‘It’s time for Buhari to deliver on campaign promises’



Chief Chekwas Okorie, the National Chairman of United Peoples Party (UPP) and its presidential candidate during the 2015 presidential election speaks on President Muhammadu Buhari’s almost one year in office, the Biafra agitation, state of the nation and other sundry issues in this interview with Samson Ezea

Buhari’s tenure so far
Let it be appreciated that President Buhari’s administration is one that has transited from a ruling political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to an erstwhile opposition political party, the All Progressive Congress (APC). The PDP did not prepare for a defeat. It was taken unawares and therefore caught napping. Handing over power to APC was not smooth.

Struggling with taking over the reins of power from an unprepared and an unwilling loser was a major challenge that the Buhari government was faced with. This took its toll on the new administration. It was understandable if President Buhari’s government often referred to this as part of the reason for their late start. The startling discoveries of monumental corruption, sordid and messed up records, could dislodge a new and inexperienced administration. Since government is a continuum, President Buhari is further saddled with implementing the already appropriated 2015/2016 budget of ex-president Jonathan’s administration.

However, with nearly one year in the saddle, President Buhari can no longer be granted the benefit for further excuses. It is time for him to begin to prove that his government has something to offer to Nigerians.

I remained confident that President Buhari would be on record as a great President. He has the integrity, will power and courage to take hard decisions that will ultimately lift Nigeria high on all fronts, socially and economically. He needs everybody’s co-operation at this time.

State of national politics
I am thoroughly disappointed with the state of politics and politicking in Nigeria. This is more so, for people of my generation who were exposed to the politics of pre-independence and post-independence era.

However, with nearly one year in the saddle, President Buhari can no longer be granted the benefit for further excuses. It is time for him to begin to prove that his government has something to offer to Nigerians. I remained confident that President Buhari would be on record as a great President. He has the integrity, will power and courage to take hard decisions that will ultimately lift Nigeria high on all fronts, socially and economically. He needs everybody’s co-operation at this time.

Politics in Nigeria has always been carried out on democratic principles and ethos, whether it was in the First Republic when Nigeria adopted the British brand of parliamentary system of government or the period from the Second Republic till now when the US brand of presidential system of government is copied.

Politics used to be robust and vibrant and the electorate used to look forward to the next election when they could renew the mandate of those who have served and represented them satisfactorily or vote out those who failed in delivering on their mandates.

The implication at the early period was that the electorate, who were the sovereigns, reserved the power to decide who was in power on their behalf and who was not. Over the years, our politics and politicking began to deteriorate so rapidly, that at this point in time our politics and politicking can best be described as rudimentary, pedestrian, uninspiring and nightmarish. Politics and politicking in Nigeria have become dangerous, brutish and do-or-die exercise.

Military intervention responsible for rot in polity
The Military coup of 1966 halted the development and growth of our politics revised the gain already recorded in deepening democratic practice and culture in Nigeria. The quasi-federalism that Nigeria enjoyed based on regional structure was destabilised, and indeed replaced by the military that introduced a centralized government. The regions were developing and growing steadily and rapidly because each of the regions had the opportunity to explore and exploit its comparative advantage. At that time civil and public servants preferred to work in their regions of origin, rather than be posted to serve in federal ministries and institutions, which would entail being transferred to the Federal Capital or distant places.

Subsequent military governments carried the unitary system of government too far, to the extent that they embarked on the policies of dissolution of regional governments, and their replacement with ill-contrived states. Policies of educationally disadvantaged areas, quota system and federal character combined to give advantages to a section of the country to the disadvantage of the others. The impression was that the developmental strides of some sections were deliberately halted by policies of government, to allow the backward sections to catch up. The erstwhile Revenue Allocation formula that allowed the Regions to be allocated Revenue on the basis of 50% by derivation was revised to put 100% of Federal Revenue in the hands of the Central Government. Current Revenue Allocation formula remains a far cry from what was obtained in the first Republic.

All efforts to embark on the devolution of powers, review of revenue allocation formula and the restructuring of Nigeria to bring about true federalism have been truncated and frustrated by the section that has benefited the most from the lopsided and unfair political structure of Nigeria.

It is this state of affairs that has reduced the struggle for political power and the control of our common patrimony a matter of life and death or a do-or-die battle.

Possible solutions
I believe that our politics and politicking can only be sanitised and moderated if and when eligible voters who are the true sovereigns are restored their inalienable rights to freely vote into various elective offices men and women of their choice. This can be facilitated by the adoption of electronic voting system in subsequent general elections. Nigeria already has acquired Electronic Voters Register and Electronic Voters’ Cards. All that is required to smoothly transit to electronic voting system is the enabling legislation that should be easy to legislate on, if the political will exists.

Restructuring the Nigerian Federation into definable federating units and devolution of powers to make the control of the Centre less attractive is another way to elevate our politics and deepen our democracy. In this way our politics will be issue-based, robust and vibrant.

Biafra agitation
The Biafra-Nigeria war formally ended in January 1970 about 46 years ago. The victorious Nigerian Government declared that the war ended on a note of No victor-No vanquished. To further give the impression of magnanimity in victory, the then Head of State of Nigeria, General Yakubu Gowon also declared a policy of Reconciliation, Reconstruction, and Rehabilitation – 3R in favour of the former Biafrans, which covered the people of the defunct Eastern Region:

All the aforementioned federal government postures were largely observed in the breach. To make matters worse for the defeated people, obnoxious policies some of which have been mentioned earlier in this interview were enunciated and in some cases promulgated into laws to marginalise mostly the Igbo people of present South-East geopolitical zone.

As these policies and laws began to take their toll on national development, unity, economy and security, the people of the South-South, South West and recently North-Central geo-political zones joined the South East to clamour for the restructuring of the Nigerian polity to allow for true federalism.

Calls for National or Constitutional Conference to address these issues were unheeded or in some cases truncated. Thirty-nine years after the end of the civil war, some restive youths mainly of Igbo extraction embarked on the clamour for exit from Nigeria back to Biafra. Their agitations were ignored and scorned derisively. The failure of subsequent Nigerian governments to address their grievances resulted in the emergence of several variants of the agitation resulting in violent clashes with government forces in some cases.

The protests have been carried out in about 180 countries thereby internationalising the agitation for a separate State of Biafra from Nigeria. The agitation for a separate State of Biafra and the clamour for self-determination by other sections have become widespread and sustained.

Indivisibility of Nigerian unity is a fallacy
The efforts at unification will certainly be in vain unless such efforts lead to the unity of Nigerian nation states and their peoples.

It is a big fallacious provision in the Nigerian constitution that Nigeria’s unity is indivisible and indissoluble. No human contraption can ever be indivisible and indissoluble. Even marriage which is the oldest institution established by God can only be sustained if it is serviced by love predicated on mutual respect, fidelity, trust, sacrifice, tolerance etc.

National unity in a country as diverse and as heterogeneous as Nigeria can only be sustained and nurtured as a Nation if there is equity, justice, fairness, equality, security welfare of its people etc.

It is unfortunate that Nigeria as it is presently structured, is not designed for greatness, growth and unity. Tragically, Nigeria is made up of concentric circles of conspiratorial ethnic nationalities struggling to out-do and undo each other. I dire say that time appears to be running out on Nigeria, unless the Buhari administration is able to rise to the occasion.

I strongly recommend the implementation of the recommendations of the previous National Conference and the convocation of another one to continue from where that one stopped.

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