BY DAPO AKINREFON
MR Manager Seigha is the chairman of the Niger Delta Nationalities Forum in Lagos State. In this interview, he explains why the Federal Government needs to sensitize and enlighten Nigerians on what the nation stands to benefit from the planned removal of fuel subsidy. Excerpts:
There have been so much hues and cries by Nigerians over the planned removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal government. What is the position of your group?
Our position is that of listening to the position of majority of Nigerians, which is to say that the removal should still be kept at ambiance. However, my group is of the opinion that our brother, President Goodluck Jonathan, who has better information than anybody in this country and whom we know believes in one Nigeria and wants to make a mark, will not support anything that is anti-Nigeria. He will not support anything that will be a pain to the average Nigerian.
To that extent, we believe that Goodluck Jonathan, having supported the fact that fuel subsidy should be removed, knows what is good for Nigeria. In any case, our worry is that his aides and those saddled with the responsibility of disseminating information have not helped his cause. We think that the Ministry of Information should come with something better.
We want a government official who can explicitly explain in graphic terms, using the media, what Nigerians will benefit in the long run. The story that we have been told over 10 years ago, which is repeated, does not help his matter. But we agree that for him to have supported it means that there is something good in it. Once Nigerians get to know that there is something good for them, they are not going to fight against it.
16 years ago, Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged for agitating clean up of Ogoniland as a result of oil spillage. Recently, the Ogoni people protested against failure of the Federal Government to implement the United Nations report on cleaning of the area. What is your position on this?
You will recall that it has been three months now that UNEP came up with the report that Ogoni land has been devastated with oil spillage for over 39 years and Shell has also accepted that about $1billion will be expended on the clean up project. With far reaching recommendations, one would have expected that three months after, we should be seeing medical and environmental experts from Shell in Ogoni land in conjunction with environmental experts from the Niger Delta and the Ogoni people working together.
To that extent, we are surprised that nothing is happening in Ogoni land three months after. I think government should be doing something but it is not enough to say that a presidential committee is being set up, we are interested in the output, which is what is happening in Ogoni land. We therefore plead that government should hasten whatever they are doing so that Ogoni people can feel their presence.
President Jonathan has spent some months in office, though he has pledged to embark on a rigorous transformation of the country, but Nigerians are not pleased with the pace at which he is going. Do you agree with this?
The worry has been on the rise which is also the mentality of the Nigerian who is in demand of results, which is expected. In any case, planning takes a whole lot of time. That worry is real but more important than the worry is that not much is happening. Explicitly, there is no president of Nigeria that does not have a conscience or that does not want things to happen at a pace.
It is the type of ministers, aides and those working with the president that matter because the president cannot afford to be everywhere. Once members of his cabinet are effective, the president will be seen to have done well. I have my worries about those working with the president. An expert without a passion will have a different direction from the vision of the president. I think the president should look for more pragmatic aides; those who have passion to serve.
The president needs a parallel monitoring group because it is not enough for ministers to report to him. The President should identify Community based organisation and NGOs within a community to also report to him what is happening. He should also inform the ministers that he also has a parallel monitoring group, by that way; the president is likely to get the best. And then one significant thing that our forum wants the president to do is to set up a ministry for rural development.
What we have is Urban Development Ministry and so, there is rural-urban drift and the indices for a local government that will be qualified for such development is a local government that has no electricity, road network and pipe borne water. Once these things are not available in a council, it should be a part of rural development.