‘We Support Change Through Continuity, Not Sudden Change’
Prof Tony Ogiamien, a scion of the ancient Ogiamien family in Benin, Edo State and former Dean of Faculty of Law, University of Benin (UNIBEN), now president of American Heritage University of Southern California, Ontario in the United States (US), spoke to The Guardian on the telephone shortly after a meeting of Nigerian Professionals Living in California at the library of the university why Nigerians should vote for President Goodluck Jonathan in next Saturday’s election, insisting that majority of Nigerians at the meeting gave Jonathan a pass mark and agreed that he should be allowed to continue in office for another four years.
Since you are based in America, how effective would your support for President Goodluck Jonathan be in next Saturday’s election?
The support could be done in two ways. Those with Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) should come to Nigeria and vote for Jonathan, while those without PVCs can influence their wards, parents and friends at home to vote for Jonathan.
My recommendation is that anytime they call their people home, they should try to convince them to vote for Jonathan.
But it appears a lot of people want a change?
We support change through continuity and not sudden change.
Yes, we do need a change, and I support the generality of Nigerian population that we do need a change.
The term change means a different thing to different people. I am opposed to sudden change. I want a real change that can be achieved and sustained when there is continuity of ideas.
The continuity is that Jonathan has put so much in place. He has been in office for a long time to know the changes Nigerians want. Nigerians, including members of the opposition, should do more to assist Jonathan, rather than to claim that they can do more than what he cannot do.
What is your take on the report of last year’s national conference?
The national conference was a situation that captured all Nigerians’ interest. There were days and nights of several months of trying to discover the problems of Nigeria and proffer solutions.
The confab document needs to be executed, and Jonathan should be allowed to carry out the recommendations of the report undisturbed.
The transformation agenda he inherited from his predecessor, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, is still very much intact and we have been following it very closely.
We have seen so many developmental strides in the country.
In the long run, Jonathan now knows those who have Nigeria interest at heart. He should also know that he is not the President of Bayelsa State alone, but President of all Nigeria, both North and South.
As the President of Nigeria, Nigerians should learn how to respect constituted authority. I have read reports in the papers where our people insult elders in government, which is wrong.
Our youths should be cautioned and told that there is need to respect constituted authorities and elderly people, whether at home or office.
What should Jonathan do about youths, unemployed, elderly and women?
He should look at the problems of the youths and unemployed people, civil servants and the elderly, who are the vulnerable groups in the distribution or sharing of democratic wealth.
If he wants to address these issues, he certainly will require another term of four years in office. I would want him to still continue with the good work and ignore undue criticisms.
When criticism becomes abusive, it is no longer criticism and so he should learn to ignore it.
So, you think Jonathan deserves a second term?
So far, he has done well and we pray for him to continue with the good work.
Some journalists are not doing what they are supposed to be doing, having more privileges than the ordinary people. I hate the way some highly-placed Nigerians use the media to achieve their selfish political aims.
The good thing about our legal system is that we have freedom of expression and there is fundamental human rights and freedom of the press.
What is your take on the call by the Esogban of Benin, Chief Edebiri, on Bini people to vote Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and the counter call by Chief Priest to the Oba of Benin, Chief Nosakhare Isekhure on the people to vote for Jonathan?
I am aware of the controversy, but I try to avoid any discussion involving these two people.
Edebiri’s call is because of Governor Adams Oshiomhole. The problem is that some people find it difficult to distinguish between the party Oshiomhole represents and Oshiomhole himself.
I like to see a bigger Nigeria outside Benin and Edo State. I admire what Oshiomhole is doing in Edo State; he has transformed the place. That is alright, but on a national level, because of the continuity factor we are talking about, it should be Jonathan.
What we are advocating is change within and not sudden change. I don’t want a change to people who do not have a sustainable structure to handle the problems of Nigeria.
What is your view regarding the controversy surrounding Buhari’s health status?
To perform as President and Commander-in-Chief, you have to be healthy.
You will remember one episode when Buhari did not even remember the name of his running mate. Instead of Osinbajo, he was calling him Osinbade.
At another televised ceremony, he couldn’t even remember Osinbajo’s name. He was trying to introduce him at a function and was saying my running mate, eh, eh, eh. I watched him on television in America.
If it were in the military, fine, but under a democratic system, like we have, he will find it difficult to function.
But what does Jonathan have going for him?
My argument is that Jonathan has learnt on the job. Those who put him there still want to continue to tell him what to do, but he is of age. He has trained more on the job, so much that he can continue with the transformation agenda and then be able to effect the change that Nigeria requires, rather put up a sudden change for Buhari.