BY TONY NYONG
Hon. Bassey Etienam is a lawmaker representing Urue Offong-Oruko State Constituency of Akwa Ibom State. A one time personal assistant to Governor Godswill Akpabio, he spoke to Vanguard in Uyo on grave national issues bordering on security, corruption and economy among others. Excerpts:
ON Nigeria at 52 In comparison with Nigeria of yesterday, we still have so much to do. Everybody is now talking about oil, what is happening to the agricultural sector? Lagos State was developed through agriculture but today everybody is agitating for oil. Even those who don’t have oil, what is happening to the groundnut pyramids in Kano in Northern Nigeria?
What is happening to the palm oil? Malaysians came here to take our palm seedlings but today, we are buying oil from Malaysia. What is happening to our palm oil production? If the crude oil price at the International market crashes today, what would happen to Nigeria? Beyond 52 years, we must begin to look inward and diversify.
For me, the 52 years independence anniversary should be a sober reflection for every Nigerian. There is nothing to celebrate and for the sake of our children we should think ahead. When we talk about corruption, I would say it starts from the home and so, to change this country we must be prepared in all totality to return to God. Right now, Nigeria is economically sick. We must accept the fact that we are sick to move forward. If we do not accept the fact that we are sick, then we cannot be treated.
On agitation for resource control
There should be resource control if we must practice true federalism. What is true federalism? The states control their resources. That way we will not be agitating for states’ creation because you would not be ready to generate income and split to the centre. Everybody is looking for more states and local governments because the centre is feeding them. When you stop that you would make every state to begin to think inward. What we are doing now is throwing money around for people who are not able to generate income.
For Nigeria to forge ahead, we must allow the states control their resources. Take for instance, Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, how would you produce power in Akwa Ibom and it is distributed from the centre and you expect stability in power supply? If you produce power in Akwa Ibom and then sell your power to the centre, you can generate here and this state can now call for investors. It should not be centralized. Federal Government said, it would privatize PHCN for instance and what did it do? It took over major control. Is that privatization? Privatization is allowing the market to regulate itself. You don’t control the market. It is like what we say, we are deregulating the oil sector and Federal Government is controlling the market, is that deregulation?
On Northern governors’ call for the re-introduction of the on-shore/off-shore oil dichotomy
Where in the world is that practiced? Are you telling me that the Exxon-Mobil oil spillage that occasionally happens at Ibeno Local Government in Akwa Ibom and spread across the coastal lines to the onshore or that the people of Ibeno who survive mainly on fishing as their only occupation should do what? Or that the man in Kano State who is not affected by the spillage and other environmental degradations should come and share equal oil allocation with the man from Ibeno in Akwa Ibom State?
At Ibeno, Akwa Ibom State people are sick from oil while people in Kano want to share equal money with the man in Ibeno. How fair is that if we must tell ourselves the truth? For me, the issue of offshore, onshore oil dichotomy had been sealed; it was a Supreme Court decision. The only way to hold this country one is for us to be honest and fair. It is not clamouring for the unity of Nigeria while some other people would bring up issues that will cause disunity of the nation and we expect Nigeria to be one. Let the sleeping dog lie.
The country’s unity seems to be threatened by the effort of some people who are creating tension to truncate President Jonathan’s administration. What is your comment?
My take on that like I said is, we must return to God. On a truth I say because a nation without God, what happens? There would be disunity every where. Nigeria as a nation cannot grow without God. So, it is not a matter of the North or South, if the people are far from God there would definitely be disunity. So, distractions would always come and like I said, Mr. President should stay focus on the agenda he has set to do for the country. He has all the powers and nobody or group should distract him from his focus.
Why all these issues like I said, is because we are a sick nation. If we are people with one voice, if we are people who truly call God our God, we would not have all these distractions. So, it is not a matter of the North trying to destabilize the country. Politically we know, from the moment the people from the Niger-Delta went on a three million man match to Abuja and saw how Abuja was developed with money from their resources, it became an eye opener.
Don’t you think if state police is approved people especially, the politicians would want to manipulate it to out do one another?
When we say politicians, you and I make up the electorate. I live here and I visit my people regularly. This means that there are other people within my area too and that we should be playing politics by the rules and stop playing money politics. If you sent the right people to the right places you will not have this fear we are talking about. So, things should be done right and that is why I say we should turn to God. If you send the right people to the right places there will be nothing like people selling votes, but when you sell votes you begin to complain of not ripping the dividends of democracy. If we should practice democracy as it should be practiced or if you send the right people to public offices, there is no politicians that would use police to manipulate or to create enmity.
I do not criticize the things I can not change; if we must criticize let our criticism be constructive. I read lies everyday in junk newspapers, people cocking up stories. If you were given a public office and you hear such lies about yourself, there is no how you will not go after people. Is it because we have freedom of speech, must we cock up lies against people? We must begin to tell ourselves the truth.
Insecurity is one problem facing the nation particularly the Boko Haram insurgence, what do you think is the cause of this problem and what could be the solutions?
Since the issue of Boko Haram began in this country, a lot of people have been arrested and I don’t know how far the security agencies are doing their work. I don’t know if the ring leaders or sponsors have been named. Every day we keep arresting the foot soldiers, I have not heard anything about the sponsors. We should stop shielding them. If my father or brother is named as a sponsor, let him pay the price and let the law takes its full course. It is a thing of grave concern to me and I must tell you that, at 52 I weep for my country.