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Electoral Reform will promote advancement of democracy – Rep.

By Gbenga Ariyibi
Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye is the lawmaker representing the Akoko North East /North West  of Ondo State in the House of Representatives. He  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.  Excerpts

Many Nigerians are of the view that the present constitution was hurriedly  put in place  by the military government  and therefore needs a review to reflect current political dispensation  and interestingly the issue is before you in the National Assembly.

What is your  comment over this l am in full support of the review of the present constitution,. We should  move with time, there is no doubt that the 1999 Constitution is bedevilled with some  deficiencies. For us to operate properly as a nation, we need to do some amendment in this constitution

lt is the  view of many people that government should not tamper with the recommendations of Justice Mohammed Uwais Panel  on Electoral Reforms, especially in the area of picking the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC].  Do you support this

Honestly, l do not share this view. One may like to ask what is the work  of  members of the National Assembly.  The president is expected to make recommendation and this is subject to the approval of the Senate. Mind you, these people  are the representatives of the people of this country.  They know those who are within their  various constituencies.

l know the fear of some people is that the president may nominate his stooge or  surrogate.  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 the  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 the  antecedents of most of them. People  like Justices Uwais, Belgore and the incumbent Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Kutugi, these are the  judges who have proved that they are men of honour and integrity.

Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye,  Lawmaker representing  Akoko North East /North West  of Ondo State in the House of Representatives.
Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye, Lawmaker representing Akoko North East /North West of Ondo State in the House of Representatives.

If you put any of  them in such a  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 present  secret ballot  system can take us to the promised land?

l have belief in open ballot system, it is better and more credible because you can queue  behind a picture of  your  candidate  before the real proper counting. You will be able to  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 won  past  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 don’t think some people would  like  to frustrate the issue of electoral reforms.  Uwais panel has just submitted its  report, but l am sure Mr President would not allow this to happen.  l am sure  he must have his reasons for setting up the  panel. l think we are on course, we  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 can  only speak for the National Assembly.  l believe the National Assembly would do justice  to the issue of electoral reforms, as this would  promote the advancement of democracy in the country

In your own opinion, when do you  expect the electoral reform to commence

l think the reform should  commence before the 2011 general election, in most places where election did take  place. There were reported cases  of violence and electoral mal-practices, with most people  claiming  that  they are not allowed to vote

There have been agitations for creation of additional states, do  you think there is need for more states  since most of the existing states can hardly stand on their own

There is no doubt that some of the agitations  for creation of  new states are gaining more currency.   It is my considered view that some are genuine, others are not.  If we have to look into this, l  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.  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 federation  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 word  global shows it is worldwide, it is not limited to Nigeria.  l can assure you that things are picking up in the country again, but honestly l think we should  stop  building our economy on  oil alone. We should diversify into other sectors like agriculture.

For instance, look at Israel,  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
Thanks  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.  l bought grinding machines for some women, about 40 to 50 of them at a time.  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 in  some schools, while in others l gave furniture. Plans are still in pipeline for other projects


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