‘NASS Leadership Composition Returning Nigeria Back To Three Regional Structures’

BY LUCKY OYIBO
COMRADE Emmanuel Igbini is the Delta State Chairman of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and doubled as the National President, Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy (VATLAD) in Nigeria. He is the immediate past Director-General of Delta State Direct Labour Agency (DLA) where he held sway for relatively four years. Prior to his appointment as Director-General of Direct Labour Agency, Comrade Igbini was Delta State gubernatorial candidate under the platform of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) from 2007 – 2011.
In this exclusive interview with The Pointer Acting Political Editor, Lucky Oyibo, Comrade Igbini spoke on the leadership composition of the two Houses of the National Assembly, x-rayed the Uduaghan administration, expectations before Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, roles of the three arms of government and other related issues in the polity.
Excerpts:
How would you assess the level of the 2015 general elections in the country?
For me it is not something really different from what we have had before, except for slight improvement. But even the expected slight improvement in the area of using the card readers was also sabotaged by desperate politicians. So, as far as I am concerned, everything went back to the normal business as we had before; so, there is nothing special about this one.
How would you rate the leadership composition of the two Houses of the National Assembly?
It is very unfortunate and I cannot understand why the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) would decide to reverse the progress that had been made in our nationhood. My party, the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), issued a press statement last month advising the APC and the entire nation to make sure that despite the fact that APC is now a majority in the House and in spite also the fact that in the South-South Region and the South-East Region of Nigeria that APC did not captured for the positions of the House of Representatives and the Senate, that they should adopt the principle of doctrine of necessity to make sure that the six most important positions in Nigeria today under this democracy are shared evenly among the six geopolitical zones in the country.
I mean the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Vice President and the President of the Senate, the Deputy President of the Senate, the Speaker of House of Representatives and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives which are six critical positions in the administration of Nigeria should be given to each of the six geopolitical zones in the country. Now that General Muhammadu Buhari emerged as our President and he is from the North West and then, the Vice President is from the South West; our position is that the principle of equity which has been adopted by PDP and stabilized the polity and give every sense of equal belonging to the six geopolitical zones should be maintained.
So, we insisted that since the President is from the North West, Vice President is from the South West, the President of the Senate, the Deputy President of the Senate, the Speaker of House of Representatives and the Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives should by whatever means follow the path of the doctrine of necessity for the other position be occupied by the other four geopolitical zones. And just before the election in the National Assembly on Tuesday, our party reminded the nation that if the feelers we are getting from the APC camp that they want to jettison this zoning arrangement which was even adopted in the 1995 Constituent Assembly under General Sani Abacha by all parts of Nigeria as the best way to go; If they attempt to jettison that agreement that had ensured peaceful coexistence of this country called Nigeria, it will send a very dangerous signal and probably threaten our national peace and security.
Unfortunately, from the outcome of the so-called elections they did last week, you will agree with me that the South-South has now been excluded for the first time. From what I am seeing, that is, from the President to the last person in the National Assembly, they are only three – that is, the north, east and west. So this is like returning us back to the three regional structures that the country used to have in 1960s through the back door. And I think that anybody who means well for this country must rise up peacefully to demand a total and strongly condemn this. You cannot exclude a people, particularly people who are most critical in producing the bulk of the oil that sustain this country. We did not go for any referendum to see whether we should jettison the six geopolitical zones arrangement and return back to the three regional structures which we totally condemned, our fore fathers and leaders in the past condemned and we advanced to this stage.
So, we have only the Yorubas, the Ibos and now the Northerners running the affairs of this country. This is a very dangerous signal. I think that President Buhari which I know is a man of principles and a man who would not like to sideline anybody. And let all Nigerians who mean well for this country stand up and demand for a change. Doctrine of necessity has already come to stay in Nigeria and it should be applied. If they cannot find South-South Senator from the APC, you have them in the PDP. After all, the Deputy Senate President is not an APC candidate. He is a PDP candidate. Why did it not extend the same thing to the South-South geopolitical region, to allow the zone has a position as a matter of right?
A new Executive, Legislature and Judiciary have just been sworn-in in Delta State, what are the constitutional obligations expected of them?
For the legislature, it is actually what defines a democracy. The difference between a democratic government and a non -democratic government is the absence and presence of the legislature, with the inauguration of the Sixth Delta State House of Assembly, we expect the members to continue with their legislative duties as prescribed in Section 4/5 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They also have a very vital role and I must always remind them that Section 128 of the Nigerian Constitution is very critical. Besides making laws for good governance and public order as expected in the constitution, they have Section 128 which gives them additional and very important constitutional duty – which is the oversight function. That section mandates the Houses of Assembly in the states to ensure that they monitor how monies – public funds approved or appropriated by the House to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of Delta State are utilized. That Section says that every State House of Assembly must do that and must expose any form of abuse of that money by way of fraud and corrupt practices.
This is what is most paramount not only Delta State, the problem we have in this country is the massive looting by a few of us who are privileged to be in sensitive positions of authority either as political appointees or even top civil servants or public servants. The level of stealing and looting of public funds is so disheartening and we steal with impunity and this is the major constitutional responsibility of the Houses of Assembly to nip in the bud. They should make sure that all the MDAs including the Delta State Direct Labour Agency (DLA) that I left recently are properly oversight for any form of looting and institute whatever action.
It is not only in Delta State House of Assembly, even at the National Assembly, they are not doing enough. Even our new governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, said it is worrisome as there is no money in the state anymore and that he is going to step on toes to make sure it is no longer business as usual. That is to say, as an insider, he believes that there is rot, a lot of looting and thieving. This is the responsibilities of the House of Assembly. It shouldn’t be business as usual for them to relax. They have to do that and they have to help the government, governor and the people of Delta State. On the other hand, the role of the executive is very clear in Section 4 or 5 of the constitution. The governor is the Chief Executive Officer. He is the head of the executive arm of government because in a democracy you have the legislature, executive and the judiciary. Three of them are the same level. The Chief Judge is the head of the judiciary that ought to be independent; the Speaker is the head of the legislator and then the governor is the head of the executive.
I encourage that from time to time; there should be mutual cooperation between the legislature and executive for the overall interest of Delta State. But that should not undermine the principle of separation of powers. The Chief Judge has no business begging the governor for release of funds. In fact, the judiciary ought to have its funding from the first line charge! As the money is released for the state, they get their money directly and the Chief Judge manages it while the one that gets to the executive, the governor manages it and the one that goes to the Speaker and the hounorable members of the House, the Speaker manages that. Furthermore, the judiciary is to interpret the law, it is not to make laws, because lawmaking is the exclusive preserve of the legislature. While the executive execute the laws made by the House of Assembly.
If there is any conflict, that is where you now call in the judiciary to interpret the laws that had been made by the legislators and if need be punish any offender or advise as the case may be. And for the judiciary to achieve that, the judiciary must be independent financially and otherwise. For you to guarantee independence, the way and manner judges are appointed must be fundamentally reviewed. The appointment of a judge should not be subject to the other two arms of government. Let the judiciary as a profession be involved and take its own decisions and process of selection. You saw what happened in Rivers State under former Governor Rotimi Amaechi. The governor should not be allowed to recommend who is a judge. The Nigerian Judicial Council (NJC) should be allowed to appoint among themselves who becomes a judge – a Chief Judge, a Judge of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and among others. It should be their business rather than allowing other arms of government. Because a man who recommends you to be a Chief Judge, of course, you are morally bound to listen to him.
What legacy did you leave behind in DLA under your watch?
Even if I tell you I have done excellently, that would be my own way of saying it. For you to judge me, I prefer Deltans to find out for themselves; make comparison. I was not the first Director- General of DLA; we had our pioneer Director-General as Chief Terry Noah followed by Chief Champion Kpateghe; my brother, Hon. Ovie Agas who is today our Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and Mr. Ngozi Okolie as DGs and in between we had some acting interim arrangements as Acting DGs before me. So, the best way to judge a person’s performance is to compare it with his predecessors. I also appeal to you to get the copy of the laws setting up the DLA for you to appreciate. This is one of the first laws passed and assented to by the governor in 1999 and this law is wonderful.
Do you have any regret that your appointment as Director-General, DLA did not attain its life span?
The Agency is a statutory Agency. It is a creation of the Delta State House of Assembly and it is a law. In the Agency the tenure of the Director-General and each of the Directors is specified and protected by law. It is four years and then renewable after four years at the discretion of the governor. Actually, we were sworn-in and came on board August 9, 2011. So, we are supposed to complete our tenure for four years – that is August 9, 2015 and then, the sack came June 5. So, that one is left for the discre tion of the governor, maybe. For me, I am ready to support him, not just being in his government and as a Deltan, I have the constitutional duty to continue to contribute to the development of the state.
This is the first time that PDP is not at the national. What does it portend to the socio-economic and infrastructural development of Delta State?
It is a good advantage for the people of Delta State and particularly Governor Ifeanyi Okowa. I can tell you from what I know about the politics of this country even at Abuja. It was not fun and interesting for former Governors Emmanuel Uduaghan and James Ibori to be and to have been governors of PDP and with the PDP at the national. I had cause to tell the former Governor Uduaghan, “why all these frequent trips to Abuja”? There are certain decisions Uduaghan had taken for which he is being attacked and condemned today. I can tell you without fear or favour that even Uduaghan was not in support of those decisions and projects. But when you begin to here “party is supreme”, you take a decision here that this is the way it should be, and then somebody will call you in Abuja and summon you to Abuja and tell you that you must go and execute those projects.
Maybe, when he releases his book, he will tell you a lot of things. You may even go and ask for Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State who has the courage to dam the consequences and say I cannot continue anymore. It is better now. Our Governor Okowa has no excuse to give because whatever decisions he takes here, he will not tell you that party is supreme. There is no PDP national government now that will tell Governor Okowa to go left when he believes it is right. And so, he is very lucky. And he is also coming at a time when the President of Nigeria, a known nonsense President in terms of corruption and looting; so whatever decisions he takes now to make sure that every political appointee, civil servants, public servants, who do something wrong is punished; he has the full backing of the President. So, he should be grateful.
What is your concept of Democracy?
Democracy is the government of the people. What did the people want? It is what they want you should give to them. For example, we did some roads in Asaba. It is what the people of the areas want that we gave to them. Democracy, they say it is through election and if you have an election and the people and majority of them in the other side are smokers and they decide to vote for person who is a smoker so that smoking will not be prohibited, that is the wrong side of democracy. Democracy does not bring out the best. If you have a gang of criminals – the majority in a particular environment and then, there is going to be an election, do you expect them to vote for somebody who is not criminally minded like them? By the end of the day, they count one, two, three, and four who gets the majority votes. So, democracy is not about the people, whether they are right, they can decide to choose the man, they can decide to choose a mad woman as a councilor. That is their choice.
How would you rate the performance of former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan whom you worked with and your expection before Governor Ifeanyi Okowa?
You see, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan is somebody that is not well known to a lot of people. Uduaghan is somebody who is easily misunderstood. And that is the truth. He is one man that I know everyone really attack from the opposing political party. Since 2007 I have consistently monitored every action of government under Uduaghan’s administration. And so, in terms of criticism, I have criticized him consistently, I have embarrassed him in public; I have also advised him. He is one man that is having the real large heart of accommodating several opinions. People will not agree with me now but I am very sure that with time, people will begin to appreciate who this man is.
For me, he is a man of peace and I have always told him. He is human being, he makes some genuine mistakes like I said, but for me, Uduaghan is a wonderful person in spite of some mistakes he has made us as human beings. He called me to say “come and assist me in my government. It was a difficult decision. We argued a lot about it. For him to put his worst political enemy (myself) to head DLA – the first time a non-PDP member headed DLA as DG. Under Uduaghan, DLA was funded more than adequately and for him to empower his political enemy; how many people will do it?
For you to take a political party that is strongly opposed to your government and put such a person in a sensitive position and even give so much money is not common. There was serious attacked and pressure from the day he announced my name till the day he left office from members of his political party. They said it was wrong for him to go to other political party to put him in a sensitive position and empower him so much. He was under serious pressure but he insisted that “I know this man and this has nothing to do with politics, I have to bring in some persons to come and manage some sensitive and critical agencies of government”. I have hardly seen such a thing. It was rare to do and wherever he is, may God continue to guide him.
We need a governor who have a large heart to bring Deltans together, to accommodate opposing views from within his own party and from those not in his own party. When you cannot accommodate opposing views; you just expect that people should be clapping for you whether you are doing wrong they clap for you, and then Delta State is too big for that. So, for Governor Okowa, all I could tell him, I expect him to be able to accommodate such kind of opposing views or opinions and develop such large heart because this is a place where he would find the highest level of sycophancy.
Though, one thing that excites me any time he talks about the administration’s five-point “SMART” agenda, is his usual way of saying “it is not going to be business as usual” as he is ready to step on toes. He should even cut those toes that are against the progress of Delta State. People like us, with the Almighty God, being besides us, we are ready to support him. So, we need some change because there are a lot of challenges. We cannot continue like this and since he has said that continuously we should help him to actualize his programmes. Above all, we need serious prayers in the state so that God should touch the heart of every Deltans so that these persons can start changing their ways for the good of the state. Since the message of Okowa is geared towards positive change in Delta, our appeal is for every Deltan to welcome that change.