February 26, 2023

Nigerian politicians need to borrow a leaf from developed countries — Fred Martins 

<strong>Nigerian politicians need to borrow a leaf from developed countries — Fred Martins </strong>

By Festus Ahon

Hon. Fred Martins is a member of the Delta State House of Assembly, representing Warri North State Constituency. He was elected into the House in 2019 under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; he is currently seeking for a second term.

In this interview, he spoke on Nigeria’s democracy and other issues of interest. Excerpts:

Do you think Nigeria has fared well after almost 23 years of Democratic experience?

It is regrettable that Nigeria’s democracy which was fashioned after America’s presidential system has not quite taken roots because of obvious factors. Since, independence on October 1, 1960, Nigeria has had an unstable polity characterized by long years of military leadership and very retrogressive civilian leaders.

Between 1960 and May 29, 1999 Nigeria had different military administrations viz; General Aguiyi Ironsi, General Yakubu Gowon, General Murtala Mohammed, and General Olusegun Obasanjo. Also were General Mohammadu Buhari, General Ibrahim Babangida, General Sani Abacha and General Abdulsalami Abubakar.

We have also had civilian leaders, they are; Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Earnest Shonekun, Olusegun Obasanjo, Shehu Yar’Adua, and Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. What this simply means is that democracy is still in its infancy in the country.

The problems of democracy in Nigeria cannot be limited to just the factors above, but could take their bearing from all of them. Nonetheless, the central impediment to the growth of democracy in Nigeria is the inability of the system to adapt to our local environment.

Right from independence, Nigeria has had two brands of democratic system, the parliamentary system and the presidential system. Nigeria has had experiment with numerous constitutions. The first was the independence constitution of 1960, which was swiftly suspended as soon as the military struck on January 15, 1966. Since then it has become fashionable for a new constitution to emerge each time there is a change of government.

The 1999 Constitution, which the late General Sani Abacha designed, was eventually promulgated into law by Abdulsalami Abubakar who succeeded him. Due to the hastiness with which it was promulgated, the Constitution was thought by many Nigerians to have hindered our polity. For instance, some critics of the Constitution argued that it should have made provisions for the complex nature of our society.

What would you say was responsible for the situation?

Though, some elites have argued that Lord Frederick Lugard merged the North and the south for the convenience of the British government. It is sad to state that since then, progressive retrogression and continuous injustice have been the lot of majority of the citizenry.

The British colonization brought together three vast and culturally distinctive regions North, South-East and South-West and at least 250 different language groups, more than any other African countries.

Nigeria inherited the British style of parliamentary system, with Dr. Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe (first Nigerian media mogul) as the first governor general and from 1963, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of the Northern Peoples’ Congress (NPC) as the Prime Minister, exercising executive power and Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Awolowo as the opposition leader.

The Northern, Western and Eastern Regions constituted the country’s tripartite structure, until the Mid-Western Region was created in 1963. The cancellation of the June 12 Presidential election, perceived to have been won by late Chief M.K.O Abiola and which was considered by the international observers to be the freest and fairest election not only in Nigeria but in Africa.

This same election was cancelled by the Babangida’s military junta without giving the masses including the talakawas, any clear-cut reason in his broadcast on June 23, 1993 for the cancellation of an election which cost Nigeria a whopping N50 billion.

The annulment by the Babangida junta brought in an unprecedented political unrest, ethnic crises and ideological conflict, which eventually brought in the then African dictator, Sani Abacha to power in 1993 to 1998, during which Nigeria experienced the worse years of multiple assassinations, bombing, unjust detention, harassments and armed conflicts.

Over 70 percent of Nigerians live below the poverty line despite the fact that Nigeria is one of the largest oil producing nations. It is also astonishing that Nigeria ranks one of the poorest nations on earth. What an irony? Where has the oil money gone?

In other words, it is no exaggeration to say that the nation’s economy is suffering from internal indiscipline largely induced by the over dependence on crude oil as the sole pillar of national survival as well as greed of some of our leaders.

I am praying for the country to move forward for prosperity. We need to exhibit patience in nurturing democracy and its institutions in Nigeria. It has been said quite often that before the several military coups, which occurred in Nigeria, some civilians had always invited the junta to take over the administration of the country based on their selfish reasons.

Don’t you think that lack of good leadership has affected the growth of this country?

The nation has witnessed bloody civil war, military coups and counter-coups. Quite often, bad leadership, dislocation of most part of the economy despite the huge oil revenue, falling education standard, cultism, violent crimes, erosion of moral values and several other vices.

The problems of the country, though remotely attributable to the first republic leaders, began to assume their current gigantic proportion from the era of military rule.

What is the way out?

Politicians need to borrow a leaf from developed countries. In other words, it is good for politicians in Nigeria to put away individual interests and embrace the interests of all Nigerians for the country to move forward. With such measures, issues of banditry, terrorism, and militancy will be a thing of the past.

The 2023 general election is around the corner, I want to know if the leadership of your party has put in place measures to reconcile aggrieved members of the party so as to put the party in good stead both at the state and national level?

Reconciliation is going on. The most important thing about reconciliation is the attitude. You first make sure that the rules are fair. Make sure that it is acceptable to all that are interested and at the end of the contest, the winners and losers will review their own position and we too will learn from their opinion so that we can improve.

What is important is that we are talking, we are talking and intend to pick it up from there, no doubt there is sincere and genuine reconciliation going on.

What advice do you have for the losers in that contest?

To accept the result and remember that we still have a fight ahead and we must all come together. Let us get on with the business because Deltans are waiting for us. God is in this government and when one door is shut, another one opens.

The truth is that there is so much to be done within the PDP and they still have a lot of role to play in the challenges ahead and our appeal to them is that we should work together as one family.