By Jimitota Onoyume
Professor of Political Science, Sam Oyovbaire was minister of Information during the reign of former military President, Ibrahim Babangida. He was also at a time Presidential Adviser to the former President. He is currently Chairman Delta state Advisory and Peace Building Council, a team of 43 wise men drawn from various parts of Delta State to assist the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa. He is also the Pro Chancellor, Delta State University. In this interview he bared his mind on sundry national issues.
What is your take on last week’s invasion of the Senate by thugs and alleged linkage of the Senator representing your senatorial district, Delta Central to the development?
It is a pity, a shame, a disgrace, and unfortunate that the central senatorial district in Delta state is in the forefront of national and indeed global discourse for wrong reasons and bad behavior. By decision of the Court of Appeal, Chief Ovie Omo-Agege is my Senator. He is an Urhobo man, much younger than myself. Whether by direct or indirect involvement, that he is associated with this behavior is disgraceful. I say so because it is not fun that those elected to rule us are called Honourable at the various levels then at the Senate they are addressed as Distinguished. If you are a Distinguished member of the Collection of rulers, what distinguishes you from ordinary people? It is unfortunate that the rules and regulations that propel people to be voted for are sometimes not taken care of. I feel a sense of shame at my own personal level that a senator should be involved whether directly or indirectly with what we read.
I listened to the different arguments in the media, I feel ashamed. I have asked if people know the meaning of Right Hoourable? Many don’t know that it has a history. You are supposed to be a model, to be emulated, a reference for quality leadership.
How do we get out of this because it is a recurring development at various legislative levels of in the country?
A Political science Professor was on television recently, he said it is an Elite crisis. I will go beyond that to say that it is a Crisis of Value. It is not through legislation we can get out of this. Who are the people we are putting forward to lead? What is their pedigree? Is it because they dangle money before some electorates that they are voted for? Until we begin to vote them from the angles of value, we may continue to have this crisis around. From the councillorship level, the Councilor should be somebody you look up to.
One problem we have today is that some of councilors, it is their first job which is not the practice in the UK. Infact, some of our councilors get married while serving as councilors, that is not what it used to be. Being a Councilor in the UK, you are sometimes retired with a lot of experience, some don’t even take salaries.
In our system there is certainly a Crisis of Value, Crisis of Elites that don’t seem to know that it is not enough to be a human being, a husband, and father but that there is embodiment of values that you carry with you. So we cannot solve the problem by legislation. Until we all realise that we need to know those we elect into offices we will not get out of it.
Agitation for restructuring has been on the front burner, what is your take on this?
It is a pity that this matter has been on and on. Federalism is a particular arrangement for the people, we have worked on this for many years. Writings were very clear, there have been many conferences. Why would we have a nation where the particular source of sustainance is neglected? It is a shame that we caught ourselves in the practice of federalism that does not recognise the fact that to be a component of a federal system there are responsibilities that must be in consonance with the resources you bring.
Look at America’s 50 states, you don’t say you share resources according to one bogus population. For us in the South-South, the point has been made over and over again that the resources taken from this area be deployed back to the area otherwise the area can be depleted one day. You take away resources from the area and you do not return anything to it. It does not make sense. Fiscal federalism dictates that a particular unit has certain resources, and certain desires carry with it the responsibility of developing that area. It is not what you beg for. You are calling it restructuring, it can actually be reduced to say that let power return to the area that really generates resources of this country. That is what the whole argument of the South-South is about.
Enough of what is taken from us is not given back. This is where restructuring comes in, a structural arrangement that allows the components of the South-South control their resources, not at the beggarly composure of whoever is the President of the country. We have been on this for years. I can tell you that part of the problem that gave rise to the coup of Kaduna Nzeogwu was restructuring.
In 1967, General Yakubu Gowon was forced to enact the 12 states to save the country from collapse. We understand that for the sake of national survival immediately after the civil war the military regime evolved a system that drove the resources to the centre. The circumstances that gave rise to it was overwhelming, we had the civil war but this model should not continue.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the Senate have been at war over the order for the general polls next year…
The INEC is dong its best. But I will say that the voters’ registration and permanent voters card, the way they were deployed in the 2015 election was problematic. Today people are talking about it. Whereas these things were relatively enforced in the southern part of the country they were loosely done in the North whether it was deliberate we don’t know. Even areas where Boko Haram had ravaged turned out huge number of votes as recorded by the books.
The issue about order of election, I wonder why it should be a problem, and why it should throw Senator Omo-Agege to the centre of what I don’t know if he understands. The Senate was perfectly right. We had in 2015 election a situation where the moment you had a President emerging from the election fickle minded people started drifting away from their party.
Because Buhari won it affected a number of the subsequent elections. The thing is that why don’t you test your popularity first? This is what the Senate has done. You can do other permutations, you say the State Houses of Assembly, House of Representatives should come first. Let’s test all the legislative elections first and leave the executive, the governorship and presidential will come last. That will be one way to encourage the multi political parties that are like petrol stations, they are out only when there is election period.
Well this approach to the election I talked about will enable the multi parties have meanings. I was one of those who designed the two party system under the inspiration of Military President Ibrahim Babangida. The very minute you go with the presidential election first it alters the voting pattern.
I will like the Senate, House of Reps come in first to test the strength of the parties. If you are popular why don’t you want to test your popularity rather than hang on the neck of the APC presidential candidate? Their assumption (those resisting the Senate) is that the moment a president wins, they too will win. Really, I am in full support of what the National Assembly has done on this subject .
Fulani herdsmen, farmers clashes have become a problem even in your Delta State…
It is very unfortunate. You will find that certain persons will not want to add the word ‘Fulani.’ It is Fulani Herdsmen, I say so because these clashes were there before now. But this phenomenon became heightened, the herdsman became emboldened when Buhari became President. You remember he was a patron of the body I don’t know if he still is. He actually, some years ago, led a delegation to Ibadan to warn the governor then about how to treat his people (Fulani Herdsmen) in their relationship with farmers. So the emergence of Buhari as President, for me, is one of the immediate causes of the hieghtened crisis between herdsmen and farmers across the country. There could be remote causes also.
It is unfortunate that you have a situation where some group of persons go to other areas in the country, killing people and chasing them. It is very shameful the President is now telling everybody that the problem had become like that because the departure of the late Muamar Gaddafi left so many weapons in the hands of some people who that had found themselves in the country. But one will ask how many farmers have they killed in Libya if they are really Libyans? Are there no farms in Libya because Libya is not living entirely on oil? The President’s logic raises a number of questions that border on security, immigration, customs, soldiers, and all that. It is a shame for me. It is a major indicator of failure of security in the country.
Still on insecurity, what is your take on the Boko Haram insurgency?
Let us not deceive ourselves, Boko Haram is still doing so much harm and damage. At a point the Department of State Service, DSS, was saying that the remnants of Boko Haram were being assisted externally. So what are you doing to solve the problem? Let’s hear what you are doing to redress the problem. Women cannot go to their farms, it is dangerous President Buhari and APC came onto power to deal with corruption, the economy and insecurity. If you evaluate them, the first one year they said they did not know the damage in the system which was an indicative of their unpreparedness for governance. Strictly speaking, the APC is a big failure. They said they only got to know of the problem in the system when they had taken over. So Nigerians should be clapping for you and dancing while you are discovering the problem. In the meantime, what you said you will do you could not.
On insecurity it has become worse. The Boko Haram may have come down in terms of occupying territory, this had reduced but the damage being done by Boko Haram on a weekly basis in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa is still very much impactful. We now have the Dapchi incident even if it is only that little girl who said she would not denounce her faith. You are not doing anything on the Dapchi girl.
On fighting corruption, there has been a lot. Corruption is not new in Nigeria, there was corruption during the colonial period and the post colonial era. There ae books written on corruption in the country in 1970 so it has been around. One would have thought that in dealing with this problem there should have been transparency, so that Nigerians can see that you are dealing with it. To the best of my knowledge I am not seeing any serious fight against it. When it pleases you, you dramatise cases. Even the drama is been done as if it is targeted at PDP, the PDP members that have moved to APC, Senator Shehu Sani , he was who said some are dealt with with proper insecticides others with deodorant. I do not think there is any reduction in corruption.
The world body that observes the indices of corruption released its findings on Nigerian on corruption and said it is getting worse. We have the Maina character, he is still around the place, assisted by agents of this government. We have the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, we have the case of the NIA boss. There should be systematic fight against corruption, don’t be selective about it.
When a public servant on level 8 begins to live larger than his income you get worried, where does he get it from? Do the prosecution, lets see your difficulties, not this drama we see everyday. The fight should be systematic, do the prosecution, don’t be selective about it. The anti-corruption fight is selective, just a drama, just to show we are doing something, this is not good enough. If the money stolen are brought back to the country we have no business borrowing money as a country. It was the same President that said Abacha did not steal any money and now under his watch as President, Abacha’s loots are coming in. As a President to be believed he should have told the nation he did not know that when he made that statement some years ago that his former boss, Abacha, stole so much money, and plead for forgiveness.
Let Nigerians understand what you are doing in the name of fighting corruption. Anything that is done to expose the elements of corruption should be promoted. Otherwise we are only making a mockery of the whole thing. President Buhari made anti-corrutption an important element of his campaign but we cannot score him on this.
Are you on the same page with Mr President on his view that Nigeria youths are lazy?
I respect the office of Mr. President, people who make such statements are not intellectually deep. Youths are lazy, how? Our old men, are they strong? Yes in every population there could be few lazy people but that does not make the entire youths lazy. This is my village, 98 percent of the youths don’t come to me every morning for money to eat, they are productive. I have a way of touching their lives. There could be one or two of them who don’t want to do anything but that is not the exemple of the village. So that statement is from someone who is not intellectually deep. It may be an indicator of how his approach to governance is. Does he understand the framework of development in the country, does he understand the output of the Ministries?
The other day, Mr President was in Lagos, I was told he commissioned a bus terminal, is that what Mr President should commission? That is what a local government chairman should commission. I have not seen in the media, whether it is being hidden, projects inaugurated by his administration and completed in the last three years. Wherever he had gone to commission things, are things done by the states. The railway was Jonathan’s project.
Assessment of government performance as we do it here in Delta state, we know roads started and got finished by this government. We know the state of the technical schools, how bad they were and how they had been turned around. Those are the things I want to see Mr. President doing.
Buhari has announced his intention to seek a second term, do you see PDP rebounding by 2019?
I hope. At a time, things were very bad. I want to say this I like to express my appreciation to all PDP members who had stayed firm with the party in the face of acute difficulty. We were all down at the first convention of the party we had in Port Harcourt. If I did not leave the party years back why should I leave now? The value you have is to stand firm and do corrections within your party. I congratulate the National Chairman, he is human, let us all rally round him.
I am glad with their effort to put things right in the west and other parts of the country. I can only now see progress. Now PDP is bouncing, getting back. At a time PDP was the only party in the country, some of us were worried that we should not have a one party state.
PDP is a brand. There is nothing in APC, their members have started coming back to the PDP. APC has its problems, and more problems will come if they go through their national convention. For us in PDP, I look forward to more consolidation. It is the only party that has a brand. Every other party that has come has changed. Perhaps after PDP, the other one is APGA even though it is limited for now to Anambra in terms of governance. PDP is the only staying party. It is the party that took us from the military, it has vision.
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