By Gbenga Ariyibi
Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye is the lawmaker representing the Akoko North East /North WestÂ of Ondo State in the House of Representatives. HeÂ is the Vice -Chairman House Committee on Sports, He is a member of other committees like Defence, Works and Appropriation. In this interview with Vanguard he spoke on some national burning issues.Â Excerpts
Many Nigerians are of the view that the present constitution was hurriedlyÂ put in placeÂ by the military governmentÂ and therefore needs a review to reflect current political dispensationÂ and interestingly the issue is before you in the National Assembly.
What is yourÂ comment over this l am in full support of the review of the present constitution,. We shouldÂ move with time, there is no doubt that the 1999 Constitution is bedevilled with someÂ deficiencies. For us to operate properly as a nation, we need to do some amendment in this constitution
lt is theÂ view of many people that government should not tamper with the recommendations of Justice Mohammed Uwais PanelÂ on Electoral Reforms, especially in the area of picking the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC].Â Do you support this
Honestly, l do not share this view. One may like to ask what is the workÂ ofÂ members of the National Assembly.Â The president is expected to make recommendation and this is subject to the approval of the Senate. Mind you, these peopleÂ are the representatives of the people of this country.Â They know those who are within theirÂ various constituencies.
l know the fear of some people is that the president may nominate his stooge orÂ surrogate.Â l do not envisage this, except such a person is not a man of integrity. However, l would have preferred a situation in which we have some of our retired judicial officers like retired justices of theÂ Supreme Court or Court of Appeal.
We can even extend it to the retired justices of Federal High Courts. The reason is that we all know theÂ antecedents of most of them. PeopleÂ like Justices Uwais, Belgore and the incumbent Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Kutugi, these are theÂ judges who have proved that they are men of honour and integrity.
If you put any ofÂ them in such aÂ sensitive position, Nigeria would have a free and fair election. They would not like to tarnish the name and reputation they have built over the years
Do You actually believe that the presentÂ secret ballotÂ system can take us to the promised land?
l have belief in open ballot system, it is better and more credible because you can queueÂ behind a picture ofÂ yourÂ candidateÂ before the real proper counting. You will be able toÂ predict the actual winner of an election. With an open ballot system, the idea of snatching of ballot boxes, or issue of multiple voting ,would no more arise
But it appears some powerful politicians who had wonÂ pastÂ elections through fraudulent means would not like to share your view and it appears they want to frustrate the issue of electoral reform. What is your comment on this?
l donâ€™t think some people wouldÂ likeÂ to frustrate the issue of electoral reforms.Â Uwais panel has just submitted itsÂ report, but l am sure Mr President would not allow this to happen.Â l am sureÂ he must have his reasons for setting up theÂ panel. l think we are on course, weÂ should have no course to entertain any fear
Are you assuring Nigerians that the reform will be completed?
l cannot speak for the presidency, l canÂ only speak for the National Assembly.Â l believe the National Assembly would do justiceÂ to the issue of electoral reforms, as this wouldÂ promote the advancement of democracy in the country
In your own opinion, when do youÂ expect the electoral reform to commence
l think the reform shouldÂ commence before the 2011 general election, in most places where election did takeÂ place. There were reported casesÂ of violence and electoral mal-practices, with most peopleÂ claimingÂ thatÂ they are not allowed to vote
There have been agitations for creation of additional states, doÂ you think there is need for more statesÂ since most of the existing states can hardly stand on their own
There is no doubt that some of the agitationsÂ for creation ofÂ new states are gaining more currency.Â Â It is my considered view that some are genuine, others are not.Â If we have to look into this, lÂ think those with genuine cases should be considered. It all depends on the genuineness of those agitating
Mind you, before a state could be created, there are certain indices that should be considered.Â The issue of population, geographical spread, majority and minority dichotomy and political consideration should form the bedrock of the state creation
But talking generally except for 3 or 4, most of the states in the federationÂ cannot stand on their own. They rely solely on the federation account, they cannot generate income on their own.
What is the essence of creating a state that could hardly stand on its own, so the bottom line of my argument is states should be created based on their economic viability and other salient factors.
How do you think Nigeria could be bailed out of the current global economic meltdown
The wordÂ global shows it is worldwide, it is not limited to Nigeria.Â l can assure you that things are picking up in the country again, but honestly l think we shouldÂ stopÂ building our economy onÂ oil alone. We should diversify into other sectors like agriculture.
For instance, look at Israel,Â in spite of its location, the country has developed tourism to the extend that the country is making a lot of money from that sector In Nigeria, there are a lot of tourist attractions that we can develop and we would be making a fortune out of it
What are the specific areas in which you have been able to torch the lives of your people within your constituency
ThanksÂ for that question, they are legions, but for the purpose of this interview , l will just mention a few.
l have been able to empower my people by buying motor cycles popularly known as okada for them.Â l bought grinding machines for some women, about 40 to 50 of them at a time.Â l equally bought sowing machine for others It does not stop there, l bought 6 vehicles for some people.
l gave financial support to some widows, gave bursary awards to students, financial assistance to some artisans, constructing blocks of classrooms inÂ some schools, while in others l gave furniture. Plans are still in pipeline for other projects