BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE
Chief Cliff Mbagwu, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), management consultant and chairman of Simeon and Rose Associates, wants Nigerians to embrace the proposed national conference with all their might and shun acts that could dismember the country because having lived together for 100 years, interrelated and inter-mingled the pain of separation would be more severe now than that of remaining together. Rather, he said efforts should be channelled on how to make the union work in a sustainable manner. Excerpts:
His take on President Goodluck Jonathan’s turnaround on convening of national conference
It is a good move. His initial refusal was not well thought out; he has done the right thing now. In 1914, Lord Lugard amalgamated and put Nigerians together without their consent.
After 100 years of amalgamation, we have stayed together and interacted so much that separation will be more painful than staying together. So, we have to find out how to stay together in an economically sustainable manner.
Therefore, the Senator Femi Okurounmu advisory committee on national conference in doing its work has to answer two questions: Do we want to live together? If yes, how?
The body language I see in Nigerians is that we want to live together. How can we live together in a peaceful and economically sustainable manner?
To me, the current structure is not economically sustainable. The cost of governance is too high and it prevents government from having resources to drive development and cater for human welfare.
So, we have to decide on whether or not to retain the present structure or revert to a six or seven regional structure.
We have to reduce monetisation of the political process, which is driving away credible people from politics. We have to make political positions less attractive. Now, government is the largest industry offering the highest reward, so it attracts all manner of people. The leadership selection process needs to be improved because there are too many mediocre in government. Most positions appear to be going to the highest bidders.
We should find a way of returning the country to the path of merit because our society is patronage-driven and this is affecting the quality of service delivery, government and institutions.
How he sees President Jonathan’s declaration that the outcome of the confab would be sent to the National Assembly for consideration
I thought the decision of the conference should have been final; if you begin to subject it to National Assembly consideration, it can lead to politicisation of the process. If we elect and select people to the conference, the outcome should carry the weight of law.
There are two sets of mindsets that are dysfunctional and not helpful for nation-building. One is the North sees Nigeria as their patrimony and have to continue to rule or determine who will rule. This mindset is not compatible with nation-building.
The other is the South sees the North as parasitic, does not bring anything to the table and depends on the South for survival. This is also a bad mindset. I believe that every part of the country has resources is contributing to nation-building. If the oil fields are attacked today by foreigners, it is not only the oil producing areas that will defend the fields. The sheer size of the country and the diversity are things that we should hold dear. I don’t see any part of Nigeria that will be better off outside this federation than inside it. Most parts will be ungovernable outside this federation. It is in our interest to ensure that everybody is equal before the law so that we can build a nation out of Nigeria.
We need to define the issue of citizenship. Where do we lay emphasis if we want to build a nation? Is it on indigeneship or citizenship? How do you treat an Hausa boy born in Amausa, Owerri, who grew up in Owerri, married in Owerri and lived in Owerri all his life? Can’t he contest for the chairmanship of Owerri? The same thing applies to an Igbo boy born in Abeokuta, Kano or Maiduguri. We should be honest about building Nigeria. If not we should go our separate ways but that will be the blackest day for the Black man.
On controversies trailing President Jonathan’s perceived second term ambition
The two sets of mindsets that are not compatible with nation building are at play here. How can anybody ask the president not to run when the constitution allows him to run for two terms of four years each? If they say he signed an agreement to do one term, on what basis will he reach that agreement? Is he a second class citizen? Elsewhere, like the United States of America, the Peoples Democratic Party will not hold presidential primaries when a sitting president is running but here they don’t even want President Jonathan to run for the primaries. It amounts to unmitigated arrogance for any person or group of persons to arrogate to himself or themselves the right to decide for the president not to run.
Those asking Jonathan not to run; will they do a single term if they were in power? To build a country, all of us must agree to be equal citizens. The nation is not anybody’s personal patrimony. President Jonathan is the best material for 2015 given his experience and what he has done so far.
On whether the economy is working
This economy is not creating jobs and economic opportunities. Some Nigerians are making money because of their connections and who they know. In terms of performance and productive economic activities, those managing the economy will have to work harder in terms of erecting and enforcing fiscal policies that will encourage domestic production.
This economy is too import-dependent and because of that a lot of Nigerians are out of jobs. A high percentage of the population are not taking active part in the economy because they don’t have income. We have to put Nigerians to work through manufacturing and agriculture; stop importation of things we can produce locally even if it amounts to short-term hardship; make agriculture more attractive in terms of funding and access to land so that we can produce almost everything we need domestically.