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‘Why I am passionate about bridging communication gap by Moji Danisa

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‘Why I am passionate about bridging communication gap by Moji Danisa

In this interview, veteran broadcaster, MOJI DANISA, commonly known as ‘Queen of the Tabloid Journalism’ for her riveting insights into the lives of socialites and celebrities back in the days, with Chuks NZEH, she speaks on her mission to bridge the gap between the common man and policies of government with “Break It Down” a weekly television program that x-rays contemporary issues.
Excerpts:

Tell us about ‘Break It Down?’

“Break It Down’ is a 30-minute show on television which is focused on development policies, and projects. It falls under governance actually, we are looking at non-governmental organizations and because we are already on air, we look out for people in government, ministries departments and agencies, Sustainable Development Goals, (SDGS), amongst others. So we want to bring policies and other issues closer to the people, simplifying the issues, that is what we say, that is our pay off.

Actually it is communications development, that is our catchment area, so that is basically what it is; we break it down in the language that the common man would understand. We discovered that there is a dearth in communication between the government and the governed because government uses technocrats and experts mainly, who are very used to these high sounding languages, jargons, and the common man does not understand what they are saying, what you hear the common man say most times is that “they are doing their thing there.”

If you ask a common man now what is restructuring, he will just be looking at you and might say they want to divide Nigeria, he does not really understand what restructuring is or how it can even benefit him or even the negatives and this is where ‘Break It Down’ comes in to make these technicalities better appreciated by the man on the street.

Besides what you just said, what else inspired or moved you into this?

The programme was conceived in other to ensure that information on policies of government for a better informed audience and society is easily understood by all, because even some of us we do not understand, like sometimes I find myself going to Google to find out some things they speak about, when technocrats come on television to make proposals or speak on policies of government. I want to have an in-depth knowledge of want they are talking about, for instance the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, how does it benefit me? Beyond me how does it benefit the tomato seller in the market, because they are the government, they are the people that vote during elections, they make up the larger percentage of the society, and that should be the yardstick for assessing the average person. So there is this disconnect between the government and the people, that was what actually gave birth to this idea.

You are highly resourceful. So what should we your audience expect to make it better?

For now, we talking to the experts mainly because we are still building the structure, but very soon starting from this quarter we are going to bring the people in, because originally it was designed for the people to call in and ask questions that they do not understand for the guests or resource persons to respond by breaking it down to their understanding, we are going to get there, to actually make the people part of the programme not just the resource persons.

How do you hope to bridge this gap because there are some technocrats who do not understand the language of the grassroots?

You can hardly find a technocrat who did not grow on the streets especially if the person is a Nigerian. They should understand the basic language of every human being, especially those within their environment and if you are a technocrat you should also be a communicator who must learn to deal with a specific audience and that audience is the common man. I bet you, the technocrat even if he is from Harvard because of my expertise as a communicator, interviewing people, I would make that person speak the language the common man understands, and of course there would be guidance.

What is your projection like in five years time?

We would have achieved our specific aim which is to make the people understand better every single policy of government and other critical stakeholders would be brought to the people, so that the people can understand better and that would make people know if the government is doing well or if they are doing poorly.

Unlike when experts say they have passed the PIB, most people do not understand but some pretend they understand. We would have achieved bridging that information gap, then of course, we are going to do seminars workshops, those are in the pipeline.

We are also going to focus on education, building leaders for the future, that is one of the major projects we would embark on in 2021, there is going to be a huge conference where we are going to discover leaders for the future, as we can see there is a dearth in leadership, as we have seen the old people do not want to leave the scene because they think the youths are not ready. So how ready are we to have a successor generation. You saw what happened during the #EndSARS protest, we know the mistakes that the youths made, we know the efforts, we also know the gains they achieved, so let us build solid successors to take over from this generation.

Given the potential of our young people, why do you think they are not coming to the fore in government?

The fact is that there is a vacuum, and that vacuum was left by the generation after the old people, which is my generation, we were the oppressed generation, we were the generation that witnessed military brutality, we are the generation that was silenced for a very long time, we were the generation that was impoverished and made to beg for bread, so we have lost our voice, and so because we had lost our voice, we could not impact on the generation after us, that is exactly where the disconnect came from and this new generation they are just finding their feet. I am so impressed with them; I think it is because most of them have solid education from what I have seen. Forget the fact that we say the Nigerian education is poor, these children are the digital generation there are a lot they learn outside the school curriculum, but they have learnt a lot about leadership and I think that they are ready to take the baton of leadership. For my generation, forget it, we have lost it.

Message to the average Nigerian, especially the youth on what you are doing?

We are engaged in leadership and development, they should just keep learning first, it is very important, the need for self-development, they should develop themselves, their capacity, get involved in leadership trainings, workshops and then try to lead from their different levels, even if it is classroom, almost everybody has an innate leadership potential they should take it one step at a time. They are a very bold generation, for instance if I put my daughter before the president, she is going to tell him her mind without shaking. This is the Generation Next. It is the generation that would build Nigeria, and I just want them to know that we believe so much in them and they should keep it up.

Source: The Abuja Inquirer

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Interview

PIB’s 3% equity may open another frontier of insecurity in Niger Delta, says Dickson

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By John Akubo  

The Senator representing Bayelsa West, Senator Seriake Dickson addressed the media in the Senate on two contentious issues bothering on the passage of the 3% equity shareholding for host communities, which he said they disagreed with, and the contentious clause 52(3) in the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment bill that was recently passed by the National Assembly.
He called for a review of the 3% equity upwards to the 5% proposed by the joint committee on petroleum before Buhari assents to it as it may trigger another round of insecurity in the Niger Delta. He also cautioned the National Assembly over the usurpation of INEC powers on electoral results transmission. JOHN AKUBO was there.

On the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) the late President Umaru Yar’Adua sent the first Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to the National Assembly. The PIB work started from President Olusegun Obasanjo’s time; that was when the idea was muted.
During Yar’Adua’s time, Rilwanu Lukman was the Minister of Petroleum Resources, and the bill proposed 10% for host communities and also proposed 10% for frontier development. Unfortunately, it could not be passed at the time. We are happy the people are happy that the National Assembly has been able to break that jinx or whatever looks like it. But we must get the PIB right.
As you know, I disagreed completely and most of us disagreed with the 3% equity for the host communities that was eventually passed.

Of course, you know the history, the Senate passed 3% equity and the House 5% and they went for a conference, which came up with 3%. But my view is that this country is not helping itself, it is not helping investors and it is not helping host communities by not creating the enabling environment to allow investment to thrive.
The argument that approving anything more than 3% will deter investors is not genuine. If the host communities are not happy, would investors come? If they don’t have a stake in exploration and exploitation activities, once investors find that the situation is not conducive they will take off. So, this is not a wise decision because you are not dealing with only one community, but thousands and, hundreds of communities.
Don’t forget that, even the transit communities have a stake. I know that people are arguing about why pipeline communities should be part of it but there is sense in that. If you exclude the pipeline communities, they can sabotage the entire management of the operations. So, it is a question of percentage, it’s a question of proper discretion at the level of management of this host communities’ fund.

A lot of thinking and skill have to be deployed in the actual management of the Host Communities’ fund. The world knows; these host communities know that at the beginning of this bill, what was proposed for them was 10%. Yet, no one is engaging them, no one is explaining anything to them. All they have seen is that people who say they have majority votes have imposed a 3% equity on them and they are angry. That is why I am of the view that this 3% passed by the National Assembly is not helpful to the Host Communities, the oil companies, and the country. If we want to attract investment, then we must all work hand-in-hand with the Host Communities, get their buy-in, get their understanding and support and first create an enabling environment for investment to thrive. It is not too late to make a new day. There is still room for a review in order to have the buy-in of the oil-producing communities.
I also made a case that there is nothing wrong in appropriating money, giving money for the development of the Frontier basins. But should it be up to 30%? Frontier basins are several in the country. I know that it serves everybody’s interest; it serves the national interest in exploring more basins. There is the Gongola basin, the Benue area, the Sokoto basin, the Dahomey, Ogun, Anambra, and so on. Nobody is against that. But when oil-producing communities are taking 3%, NNPC funds of 30% profit is being allocated to exploration and they have been denied even 5%, not even 10%. It is not a very helpful situation for the oil industry. You all know how we felt. I had to stage a walkout because that was the right thing to do. We didn’t want our names to be associated with that kind of activity. Some were asking me why the walkout? Why not? That is a normal parliamentary practice. When you disagree, you make a point.

Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021

THE second one has to do with the Electoral Act amendment bill and you have seen the backlash. First, as a member of the committee, the members did a good job in presenting that draft which should have taken care of all the controversies now being raised. That draft would have enabled INEC to transmit electronically where and when practicable; they felt the technology available would make it possible for that to be done. It took care of all the concerns and some of the members of the complaints raised even at the level of the committee. We pushed them through and everyone agreed.
Now, you can see the attacks on the National Assembly, the attacks on the senate especially. What I want to say is that there is a marked difference between what we passed in the Senate and what the House passed. If that is so, then there is likely to be a conference committee on it. While casting my vote for electronic transmission of results, I made it very clear that it is unconstitutional for the National Assembly to subordinate the independence of and operational powers and discretion conferred by the constitution on INEC. You can’t subordinate INEC to any other body. It is not constitutional. If that ends up as the position of both chambers, you can be very sure what the likely decisions of the courts will be. This is why you have the Executive and the judiciary. Laws that are passed that are inconsistent with the constitution will be challenged. Like, I said on the floor, it is unconstitutional to subject the operational independence of INEC to another agency.

However, there is room for further legislative work; Nigerians should not lose hope. It is gratifying to see that Nigerians love democracy and are excited about voting and having their votes count. I believe that the National Assembly exists to make that possible, not to hinder it. 
How do you feel that Yar’Adua presented a 10% proposal for host communities at a time the Petroleum Minister, the late Rilwanu Lukman was from the north. Now, how do you feel that with your predecessor, Timipre Sylva as Minister of Petroleum, a 2.5% is being proposed?
Of course, we felt bad that was why I voted against it. This is not the first time Buhari is presenting this bill. President Buhari’s first proposal was 5%. That is why I said that this matter has been so badly mismanaged. With better advise and strategic thinking, they should have kept it at that 5% and discuss it with the oil companies.
For example, the oil companies still carry out Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. So, you can engage them and ask what is the cost of their CSR and build it into this, after all the percentage is part of the operating cost. If you remove the CSR, hospitals, schools, some of them are not even usable but they award contracts, which gulp a lot of money. Factor all of that into the Host Communities’ fund, because the fund is for the development of the host communities, you will see that you will even get more than 5%.

That is why I said at the executive level this bill has been strategically mismanaged with respect to the management of the Host Communities because it will raise security investments. The Nigerian security forces will need money to work and all of these are additional costs you are not factoring in.
Meanwhile, if you say 5%, and the oil-producing communities are on the same page with you, you have a secured stable environment. This bill has a clause that if there is any damage to any facility that is not natural, that the fund will be utilised in fixing it. The idea of this fund is to also give the host communities responsible for the stability and safety of facilities. So, the host communities are the most important partners. Now the danger is that because of this strategic mismanagement, the Host Communities are now being alienated. Remember that you are dealing with banditry that has not been conquered, and kidnapping and Boko Haram insurgency. Yet, you want to open another chapter in over eight states or more, in communities where the majority of our people reside; most of them are in remote communities that have very little Federal Government presence. I think that the host communities and the people should have been placed as the number one partners for stability and for the development of the oil-producing areas in order to guarantee sustainability in this critical industry without which the national economy will collapse. This is why I disagreed with the strategic mismanagement. So, direct your questions to the Petroleum Minister and the GMD NNPC; they will answer why President Yar’Adua proposed 10%, why President Buhari proposed 5% earlier, and why the minister who is from Bayelsa came to the National Assembly to present 2.5%.

The chairman, Senate Committee on INEC, voted against your report on the electoral act amendment bill. How do you feel about that?
He is my good friend with whom I disagree completely on this. But you should direct your question to him and I will also be interested in listening to his reply. How the chairman of our committee who agreed with us at the committee level, voted against our collective decision? I moved this clause, framing it to accommodate the concerns of some members who doubted connectivity in their communities. That is why you see the difference between what we presented and that in the House because of those concerns, which were generally the same concern they sighted. We said where and when practicable and everybody agreed, and I thought that we had addressed that concern. The underlying reason is that you cannot take away the professional judgment and discretion of INEC. We are not technical people and that is why you see conflicting reports from NCC and so on and so forth. The agency that we should trust and rely on as to whether they can conduct or transmit results electronically is INEC. Let us not fetter that discretion. That is why it was phrased that way.
As a former House of Representative member, former Governor, and now a Senator, would you say the legislature is oppressive?
Don’t cast aspersions on the legislature. I am not here to say that the Senate and the National Assembly should be cast in the way and manner that you are doing. We can disagree with the legislation, which is what we are doing but that characterisation is too broad. For instance, it is the Senate that raised it from the 2.5% the executive presented. It is now 3%. All we are saying is that it is not enough. In nation-building, particularly in a vast and diverse nation, relying on might and the majority does not build a nation. The majority of votes, strength, numbers on their own do not build a country. What builds a nation in a diverse society like ours is the presence of justice, fairness, consideration for the other, a nation that protects the weak from the strong; a nation that also exists for the few as well as the many. That is the attitude that should inform all political leaders and actors. As a matter of fact, mere reliance on raw numbers without fairness, equity and justice, and consensus-building are inimical to nation-building.

Will you come up with an amendment if President Buhari assents to 3%?
What will happen if the President assents to this bill, which we disagreed with? We think that there should be a review; there shouldn’t even be assent to it. They should send it for more consultative and lucid work so that while trying to solve problems you don’t create more problems.

As a stakeholder from the Niger Delta, are you saying peace in the region would not be guaranteed with the 3%?
As for guaranteeing security, apart from God, the President is the repository of all security powers. The president is to determine and guarantee stability and safety. However, if he has not done so in the North East for 10 years, you are not doing so for Northwest for about four years, and in the Southeast and in the Southwest, I think it is against the national interest to open another frontier of conflict.
The Niger Delta is the only region enjoying relative stability because of the policies that late President Yar’Adua initiated. He did not only proposed 10% equity for Host Communities but also granted amnesty, which is still working and we are all in support of it. He created the Ministry of Niger Delta. That is how you build a country, stepping in, standing for the weak and the few, and not relying on numbers and power

How united were the lawmakers from the South-South, what resolutions did they make before the PIB consideration?
Let me correct you; Senator Sekibo and I were mandated by the Southern Senators Forum and the South-South Forum to reach out to all key opinion leaders and we did. We spoke to most of them and they all supported our 5%. People may not know the kind of consensus-building some of us have been doing because, for me, that is our brand of politics. Disagreements are normal and legitimate but you reach across the divides and seek a common position and we did a lot of that. All of them assured us they were going to support 5%. Mind you the executive proposal was 2.5%. So the 2.5 % did not come from Senate, it was what the executive brought and came here to defend in the public hearings and even before we voted.
The Senate report also had 2.5% but because of these consultations, the Senate Committee graciously went back, did its work, and brought 5%. That is what people may not know and Senator Sekibo, Ajibola Basiru, Chua Utazi and I were on that committee. I conferred with them, including the Senate President.

Now, what happened was that before we took that deliberation and votes, the Minister of Petroleum and the GMD of NNPC were invited to give us the executive perspective. I don’t know why it was done, it was not parliamentary but that was the decision of the leadership. They came supposedly to enlighten us on the technical aspect of the bill. The main message they came to deliver was either 2.5% equity for Host Communities or no investment. So, I can feel how most members who had given us their commitment felt when they heard that tough position by the executive, saying anything higher than 2.5% will mean no investment inflow. I think that last-minute intervention was what accounted for the change of heart.
Earlier, you said there should be a review of the bill before Presidential assent. As a representative of the people, what is your next line of action on this 3%?
What we are doing is also the next line of action. It is a story that has just started, that is still unfolding and everyone has a role, including the media, to continue to make the case for fairness and equity on the part of all. If the parliamentary work at this stage is concluded, I believe we are talking to the people in the executive arm and I believe that even the NNPC and the oil administrators of the petroleum sector are keenly following the development in the country and particularly in the Niger Delta. I still think it is not too late to make a new day, to do what needs to be done.

Culled from the Guardian

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Interview

Basiru: Southern governors must follow up their declaration with legal backing

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By John Akubo, Abuja

In reaction to Senator Abdullahi Adamu’s claim that southern governors sounded like a broken record in their position on some national issues, including open grazing, restructuring, and the reopening of grazing routes, Senate spokesperson and senator representing Osun Central Senatorial District, Dr. Surajudeen Ajibola Basiru, wants the governors to firm up their declarations with legal backing in order to give effect to them, and underscore seriousness. He also canvasses the dismantling of the unitary security architecture for the country to overcome insecurity. He spoke to JOHN AKUBO in Abuja.

Your colleague, Senator Abdullahi Adamu is against southern states’ governors on the ban on open grazing and their demand for restructuring, saying that they are under oath, and are not supposed to take the positions they have taken. What is your reaction?
I don’t understand what he is talking about and I will not join issues with anybody on the issue of open grazing or no open grazing. But I know that there is no constitutional right for anybody to conduct his business or affairs in a way that infringes on other peoples’ right and businesses, and I have had occasion to state that there is a need to conduct animal rearing in a way that reflects current and modern animal husbandry. The nomadic system of driving animal all over the places is not only archaic, in view of the urbanisation of our society, but it is also anachronistic, which every serious-minded person should not promote.

On the declaration of the southern governors, I will advise that it is very important for them to follow their declaration with necessary legal backing. The country is one under the law, and by the Land Use Act, the use and management of land within a state are vested in Section 1 of the Land Use Act. So, I believe that in order to give effect to the declaration, they need to go a step further to ensure that their legislative houses pass requisite laws to create such a ban, and penalty for its breach.

Because of the heat generated by the debate, I also had occasion to study our Nigerian law on the matter and I discovered that even in the northern part of the country, open grazing is prohibited by the provision of Grazing Reserve Law because under those laws, are those of them who have domesticated the law, Northern Nigerian Law 1965, is to say that grazing reserve should be created. So, open grazing is not even recognised in the northern part of this country. What I will also say is that as statesmen, we need to be nationalistic in our orientation. It would be sad if we decide to take a position on issues that affect development from a parochial ethnic perspective.

I have sworn to uphold the constitution of the country and to apply same without fear, or favour and in rendering any opinion, I will not do so because it favours any part of the country, but we need a country to take the issue of modern animal husbandry seriously. Even the yield we can get from parading animal all over the place is far lower than when we apply the modern method, which makes it possible for the animals to be fed on the same spot. You can take the milk and even the manure for agricultural purposes. So, the way to go is not about politicising the issue, but what we need as a government at the central, state and local government levels to get maximum yield from animal rearing.

Adamu alleged that southern governors’ position could spur northern governors to also take a position against southerners’ businesses in the North. Is this not troubling?
I don’t want to believe that he said that. It is not a question of southern governors banning any business, it is the mode of conducting animal husbandry. I would not believe that any senator who has sworn to uphold the Nigerian Constitution would make such an assertion in that regards. It is like equating somebody doing legitimate business in the shop with somebody who is conducting his own affairs in a manner that is destructive of property and the lives of other people.

You have the right to move freely, but your freedom stops where other peoples’ freedom begins. The aphorism in human rights literature is that the freedom of my fist ends where your nose begins. I think it is a lack of understanding to be equating the regulation of animal husbandry, by way of open grazing, with the freedom of right of movement. Human beings are free to move but you cannot conduct your affair in a way that interferes with the property of others.

Is it part of freedom of movement for somebody to let his animals destroy other peoples’ farmlands, or to destroy their properties? Is it part of human right for somebody to openly brandish arms and ammunition to attack other people. So, I think it is like extending the freedom of movement in a manner that is very absurd. Even Section 45 of our constitution creates qualifications in terms of public safety, public morality etc. We should no longer rear animals in a way that is injurious to others in society.

Are advocates of restructuring haranguing President Buhari as also being alleged by Senator Adamu?
I don’t believe he would say that because in the last three weeks the president has engaged the public in debates on the matter, and he has expressed his opinion. Although we belong to the same party, I don’t share some of the opinions that President Buhari expressed about restructuring. For him to have pushed restructuring back to the National Assembly, I think it is not in line with our party because we campaigned on the mantra of restructuring and constitutional reform in 2015. So, six years down the line, we cannot say that our manifesto that is published, is no longer part of what both the executive and legislative arms should strive to do. So, I believe the position of the president has been expressed in several fora in the past two or three weeks, and some of us, even though we belong to the same party, believe that some of those positions do not represent the manifesto of the party upon which we campaigned to come to power. We believe that the president would be properly advised to go back and look at the founding documents of APC so that the necessary support can be given.

Our party, the APC even set up a committee on the devolution of power and constitutional amendment, which no less a person than Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State headed, with senators and others as members. Far reaching resolutions on devolution of power and restructuring were taken. So, I believe that the issue of restructuring and devolution of power is part and parcel of what we campaigned for, and our party has taken a step so the next thing is for the executive and legislative arms which incidentally has the majority of our party members to work together to see how this can come to reality.

What is your view on the claim that state governors have failed to do the needful, hence the worsening insecurity?
I don’t think anybody with respect will say that the problem of insecurity in Nigeria is at the doorsteps of state governors. I have served for two terms at the state level working with Governor Rauf Aregbesola, and I will say that governors are largely helpless when it comes to the issue of insecurity, and I will give you one example. Even Osun State was literally taken over by federal security operatives ahead of the 2014 election to the extent that some of us who were government functionaries were under siege by federal security agencies, including the police, the DSS and so on.

Second, when it comes to giving orders, a governor cannot even give directives to the DPO not to talk of the AIG. They don’t control the military; they don’t control the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).

So, if they say they are in charge of security, in what way?

What we are witnessing is a failure of the unitary security architecture that we have in Nigeria. Fortunately, that is why I am surprised that somebody will say that, I don’t believe he said so, because the Senate set up a committee whose report was presented on February 17, 2020, which is more than a year ago. The committee was headed by Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, and one of the far-reaching recommendations was the need to decentralise the Nigerian Police Force along zonal lines, with budgetary and operational autonomy because the conclusion based on hearing from actors in the field is that, there is over centralisation in the centre, which will not achieve the aim of attending to the problem of insecurity.

The truth is that if you want to lay that blame, you must accept what some of us have been clamouring for and that is the state police. I have sponsored a bill on state police, which is before the constitutional review committee. I have also sponsored a bill on the decentralisation of the Nigerian Police along zonal lines, in line with the Senator Abdullahi committee’s recommendation. So, you cannot shift the blame. The so-called federal system of policing, which is a unitary system of policing has failed, and we must try another method. We must confront the challenge of dismantling the unitary system of security that we have in this country and until that is done, you cannot place the blame on somebody who does not have the power.

Do you agree that governors are giving Buhari a bad name for not allowing the judiciary to be autonomous and for local councils to function effectively?
I don’t know when the senator became the mouthpiece of President Buhari. Personally, I must make a distinction between judicial autonomy and local government autonomy as the federalist that I am. I don’t believe that the Federal Government has any business with how local councils are run. It is against the tenets of federalism. Every state, every federating unit, should be free to determine its structure of local administration, and I use the word local administration, not local government. You may use the royalty system or local council system. The classical conception of federalism is that there are two federating entities; those are the Federal Government and the semi-autonomous federation units. The local administration depends on the federating unit. The local administration I will tell you that the argument of local government autonomy, aside from not being ideologically sound, is only predicated because there are some handouts going to the local governments. I ask you today, of the 774 local government areas how many of them can actually work, or even set up a department of administration without Federal allocation?

On judicial autonomy, I believe this is also beyond sentiments; we must face the reality, which is the fact that the way our states are funded is different from the way that the Federal Government is funded. Today, even money is appropriated at the state level they may not even have the necessary cash to backup whatever has been appropriated. The question is that this money comes from the federal allocation and IGR. So, there is a need to have a workable solution to ensure that on a pro-rated basis, whatever is realised to back up the budget should be released for the judiciary to do so. But there is much to be done to ensure that there is adequate funding and autonomy for the judiciary but when it comes to local government, the Federal Government has no business whatsoever if we are really practising genuine federalism.

Do you agree with the assertion that politicians are behind the self-actualisation agitations?
I don’t like the fallacy of generalisation, I am a politician and I know I am not behind any ethnic agitation. So, if you say politicians are behind it, name those that are behind it, but I know as a student of human rights that the right to self-actualisation is also a fundamental human right, but must be conducted within the ambit of the law. What we have is that every election cycle, there are always agitations of this nature; there are also agitations from those who want to say there must be a constitutional conference. But the question is, do these agitations, beyond being given accentuation in the media really percolate to the generality of the people? I will say the answer is no. The truth is that the elite are always coming up with different programmes to draw the people to their side. I believe that all these agitations cannot subside until we as a country decide to know that we as a heterogenous society must create an environment for equity and fairness, and the emergence of the real Nigerian citizen because some of the elites still reason within the confines of their ethnic, tribal or religious affiliations. So, there is a need for us as political elites to work towards what I call Nigerianisation of our citizenship, rather than seeing ourselves from the point of view of ethnic origin.

I will say that the pattern of development of our constitutional history also accentuated those issues. The 1946 initial constitution started the problem of regionalism, and to date, the mental construct of many of us is still within that regard.

Is it true that restructuring is the job of the National Assembly, and that some people are only trying to arm-twist Buhari to embark on it?
Basically, in whatever amendment to the constitution by virtue of Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution, the National Assembly has the most important role to play, but that is not to take away the fact that my party, the APC, campaigned with the mantra of constitutional reform, particularly the devolution of power and restructuring. There are two ways by which we can address recommendations of the el-Rufai committee on restructuring. The executive can come before the National Assembly by way of an executive bill pursuant to Section 9 to seek to implement those requirements that are deemed what should be done by the APC because the APC that set up that committee is also the one that is in charge of the executive. So, an executive bill is not out of place to be instituted to implement the recommendations of the el-Rufai committee. This is the responsibility of the executive. Section 5 of the constitution says that the president is the executive of Nigeria; he has that executive power to exercise directly or through his ministers, or all other members of the government.

Second, the National Assembly interested in the present constitutional effort is also taking into cognizance, existing reports of committees and conferences. I know that the el-Rufai report is also being considered, as well as the 2014 constitutional conference report. So, it is not like the National Assembly as it were has jettisoned the el-Rufai committee, but to say that strictly, the executive and ipso facto the president have no responsibility I disagree. The executive is constituted by my party the APC, and it has a report it stands to reason that it is not out of place for an executive bill to give the imprimatur of the executive to the processes by the National

Is it enough to wave off those agitating for self-actualisation, the Senator Adamu said, ‘who wants to go can go?’
I believe that in a society like this, there are different shades of opinions that you cannot wish away anybody having an opinion, and as a student of political theory, you know there is a school of thought that they call anarchism, that does not even believe that there is a need for a government. Will you kill them? Will you say that they are not professing their ideas? Part of the right of everybody is to agitate and ventilate his/her opinion, but what I am concerned about is that agitations, ventilation of grievances and postulations must be within the context of the law, and must be conducted in a peaceful atmosphere. I believe that with the strengthening of our democratic institutions; with the strengthening of the right to freedom of expression, all these are part of the democratic process. We cannot wish them away but continue to work to make the country work for Nigerians and for us to continue to promote the Nigerianisation of our citizenship, these agitations over a period of time will give way. I am very optimistic about that, but it is not something to be boastful, or arrogant about. It is a question of ensuring that our political elite owes it a duty to see to the emergence of a Nigerian citizen, who sees himself first, and foremost as a Nigerian, and puts before himself Nigeria, before any other primordial interest.

Are allegations of northerners are being killed in the South unfounded. Would it not lead to a reprisal that could be termed genocide?
The truth is that there is nobody in the North or South as an organisation, or individual that has given imprimatur to the challenges of insecurity that we have. Even in the North, we have the issue of banditry and people are being killed. Is it a question of northerners killing northerners? No, it is a question of insecurity, so we must try to make a difference between the problem of insecurity and the need for us to immediately dismantle the unitary security system and evolve a veritable instrument to deal with insecurity. In Osun, we have a very harmonious relationship with people of every ethnic nationality. In fact, I was part of a civic engagement organised by the government where we had interaction with all manner of people from different parts of the country ranging from Ibibio, Efik, Tiv, Igala  Jukun, Hausa, Fulani and so on. So, you cannot make such generalisation as such fallacy would only heighten unnecessary tension and we would be playing into the hands of war merchants, who may think that by undermining our sovereignty, our government would not be able to make away. So, as senators, we must be circumspect so as not to inflame the country and we must see ourselves as people who are supposed to maintain an even balance between all manner of people, and among all ethnic nationalities, in any part of the country. I will rather say it is not a case of a systematic attack on anybody, from any part of the country, but it is a problem of insecurity, and we must, as a government take the bull by the horns, and ensure the safety of lives and property irrespective of where anybody is residing, or where anybody comes from. I am part and parcel of this government; I campaigned for the president; for my party and for myself, and the people of my senatorial district voted for my party, the APC.

Culled from the Guardian

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Interview

Adamu: On open grazing, Southern governors are sounding like broken record

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John Akubo

Senator Abdullahi Adamu who represents Nasarawa West Senatorial District, in this interview with newsmen drew the ire of many when he accused southern governors of sounding like a broken record over their stance on open grazing and the reopening of grazing routes among other issues. The former Nasarawa State governor called for restraint among those calling for President Muhammadu Buhari’s neck saying he inherited some of the major challenges plaguing the country. JOHN AKUBO was there.

Southern governors recently declared a ban on open grazing and called for restructuring of the country. Why agitations like these popping up lately?

THE southern governors are sounding like a broken record. You know what a broken record does? It cracks. I expected them to be more educated people with the responsibility of governance. Each of those governors is under an oath of loyalty, and of preservation of the sovereignty of this country. That means that each of them is duty-bound to stay away from any act, or word that has the tendency to be perceived as being separatists.

I was a governor for eight years, and I know what The Governors’ Forum is because I headed it for five of my eight years in office. Before that, I was chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum. So, the secretariat that you see, and the bureaucracy were set up during my time.

But those that took over from us began to have a situation because we are in a democracy, and people will give to the president, shopping lists from their different zones. There are people in the cabinet, the National Economic Council, and the National Council of States, who once they get themselves out there, begin to talk for their states or their zones only.

Before the Asaba Accord, there was a meeting of all the state governors, and about 36 of them were there. And less than a week after that meeting, some people came out and claim to be members of the Southern Governors Forum. Really, there is nothing wrong with regional bodies, but these governors know the constitution, and they know that every Nigerian has the right of movement, association, and the right to pursue legitimate goals. However, if these governors are saying no to cattle routes and open grazing, what are the alternatives that they have provided? If northern governors come together and take a position, what will happen? What right have you to tell Nigerians not to move freely? If northern groups also say no to southern businesses in their domain, how will that end up?

There are killings of northerners going on in the South, but if the North decides to retaliate, we will call it genocide. What is happening to us? We only know about problems, but not solutions. People are openly calling for a break up of the country.

So many things are happening simultaneously in the country. But what do you make of the current situation?
It is my first time since coming of age that somebody will just get up and say anything about the government and go scot-free. A lot of people are daily sabotaging this government, including those who are under oath. There are also those who are willing and lurking by the corner to do bad things, who now have got the leverage since they now have people that are even in government, but are not showing satisfaction, loyalty, patriotism. So, what do you expect? These are some of the issues that have joined forces to place us where we are today, and nobody can single-handedly, no matter what power you give him, get us out of this mess. All Nigerians must be ready to get the country back on track. This is not to say that Buhari’s government is blameless. I am not suggesting that at all. What I am saying is that we are contributing more to creating problems for the government than what we are doing to solve the problems created by the government. This government is our government; it was elected. No matter what we say. The National Assembly has members from the PDP, APGA, YPP, and the APC. So, everybody is there. Indeed, there are people from every part of this country in the National Assembly and in the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

The idea behind every state having a member in the FEC is for them to bring value and add to Buhari’s capacity. But where are they, and what are they saying today? Is there anything in this country that says that a minister cannot talk? If a governor can talk, can’t ministers also talk? But everybody is just folding his/her hands, and unfortunately for us, Buhari is not the talking type. If he were to open up, you would wish you were down the drain. But God has given him the capacity to absorb. It is part of the characteristics of a leader. Yes, there are certain things that have happened that he was supposed to react and respond to, but we have people who are not patient. You see a problem today and you want a solution today. I don’t want to sound like I am justifying what you may see as a failure, but I am giving my thoughts as to why I think we are where we are, and why I think most Nigerians who have the responsibility are not living up to expectations.

If I am in government, you expect something from me. I am also part of the government and cannot exonerate myself. Most of us that are educated, even if we went to missionary schools, benefitted in one way or the other from the government’s contribution to our education. So, there is a contribution that the government has made in preparing us to be where we are today. And as patriotic citizens, one would expect some level of concern, and the concern would not be genuine if we become critics. Even a critic can be positively critical, but where it is just a matter of picking whatever you want to pick and then throw it out without caring about the implications, it is not good. It is just bad.

Some of the agitations are blamed on President Buhari’s leadership style. Do you agree with this?
It is too wide a statement to make. When you’re talking of somebody’s leadership qualities, you don’t just pass judgment. We have the misfortune of battling Boko Haram insurgency alongside other forms of security challenges. It is unfortunate. We must get one fact very clear. This thing didn’t start with Buhari. I cannot deny that there are a few cases, and in fact, an increase in general insecurity. That will be unfair. But the major problem is the failure of state administrations to take up the issue of security seriously. Just like Buhari, every governor has taken an oath to protect the lives and property of the citizens. They get money from the Federation Account and also generate revenues from their states. These are the facts. We agree that the central government needs to handle the issue, but states have to play complementary roles in tackling the issues too. Go and take an inventory of the number of states that are paying salaries today. This is not just about Buhari. States are not paying salaries even with the Paris Club refunds and others that they got. If you have small problems from the various states over time, they aggregate and become big problems. Suddenly, they refer to the problems as Buhari’s problems. Every state government has a responsibility to provide for its people. Nobody said that Buhari is an angel; nobody also said because Buhari is now president, every state governor should abandon his responsibilities. 

But why are these agitations soaring?

Some of these agitations are induced. A few years ago, were they talking about the break up of the country? Why now? Political leaders are in support of what their people are doing. They cannot speak up and challenge them. They just lament; they want the president to handle it. They are talking about restructuring. What is new there? When you and I know that we passed a law in the National Assembly trying to free states’ assemblies and judiciaries. Is Buhari responsible for that?

Local government councils were created by law, and we have tried to free them, but governors are opposed to it. Is Buhari responsible too? How long have we had this aberration? They operate a joint account with local governments. But do these funds go to them directly?
I was a governor and local governments used to get their funds directly. We created some development areas, followed the law, and not a dime was taken from the local government areas. Now, local governments can’t execute projects; they don’t see any money; they don’t even get their money. These issues are affecting our democracy. We want to give Buhari a bad name.

Were efforts made by the National Assembly to free local government councils, states’ assemblies, and state judiciaries part of moves to restructure the polity?
That was part of a restructuring. What is even this restructuring? Those saying it wants us to take a look at the exclusive legislative list. We don’t have to fight over restructuring. We have two chambers that can handle that. Both were elected, and this is our job. If you’re dissatisfied with the issues in Nigeria, you can bring these issues to the National Assembly. They don’t want that, they want to blame the president. There is nowhere that the president can alter the constitution. He can’t even give an order for that to be done. And these agitators are educated, people. Take the issues to us and Buhari will assent to it. We keep saying that Nigerians didn’t write the constitution. Was it Buhari that wrote it? Why is everybody calling Buhari? It’s sickening. There is a limit. Not that we can’t talk. We have the capacity to do more. But what we won’t take lightly, is for any part of this country to think that they have a louder voice. That is not true. When the North starts talking, maybe there will be sense. If we want this country to stay on, we will. I speak as a Nigerian of northern extraction. I will defend that as long as I live. Those who want to leave can go. We will continue to exist as one Nigeria. Let’s see where they will go. Separatists are taking laws into their hands and we are tolerating them. The next thing they would shout about human rights. We need to stop. It won’t do us any good. No country has survived two civil wars. Army generals have told me that. We must watch out and guide against another war. We should be careful about what we say. These agitators can go. But we will remain.

Culled from the Guardian

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