Dr Fidelis Allen is an
associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Port Harcourt and the Secretary of the Local Organising Committee of the 30th Annual International Conference of the Nigerian Political Science Association kicking off in Port Harcourt today. He spoke on the essence of the conference and other burning political issues in Nigeria in this interview with Opaka Dokubo.
What is the take home for Nigerians for the conference?
Political Scientists will be gathering to discuss the problem of elections, the security challenges that Nigeria has faced. Nigerians should expect to hear from political scientists in this country regarding the political processes, regarding elections, regarding the security challenges in different dimensions, regarding the state of democracy in Africa. There must be a way out of this situation and that is what political scientists, as we gather, will be interested to do.
Is politics just an academic discipline or a vocation?
Well, we call some people politicians because they’re actively involved in seeking power in order for them to be able to convert their intentions to reality in terms of what they have to offer. But really, politics is everybody’s business.
In our clime, people see politics as a vocation. You see a youngman and you ask him what are you doing and he says “I’m a politicians.” It’s something that you don’t welcome. You don’t admire. You give the impression that it’s a vocation, it’s a profession but I know that in some other climes, people can be in politics on part time basis just to be able to offer something to society, just to be able to contribute. But now you see people who want to be in political office, maybe as law makers for four years and they want to have person. For me its so ridiculous.
But for those who call themselves as politicians, what do you do as a politicians? Do you govern the people in the interest of the people or you do that in your own interest? We see politics as a means of survival and it is this impression that we have that has created problems of governance, corruption and the rest of them. People just see politics as a means of lining up their pockets and helping their families. I don’t think that that is the right approach to politics.
Politics is about representing the people and doing for the people what they desire, solving the problems in society and any of us should be able to do that. But I think that there’s a problem some where when it comes to our own clime where people see themselves as professional politicians.
This morning, the Prime Minister of Britain has resigned because Britons have voted to leave the EU. That is credibility. It’s not about self. It’s not about you. It’s about what the people want. So, even if you disagree with them, you still have a responsibility to respect the opinion of the people and the desire of the people. That is what politics should be. It’s not about self. It’s not about lining up your pocket with public funds. So I think we need to properly conceptualise politics. We haven’t done that well with those who are in positions of power.
What quality of individuals should be in politics in your opinion?
I have said that everybody should be interested in politics but if you talk about the individuals who seek power or political position, anyone with appreciable academic qualification with moral status, with integrity with desire to help solve society’s problems can be in politics. This should not be limited to those who have no employment. I mean you can be and I as an academic should have the opportunity to serve this country without losing my job. But there are laws that hinder those in public service like us. In some climes, even lawmaking is part time so you don’t have to see yourself as a professional politician who has gone to the National or State House of Assembly to make money through making laws.
So, we need to adopt a system that will offer the best and not restricting them to contribute to the political development of this country. The essence of governance is to address problems in society. Those in government have a responsibility to solve problems, not to create more problems. We need to see a situation where government is solving problems but I see a situation where the politicians themselves are creating so much problems.
Do you think that restructuring this country will solve our problems?
Well, Nigeria is in principle actually a federal state. But most federal systems approaches are completely different from our own approach. We, for example, have a centralised federal system. Though federal, we have vestiges of a unitary system. For example we have a centralised security system which means that even though we’re a federal state, the component units don’t have the constitutional power to provide security agencies that are available.
So, a governor is the chief security officer of the state, in our own federal system, he has to depend on the federal authority to be able to utilize services provided by the security agencies. That for me is some kind of contradiction.
Well, many are actually saying that this is not good enough for this country because Nigeria is highly heterogeneous and it’s difficult to operate a federal system that has this posture or orientation.
In the area of revenue generation, that is also a problem for many who are saying that the centre should not come to control certain revenues coming from the extractive sector. They are saying it is wrong for the centre to collect-revenues coming from the extractive sector only to distribute.
So, if you give responsibilities to the states and say well we will collect the money and share, for some scholars that is a contradiction. There must be some kind of fiscal federal component when it comes to revenues in certain areas like the extractive sector.
We are seeing a lot of agitations, a lot of arguments against the kind of federal system that we operate. So, I think that there might be need to look at these issues very critically and see what is workable but I believe in a united country- Nigeria. But we need to do that in a way that is very responsive to the different ethnological units that we have in this country so that no group really feels excluded from the political process, no group feels excluded from access to basic amenities and opportunities in this country and every one can have a sense of fairness and a sense of justice. That is crucial.
What do you think of the relationship between the legislature and the executive at the national level and how that may affect the general well being of the country?
Politics is about interest, we all know that but our own politics has been fundamentally about interest. There’s nothing wrong about the legislature disagreeing with the executive and there’s nothing wrong with the executive disagreeing with the legislature. In a normal democracy, there should be checks and balances. In a normal democracy, these conflicts should be there, especially if they are on the grounds of public interest. There’s nothing wrong with that. Where you find the legislature and the executive working so smoothly without any disagreement, I think there’s a problem. So, that the legislature and the executive have issues, for me, that shouldn’t be a problem. I think that we should allow the political process to play out and people can be in conflict. We should just watch and allow things to happen. If people have done the right thing, what they have done will speak for them.
PDP Caucus Demands Prosecution Of NCC Officials
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Caucus in the House of Representatives has called on the appropriate authorities to arrest and prosecute officials of the National Communications Commission (NCC) for claiming that electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is not possible in the country.
The Tide reports that NCC officials led by Executive Director, Ubale Maska, who represented the Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umaru Garba Danbatta, while testifying before the House, on the adoption of electronic transmission of results from the units, claimed that the 2018 Technical Report of the NCC showed that only about “50 percent of the polling units had 3G while 49 percent had 2G network and below.”
But the PDP Caucus Leader, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, said the NCC officials lied to Nigerians while on oath and as such, must be prosecuted for allegedly misleading Nigerians.
Chinda said the NCC officials “cleverly sought to rely on 2018 data in 2021, when they knew or ought to know that internet penetration has advanced substantially in Nigeria since 2018.
“Indeed a perusal of NCC Website even today shows that the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 (P .33) says that by September 2019, the ‘Spread of 3G/LTE’ had reached 74.2 percent in Nigeria,” the PDP caucus added.
“We call on the prosecuting authorities to immediately arrest the officials of the NCC, under Prof. Danbatta and all those who procured Ubale Maska and other officials to lie under oath to be investigated and where found culpable, be brought to justice by standing criminal trial, he said,”.
Onochie Makes Case For True Federalism
An elder statesman, Dr Nnamdi Onochie, has again told the Federal Government to come up with a blueprint on true federalism, to address worrisome fault lines keeping Nigeria divided.
Speaking with newsmen in Abuja on Wednesday, Onochie lamented that Nigeria would continue to wallow in problems until political leaders mustered courage to address endemic problems holding the country down.
Former colonial masters, Britain amalgamated Nigeria in 1914, to give birth to Africa’s largest nation but 107 years down the line, the country has been engulfed in various problems, making the country not to realise its potential to the fullest.
According to Onochie, the way out is for the government to implement true federalism as an article of faith to ensure equity, fair play, justice and equality of all ethnic nationalities in the country.
“Unless the path of equality of all states, as they stand today, is guaranteed without contestation, Nigeria will continue to contend with divisive tendencies and the centre will never hold to build a united indivisible nation.
He reiterated that recurring problems in the country had highlighted the inevitability of genuine federalism to be implemented by government, to make Nigeria truly great to achieve the set goals of its founding fathers.
“I have earlier suggested that government should convene a Peace and Reconciliation Conference of all shades and creeds of Nigeria by October 2021, to map out the path of stable devolution of all functions in the Exclusive List of the 1999 Constitution.
“The sooner these recommendations are implemented the better for the corporate entity of Nigeria, because no one is excited with current developments threatening the existence of Nigeria from day to day.’’
Onochie, who was a former Nigerian envoy to Algeria and the Philippines, argued that true federalism would address some endemic problems tearing Nigeria apart, including banditry and restiveness in some parts of the country.
He criticised what he described as parochial tendencies displayed in the National Assembly on the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill and the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, saying that displaying partisanship in critical issues would never promote unity and national integration.
The political stalwart reiterated that he stood for one Nigeria and that he would continue to campaign for Nigeria not to disintegrate as he gets set to offer himself to serve in the highest political office in the upcoming general elections.
On the directive by the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) to media houses not to report kidnappings, killings, maiming and other nefarious activities of terrorists, bandits and insurgents freely and openly, Onochie described the directive as draconian and totally at variance with global democratic tenets.
“Nothing should be done to tamper with the freedom of speech as spelt in the constitution to deny Nigerians their freedom of free speech, expression, association and other rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as Amended).’’
He described press freedom as the bedrock of democracy, saying that Nigeria should copy values that promote development and sustain nation building “to make the nation respected in the comity of nations.’’
“Nigerians and the international community must be made to be fully aware of the gains of a free press, rather than allowing the NBC to gag the civil space and disallow media houses from performing their duties as the fourth estate of the realm.”
Onochie, a polyglot, who was a former Commissioner for Special Duties in Delta has been campaigning for Nigerian unity and for separatists in parts of the country to drop their agitations and say farewell to disintegration.
INEC Registers 752,011 Voters In Three Weeks
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that 752,011 eligible Nigerians have completed the online pre-registration as fresh voters in the last three weeks since the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) commenced online on June 28, 2021.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Festus Okoye, said in Abuja, that in the last 21 days as at 7am on Monday, 19 July 2021, INEC recorded an average of 35,810 registrants per day.
According to him, out of this figure, 562,254 (74.7per cent) are youths between the ages of 18 and 34; and that in terms of gender, 493,128 were male while 369,188 were female.
He said that detailed distribution of registrants by states/FCT, age, occupation and disability has been uploaded on the commission’s website and social media platforms.
“The commission wishes to reiterate its earlier decision that because of the declaration of Tuesday, 20 and Wednesday, 21 July 2021 as public holidays by the federal government, the commencement of physical registration is now rescheduled to Monday, 26 July 2021.
“Online pre-registrants who booked for appointment to complete their registration physically between Monday 19 and Friday, 23 July 2021, will be notified within the next few days of the new dates for their appointments. They may also visit the portal (https://cvr.inecnigeria.org) to choose a new available date and time, if they so desire,” Okoye said.
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