Robert Ekutmfon Umoette is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party in Akwa Ibom State and a governorship on the platform of the party in the 2015 elections. In this interview, he speaks on how a united Nigeria can be achieved in the face of the current quagmire.
What is your view on the recent Asaba Declaration by Southern governors?
While I agree with the position of the Southern governors on ban on open grazing, I believe it is a country where anyone can live and work or operate business in any state as long as they are doing so lawfully and remitting taxes and levies to constituted authorities. They must do so without posing any dangers to others. Also as it is all civilised world, it is high time ranching is embraced.
Some have argued that the cost of governance is too high in this country. What is your view?
The cost of governance should be drastically reduced to ensure that the Federal Government and state governments’ budgets are minimum 70 per cent capital-projects based, and 30 per cent recurrent expenditures (preferably 75-25 per cent respectively). This will require merger of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and reduction of staff strength and most importantly removing the abnormal benefits to political office holders such as security votes, constituency projects votes, excess allowances that make those offices attractive therefore creating the environment for those who are truly ready, willing and able to serve to come on board into the various offices. I will also suggest that all federating units in the country must first institutionalise autonomy for states legislature, judiciary and local government. The next step should be scrapping of all state electoral commissions thereby empowering INEC to organise each state’s local government elections. This will be followed lastly by full devolution of powers whereby each state will control their resources and internal security and pay royalty to the centre.
This way, the laziness of our political office holders will be removed as it is either the state government develops itself to be self-sufficient and empower its people in every facet possible or collapse and be merged or absorbed with or by another.
How should the issue of tenure of public office holders be addressed?
I suggest one term of five years for all federal and state political office holders instead of two terms of four years each in order to reduce animosity and acrimony and also allow for focus towards true service delivery from day one in office. There should also be removal of the immunity clause in the constitution shielding the President and governors from criminal offences.
That way we can remove the emperor- like tendency and make them open for legitimate criminal proceedings for actions carried out while in office deemed criminal with credible evidence.
For this to work, the federating units must first come together to discuss and agree to above and in so agreeing, move forward to bring about a new truly people’s constitution which must take the following into account and full consideration: If Nigerian Constitution is to declare it as a secular nation state, then no Christian or Islamic representation must be visible in the new constitution.
The option is there to declare that federating units are free to declare any faith of their choice but the centre has to be non-secular. This option is both tricky and difficult but achievable in my opinion.
The currency Nigerian currency must bear neither Christian nor Islamic representations or insignia or interpretations except the interpretations will be for all tribes within the county which is impossible therefore not acceptable for it to have for one or few tribes. Each region must have the same number of states and the same number of local government councils and in effect the same number of representation either in the Senate or House of Representatives.
At all times, Federal Government appointments must reflect all federating units and failure to do so becomes an immediately impeachable offence resulting in impeachment.
If we as a people cannot get to an agreement to above which will not only guarantee peace and stability, but also guarantee meaning life touching development of the Federal and state governments, then unfortunately the agitations for regional self-determination will not only increase but will surely end up in the collapse of what we know today as Nigeria and bring about the emergence of nations from within it.
The choice is ours and especially that of the political class whom I must say are on the verge of losing the small bit of relevance they have left as they have consistently failed the people and the people are at that stage where they are ready, willing and able to take their future into their own hands for a better tomorrow for their children and generations yet unborn.
I urge our political leaders to stop playing politics and start doing right by the people. It is no longer about party but about collective good. Let us seize this moment of chaos and turn it around to the moment of positive turn around.