The factors that will decide Jonathan’s re-election’
Court verdict on FRSC number plates: How to address the issue
Hon. Daniel Akpan represents Etinan Constituency of Akwa Ibom in the House of Representatives. He is the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Federal Road Safety Commission(FRSC). In this interview, he speaks on the 2015 general elections, the PDP, the on-going National Conference and the Abuja High Court verdict on FRSC number plates, among other issues of national importance.
Where do you stand on the increasing attacks on President Goodluck Jonathan over 2015 presidential election ?
I don’t think people should argue much about President Jonathan contesting election in 2015. The reason for saying that is that the President has performed creditably. He has been fair to every part of Nigeria. He has done a lot in transforming critical sectors like education, health, roads, etc. As is the practice world over, if a President has done well, people repay him with re-election . Jonathan is good enough for second term.
I want to call the attention of those criticizing him to what was in place before he came into office. The country had problems on all fronts . He has fixed most of those problems, he has registered outstanding achievements. Any leader that is concerned about the welfare of his people more than that of himself deserves to be supported and re-elected. To the best of my mind, Jonathan has demonstrated that he loves Nigerians passionately, he has shown that the interest and welfare of the people are paramount to him.
He deserves to be given an opportunity to seek re-election in 2015. He deserves to be re-elected. Nigeria needs somebody like Jonathan to pilot it’s affairs at this time. We need somebody who would genuinely empathize with the people.
When I say he has done well , I do that with facts. Look at our power supply today, we all know what it used to be. People, today, are enjoying improved power supply. If he is given another opportunity to rule the country for four more years, he will consolidate on these achievements .
How do you place your position side by side with those who argue that the country has witnessed unprecedented crises during his tenure?
It is an unfair assessment of President Jonathan’s administration. He didn’t manufacture these crises , they were there when he came. The crises, I must tell you, are the fallouts of many years of injustice, many years of bad governance by his predecessors. We ought to be grateful to him that he has managed these problems adroitly . He has shown that he is a unique leader.
Governance is not a tea party, it is fraught with challenges, with problems. The issue is not whether a leader will, in the course of his administration, witness crises , but how well he can manage the crises. With what all of us have seen so far, he has done well in managing these crises. There is no country in the world that is crisis free, there is none.
Go to America, Germany, Britain, Russia, Japan, China, etc they have their own crises which their leaders are managing. The crises are not manufactured by their leaders. Life is all about recurring challenges, all about crises. President Jonathan, like I said, met some crises when he took over power, he has been managing them- both the old and new ones.
Anybody who will come after him will also be confronted with crises and he or she will also be expected to address these crises. Any society that is crisis free would not need to elect leaders, such country would not need to have a government.
Are you disturbed by some positions being taken by some delegates, especially from the North, insist that Jonathan has a hidden agenda for setting up the National Conference?
I don’t think those who are saying that are correct. Nothing has shown that the conference is about the President’s second term ambition. The people of this country, for many years ,have been clamouring for this conference. The conference is a platform for Nigerians to discuss the affairs of Nigeria. The conference is to the advantage of Nigeria , it is in the interest of the country.
You and I know that we have so many things threatening the peace of this nation. We have the problem of resource control, lopsided structure, insecurity, etc; we need to come together to discuss these problems. Right now, we are in the dark about how to address these key issues, we can only find a way to handle to them when we come together to listen and appreciate the views of every section and interest.
I don’t think the right approach is to focus attention on the President, I don’t think we will be doing the country any good by leaving the main issues and focusing on criticism of Jonathan. I believe this is the time for us to sit down and tell ourselves the truth. If the conference handles the issues very well, the outcome will be accommodated in our Constitution. This will help strengthen our country and understand one another .
We do not benefit anything from criticizing the conference and our President . We need to set aside politics on issues that border on the unity of this country . We need to chart a new course for our country, we need to speak with one voice on how we can confront our problems. We have been shying away from discussing some of our problems, now the opportunity has been offered us to sit down and discuss these problems. The National Conference is not for the 2015 presidential election, it is for the unity and stability of our dear nation.
With the schism in the PDP, especially some governors defecting to APC , do you still see Jonathan winning the 2015 election?
That has nothing to do with him, it is the people of Nigeria that will elect him. He has performed creditably and Nigerians love him. They are the ones who will decide if he will get another term or not. Sometimes we blow happenings in the party out of proportion. There is no party that does not have one issue or the other to deal with at one point or the other. APC that is newly found has its own crisis. What we call PDP crisis is nothing but internal disagreement. When members disagree, they also resolve their differences. This will not have any impact on Jonathan’s re-election.
Yes, we may not have wanted the governors that left to have done that but the truth is that their position has since been taken by others. Many notable people have been joining the party since that time . We should also be talking about the calibre of politicians that are defecting from other parties to the PDP . PDP is working hard to win every state , so far I don’t see anything that will derail that plans.
Why is the House of Representatives which you are a member of consistently at war with President Jonathan?
I laugh when I hear people talking like that. There is nothing strange about what is happening in the National Assembly. We have lawmakers who are members of different political parties, they sometimes project the interest of their parties. It is a normal thing all over the world, the legislature engages the executive to ensure good governance. What we perceive as fighting Mr President is actually not what it is. We have a duty to ensure that the executive does the right thing in the general interest of our nation. Any day we gloss over the law of the land and allow the executive to do whatever it likes, our nation will be in trouble.
How disturbed are you over the seeming disunity in the House as a result of the defection of members from one party to another?
The House remains united. When it has to do with the issue that concerns the nation, the House takes a common position. When it comes to the issue of politics, that is when you see members taking partisan positions. You can understand what I said better from our handling of the Appropriation bill. We have been united on that. We are objectively looking at the budget, we will address every issue properly and we will pass the budget at the right time.
Some state chapters of the PDP appear to be having problems over the allegation of governors trying to impose their lackeys. Do you see the situation affecting the party and Jonathan in 2015?
I think we need to look at it objectively. With the coming of the new PDP Chairman, hopes and confidence of members have been renewed. He has promised to address some of the challenges. Sincerely, I think it is one problem that the leadership of the party must address as soon as possible. In virtually all the states, governors on their last term have one person or the other who they want to impose on the people.
They are not keen at providing a level playing field for every member of the party who wants to vie for the office. That is not democracy.
It has got to a point where in some states, because the governors openly have people they are backing, you see everybody talking about governors candidates and things like that .
I don’t think it is in the PDP Constitution that Governors should impose their lackeys on the party. I want to believe that the Chairman of the party is concerned about what is happening and will swiftly address this problem in the states. Right now, there is so much tension in most states because of this undemocratic plot to impose candidates. I don’t know if such is happening in states where other parties are in charge.
But in the case of our party , it is a big challenge. There is no love lost among members of the party in several states because of this imposition rumours and plots.
The matter is made worse by the fact that PDP governors in some states have relocated party offices to their compounds to enable them control delegates.
I advise that this is the time the National Chairman needs to work closely with the state chapters to enthrone genuine peace in the party. If this is not done, PDP may have problem in the next election, it may cost it some states. People are likely to reject some of the people being imposed by the governors. Our party is regarded as a great party because it does not circumscribe the ambition and aspiration of anybody.
We must do everything to encourage a level playing field for every member. When that is done, the party will certainly win many states in the general elections and the presidency. Everything must be done to discourage imposition. We must pay attention to the calibre and popularity of aspirants. We must call our governors to order .
Beyond the Chairman of the party, do you advise the President to intervene in the situation?
Of course yes. The President is the leader of the party. If anything affects the state chapters, it affects the national; if it affects the national, it affects the President . For him to win convincingly in 2015, he needs to address the tension in the state chapters as a result of the activities of the governors. He has to work with the National Chairman to resolve the crises and disagreements in the state chapters. If he allows the governors to continue the way they are going, I’m afraid a lot of things will go wrong.
What is your take on the statement by some northern elders that Jonathan will not be re-elected?
To the best of my knowledge, it is not everybody in the North that is opposed to Jonathan’s re-election. Everybody is acting the way he or she feels is okay to him or her. Some people are kicking against Jonathan while some want him to continue . Anybody who wants to contest an election would always have some people who would be opposed to his aspiration. What matters is the number of people that are in support.
When it comes to electing a President, it is the whole nation that takes that decision. It is not left for a section of the country. PDP is a national party , decisions are taken based on what will benefit the country at the end of the day.
What will determine whether Jonathan will be re-elected or not is his scorecard. Fortunately , many Nigerians are happy with the improvement in power supply, health sector, education, road infrastructure, socio-economic well-being of the masses . He has tackled the major problems . The ordinary Nigerian is not interested in where the President comes from, he only wants improvement in his standard of living.
Beyond what some critics who have an agenda are saying, all of us know that the country has recorded massive improvement under Jonathan. Go to the airports today, you will know that there is a government. For several years, our airports and the aviation sector generally were ignored but this administration has massively touched up this sector .
Like I said, the electorate re-elect their presidents in other countries based on performance. Jonathan has done very well; the masses need to ignore what some greedy and selfish individuals are saying and re-elect him. The interest of our country is paramount, we must chart a course for our nation.
Some people have accused APC of not drawing the line on party matters and national interest. Do you share such opinion?
In every country where democracy is practised, the opposition flays every step taken by the ruling party. If we must get it right, everybody must be involved , everybody must be active. The opposition helps to bring a fresh perspective to any issue, it helps to keep the government in power on its toes.
What I can advise APC is to ensure that it is constructive in its criticism of government programmes or policies. You dont just criticise because you want your voice to be heard, you have must a message to pass across.
For instance, if APC is criticising government on the handling of security challenge , it should be able to offer a better way of handling it. It will not be enough to say that it will fix the problem when it is elected . The populace would want to know how it intends to address the problem . That is how it is done in other countries. We should encourage a vibrant opposition
Like I said, democracy thrives when it has a strong opposition. For any opposition party to be strong and taken seriously, it has to come up with a well articulated blueprint that will convince the populace that it is serious.
How do you see the High Court ruling on FRSC’s number plates?
I think the High Court judgment is in order.The function of FRSC does not allow it to impose number plates on motorists. There is an agreement between FRSC and many states which I do not know whether Lagos State is part of to produce number plates. That does not mean that it is backed by the Constitution or the Act that established the agency.
What they have now is what i call gentleman’s agreement. I don’t think there is any clause in the Act that established FRSC to impose number plates. They have to seek amendment of the Act to give them legal backing if they so wish to centralize number plates. For now, I think the ruling is in order.
FRSC has to approach the National Assembly to amend the present Act .
Is this not a contradiction of the judge’s earlier ruling?
It is important that we do not hastily criticise court’s rulings. We have to know the legal argument that was put forward that formed the basis of the earlier judgment.
What is the implication of the ruling?
To be honest with you, what the agency is doing now is what obtains in most advanced countries, even in some African countries where licensing of number plates and the driver’s license are carried out by a central body. The advantage is that if your car is stolen in any part of the country, information captured by the central body can be disseminated to security agencies for quick recovery. I will recommend that FRSC should continue with the policy but should approach National Assembly for legal backing.
Would you advise FRSC to appeal the judgment.
There is no need appealing the judgment if its action lacks legal backing. As I said, the most credible step to be taken is to approach National Assembly for amendment of the Act. It can only appeal the judgment if it has found something in the Constitution or Act that can upturn the judgment.