What is your position on the removal of immunity for the President, Vice President, governors and their deputies?
I have both conceptual and practical problem with the constitutional reform as being carried out by the National Assembly. With greatest respect to the members of the House of Representatives, when they claimed that they have held 365 meetings in their constituencies to gather feedback from the people, I think it is fundamentally flawed and disingenious way of conducting constitutional reform process. Either in the best global practices or even in the terms of elementary feedback mechanism, I don’t think it qualifies. What has happened has not met the basic aspect of legitimacy. I am of a thought that this process will end up in referendum that all Nigerians will have a say. Constitution is a serious matter to exclude the citizenry from it.
On immunity, my own position tallies with what they say. I have consistently said immunity should be limited to only civil matter and that anyone who commits a crime and expected to be protected by the law is first, not democratic and second, not interested in good government. Since we all agree that the bane of our country today is corruption, criminality in high office, whether it is electoral criminality or grand theft of the public treasury, criminality is criminality. I have always believed that the only justification for immunity is when a politician designed to distract person doing a job from delivering the job with pedestrian and irresponsible cases in court. That has nothing to do with criminality and I think I still hold strongly that view. Immunity for civil matters should be adhered to. However, lawyers can be dangerous and difficult. They can turn civil cases to criminal issue depending on what they are fighting for.
In that wise, I don’t think immunity is a matter for just the National Assembly to decide. Majority of the proposals that I have seen from the Lower Chamber have truly undermined the spirit of federalism throughout the world. As a matter of fact, in some part of the world, the unit that is responsible for election is the local government or county that runs election. It is from here they calculate the election from the number of local governments across the country. Many countries don’t have what is called Federal Electoral body; Britain, USA, all of them. I don’t know many countries with federal electoral bodies. We only do our own thing in Nigeria in reverse order and yet, we expect to get correct outcome. It doesn’t work that way. There is logic to principle of federalism and that logic is subsidiarity. But in our country, we want to be unitary state, yet masquerade as a federal state. But I do know that many of the National Assembly proposals for constitution amendment may not see the light of the day unless they are not coming to the States House of Assembly.
What is your reaction to your endorsement for a second term by your party?
I have come to be very wary about this term, endorsement. It has become bastardized word courtesy Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF). Seriously speaking, I think it is a burden when people say that you have done well. The burden of doing more becomes enlarged. That is what has come out of the endorsement that our leaders gave to me last December and the affirmation by Chief Bisi Akande and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
I also think seriously that what we have learnt from Lagos and Edo experiment is that if good governance is entrenched, it will be useful and helpful for the parties not to change candidate arbitrarily unless there is a compelling reasons to do that and those reasons should include those conditions listed in the Nigerian constitution like temporary or permanent insanity, ill-health and others like that. If we are to consolidate on things that we have achieved, then it makes sense unless the candidate chooses not to contest.
Our constitution allows second term. Obviously, you cannot legislate against ambition. With the endorsement, I felt a sense of elation on one hand and surprise on the other because it imposes enormous burden on one, not just to do well and protect the things that have been made but to also protect our people because I am sure Abuja is eyeing Ekiti State very interestingly. They considered those of us in the Progressive Forum as governors to be taken out at all cost. But they will discover on the ground that they will have very little to sell to our people. As far as we are concerned there are clear and consistent changes in all of these states. What will the opposition be bringing to the market to sell to the people at the end of the day? The important point here is that endorsement is not an election. We have a lot of work to do.
It’s great that our leaders recognised the work that we have done so far but election is not going to be a child’s play. We have prepared for a very tough election because we know full well that the other side will not sit idle even before 2015 and the election in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun will be a dress rehearsal for 2015.
Is it not confounding to you that insecurity has persisted in the country?
We have almost moving to a point where our leaders need a serious strategy; and economic cum security strategy. I don’t know how that is going to come about but the Council of State and opinion leaders might need to step back and look at the possibility to organise Security Summit. One, there is a body led by the Minister (Turaki) talking to the various players in this unfortunate development. But I do think what we are confronted with now is poverty insecurity complex. That is the challenge that we must address.
How do we tackle it?
The last time I spoke about five sides to issue of Boko Haram. The most prominent one is the religious angle, but it is not devastating like economic strand. It is when people feel they have nothing to lose that some of these things happened. We ought to pay more attention in involving of the military in civilian affairs. I know the implication is that you are not in charge and that they should come and rescue you. That rescue can be defined in elastic by involving military in civilian matters. You are sending a sub-minimal message to the military that you cannot take good charge of the situation and that must be worrisome in the light of what we have seen in the last two days in Egypt. It should worry us that we are playing with fire. What is our youth development programme in Nigeria? We have 60% population under 25, and majority of these young people are totally fed up with Nigerian state. For one to be young and idle, other forces will find use for you. That’s the part of the country’s major problem and we are not dealing with it the way it should be done. Those who are in the power corridor seem to be totally detached from their people. We certainly need coherent strategy and that strategy must almost be a marshal plan. State of emergency should have been a component of the comprehensive marshal plan that we need in this country. And the plan must be based on special economic security because we must be able to cut off the oxygen that is fuelling what is going on. If you don’t cut that oxygen, it will continue to get to other parts of the north.
I happen to know the governors of Borno and Yobe very well. The governor of Borno, Kashim Shettima is one of the smartest governors we have in this country and it’s been so sad that Boko Haram has diminished the impact of the work he is doing in Borno State. People know what the governor is made up.
What is the implication of the insecurity for 2015 polls?
I think there is a fifth columnist in this government that is desirous of this crime being perpetrated becaus of politics in 2015; or it helps to put the President in the bad light. It could be either way.
Those who are out to get the President and destroy him and those who seek to protect him and protect his agenda of return. Maybe, their thinking is that, if we keep the north perpetually busy with these crises, election may not take place there in 2015 and that we can annex the area. That is likely where our own will come from. I’m throwing this out as my reflection rather than certainty. But we are not the only country afflicted by this kind of challenge but it refuses to go because of little attention we pay to intelligence. Up till now, the police intelligence unit is virtually zero, military intelligence is not as impressive as one expect. We are just left with the State Security Service (SSS). That seems to have a bit of the arm of it. And that leaves us with enormous challenges. Almost coming to the reality of national intelligence report as we go near 2015. Maybe there is something the American saw which we didn’t see that Nigeria may disintegrate by 2014. But,we don’t need to resign ourselves to fate. We need to make a clarion call to Mr. President and all of us in the leadership position to begin to respond to issues. This is one of the issues discussed at NGF that we should make resources available to the afflicted states. In our view, you cannot have about 10 million children there outside and not see correlation between helplessness and hopelessness of these young people. There is correlation somewhere, poverty and violence are related and we must do certain things to separate them. We can take specific steps.
Right now, the bulk of what is happening under the state of emergency is being paid for by those states where the rule is in place. So, you can see what is happening that if Borno State gets a monthly allocation of say N5 billion every month and it devotes N2.5billion to keep the Joint Task Force in place. That is zero-sum in economics.
This article was first published in The Nation
Last modified: July 17, 2013