•Says Jonathan deserves second term
•Boko Haram insurgency may break Nigeria’
National President of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), Ozo Nwabueze Okafor, in this interview, speaks on how to make the recommendations of the National Conference count, why the local government system should be strengthened and why President Goodluck Jonathan should be given a second term among other issues.
By CLIFFORD NDUJIHE
On the insecurity in the country
There is no doubt that we are in a challenging time given the present security situation in the country. I know that a lot of resources and funds that could have been appropriated to critical areas of the economy are now channeled to the area of security. This is really a challenging time but generally, President Goodluck Jonathan has done very well.
On criticisms trailing President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration
Criticising the government has always been part of our national life. I do not think that there is any government in Nigeria since independence that has not been so criticized. Often times, we only see the positives of some administrations only when those in authority had left the saddle. It is our social responsibilities to put the government on its toes to live up to its responsibilities. But I do not think that given the present challenges we have as a nation that the present administration has not done well.
Do you think that President Jonathan deserves a second tenure?
Given the challenges he met on ground and the way he is tackling them, it is my opinion that he deserves a second tenure. As a person and the president of this country, I think he has the right temperament to lead Nigeria.
On whether the National Confab will address Nigeria’s problems
The National Conference was a good idea but I think that along the line certain groups, individuals and sections of the country placed their interests above national interests. People did not come to the conference with open minds because when they came, it was with the mindset to represent the interests of a particular section, ethnic group, state or institution.
That kind of mindset makes them not to see the larger picture of national cohesion, integration or the need for us as a diverse people to come together and live as one united prosperous nation. That is where we have the challenge. So, the conference is a well thought out arrangement but along the line, our interests began to dilute what should have come as a position of the conference.
However, I believe something good would come out of it. You cannot throw away everything about the conference. I think we should leave out those issues that tend to create division among Nigerians. We should look at issues that would bring us together, issues that touch our very core as a nation.
We should talk less of issues that pay attention to a particular group of people because it is only natural that others would rise up to oppose that. So, let us look at national issues, how to improve service delivery, how do we improve the capacity of the government to respond to the needs of the people? How do we respond to emergency situations? How do we prevent the high wave of criminality, insecurity and insurgency affecting everybody in the country? We also should think of what we should do to ensure that we have a robust educational system or tertiary institutions in the country that would be respected internationally.
We should also think of how to tackle the issue of health to ensure that everybody and not just those who are living in the urban centres have access to adequate health facilities. We should have a programme that even if you do not have money, you do not die of diseases that are otherwise treatable and curable.
These are the things we should look at. Have our different sectors performed optimally? Have they really performed in terms of adequate power supply and provision of infrastructures in the nation? These are the things that the National Conference should think about. These are the things we need to legislate on to capacitate the various institutions we have in the country. We should not only dwell on resource control and what we get from the oil resources. Nigerians want a government that would be able to provide for their basic needs.
On whether the Boko Haram insurgency can break Nigeria
Insurgency is presently threatening the unity of the country.
You find a situation where the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recognizes the fact that every Nigerian citizen is free to reside in any part of the country, do business or go to school in any part of the country. But in a situation where you talk about registering a citizen of Nigeria from one state in another state, then you can see that the unity of the country is being threatened.
So, I insist that insurgency has the potential to threaten the unity of the country. But at the same time, I know that Nigeria would at the end of all these, emerge stronger as a united nation. The security challenge is not peculiar to Nigeria. In several parts of the world including the bigger economies, we have all manner of security challenges and insurgency.
But I believe that once we are united as a country and are determined to fight the insurgency, we will overcome it. And that is why I believe that everything boils down to the third tier of government which is the Local Government. Everything in Nigeria broke down when the Local Government system broke down and failed to take care of the needs of the people where the problem starts from. We created a gap that people at that level had nobody to resort to.