‘Amend the Constitution to provide for resource control’
Dr. Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, a two-time governor of old Midwest and Bendel State (now Edo and Delta States), spoke to Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu in his residence in Benin City on federalism, states’ autonomy, militancy, among others. Excerpts:
Challenge of Nigeria’s federalism
Federal structure says that within the society there must have components. And each component must have enough freedom. But, the people are saying that there is not enough separation of powers to give the component parts sufficient space to perform.
Sometimes the Federal Government wants to do the job of a local government. Sometimes the Federal Government wants to take over the job of a state government. The Federal government has a duty to intervene with its own resources in areas where he thinks people need its attention most. So, the Constitution should be amended to provide for resource control, sufficient autonomy for the states. If there is any country in the world that we will have to copy then we should go and study their Constitution. I am told and I have read about it that in America where the Presidential system is in operative, a lawyer in one state cannot go and practise in another state without taking their exam and the same with medical officers. So, a similar thing should take place here.
And in this country each state should be allowed to decide what it can pay as taxes and not just saying Federal government agreed on a given amount for tax of certain grades and therefore it must prevail in all the states. Not all states can. Take for instance the minimum wage; not all states can pay N18,000.00 let alone N56,000.00 they are asking for. It should not be automatic that a man promoted permanent secretary in a state should automatic become permanent secretary at the Federal because a lot of people have used it to the disadvantage of others.
Buhari and confab report
President Muhammadu Buhari did not subscribe to the establishment of that national conference therefore he need to study the type of people who went there, the motivating factor and the conclusion they arrived at before it can be implemented. He needs time to study it. So, I support him.
Resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta
Well, my personal opinion is that the bombing and destruction of pipeline in the Niger Delta is a challenge to the country to look for an alternative source of funding. If we had paid attention to agriculture with the North producing groundnut, the West, cocoa, the Mid-West palm oil and others do the same, nobody would be in a position to sabotage the country economically. The groundnut pyramids in Kano, you cannot go there to say you want to bomb it; the pyramids of cocoa in Ibadan, you cannot go and blow it off. The same thing applies to other products elsewhere. It is because oil is our main source of revenue and it’s passing through pipeline.
Many years ago, when I suggested that all petrol stations should be connected to the pipeline direct to the refinery. They silenced me and killed the idea. The issue of bombing pipeline would not have arisen.
We need to sit down and do more of our homework. We are not doing enough. Planning and preparation precede all developments. And to plan, you must have information at your hand because you are planning for many people. To plan, you must know the number of people in your country and you must know the daily needs of the people. Then you can plan a refinery that either can refine all the crude or you build a refinery that could produce half of your importation. There is no alternative to having good planning and preparation. So, from what we have seen, Buhari has done well.
Cattle herdsmen attacks
I expected the government to set up a committee to enquire why has this escalated before we find solution not just saying you must ban everybody. You must know the reason why those things are happening. In the whole of the south, there is nowhere they produce cow yet in Lagos alone, they slaughter about 2,000 a day, here in Benin a sizeable number too, same for Port Harcourt, Enugu, etc. What the southern governors need to do is to produce 10 per cent of their protein needs. The Midwest tried it, we had grazing land at Igarra, fattening cow in Isoko diary, cow at Ubiaja and they all worked. I discovered that the dairy machine we bought for Ubiaja was later sold for about N20,000. What we spent more than N2 million to import; so what do you do with that? It is left for the government to sit down and decide on what it wants and proceed to implement it.
Squabbles in PDP
Well, the reason for these struggles for leadership is that disaffection has been created among them. Leadership is no longer for service to the people but to prepare a safe ground for your grandchildren. If it were for betterment of the people, that when they get there, they would do well then it should be supported.
But, in all parties, when a party fails in an election the first thing to do is to reorganised. And to reorganise, it must have the information as to how it lost and thereafter correct all the issues. PDP has not done that. They are all talking about who will be the Chairman. Planning is much. The main chairman of the party is the man on the street. You need the states to put them together. Each state must be organised first; Local government; each ward after you have organised that then send delegates to meet with them. The way out, PDP has Governors. They should meet with some stakeholders and plan a way out for it. That is it.
Buhari’s one year in office
The people of Nigeria elected Buhari and his party on the combined feelings that Buhari is the messiah that they are expecting. They expected him to step out on all fronts, starting from education, to external affairs, solid minerals, petroleum, health, custom, immigration, etc. Buhari promised many things during his campaign and I believe from all I have heard, and all I have seen, that he has spent the last one year laying a solid foundation for the subsequent three years that will make it four.
In terms of achievements, I think that Nigerians expected too much from him because they were passing through a lot of problems. And like a patient who has been very sick and a friend comes to him and say I know a doctor who can cure you and he brings in the doctor and the doctor prescribes two tablets for him. The first time he takes the two tablets he expects that by the next morning all his problems would have gone only to find out in the morning that he has only made slow and very short improvements. But, if he continue to take the drugs he gets well.
And that is the reason why we must appreciate what Buhari has done.
Buhari as an individual is a fantastic fellow. He is doing things beyond what any civilian, untrained military man can do. He is fighting a war; trying to put the economy right, finding money to run the country, running around to see international people so that they can turn their attention to Nigeria for the good of the people and so on and so forth. So, I think he has done well.
My own view is that a man is assumed to be innocent until proven guilty. If a man contradicts a law that would make the law enforcement agencies to describe him as corrupt then there should be a section of the law to be invoked to deal with him. We have enough laws to deal with anybody who contravenes the law. What we are doing that is not helping the country is that we have many laws. What we are doing is that we are ‘ostriching’. We are just making noise about it (corruption). Many countries are worst than us. Even the countries where we go to preach the gospel, they are worst than us. But, they do not make noise. The only noise they make is when the person is jailed.
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