Mowah: we have to look at Nigeria as business

Mowah

Mowah

MR. Austin Mowah is the chairman of the Asaba, Delta State branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). Mowah gave reasons why full residency rights as enshrined in the Constitution and inter ethnic marriages will not achieve the much-desired national integration.
What do you have to say about the residency right as enshrined in the Constitution?
The structure of Nigeria does not permit residency right to the effect that you can enjoy all the benefits of a state where you are resident, because Nigeria is ethnically based. Everything is assessed on ethnic basis in Nigeria. If the Hausa man is ruling for example, the Igbo man will never say he is ruling well, because already he is presumed to be anti-Igbo. The same thing if an Igbo man or Yoruba man is ruling.

So, we must first begin to see Nigeria as an economic unit, just like the way the white man saw it. The interest of the white man in this country was how to make money. That was why he laid rail tracks, all the iron for the tracks were imported for thousands of kilometers so that he could transport groundnuts from the North to the sea where they could be shipped to England. Those countries that the white man founded like America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several others around the world were first for economic gains. Here, we are not for economic gains.

We don’t understand that we should look at Nigeria as a business enterprise. We do not allow the best candidate to emerge because of zoning. Too many things are wrong. The Residency Law cannot be implemented. Ethnic divide deepens everyday, the Igbo man wants to be free, because the country does not favour him and you say he must remain. The people that want the Igbo man to remain in this country know that if they allow the Igbo man to go, the whole of the South will want to go. When you say the South, you are talking of the economic base of the country, that is the place where they produce the oil, the mainstay of the country’s economy. So, they will not like the Igbo man or any of the component units to go, because it will be better for them to be ‘milking’ the country’s oil. That is their interest in the country.

They can remain landlocked if they have oil and lack access to the sea. We are forced to remain in a marriage where we are not happy. There is no freedom. Even when you are forced to remain in the union, the basic necessities of life are not there. The road from Onitsha to Enugu is very bad. From Enugu to Port Harcourt, there is no road. Traveling to Abuja is hell and it is getting worse by the day. There is no light, no good health facilities, and no good education, and yet, they are saying people must remain. There is so much injustice.

They can remain landlocked if they have oil and lack access to the sea. We are forced to remain in a marriage where we are not happy. There is no freedom. Even when you are forced to remain in the union, the basic necessities of life are not there. The road from Onitsha to Enugu is very bad. From Enugu to Port Harcourt, there is no road. Traveling to Abuja is hell and it is getting worse by the day. There is no light, no good health facilities, and no good education, and yet, they are saying people must remain. There is so much injustice.

Can’t all these problems be tackled through a Constitutional amendment?
The Constitution has no problem. The American Constitution is just one part if you shared Nigerian Constitution into three or four parts. This is a country that is far bigger than Nigeria. The America Constitution is a very small document, which has been in operation since 1780s and it is still being used. If we are practicing the Presidential system, it is the honesty that brings progress. If you like, practice the British Parliamentary model, it is the honesty in implementation that makes the difference. There is no honesty here, so if you like amend. There is no type of offence that is not in the Criminal Code of 1914. If you steal money from N1, 000 upward, you go to jail for nine years. Now, there’s the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Commission (ICPC) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CTT). Have they jailed anybody? Stealing is stealing whether electronically or money laundering. The thing is that you have taken money, which does not belong to you way. Such suspects should be prosecuted under the law.
Convict people to deter others, you will not. The Constitution has no problem.

What you are saying is that there is no way a Hausa man can ever be an indigene of Asaba no matter the years he has stayed here or was even born here?
That example is too far away. Even somebody from say Onicha Ugbo in Aniocha North Local Council of Delta State that migrated to Asaba and settled here, there are certain benefits that he cannot get. There cannot be full integration. It is not possible, how much more you now bring in a total stranger who will come here and take my quota. We operate a quota system. If you go to school in their side of the country, you must score like 200 and something to be admitted, but they score only 50 per cent and are admitted. Then, after retaining their own, they will still come here and take my own. Is it going to work?

What do you suggest is the way forward? How do we get out of these problems?
The way forward is to look at the country as a business entity. The Igbo man is good in technology. An enabling environment should be created for him to thrive in technology, but instead certain institutions like the Project Development Agency (PRODA) at Enugu are set up. It was taken over by the Federal Government and starved of funds.

During the war, when there was no peace, the Igbo were self-sustaining. They had no time to think and plan, but were able to refine their own oil, but today Nigeria cannot refine oil. The Igbo manufactured everything. So, give them the one that belongs to them. If it is farming that is good for the Northerners, good. If you know what the Northerners are good at, create an enabling environment for them to thrive. Whatever the Yoruba people are good at, encourage them to also thrive in it. There are lots of companies in Lagos and in the South West. In the absence of power, people have to source for light. This makes things to be very expensive. The government should lead people to believe that this country is an economic unit. If the government gives a good example by ruling honestly, people will follow. Government is one of the most untrusted institutions in this country.

How come you are so optimistic that a good government could tackle all these problems? How about the general state of insecurity in the country?
With good government, you will feel free to live anywhere. Can one live in Borno, Yobe or any part of the Northeast today with Boko Haram activities? Even if it is written in the Constitution, there is no way I will go and settle in a place like Kano and be accepted. Even if it is there in the law, will they allow it? The heart must first agree and it is the government that must lay the foundation. If you like amend the Constitution. How many times have they amended the American Constitution, which is over 200 years? Here in Nigeria, there is a law for everything. The British have no written Constitution but everybody knows the right thing to do and it is done. People are grumbling, because there is no future. Somebody that knows that he can live very well will not go and blow himself up, no matter the amount of brainwashing. An educated person will not be given little money and told to go on and blow himself up. He will refuse, because he has a future. Why won’t the man who is telling him to go and bomb himself go and blow himself up or tell his children to go and do the same?

As far I am concerned, we should learn to work with the Constitution the way it is. The government should be honest. Can you imagine the billions of dollars that were reportedly given out to purchase arms, but ended up in private pockets? They wanted to impeach former United States President Bill Clinton, not because he had an affair with a lady, but because he lied under oath when he denied that he was not having an affair with Monica Lewinsky. That was what almost caused him the Presidency. Imagine if he had stolen money. Have you ever heard that an American President stole money? When Clinton left office after two terms as President, he started looking for a house to buy where he will live. But here in Nigeria, you must acquire a whole town.



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