…LET'S RE-NEGOTIATE -OBI, OTHERS
Nigeria's future and its structure yesterday reverberated amongst key political players and statesmen in Abuja. It was at the launch of Nigeria's Golden Book in commemoration of Nigeria's 51st independence anniversary written by The Sun Publishing Company Limited, Publishers of The Sun titles.
Senate President David Mark, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, Ondo State Governor Olusegun Mimiko, Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, Jigawa State Governor Mallam Sule Lamido, among others, made stimulating demands for a new deal anchored on the expressed wishes of the people; even as former Head of State, who chaired the event, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar warned that no effort to re-shape the destiny of the country should be spared.
Mimiko, who was the keynote speaker, extolled the 'Can do Spirit' of Nigerians, which he observed, had been blighted by stagnation in vital sectors, including agriculture, health, infrastructure, leadership deficit and a defective structure.
He blamed the electoral woes of the past and the consistent decline in economic growth on the malaise, and therefore called for an urgent 'discussion on the future of the nation.'
In an ecclesiastical tone, the governor said, 'we must talk in this country. We cannot continue to pretend and run away from it. There are structural problems. If we don't talk, people will talk for us in the streets; robbers, kidnappers and terrorists will talk for us in the streets'
He enjoined the National Assembly to join in the struggle to put together a perfect structure that will fashion out a perfect constitution of our dreams.
'There must be an all-inclusive talk let's not pretend. This is the season of strikes all because of our weak unitary system. Election riggers must be jailed and criminalized' he submitted.
Senator Enyinaya Abaribe who represented the Senate President David Mark, declared that the seventh session of the Senate has taken a stand on the Nigeria Project, which he said will ensure that 'the task of transformation will be anchored on discussion, state creation, structure of the nation, revenue allocation and the rule of law. But we insist that having passed the law of the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SNF), we are waiting for governors to tell us why we should abrogate it.
'We'll engage in dialogue with the executive arm of government to further the Nigeria project,' he affirmed.
He said the Senate was poised to emphasize all the things and values that enhanced unity among the disparate ethnic groups.
Throwing some insight into the proposed third amendment of the Constitution for which a committee was empanelled a fortnight ago, he revealed that geo-political entities might likely be incorporated to make them legal.
Hon. Victor Ogene, who represented Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, attributed the positive improvement in the last April elections to the amendment of the Constitution by the National Assembly last year.
He insisted that the National Assembly will continue in its progressive strides irrespective of the clamour for a Sovereign National Conference, (SNC). He noted that the House would likely review the Land Use Act to encourage agriculture, fiscal federalism to reduce tension in the polity, adding that the House had already taken the lead by pruning down its running costs.
He urged Nigerians who are opposed to the SWF to go to court, rather than asking the President to disregard an already established law.
Obi, who condemned the 1999 Constitution, said; 'I agree with Mimiko that we need to talk. We never sat down to develop this Constitution. It was entrusted on us. Every time amendment, amendment; let's discuss that document entirely. We're either a federation or not. Let's state where we are. This is as simple as ABC. I sit in Anambra State and get orders and instructions from somewhere else.'
Speaking on the contentious minimum wage issue that has pitched Labour against the governors, he declared his position on it for the umpteenth time: 'I'm against it. It is not linked to anything you can point at especially GDP (Gross Domestic Product)
'Secondly, there is no minimum wage anywhere in the world. It is not in U.S, Malaysia, India, everywhere. It is always based on income.
'There is nowhere in the world where two professors earn the same salary.
Professors in Harvard earn 10 times what professors in Alabama State University earn. We cannot do it.
'Thirdly, how do you say the least paid worker must earn a certain amount? There is a state in Nigeria that earns more than all the states in the South-East put together. I'm paying with pains. I'm using 75 per cent of the revenue of five million people to service 15,000 people.
'At the federal level, 70 per cent of the income is used on overheads. It's worrisome.'
He urged all stakeholders to close ranks and sort out the issue of state creation, joint account and SWF.
He said that people were opposed to the SWF because 'before you know it, you'll start looking for it'
In like manner, Lamido solicited for the co-operation and understanding of all Nigerians in the task of healing the nation. He said that most Nigerians speak from the position of ignorance on issues that affect their counterparts outside their immediate environmen.
The truth is that Nigerians are ignorant about Nigeria. So, I think we must first know about ourselves, as Nigerians before we start talking about the structure.'
The representative of Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, Alhaji Mohammed Dahiru, challenged The Sun Publishing Company to explore new ways of curbing the endemic societal ills.
'The era of newspapers focusing mainly on newspapering is gone, and gone forever'.
Also speaking, representative of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Mr. Femi Olashade, also called on all Nigerians to re-shape the country, saying; 'Nigeria is currently facing challenges in security, unemployment, corruption. They are not insurmountable.'
Scores of political bigwigs, captains of industry, technocrats, the diplomatic corps, graced the occasion.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Sun Publishing Company Limited, Mr. Tony Onyima, said the work came at a time when the nation required new vision, impetus and direction. He described it as a modest effort to tell the story of Nigeria.
Onyima described the book as a 'treasure chest, a veritable companion to students, researchers and most importantly, the nation's planners and public administrators.'
He further said that 'for us at The Sun Publishing Limited, this is a responsibility we owe to the people of this country -to this country and those to come.'
The 509-page book was reviewed by Mallam Mohammed Haruna, former Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of New Nigerian newspapers.