***asks Nigerians to beg them pull country back from brink
***autonomy of LGAs is in hands of people ― Gbajabiamila
***training of LGA officials paramount for delivery of democratic dividends
By Levinus Nwabughiogu – Abuja
The Minority Leader of the Nigerian Senate, Senator Enyinnaya Harcourt Abaribe, has lampooned President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress, APC-led government, saying it is leading the country to precipice.
This is as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila also said that the realization of autonomy of the local government councils was dependant on the people.
Fielding questions from Journalists in Abuja on Monday at a two-day capacity training for the newly elected councillors and local government council chairmen from Aniocha/Oshimili federal constituency of Delta State organized by the House of Representatives minority leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, Abaribe accused the APC government of making many wrong choices.
The wrong choices, he said, were mostly based on the nepotistic recognition and elevation of some ethnic groups over and above others for political appointments.
The minority leader, therefore, appealed to Nigerians to intervene and pull the country back from the brink.
He also said that the training was essentially to equip the newly elected leaders for the task ahead.
He said: “This is not the first time I have been here. I have always been here. I have always supported the GOTNI Center because I believe that we ought to continue to groom our leaders at all levels and I think what significance we have today is that this set of people that are here from the councillors to the local government Chairmen are the first steps of our democratic experience.
“So, from here they grow up and they go to become members of the Houses of Assembly, National Assembly and so forth. And they need to understand their roles.
“They need to understand that leadership also comes with certain things just like we have been told inside. Leadership comes with responsibility.
“But the word I have for them, the leaders here and also Nigerians is that about 60 years ago, a certain man in the United States called Martin Luther King said that he’s looking forward to a nation that will assess people not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.
“And I am telling Nigerians today that what we are looking for in Nigeria is an assessment of people not by where they come from, not by whether they are Fulani or not but if they have the character to be part of Nigeria.
“I think that’s where the real problem of Nigeria is situated because we have made choices and those choices have not been made on the basis of people being the correct people to do one or the other thing.
“We have made choices on the basis of where you come from and this particular government has been most egregious in making these wrong choices and that’s why it is leading us to the precipice today.
“And all we are asking Nigerians to do is to beg this government of APC to help us step back from the brink because as much as we continue to say that what they are doing is not right, they continue to do it with impunity and every day,
“what we see is much and much and much more difficulties in the ways of Nigerians in making a good living;
“and I think that what we have come to the GOTNI Center today to talk about leadership is that leadership is based on nothing else but on character.
“If you don’t have a good character, you can never make a good leader. It doesn’t matter what or how much educated you are or not educated.
“And, we think that what they are doing is grooming people to have the right character to train and work for Nigerians, the right character to able to make the sacrifices that are necessary for this country to go forward.”
Also speaking, the House Speaker said that the training was necessary to give the local government officials a direction.
He said that the autonomy of the third tier of the government rested on the people at the grassroots.
Gbajabiamila recalled that the national assembly had successfully amended the constitution to grant autonomy to the local government in the time past but was turned down by the States as they couldn’t muster the required two third majority of the votes.
“The Minority Leader of the House is here with councilors of his local government, from his constituency to train them on leadership.
“We talk about training all the time but who are we training and what are we training them for? This is leadership training for councilors and I thank Elumelu for thinking about this.
“This institute has been in the making for a longtime and I believe at the end of the exercise, they would have received a lot of education on what leadership is all about.
“Some people are born leaders, some learn to acquire leadership but either way, whether you’re born a leader or acquire it, you have to go do that training exercise to be able to horn your experiences and qualities you have in order to maximize your skills.
“And what better place to start than the with the local government councilors. As you all know that is the bedrock of our society.
“It’s not for us as legislators to do that. I’m sure you’re surprised but it’s actually for the people to address, reason being, we have constitutional amendment.
“We will throw it to the people and they will make their decision. We did it the last time but we went back to the States and we couldn’t get the 2/3rd. There’s a process.
“We followed due process. We amended it last time but 2/3rd of the States didn’t not agree with us. So it’s the people that will decide whether they want autonomy or not. We will do what we need to do as constitution provides”, Gbajabiamila said.
Earlier in his interaction with the officials, Gbajabiamila underscored the importance of giving recourse to the principle of separation of powers, asking the newly elected councillors and chairmen to be bold in discharging their constitutional mandates even at the risk of offending some people.
“I’m just going to have a little interaction with you because a lot of things are misunderstood when it comes to local government level of government.
“Many people believe and say that there are three tiers of government. Yes, there are three tiers of government. But do we understand what a tier means?
“A tier means that there are different layers. And those layers are independent and they check each other. Many people believe there is separation of powers.
“Let me ask quickly without trying to embarrass any of the chairmen or any of the councillors, what do you understand your role to be in government, constitutionally? Does anybody have an answer to that? I don’t think so, but we all have a general understanding.
“But many of us are not bold enough when we are actually told the specifics of what our roles are because we are beholding to whoever and I said this at the risk of respecting the powers of State Governors, the federal government, and in also balancing it on understanding the powers within these responsibilities of the local government.
“So there’s something called ultra vires in law and that concept cuts across everything including governance.
“I as a president cannot interfere in your work, constitutionally given to you by the constitution at the local government. Neither can you do what the state governor is supposed to do.
“So, when we talk about separation of powers, most time people understand that concept to mean executive, judiciary and the legislature but that’s a very narrow interpretation of separation of powers.
“That is the horizontal separation of powers. There are two types of separation of powers – the vertical and the horizontal. The vertical separation of powers is what concerns you.
“And that is the federal, the state, and the local government. It is what makes any sane society work.
“We all try to model ourselves and look at America, look at Germany, look at several other countries not realizing that or understanding that they have clearly defined the roles of everybody and the people who defined this role did it for a purpose.
“So when you go outside the rules that are defined and everybody jumps into everybody’s role will you get what is chaos. But how do you now realize and go back to what we talked about, leadership.
“You have to be bold even sometimes at the risk of offending some people.
“For some people, they argue that the local government of governance at the local government level is probably the most important in any democracy because you are the ones that are in touch with the people that matter – people at the Grassroots”, he said.
In his remarks also, the organizer of the programme, Hon. Elumelu, said the need to entrench proper representation at the grassroots informed his decision for the event.
“The House under our legislative agenda, also talking about human capital development, I thought it fit that they before they commence active work that they should be abreast with what it takes to be a leader and which we can summarize as capacity building and given that my governor believes in stronger Delta, I felt that this should be an added value for them to come here learn and also go back and replicate or put whatever they have been taught here in to use for the benefit of our people.
“That informs why I brought them here and I believe that at the end of this exercise, they will be better representatives of our people and be able to give back to them what they gave them.
“You know, often on the floor, we say that the vote of people who voted us into offices is their investment and the return on the investment of that vote is dividends of democracy and I don’t think they can make it happen without being groomed, being developed to understand what they are going into”, he said.