The immediate past Governor of Edo State, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, has in an exclusive interview with the Vanguard Newspaper, on Sunday, raised an alarm that the call for restructuring is dubious, that rather Nigerians should support the devolution of power.
Oshiomohole also stated that he was shocked that former Governors, like Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Senator, Dajuma Goje, among others, who are now Senators, voted against devolution of power which has been the heart cry of Nigeria’s Governors.
Recall, that the Senate had a few days ago, voted against the devolution of power during the ongoing review of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria.
While speaking, Oshiomohole said: ”There is a huge level of under-employment at the level of the political elite and, once they are out of power, they come up with all kinds of agenda. Once they are in power, they shut up. People say restructuring but they never speak to the specifics. Restructure, how? This is one word that can mean everything and one dubious word that can mean nothing. To me, the only issue for Nigeria is devolution of power.
”The problem now is that the National Assembly members, once they get elected, rather than deal with the issue of devolution of power, they want to defend the status quo. Then some are talking about implementing the Confab report, which of the Confab reports now? Obasanjo did a Confab, the PDP did twice. Every PDP President except Yar Adua organized a Confab.
”What happened to the Obasanjo Confab report? What is the difference between the report of the Obasanjo Confab and that of Jonathan? And why did they not implement it or at least start the process of implementing it before they left office? It is a pity we do not sufficiently interrogate people such that our political elite will want to eat their cake and have it. It is the same people that persuaded, and many of them are still active now even at old age, that parliamentary system was not good for Nigeria, that Nigeria needed a strong presidency. That is how they got the late Chief Rotimi Williams constitution drafting committee to introduce the presidential system of government in 1979.
”They said we needed to have a strong center to keep the country together. The same people said we had imbalances in the regions, that the North was too big, that we had to create more states in order to bring government closer to the people. The same elites said so. And as I speak, if you check the archives of the National Assembly, you will find their signatures on petitions calling for the creation of more states.
”Now the same people, once they are out of power will tell you states are not viable. But they once agreed the states were viable and their signatures are still in those documents. I think the media needs to do more investigative journalism, ask the leadership of the Senate and the House of Reps to bring all the petitions that have been forwarded to them over the last five years, particularly since they kick started the process of creation of more states. They even wanted more states to be created out of Edo.
”Meanwhile what we need to restructure is the attitude to governance, the issue of character, the issue of corruption, the issue of creative application of the resources, ensuring that government is about delivering the greatest good to the greatest number of people, and ensuring that we reorder our industrial policies in a way that emphasizes job-led growth, rather than jobless growth so that poverty can be reduced to a tolerable level. We must begin to get the private sector to create jobs and grow the economy and give everybody the basis to be loyal to the nation.
”If I look at what is going on, states are not able to pay salaries; if a state is not paying salary, is the governor from a foreign country? He is part of the state. Some times when the elites are in trouble, they want to evade accountability. They play up primordial sentiments by either elevating religion to a ridiculous level or they elevate ethnicity and make it look as if it is the people who are our problem whereas they are the problem of the people. I watched a video on internet made by an Igbo lady, who said if you go anywhere and don’t find an Igbo man there, then don’t stay there. It means there must be something terrible in that place. Because the Igbo man is an explorer, commerce is in his blood. The lady also said we should find out from the Igbo guys who have made it how much they have helped their people. That same question cuts across other geographical zones. I have been to Sokoto State where Shagari comes from.
”I have been to Ogun where Obasanjo hails from. I have been to Minna where IBB comes from. I have been to Katsina where Yar’Adua came from and Otuoke, Bayelsa State where Jonathan comes from. At the level of Vice President, I have been to areas where they came from. But there is no correlation between the level of poverty in any part of Nigeria in relation to the level of political office holders that come from that part, whether elective or appointive. And as we have seen from revelations on corruption issues, when it comes to ganging-up to pocket what belongs to all of us, ethnicity has no place.
”If the report of the happenings in the oil sector is anything to go by, you will find that an Ijaw lady has no difficulty in doing business with a Kwara or Yoruba man because the dollar does not speak to ethnic origin.
”If you are looking at how defence money was used for other purposes other than defence, you will find that there was no distinction between a Hausa-Fulani man and an Edo man who benefited from the money earmarked for military procurement that ended up in private pockets. Even when criminals are identifying themselves, you also find that it cuts across the divide. So ethnicity is the least of our problems. When our leaders refuse to account they just use ethnicity and religion to cover up for accountability and our gullible youth cue in, that is a big problem., I was in a forum when Ambassador Keshi spoke about the terrible state of the road in Yenagoa and reminded us that the road had been like that for the past five six years and it was getting worse, I asked him who was the President then that appointed Ministers of Works. It happened to be the son of the soil of that state.
”When you look at the NDDC and the money allocated to it in relation to the contracts that NDDC executed over the years, in Edo state for example, you will find that the primary purpose was not to impact on the infrastructure or social development of the place but to enrich individuals. You created Ministry for Niger Delta, the people still remain in poverty. When you look at the allocation of some states and compare with others, you will ask where has all the money gone into. For example in the Niger Delta area, how can any state governor that benefits from huge allocations from derivation, even to the extent that they can maintain private jets, is unable to pay workers salaries as and when due, unable to pay teachers salaries as and when due, unable to pay pensioners as and when due but can service the state debts. And the people of the state are not encouraged to ask questions, everybody is looking at Abuja. If the regions do not function, how will the center work.
”If you look at it from the South – South, Edo receives the least allocation, and if Edo earns the least, I am proud that until I left office, whereas PDP governors were owing their workers, I was up to date. When they were lamenting that they could not pay their workers N18,000, I increased my state’s workers pay to N25,000. So when we blame the federal government, let us also look inwards about what we are doing. So, those who are beating the drums of war, I hope they will bring their children in front as soldiers to lead the battle and not stay in the comfort of their rooms so that when war starts, since they have multiple passports, they can escape and begin to negotiate in London and Paris and leave their fellow brothers here to be killing one another.
”The other day I read one of our leaders and my very good friend, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, saying that during the SDP days, they said they were going to restructure the country and that he is shocked that any of those elites who raised it then will turn round to kick against restructuring. That was a good observation, but the issue is that when my good friend became Vice President and his government was doing political conference, what was wrong in him raising it even if it did not hold water? The voice of a sitting Vice President is louder any day outside that of the President, but I don’t think I heard him say anything about restructuring.”