By Bianca Iboma-Emefu
Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in the South West, Rahmon Owokoniran in this interview with Daily Sun, Owokoniran speaks on poor leadership in the country, Nigeria’s Democracy, electoral process and insecurity in the country.
How do we address the lingering poor leadership that has bedevilled Nigeria at all levels of governance in recent times?
Most unfortunate for our nation is that we found ourselves in the middle of an ocean that flows in no particular direction. I think it was Chief Obafemi Awolowo who said that Nigeria continued to move in a vicious circle for lack of direction. 1979 Constitution Conference agreed that a multicultural nation like ours could best operate as a federal democracy. Unlike most other federal democracies, too many compromises were made as subjects of the constitution. Thus, the constitution became compromised. Democracy should be defined by principles and goals. Those principles and goals are the guiding light that keeps the wheel of democracy steady. In Nigeria, our constitution has different interpretations depending on which side of the divide you belong, North or South of the nation. Constantly, the head of government defines the subject of the constitution to sustain himself in office. As a result of this makeshift approach to our definition of democracy, policies shift from person to person in a position of authority; our democratic experiment can best be described by Fela Ransom Kuti who summed it up as ‘Demo-Crazy’. This madness cannot go on forever.
We trusted our next of kin, schoolmates, clerics, young and old, male and female in the position of authority. They all failed us. The Nigeria experiment has been on for six decades, by now those leaders should be able to agree on a purposeful policy direction and giveNigeria a better structured constitution. One that will unify us as One Nation under One God with One destiny irrespective of sex or religion. The political elite in the country have crumbled our economy from their reckless contract allocations without due process.
How can this be fixed in your opinion?
Indeed, contracts, awards and disregard for due process by elite politicians are factors for a crumbling economy. This is a huge menace to our democracy and prosperity. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Our governments raise taxes and levies, take loans, award contracts and undertake several fiscal measures without recourse to us the people. They read their budget each year as a symbol of strength for the new year. But at no time throughout the year do they render an account of their expenditure against income and other revenue sources. We, the people have a right to know because it is the only way they can be held accountable. They owe us a duty to publish all these transactions. This way, a comparative analysis of competitive bidding of global rates can be applied. We need a healthy democratic system that throws up the true representatives of the people who are ready to fight not only for the survival of democracy but also for the people and their communities. The military over the years saw no reason to hand over to bloody civilians as they popularly call the civil communities. They were myopic. Their ambition disconnected them from the reality that two to three generations of seasoned politicians were being disengaged. They were replaced by money bags who were creations of the then military administration. They were reckless, ruthless and callous. With these lack-lustre humans camouflaging as politicians, the military was safely in control of power. Yes, there were a few exceptions to the rule. If you were not one of them, you remain the exception to the rule. Once the founding fathers and the second and third generation of the political class were out of the way, the floodgates were thrown open for transactional politicians to hedge their bets. Once in power, people’s interests were trashed. Accumulation of wealth became the order of the day because it requires more money to sustain them in the position of power.Therefore, the people to whom power belong must rise to the challenge of ensuring that they vote, their votes count and the people they vote for are voted for the right reasons. We need a chief executive who is ready to serve and legislators who would fight for the people.
It should no longer be business as usual. Recently, former Nigerian president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo predicted the non-existence of Nigeria as a country due to the manipulation of the electoral process and the selfishness of its leadership. What is your take?
I completely agree with former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s advice to the leadership on our democracy. Chief Obasanjo has demonstrated times without number that the unity of our nation can and must not be compromised. So, again he is reminding the powerful people to tread softly. He wants these gladiators to realise that certain things must not be taken for granted. Manipulation of the election process is a no-go-area if our democracy must be protected and sustained. If people’s confidence is lost in the electioneering process, they are quick to lose respect for law and order which may inadvertently result in anarchy. The unlawful annulment of Chief MKO Abiola’s election in 1993 was a good reminder of the aftermath of this sort of manipulation. l, therefore, queue behind the appeal to greedy and possessive oligarchs pretending to be Democrats to wake up to this call. Save our country now for the sake of generations yet unborn. Respect the fundamental tenets of our democracy.
Why have Nigerian government refused to deploy full technology at all stages in the electoral process, so elections will be free and fair and completely eliminate the manipulation and rigging of results?
Everyone knows that technology pervades everyday of our lives; it makes things simple for us. It will improve our electoral process but we need to first get it right. Nigerian government has failed to probe refineries’ budgets, as fuel scarcity rages that ended a few days ago. An oil-producing country such as ours should not find itself in this mess we are in. Examples of several oil-producing countries abound and not one of them is experiencing what we are facing here in Nigeria.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC put the combined average capacity utilisation of Nigeria’s four refineries at 25.95 per cent for December 2013. As of Feb 2021, the combined yield efficiency is 0.00%. The government of the day claims it is rehabilitating the four refineries we have. NNPC said it spent N100bn in 2021 on refinery rehabilitation and yet we have nothing to show for it. The NNPC is simply a black hole- a place where money disappears without a trace. Now and then whenever this insincere government wants to be seen doing something, they throw out a bone in the name of summons by the members of the House of Representatives and a sham of a probe is set up but nothing comes out of it. Look, no one is bigger than the law, there is so much misappropriation of funds going on and I hope that very soon, someone will come to bell this huge cat.
Insecurity has become more challenging due to the rise of crime rate and drug abuse? How do we solve the problem?
Insecurity, crime rate and drug abuse are vices stemming from the same mother- increased unemployment. An idle mind they say is the devil’s workshop. This is what is happening in Nigeria, although the government is the biggest employer of labour; the government must put in place policies that will enable good private sector participation, which will in turn help reduce the rate of unemployment. Insecurity can be approached in a multidimensional way; one of which is via employment; the government has been negligent about its social responsibilities to the people and communities, one of this is investment in local government areas and their communities create employment for the teeming youths. Another approach is to improve the security outfits and their welfare as well because frankly speaking, policing has been reduced to nothing; we have to empower the security outfits, send them for advanced training and exploit this training effectively. Another thing is to overhaul and strengthen the judiciary so that prosecutions are carried out and also to improve the correctional facilities. The correction facilities must be activated as a means to discourage crime from infancy, then watch insecurity reduce to the barest minimum. Not this act of calling some people “misguided brothers” and patting them on the back and giving in to their whims. This singular act by this present government has further worsened insecurity as the culprits only get away with a slap on the wrist.