MINIMUM WAGE: GOVS MISCHIEVOUS - OBIECHINA
Public affairs analyst and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Alex Chukwuemeka Obiechina has said that any attempt to remove the subsidy on petroleum products at this time will not augur well for this country. According to him, those calling for such were mischief- makers.
Waxing philosophical, Obiechina likened it to someone trying to set his house ablaze in an attempt to catch a rat. He argued that if the governors wanted to reduce the cost of governance, they should reduce the size and emoluments of their commissioners, special assistants and other aides.
Obiechina also disagreed with the opinion that President Goodluck Jonathan is being held hostage by the PDP leadership. According to him, the president is in-charge but he has to consult widely because of the enormity and complexity of the problems of the country.
In a chat, he also explained that he is still challenging, in court, the emergence of Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State as PDP guber candidate in the last election because he was not validly nominated.
How do you react to the call by state governors for the removal of subsidy on petroleum products?
The call by governors for the removal of subsidy on petroleum products is not in the interest of the country. The aim is merely to increase the allocation accruing to the states but it will, ultimately, make nonsense of the expected benefits of the N18, 000 new minimum wage to workers. In fact, the request by the governors is in bad faith; it smacks of mischief. It goes to show that some of those running the affair of the states lack the intellectual sagacity and acumen to manage the finances and responsibility of their states.
I do not understand why the governors do not appreciate the efforts of their workers hence they are trying to circumvent the benefits accruing to them. Governors need not be told that the workers are the bedrock of the system. Without an effective and motivated work force, no state can function efficiently. It is, therefore, a puzzle that some governors are determined to bite the fingers that feed them. If the idea is to cut the cost of governance, then it is misplaced. The way to effectively cut the cost of governance is to cut the size of their government by reducing the number and emolument of their commissioners, special advisers and other aides.
It is only after theses reductions are effected and cost of governance reduced that the revenue accruing to the states will be effectively utilized. Interestingly, the reasons always given any time there is debate on the removal of subsidy on petroleum products is that the money saved from the exercise would ploughed back into enhancing social infrastructure. But the inevitable questions are: Where are the new roads, hospitals, and improved power and education sectors? How regular is the payment of pension to pensioners across the country? What happened to the billions of naira of previous oil subsidy withdrawals? Nigerians have been fooled enough.
What is your take on the Boko Haram menace and general insecurity in Nigeria at the moment?
The Islamic sect called Boko Haram has created serious problems in the country. In fact, the peace and unity of the country is threatened. It raises serious security and political problems. With the spate of bombings and killings in some parts of the country, which occurs with reckless abandon, the outside world shall soon totally classify us as a terrorist state. Of course, this will trigger off unpalatable economic hardship because foreign investors will shun the county even as massive capital flight will be witnessed.
The Boko Haram menace is threatening the foundation of the Nigerian project.
The image of the country is in tatters because of the seeming inability of security agents to contain the amorphous group. What happens if the group introduces philosophy into it? With the ease the group wrecked havoc at the police headquarters in Abuja, in the presence of the Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim, group can be encouraged to take on the nation. There is general feeling of insecurity in private and public arena, including worship centers as anywhere can be bombed anytime.
Considering the nature of the group and its modus operandi, I recommend a political solution instead of brutal force advocated by the Police and the Army giving that the group is amorphous ant their approach gorilla-like. They cannot be seen for direct confrontation. We should locate some of them and dialogue with some of their leaders. We should also identify their grievances, their sponsors and other things that could lead to nipping the menace in the bud.
Do you share the opinion that President Jonathan is hostage to PDP top shots?
I don't believe that President Jonathan is hostage by PDP leaders. We must understand that Nigeria is a complex country. There is great need for the president to consult widely. If you see his approved ministerial list, you will notice that the PDP top shots did not achieve their aim. His selection of capable technocrats like Prof Bart Nnaji and Ngozi Okonji-Iweala among others conclusively proved that he is in-charge as this was contrary to the expectation of politicians' quest that ministerial positions should be for them only.
Recently, you went to court challenging the PDP primaries conducted in Enugu state. What are you really praying for in the court and how will you benefit if you have favorable judgment?
I went to court in connection with the PDP gubernatorial primary purported to have been conducted in Enugu State on the January 12. This is because I feel that the conduct of the purported primary contravened certain expressed provisions of the electoral Act 2010 as amended. What I shall benefit if the judgment goes in my favor is not personal gains. My benefit shall be that through this process, I have deepened democracy in my country. I would have made positive contributions if I checkmated god-fatherism in our politics, frustrated political rascality and impunity whereby few people sitting in the luxury of their homes twist internal party democracy by offering unmerited results to their cronies against the express wishes of the people.
Again, as a Christian, I have been brought up on the values of truth and honesty. My conscience will confront me if I see falsehood manipulated as truth and I fail to challenge it. It is unchristian for anybody to see a thief breaking into his nighbours home and refuse to raise alarm for others to come to the rescue of the neighbour in distress. In the same way, it is against the Christian tenent for me, as a politician, to fold my hands and watch another politician climb to a coveted office in our land through the back door and I fail to act. I will rather use my resources, intellect and everything to frustrate that person. What is the value of such resources if they cannot be used to address such situations for the benefit of mankind? All these shall be the gains, which I shall share with other Nigerians. It is a priceless benefit.
May I also use this opportunity to address a rumor that I am out on a vendetta mission because Dr Okwy Nwodo was removed as the national chairman of the PDP? I laugh because those who know my antecedents are sure that these proponents are mere blackmailers. I heard also that an interest group is insinuating that Nwodo is propping this litigation, and so exploit it to blackmail him and obstruct his ascendancy into any serious federal appointment.
Clearly, it is an oddity. I dare say that I have paid my dues in the academic and business world and, therefore, do not need to be under the apron strings of anyone. I have thoroughly read the Electoral Act 2010 as amended as well as the constitution, so the sound provisions on the rights and privileges of Nigerians are what propel me to act. Nothing more. I shall, therefore, advise my friends to brace up and face the legal issues before the court.