…5th NASS goofed by throwing away constitution amendment over 3rd term clause
By Steve Oko
Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, 2023 presidential aspirant, former member, House of Representatives and member of the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in this exclusive interview with Vanguard bared his mind on some burning national issues including the on-going debate on the review of the 1999 Constitution.
What key changes would you want to be effected in the proposed review of the 1999 Constitution?
What Nigerians want is a holistic review of the constitution. We have talked about injustice in terms of political configuration of the country. For instance, look at the number of states in each geopolitical zone. What parameter was used to give North-West seven states, other zones six states, and only South-East zone five states? Even the geographical zone system is yet to be captured in the Constitution. So, I want the system reflected in the proposed review.
We have to look at the Exclusive list and remove some of the items there and add them to the concurrent list to reduce the powers at the centre. We need to unbundle and devolve the excess powers of the Federal Government and give them to the federating units.
We also need to look at fiscal autonomy. When we had regional governments, the various regions controlled their resources and only paid tax to the centre, and the system was running very well until the military struck.
What we have now is a unitary system imposed by the military and this is not practicable in a democracy.
So, this is the time to holistically amend the constitution not in piece-meal. We tried to do this holistic amendment in 2006 but the Third Term clause made us lose everything. If you look at the 2006 constitution review report, it was wonderful but just because of the tenure elongation clause, we threw away the baby with the bath water.
So, who should be blamed for that?
I think it was the fault of the then lawmakers because every law is taken clause by clause. The rejection of one clause does not vitiate the entire bill. What we should have done was to do away with the tenure elongation and retain the good aspects of the proposed amendment. The House of Representatives where I was a member then approved one single tenure of six years but the Senate threw away everything. That was a great mistake.
What is your take on the rejection of the proposed electronic transmission of election results?
Nigeria is part of the global community and we use modern technologies including computer, and iPhones and iPads. So, the question is, if we can use these modern gadgets, what is difficult in also utilising their advantages? If we can transfer money electronically why can’t we electronically transmit election results?
During Covid-19, we held virtual and zoom meetings from our villages, why can’t we also transmit election results electronically from our villages? Those who voted against electronic transmission of election results are the masterminds of electoral fraud in the country.
The Constitution permits INEC to set guidelines for elections, and INEC has said it could transmit election results electronically, why will the National Assembly be an impediment? My take is that INEC should go ahead with the proposal because it already has the constitutional powers to issue guidelines on election.
Do you think that the Natonal Assembly members who shot down the bill deserve a return ticket to the hallowed chambers in 2023?
It’s their constituents that should decide their fate. But as far as I am concerned, those lawmakers who one way or the other voted against electronic transmission of election results and those who cleverly dodged the session should be shamed.
They are national disgrace!
What do you make of the walk-out staged by PDP senators during the debate?
It’s the right thing to do but they shouldn’t stop at that.
What are the implications?
It meant that the passage of the bill was sectional and not by the entire House. By right, if we are practising democracy, it shows that, that law cannot stand because the National Assembly is not made up of one party. We are not running a one-party system.
Do you think it can be reversed?
Well, the opposition has made their point, and the world has heard their voice. So, let it be made clear that what we have now is autocracy and not democracy. Nigerians now know those who want the country to move forward and those responsible for our woes.
Given this scenario, do you foresee a free and fair elections in 2023?
How can there be credible elections if you stand against the ingredients that guarantee free and fair elections? In fact, from what is happening, it’s like the outcome of the 2023 elections is already written.
So, what’s the way out?
This is the time for every Nigerian to stand up against the impunity going on. It should not be left for politicians any more. The civil society, labour unions and the citizens should make their voice heard. If we continue this way, Nigeria will become a pariah state.
It’s very shameful that somebody will claim that there is no network coverage in Abia North where I represented before. Tell me which part of Abia State that doesn’t have network coverage.
2023 is almost here. Do you foresee any political future for the South-East zone as no major political party seems to be considering the zone yet for its presidential ticket?
If we want to go morally, all political parties should zone their presidential ticket to the South-East. But it’s not a wishful thinking; it’s a party thing.
What’s your take on the insistence of some Northern groups that power will be retained by the North beyond 2023?
That’s not constitutional. They are only heating up the polity. Southern governors have also said the presidency should move to South but this is all politics. Let the governors go beyond press statements and get their various political parties to cede their presidential ticket to the zone.
Do you think that the Igbo elite have done enough concerning the issue of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and his travails?
Some individuals have been speaking out but I expect Ohanaeze Ndigbo, which is a socio-cultural organisation of the people to take the lead to resolve the marginalisation of Ndigbo. What IPOB, MASSOB or any group is doing is to fight the injustice against Ndigbo. It’s on the umbrella of Ohanaeze that the people will speak in one voice.
But there are other national issues that the Igbo political elite have voiced their individual opinions without waiting for Ohanaeze…
The truth is that everybody agrees that there is serious injustice against Ndigbo in Nigeria. But the modus operandi in seeking redress is what differs. The issue of injustice against Ndigbo is very obvious. Everybody can feel it; there is no need pretending.
So, I feel Ohanaeze should convene a political summit of all Igbo political leaders for dialogue and use it as a point to engage the Federal Government. This is an opportunity for us to come together as a people and resolve this marginalisation and injustice once and for all. We can’t keep quiet. Nobody should pretend that all is well. The Yoruba are coming together under Afenifere, Ohanaeze should take the lead and bring everybody together.
In every bad thing, there is something good. After every war, there must be a round table.
Do you think Nigeria can survive her worsening security challenges?
If we continue this way, the centre might not hold again. The Federal Government must wake up. The primary responsibility of every government is to protect lives and property of its citizens. No government can shy away from this. The level of insecurity in Nigeria today is very alarming and nobody is sure of ones life both day and night.
How will you assess the All Progressives Congress, APC-led Federal Government?
APC should quickly rediscover itself. See the level of hunger and suffering in the country. People are passing through hell in Nigeria.
Do you think APC will have a comeback in 2023 if elections are held free and free?
I haven’t seen any person today that will be ready to vote for APC again in 2023.
But why are some PDP governors and lawmakers defecting to APC?
First, find out the motive. Maybe somebody is not performing and knows that he or she cannot win any election in 2023, then the person moves. Some of the people defecting to APC are running away from anti-graft agencies. Otherwise, I don’t see any right thinking person today that will leave the PDP for APC.
Are you not worried over the trading of words between Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State considered a strong pillar of the the PDP, and the party’s National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus?
I’m not aware there is any love lost between the two persons. Governor Wike is a man who likes to express himself, and everybody knows him as somebody who speaks out his mind. But I don’t know of any love lost between the two of them.
Do you think PDP has any bright future in 2023 polls?
Yes, PDP has future. The inefficiency of APC is helping us do the work.
What is your take on Abia 2023 vis-a-vis power rotation?
The governor has asked everybody to keep quiet and not to overheat the polity. So, I stand by the governor. Let’s not distract him. At the right time, the governor will speak, and he will call everybody together and there will be a decision on how to move the state forward. So, for now, let’s support the governor in delivering democracy dividends, which our people need now.
Now that you are out of power, what occupies your time?
I have gotten closer to my God. I have been helping in some missionary works in the church. I’m also into business to make some money. I don’t mix politics with business. If I’m into politics, I face politics and if I’m into business, I face business.
What kind of business do you do?
Before I went into politics, I was running a diagnostic centre. I am into supply of medical equipment. I also supply laboratory equipment, chemicals and reagents. I have also diversified into real estate business.