Why I mourn Yar’Adua, by ACF chieftain

A CHIEFTAIN of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Alhaji Abdulrahman Mohammed, told SAXONE AKHAINE in Kaduna that top on the challenges before President Goodluck Jonathan is the Niger Delta and electoral reforms. Excerpts:

HOW do you remember the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua?

I just will say that may God give him peace in paradise. In Islam we say God gives and He takes. To the limit of that we cannot question God. But, I know that he was maltreated and mishandled; a perfect gentleman who wished the best for Nigeria was killed. He was not murdered but I have never seen in my life an experience where a Head of State was treated so shabbily. There was disregard for human life and recklessness, disorder and disrespect like the cabal did to him. I am beginning to think that Nigeria has a big problem, where a few people can hold the president hostage even in illness and they could not be called to order. It is really unthinkable that Nigeria allowed this to happen to a poor man. Yes he was a poor man because he may have been a president but he was not a thief, he was not a liar, he was not a looter. That such a man could have been given to us by God to try to make a difference and he just died in this manner and under such circumstances. We are mourning the president right now and so there is little to say. When the time comes, we would push for the prosecution of those people because the y committed a serious offence.

President Goodluck Jonathan has promised to ensure purposeful governance. What exactly do you think he should do to realise this?

He has already shown a clear picture, which is his resolve to serve Nigeria. He needs to keep the petroleum cartel under check and make sure that there is development in the Niger Delta. I will even advise him to invite some of the experts in the oil-producing countries, to study their operational machinery, and also receive input on how we can build new cities in the Niger Delta. If we had cleared the rubbish that came with the degradation and the pollution there, all the negative issues would never have come up. But, it is still shocking that the people who created a bad deal for the Niger Delta do not seem to have any remorse about why the Niger Delta was neglected up till now. It looks like it takes somebody in the form of Yar’Adua and Jonathan to keep the records straight about Niger Delta. Jonathan should not fail to execute any action, including building new cities as part of the cost of exploration of oil in that area. Anything short of that and he will realise that we have not started yet. We must build new cities there; we must give them life like every other area of the country. And we must understand that if an oil magnate can come from Sokoto, Lagos or Borno states, the Niger Delta people should be involved. They should be given their own rights. And as much as possible, Jonathan should give Nigeria a statement about how much oil is exported and how much we are getting from the oil, and as much as possible, he should get the people who are doing oil bunkering off the coast. This is necessary so that the nation can really get value for the oil. We are happy that we have not heard reports of pipeline vandalisation since Jonathan assumed office, kidnapping has also reduced. Let this present condition become a main frame of the nation’s development. That way, we would be able to understand that this country can be operated the way it would benefit all Nigerians. In the first place, Niger Delta and the Ijaw people are strong factors in Nigeria and they are also responsible for the economic well being of Nigeria. They determine whether or not we are going to survive in this country, because every other state in the country waits for the federation account. In some cases, part of it is looted, they lied, steal and do all sort of things. Now, that area in Nigeria needs to be involved politically in Nigeria. It is not about the Ijaw nation. We are talking about the Niger Delta Empire. You can be political or economic empire. The Ijaw nation is the economic empire. And they need to have a say on who rules Nigeria. Not the Niger Delta people begging to be given a chance to rule Nigeria. So many things don’t add up in Nigeria today, and I believe that God is going to use 2011 to make sure they add up. I just feel many people have been playing God, in little things like who should stand elections, or win the primaries. And even when the people make their choice, the party people at the last minute begin to play God and change things. I believe that all that would be solved as Nigerians become more enlightened.

Jonathan should also concentrate on the energy sector especially power supply. Our gas is important; we can transform our energy, and even sell some part of it to other countries in order to improve our GDP. As far as the oil is concerned I am happy that there is a chance today for the people who have the oil in their area to contribute to the development and progress of Nigeria. That should have been the case many years ago. The Igbo could not produce the nation’s president in the past because they are working against one another. I advise the Ijaw and the people of the South-South with other Nigerians to make sure that Nigeria develops under President Jonathan. He is not a desperate man; God gave him power. Today, Jonathan is harnessing the capacity and the best brains in the country in running the Government. We have not seen this type of thing for a long time in the country, at least in the last 12 years.

A lot of stake is being placed on the 2011 general elections and on electoral reforms, do you think President Jonathan can conduct a free and fair election in 2011?

As a matter of fact, free and fair elections should start from within the parties. There should be internal democracy first, when the primaries are to be conducted. The wishes of the people should be upheld and respected. And when people are elected based on merit, the parties should not come out and try to impose their candidates for their self-interest. Rigging starts the moment parties start to impose candidates against the outcome of the party primaries. So, free and fair election starts from internal democracy. Internal democracy is the beginning of stable and sustainable democracy. And it flows from the wishes of the politicians and the ruling party. We are hearing a lot of things on the issue of the presidency being zoned to the North. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is giving Nigeria a problem that she does not need. The PDP has never respected its own laws. That is the reason we have a reformed forum of former Senate President Ken Nnamani and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari, because they know that there is a problem in the PDP. Those who say there is no problem in PDP are the problems of Nigeria. We know that some people ran away from the PDP and came back. That is one set of the problems. Another set of people came from other parties. They saw that it was a sort of gangster support or reward and they rushed to the party. And there are people who have remained there. So, we have three sets of people in that party, the good, the bad and the ugly. And we have another problematic situation in that same party, just like we have the issue of devolution of powers. Some people do not even know the definition. I do not think many people in all the parties know what the role of parties should be. That is why I am convinced that the parties believe that the ruling party is the Government. But it is different. The party should support a government they have set up with the best ideas and not the party itself assuming the role of the government. And that is what the Reformed Forum of the PDP is saying too. Once you separate the party from the government we would get good results. The second thing is that PDP’s Presidency is not for PDP people; it is Presidency for all Nigerians. The PDP is a party and not the country. What is the population of PDP members in relation to the population of Nigeria such that the PDP’s presidential ambition should be seen as the project of the country? The party is just like any of the other parties. The only advantage the PDP has is that it is presently in power. So, they should not curtail the ability of a PDP government to serve Nigerians and get results. So, separate the power and the party.



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