By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
Hon. Oluwole Oke was a two- term member of the House of Representatives between 1999 â€“ 2007, where he was Chairman, Committee Public AccountsÂ for four years.Â
In this interview he bares his mind on the raging debate about whether or not President Goodluck Jonathan should run in the 2011 polls.Â He says that Jonathanâ€™s president between 2011 -2015 would give the minorities of the South/South a sense of belonging in the country.Â He also says that not all those clamouring for him to run are sincere and that he should watch his back. Excerpts:
The debate over whether or not President Goodluck Jonathan should run in the 2011 presidential polls is getting hotter by the day.Â Some people are arguing that he should complete the Yarâ€™Adua/Jonathan term which ends next year and leave.Â However, others are urging him to contest for another term of four years.
What is your take on it?
I have heard so many opinions from different quarters.Â Let us be logical about it.Â There are so many reasons which compel me or have persuaded me to have an opinion that Mr. President should not only complete this term but run for another four years.
First of all, this is the first time in the history of this country that somebody, a minority within the minority- is having the opportunity of leading this country and it has come by default.
I think we should allow him to run his course through. Because quite frankly, those of us who are the majority nationalities in this country- the entire North, the South West- whether through the military or civilian administrationsÂ have had more than our fair share of leadership in this country.
None of the minority nationalities have had this opportunity and it is only fair that we give them this opportunity because this opportunity has been thrust on our laps by fate.Â Therefore it is only right that we allow him to finish.
The second reason is this, if your recall, between 1999 and 2007, we had president Olusegun Obasanjo in power.
He came on board with a set of policies.Â Economic policies, foreign policies, all sorts of policies.Â By 2007 another administration came on board- that is the Yarâ€™Adua/Jonathan administration.Â They came on board with a different set of policies which they called the 7-point agenda; having a road-map of where exactly they want to take country at the end of their tenure in 2011.
So between 1999 and now, we have had a direction in policies.Â When they came in 2007, they veered a little bit because they were many of the Obasanjo policies which they reviewed and they charted their own course.
It is right and proper that we allow that course to run its full course of eight years, that is 2007 â€“ 2015.
Look, Nigeria does not exist in isolation.Â It is good for everybody to know the direction of government policies.Â Consistency in government policies is critical to development.Â I have been privileged to see many instances of Nigeria taking one step forward and two or even many more backward.Â It is not good for development of the country.
It is not good for the economy.Â It is not good for anybody. It doesnâ€™t do anybody any good.Â Therefore, if there is consistency and people know that for the next two terms of eight years, the administration of president Jonathan will be consistent, it will impact positively on the way people and corporate organizations make their plans because they can predict what would know what to expect.
Let me give you an example, see power- unfortunately, it was rather late in the day during the tenure of President Obasanjo, to realize that he had to face infrastructure.Â You would remember that he first his first term, the first 4 years, going all over the world, talking to our creditors to give us some breathing space with regard to the monumental debt we owed in those days. He succeeded.Â We give him credit for that, in conjunction with the National Assembly.
It was during his second term he realized that the infrastructure of this country needed immediately attention.Â The Railway was dead.Â The power sector was dead.Â There was no real investment in all these sectors.Â All we had there were structure put in place in the 1940s and in the 1950s.Â see Port Authorities for instance, all the equipments in the place were those installed since the 1950s and nobody made re-investments.
This kind of thing does not happen in advanced countries.Â They are continuously investing and up-dating in infrastructure.Â See our roads.Â Even though Obasanjo realized these things, it was too late.Â But Luckily, now that President Jonathan is in place, he has picked power, followed by roads, security, if he succeeds in doing roads alone, he would have succeeded in doing his bit in advancing the nationâ€™s economy and be leaving Nigeria in 2015 better than he met it in 2007.
Therefore it is very important that we allow him to continue in power until 2015 in order to maintain stability.Â Let us maintain stability.
It is not all the time that we must play politics of where one comes from by saying it the turn of the North.Â How will people say it is the turn of the North to do it.Â To do what?Â Are you telling that the North has not had a taste of power in this country before?Â Has the North been able to show what it can do in the past?
Therefore let us now put on our thinking cap.Â Let us maintain stability. Letâ€™s maintain continuity.Â Let this man pursue his programme to the end.Â I am very sure that at the rate they are going when his second term would have ended in 2012, definitely, the power sector will not be the same as it has been.
When one listens to you speak, one wonders what is the motivation for this campaign for President Jonathanâ€™s candidature in the next presidential polls- patriotism or what you stand to personally benefit? Campaign for Jonathan appears to have become a big industry in the country.
No, no, no.Â I have done my beat.Â I was Chairman of Public Accounts in the House (of Representatives).Â I have seen it all.Â The Balance Sheet of this country was in my hands for four years.Â I know everything about it.
There is nothing more I want from the system.Â And let me tell you one thing.Â Nigeria has invested heavily in me.Â Unfortunately, and very sadly it was when this country stood to benefit from what it had paid for in educating me that I left the National Assembly.
I played my role but it is important that as we have handed over to the next generation, we try and guide those who are coming.Â Those who have not had the privilege of seeing what we have seen, we should be there to tell them â€˜these and these are the ways to goâ€™.
I have nothing to gain from this administration.Â The man (President Jonathan) doesnâ€™t even know me.
I asked that question because we know of a fact that even those who did all they could to prevent Dr. Jonathan from being made Acting President are now at the forefront of the campaign that he must run in 2011.
That is true.Â You know that there are many kinds, birds of different colours.Â People who have all kinds of motives, even ulterior would join the bandwagon.Â Let us look at it this way, the vast majority of them think this is the new game in town.Â This is the new road show in town, I better get on board.
Call anyone of them, sit them down, let them tell you the cogent reasons why they are doing what they are doing.
I have just done that.Â I have just told you why President Jonathan should run.Â This is what I believe in very strongly.Â Ask them to articulate a position in support of Mr. President and you would find out that there is none, they are empty.Â But they think this is where to invest and if the president secures the mandate of Nigerians in 2011, they would have maneuvered their themselves to positions to benefit directly or indirectly from the administration.Â I do not belong to that category.
Some people believe that Dr. Jonathan is from of the nationâ€™s minority ethnic groups and should therefore,Â be supported for the 2011 polls to give the minorities of the country, a sense of belonging.
I agree absolutely.Â I am in support of that.Â This country has lived off that zone of the country for so long.Â Mark you, in those days when we had cocoa in the South West and Cocoa was sustaining the economy of this country, together with other products such as cotton, groundnut and that stuff, we were calling the shots.
What then is the sin of the minorities now that their own product is the one sustaining the economy?Â I have heard stories like â€˜the products belong to Nigeria and it that it does not belong to themâ€™, complete nonsense.
If a commodity is derived from their backyard how then do you deprive them of it?Â When we were controlling our cocoa it was ours, when the North was producing their groundnut it was theirs.Â Now that the shoe has gone to the other foot, we are singing another tune.Â It is not right.
That is to say that the policy as we have it today is not fair.
It is a matter of fairness.Â We are all our brothersâ€™ keepers in this country.Â Nobody is a second class citizen.Â The shoe may be on this foot today, tomorrow it might be on another foot.Â After all, yesterday, it was on our own foot in the South West, today it is on the other foot.Â Yes we will live with it and when this type of thing happens, it brings out the ingenuity in Nigerians so that people can now look inwards, bend backwards and then develop themselves.