Dr. Dozie Ikedife, Former Ohaneze Chief

Interview with Ohaneze Chief –

From Chuks Collins, Awka,

Sir, as the National Assembly proceeds with Constitution amendment, what would the South-East want to see amended, bearing in mind that Northern states governors stand against most of the proposals.

If it’s possible we should rewrite the whole Constitution rather than amendment. But if we must amend, there are some key areas;

*Devolution of powers:

The centre controls so much powers, hence the heightened acrimony for the seat of President. But if the powers of the President are reduced and passed to the zones/regions, then people will pay more attention to those areas and then the development will be more.

*Definition of the Federation we are running:

What are the federating units? The present geo-political zones should be recognized, then consider reducing the number of existing states. The existing geo-political zones should be turned into states while the present states will become provinces. For the purpose of administration, the Local Governments will become districts. They should not be part of the federating units.

*Utilization of traditional rulers:

The traditional rulers should be empowered and made part of the administrative system as was the case in the olden days. The process of their selection will then be standardized within each geo-political zone.

*Land Use Law:

The Land Use law should be reviewed drastically, because presently it’s like mill-stone on the neck of development. This is because if we apply it as it is all lands are vested on the governors, and it is not right. Such that for you to deal on your own land you have to get a Certificate of Occupancy.

*Financial corruption:

Serious review of our criminal laws should be carried out to ensure that all economic looters receive proper punishment. It should provide for means of full recovery of all stolen monies and property, whether by individuals or cabals. There is need as a matter of urgency Constitutional courts to handle constitutional matters. The format is working very well in places where it exists.

*Citizenship:

We need to deal with who is really a Nigerian citizen, state or Council. Anywhere one lives, works and pays his/her tax, he/she should be properly integrated into that community and environment. You should vote and be voted for in any election in the place of domicile.

*Security:

There is a serious threat to lives and property; law should be introduced to ensure crime will not pay anyone. That is by introducing serious punishments and reprisals rather than handling criminals with gloved hands.

*Creation of new state:

Creation of a sixth state in the South-East is an issue begging for implementation and ought to be allowed to be by the Constitution.

*State Police:

Personally I see the clamour for State Police as a two-edged weapon. You don’t give a child a two-edged sword until he’s old enough. Our democracy is still too fragile and we must not introduce factors that will threaten the continued existence of a united Nigeria . It’s an issue that if not handled properly can be misused and abused grossly. We should rather train up and regularly re-train the local vigilante and use them for limited engagements.

Recently the North has called for the review of the North/South dichotomy:

Any attempt at resurrecting the onshore/offshore imbroglio is like playing mischief and creating diversions and distractions, and trying to make mountain out of a mole hill.

The dichotomy thing in my view is not a serious threat to the existence of our unity.

It is even possible that some group will make effort to frustrate any serious amendment to the Constitution. If that happens we should then go for a better option- which is a totally new people’s Constitution.

FG’s handling of the Bakassi Peninsula issue:

One must know the history of ceding Bakassi peninsula to the Cameroon . Presently, the way we are handling it gives the impression that the Bakassians were regarded as chattels to be traded away without any regards to their fundamental rights. As it is now, the only fair thing to it is to give them opportunity of deciding where they want to be; either to Cameroon or Nigeria . Or be an independent State. This can be done by way of plebiscite by UN or AU, with international observers.

Is it true there was an agreement between President Jonathan and the South-East to handover to the zone in 2015?

If there was any such agreement I am not privy to it. But my advice for those endorsing him now, I think it is still very premature. He was only elected and sworn in last year and has not even gone half way into his four year tenure. What are the parameters being used now to reasonably assess him. For example he promised certain things to the South-East, we are still watching him for the fulfillment of all those things. It’s for him to fulfill all the promises to us and more before he could get the endorsement on a platter of gold. But if everything are mere ear-marked and not eye-marked, and he expect another endorsement, then it would be difficult. The President should know that what are dearest to the heart of the South-East are not many and are all achievable. None is a tall order and we expect him to perform before we negotiate again.

Looking at prevailing political circumstances in the South-East, especially in APGA, do you think the zone can produce acceptable Presidential candidate in 2015.

If you want the Igbos to produce a presidential candidate that would be acceptable to the entire nation today, they will readily give you 36 capable presidential materials.

The Igbos are republicans. Forget what happened in 1998/99, because when the time comes we should be able to coalesce our forces into two or three and finally into one person.

Since the recent presidential declaration of Anambra as an oil producing state, controversy have broken out between her and Enugu/Kogi:

The raging controversy over the location or ownership of the oil well, to me, is a storm in a tea cup – Reasons; we have land surveyors, geologists and seismographers, as well as the National Boundary Commission. It is therefore very easy to determine the boundary between all these contiguous states who are arguing about the oil location. And to a certain degree, determine the location of the oil underground. That would settle the issue.

We in Anambra are wondering why these claims erupted just because Orient Petroleum was just commissioned and Anambra declared oil producing State by President Goodluck Jonathan. However, it’s necessary to say emphatically that Anambra people do not take anyone’s position or want to be brow-beaten into conceding what belongs to us to other people.

Plans for 2nd Niger Bridge at Onitsha , extension of rail-lines to Onitsha , dredging of River Niger and the repairs of South-East link roads have visibly become Herculean to the FG?

During the town-hall meeting with the President at Onitsha during his recent working visit to Anambra, in his answer to a question, he assured the citizens that the project is on course and by March 2012 more serious action would commence on the construction site at Onitsha . He even humorously said that the 1st bridge across the Niger at Onitsha was built when Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was the President of Nigeria. Then that it is his expectation that the 2nd Bridge across the Niger at Onitsha will be built when another Azikiwe, that is, himself is the president of Nigeria .

As for the river port, though now commissioned, was actually started in 1982. The river-port was first commissioned during the Presidency of Alh Shehu Shagari in 1982. The old commissioning nothwitstanding, there was no port activity there for the past 30 years (1982 – 2012). So let’s hope that this commissioning will not go for another 30 years before activities start there. As at now I do not see even a barge at the port location. I also don’t know how far the dredging has gone. But whatever stage the dredging is, it should be speeded up to ensure that the port be put to proper use sooner rather later.

The expectations of the South East with regards to Federal Highways maintenance, distribution of electricity, extension of rail-lines to the commercial centres of Onitsha and Nnewi must be seen as issues that are calling for immediate realization. These will help catalyze business activities and employment generation within the State and region. It would therefore tackle the rising social tension, insecurity and mounting joblessness.

The proposed new N5000 note, Lamido Sanusi’s CBN and the rest of us:

I thought we are in a democracy where people’s views and those of the majority should prevail. It seems the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is acting like a dictator. That is to say that once he has spoken, it becomes law. A person with that kind of mindset should not really hold any sensitive position in a democratic set up. In the United States of America (USA), the biggest economy in the democratic world, the highest note in day to day circulation is $100; any other denomination may be there but not in daily circulation. The British currency in regular circulation is Fifty pounds. What are the points in favour or against for N5000 note. Has the public opinion be taken into account before making the statement of no-going back. Are we in a dictatorship or a democratic set up? Check it out.