BY SIMON EBEGBULEM
Following the successful conduct of the 2011 general election in most parts of the country, Professor Omo Omoruyi is today a happy man. The former Director General of the Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS) spoke to Vanguard last week in Benin City and urged Nigerians to commend President Goodluck Jonathan for the successful polls.
He frowned at the killing of NYSC members in some parts of the North and called for the proscription of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and not NYSC as being suggested by some Nigerians. He said Jonathan’s emergence as President was a dream come true for the minorities. He also spoke about his former boss, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), other national issues and Edo State politics. Excerpts:
With President Goodluck Jonathan’s emergence as President-elect, what do you expect from him now?
Jonathan now has a mandate and that mandate must be implemented to the fullest. He also has independent source of authority which is not dependent on the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, because many Nigerians voted for him and those who voted for him are looking forward to a restructured political order. They are looking forward to a restricted moral order, a restructured social order. The young people in this country need employment. It is not just a promise, people want to see the jobs.
People want to see some thing done to save lives and property. All he needs to do is to sit down and change the situation. He is a young man, educated and a scientist so he cannot afford to fail. This is what some of us, who are leaders in the minority areas have been fighting for a long to now. I am happy that I am alive to witness this day.
It is a dream come true and we believe that our struggle will propel Jonathan to prove to the world that the minorities can do better. That is why I am not too happy with IBB for joining the zonist because he was among those that have prayed for this day for the minorities. I am still wondering what happened on the way. However, we are happy and Jonathan must prove his worth now.
I heard you say something like restructuring his PDP?
Yes he should restructure the PDP and the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN because these are the two parties that have the national spread today. Congress for Progressive Change, CPC should be proscribed, it is a sectarian party. It does not have a leader. The man leading now called Buhari is finished because in what capacity will he lead them now?
Gradually, CPC will wither away and I want to quickly advise those who won in the Senate and House of Representatives through the CPC, to quickly sort their way out and join either the PDP or the ACN. ACN should be a viable alternative, it should expand itself. It should be able to expand beyond the South-West.
But if it decides to remain a South-West party, I don’t think that is in the interest of the ACN itself because I also see Edo State being in conflict. It has to make up its mind where it wants to go because the question is whether Edo State is a South-South state or a South-West state? I have been reading the papers, they have been raising that question. But that is for Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and his people to answer.
But again, Edo and Delta, which we call the old Midwest, is the only democratically created region in Nigerian history. The creation of Midwest state was done through a referendum. All other states in the country today are military created. Therefore we must value this thing we call our region, our state, very jealously. We cannot go back to serve the Yorubas, who when the region was created only sent us away with two or three law books. Up till today, there is still no sharing of the asset and liabilities within the old Western region.
We were sent away to come and start our lives. So, are we now walking back to go and join them? So that kind of thing is what reminds me that those who rule the state today must think very seriously that we cannot sell our birth right, we won our freedom. Therefore, Edo and Delta are two states out of the old Midwest that are part of the South- South. These are the oil producing states and that is what brought us together.
How would you assess the performance of Professor Attahiru Jega-led INEC?
He was marvelous, the man did well. You know no matter how they perform politicians will always complain because they did not win. I was surprised at the day of the Presidential election, there was a long list of political parties and that created a lot of problem.
That is not the fault of INEC it is the fault of politicians. INEC did a marvelous job, Jega gave a good leadership because the President gave him a free hand. But if you compare that with 1993, there is a a little problem. The polling booth contains so many people, the numbers should be reduced. What we should do is to reduce the number of people manning the polling units.
Edo State voted for President Jonathan and even most ACN states from the South West, don’t you think that was anti-party?
In political science where I belong, we call it split-voting, it is not anti-party. You can split your votes especially between arms of government and between levels of government. I can decide to support party A today and decide to support party B tomorrow by splitting my votes, it is not unusual. Election today is usually pursued by independent voters and it is very easy to say look, for Presidential we want to be in the main stream.
For the House of Assembly we can go this way.
But you have some confusion in some areas like in Anambra, where after they voted Jonathan, they could not deliver the National and State Assemblies to APGA. But it is still the same problem you find in the South-East. They have not been able to sort out themselves politically.
Some people are calling for the proscription of the NYSC scheme due to the killing of Corps members in the Northern parts of the country. Do you think that the call was justifiable?
I think again, it is not NYSC that should be proscribed it is the CPC. NYSC is a good plan because I supported it in 1973 when I was a lecturer at the University of Ibadan. It is a good programme but reducing them to support the function which they did and killing them because that is the only way you can meet your political end is criminal.
Therefore, the judicial panel set up by the President, all the people that will be found guilty must pay the price, including the man who was weeping.
Buhari was sending a message by that action.
If he is found guilty he should be killed. He must pay the price, he can’t claim that he is not involved. Buhari should have no place in the Council of State meetings. He should be banned from attending the meeting, he is not a democrat.
So NYSC should remain, but they can reform the scheme. For now, let them start serving in their states or their region. You can move people from Edo to Delta, or Bayelsa, certainly not from Edo to Maiduguri where they will face those Boko Haram people who do not believe in education. There must be some reform, these kids are too far away from home.
They should be kept near their homes so that they can run away quickly when there is problem. When you send somebody from Kebbi to Sokoto, they are the same people, from Sokoto to Niger, it is okay. But definitely, Sokoto to Benin or Bayelsa, no, no no. We are very tolerant in the South here but there are areas that are not tolerant. So, I think they should reform the scheme now and keep these kids near their homes.
Your former boss Gen.Ibrahim Babangida recently said he would be retiring from active politics in 2015, what is you take on that statement?
I think IBB is not quitting politics. He did not say he is quitting politics. Which means today he is a politician and a zonist. So my advice is that he should resign from PDP today and distance himself from partisan politics and sit down to write his memoir.
He should sit down and write his memoir and try to explain what Nigerians have been asking about him because it is not every time you will continue to make explanation. ‘Oh, I did not do this, oh June 12 somebody asked me to do it.’
He should write it down. He is not quitting politics, he said he will be there and 2015 who knows the forces that propelled him to jettison his views about interplay of political forces that made him to buy zoning, may also make him to come up again at that time. From now to 2015, he will still remain a zonist.
Therefore, if he were to say today I am no more in partisan politics, I am going to commit the rest of my life to explaining what I did in the past, he will find me a good friend of his and I will help him to write those things.
There is this agitation by your people in Edo South (Binis) that the speakership position should be ceded to the area and not Edo Central where the incumbent Speaker comes from. Do you think that call is justified given the fact that the Deputy Governor of the state is a Benin man?
The place that gave birth to me politically is old Oredo. It means the restricted Oredo of today, Ikpoba Okhai and Egor in Edo South district. It was this community that elected me to the Constituent Assembly in 1977. If I did not go to the Constituency Assembly, I would have been just another Professor in UNIBEN. What is basically an issue today is the total neglect of Oredo in the politics of ACN.
Oredo has almost 300,000 registered voters but it does not have anything you can count as a fall out from the ACN government. And now if you add that with Ikpoba Okhai and Egor, it is almost twice the population of Edo North. It is almost thrice the population of Edo Central. Oredo is a heavy voting population for ACN so some thing must be created to reward this people for what they have been doing for the ACN all these while.
Comrade Oshiomhole should look back and say look, now Edo South has given ACN 10 House of Assembly members out of 24, let us give the Speaker. This is actually the crux of the matter and it will be crazy to say you are looking for somebody from Edo Central where ACN only got one seat. If you use the incumbent Speaker, Bright Omokhodion to bring about a change in the leadership of the House, that is normal but we have passed that stage now.
We are now talking about elected members from Edo South, 10 of them. You can build road from here to Jerusalem but that cannot deprive the people of their political right and political future. Looking at the sharing of positions in the South, the deputy governor claims Orhiomnwon, Senator Uzamere claims Ovia, Daisy Danjuma claims Uhumnwonde, tell me who claims Oredo? Nobody! Comrade should know that you have to reward people for what they have contributed to the party. Oredo seems marginalised, therefore Oredo should produce the new Speaker in this new dispensation.
We are approaching 2012 when Governor Adams Oshiomhole will definitely be seeking for re-election, what is your advice and how will you rate his performance today?
I was the Director General of the Adams Oshiomhole Campaign Organisation in 2007. He deserves a second term because he has done a marvelous job. But beyond that, Oshiomhole deserves a higher political office because he is a democrat.
I believe that he will be a good leader as a President because he is still young. Oshiomhole has shown purposeful and good leadership, prudent management of resources and we can see that the era of taking our money abroad in Edo State is over. From what he has achieved so far, he is just a magician who must be respected. Edo State is moving again and we should all encourage him to do more.