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‘Jonathan should focus on N/Delta devt’

By Dapo Akinrefon
MR Glory Abrefera is the President, Niger Delta Peace and Development Forum (NDPDF). In this interview with Vanguard, he spoke about challenges before Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, steps to be taken to give the economy fresh impetus. He also commented on how best to sustain the amnesty initiative to keep peace in the Niger Delta region, among other issues. Excerpts:

Considering the chain of events that has trailed President Yar’Adua’s unexpected return to the country, how would you react to the manner with which the development has been handled so far?

IT is the African show of solidarity to visit friends, relations or neighbours. Of course, the Yar’Adua family has a right as to who comes to visit them, but are missing one cogent point from barring people to see him — that Yar’Adua ceased to be a private property the day he swore to be president. Obviously, the family is not managing the situation well because Nigerians have the right to know the health status of their president.

When Bill Clinton was sick, recently, everything was x-rayed. The hospital where he was admitted, what led him there, the treatment he was getting and his recovery were all made public. Yar’Adua’s case should, therefore, not be different because he is no longer a family property. As a national figure, his affair should not be managed in such secrecy. This gives us a lot of worry.

President Umaru Yar’Adua has returned though, not in the best state of health to govern the country…

(Cuts in) That is why we aligned with the Save Nigeria Group in the campaign for good governance. At this point, we believe that the President can no longer deceive the nation that he is in good health; the only right thing for him now is to resign in the national interest of the country. If he is not strong enough to do that, the National Assembly should activate the various laws which would allow Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to become substantive President.

It is now clear that Yar’Adua is very sick and incapacitated. The truth is that Nigeria has gone back more than 10 years in the past three months. The few good things and results achieved by the previous administration has been rubbished in the few years of Yar’Adua. To right these wrongs, let us swear in Jonathan as President, pick a Vice President from the North, and let us move Nigeria forward.

As Condoleeza Rice said, the Presidency is an institution, which is bigger than individuals. That I am President today, and still insist to remain in office, despite critical health condition is simply the African mentality of staying put in power. We cannot continue like that, and we must correct that thinking.

But the process of removing the President may not be that easy as witnessed before the National Assembly empowered Jonathan as Acting President…

This is a result of the power play in Nigeria. But whichever way it goes, the power equation will change. This is why they hold the nation hostage because they don’t want to lose their positions. Doing right should never be difficult to do if they are not so obsessed with their portfolios. It is sad that today, the worst are ruling over the best. This trend must stop if Nigeria must develop.

So, how best can the Acting President Jonathan drive the country on the right track?

We are committed to peace and development. There is no need for elephant projects. Rather, it would be more meaningful if we have industrial parks. I am happy the governor of Delta State is already keying into that. Let the government build fish lakes around the six states of the coastal region that would employ hundreds of thousands of citizens. The multiplier effects of the ancillary services that would build up around the lakes would be tremendous.

Government must be serious about its employment generation drive. . If there were no jobs, there would be poverty everywhere. Our stand, therefore, is that government should create enabling environment for industry to thrive. If they think about the people and their needs, it would not be long before productivity would spread across the nation.

We need not go after a seven-point agenda that we have no resources to pursue. If our focus would be providing good transportation network and power, then, let us face that and get it done, rather than waste money pursuing unattainable goals. Soon, Nigeria would be in the league of developed nations if these are well considered.

How can the on-going amnesty initiative in the Niger Delta be sustained?

I am not in support of sharing money for our young men because that is a mass poverty policy. It will make them lazy and always dependent. But, if fish lakes and cottage industries are established across the region, we would have established a big industry that would engage all the youths and as such, there would be no room for fighting. I recall that in the 70’s and 80’s when the construction works of NNPC and some housing estates were going on, no one had time for criminality.

What should be Jonathan’s approach to the issues of electoral reform and power?

With regards to electoral reform, he cannot do anything serious with the few months he has. However, he could still guide the country on the path to development. If we liberalize the energy sector like we did in the telecommunication sector, allow states and private firms to generate their power, we would go far. Aba, Nnewi and some of the eastern towns known for industry would be well developed and the ripple effect would be enormous.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.