Saturday, August 13, 2011

Six-year tenure is a Frankenstein monster -Obahiagbon

Honourable Patrick Obahiagbon represented Oredo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, from 2007 to 2011.  The lawmaker, popularly known as Igodomigodo, was one of the most vocal members in the lower chamber. In this interview with Uchechukwu Olisah, he speaks on the proposal for single tenure of office for the president and state governors; the emergence of Aminu Tambuwal as Speaker, House of Representatives and the Boko Haram saga, among other issues.
What is your take on the recent single tenure of office proposal for the president and governors by President Goodluck Jonathan?
Let me asseverate that President Jonathan is seised of all the privileges to bounce his political thoughts within the field of play and we have a bounden duty to interrogate his presidential vision without recourse to vituperative and ad hominem exegesis.
Having made the above point, let me posit prestissimo that the single tenure proposal for executive suzerains and major domos as an Aladdin lamp out of our vaudeville of political phantasmagoria, economic quagmire and social miasma amongst others, presumptuously takes for granted that it is not the same prebendal, narcissistic and namby-pamby Nigerian political class that would operationalise same.
Yes, it has been argued that it has the potency for blunting the edges of acidic acrimony and political gbogbonshe. Yes, the point has been made that it can engender a focused executive biceps; yes, we are being told that it would entrench the principles of rotation and what have you. But I submit with all sense of responsibility that this new fangled single tenure prescription is, at best, a Frankenstein monster and an execrable political hobgoblin that must be put back in the bottle.
It would, of certainty, encourage lawlessness and rascality and foist upon the citizenry for a period of eon an executive carpetbagger and rapscallion, whilst depriving us the opportunity of inebriating ourselves with the utilitarian achievements of a philosopher king.
What I think is fundamental just now is the further deepening of our electoral ceramics in such a democratic modus that, in Plato’s Peoples Republic, there should truly be a place for the people.
As a former member of the House of Representatives, what would you say of the events that led to the emergence of Aminu Tambuwal as Speaker in the face of directive from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party with majority in the House, that the position be zoned to the South-West?I want to believe that various political hierarchs and supremos must have learnt one or two useful lessons from the events that led to the emergence of Aminu Tambuwal as Speaker. Having spent 12 years of my political peregrination in Parliament, I am in cahoots with the robust and salubrious democratic dialectics that threw up Tambuwal as Speaker. We are talking of the Federal House of Representatives here. It was enervating that the PDP political high priests decided on a macabre dance and perilously skated on thin ice and had to opprobriously skedaddle out of the sacrosanct Green Chambers when the Tambuwal votes started singing for victory. It was, indeed, a crushing and deserving defeat for party dictatorship. The issue now is how Mr Speaker deploys the authority of the gavel to the benefit of Nigerians and we are on the qui vive.
Do you believe in party supremacy? Some people believe that the emergence of Tambuwal as Speaker of the lower chamber made nonsense of the supposed cherished principle of party supremacy. Do you believe in party supremacy?Yes, I believe in party supremacy, but within the matrix and praxis of real politic, contextual dynamics and contemporaneous fulcrum, and we must look at the Tambuwal political sirocco from the aforementioned prism to appreciate the extenuating ambience, that itself helps to attenuate from the very harsh view of giving a rendition, suggestive of subjecting party supremacy to pugilistic pulverisation. The concept of party supremacy is no excuse for party dictatorship; a democratic political party is not a czarist politburo. Chikena.
President Goodluck Jonathan said he would not reduce the programmes of his administration to any specific-point agenda. Do you share in this sentiment or do you have areas of priority for Mr President and his cabinet?I conjecture that the desire of Mr President not to reduce the programmes of his administration is borne out of the imperative need of extricating governance from the balcony of vacuous and insipid sloganeering. That is not to say that we do not deserve to know the clear trajectory of our government.
I want to believe that this government would, of course, see as priority the need to urgently focus on issues such as security, our road infrastructure, the provision of an efficacious health care delivery system, our parlous educational cadence, agriculture, youth unemployment and weaning the Nigerian economy from the chess board of international monopoly finance capital inter alia.
Now that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) is fully constituted and inaugurated, do you think President Jonathan’s cabinet has the reach and depth to tackle, within the shortest possible time, the myriads of problems confronting a seeming impatient people in the face of apparent deprivations in the midst of plenty?I am of the sanguine predilection that Mr President has brought together men and women in the Federal Executive Council that can assist him navigate the ship of the state from eschewable icebergs, cataracts and oxbow lakes, even though I have fundamental reservations about one or two characters. The important point, however, is for Mr President to take into immutable cognition the fact that the buck stops on his table. He must be able to rein in all his ministers and damn their ministerial megalomania, especially when such excrescences are becoming odoriferous and deleterious to the body polity. He must take the driver’s seat and lead by example. There must be a conscious and advertent policy in place to ensure that his ministers are on the same page with the people.
The Federal Government seems to be carrying much of Nigeria’s nation-building burden with the state governments, providing occasional cushion, while the local governments appear to be in existence only in name. Do you share in the view of some persons who think the local governments should be scrapped because they are presently irrelevant and has not justified their constitutional status?It is a fact too indubitable to be contested that in spite of our federal posturing, a cursory reading of the 1999 Constitution reveals that we are, in truth and indeed, a unitary state with so much powers inhering at the centre and little wonder federal politics have become increasingly atomistic and oozing with all the trappings of brinkmanship and gambadoism. Rather than the National Assembly talking about states creation, when we should in fact be merging some of our states together, it should use the opportunity at re-jigging the constitution to address our lop-sided federal constitution in favour of fiscal federalism.
I have posited elsewhere that our local government administrations are moribund and otiose in concrete terms to the extent of their irrelevance to the sociological yearnings of Nigerians. It has just become one huge drain pipe. If it must continue to exist, then we must all pay more than a passive attention to the apple of Hesperides, that is, our local government administration just now.
Would you offer an alternative to the present political power structure in Nigeria?
From my practical experience thus far, I do soberly think we can do better without the local government as a third tier of government except we are willing to extricate it from state government’s control and really remove the impediments that has made it one huge drain pipe thus far. We really also do not need more than a unicameral legislature at the national level. This is my experiential assessment.
Some persons have said some state governments were in connivance or conspiracy, as the case may be, with some state Houses of Assembly which render local governments impotent by fleecing their financial resources under different guise. What do you think about this trend? Can it not be checked?That allegation has been there and the reasons why this can occur is that, in real terms, the local governments are apron strings of the state governments and they need to be empowered by the constitution to be able to resist gubernatorial poaching into their domains. Equally important for this trend to stop is the fact that the various state Houses of Assembly must stop being political halleluiah boys to their governors and that is why I was deposited in a portmanteau of parliamentary somnambulism when majority of the state Houses of Assembly rejected the clause to give them pecuniary autarky in the last effort at constitutional amendment and expressing a preference for legislative servitude. That action of theirs was a mortal blow for legislative vibrancy at the state level.
What do you say about the continued extension of the tenure of local government transition committees in Edo State? Is this extension within the law and is it in the interest of political parties within the state and in the interest the people and democracy that the extension, which appears unending, should continue?I sincerely don’t know what the constraints of the Edo State government is in conducting local government election and I do hope they are able soon to brace up to such constitutional onus probandi because the diaphanous provisions of the 1999 Constitution makes it audible to the deaf and visible to the blind that the tenure of local governments are democratically guaranteed. It goes without saying, therefore, that any contraption that is not in conformity with the relevant constitutional provision violates same and asphyxiates democracy with its concomitant advantages.
I am optimistic that we would get it aright very soon in Edo State, as it has to do with the democratisation of local government administration and I wish the state government well in that regard.
What is your assessment of the administration of Governor Adams Oshiomhole? What do you think of Oshiomhole’s style of leadership? Do you think he is leading the people and the state in the right direction?The governor is certainly doing his best to transmute and transmogrify the infrastructural topography of the state and the passion he brings to bear in the service of the state is, indeed, deserving of eulogies and even panegyrics. You cannot take from him a sincere and burning desire to make an eldorado out of Edo State and I call to the fore his achievements particularly in the area of road infrastructure.
I am also not unmindful of the fact however that some eminent Edo State citizens have also raised some questions in the public domain as to the cost implications to the people of the state of these projects and other incidental matters and it would serve him well to read every minutiae of these objurgations and expostulations. I have very strong views on his leadership style, but that would be a subject matter for another day and i hope you show understanding. I really wish him best of luck in his efforts at navigating the ship of state to safer shores.
Some commentators have expressed the opinion that the Edo State House of Assembly, for its lack of quality representation and the opposition parties, have failed the people of the state. As a former member of the state House of Assembly and House Leader, what is your opinion on this?I like to look at the reasons why the various state assemblies have decided to apotheosize legislative recumbence over and above legislative recusance, rather than singling out the Edo State House of Assembly for animadversion. Members of the various state Houses of Assembly would continue to be legislative invertebrates, save and until they have financial independence and that is exactly the reason why a preponderant number of governors have fought such attempts with their last breath. The ball is in their court.
Do you perceive any hidden agenda in the escalation of the Boko Haram’s violent assault against the Nigerian state? Besides, do you think the Boko Haram attacks could have been different, if a northerner were to be the current president of Nigeria?It appears to me that the Boko Haram tendency, which seemingly had its fons et origo in Islamic fermentism and religious resurgimento, permit me the alliteration, has since transmogrified into political content and form and this conclusion, is not a sphyxian conundrum difficult to fathom, given the interplay of our national centripetal and centrifugal proclivities and pigmentations. Do not forget that we once had in this country both religious and political shari’a, when the core northern establishment came to the conclusion that it was time to clip the obtrusive and phillistinic wings of Olusegun Obansajo who was becoming something of a Gorgon Medusa to caliphate interests and values.
So, beyond the stated attempts to bring about the Islamisation and shari’anisation of Nigeria, it thus appears that some vested northern political interests have moved in to rattle and rein in the Jonathan administration for both purposes of political vendetta and even to negotiate and position Arewa for 2015. Yes...I say yes...This is the rough and tumble and the humpty dumpty that is Nigeria’s politics. If Niger Delta militants made it happen for the South-South, why will Boko Haram not make it happen for Arewa? These are messages I am getting from the celestial key-board.
How can the Boko Haram challenge be tackled?
Given its religio-political content, the government must be very sensitive, pro-active and sophisticated in the handling of the phenomenon. Rolling out the tanks and armada of attack would drive them further underground and deepen their resolve for international Islamic patronage. Key northern political players must be reassured that this government can guarantee their present and future political permutations. The bogey of a clear and present danger hovering over Arewa must be molly coddled.
Do you think your party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), is providing the right opposition? What is your reaction to people who say the opposition in Nigeria is attacking Mr President’s personality and using inelegant language against him, instead of proffering superior ideas?You know as well as I do that but for the ACN, a one party state would have been foisted on us by now. The ACN cannot but continue to be a democratic battle axe for credible and constructive opposition. The national chairman of the Labour Party is also doing his level best at pointing to alternative pathways from time to time.
But on the whole, I think opposition political parties can still do more by having a position paper on all matters and ministries as if it was in government. That is certainly what the Ikenne philosopher, Papa Obafemi Awolowo, would have done. We must continue to address issues and not resorting to vile and scabrous idiolect, nor must we deploy ad hominen stratagems so as not to become political troubadours tilting at the windmills.
What do you think of the Minimum Wage Act, the way federal and state governments are handling the provisions of the Act and the organised labour’s response?Is the so-called agreed minimum wage really a take home wage? If you ask me, I would even say that it is ‘wageless’. Its specific and caboodle implementation therefore, without much ado, is the expected and demanded irreducible minimum and to further tie its implementation to whatever gerrymandering is not only insensate, but it amounts to a monocle governmental monomania.

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