At 80, elder statesman Obong Victor Attah is in a sober reflection. Eleven years ago, he vacated office as governor of oil-rich Akwa Ibom State. Since then, he has observed that the country has degenerated. His worries: gladiators are defecting in their gross immorality and the National Assembly appears to be holding the country hostage.
“Nigeria is in a serious distress. We need divine intervention. The distress is caused by politicians who have lost morality, integrity and honour,” he lamented.
Attah’s grouse is that political parties lack ideology and philosophy. He attributed the gale of defections to these gaps, stressing that a country without a sense of direction may not make progress.
Chiding the defectors for jumping ship for selfish interests, he said: “Defection is not in defense of democracy. The Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, said he defected because out of over 200 juicy appointments, none was given to his camp. Some of the defectors will face a black cold winter.”
The former governor faulted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for making his successor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, its Senate Leader. He also said the reactions of the PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to his defection were not impressive.
Attah said: “They took a first term senator, a non-ranking senator, and made him the PDP Senate Leader. Today, he leaves your party and you call him a criminal. Why were you celebrating him before? If Akpabio has been charged to court and he was in the PDP, PDP would have shouted. Why accusing Buhari of selective prosecution? It is not right. But, the APC is also celebrating him.”
To the elder statesman, Akpabio’s defection may reduce the chance of the APC in next year’s polls in Akwa Ibom. He noted that the state was the stronghold of the PDP before. But, when Akpabio became governor, all the leading lights moved to the APC. APC had 80 per cent chance of winning the governorship election before. But, today, people are going to the PDP because Akpabio has defected to the APC.
The elder statesman said his predecessor brought uncommon poverty and destruction to the state.
He added: “If APC manages to win Akwa Ibom, it will be in spite of, and not because of Akpabio”
The Ibibio leader said the National Assembly is not insulated from the loss of a sense of morality and integrity. He warned that the Eighth National Assembly may be the worst in the history of Nigeria.
He beamed the searchlight on the parliamentary/executive imbroglio, saying that both organs have been working at cross purpose. He attributed the rift to the outcome of the National Assembly leadership election. Attah recalled that while the APC leaders later embraced House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Saraki’s emergence as Senate President generated controversy.
He said many crises have engulfed the Senate, including the seizure of the mace, the rejection of Ibrahim Magu’s nomination as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the rejection of the Bill on Special Courts to try corrupt cases, controversy over the order of elections, and budget delays. “Magu was rejected, not because he is not suitable. They want an EFCC that will not go after some cases,” he lamented.
However, Attah noted that the Chief Justice of the Federation has now used his administrative discretion by setting up the special courts.
Chiding legislators for budget delays, the former governor said budget padding was also wrong. “If the Federal Government had listened to us on restructuring, the Federal Government will not need to be digging boreholes in the villages.”
On the controversy over the order of elections, Attah said: “In a true federal arrangement, the Federal Government has no business in conducting state elections. Now, they want to cripple INEC so that it will not conduct election. There is a more disruptive cabal in the National Assembly than in the presidency.”
To the Ibibio leader, the mushrooming of political parties is counter-productive. He advised the parties to come together, saying that the country does not need more than two or three parties.
Attah, who renewed his agitation for restructuring, complained that the National Assembly has been aloof. “It is the fault of the National Assembly. We suggested state police and resource control. They dismissed it,” he fumed.
In his view, piecemeal constitutional amendment is not the answer to the resolution of the national question.
He added: “The National Assembly should call on the president to call an assembly to write a new constitution. If we don’t restructure, this country will die. If we don’t restructure, this country will be doomed.”
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