NIGERIA SHOULD GO BACK TO REGIONS -OBIENU
Former Vice Chairman of Nigeria Football Association (NFA), Barr. Richard Nwabufo Obienu, has said that Igbo leaders should be blamed for the number of states created in the zone and recalled that as a student, they were lured into demonstrating against creation of states. Describing it as short sightedness, the Nnewi title holder said that the clamour for creation of more states should stop since the states already created could not sustain themselves.
The former football administrator accused those clamouring for the convocation of National Sovereign Conference as not being fair to the country since 'We already have a parliament, we should sit back and do the right things. There can't be sovereignty within sovereignty, it will cause confusion, instead various ethnic groups should make imputs in the National Assembly will know what to do'.
Goddy Osuji brings excerpts:
Political situation in the country
I believe Nigeria has weathered a lot of storms because I think there is a divine purpose for this country to be one. The various storms we are going through will make our country a stronger unit, if the right things are done, and if there is a sense of honesty and if there is a sense of purpose, and if there is total agreement by all the different ethnic groups in Nigeria that this entity called Nigeria should survive. We do the right things, and this country will come out great and be a giant, it is expected to be in Africa and in the world.
Restructuring of Nigeria, a panacea to stability
I believe in restructuring. This country must be restructured for it to survive. The way this country is, cannot work; a situation where you have 36 states, all the governors are sitting down waiting for federal allocation committee to sit and money is shared like a piece of cake; everybody scatters and nothing is done and they will come back the following month. If it continues like that this country will not survive. We must go back to the basics and do the right things and that is why I said that the elites of this country have totally failed this country in the sense that they talk with the two sides of their mouth; double talk, no sincerity and we allow a very big minority to come out and ruin this country out of selfishness, greed and covetousness. I believe that this country must be restructured for it to move forward.
This idea of everybody wanting to be president of Nigeria can be taken care of, if we restructure this country. Must there be a sovereign national conference or whatever you call it to bring this country together? No, I don't believe we should have that. We already have a parliament, we should sit back and do the right things in all sincerity and what we stand on must be honest desire to turn this country to what it ought to be.
Convocation of Sovereign National Conference will stabilize this country?
There can't be sovereignty within sovereignty, it will cause confusion. Instead inputs from various ethnic groups should be put into place and the National Assembly will know what to do. I do not believe that we should have a sovereign conference within sovereignty, it will not work. A lot of people who are clamoring for this want personal relevance, I don't support that. But should this country be restructured? I believe it should be, and the basic things to restructure this country I can tell you. This clamour for states should stop because the states that are already created cannot sustain themselves.
Go back to what Nigeria was when we are progressives, when we were hardworking; when we did not have oil, God has given us six structures, we should go back to the regions; there should be a regional government made up of equal numbers of states within the regions. The South-East has suffered so much, remember when the states were created, they found themselves with five states while other geopolitical zones have six. The South-East is partly to blame, because I remember I was in the university, politicians came to influence us to demonstrate that they want to split the Igbos; that they should not split us. We demonstrated as students, market women demonstrated that Zik wanted to split the Igbos; that we wanted to remain one. Short-sightedness. Now the same set of people are clamoring that we have been shortchanged; have we been shortchanged, yes we have been. There should be six regions and there should be decentralization.
There is too much power and revenue going to the centre and that is why everybody wants to be the president of this country. There should be decentralisation and true federalism, as we have in the East, as we have in the South-South, North-East, and North-West and so on. God has given us that, let us go back to that structure. Certain things must be in the central, like the Armed Forces, Foreign policy, Police Force, I don't support state police. We are not matured for it yet; we are exhibiting a lot of immaturity because we don't accommodate divergent views. If we have state police and you said anything against the governor you are finished.
We cannot compare ourselves with America whose democracy is over 200 years. We are just starting. The little we are doing, we are not doing well. We can have a federal Police that has regional commands; we can have the Army that has regional commands. Let us go back to the basics and do what we ought to do. This laziness of every end of the month we go to Abuja to share money, we must stop it or this country will disintegrate. It is that sharing of money that has removed the emphasis of developing your own area; all areas cannot develop at the same time.
We are now talking of oil; if new technology comes out now, oil will be a thing of the past, what do you give to the South-South for the degradation of their land since oil was found? What do they have to show? If you go to South-South you will cry, you will not even see a good general hospital to take care of them, not even drinking water not to talk of electricity. Yes the structure of Nigeria caused that but also they should hold their leaders responsible. Look at what they are talking about Ibori and the rest of them. They should hold their leaders responsible, but the structure helped their leaders to do what they did to them.
There are certain things we must introduce in this country; we should deemphasize state of origin; America threw it away. We should emphasize state of residency. I remember when I was growing up in Port-Harcourt, an Hausa man was a prominent man that he was almost the Mayor; an Hausa man was the Mayor of Enugu. My father, Nzimiro and the rest of them in Port-Harcourt were prominent and they were not from there; I grew up to see myself as a Garden City boy not as an Nnewi boy or an Ibo boy but the military scattered all these things but we can change them and bring it to what it ought to be.
We should remove religion; you are filling a form, religion, Christianity and whatever; we should remove it. Your religion is a personal matter to you it is between you and your God. Most people who call themselves Christians are not Christians in the real sense of it, and most of them who call themselves Moslem are not Moslems in the real sense. A Christian is a follower of Jesus; a Moslem is a strict follower of the Quran and Mohammed. Look down to what is happening today; what we are practicing as Christians and Moslems is it according to the word of God? that you have a Christian name does not make you a Christian, that you have Moslem name does not make you a Moslem; what makes you a Moslem is when you follow strictly the tenets of Quran and what makes you a Christian is when you follow strictly the principles of Jesus Christ not that you were baptized in a Christian church.
So these are the structures that must be put in place and this country will move forward. Remove state of origin, bring in state of residency; remove religion let it be a private matter. Government has no business sponsoring pilgrimages when we don't have basic water to drink; it is a fallacy, it is from the military. If you follow God and you feel you should go to pilgrimage, make a life saving and go, let it be your priority, let it be your business.
That is where CAN and the Moslem association can come in instead of them coming to this country to cause confusion. Secondly the six geopolitical zones should have equal number of states and the derivable principle in this country must be increased the way it was before the civil war. In the first republic, it was 50-50. People are looking at oil, good leaders in the North can turn what they have there to be greater than oil, cassava, corn, maize; Thailand play their politics with rice not with oil, if you don't follow their line they will starve you of food; that is their weapon. Before the war, there were groundnut pyramids, soya beans and the rest. These things can generate revenue more than oil; tourism, but we have very lazy leaders who are not ready to look inwards and know what to do. This country must be restructured and if possible the local government system which is not equitable should be abolished. I know a state in the North where a town alone is the local government; it was not done by the consent of the people it was done by fiat. Let the Governors now look at the local governments as a development centre. Most of them have not had elections conducted by the states for more than five years.
Money meant for the local governments have not gotten to them and that is the greatest fraud that is going on in Nigeria because the states have sat down on the local government funds and use it the way they like; that is why you go to the local governments and there is no development. The money allocated to them if the truth must be told is in the pockets of individuals. Let the local governments be the development centres. Have you seen in a local government election where the opposition won? The other day Lagos had local government election did the opposition win any seat. If the money used in that election was put into Lagos University it will be one of the best universities in the world or Lagos State Teaching Hospital it will be one of the areas of excellence. Why must we deceive ourselves to use the money to waste it in election; let them be development centres, let them not be part of the revenue sharing formula, let the revenue sharing formula be between the central government and the regional governments that will give to the state governments what is due to them based on the 50-50 derivation and let all these laziness stop.
Today it is oil let them use it to develop their area, tomorrow it could be water, next tomorrow it could be groundnut; after all our great Awolowo used cocoa to develop the west; as at today nobody has caught up with the west and that is the position for now. And this country cannot move forward if we do not look at the cost of government, at our level yes America has House of Representative, they have the Senate, we don't need this in Africa, we can't afford it. Based on equal representation of regions we can have one legislative body; the senate made up of intellectuals and patriots who will move this country forward; at times when I look at the House of Representative I cry because of the caliber of people who are there; at times when I look at the senate the caliber of people who are there and I am encouraged when I see another caliber that is coming up, sincere people who want to move this country forward. We can have the same thing in the regions and we can have the same thing in the states but we can bring in the constitution to help us at the centre.
How can you blame the president on the over bloated budget when the same constitution says every state must produce one minister; it is a constitutional requirement, it is not Jonathan's requirement. How can you say cut down government the constitutional requirement, that the statutory bodies every member of state will be member of them that is why they are bloated. that constitutional amendment is important. We know the relevant ministries in this country; they should not be more than 10 maximum 12, in the regions maximum 10 let them be stated there in the constitution not when somebody wakes up he creates a ministry and says he is creating jobs, it is not the responsibility of government to create jobs; governments all over the world don't create jobs, what the government does is to create the environment for the private sector to create jobs. So when I hear some of these governors say I am employing 500 youths and I am creating job, I laugh, fallacy. Government all over the world does not create jobs; creation of job is that of the private sector particularly our banks. You go with a beautiful project to the bank, they know it will work the Nigerian bank will not sponsor you.
But thy would want to sponsor a marketer who has acquired through the back door by briefcase office they will give him N10 billion to go and import fuel because they know the short run he makes a lot of money and they make money. Our banks are disappointing this country you come up with beautiful ideas even as some of the Youth Corpers can come with beautiful ideas that can create jobs but the banks will not touch with a long pole because they want quick return. It is the job of the private sector to create jobs and to create wealth.
Our civil service bloated; my brother how can you justify a situation where the annual budget of Nigeria where about 20 percent is for capital expenditure while 70 percent is for recurrent expenditure, it is madness and the 75 percent that is used for recurrent which covers less than 10 percent of Nigeria's population that is why the woman in the market has no Medicare, no transportation there is nothing about government that is reaching to her because 10 percent of our population that make up the civil service are sharing 75 percent of our recurrent expenditure, it does not make sense to me. That is why we should go back to the regions where federal government will have areas they will face, the regional and state governments will also have areas they will face. I remember that before it was a pride to go to government school; only the brilliant will go to Afikpo or Umuahia or Comprehensive school Port-Harcourt or Kings College but what is the position today. So if we don't cut our recurrent expenditure in this country we are not making any progress. Federal government has no business going into business because it known all over the world that government business does not succeed; so anywhere Nigeria has out their hands in business they should disinvest business is for the private sector.
Scraping of the presidential system to parliamentary system?
We have gone so much into presidential system of government that anybody who is suggesting a parliamentary system of government is not sincere. There are advantages in presidential system of government but the issue is that we are running it on a bloated structure.
Constitution review your opinion
Not only a constitutional review but a massive review of our constitution and the areas that need to be touched is this clamour for state creation will not do this country any good; we must go back to regional system where we have federal, regional and state governments, the local government should be reduced to development centres because in the first place the creation of local government was not equitable; it was done by the military by fiat so it should be scrapped and used as developmental centers as you have in Enugu and some other states; it should not be created by the federal government rather by the states. Because the way we are in our development system is dangerous to have any opposition in the local government, so, why do we waste money to conduct election that we know the results unless you want to put the local government election to INEC responsibility but even at that are you free.
There must be inserted state of residency law in Nigeria it will take care of ethnicity like it has done in America. If I reside in Enugu contribute to the economy of socio Enugu; build a factory in Enugu employ people from Enugu I should be considered a citizen by constitutional requirement. If you don't do anything about this ethnicity this country will explode one day. There is ethnicity in Boko Haram whether you want to take it or not, there is ethnicity on Odua People Congress,; there is ethnicity in MASSOB; if you don't handle those things this country will explode one day.
How do you see Boko Haram?
It has nothing to do with Quran. It has nothing to do with Islam. From the little I know about Quran, it does not support killing of people nor does the Bible. It has nothing to with Islam; it is political; it is the elites who want to continue to be in power that are sponsoring it. I comment the president the way he is handling them and the worst mistake they made was to go and bomb a church because at that point it has ceased to be political issue we worship a God with the Christian faith that we don't need to fight for we worship a God who can fight for himself.
The moment they went to burn the Christian church that is the end of Boko Haram because God will so mess them up and He will show them that He is God and will remain God. If you want to burn my Bible I will give it to you; burn it and one thing I assure you after burning it your life will not be the same because the God I worship will deal with you. I don't need to fight His war for him and that is why I commend the leadership of CAN for once we applied Christian principle; I commend them, I don't know them. He is a man of God and he has displayed Godly qualities. I read him and I feel happy for once a true Christian is in-charge of CAN otherwise this country would have exploded. Christ said if you are slapped on the left turn your right if they want to slap you again do not fight for me vengeance is mine says the Lord. And I can assure you if God is God and I know he is God you will not talk about Boko Haram next year
How do you see the burial of Ikemba Ojukwu
To so many people Ojukwu means different things. First he must be very lucky the way he has been buried and to me he is a patriot but those people don't understand it. Ojukwu did not plan the civil war. The civil war was bestowed on him, he had no alternative. I remember meeting him as a young boy and I was wondering how a son of a multi millionaire in sterling can be in the Army. I think his burial brought it home to me that Ojukwu came to Nigeria for a purpose and his death now will serve a purpose in Nigeria if we can reap from it. I thank the local organizing committee for doing a wonderful job; I don't think anybody can match that burial in terms of logistic, precision and I thank the president for coming out to give their full support. Ojukwu's death will bring unity in this country.
People forget that he was the commander of the 5th battalion, people forget that as the commander he did not support Nzeogwu's coup; people forget that he was made the regional governor; people forget that he did not slaughter people who were brought back to him. People forget that it was the Ibos that shouted on their leader Ojukwu and he had to come out with all courage; very few people in the world had the courage Ojukwu had and I had the singular privilege of sitting with him over one hour two times few months before he died and I cherished those two moments, I saw a patriot, very misunderstood man a man who loved this country and a man who wanted every ethnic group in Nigeria to be respected for what they are and that is why I am so grateful to God that he was buried the way he was buried.
How do view comments of some Northerners who said they are prepared to separate from Nigeria?
Who are the Northerners, there are people who speaks for the North when those people who speak for the North speak we know they speak for the North. It is just like for any Ibo man to get up and speak and said Ibos have said; who are the Ibos? There are key people who are Ibos when they speak you know that Ibos have spoken. No Northerner will say they want to secede. Some of them are just being misunderstood. I do not believe Northerners want to succeed but should the derivation formula be changed it must be changed giving the federal government 58 percent is criminal. #