By Emman Ovuakporie
Dr Akpan Micah Umoh is a member of the House of Representatives representing Ikot asi/Mkpat/Enin/Eastern Obolo Federal Constituency in Akwa Ibom. An expert in environmental matters with a special bias in Climate Change, he was a director in Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria, ASCON for 15 years and two time Chairman of Akwa Ibom Board on Environment. In this interview he enumerates a new business format in the House of Representatives, espouses the advantages of the 6 year single tenure for president and governors and the delay in the constitution of House standing committees.
What can you say about the final adoption of the legislative agenda by the house?
The agenda is essentially a road map for those of us who are in the House and it is going to govern our areas of emphasis and our commitment to legislative process and it will guide us also in remembering our promise to our people which is to represent them well.
But some people are looking at the legislative agenda as a tall dream for the house?
Well, it sounds like a tall dream when you look at it from the perspective of the past, but if you look at it from the concept of the current membership of the House of Representatives and the commitment that they are exuding individually or as a group, I think most of the things that are mentioned in the agenda are achievable and there is nothing I believe that a man cannot achieve if he sets his mind to deal with the issue.
The six year single term for president and governor being proposed by president Goodluck Jonathan has been generating controversy in the polity, what is your take on this issue?
In the first instance, I will say that for me and for many members of the House that we will like to look at how the bill will look like, so that we can be able to have a clearer perspective when we are making our own comments on it. But let me put it this way as for me as an individual and based on the consultation that I have made from the cross section of the people from my constituency we would like a one term six years arrangement as being proposed.
This is because some fundamental questions have been answered already. For example it is not going to lead to elongation of tenure and I have something else that I would have loved to ask or to add if I had my way, the issue of State police would well be served by a six year one term structure because the greatest fear as regards state police has always been that the governors will make use of them to coerce people and to manhandle people their opponents during their second election and all of that.
But when we have the governor who knows that he is having six years to be on the saddle and he has his police to work with all he will have to do with the policemen is to use them to run the affairs of the state to create the kind of security that we are looking for.
But some opposition parties are of the view that the six years single tenure will lead to a dictatorial government?
No. The issue is this; the opposition will also be in power, won’t they? They will be in power, will they be dictators? They will also be in power, if they are not the president this year, next six years they could produce the president. Of course the opposition, they all have a state that they all have their own governors, will those governors be dictators? They won’t.
The issue is as far as I am concerned there is one thing about the opposition as it is today, one thing that the opposition does today is they just want to create an atmosphere of opposition to heat up the system which of course as far as I am concerned is the beauty of democracy. The opposition are not bound to support what the other party is doing because people will see them as swallowing what the other party is saying hook line and sinker, so they will have to create that atmosphere of opposition even when it is an issue that they themselves know that they should have accepted, but because it is not from them they will just want to create that atmosphere of opposition, because that is the meaning of the word opposition.
Sometimes you can even oppose that which is correct, to create an impression that you are there.
Will you support the call that the serving president and serving governors should be barred from benefiting in the proposed six years single term?
Yes I will, because even based on the comments that our president has been making, in fact he has been making frantic efforts and telling the whole world that his tenure ends on May 29, 2015, that he is leaving he doesn’t want to contest election again, that is all I understand him to be saying all along.
And I believe him and I think for who I know he is, he wouldn’t want to rule this country for 12 years and knowing the kind of politics that we play in this country over the years and how difficult it has been in the past for anybody to want to take such a ground he wouldn’t want to go there, because he knows the implication in term of acceptability from members of the public, if we look back at how this president came into office, I am not talking about the circumstance of the health of our late former president, I am talking about even the circumstances of the last election, you will find the kind of goodwill he had and if this goodwill were not there he wouldn’t be the president.
And if you look at the zones from which the present opposition to this six years single term is coming from if he wants to go back he would lose the goodwill he had from those regions and if he loses the good will, there is no way he can make it. So, we must look at the calculations, if you look at the calculations you will find out, he needs the goodwill of the people who are today opposing this idea of six years single term if he were to go back, knowing that he cannot get in if he wants to go back, I mean he will not try it and the most sensible thing and the most honourable thing for him to do will be for him to walk away on the 29 of May 2015 and he becomes a hero.
How will you access yourself and other members of the parliament in the last two months?
Well I have seen very lively debates in the House. The other thing I have seen is a lot of sizing up of people by members, especially the old members sizing up the new ones, there has been a lot of watching and seeing how each person will be able to bring up issues and opinion to the floor of the House.
And again what I have also observed is that the leadership is trying to create an impression to the whole 150 million Nigerians that they are out for serious business and that indeed it is going to be business unusual, that is what we are saying now in the house.
For example on the issue of our salaries and allowances, leadership election and all of that is to try to create the platform for a takeoff that will make Nigerians know that this seventh session of the National Assembly is coming with business unusual when it comes to dealing with the issues that touches the fabric of our democracy.
The house is yet to appoint a leader and constitute the standing committees. As a member of the selection committee what is responsible for the delay?
I am talking as a member of the house. Now the process that is leading to the appointment of people in the committees is a very transparent one, and it is a lengthy one because it passes on from the leadership, to the zone, from the zone to the state and then from the state we now go to the individual members. It is being done such that the friction that happened in the past is reduced to barest minimum, because if you have been a close watcher of the affairs of the National Assembly the brewing point of disagreement, partitioning into groups fighting people psychologically and physically begins from the formation of committees.
The issue of making a person to be a member of any committee is not a punitive thing and that we should not look at committees from pecuniary point of view but we are looking at the committees as a call to service, we are looking at the committees as a call to a commitment of serious oversight in the establishment of government such that we can cause them to begin to work knowing that they are working for the people of Nigeria.
We are also bringing into consideration maybe for the first time more than ever before, issues of peoples primary areas of competence, such that if someone is going to oversight for example the Aluminum Smelter Company of Nigeria in Ikot Abasi where I come from the person should have an idea of the workings of that system, so that you don’t go there and ask a question that somebody will laugh at you when you are gone. So these are the things that will make a difference, maybe in the past they will just write the whole name and put the committees but this time we are looking at such things as competence in terms of your professional areas and your experience in terms of your previous areas of endeavour before coming to the National Assembly.