President-General, Urhobo Progress Unity (UPU), Olorogun Moses Taiga spoke with SEYE OLUMIDE on declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day and the need to tinker with present system of government.
How do you feel as Nigeria marks June 12 as Democracy Day today 26 years after the annulment and 20 years after returning to civil rule?
It is a welcome development that is well over due. Indeed 26 years ago, Chief MKO Abiola should have taken over as president. So it is better late than never to declare it as Democracy Day. All democrats around the world, particularly Nigeria should be very happy that the declaration has taken place.
Of what significant is June 12 as Democracy Day if Nigeria is still struggling with economy and polity?
I think these are separate issues. But I still hold the view that the decision was a right step in the right direction for the fact that we never return to military rule since 1999. Hopefully, democracy will gain ground. On the issues of our economy, there are challenges with the methodology of maintaining the independence and orderliness of the society, which I think depends much more on our ability to build right institutions to run the country. The system and existing government cannot sustain Nigeria and it is therefore in my candid opinion that we build institutions. But I’m afraid if we are really ready to build institution. The current system of government we practiced is not helping the country. For example, we the Urobos nation has been calling for true federalism. And what is true federalism? It is a system where each region maintained its earnings, its revenue, and resources and contribute to the center. Is not the other way round when central government decided to claim 50 per cent of the income of the nation and shared peanut to the nations. We want a system where he who produces resource benefits from it.
Our clamour is for true federalism irrespective of the fact that June 12 is now Democracy Day. If Nigeria returns to true federalism, most of the problem that are happening in the country will not happen. If Boko Haram is the problem, then we contribute our common goal to get rid of it. The system were for example, Northern governors went to America to preach to former President Barak Obama to instigate him (Obama) to stop former President Goodluck from fighting against Boko Haram wouldn’t have happened under true federalism. The northern governors even went as far as meeting with former President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma not to allow Jonathan’s government buy arms and ammunition to fight the insurgents. But the same Boko Haram is still posing threats to the nation. But if we have right structure based on true federalism is in place there would be orderliness.
For instance, if you take a look at the major problem the Urhobo nation is facing today with armed herdsmen, it is sad that our women cannot go to farm anymore. I can mention all the key areas in my place where the armed herdsmen have infiltrated. They taken over our lands and also stopped our people from earning their living from farming, men and women from going into farm.
June 12 should be encompassing and we as Urhobo Nation have appealed to President Buhari, as far back as June 25 2018, when we had audience with him at the Villa to help us and he promised that he would do his best. We haven’t seen is best yet. So, the issue of orderliness, the issue of federal system of governance, the issue that what you produce you keep, the institution whether be judiciary, legislation, if you obey all these things, Nigeria would be very simple place to rule. My people are peaceful, they obey the laws but we want to be given the chance to go to our farms. My people are crying against me, that what am I doing to ensure that they are able to go to their farms.
Recently, former President Segun Obaanjo said there is an agenda to Islamise and Fulanise…
We are both talking in the same direction. I am saying that, for Obasanjo to have said that, he saw that there is no free kingdom; we have 24 kingdoms in my area where Fulani herdsmen have not infiltrated. Our women are afraid to go to farm. What Obasanjo said is just reechoing what is obvious.
Why has Nigeria not been able to build institutions?
Let us go back to the last 26 years that the June 12 debacle happened. Why is it that Abiola won an election and he was not allowed to emerged president? It is the ‘I first syndrome’ mentality in this country. Why is it that somebody spent eight years as a senator, he reign eight years as a governor and he doesn’t want to leave office? Why is it that our public officers especially governors always want to get involve in the selection of their successor? It is greed. Why is it that somebody rule and still want to continue to rule? Why is it that our people, when they go to Abuja and they completed their tenure they find it difficult to leave? These are serious issues that we need to address but I doubt if the present system has an answer to the questions. Nigeria has not been able to build institution because our elected officers are not always willing to leave office. That is why I say it is good President Buhari recognized June 12 by declaring it Democracy Day but we need some steps further, which I believe would come gradually.
Can we really say we are practicing democracy to warrant celebrating Democracy Day modified military administration?
The 1966 coup and change of structure is our problem. Before military intervention in politics, what we had was a British system of government. When the military intervene in 1966, Tafawa Balewa was the Prime Minister, he was first among equal in the parliament and all his ministers, the likes of Okotie Eboh, Nbadiwe all of them are members of parliaments while Chief Obafemi Awolowo was the leader of the opposition, that was the British system of government. the system was truncated in 1966 and when returned to democratic rule in 1979, we changed to another form government. We abandoned the British system and copied the American system, which is the presidential system.
When you look at the presidential system. The country invested so much power in the hands of the president. So much powers that Nigeria president is virtually the most powerful president in the world. As a matter of fact, when former President Ibrahim Babangida was to dissolve the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) he confessed that was his best period in his life when he enjoyed absolute power. Few months after Babangida, late Gen. Sani Abacha took over and he also enjoyed absolute power the same thing is happening today. For example, we had had election and Mr. President will chose his cabinet. At present there is no Federal Executive Council (FEC) he may decide to sack or appoint anybody.
We should renew all practical experience with the British system.
Under the British system, I mean the one we practiced during the First Republic, then we used to have part time legislature compared to the full time and bicameral legislature that what we have now and the resources we invested in maintaining them. My worry is what is our full time lawmakers doing? The June 12 Democracy Day has to be holistic but like I said Mr. President has made the move lets wait for what would follow. For us the Urhobo nation, we have met him and expressed our position and he promised us. We are still waiting for his action. He has just won second term there is therefore a lot ahead of him to do.(The Guardian)