Jonathan needs to be ruthless –Ozekhome
Sun News Publishing
Sat, 06/16/2012 – 23:32
As usual, he was in his element, his voice dripping passion. Sunday Sun feels him out on the state of the nation and Lagos lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) at his residence in Lagos, did not mince words. He concludes that the only thing that would make President Goodluck Jonathan excel and show that he is in power and in charge of the affairs of Nigeria is for him to start stepping on toes. Quoting copiously from the holy scriptures, he also reminds Mr President that he should not even attempt to please everybody, a feat even Jesus Christ couldn’t achieve.
Looking at the politics of the South-South, would you say the infrastructure you see in the region tally with the Federal Allocation that has accrued to them since 1999? I will start by saying that in a federal system of government, each zone and state is supposed to develop at its own pace. But let me tell you that before January 15, 1956, when Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu played out the first military coup, Nigeria operated a true federal system of government.
We first had three regions with each having its regional constitution; the Western Region, Northern and Eastern Region. The Mid-West was later to be created by popular plebiscite and referendum of August 15, 1953, making them four regions. Each of those regions controlled their own resources then. The western region controlled its cocoa resources which made Nigeria one of the greatest exporters of cocoa in the world then.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the late sage, was able to use cocoa wealth of the Western Region to develop the West by giving the Yoruba people free education at all levels. That is why today, Yoruba are a very enlightened people in Nigeria. He built the famous Cocoa House in Ibadan then as a lasting monument. He also built the Liberty Stadium, the Obafemi Awolowo University, which was then known as University of Ife; and he started the first Television in Africa – all with the wealth of the Western Region because the arrangement then allowed him to use the wealth of that region.
The northern region was governed by Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, who used the famous Kano groundnut pyramid, the cotton, hide and skin wealth of the northern region to create the Northern Nigeria Development Corporation (NNDC).
The corporation produced great institutions like the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Dana Hotel and many other institutions that still exist today in the Arewa group in the North. In the East, people like Akanu Ibiam and Dr Michael Okpara were able to use the palm produce wealth of the Eastern Region to develop the East. It was also with the timber, plywood and the rubber industry of the Mid-West region that people like Dennis Osadebe and others used to develop the Mid-West up to a level before it became Bendel State and later broken into Delta and Edo States.
At that time, the sharing formular was 50 percent for the regions that produced a particular product. Then 25 percent was shared amongst all the regions from the same products while the remaining 25 percent was paid to the Federal Government at the centre headed by Tafawa Balewa. But that disappeared with military intervention. And because General Gowon needed money to prosecute the war, he removed the entire derivative, and control of wealth by the region and broke Nigeria into 12 states. And since that day, we never had resource control as we had in the 60s. At a time, it was zero percent to a state and later it became 1.5 percent before General Abacha regime increased it to 13 percent derivation which is what is in the constitution today.
But to what extent would you say that 13 percent derivation is noticed in the South-South in infrastructure and good governance especially in the past 13 years? It must be noted that the terrain of the South-South is fragile and delicate and that in most of the states in that geo-political zone such as Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom as well as parts of Rivers and Delta states, they have to buy sand from other places to, first sand-fill a waterlogged or swampy areas before they can start thinking of constructing anything. So, to that effect, a kilometer of road that will cost about N23 million somewhere in Adamawa, Sokoto, Katsina or Borno, for instance, would cost N350 million in the South-South. That is because of the nature of the place they find themselves.
So, more money is therefore needed to intervene in the development of the South-South zone than any other zone of the country. It is not just because the wealth of the nation comes from the South-South but because it is the most delicate, fragile and dangerous place. But I must also confess that the development in the South-South is nowhere commensurate with the amount of money that accrues to that region; meaning that successive governments have not helped the people by giving them democracy dividends.
Many of them have been indicted for non-performance and for fleecing their people of their common wealth. I therefore cannot hold brief for them that they have done extremely well in terms of giving democracy dividends that is equivalent to the amount of resources that accrues to them which runs into billions of naira unlike other states of the federation who arguably have better terrain. Not only that the Niger Delta Development Corporation, (NDDC), has been created and then a special Ministry of Niger Delta also created, but what have these two interventionist programmes done to impact on the lives of the people?
I can almost say nothing. One would have expected to see the South-South as the greatest construction site in Nigeria today with bulldozers and other machines and equipment competing to open it up for human habitation because of the ecological disequilibrium brought about by oil pollution, oil exploration and oil exploitation. It is massive and ineffable and there is no doubt about that. The South-South is the only place where you have water everywhere but like in the Ancient Marina, not a drop is fit enough to drink.
The South-South is still where you have people defecating in the same stagnant ponds and streams from which they also drink. The South-South is where you have 24 hours of light, not from the National Grid of electricity but from gas flaring which emits gas effluence that destroy aquatic and agrarian lives. Nigeria, today, still flares over 70 percent from our 300 cubic feet of natural gas reserve in the 21st Century, whereas Netherlands flares zero and the United Kingdom and America each flares less than fire percent. What have we done in that regard? Do we have the will to stop gas flaring and penalize the multinational corporations that still flare gas? No.
Would you say that it is as a result of poor leadership? In the darkest hours of the Second World War, Winston Churchill challenged the British people to stand alone and fight for what they believed was right and they did. You need a leader that is smart; one that leads his people by using leadership qualities to plan, organize and control. You need a leader that energizes his people, a leader that empowers and supports his people.
That leader that communicates with his people is what you need. These are certain leadership qualities which I think most of our leaders are lacking. And that is why we are still where we are today. It was a great Chinese philosopher who once said, “To give a man fish, he will eat it for like a day but if you teach a man how to fish, he will eat fish throughout his lifetime”. So, we need leadership that empowers the people and creates a conducive environment for the people to thrive. We have not had that kind of leadership in Nigeria and that has been our albatross.
Even in the states like Edo? In the South-South, some governors have shown themselves to be amenable to the voice of the people. If you take the case of Edo State for example, for nine years, that state was in a quagmire. It was destitute, impoverished and there was nothing going on. Roads were not opened up, the people were hungry, education was in comatose, industrialization was zero and life was poor, nasty, bestial and brutish. But then, one firebrand and fire-eating labour leader, Adams Oshiomhole who won his mandate through the Court of Appeal in 2008, entered as the governor of Edo State.
The truth of the matter is that whether you like Adams Oshiohole or not, give him one thing: he has opened up Edo State. Even the blind can see it; the deaf can hear it and the lame can walk it because the evidence is there. These are visible, tangible, measurable developmental strides that can be seen and scientifically witnessed. Go to Benin City, the once moribund capital city which evoked the joke that because Benin is ancient, every governor that came in wanted to leave it ancient and not modernized.
But you can drive through Benin City today, and you will think you are in a modern city like Abuja, or Bauchi, Gombe, Enugu et cetera which are some of the most beautiful cities in Nigeria if you care to go round. You can now see flowers and trees springing up everywhere. In Bayelsa State, Governor Seriake Dickson recently stated that what the state witnessed under his immediate predecessor, Chief Timipre Sylva was a ‘Kalokalo’ administration. What is your reaction to that statement?
Well, if you go to Bayelsa State, you will see that apart from the development that was visible during the time of Alamieyeseigha, supported by Goodluck Jonathan, the present Nigerian President, as the deputy Governor then, you will not see anything impressive. I think the new governor has a huge task on his hands. There was practically nothing going on in spite of all the publicity we were seeing. The media were even bought over; the newspapers published whatever they were asked to publish.
And reading Bayelsa, in the last three years, with paid advertorials on a daily basis, you would think that Bayelsa was an Eldorado. But there was nothing going on. So, I would not be surprised if Dickson described his predecessor as one of ‘kalokalo’. Kalokalo is a sort of gambling where nothing is certain; you take it as you see it. In other words, the new governor is minded to give governance to the people on a measured template that is well-planned, not just haphazard hiccups or fire brigade-approach type of governance.
That is what he means by that. I think the young man being a lawyer means well for the Bayelsans. And Nigerians can see that lawyers can make a difference in governance; like I also hear the Kastina State Governor, Ibrahim Shema, is also doing well. And the reason is that lawyers have a sense of inner shame. Many politicians do not know the word “shame” because even their educational background does not recognize honour.
Talking about leadership, what advice do you have for your kinsman, President Jonathan, as he marked his first officially elected year in office as well as Nigeria’s 13th uninterrupted years of democracy? I urge Mr President to be a very strong leader. Former President, Obasanjo, was a very strong leader such that sometimes, he was even brutal. Nigerians want Jonathan to sit up and show the strong mettle of leadership not to behave like a leader who does not want to hurt anybody.
A leader must hurt some people. The burden is that you must do greater good to the greater majority of the largest number of people. He must step on some big toes if he wants to succeed. If you say you know those in Boko Haram and that some of them are in your government, then fish them out and punish them – arraign them in courts of law, deal with them and stop the source of the funds that go to these bodies so that Nigerians can have peace.
Do not think that you can please everybody because even Jesus Christ, as faultless as He was, could not please everyone. In spite of all his good intentions for the people, they still killed him, because He could not satisfy the whole world. Jonathan should not think that he can satisfy all Nigerians. But he can, and must satisfy a larger percentage of Nigerians and that means stepping on some fat toes and make them bleed. In fact, he should cut off some toes; not just smack them and make them bleed, he should actually cut off some of them.
That is one of the qualities of a good leader – be ruthless when you have to, be meek when you have to, laugh and smile when you have to, frown when you must and he should stop allowing himself to be distracted. He is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces for God’s sake and commanders are always in charge of their command.
They take absolute charge and carry out their duties without minding whose ox is gored. Whether President Jonathan has four years or eight years, he should use the first four years to distinguish himself from the pack of leaders that Nigeria has had in the past 51 years. I know that his beginnings were very challenging – to be or not to be, and even when he became the president, the cabal held him to ransom.
The doctrine of necessity had to be invoked for him to be president from vice president. We also know that since he came on board, some people who felt that it was their right to govern the country decided to also make the country un-governable. But then, he has to show leadership qualities as Murtala Mohammed, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello and others showed in the past. He must be able to get out of the pack and begin to bruise toes from now onwards.
He should begin to take decisions decisively – ignoring the minority to do good to the greatest number of Nigerians, even if the minority is vociferous and powerful. That is what leadership is all about. That way, he will be appreciated such that when 2015 approaches, he will not even need to fight for re-election by himself, rather, he will see the country pleading with him to present himself for a second term.
But we cannot be talking about 2015 now when the country is going through the challenges of insecurity, and corruption is on a daily basis becoming more and more monstrous and threatening to devour everybody. Nigerians are yearning for good roads, employment and water, education and health care, capacity building et cetera. Jonathan should not allow himself to be distracted because to me, it amounts to distraction for him to even think of 2015 now.
He should impart his goodluck on Nigerians. He should remember that in 2011, Nigerians ignored every other political party and all voted for him. In international diplomacy, he is damn good; and Nigeria is now more respected across the world. But the security situation of Nigeria is very bad. Nigerians are hungry, while corruption is getting worse. Going by the Transparency International corruption measurement index, Nigeria has worn several trophies in corruption.
Mr President should revitalize the ICPC and EFCC. All the people involved in the petroleum subsidy scam should be brought to book and punished adequately. I agree with the Attorney General of the Federation that the House of Representatives report is a mere report; it should now be given to the EFCC to go and look into those criminal elements and then, it is those criminal elements they should now interrogate. Then the documents should be given to the expert lawyers who will now prepare charges, so that these people can be charged to court and punished accordingly.
All those who have stolen billions of naira from Nigeria, and made citizens to gnash their teeth should be punished. They should not go scot-free and there should be no sacred cows. I also advocate that the fuel subsidy should be removed once and for all so that those who have been feeding fat on this so-called subsidy will have all the avenues for such cheap money blocked.
And those who have been taking our oil in tankers across the Nigerian borders to neighbouring countries will now see that it is no longer profitable. Nigerians have seen that some of the measures taken have made fuel available daily, as against what was obtained before when majority of people were taking the commodity outside the country because it was too cheap. The president must realize that what he owes Nigerians, to appease them for all the hardship and discomfort the fuel subsidy crises caused them is to ensure that all the indicted actors in that business are jailed.
He should not say I do not want to step on toes because of 2015 because 2015 will be a weakening and a tempering factor in trying to be a damn, strong and progressive president. If he begins to think about 2015, he will not want to step on toes and it will be difficult for him to deal with certain sectors of the economy. He should act now as if there is no 2015 by stepping on toes that all of us know deserve to be stepped on, including some of his friends, like Obasanjo did.
If he does that, Nigerians will hail him again. Nigerians want to see good governance; and when that happens, you will see that Nigerians are interesting people who do not care where their leader comes from. All they care about is good governance. So, what I am saying is that Jonathan should know that history beckons on him to write his name in diamond in the annals of Nigeria’s governance.
Therefore, he should come out a strong leader. The story of Nigeria is one of a potpourri of the good, the bad and the ugly. She evokes a scenario where one can cry and laugh simultaneously. Though it sounds paradoxical, but that is the truth of the matter. We can laugh because in spite of all the challenges, brouhaha and ‘wahala’, Nigeria is still together as one country, one entity although with very frail fabric that is being torn to shreds from the seams and in a very crooked manner, by her citizens.
So, we can afford to laugh because, notwithstanding the buffeting and rampaging assault on her, the old woman still remains resilient to both internal and external aggression. A lesser being would have suffered not just explosion, but implosion. But she has been able to withstand this onslaught. That is why I can laugh.
So, like Obasanjo would put it, but mine in a positive way; “I dey laugh”. But I also want to cry deservedly, because Nigeria is a country of lost and untapped opportunities, lost dreams, and a country of receding hope, relying on only one mono-product – the black gold whereas Nigeria that has natural endowment freely, voluntarily and graciously given by God – when she ought to rely on more than five hundred products.
How many people know that Plateau and Nassarawa states have the greatest natural resources in Nigeria – Plateau has 27 natural endowments and Nassarawa is blessed with 25. We are talking about tin, gold, colombite, caoline, granite and lead among others, which are lying un-tapped. That is why I feel very sad; I feel sad that Nigeria is over-politicized. We dwell so much on politicking such that the real art and science of governance is put at the background.
Are we not a mad country to be discussing 2015 elections when the mandate given by Nigerians is still in its embryonic stage; when a marathoner should actually be warming up in a serious marathon race that involves four legs, (four years)? Is it not madness that rather than talking about putting food on the tables of hungry Nigerians, giving security to unsecured Nigerians, giving water to thirsty Nigerians, giving education to ignorant Nigerians, giving empowerment to unemployed and destitute Nigerians, and giving shelter to homeless Nigerians, we busy ourselves discussing who becomes president and who becomes governor in 2015?
The first mandate given has not yet been used for the benefit of the people. Are we a country that is cursed? Are we really going to break up into smithereens by the year 2015? Is it the year of Armageddon? Is that why everybody keeps talking about 2015 so prematurely, in such an uncalled for manner; in such an irritable manner; in such a provocative manner and in such an undesirable manner? Once I am convinced after close scrutiny and investigation, and after talking to my God, I give my views un-inhibited, courageously, fearlessly and fiercely.
I believe that we need a single term of office for the president and for the governors – a single term of six years during which you either shape in or ship out. You either perform and have your name written in gold or not perform. For any governor or president to execute his programmes for the benefit of the people, either of his state or of his country, if we had six years, nobody would be talking about succession now.
The reason being that those who have been given the mandate will want to work for the next six years and because they look forward to no other tenure in the same office, they will sit down to do the work for which they have been elected. If the recurring cycle of elections today, elections yesterday and elections tomorrow is doing more harm and damage to the economy of Nigeria and when we are having about 85 per cent of our national budget devoted to recurrent expenditure with less than 20 percent to capital projects, how can such a nation grow?
It is not possible. For Nigeria’s nearly N4 trillion budget this year, about N2.7 trillion is devoted to recurrent expenditure alone – payment of salaries, gratuities, perks of office, tea and coffee drinking, dinners, external journeys and foreign trips – money that is unproductive. And you have a situation where governors have commissioners who themselves have special advisers. Then the special advisers would have special assistants and in some cases, you have the special assistants also having personal assistants and it goes on and on.
There are too many aides, advisers, assistants and all sorts of unnecessary positions and appointments in Nigerian governance from the presidency to the lowest political office. That is why I have come to view Nigeria as a country that is over-governed. There is too much of government without the real work of governance. The real work is to provide democracy dividends. But when I hear people talk about democracy dividends in Nigeria, I laugh.
The word dividend is borrowed from the corporate world which is a share that shareholders get from a company after declaring profit. Dividends are paid out of profit. But has Nigeria even made profit in the last 13 years of democracy of which dividends can now be shared amongst Nigerians? I say no! Even our being together as one country has been by the grace of God who is ineffable, omniscient, benevolent and in mercy clear as in Genesis 18 verse 14, and replicated in Jeremiah 32 verse 27, where he says behold, I am God of all flesh, is there anything too hard for me to do? It is because there is nothing too difficult for God to do that Nigeria in spite of convolution, hiccups and implosive tendencies still remain one, as a united country.
I am a sad Nigerian. I am not a happy Nigerian because we have missed so many opportunities as we have not behaved responsibly like a country. Look at Japan. It does not have a single drop of oil but that country is today, unarguably, one of the three leading economies in the world. Is it China that has a population of over one billion people? China is the emerging power in the world, sidelining America that is now fighting spiritedly to stay as number one. What about India with a population that is more than half of that of China and more than four times that of Nigeria?
India only gained independence in 1957, three years earlier than Nigeria; they have risen above the stage of motor manufacturing and now manufacture aircrafts and ship. But for us, we cannot even manufacture the bicycle spoke, tooth or ear pick. We still import milk, sugar, rice wheat and flour – things that we should be comfortably producing, we still import in the 21st century world.
Do you know that Malaysia borrowed her palm kernel from Nigeria when they came to this country in the early 6os? They went to the east where palm produce was thriving and took some away from Malaysia and today, that country is not just the largest producer of palm produce in the world, but Nigeria is a grateful importer from Malaysia.