Sir Temple Ogueri Onyeukwu is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former House of Representatives candidate for the Mbaitoli/Ikeduru Federal Constituency in Imo State. Onyeukwu, the National Leader, Turning Point Youth Empowerment Initiative, spoke to EJIKEME OMENAZU on the possibility of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu contesting the 2013 Presidency, among other issues.
As an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain, what is your take on the on-going argument over a possible Asiwaju Bola Tinubu Presidency come 2023?
Sincerely speaking, that will be one the upsets of this political dispensation. If it real, it appears to me that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo may be asked to resign. In other words, Vice President Osibanjo may be sacrificed to pave way for the appointment of the Jagaban, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as the Vice President after the inauguration on May 29, 2019. This may appear the best way to compensate Asiwaju Tinubu for his role in enthroning the APC Federal Government for two consecutive terms. This, I suspect, may be the only way to avoid the backlash of a Moslem/Moslem ticket that would have caused the APC the last presidential election. Osibanjo’s possible resignation is also to serve as on the job training for Asiwaju, preparing him for the 2023 presidential election which he intends to contest, God sparing our lives. Will Osinbajo be sacrificed to accommodate Tinubu’s ambition?
How feasible do you think is the Tinubu presidency?
In politics everything is possible. But, how possible this can be depends on President Muhammadu Buhari and Tinubu himself. Will North also accept a South West or Southern Presidency? But, I know that Osinbajo cannot be on Asiwaju’s way. If he is told to resign today to make way for Asiwaju, he has no option but to obey. But, only time will tell.
There is a controversy over the continued payment of fuel subsidy by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. What is your take on this?
The business of government is good governance. Essentially, the security and welfare of the citizens is uppermost. The genesis of the fuel subsidy is the unjustifiable and inequitable economic decisions successive governments have continued to hinge on. Even most of the fuel imported into the country finds its way to neighouring countries, where they are sold at real market prizes. Nigeria is a capitalist society and for the government to free resources to meet urgent national needs, the concept of subsidy must be reviewed. Recently, the Nigerian labour movement demanded and got the national minimum wage reviewed upwards.
One lasting legacy this administration will bequeath to this nation is to abolish fuel subsidy and allow market forces to prevail in economic decisions. The issue of fuel subsidy is bedeviled with quantum corruption. If you want to fight corruption and reduce it to the barest minimum, then remove fuel subsidy. There is no reason why fuel should cost the same in Lagos, Owerri and Maiduguri. I also align myself with those that argue that the cost of governance must be reduced. This will attract genuine patriots into politics with the sole purpose of coming to serve and not to loot.
There are over 12 former state governors now in the Senate. Would you say that this development is healthy for Nigeria’s political development?
Currently, Abia State has two former governors and one former deputy governor as senators. When one finishes his tenure as an elected state governor, it appears to me the best place for him is the State House of Assembly as an automatic member for life. He will be a non-voting member, but will bring his experience to bear in initiating and passing such bills that will facilitate the development of the state. Also, an elected President who has finished his tenure should have an automatic seat in the Senate to guide in initiating and passing such laws that will help in the development of the country. Again members of the National or State Assembly should not spend more than two tenures of six years each. This revolution will tend to attract fresh brains and fresh ideas to the legislature. Our major problem is copying the law in other climes hook line and sinker without considering our peculiar environmental dictates, culture, tradition and inclinations. Some will argue that we should let these evolve but the process must be tailored to our desires and deserved destination. To allow the process without guide is to invite anarchy, chaos, and confusion which seem to be the order of the day.
With the recent killing of citizens by gun totting policemen, what is your take on law enforcement in Nigeria?
Nigerians have the habit of flagrantly violating the laws of the land, rules and regulations that govern the decent and smooth running of the society. We have become addicted to this habit because of the lacuna in the enforcement of the laws by the law enforcement agents, especially the police. The police needs to have a complete attitudinal reorientation, training and retraining in law enforcement and adequately remunerated and motivated. The culture of ‘settlement’ of law enforcement officers for infractions committed by any citizen must stop.
The difference between UK, USA and Nigeria is the level of compliance with law enforcement. Whereas in UK and USA the laws are enforced to the letter with every infraction attracting the appropriate sanction, in Nigeria, the laws are enforced only in the breach. The incompetence, inefficiency, willingness to compromise altitude of the law enforcement agents robs off on the judiciary because most cases are poorly investigated or evidence extracted forcefully from perceived offenders, thereby making it very difficult for judges to reach rational judicial decisions in most cases. Where every breach or infraction of the law attracts the appropriate sanction and/or punishment, the orientation of the society will definitely change overtime. Law enforcement is key to every sane society.
What is your view on the present state of Local Governments in the country and the demand for autonomy for them?
Again, the Ninth Senate and House of Representatives must, as a matter of urgency, amend the constitution to guarantee all local government areas autonomy or scrap them. It does not make any sense that people have local governments, which are supposed to be closest to the people. But, when allocations come for them, one governor stays in his office, spends the entire money for the local government. It is so bad that the governors do not even pay the local government workers their salaries. It will also be appropriate for the law to empower the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct elections into local government areas perhaps on zonal basis.
Chief Emeka Ihedioha, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, emerged your state’s governor-elect. If you were Ihedioha, where would you want to concentrate?
I do not need to remind you that outside, Whetheral, Douglas, Orlu, Bank and Okigwe roads, most other roads are virtually impassable and unmotorable. There are communities less than five kilometers off Owerri, with no motorable roads. Take Mbieri for example, it is less than five minutes drive from Owerri, but virtually all the roads are not motorable. Economic development is stagnated. Unemployment is highest in the community. It is simple logic that when there is rural transformation, there will be boom in economic activities, unemployment will reduce, crime rate will reduce and quality of life will be better.
I urge the incoming government to concentrate on rural transformation. All Imolites condemned the ‘China’ roads. I hope the incoming administration will use established road construction companies in the execution of its rural roads projects. Come to think about it, there is no local government in the state that cannot construct five kilometers of road every quarter from their allocations given the cost of construction of one kilometer of road even by the established road construction companies. They can achieve this, have enough money for salaries and other overheads. This is public knowledge. Rural transformation is the key.
Still on Imo State, the state’s Internal Generated Revenue (IGR) is still low. Why do you think it is so?
The administration of taxes in Imo State has been a family affair for sometime now. Consequently, nobody knows how much tax is collectable and collected. However, people can be persuaded to comply. The state must review the multitude of taxes it collects, streamline them, bring in those that have not been captured, avoid double taxation and, above all, become accountable and transparent in dealing with the people. Secondly, the tax net must be widened to bring in those who are not into the tax net. No matter how low the taxes may be at the initial time, the target is to bring in more people in the tax net and encourage compliance. Subsequently, regular reviews will ensure Imo State become less dependent on federal allocations like Lagos State is presently.