the election. Onyeoziri explains that not even in the days of the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe had the Igbo cast so many votes for any candidate. He also spoke on several issues on the just concluded election: Excerpts:
President Goodluck Jonathan made many promises during his electioneering campaign; do you think he will fulfill these promises?
President Jonathan is a man of integrity. For me, it is foregone conclusion that when men of integrity make promises, those promises are kept. And also, I think he has the capability to fulfill those promises and there is no need for me to start enumerating them one by one. I think he has the seriousness of mind, integrity and capacity to fulfill these promises. Since he has good intention, most of the things tying us down in this country are doable. The power sector, for instance, is a doable thing; education also, is doable. Besides, other societies have done them and did them well. There is no reason why any serious-minded president would not do and do them well.
In your candid opinion, do you think President Jonathan performed in the last one year or so?
He performed very well in the last one year, in spite of some distractions such as insecurity, the Jos crisis and the bombing in some parts of the country. These distracted him from focusing seriously on leadership of this country. But, in spite of that, I think he has done very well.
How would you gauge his popularity?
Winning the election itself is an indication of his popularity. In fact, I had always held the view that Jonathan enjoys the goodwill of Nigerians, if you remember the crisis from the transition of Yar'Adua to Jonathan; the people who fought the battle for him were the ordinary Nigerians. This will tell you how much goodwill of Nigerians he enjoys. And if you look at the wide range support he had during the recent elections, both the primary and presidential, even in areas he was not likely to garner enough votes, he still got a comfortable vote across the country, whereas the Constitution requires the presidential candidate to get 25 per cent of 2/3, which is 25 per cent of such states, he got 25 per cent of 31 states, which is virtually nation-wide. What greater popularity would you ask for? If it is a question of popularity and acceptability, I think Jonathan has it.
Recently, you suggested that anyone wanting to be President of this country should at least have a university degree. Are you saying this should be a yardstick?
Maybe this is because I am also a university person. But I think university education helps to build up the intellectual capacity of people, and I think leaders have to be able to address the advice given them to adopt a policy position derived from that advice. He needed an analytical ability, which is what good education bestows on people. Good education, minimally a first degree, should be required of our leaders. But, if you ask me, I would even say Jonathan's type of having a PhD should become a norm.
Now that he has won the election, how would you advise him to start, as already Nigerians are looking forward to his performance?
There are so many areas I think he has to give attention. Let's take, for instance, the issue of security. I am not happy with the level of insecurity. I am not happy with a situation where ordinary criminals tend to have gone sufficiently above the security agencies. We, in political term, say that the state is supposed to have the monopoly of violence, the reason why the state is supposed to have the monopoly of violence is to be able to secure security for its citizens and protection of life and property, and to have monopoly of violence is that the state will have more violence than private security. In a situation where armed robbers can overtake a whole street and the police will not be able to put them out of action, it is not very good. I would advice the President to take the issue of security as number one priority. To make sure no one individual enjoys or controls more violence than the state itself.
Also, people who commit crime should not only be punished but seen to be punished, whether you look at the court, university or wherever. We don't seem to be taking good record of people being punished for the crimes they have committed. When you consider the series of religious riots, people are not punished for what they have done. If you do not punish people who commit crimes, they will encourage future criminals to think they can do it and get away with it. So, I think we should take a more serious look at security in this country by ensuring not only that security agencies are adequately equipped but also those who take the law into their hands, criminals and so forth, are also very adequately punished.
What about electricity?
Light is a foregone conclusion. It is almost embarrassing that in this age of our sovereignty, generating electricity is no longer a current age technology. It is like a traditional technology that almost every country of the world can do. Even some of our smaller African countries can boast of steady electricity, how much more Nigeria. I feel we can generate electricity and if I have the opportunity to advice the president, he should make it our utmost priority to restore the issue of power.
Look at how many industries that have closed up, also look at how many small scale industries that are running into loses because they have to find money to buy their own generators, they cannot depend on the municipal power generation. I think from any direction you look at it, it is a big minus for development in this country that we cannot guarantee stability of power, and I think I should advise that we take it very seriously.
Also, I don't think Nigerians understand the nature and character of the nation, institutionalisation of public interest, the interest of the public should be the number one priority; that is exactly what the state is, to protect and promote.
One begins to wonder whether we in Nigeria really understand the essence of the state. When, for instance, certain individuals engage in the destruction of public property, PHCN cables are vandalized when there are protests in the universities, most of the properties are smashed, I mean, these are the things established with the tax-payer's money.
The more they destroy these things, the more they show they don't understanding that the state is out to promote and advocate the public interest, and that the citizens have the responsibility to respect the responsibility of the state. When they go after state institutions, they don't understand the extent of the state. That is the job we are going to give to the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to make the average Nigerian, including those who are governing to become more aware of the essence of the state and the priority of the state to promote and protect the public interest, which is above personal interest, party interest and whatever interest.
Can you comment on the killings and burning of churches in some northern states during the post-election violence?
Well, quite frankly, I do not understand what is happening. I refuse to accept that it is a grouse against the result of the election. The president won the election fair and square. In fact, in my own part of the country, the South-East, people were so highly mobilized in support for Jonathan that you can almost credit it to the kind of thing that happened in a place where they regard voting as compulsory. The regular democracy regards voting as optional - go and vote if you want - it is voluntary. But for the governing system of those days, it is compulsory. So, the South-East was mobilized to such an extent that communities were made to feel that this voting is compulsory, and they went out in their last numbers to vote.
So, if you have a high percentage turnout from the East, this is part of the explanation. So, I find it embarrassing and even difficult to explain that people, our brothers from the North of the country, are casting aspersion on the integrity of the election and the only thing that is standing out were that there were high percentage turnout in some states, which they consider unusual. It is not only unusual, even the level of mobilization. You know, for the first time in the history of this country, the Ohaneze Ndigbo came out clearly to urge all the Igbo to vote for Jonathan. It has never been done before in the history of this country, and Ohanaeze had never taken that kind of position.
This will tell you to what extent there was that total commitment among the South-East people to go all out for Jonathan. So, if you get a turnout running into 90 per cent or so, it is not surprising. Now, if you look at the turnout from the North, you find that it is not very high. In most of these areas, you have a turnout of about 50 per cent, some 40 per cent. In Kano, for instance, the turnout is a little below 50 per cent. One mistake we are making in this country is that you may have a large pool or registered voters, but if those areas don't turnout to throw in their votes, those who went for election thinking because they have a large number of registered voters, that automatically they are going to win, whether you are winning or not is a function of whether those qualified to vote were actually mobilized to come out and vote, the number of those registered does not translate to victory.
Talking about the South-East, the zone has been so much short-changed in so many respects. What do you suggest the president do, with regards to the large vote he got from that zone?
Well, if I were to advice the President, I would say that not even in the days of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe had so much votes been cast (in the East) by the Igbo. He should appreciate that fact and see how he can show appreciation to the Igbo.
There are several ways he can do. It is not for me to dictate what form, but the important thing to stress is that the Igbo were so highly supportive of Jonathan's Presidency and I think it is proper for him to show appreciation. I remember even before we got to the actual election, in an attempt to win the Igbo vote, he promised that they were going to get the presidency in 2015, but in spite of that, many Igbo said they have very good reason to support Jonathan, and they went all out to support him, they refused to fall into that cheap propaganda that somebody else was going to give them the presidency in 2015, just for the asking. But I think there are various ways Jonathan can show appreciation to them.
Talking about 2015, do you think Jonathan's Presidency would hamper the chances of the Igbo in 2015?
I don't think it will affect their chances if we go back and raise questions about the essence of zoning. It is supposed to be an instrument of justice and equity, it requires that those who have not tasted presidential power be given a chance. You don't have any justice and equity giving presidential powers to people who have already over-benefited from it in the past. It is not equity and justice. The East, now that the South-South has been given a chance, should be the next on the line. They should be given a chance.
In fact, if you ask me, I would say we should probably reduce it to four-yearly rotation. If we give it to the South-East in 2015, in the next four years it goes to one of the northern zones.
And what is four years in the life of a nation? It is not something people should be killing themselves over, but I think the South-East has been short-changed in this presidential power rotation, and it is only fair in the name of equity that they should be given the next shot at the presidency.
There are fears that the Igbo may not get their acts together if given the chance, do you buy this idea?
Well, in the past they had not gotten their acts together, and to say that what had been in the past will continue to chase them in the future, I don't buy that argument. But I think the Igbo must have learnt a lesson from what happened in the past and try this time to get their acts together to make any progress in 2015.
They should learn to sit down and get their acts together, I don't agree that it is possible they should not be able to get their acts together because they had not done so in the past. In pre-war period, they were always able to get their acts together, they did make substantial political progress, I think that issue or position should be re-enacted.