• Why attempts to make Nigeria work ’ve failed –ex-Plateau Gov Tapgun

    Why attempts to make nigeria work ve failed ex-plateau gov tapgun - nigeria newspapers online
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    From Jude Owuamanam, Jos

    Former governor of Plateau State, Ambassador Fidelis Tapgun, has given reasons why efforts to make Nigeria work had failed.

    In this interview, the former Minister of Industry speaks on various issues.

    You participated in the national conference that was set up to fashion a way forward for Nigeria. We’ve had many experiments at constitutional amendment and once again, the National assembly has set up a constitutional review committee. What are those critical areas you want this committee to touch on?

    You know, I served at the national conference and in one of the very most important committees of that conference, which was restructuring and governance. And I think we had extensive deliberations about the system of government. And we all agreed that this presidential system we are practising is not going to lead us anywhere in this country. And we suggested, we recommended that we revert to the parliamentary system that we were practising before independence.

    It is not a new thing to us in this country. We practised it all through to independence. In fact, shortly after independence, we were practising it. And it helped us very, very well. It helped us a lot. It helped this country a lot and we think that is the only way we can help shape this country again.

    So what are the advantages of that?

    The advantages of that are that nobody gets any appointment, whether as commissioner or minister, without being elected. You have to be elected into the House before the party with the majority membership forms the government. And it is from there the prime minister emerges, that is the head of government. It is from there all the commissioners or the ministers will emerge from those elected members. So that if you become a commissioner or become a minister, you are an elected person from your constituency.

    So you know all the problems that are there because you are elected representatives of the people who canvassed for their votes; they tell you their problems and you tell them how you’re going to solve them. Again, the prime minister also comes from there. So now, you sit every day of the week or three times in a week to give an account. The party with lesser members become the opposition, and they challenge you every day; you as a government, they challenge you nearly every day on what you are doing. So you have to give an account.

    It is completely out of anything we are doing with this presidential system. There is no accountability. And that is why we are running helter-skelter. We don’t know our left, we don’t know our rights. So for me, I think this is the best thing the president can do for this.

    Now, this review from the National assembly, it has always been on. As for me, I don’t think they will do any good job out of it. I would have preferred a situation where we go back to the system we practised after independence and which worked for us. Okay, I can see somewhere, you know, they are trying to set up a referendum commission or something, because what we had expected during Jonathan’s was to throw it in as a referendum to Nigerians, let Nigerians take a decision on the outcome of that conference. And if Nigerians took a decision, nobody would reject it.

    But, you know, technical things came up, politics came up and the thing was not done. But I think if the National assembly is really serious about what they are doing, in fact, they don’t have any job to do. Even what they just have to do is to find a way of setting up this referendum or commission that can throw this 2014 national conference decisions to Nigerians so that Nigerians can take a decision on it.
    The majority, I think 90 percent of people’s decision will be taken on this against the presidential system because it’s not helping us at all.

    What would be your position on provisions like state police, independence of judiciary, independence of the local government?

    All of them will be part of the deliberations while looking at the positions of the national Conference. We all agreed that the states should have their own police. They should have their own police because what we are seeing, it is unreasonable to expect somebody to be sitting in Abuja or sitting in Lagos directing security in Plateau State.

    The state should have its own police appointed by the governor. There must be stringent laws governing all these things because otherwise, the fear among people was that governors were going to use them against their opponents and so on and so forth.

    The laws will ensure that nobody will misuse them. The police should be there. The judiciary must be free, must be independent so that they can take decisions. Local government must be autonomous because that’s where the development is. If the local government is developed, then the state will develop, then the federal is developed because that’s where everything is now.

    It should be left to the states to create local governments if they want to. Right now, funding local governments is a big issue because it is the governors that collect the funds and do what they want to do with it. You know, so there must be laws when these things are promulgated, there must be laws governing this so that the monies get to the local governments themselves for their development. And so if the local governments are developed, then there will not be any problem in the state.

    There have been attempts in the past to do what you have just said, devolving power, making sure that all the component parts of this country work. Why, in your opinion, do you think that these experiments have failed?

    It has failed because people at the helm of affairs do not know their left from their rights. People elected to the helm of affairs do not know their left and their right. Even if they know, greed has taken over. Politics in this country now is grab to grab. People go in there just to make money. It’s not to give service to the people, you know, so the constitution doesn’t protect anybody.

    It doesn’t protect the people, it doesn’t protect anybody, it doesn’t protect the local government, it doesn’t protect the state government. It only protects the national. So, everybody now wants to go to the national.

    This is the issue. People should be able to offer service at the local level. I remember in those days, there were graduates, there were professors who went to look for chairmanship of local governments or counsellors in the local governments because that was part of the recommendations we made so that the local government should attract competent people that can deliver, which is not being done now. People are not prepared to give service to people. They are prepared to take from the society. They become locusts.

    From what you have said, it does appear the implementation of the recommendations of the national conference will solve majority of what we are suffering in this country. Why has it been difficult for substantive governments to look at that report?

    Thank you very much for that question is very, very important. As soon as we were concluding that conference and there was general consensus that the thing has to be implemented immediately, Jonathan should pick all those areas that he can just sign and those areas that needed constitutional amendment should go to the National Assembly. But, you know, the thing turned into another type of problem in the National assembly completely. The National Assembly didn’t like it, various groups in Nigeria didn’t like it because it was going to go against their interests. And I think they pressurised Jonathan not to implement it and you know, and he was looking for election anyway, so he didn’t want to hurt people. So, that’s how this thing just fizzled out.

    You understand me? But our plan was for him to just take those areas that are less controversial, sign them, make them into law, the controversial parts that have to do with the constitution, throw it open to Nigerians in a referendum, let them decide, and it would have solved this matter completely. But I think the National assembly was very vehement because they thought they have the power. They are the ones elected by the people that should take decisions. That’s why they are doing all these things now. But for me, I don’t think they are greater than the people that elected them. As far as I’m concerned, if there’s a way this thing is thrown to Nigerians, Nigerians should take a decision on this, not some of them. You know, so I’m very skeptical about this thing they are doing for me.

    So you are skeptical about what the National assembly is doing now. How then do you want to go about the implementation of the national conference report? Again how far will you go in solving some of these secessionist agitations?

    It will go a long way in solving the pockets of agitations once you restructure the country. Once you restructure this country, I’m telling you, you will not hear all these things about agitations to secede. There are agitations because there are a lot of injustices and it will be taken care of if the country is not restructured. The country is being held captive by certain groups held captive by certain groups who want their own decisions to be their own positions, only to be taken at all times. And Nigeria is a very complex country, with more than 250 million people, various diverse ethnic groups, diverse religions, you know, you have to allow people to take their own decision. And once you do this, you break this country down. Restructure it and allow people to take control of their destiny from the beginning. I don’t think you will see all these agitations by people because it’s as a result of injustice. You cry that you want to go, you want to stay separately. It is because you feel you are being unjustly treated. That is just the reason. But once opportunity is given to everybody to move, I don’t think you will hear all these things again. That’s why the country has to be restructured.

    What advice do you have for the president and the National assembly as they go about this exercise?

    Well, you know, I keep saying that the president has been somebody that has been in the trenches of this battle for a very, very long time. So he knows this country in and out. And he knows the demands in this country in and out. He knows the causes of all these agitations in and out. He knows them and I know that he knows them. And I think, for me, he’s one person that will be able to do what is right, especially to restructure this country so that we go back to what we were before. I think he’s in a position to do that. I think he’s in a position to do that now. The National assembly will help him. And I think they are going to work with him. They should work in harmony because I know that the Senate and the House of Representatives are also working in harmony. They should work in harmony so that they can produce what Nigerians want, what will help this country. I saw that they flew a kite. Was it a kite. You know, some people say that the proposed amendment is another proposal to restructuring of this country. I don’t know. If that is what they have in mind, if that is what the president has in mind and they are trying to push it around, I think it is a very commendable one for me because I think once it is done that way, people will be satisfied, you know, and like I said, President Tinubu, is somebody who has been in the trenches, so he cannot leave office without doing this thing, as far as I’m concerned.

    Few days ago, some people moved into the Oyo State secretariat to declare a Yoruba nation. Don’t you think that that move is a dangerous trend and a very serious threat to Nigeria’s unity?

    It is. It is very dangerous. Again, like I said, all these things about Yoruba nation, about IPOB, about Middle Belt, about Afenifere, it is all injustices that make people gather to react. But, once this country is restructured and people take their place in their states of origin, you give them room to develop in their own space at their own time. Once that is done, I don’t think you will have any agitation. The agitation is coming as a result of some pact being unfairly treated by others. That is where the agitation is coming from. But I think we are too big in this country. The country is big enough to accommodate everybody provided you allow people to move at their own pace. It was done before. We had three regions before. We had Nigeria before. It is all the same country now. There was not this kind of agitation in the past. It was when we started this federal thing that everything just went to the top and the grassroots was neglected.

    Are you comfortable with the way this agitation and the agitators were treated because some people are of the opinion that if this thing had been done by certain part of the country, they would have been severely dealt with? Are you satisfied with the way the Yoruba nation agitators were treated?

    I don’t think it was a major thing that the security agencies were unable to handle. It was controlled immediately; it didn’t go out of hand. It didn’t go far. They were immediately apprehended to show you that this is not what is good for this country.
    Now, they were immediately apprehended and all rounded up and taken away.

    Last week, the PDP NEC met and we saw what happened in Abuja. There was a protest, a pro and a counter protest for the Minister of FCT, Nyesom Wike. Wike was allowed to have his way to enter the meeting, which did not sit down well, with so many observers. What is your take in all these?

    No, you see, one thing that the PDP is known for is managing crises. The PDP is an expert in managing crises. So many things that were being said were not true. Just leave it, you will see how the whole issue will be resolved. For instance, they said Wike came there and he didn’t greet Atiku Abubakar and blah and blah, blah. It’s not true. Decisions that are taken were done by the caucus, various groups; already, everything is discussed and decisions are taken because it’s not like a jamboree where everybody will be talking. You understand me? Now there is nothing like Wike’s group or Atiku’s group for me. I don’t see such division; the PDP belongs to the people of Nigeria. It doesn’t belong to anybody. To say it belongs to Atiku and Wike is not fair to the party. I don’t think it is fair. There is disagreement between them, that’s all right, but it is not a thing that can divide the party as far as I am concerned. They laid a lot of accusations against the chairman and people want him out. The position of some party members is that since Ayu is from the North Central state, the right thing to do according to the constitution of the party is that a replacement must come from there. You understand me? But you know that since after the elections, no meetings have been held at all because of so much rancour all over the place. And I think is that this man tried a bit to stabilise the team by not talking too much. And you know, with time, certain crises fizzle out on its own. And I think once they decided to hold this meeting, it means that tempers are cooling down. So, we had already agreed to replace Ayu. But I think wisdom among elders of the party, the stakeholders, is they all agreed that he will be replaced.
    But I think not now. And I think the wisdom in that, for me, the wisdom in it is not to give an impression that one group has been defeated, you understand me, by removing the chairman immediately and after the next day, they say, okay, you go and the next person from the North; no. allow him some time. Now, this is the first meeting that has been held since after the elections. This is the first time he has given a report about what transpired. I know that there is a reconciliation committee being set up to go round and report from the states about people who worked against the party. So, they are all going to look at all these things and I think within the next three months, all these things will be concluded.

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