LAGOS – A former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George, spoke on critical national issues on Saturday, warning that regionalism was no longer a viable option for Nigeria.
George also suggested that the immunity clause for elected office holders should be expunged from the Nigerian Constitution.
The PDP stalwart addressed political correspondents in Lagos.
The debate on regionalism and removal of the immunity clause had continued to generate heated arguments at the on-going National Conference.
George, who is a member of the Committee on Politics and Governance at the conference, argued that “statetism’’ had come to stay in Nigeria.
“We tried the analysis at the confab and 33 out of the 36 states representatives said no.
“If states that think they are not very viable to stay alone are so concerned about survival, then let them merge via referendum of their people.
“The idea of regionalism was muted by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo to recognise minorities on both sides of the divide.
“I do not see many states agreeing to be ruled again by one premier. It cannot work.”
He said there was need for economic cooperation among all the federating states which, he said, would make more sense.
According to him, Nigeria is better off with a presidential system of government, based on the principle of zoning.
He said that Nigeria’s democracy would not have lasted this long if not for the zoning arrangement.
“With zoning, every region has something to go home with. If Nigeria wants to practise true federalism, the Federal Government should concern itself with the states.
“Let the states decide how many councils they want but sharing will be on two levels. The councils will cease to be part of the national sharing.
“We are talking about equality and fairness. If we want peace in Nigeria, let whatever comes to the pool be shared equally.
“That way people will still have a sense of fairness and belonging,” he argued.
Elaborating on the issue of removal of immunity clause for governors and the president, George said that no Nigerian was above the law.
“In America, nobody is above the law. We still remember the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky case while Clinton was in office.
“Exponents say that the fact that people trusted you to manage their resources does not make you a super human being.
“But the opponents said Nigeria was at the level of democratic practice where removal of immunity will lead to frivolous cases,” he stated.
The former Military Governor of Ondo State noted that there were procedures to decide if a case was frivolous.
“I support the idea that it should be expunged because it will start to assist the growth of the nation,” he said.
The PDP chieftain also criticised the payment of pension to elected public officials, urging states already practising it to cancel it.
“We kicked against the issue of pension, when it was started in Lagos.
“As an ex-governor, I don’t take pension from my state. No ex-governor deserves a pension after eight years in office.
“It is immoral and ungodly to reap the people off like that amid so much poverty.
“Gov. Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State is a man, who respects the voice of the people by cancelling his planned pension scheme.”
George said that if elected, a PDP government in Lagos State would cancel pension for ex-governors.
Speaking also on the current insurgency in the country, George explained that the method of fighting terror was different because the enemy was unknown.
“Yes the buck stops on the President’s table but every Nigerian must be involved and speak up against it.
“It is not a matter of going to rout the Chibok girls out. The President is also concerned because he is also a father.
“The Chibok girls’ abduction is a national disaster for all Nigerians. Our sympathy should be suggestions not castigations,” George said.
On the upcoming Ekiti polls, he said that it would be a repeat of the voting pattern in the state in 2003.
“Ekiti people are ready. Nobody can rig and get away with it in Ekiti State. This time, it will be one-man one-vote,” he said, charging the people not to be cowed or muscled.