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Nigeria At 60: Why Regional Govt Is Advisable For Nigeria-Elekeokwuri
Published Oct 03, 2020 IN Column, FROM THE ASSEMBLY, Interview,
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Two days ago, precisely, Thursday, October 1, this year, Nigerians celebrated the 60th independence anniversary of this great country. In this week’s edition of “From The Assembly”, our correspondent spoke with the member representing Ika North East in the Delta State House of Assembly and Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts of the State legislature, Hon. Anthony Elekeokwuri where he assessed the country’s performance 60 years after independence.




Nigeria is 60 years today (Thursday) and as a Legislator, how would you asses Nigeria so far at 60 in terms of socio-economic development?


Well, before I talk of development, let me first congratulate Nigerians for where we are today as a country. We are celebrating 60 years today, but I do know that we still have a long way to go in terms of development. For the fact that we have enjoyed relative peace, despite the fact that we still have some issues in terms of herdsmen attacks, banditry, agitations among other challenges. But in all, I am grateful to God that, at 60, we are still one country. There is no doubt the fact that we have passed through a lot in the past years; we have passed through two wars and the remarkable one was the Biafra/Nigerian war. Despite these, today, we are still one and that in itself, calls for celebration though. However, there are yet a plethora of issues that we need to look at and which we must find solutions for, urgently. At the level of the Legislature, the Executive and Judiciary, we still have some noticeable gaps. However, I thank God that we are still together. The Unity we are enjoying today is because we have agreed to stay together even in the midst of our differences. The big problem we have is that we have not been able to harness our diversity. That is indeed a big problem. Altogether, attaining 60 years calls for celebration. By now, at 60, we should be relaxing; we should be retiring and enjoying our developments as we would have been able to build institutions that are sustainable. By now, we should have been looking at development as a normal process in life which does not require any other extra ordinary event. But at 60, I can say that we have not been able to achieve that. My joy however is that given the potentials we have in this country, we still have a lot to look up to which I know we can still harness. I am praying to God that we should have leaders who are not just visionary leaders, but leaders who are goal-getters, leaders who will put us together and be able to use us effectively to achieve the needed development.


What specifically are those gaps that exist within the three arms of Government that must be addressed?


First of all, if you look at the Executive and the Judiciary, these are the arms of government under a democratic rule that come into power through the ballot. In our electoral space as it were, there is certainly nothing to write home about. At 6o, I can tell you that in these arms of government, we have not done very well as expected. It has been a case of moving three steps forward and three steps backward. So, we are still where we are in terms of development. Our electoral Act is not even happing matters.


Why is it that at 60, we cannot still transmit results effectively in terms of time? Why is it that the judiciary has not been able to meet up in terms of judicial proceedings?


 In all, I think that the electorate on their part should begin to know that it is their responsibility to vote and that after voting, they should guild their votes and ensure that their votes count. At the level of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) hope is now rising following the feat they recorded recently at the Edo State Governorship election. It is my prayers that we should continue to do more in terms of deepening this democracy. We should do more in terms of electing people who are capable of doing their work. We should be able to look at our revenue base and continue to harness our resources. As a country, we have all it takes to develop our nation; Nigeria is abundantly blessed with human and natural resources. Our agricultural potentials are second to none. There are fertile lands everywhere in this country. We have all it takes, but the problem is that we have not been able to put them together in developing ourselves so that people will begin to enjoy the dividends of democracy in terms of productivity. Now, the question is, why will Nigeria be looking for food while we have the required land mass. Why is it that we can’t look into our land use Act so that people can benefit? Why are we so afraid to tamper with the Exclusive list? Why are we too afraid to practice true Federalism? Today, it is obvious that the Exclusive list is too bulky such that it has become ineffective. For instance, it is unreasonable for you to expect somebody from the North to come to my Village to be sinking borehole. That is exactly where we are and it is not a good one. As legislators, this is the time for us to rise up and cry out for the need to tamper with the Exclusive list.


Are you therefore, in support for the clamour in some quarters for the Restructuring of the Nation?


Of course, yes. From what I have said so far, you can decipher that I believe strongly on the call for restructuring. This should start from tampering with the Exclusive list. This is important so that the three types of Government, Local, State and the Federal can begin to play their roles effectively. Whether we like it or not, Regional Government is the right way to go in this country so that we will begin to look at our various resources. That way, we will begin to harness our mineral resources and, thereafter, pay our taxes to the Federal Government in order to help them sustain what they do at the Federal Level. Whether we like it or not, development begins from the locality. All we need to do is coordinate ourselves in a sustainable manner. That is what we have been doing and I am not happy with that. So, calling for restructuring does not mean that we should be carrying placards or guns. No. Restructuring simply means those things that will help us work together. How we can benefit from the diversities that exist in this country. In Nigeria today, we have over 200 ethnic groups and languages. And each ethnic group has its own peculiarity and the earlier we begin to look at the advantages inherent in all these things, the better for us. Stomach does not have a different language. Everybody must eat, cloth themselves, go to school and the rest. So, our health care system should be improved upon. The reason we are having problem is that almost all of these things are domiciled at the Federal level.


Today, (Thursday, October 1) we are celebrating Nigeria at 60, and within those 60 years, we have also, had over 20years of unbroken democratic Governance. What does that mean to you as a legislator?


It means a lot to me, first as a Nigerian and secondly, as a lawmaker. To me, I think that within these years, the Legislature has been doing very well whether at the level of the National Assembly or at the level of the State, they are doing very well. We have this consciousness that, as lawmakers, we have the power to veto either the President or the Governor. But that shouldn’t be. The desire of every lawmaker is to ensure that laws that are made whether at the National or State Assembly level is assented to by the President or the Governor, respectively. When that is not done, it means that the laws are not binding. So, we should be encouraged. There is the need for us to begin to work together, have the needed synergy that encourages the lawmakers to make laws that would be assented to, especially those laws that benefit the people. To me, we are doing well, but we seriously need the support of the Executive.


How would you rate the level of adherence to the Rule of Law in the country?


Everything in life is about justice. For instance, if you are injured in any way, where do you go? Where does your hope lie? It is in the court. Access to justice remains paramount. Now, the poor, can they dare go to court? If they even have the intention, can they afford it? Even when they can afford, do they have the hope of getting justice? At that level, the level of intimidation is indeed very high. The rule of law, to me, starts with the locals. Whether we like it or not, as a common man, if I am injured in one way or the other, can I get justice. Then, what is the cost? That is exactly what we should improve upon. In terms of the administration of criminal justice, we have done a lot even here in Delta State. My problem is that implementation has remained the number one challenge. We should begin to implement the administration of criminal justice to the latter.


At 60, what should Nigerians expect?


What we expect our leaders to do is to bring to us good governance. Provide the needed leadership. This is important because the followers are looking at the leaders. The led are looking at the leaders. The difference between leaders and the led is a matter of opportunity. There is certainly no other thing. So, for me as a legislator, I should have this consciousness that one day, I will certainly retire back to the people. When you provide good leadership, people will definitely follow. That way, development becomes automatic. That leadership drive is exactly what we need in this country. So, my advice to Nigerians, especially to the electorate is that come the next election, they should be prepared to vote for leaders who are capable of bringing development to the corridors of our land


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