By CHARLES ADINGUPU
Before his advent into politics, Dr. Roland Lere Oritsejafor was a medical practitioner. However, his foray in politics was anchored on his desire to give succour to the hapless people in his community and Nigerians at large. Though among his Itsekiri kinsmen and political folks, he is known as Dr. O., he immense contributions to community and national development earned the title of the Ogwa of Itsekiri kingdom.
Consequent upon his contributions to his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, and disposition to issues of national importance, Oritsejafor rose to the position of Deputy National Secretary of the PDP during the tenures of Audu Ogbe and Vincent Ogbulafor.
To him, the postponement of the general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), chaired by Professor Attahiru Jega, was due to security challenges the nation is currently embroiled in particularly in the northern part of the country.
The former minister explained that the reasons advanced by the INEC Chairman were cogent enough to justify postponement of the elections. The Ogwa of Itsekiri, who posited that the initial clamour for the shift of the elections by a cross section of Nigerians may not be unconnected with the lingering security crisis confronting the northern part of the country as current development in the political space has further exonerated Jega of any under hand dealings as alleged in certain quarters.
According to him, the new election dates will help to douse with tension generated by the polls as well as position INEC to conduct the elections without hitches particularly on the distribution of the PVCs.
“The call by some Nigerians to postpone the elections showed that the number of PVCs so distributed was not enough to justify proper conduct of the polls in February. The elections postponement vis-a-vis distribution of PVCs remains a technical issue”, he said.
Against this backdrop, he enjoined INEC not to hesitate in disclosing the total number of PVCs distributed thus far.
“When the total PVCs distributed are less than forty-six percent, the election can still be said to be authentic. But our concern is the large number of Nigerians who would be disenfranchised in the only, but a global problem.
On security challenges, Oritsejafor insisted that insurgency is not Nigeria’s problem only, but a global problem.
His words, “We don’t live in isolation. Insurgency is a global problem. All over the world, we’re all aware of the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalists particularly with regards to the problem they have with America.
”Today, insurgency has come to a head as it has spread it’s tentacles to virtually all the nooks and crannies of the world via Isis. Hence, Nigeria’s case is not peculiar one. Already, the violence perpetrated by them has spread to African countries.
”Boko Haram insurgency is not a local affair. The arms used by the insurgents come from outside the country. From my experience in the Defence Ministry, it’s most difficult to use arms against your fellow countrymen. Hence, caution cannot be thrown to the wind in dealing with this issue. This may have put the president in a dilemma.
”However, its only when they pose threat to both the citizens and government that the Federal Government may be left without an option. But even at that, there’s need to exercise caution because the insurgents are citizens of this country,?”
The Ogwa recalled that when Boko Haram insurgents started , it was a Herculean task for Jonathan to order arms against them because they are fellow Nigerians.
He disclosed that insurgency in Nigeria persisted for so long because Mr. President was seeking peaceful options to resolve the problem.
The former minister lamented that government is yet to unmask the sponsors of the insurgents but stated that it’s more of an ideological issue.
“They want to take over Mali but were rebuffed following intervention. Everybody must be involved in tackling insurgency in Nigeria. Nigerians must be vigilant and render assistance in anyway possible to security operatives. The Islamist have access to weapons of war, and they live among us,”he said.
Oritsejafor disclosed that government is finding it difficult to in clip the wings of Boko Haram because sources of their finance and weapons are shrouded in mystery.
He implored Nigerians to emulate Alhaji Abdul-Mutallab who exposed his son for being a member of an Islamist group.
Allocation for weapons
While enjoining government to stop those siphoning funds budgeted for weapons for the military, the former minister noted that successive military ruler had neglected this all important aspect, rather, most of them spent so much time and money in equipping special squads to the detriment of the military.
Oritsejafor declared that, only recently, military chiefs confirmed that they are better equipped under democratic governance. He reiterated that intelligence gathering remains a measure to put insurgents at bay.
Peace accord under threat
Recent events confirm that the Abuja peace accord entered into by the political parties appears to be under threat. Apart from the verbal warfare, followers of the political parties are engaged in violence.
The PDP chief said the political class must take the blame should the Abuja peace accord collapse.
”The political leaders must be blamed if the Abuja peace accord fails. Their followers listen to them. Whatever the leaders say, the (followers) are ready to accept. Hence, it’s the responsibility of the leaders to caution their followers. Government serve everybody and violence is not an answer to any challenge. We’re all brothers and sisters and Nigeria belong to all of us,” he said.
“Though Nigeria is reported to be the largest country in Africa, today, Ghana is more respected because they are getting their electoral process right.
“When I was Deputy National Secretary of the PDP, we were sent to Sao-Tome as international observers of that country’s election. I was surprised that there was no permanent electoral body and no security personnel detailed to check violence. Party agents and voters were at the polling booths to cast their votes peacefully”, he said.
Oritsejafor recalled that since the advent of democracy, the PDP has lost some states to the opposition party mainly due to lack of internal democracy.
He, however, said the ruling party is working to reclaim its lost glory, by learning from its mistaking as well as making amends in areas where necessary.
According to him, from available inventory, the party has recorded tremendous progress in agriculture, transport, gender equality in governance as well as demonstrated honesty.
Oritsejafor joined issues with those who see the APC presidential candidate as anti-corruption crusader.
“Has he been ever tested in a democratic environment? How did he fight corruption? Was there a case taken to a court of competent jurisdiction? What were the parameters used for the prosecution of corrupt officers? But President Jonathan, as a true democrat, adhere to the rule of law in the persecution of corrupt public officers. Under his watch, many public officers have been persecuted and the records are there for all to”, he said.