Injustice, impunity, disregard for rule of law are reasons Nigeria wobbles at 59, says Stella Omu
A retired Deputy Comptroller-General of Prisons and school proprietress, Senator (Chief) Stella Omu, has attributed the stunted growth of Nigeria to injustice, impunity and total disregard to the rule of law by successive leaders as a reason the country has continued to wobble at 59. Senator Omu also bared her mind on the reasons for insecurity, why the country must restructure now and the place of women and youths in nation-building to Sony Neme in Asaba.
59 years of Nigeria’s Independence, how far so far?
Thanks for the opportunity to comment
on the situation in our country since independence till date. At the beginning of independence, we had the Northern Region, Western Region and Eastern Region before Midwest came in 1963, being the only region that emerged from a plebiscite. But through the creations by the military, the country was put out of proportion, with a sad result that the North Region, which was originally one of four, now has 21 states; Western Region is left with just six states, and the former Eastern Region has only five (four others now in South-South, which makes it nine state), while Midwest region has just two states!
Now, you look at all these anomalies, coupled with the constitutional requirements that entitle each state to three senators. With the north at a far advantage on number of 21 states, they now have 63 Senators and that of Abuja, making it 64 senators. Western Region with its six states has 18 senators and Eastern Region and its nine states, when you add the four states created out of the original Eastern Region and merged to the South-South, it has 26, while Midwest Region is left with only six senators.
If you take them apart, the Southwest with six states, Southeast and its five states and South-South merged with Midwest with six states, bring the total of each of the three new geopolitical spread in southern region comes up to 18, 15 and 18 senators respectively, bringing the total to 51; yet a far cry from what only the north has.
As it stands now in that order, whatever decision we are going to take in this country, be it restructuring, resource control or anything else that requires going to the National Assembly for votes, and if it has to do with the north and south’s interests, of course, the north will always beat us to it. With the north’s 64 senators to the south’s 51 senators, it is clear as day, because in democracy, majority will always carry the day. Same goes with the House of Representatives where their numbers dwarf those members from the south.
With such a situation, the only saving grace will come from executive orders. Somebody with the will to cause a real change in the country can evoke such an order to reorder certain anomalies in our body politics. When we are talking about political will, it should not just be about pronouncements. There must be process and procedures that precede such an action. That is what is expected from our president to effect a real change in our dear country.
In 21 years of democracy, has democracy worked? If not why not, and what is the way forward?
We are wobbling. We are going forth, backwards and in circus. From every direction, we are even better at the inception of this democratic dispensation than where we are now. The glaring question is, are governments at all levels being fair in all actions they are taking on behalf of Nigerians? Are there equity in all actions being taken? Is there respect for the rule of law guiding all actions they are taking? Do we fear God in all actions that are being taken?
It is God that gives power; so, when God gives us power we should not play God with it. Once we follow that path and respect for the rule of law, we can never miss it. But a situation where you take certain actions only when it suits you and you interpret it at other times to help your case, and when it does not suit you, you interpret it differently! That is not the way to govern a people.
The way forward from all these is to restructure this country. That will encourage every state to sit up and work hard, not sleeping and at the end of the day you stroll to Abuja to take a share of an allocation for either your state or local government area. God has so blessed this country with abundance of resources. I do not think there is any country that is so blessed like Nigeria, but we are tempting God.
In all the states of this country, there is none that God did not endow with enough resources. What is required of us is to think hard, work hard and to do things according to the rules. And do not oppress others with your position or might. Then you will see that every state will work very hard and they will compete to be better.
The irony of this whole issue is that, though the constitution says we are Federal Republic of Nigeria, but unitary command has not helped the country to move for-
ward. When you say this in some quarters, some people will interpret it differently, and accuse you of being selfish because you have oil resources. But that is not the point; just manage your respective resources well, and pay taxes to the Federal Government.
Then other states that are not viable enough could get bail-outs from the federal till. The truth remains that with this central command system whenever there is a problem in any corner of the country, it weighs every other state down.
However, the oil in focus is fast dwindling, and if the country is moving in the right direction, the oil and gas issues will mean nothing any more, especially with ICT accounting for a large chunk of earning for the country. We should make more use of our brains than placing all our hopes on oil and gas.
What are your thoughts on governance and democracy ideals in the country?
Well, we know that God created men first. And men have taken that advantage often to put the women aside. But do not forget that first edition of every book is good, but the second editions are always better. So women being second edition, we are not saying we are better or we are taking over, but God has given us the power for multi-task. And that motivates innovations. When you remove women from the boardroom that innovative skill will no longer be there.
I will not dwell on the neglect of women in isolation, because we carry our children along. In the Book of Joel, Chapter 2 vs 28 says it loud and clear that ‘The old shall dream dreams, while the young shall see visions’. Sadly, our government throws away those that see visions, but keep those that dream dreams only. Howwillacountry meet its projections when you throw away those who should be bringing the innovations?
To move this country forward, we should bring in those with dreams on the table, bring in those with visions on the table and bring in those with innovation on the table as well. The combination of all these, coupled with equity, fairness and rule of law will carry this country forward. None inclusion of meaningful women and youths have left Nigeria at the lowest ebb among the committee of nations.
With dreamers, innovators and visionaries brought into place, Mr President will be doing the country a world of good by following up with an executive order, directing that all government agencies and civil societies to ensure that meaningful number of women and youth should be taken on board. This is very important as any decision taken without women and youths’ input remains null and void and it should be punishable. We should not be deceiving ourselves that it should be taken to the National Assembly, as it will be dead on arrival. When will NASS sit to change that? It is now we want the change for meaningful women and youths to be on board, and the only saving grace is an executive order by Mr President.
With what you have experienced since 1999 till date, would you give a pass mark to the presidential system of government? Or would you join those clamouring for the parliamentary route?
The way things are going, I will prefer the parliamentary system of government. When we chose the presidential system of government we were not looking at its implications. Presidential system of government has a bi-camera, which is very expensive. It also slows down action, as you have to wait for the lower house to finish with their inputs and then the Senate’s decisions before consent, when the president so decides.
All this while, time is not waiting for the country. The Senate will have their own staff just as the House of Representatives will have theirs, all consuming needed funds for other developmental needs. Funny enough, the states are not running bi-cam- era, yet they are carrying out their functions effectively as well as government under the same presidential system of government. To me, I know that bi-camera system employ more hands, but to get the desired results and to save costs, the parliamentary system is the way to go.
How has women faired in politics since 1999?
The whole country is not being fair to women, because money is involved and, over the years, those who have the resources have been able to capture power. And these are the people who wield power when it comes to elections. They use that to oppress the women. Even when women say please zone positions, not dash, because I do not like that word; you have to work for it. When we talk of inclusive positions, we have to work for it, as nobody will leave his position for you to take.
Truth is that by our actions and inactions, we have given the men all the powers to make all the money. So they have the power; we do not have the strength to match them either. When it comes to elections it is still our children they will use for all that goes on during polls. That is why to kick-start it, we said please zone a portion of the seats for women to vie among themselves. Sadly, you find a system whereby the same men would want to decide which of the women they want in such place!
Women should be able to know who, among them, is the best. So, we should be able to compete and get the best among us to represent us. This is the way to go. Not for men who have their fair share, coming again to dictate who should be among women. That is a reason we are having all the problems bedeviling the country today. I have told you that because of our multi-task powers, there are lots of things we could do. But every step you take the men are there to stop you! There are some places where women’s names are supposed to be, but men will write their names instead. That is most unfair to women.
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