Nigeria’s problem not political, says Orji Kalu
…Insists on rule of law
From: MAGNUS EZE, Abuja
A former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, on Wednesday, said that the problem with Nigeria was more of economic than political even as he admonished Government to obey court orders.
He also blamed the current problem of the local government system on the desperation of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to take over the defunct Alliance for Democracy-controlled states of the South West during his tenure.
Kalu stated this while appearing on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) breakfast programme, ‘Good Morning Nigeria’, with the theme “Challenges with Nigerian Democracy”, as monitored in Abuja.
Said he, “To be honest with you, Nigerians are not students of realism. This process started under President Obasanjo when we were in PDP; and Obasanjo saw the AD as opposition. That was the damage of our local government system; he didn’t want to conduct election in AD-controlled states because he knew that AD will win and make stronghold again for them to win all the states. So, the PDP wanted some of those states and they said there won’t be local government election; they introduced Caretaker Committees.
“Caretaker Committee in any local government in Nigeria today is a violation of our law; it’s not supposed to happen; it’s illegal. All the courts; including the Supreme Court can tell you that. It’s not consistent with the Constitution; forget any laws made by the House of Assembly; the Constitution takes pre-eminence.”
Still on local government autonomy, Kalu said: “When I was governor; the local governments had their allocation; they managed it and you will see them carrying out development projects like culverts and roads. The road between Igbere and Ozu-Item was built by my Local Government Chairman. But you can’t say the same thing today. Journalists and non-journalists have done damage to democracy because rumours have taken pre-eminence; people do not do proper analysis of those who worked for democracy; those who protected democracy.
“Abia State Government went to court many times over the issue of local government with the Federal Government; we went to court 15 times and defeated the Federal Government 13 times. So, anybody who tells you that we don’t have good judiciary is telling lies. But are we ready to obey judicial pronouncement? The answer is no!”
Kalu further lamented that many people in political positions lacked knowledge of their mandates; while declaring that followership in the country had been driven by religious and tribal sentiments.
He however, noted that there were still adherents, who follow leaders because of their leadership styles but urged that the leadership selection process in the country should be anchored on competence.
Unless leaders were made to understand their social contract with the people, especially promoting rule of law; he said the nation will not get it right.
“If the court gives an order saying ‘release Orji Kalu in detention,’ you must release him the minute the court says you should release him. These are things that make democracy that make democracy very attractive and solid,” he stated.
On high cost of running government; the former governor called for restructuring of the polity even if it meant going back to the regional structure and parliamentary system as the presidential democracy appeared very expensive.
He recalled that recurrent expenditure had continued to be on the rise starting with 30 per cent during the 12 state-structure; to 50 per cent when the nation had 21 states and eventually jumped to 70 per cent with the 36 states arrangement; pointing out that no people can develop with 70 per cent spent on recurrent expenditure.
“When I was Governor; Onyekwere Ogba was Commissioner for Finance and he was very particular about this; we had recurrent expenditure at 25 per cent and at a point we went to 20 per cent; all the politicians screamed and wanted to pull down the building, we went to 25 as against 75 per cent for capital expenditure. That is the only way you can work for the people; give free education, taking care of the university and the roads.
“We are not going to achieve anything unless we do some restructuring; if we don’t restructure a little bit to put back the states; the states are costly. Let’s go back to the regions; it will be a better thing to go back to the parliamentary system, presidential system is too costly with two Chambers of the Legislature and all the paraphernalia of power. We need to go back to the regions; we need to come together and discuss how to go back to regional government in order to cut cost because the cost is too much. The people will rise one day and say no to whoever is the Governor or local government chairman and say enough is enough.”
But another guest on the programme, Barrister Esther Uzoma, argued that restructuring may not guarantee less cost of governance.
Uzoma however regretted that the present administration had continued to abridge the democratic space siting the recent clampdown on suspected corrupt judicial officers which according to her was “a very weak attempt to demystify the judiciary.”
She further alleged that free speech was currently being threatened in the country.
Meanwhile, Prof. Audu Gambo of the Political Science Department, University of Jos, who also appeared on the programme from Jos, Plateau state, corroborated Kalu’s assertion that many office holders in Nigeria were not prepared for the positions they occupied.
He stated that the nation cannot run a successful democratic system on the basis of whims and caprices; noting that the Constitution was there to guide all the elected representatives of the people.
Since the Constitution was very clear on the composition of the Local Government Council and yet there was gross violation of it; Audu implored the President to withhold statutory allocation to any local government council without democratically elected leadership.