June 12, 2009

Re-branding Nigeria must be a quiet project — Rep. Mayor Eze

ByEmmanuel Aziken
Mayor Eze representing Orlu/Osu/Oru Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives is one of the leading lights in the lower chamber with a number of bills to show for it. A former council chairman, Eze in this interview with Vanguard’s Emmanuel Aziken laces his executive and legislative experiences to analyse  ten years of uninterrupted democracy in the country. Excerpts:

In the last two years do you think that the National Assembly has risen up to its expected role?

It is a journey, members  are on the right path. Everybody including you, know  that this sixth session is an improvement on the fifth session and if it is an improvement, it then means that democracy is growing. But I am not sure that legislature is growing at the pace that is expected of the law makers. But when you compare the fact that those in the legislative arm are not in a position to allocate resources and they are in a country where  a lot of people are hungry.

But is it not the duty of the legislature to appropriate and allocate?

Yet it is the work of the legislature to appropriate and allocate, but when they appropriate and allocate, it is the duty of the executive to execute.

The power of execution resides with  the executive arm  because the parliament doesn’t have that power of execution and the hungry masses after voting in an election, they don’t want to know who belongs to  the executive or  the legislative arm; they expect their own dividends of democracy in terms of how much cash you can dole out.

That is why in some places a local government chairman commands more respect more than a federal legislator. This is because in a hungry and angry society, loyalty goes to somebody who can dole out funds.

What would you then consider as the major achievements of this sixth session of the National Assembly?

First of all, the House is building on its experiences. If you consider the number of bills passed and their quality, the number of attendance at sittings and increased oversight functions; all this  will tell you a lot.

This is because it is difficult to mention one or two points as the achievements of a legislator knowing that a legislator is three persons in one – a representative, a lawmaker and the overseer of the executive. The points I have  mentioned  indicate  that the legislature is growing.

Also, the understanding that the legislature extends to the executive is also a welcome development. But it will not be taken to a nauseating level because for democracy to grow no legislator claps for the executive. Rather the legislature should be the watchdog of the executive so that at the end of the day, the citizens will clap for both the legislature and the executive. This is the way democracy grows.

But the President has said that you have not performed well!

The President did not say that because an aide to the President was alleged to have said that. If the President said that,  then we will make our comments. People should understand that loyalty should be to an office. Any member of the executive may find himself in the parliament any day.

There are former governors now in the Senate today. There are former Senators and House members who are governors today and that is why for people to make informed opinion and rational statements, issues must be on official relationships. When you reduce it to  respect for just  an individual, you are missing the mark.

Ten years after the establishment of the fourth republic, do you think democracy has been firmly established?

It has not been firmly established, nobody can say that. It is incumbent on those in power to provide the dividends of democracy. Last time on the floor of the House we talked about a Nigerian who was almost roasted in Equatorial Guinea or one of these West African countries. As we were debating it in the House the man was preparing to go back to where he was almost roasted after he had recovered.

Is that not a big irony? You don’t just open your mouth and say come back, Nigeria is good, Nigeria is wonderful. When Nigeria is good the international community, will come and invest. Anything that will give Nigeria good name should be all right, but it must go beyond rhetorics alone, it must go beyond slogans.

Are budgets being implemented as they should be. So this issue of returning unspent funds is no longer fashionable. The funds are meant to be used for projects.

Re_branding should be a quiet thing, we are talking too much about re_branding. It is only in Africa that after  people leave office  they start regretting and start saying that they are human beings and  were bound to make mistakes. But we should limit the margin of mistakes and errors because we are talking about commonwealth of everybody.

It is not a personal wealth. People are quick to talk about Ghana and South Africa. South Africa thrives today because of the parliamentary nature of its politics. There must be a superstructure that will
limit the concept of government. Our government is over developed yet the effect on the citizens are too small. It is a big irony.