By Ben Agande
What do you think informed the decision by the President to set up a committee to plan for a national conference?
It’s a very laudable decision. You see, in this country when you act they criticise you, you don’t act, they criticise you. This is a very harmless, progressive, forward looking decision. We cannot just sit down and want God to come and bring stability to the nation.
You must be seen to be doing something and I think the setting up of that committee by Mr. President is very commendable, I support it whole heartedly and I am also very sure that Nigerians if they are patient, something very positive and progressive will come out of it. We will not say because we did something yesterday and you didn’t succeed, therefore you won’t do something today.
Some people base their criticism on the pessimism that the earlier conferences did not yield desired results. That is not enough for us not to do something. So from that stand point, I would say that Mr. President’s decision to set up a conference should be commended and is commendable and it is a very laudable approach.
As a former legislator, don’t you think this will conflict with the role of the national assembly?
I suppose that when they finish they will also seek through the National Assembly to look at what they have done and give it a backing. One person cannot know everything; I feel that we should not put a cart before a horse, let us not condemn it and think that it is an action in futility.
I think that if when they finish, they seek the approval it goes through the mirror of the National Assembly, I think something positive will come out of it but if they just do it and think it will have legitimacy on its own, that’s a different ball game.
As far as I am concerned, it is only the National Assembly that can give legitimacy to it, rightfully or wrongly, that is the way I look at it that at the end of the day it is the National Assembly that has elected members of the people.
But let us see how the representatives are going to emerge, the people who are going to be in the conference let us see how they will emerge because already the people in the National Assembly have already been elected, they were not selected therefore they have the legal basis, it is a legal structure as far as the constitution is concerned to give legitimacy to whatever is going to come out from that conference. But let’s wait until we get there.
I don’t want us to just start thinking of what is going to come out of it. Let us go, it may bring this country closer and the frictions that are trying to tear this country apart they could be solved through the conference but at least the conference members are going to come from the whole part of the country so I don’t think one person is going to come and lord over others the outcome of the conference.
Why do you think many people are agitated about the President’s seeming inclination to serve another term?
It is craze for power. Some people feel that he has had enough but the most important thing is for Nigerians to believe that Mr. President has the legal right to contest or not to contest. That is the basic thing Nigerians should accept. Mr President as a Nigerian is legally qualified if tomorrow he says he wants to contest.
He is legally qualified to contest. He has not come out to tell us he wants to contest but if tomorrow he comes out to say I want to contest, nobody should criticise him because he’s just exercising his inalienable right as a Nigerian just like you and I.
It is only Nigerians, through the ballot paper that can say no but to say he cannot contest, I think that is putting the cart before the horse and it is not fair on him because as a Nigerian, he has the same right which every Nigerian has.
Can we say that he has done enough to justify a re-election?
He has done enough. What do Nigerians want? You can see those who are criticising him are just calling the dog a bad name in order to hang it. I don’t see anything they expected him to do which he has not done.
The insecurity in the country is worldwide, there’s insecurity all over the world, all these crimes, you go to United Kingdom, it is happening; if you go to America it is happening and in Nigeria, the president is tackling it. I am of the opinion that he has done his best and his best is good enough for him to seek re-election if he so wishes.
Nigeria is a country of variegated, mosaic differences and tribes and each of this mosaic tribes want to assert their own voice and their own ways of doing things. I think the president should be given a chance if he so declares that he wants to run, I will personally support him.
Some people have predicted that the way tension is in the country, Nigeria may not be able to survive as one indivisible country. Do you nurse this fear too?
Pessimists only dream of doom. This country has come to stay, we may have our problems but all these are all human problems, they are not insurmountable. There are problems meant for human beings to solve and I don’t think the problems are such that it will bring the end of our unity.
I think some people are just agents of doom and there are so pessimistic that they don’t see anything positive in anything that one thinks of, so I feel that the country will survive it; we will survive as a people, we have been put together as a people, we should not use our hands to kill this unity.
Yes, things may be happening but show me a country that is problem free, there is none. Even countries that are not heterogeneous as Nigeria; you know countries that are homogenous, countries that speak one language, countries that have one culture they still have problems within themselves.
Even the Soviet Union when they were having one party, they were still having problems, it wasn’t a multi party state it was a one party state but the fighting was within individuals. So I think that we will survive it.