Hon Bassey Eko Ewa represents Abi/ Yakurr constituency of Cross River State and in this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the lawmaker stated that the PDP should not punish members of the Sheriff’s faction of the party because party politics is all about family. He also spoke on some other national issues.
Even though the PDP crises has been resolved, some Nigerians are skeptic that the convention could spark up a new one, what do you think?
I am happy that both factions have come together to see the need to move the party forward. A democracy without opposition is no democracy. Opposition gives strength and makes democracy to work and PDP, having been in power for 16years, has more experience in moving this country. The party in government for two years have done nothing to show Nigerians that they are ready to remain in power or they even have a blue print for the governance of Nigeria.
If you are asked to quantify the impact the PDP crises had on the party, what would it be?
The impact is more on Nigerians than the party itself. If we were together as a solid opposition party and knew what governance was all about, knowing what is wrong and being ready to correct it, perhaps we would have shown this government what governance is all about. The inability to perform the way I expect is because there is no opposition that can speak out, a group that will show its indignation on what is happening. I will not advice the executive of the PDP to punish those behind the crises because party politics is about family. We are all one family. What makes you a leader is not when you rush into punishment but negotiating and bringing everybody together as a family. What is before us is bigger than what the minor disagreement was in the party. The APC government is carefree because there is no solid opposition to be on them, or to let them know that governance is more than winning an election.
Where did APC miss it?
They missed it because I see them as a conglomeration of people with various ideas, people that had just one common idea, which was to take over power from the PDP without really sitting down to appreciate what was before them or what they would do when they got the power. They don’t even know what Nigerians are looking for and what governance is all about. I don’t see how possible it is for a ruling party not to be able to put its act together. It took them about ten months to appoint ministers. One would think the ministers will come from the moon or sun but it was the same faces we know. Another thing is that no matter how witty you are, you cannot combine three ministries and give one person. It will take a miracle to work. All these happened because they were after PDP instead of focusing on how to govern the state.
Nigeria has been in recession for some time, what will it take to boost the economy?
You can’t get Nigerians out of recession when you are taxing the poor, making life unbearable for the farmers and traders, when you are making it impossible for those importing things to have access to dollars in a cheaper rate to enable them be competitive. You don’t keep civil servants working and not pay them. You cannot come out of recession when you own contractors for jobs already executed. There must be a deliberate effort by government to pump money into the system to come out of recession. What we see is people hoarding funds and giving to people and that will not benefit the common man. For example, we see some persons having concession to get dollars at the detriment of the business men and they sell it in the black market, make money and return it to the central bank. That is corruption. They said they kicked PDP out because it was corrupt but what is in existence now is worse than what some of us experienced during PDP government. Today, there is high inflation everywhere. The civil servant that earns #18,000 cannot buy a basin of garri because the price has multiplied. I see this government pursuing what they shouldn’t be pursuing.
What is the way out?
The way out is for Nigerians to vote them out. I made an argument when we were talking about age limit to contest an election. We shouldn’t be talking about age limit. Once a person can graduate at 21years from the university, he should be able to represent me in any meeting in the world if we are sure we gave him the best education. For one to graduate from the university, it means you are competent to work anywhere in the world, then what stops him from being a member of the house of Reps or governor of a state? We shouldn’t be talking about age but qualifications. Unfortunately, our constitution provides that for you to be president, you should have first leaving school certificate attempted. That means even if you made attempt but didn’t write it, or you wrote and did not make it, you can be president. What a country! I don’t think we are being realistic or futuristic.
Talking about the amended laws, is there one you disagree with?
Yes, reducing the power from the centre to the state. Nigeria is meant to implement a federal arrangement where the centre must be weakened and power given to the component state. I have read all the books to really fathom out what we are doing in Nigeria, whether it is in agreement with the intent and purpose of the constitution that was put together by a group of military officers to the detriment of Nigerian, that made it in such a way that, even the representation in the national assembly does not represent the interest of most Nigerians. For example, I don’t see why Cross-River State will have only eight members in the House of Reps and a state like Kano will have over 20 members, yet you call it a state like other states. I don’t think this is a federal system. It is supposed to be a situation where, if we are drawing from federal government allocation for local governments, it must be equal. But in our situation now, other states draw more than others, it means there is a problem. If there is equality in the house like there is in the senate, then one could say we are practicing true federalism.
Does it mean you also want the country to be restructured?
I am in total support of it because that is the intent of our constitution. It gives power to the states. What is the reason behind voting so much money to the ministry of works and housing when the states are the ones that should be given the money to construct roads? Why will they give so much money to ministry of housing, agriculture and others when FG owns no land? Section 315 that talks of land use act gives land to governors, not FG. Yet you allocate so much money to Agriculture, to do what with it? The role of federal ministry of Agriculture is to formulate policies that states will implement and it is not mandatory for states to implement it. They are supposed to be regulators. That is how it is done in developed federal states except Nigeria. Look at it, when was the last time a southerner was made minister of agriculture? And they said we are operating a federal unit.
Does this mean you are in support of the agitation for the creation of biafra state?
You are getting me wrong. There is a more organised way of getting what you want for your people that does not go against the constitution of this country. What the agitators of biafra are doing is against what holds a country together. Yes, they are talking about having power, they are not talking about empowering the states. I don’t support anything that has a linkage with violence or goes against norms which are the guiding principles of this country. I support true federalism. Let every Nigerian be seen as a Nigerian. I shouldn’t be discriminated against because I am not from this tribe or religion.
Should Nigeria remain as one?
For us to be strong, we need to remain together. We have to keep talking. The media must play its part in integrating Nigerians.
Were you surprised when some northern youths gave Igbos notice to vacate the north?
That proves that there is no government in Nigeria. The young man who is agitating for biafra was detained, which was good, but I expected them to arrest the northern youths that gave that ultimatum. We are all Nigerians. It is wrong, unacceptable and I don’t think the government took the right approach by not arresting those youths and detaining them. Government’s responsibility is to protect the people and properties as enshrined in the constitution. Therefore, if there is a president, whether acting or not, he is expected to enforce the laws.
Are you in support of calls for Mr. President to resign and tend to his health?
Anybody can fall sick. Everybody will die and it will come when it will come. Our president is not well. My former governor took ill for three months and there were agitations in this country. So what is good for the goose is good for the gander. I respect our president, he is a disciplinarian, and he has shown that he loves this country but what is going on now, if my guess is right, is wrong. If he truly loves this country as he claims, then the most honourable thing would have been to throw in the towel. Nigerians know him as a man of integrity and will understand him. I don’t want to talk about who goes to visit him or not, if I had my way, I would go and visit him. Our problem as Nigerians is holding firm to power.
With the renewed insurgency, kidnapping, biafra agitation and Fulani herdsmen and farmers’ clashes, do you see Nigeria as a failed nation?
Nigeria is not a failed nation. We still have law and order. Our problem is that those in control are not using the power well. They make some above the laws while others are within the ambit of the laws. There is no country that I have seen without agitation from either the left wing or right wing.
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