A lot of events related to 2019 took place across the nation recently. From the recent botched congresses of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, the medical trip to the United Kingdom by President Muhammadu Buhari, the merger of the Coalition for Nigerian Movement, CNM with the African Democratic Congress, ADC to the declaration of former Edo Governor, Adams Oshiomhole to contest for the national chairmanship of the APC and ace journalist, Alistair Soyode for the 2019 presidency, it has been one hell of a week.
However, we decided to take on an elder statesman, Obong Victor Attah who is a former Governor of Akwa Ibom state. He, alongside like minds from the south and middle belt recently engaged the leadership of the Senate. In this interview, he speaks on the outcome of that visit, the general elections and submits that issues such as restructuring and security would dominate debates ahead of the polls and also determine the nation’s next president.
Though the interview was published some days by some dailies, we in Straightnews decided to publish it because of some unfolding issues relevant to our contemporary political scene. Enjoy:
Obong Victor Attah
What necessitated the visit to the Senate leadership?
First of all, I want to tell you who in fact made the visit. We have a name for the group which in fact has to change. At the moment, the group consists essentially of Southern leaders and Middle Belt leaders but we do know that it is becoming a national movement, a national demand for restructuring. So, that name has to change and it was that group that went to engage the senate. In fact, some of us were hoping that it was going to be a joint session. Our intention is that we will engage everybody that has an elective or even a major appointive position in this country to recognize the fact that this country must be restructured. So, if anybody is seeking election into any office today, it would be only on the basis of going there to restructure Nigeria.
We are engaging the National Assembly, we intend to engage labour, we intend to engage the students through the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, we intend to engage the body of the 36 speakers of state assemblies, we intend to engage youth and women groups and everyone that has a voters card and has a say and those who desire to be elected. They will have to know that Nigeria has reached a stage where it must be restructured. So, do not even ask for our votes unless you are prepared to restructure Nigeria and this has nothing to do with any one party or the other. It is just a national demand for restructuring the country.
So, what was the outcome?
We had a very good reaction from the Senate. In fact, the Vanguard reported it very well and very effectively on the cover and two inner pages. First of all, our intention as stated by our spokesman, who that day was the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, was that a restructured Nigeria anchored on devolution of powers and functional fiscal federalism was the only way out of the crisis bedevilling the country. The Vanguard went on to report the reaction of the senate president that certainly they are going to review certain parts of the constitution amendment which they had previously rejected particularly the issue of resource control and a good number of all those things that we had asked for within a restructured Nigeria. So, we are ver happy with the reaction we got from the senate.
Do you intend meeting the president?
Yes, there is a possibility. There is a need to meet the president and let him know why Nigeria has to be restructured. I was a member of the G34 and when it became necessary, we sent a letter to Abacha and told him, please, do not attempt this thing you are trying to do, transmuting from a military head of state to a civillian president by the “five fingers of a leprous hand” that called themselves political organizations. So, there comes a time when it will become necessary to meet the president and when that time comes, we will definitely meet the president.
On the issue of election sequence, it was reported in some sections of the media that your group threw its weight behind the lawmakers. How true is this?
Well, let me say this. On that day, as I have already stated, Chief Nwodo was our spokesman. Check the report in your paper, the Vanguard. You will not see anywhere in that report where he mentioned the issue of election timetable. I have since read a brilliant piece by Prof. Ben Nwabueze and of course typical of him, he went into a very careful analysis of the differences between a bill which is not yet an Act and therefore not a law and an Act which is a law and can be litigated upon. This matter has gone to court and come back. Somewhere else, I also read where Mr Femi Falana, depending on the provisions of the constitution insisted that INEC is the only body that can set and change election timetable.
I personally do not believe that election timetable is something that should suffer such frequent changes but that is beside the point. The important thing here is that all these have come out of the fact that we are not operating a federal system. In a federal system, the constitution of the federal republic will have nothing to do with elections in the states. There is no way anybody can show me that it was the Federal Government that legislated on elections in any of the federating units as existed before under federalism. So, the issue is diversionary and time wasting, stultifying development and bringing totally unnecessary quarrel because we do not practice a federlism. If we were practicing federalism, believe me, this issue would not arise at all and so we are insisting that restructuring must come now so that matters can belong where they should belong and should not take our attention wen they souldnt. Wen you look at timetable, you will see that now even governors are being elected off season. The timetable for the states should not be a matter for the federal government.
In 2015, the debate was largely tilted towards ethno-religious sentiments. Should that be the case too in 2019?
Ahead of 2019 what should be the issue? Clearly, who is coming to restructure Nigeria for us? And this restructuring, we are not asking for a Nigeria that we are not familiar with. We want a Nigeria that we have always had and had worked for everybody to the prosperity and growth of every section of the country till 1966 when we had the military come in and destroy everybody. It was further entrenched by Obasanjo’s 1979 constitution. Ahead of 2019, restructuring must take a pride of place.
There will also be the question of security, the issue of herdsmen. People are talking about nepotism and economic hardship but if there is any one thing that will destroy Buhari’s chances of coming back, it is this inability to do something about this murderous situation that we are having today. People are just being killed. Even fowls are not killed that way. People are just slaughtered like their lives have absolutely no value. That would be a very critical point.
Do you see Obasanjo’s Third Force as an alternative?
Third force is like gathering the same people that killed the country, the same people that you said are not improving the country and put them into what kind of third force? And this is a man who had the opportunity to create the kind of force that would be irresistible by now. I have said it before that if Obasanjo had respected the precepts of democracy and respected the need for federalism, believe me, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Culled from Crawler