Balanced, fiscal federalism, solution to Nigeria’s problems not separation — Ochicha

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Odey Ochicha, 2015 Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Cross River State, in this interview with INYALI PETER in Calabar, talks on how Nigeria can overcome the enormous challenges currently confronting the country, handling the agitations by MASSOB and IPOB, the achievements of President Buhari and Governor Ayade in one year, among other national issues.

WHAT do you think about democracy in Nigeria? Do you think it is growing or dying?
Democracy as defined by the former President of US, Abraham Lincoln, is government of the people by the people and for the people. It is a government in which the people determine leadership. It affords the people the opportunity to periodically choose who represents them. It offers the people choices and for power to change hands. And it is when power change hands that we witness rapid progress and accelerated development of the country. For me, democracy is growing in Nigeria. Nothing worthwhile is achieved in one day. It takes some time for democracy to be established. And I believe that democracy would soon take firm roots in Nigeria. We need to congratulate ourselves for the 17 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria. We are making progress though gradual and by God’s grace, we shall make it in our democratic journey someday.
In order to deepen our democracy and make it people centric, legislative duties in Nigeria should be on part time basis and legislators’ paid sitting allowance, the office of the Senate president should be scrapped. There is no such office in America; the office of IG should also go. In fact, unnecessary duplications that has characterized our polity should be eliminated to save cost and the money used for developmental purposes; there should be full autonomy for LGS and their full allocations given directly being the closest government to the people.

What is your assessment of President Buhari and Ayade’s one year in office?
President Buhari’s one year in office has witnessed a lot of tremendous achievements. On the issue of insurgency in the North East, our armed forces have successfully decimated them. There is relative peace in that zone now. A situation where the insurgents controlled 14 LGAS out of 774 no longer subsists. The 14 LGAS under the control of the insurgents have been recaptured and the Sambisa forest degraded. On corruption, the war has been intensified with the recovery of lots of looted funds. Some culprits have willingly returned their looted funds and so many of them are likely to face prosecution. A lot has been achieved in this regard. I score Buhari’s government high on this issue. On the economy, a lot has been achieved. The Treasury Single Account TSA has led to the mopping up of trillions of money which will be used to revamp the economy. A lot of planning has been carried out with a view to fixing the fledgling economy.
Governor Ayade’s one year in office, though, I commend him for conceiving the ideas of garment factory, super highway, deep seaport etc he need to sit up to bring them to fruition. He has not been able to sustain the cleanliness of the state capital and guarantee peace in the state. He should stop disturbing the people of the state with his siren. He should stop wasting the people’s money on exotic cars to ingratiate himself. He should realize that he is there for the people not for himself or his family and cronies.

How do you see the economy of Nigeria one year into Buhari administration?
The economy of Nigeria in one year of Buhari administration was in a comatose state and over run by PDP’S 16 years in office. An economy that is not anchored on strong moral, spiritual and intellectual foundation may not thrive. An economy that is not private sector driven may go nowhere. An economy that is not led with sincerity of purpose may not grow. So, for our economy to thrive there must be exemplary leadership, prudent management of resources and the rule of law.

Do you think the APC government has delivered on the change promise?
Change is not delivered in a jiffy. It takes time. It’s a gradual process. Charles F. Kettering says “Though the world hates Change, it is the only thing that brings progress”. Change has definitely come to our dear country but it requires some patience. APC government led by PMB will surely deliver not change but “positive change” to the Nigerian people who I believe should not suffer but should enjoy our God-given abundant human and natural resources that abound across the country. Indeed, we are so much blessed. Indeed, our Creator has favoured our country so very much and as such, the Nigerian people should suffer but enjoy their God-given wealth like the citizens of Dubai in UAE and many other Arab nations.

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What is your take on the agitation by MASSOB and IOPB for the creation of Biafra?
The solution to the challenges facing our nation is not to agitate for separation but to have a balanced and fiscal federalism. The former president of US, Thomas Jefferson championed balanced federalism in America and today, America is the leading nation in the world. Nigeria needs to do the same. All ethnic groups should have a sense of belonging and given its due recognition and respect which I simply described as the double Rs. I therefore, recommend the creation of one more state in the South East and one more state in the South-South of Nigeria to balance the equation of 19 states in the North and 19 states in the South. I also recommend the abolition of the “Feeding Bottle Federalism” as described by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and currently being practiced in Nigeria. This Feeding Bottle Federalism has taken us nowhere. It’s has rather underdeveloped Nigeria and is still damaging our image and reputation. It has not enhanced our status as the “Giant” of Africa but has instead made us “Lilliputian” in the comity of nations. Let us copy the letter and spirit of federalism as practiced in America, Canada and Australia. Let’s devolve more functions to the states and LGAS and leave the centre with only few functions: defence, foreign affairs, internal affairs, foreign trade, customs and immigration and currency. We should learn from successful federal systems in order to be great and prosperous and in fact be the “Giant” of Africa as we were known and described in our glorious days.
As part of balanced federalism, we should have two senators from every state not three. Abuja should also have two representatives in the Senate as representation in the Senate is on the basis of “Equality”. There’s need for justice in this country because like Martin Luther king Jr said “injustice anywhere is a threat against prosperity everywhere”. And Proverbs 16:12 says, “Justice makes a nation strong”. We therefore need justice to be strong, stable, great and prosperous. For me, Nigeria should be to Africa what America is to the world: strong, stable, great, and prosperous.

Is it proper for the federal government to use brute force against the agitation?
It is not proper to use force against the agitation for Biafra. Anybody can agitate for anything. But this should be done using civilized approaches: discussion, dialogue and negotiation. For me, it’s better to jaw-jaw than war-war as opined by the former Prime Minister of Britain, Winston Churchill.

What can you say about the ongoing militancy in the Niger Delta, do you think the avengers has genuine reasons for their actions?
The situation in the Niger Delta should be resolved through dialogue not force. When a child rebels, the father does not crush or kill him. He adopts carrot and stick method because he is his Son whom he loves and cares for. He protects, counsel, guides, encourage sand educate him to be a good child. This is the method I recommend to quell the conflict in the Niger Delta area. I urge our aggrieved brothers in the Niger Delta to stop destroying our oil and gas installations in the area. These facilities belong to us all. There are necessary for our existence and continuous survival as a people and as a nation. They should not be destroyed but protected to achieve the purpose for their establishment. The greatest losers are the people of the area not anybody else. Let the matter be resolved through dialogue, I beg my brothers, the Niger Delta Avengers, and the Federal government of Nigeria to adopt dialogue to resolve the conflict. In the spirit of positive change, and our collective survival, let us resolve to live as brothers and sisters and not as enemies or foes. Let us resolve to build a new Nigeria of equal rights, equal opportunities and justice for all. Let us resolve to build a country that is the best nation in Africa and one of the best nations in the whole world, a member of G8, G20 and UN Security Council representing Africa. Let us bring honor and glory to God our Creator in everything we do, joy and happiness to one another and peace, progress and prosperity to our only and one country given to us by our Creator to build and hold in trust for Him. Let’s live in love, peace, unity, and understanding. Let’s build a united, great and prosperous Nigeria locally valued and globally respected. Let’s love Nigeria. Let’s cherish one another.