By SIMON EBEGBULEM
Senator Roland Owie is a former chief whip of the Senate.Â He is currently the leader of the Action Congress (AC) in Edo State. In this interview, he expressesÂ support for the decision of the National Assembly to empower Dr Goodluck Jonathan as acting president and calls for the dissolution of the Federal Executive Council with a view to appointing fresh hands that would assist Jonathan move the nation forward. Excerpts:
As one-time chief whip of the Senate, how would you describe the decision of the National Assembly to empower Dr Goodluck Jonathan as acting president?
That decision of the National Assembly was the best in that situation because anything that could have gone beyond that would have been a disaster for us. As a matter of fact, we have to praise the military because if it were the uneducated military of the pre-1979, we would have been talking a different thing by now. But a nation that stayed for over seventy days without headship, Nigeria was on auto pilot.
I congratulate the military for being calm in the interest of democracy, we ask God to bless them. So, the decision of the National Assembly was the best in the situation. Let nobody start talking about legality. I agree when you look at it, section 145 says before the president leaves the country, he should inform the National Assembly, not after he has left.
So, by the time he leaves really, section 145 is no longer relevant. As a matter of fact, that aspect of the constitution needs to be amended, because there is no way appointees can sit down and declare that the person that appointed them is not longer valid to work. Anybody that is telling the executive council to take a decision to say their master is not fit to work, they are not even sure that he will come back in a country of sycophancy.
Nobody should have expected them to do otherwise because this is a man that appointed them, they cannot find the man, those who visited Saudi Arabia cannot find the man. So anybody blaming the Federal Executive Council is not being honest because if they were in that situation, they would have done the same thing. So what the National Assembly did was the best to get out of the situation and anybody that is trying to go to court to challenge what the National Assembly did is not being fair to Nigerians.
As a matter of fact, Jonathan did his best. Michael Aondoakaa (former attorney general and minister of justice) should have been removed from the cabinet entirely and face prosecution for betraying the constitution he was supposed to uphold. Aondoakaa misbehaved to the extent that the Nigerian Bar Association should remove his name from their register.
That they redeployed him to another ministry was kindness, they should get him out totally. He is an embarrassment to Nigerians, embarrassment to his tribe and embarrassment to the law profession. And if he goes to church, he is an embarrassment to God. In fact, he betrayed Yarâ€™Adua that put him there.Â Jonathan should have sacked him the same way he should also send Rilwani Lukman out of the system.
How can the people ofÂ a nation that produces oil be queuing up for fuel for over five months? They have collected money on several occasions to repair the refineriesÂ yet none of them is working. As a matter of fact, Aondoakaa and Lukman, even if JonathanÂ does not dissolve the council,Â should face prosecution for betraying this country. But he should dissolve the council and appoint good hands to assist him because his own is time framed presidency.
If God does it that Yarâ€™Adua comes back quickly, there will be nothing to write home about his short tenure. If Yarâ€™Adua does not come quickly, at least he will have time to write his name in gold, at least Nigerians will know that a south-south person who became president by accident performed. We should know that he cannot run for presidency in 2011.
He should know too that he cannot be vice to anybody because what started from Bayelsa, and to Federal Government, people do not know that it is only when God says yes it will be that it will be. People tend to read meanings to his star that he was deputy to Alamieyeseigha before he became governor, before becoming vice to Yarâ€™Adua and Yarâ€™Adua is no longer there.
But Jonathan is not the cause of the two situations. Obasanjo who went to bring Yarâ€™Adua and knew Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s state of health is the one to blame and he is the one to answer for it. I thank God ObasanjoÂ said recently that if he was the one that brought Yarâ€™Adua, God should punish him and I know that God is already punishing him.
But the idea of asking Jonathan not to contest for the 2011 presidential election, do you think that decision is democratic because it is this same issue of zoning that brought out Yarâ€™Adua who is not healthy today?
That decision is very justified and I know that Jonathan is very obedient, he is well trained, he is our son and he will not dare to contest the presidency. You see, Christ said â€œdo unto others as you want others to do to youâ€. As far as I am concerned, the north has not started their eight years tenure.
Zoning and rotation may be primitive, but, for now, to save the nation from irresponsible people who get to the seat of government and forget where they are coming from, there should be zoning and this rotation should continue for a minimum of fifty years when our children would have grown up to say it does not matter where a man is coming from; if he is ruling well they will support him.
We have not reached that stage, so rotation must continue. So the eight years for the north, as far as I am concerned is starting in 2011. There were very many competent hands in the north who wanted to be president in 2007, our own son, Obasanjo, who had completed his two terms of eight years, deliberately undermined these good candidates and went for somebody he knew his health was not strong enough to carry the burden of the office of president.
Because he could not actualize his third term ambition, he wanted somebody whose enemy will die during the process of campaign, so that a state of emergency could be declared and he will now remain in power.
Talking about former President Obasanjo, many Nigerians believe he is back to power with the emergence of Jonathan as acting president. What do you think?
There is nothing like that. Jonathan has his own mind but if he wants to be associated with a man that ruined this nation, his image will go down within one month. My advice to Jonathan, who is a friend right from when he was deputy governor, is that he should run very far from Obasanjo. He should not get close to Obasanjo; he shouldÂ carry his burden by himself and face this nation, so as to show that a south-south son can perform; so that when it gets to the turn of the south-south, we will be proud to say that our son was there and, within a short period, he did well. He should face his job and forget about Obasanjo.
What are your expectations from Acting President Jonathan.
He should discard his masterâ€™s seven-point agenda. He should concentrate on roads, electricity, employment and security. It is easier to go from Lagos to London now than to go to Benin from Lagos . It takes five and half hours from Lagos to London, but it takesÂ eight hours from Benin to Lagos . It takes almost fourteen hours from Lagos to Port Harcourt, it takes about sixteen hours from Calabar to Makurdi,Â it takes about nine hours from Kaduna through Funtua to Sokoto.
It is a shame. So Jonathan should concentrate on roads. He should do the East-West Road and see what he can do with the coastal roads from Calabar to Lagos. Employment; all the kidnapping you are seeing today, all the armed robbery you are seeing today, three quarters is being done by graduates. Since 1999 when Obasanjo came, Nigeria has never employed half of our graduates.
He should concentrate on how to reduce unemployment and liaise with state Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly with a view to setting up state police urgently. I know that there are fears that the governors may hijack it, but there is a way that the law can be made that the control will not be just in the hands of the governor.Â State police creation will lead to more employment.
If we have state police and assuming in each state today you have about two thousand state police graduates, for ten states that is two million; so for 36 states and Abuja , you are going to employ nearly seven million graduates into the state police. First, it will reduce unemployment; second, the state will be totally policed and crime will be reduced; third, the economy will grow because human beings are resources, people will pay taxes.
So, let Jonathan negotiate with the National Assembly and the states immediately and ensure that there is state police. So, these four things, even if he does not complete them before hi
s exit, Nigerians will know that he has taken off and the next person will continue from wherever he stops.