Why President Jonathan Appears To Be Lukewarm

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The Deputy Chief Whip of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rotimi Abiru, in this interview with Assembly Matters, speaks on solutions to the problems facing Nigeria

Many Nigerians are calling for disintegration as a solution to our problems. What is your view about this?

The population of Nigeria should be used as an advantage and not otherwise because with the population, the country has a large market which will always interest investors and that is if infrastructure are put right and power is made available. We just have to be tolerant with each other at this point in time. This does not mean we should not sit down to discuss further about our unity in the light of our recent experience. The Boko Haram sect may have been there before now, they came out with force immediately after the elections. The way Nigeria voted during that elections showed that we need to be very careful. The electorate actually voted along ethnic lines and this may not be too good for us as a nation. Now, there are inter-marriages; so what happens if we decide to break up?

These said, I want to add that the Nigerian constitution has not really helped us. That document needs to be re-examined. The constitution has prescribed a federal structure for Nigeria, but in my opinion, what we have is a presidential/unitary system of government. The principle of fiscal federalism should be imbibed so that every region of the country could develop at its own pace. We should stop robbing Peter to pay Paul. It should be forbidden to have a state which forbids the intake of alcohol or its sales and distribution to share from its proceeds. This is why I said we need to practise true federalism. I don’t support the disintegration of the country.

A committee has been set up by the National Assembly to review the constitution…

The move to review the constitution is a tailor-made move. It should be critically looked into with a view to expunging the grey areas. For example, what is the reason for listing the local governments in the constitution when in actual fact it is the duty of the state to create local governments? That is what we are facing in Lagos state right now. There should be a transparent, non-biased constituent assembly that would really tear the present constitution apart instead of distracting the lawmakers at the National Assembly with it.

What is your view concerning recent statements about the state of the nation by President Goodluck Jonathan?

Honestly, I’m not surprised because his ascendancy to the position was by luck. This is a man that in 1999 was a local government chairman. He somehow found himself running mate of the governor and sheer providence made him the governor. Again, he became the Vice President. Sheer providence made him act as president before he became the president. He probably found himself in that position and he felt he had an opportunity to rule the country and that is why he ran. Nigerians, on the other hand, felt we have someone who has learnt from previous governments and would understand the challenges of the country. But it is now like all the considerations by Nigerians for voting for him are being put under question. The comments of the president does not make me see him as one, who by design, planned to rule this country, because if he cannot take full responsibility for the goings-on, it means he is bereft of ideas. And unfortunately, the opposition that should put him on his toes, are being hounded. For 51 years, there has been no regular supply of power and countries which had relied on us for support are now standing on their own. This is unfortunate. I know it is only a matter of time and we will get a leader to take us out of the woods.

The president must rethink and know if he wants to rule us. He should be firm.

What is there to celebrate 51 years after independence?

I’m sure the fact that we are still together calls for celebration, but the nation has so much to worry about. If in 51 years, this is where we still stand, then there is trouble. I am sure that this was not the vision of those who fought for the independence of the country. I am sure they did not ever envisage that we would have graduates roaming the streets after five tedious years of graduating. I am not sure they ever thought our roads would be like this. If they ever knew, I am sure some of them would have opted out of the struggle. And you see, the state of our infrastructure has a multiplier effect on the country and its inhabitants. Sometimes, a person going to the UK from Lagos gets there before another person going from Lagos to Ibadan. The truth is that our leadership has really failed us.