PROFESSOR Adego Eferakeya is the Senator representing Delta Central Senatorial District in the Senate. In this interview with Vangurd, he spoke on some national issues including the emergence of Dr Goodluck Jonathan as President, the PDP zoning arrangement and other issues. Excerpts:
Before the death of former President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua the country was almost drifting politically; what do you think could be done by way of enactment of law to guide against such situation in future?
Really there was a lot of lacuna in the constitution in respect of when the President travels and what should be done with respect to handing over especially when he was to stay for a long time and in case of illness and so forth.
What I want to tell you is that in the constitutional amendment which we have done, this has been taken care of. Sections 144 and 145 that had problems have been dealt with. I will not be able to quote them directly. As far as Senate is concerned, something has been done, it will be taken to the House of Representative where there will be a conference harmonization after which it will go to the President for assent and then it will become a law.
All I can say is that, that area of the constitution that led to what we experienced that almost caused chaos in the country has been amended and when the House of Representative meet with the Senate and they harmonized then, it will become law. We donâ€™t pray for that situation to re-occur, but it has been taken care of by the amendment.
Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is now the President and Commander- in- Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. From his actions so far, do you see him taking Nigeria to the next level?
Yes. When he was Acting President you saw all the actions he took. He dissolved the cabinet because he knew he had to move on and you know, the former cabinet was the part of the problem in getting him to move to the position of the Acting President or the President.
So as soon as he was empowered to become the Acting President, he took the necessary step. And now that he is the President, he has started very well as far as I know. The actions will start to unfold gradually and he knows that he has a very short time so he has to be very active. Even the PDP has started putting its house in order because as you know the head of the National Working Committee has been reoved to pave way for reforms.
A lot of people have spoken to the effect that PDP zoning formula is not constitutional and cannot bar President Goodluck Jonathan from contesting in 2011 . What is your comment on this?
There is no constitutional provision for the rotation of Presidency from South to North but somehow PDP has been using it. But those who were involved, like former President Olusegun Obasanjo, (I was not personally involved, I cannot give evidence), said that it was not zoned and remember he is the first President of this dispensation.
So I think we should keep our fingers crossed; if there are arguments they will be brought to the discussion table and leagers will come out with the right decision. Many people have said and I believe that the right man should be allowed to govern. He has to be mature. Let the right man take this country to the next level. It doesnâ€™t matter whether he is from the South, from the North or the East. Because that is what civilized world do and some people may argue that we are not ripe enough.
So when are we going to be ripe?
I think the decision will be taken by the PDP as a party, because it is not a national problem. If it happens that another party wins the presidency they cannot say that what PDP does should apply. But for now if there is any argument, I think it will be resolved and the right thing will be done.
But in your own opinion, do you think Dr. Goodluck Jonathan should run for Presidency in 2011?
I think I will leave that for now. Let us not count the chickens before they are hatched.
The National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor resigned recently. Opinions from some quarter say the PDP leadership in some states should be reconstituted to reflect what the people stand for. What is you comment on this?
It was rumoured that Prince Vincent Ogbolafor, the National Chairman of the PDP resigned, but I think what has happened is that he has been asked to resign. I donâ€™t think he actually wanted to resign. If you had listened to the radio or if you had read the newspapers you will see that he was even saying that he will follow the constitution of the party, that he will take his time and that it should be within a month.
If people who matter in the party said he should resign because he has been charged to court on ground of corruption which is not good for the image of a party hoping to win election, then I think he should resign and let somebody else take over so that we can march forward.
What do you think should happen at the state level?
Definitely when the head is off, what happens to the body? If there are corrupt states Executive, the man who will take over at the national level will take care of that. If there is need to reshuffle the state executive organ I think that will be another thing to be done and it can even go down to the local governments and wards level.
Is it at the discretion of the national chairman of the party to reconstitute the party at the state level?
Look, it is the same constitution that guides us. If the man at the head feels that this particular state there have always been problems the leadership there should be changed; they will be changed.
You did not brief your constituents this year. Why?
This year has been a hectic year starting from the end of last year. We have been so much engrossed in crisis. The ill health of the former President was a major problem in the country and our concentration was there. Now that we have resolved the crisis with the emergence of a new President, I think I will begin to think about that.
Again, the elections are at hand. But I will think about it and probably call my people together again. I hope they will not misjudge me that I am using the forum for campaign. But you know my feeling is that many people should know what is going on; like this interview you have come for now is to enlighten the people and know my opinion on issues. I think it is because of the pressure of work and at the national level things were not too certain. I wanted the atmosphere to be clear before I come to brief them again.
How much have you impacted on the lives of your people in the past three years as a Senator?
I think that is left for you to judge how much I have affected the lives of my people if you have been going through my activities in the senatorial district.
Let me just give you some of the highlights. You know very well that I empowered the youths with over 100 motorcycles. You also know that I have commissioned water project in Ethiope East Local Government Area, specifically in Oria â€“ Abraka. There is also building of faculty of Engineering in the Federal University of Petroleum Resources which has reached the decking level.
I am also involved in the building of a Medical Centre which is now at DPC and I have helped individuals. You also know that I have bought a bus for disable people so that they can move around, so that they wonâ€™t be waiting in the rain or in the sun trying to catch a taxi or what we call okada.
I have given jobs to many people, which were reported in my former briefs and these have continued even up till 2009. As we are talking, the building of five classrooms has been roofed in Oghara Primary School, Ethiope West Local Government Area and such is also going on at Orogun. There is one going at Ikwhegwhu-Agbarho in Ughelli North Local Government Area. If you are interested I can give you a brief write up of my activities that have impacted positively on the lives my constituents.
The Urhobo nation as the fifth largest ethnic group in the country seems to be lagging behind at the national level. What are you doing at the Senate to place Urhobo at an advantage position?
First the Urhobo as represented at the National Assembly particularly in the Senate is a lone voice. Out of 109 senators, you have only one senator representing urhobo and again I have said it repeatedly that changing Senator or any legislator within a short period makes it difficult for him to come out to the lime light and this has also affected me, but I think I have done my best. I have brought the Urhobo people to lime light, particularly most recently, you have been told, I am the only Senator from Delta State who signed the paper for resolution to make President Jonathan then as Acting President and I think that has brought us forward in the light of what is happening today.
I think that position I have took brought up the Urhobo people national recognition. We will continue to work towards bringing Urhobo to political lime light at the national level. I am in the good books of the present government headed by Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The clamour for one man one vote is very strong in the country today and to this end a rally was held in Edo State. Are you sure the votes of the people will count in the 2011 election?
You see there is nothing that is certain in life. You see that rally was in good faith, I want to believe. I think the people are being enlightened on the need for one man one vote. That is what we expect, but we cannot be too sure. I have repeatedly said it that making the laws is not enough; the people have to be educated, they have to be well briefed to know their rights, to know that it is only when they come to vote that they will elect the right person who can represent their wishes and not only that, they will be very sure that the dividends of democracy can reach them.
So what we are all praying for is that the National Assembly in amending the electoral laws, should at least help close up the gap that were there. But I repeat we need attitudinal change from the top to the grass-root. And the grass-root people have to be well educated that they should not ask for money before they cast their vote. They should find out the quality of the candidate or aspirant they are voting for before they cast their vote.
But I think we have to really ensure that our internal democracy works because it does not exist in many of the parties. There is god fatherism, people talking about consensus. The laws will be there but it is now left for the people to do the right thing and I hope they will do it and we all pray that, that happens this time around.
Many groups have come out in recent times to openly canvass support for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for President in 2011. What is the Urhobo political class doing to mobilize support for him to run in 2011?
As I said earlier, it is too early. Let us get many things straight first. I have not even started mobilizing and I think if I mobilize for myself, I am indirectly mobilizing for him. The election of the President does not take place in Abuja it takes place in the local government areas. If I mobilize my eight local government area, I am also mobilizing for whoever will be will the presidential candidate. If the people of Nigeria decide that Goodluck should be the one then I am already working for him.
You are from the Niger Delta region, how much will you say the amnesty and post amnesty programme have affected the region in terms of development and the peoples well being?
You know that the post amnesty programme was somehow stagnant during the time our late president was sick. President Goodluck Jonathan is now at the helm of affairs. Apart from electricity and electoral reform, the Niger Delta problem is a priority as far as the President Jonathan is concerned and I think very soon, activities will begin to unfold.
The budget has been signed into law. Can you give us an insight into your constituency projects so that your people will know what to expect this year?
One thing you should know is that federal constituency projects apart from MDG, that is Millennium Development Goal projects are supposed to be part of Federal projects. So anything that is of the state government we cannot put our constituency allocation into it. That was why in 2009 I put my constituency project allocation into Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun which is a Federal University.
This time around I am thinking of putting my constituency project in building police stations. You know police is a Federal affair and I will not want to disclose it even though it has been signed I have not seen it. Any thing can happen between the National Assembly and the Presidency but I want to believe that nothing has changed. But all I did put in for 2010 is to build about three police stations in the Delta Central Senatorial District.
Only recently there was another bomb blast in the NDDC office in Warri. What does this say of the tension in Niger Delta?
Yes I think it is the same thing we are saying. We are appealing to everyone. Let there be peace. The Presidentâ€™s visit to Rivers State is to tell the world that the place is peaceful, if not the President will not go. I think it is a reaction to the fact that what they were expecting, they did not get it. They should be patient and all these things will happen in no time.
As a senator what will be your message to the people of your Senatorial District?
My message is that now that we have a new President, who is our own son, we should all rally round him to support him so that he can make impact within the short time he has to do few things.