Senator Adeseye Martin Ogunlewe, a former minister Of Works, is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic party (PDP). In this interview with INIOBONG IWOK, warns that unless the country is restructured Nigerians should not expect anything good from it, he also speaks on the state of the PDP and the Biafra agitations, among other sundry issues.
Are you still in the PDP and does the party still stands any chance in returning to power?
Of course, am still very much in the PDP, where would I be? We are planning for our national convention; let us do the convention first in December, before we can be thinking of 2019.
It is too early to be talking of 2019, our party is in the process of reconciliation, rebuilding, and we have to conduct a convention that is acceptable to everyone.
The quality of officers would go a long way on how we perform in the 2019 election. We have to show to Nigerians that we are still united and that there is a future with the PDP.
Why is the Lagos branch always factionalised ?
There is hardly any political party where there is no faction. When there is competition in man interaction, there is bound to be friction.
Fationalisation is part of politics, tell me which party that there is no faction or crisis, is it APC, APGA, Labour party? There would always be factions, what is bad is when there has been reconciliation you go back and start a crisis because of your own personal interest.
What is your view on the current call for restructuring?
Look I have been there and have seen it all as senator, minister, this is a fact: if we don’t restructure the country urgently, Nigeria cannot develop beyond this, even if you bring a magician to come and rule this country nothing would work.
Look, we are carrying too much load at the federal level. Check all the indices that determine a nation, it has put the country down. It is bad and appalling, infant mortality is very high.
The high no of children out of school is the highest in the world; look at the health institutions, how many of them are functioning? There is no future for this country without restructuring.
Nigeria was created for Nigerians and not the revise. Let the people determine the kind of structure they want. What is happening now is that the center is carrying too much load, and we spend about 75 percent of our revenue funding the system.
It is the National Assembly that can correct things, but they would not do that because of the interest they are protecting. Look at the recent constitution amendment, it was not the best, when you lump all the bills together there is bound to be confusion.
What they should have done was to list the bill one by one and vote rather than put all of them together. Should the states generate their own electricity? Should we have state police?
Consider the bills one by one, let the people say if they want state police, generate their own electricity, why should it be that it is the Federal Government that would give permission before a state is connected to the national grid?
Here we have centralised labour laws, in advanced countries it is not the case, when you are through from the medical school you register in a state where you want to practices.
Now we have ASUU national strike because the labour laws are centralised, where is that done in this current age? The way this country is structured there is no hope even if you bring a magician to rule the country.
Are you surprised that the APC which were the major proponent of restructuring are not doing anything about it?
The APC has been shut out by some few Individuals, and that is because of what they would get from the system. The APC which called themselves the progressives, have joined with the conservatives, and those ones are fighting for their own interest.
They are not interested anymore in restructuring the country because it does not do their interest any good. Let every state be in charge of their resources, the National Assembly can help us do it, but they would not because of their own selfish interest and the cabal.
The National Assembly should pass a law that would give us the kind of constitution we want, but they would not do that, because of the interest of the cabal they are protecting, that is the truth.
Look at the revenue sharing formula in the country; the North takes the lion share because of the no of states and local government they have.
Will that be why the North is against restructuring?
It is a protectionist attitude, you protect what you have. But how long can we continue like this? The system may collapse, people say we are rich no, Nigeria is not a rich country, companies like Microsoft is richer than Nigeria, there is one airport in the US, it is richer than Nigeria.
What we are even doing now that is very bad: all our contracts are being awarded to Lebanese and Chinese, it is very sad, and you want our economy to grow out of recession.
It is never done, it is a disgrace to our country, can they do that to us in their own country? What are our own engineering firms doing, it is our engineering firms that suppose to be employing them.
Has Buhari delivered on the change mantra?
The only change we have in Nigeria is Buhari. And Buhari has been in ANPP and CPC, there is nothing really that has changed as you can see, and maybe now his health is affecting his performance.
What about the anti graft war?
Corruption is every were, but you have to put in legislation against corruption so that it would be difficult for people to loot. Unfortunately we don’t even know how much we generate, we spend recklessly.
You can initiate laws that would check corruption; you check the activities in the financial institutions, banks. The civil servants would want to do this, you increase their salaries, provide accommodation for them, give schools to their children.
Unfortunately most of the houses have been sold now. You can see that the elite don’t take their children to public primary schools now, they rather go and pay 800,000 in private schools where there is creche.
If that is what they want you can provide it in the public school so they bring their children there. If you do all these you would realise that corruption would stop.
But why couldn’t you implement or make these suggestions when you were in government?
Yes, unfortunately I have not been a chief executive before, I could not implement this: I was a minister and senator, and you know as a minister you do what the president want you to do. I could not have made such change in my positions.
But your party has been part of the problem, 16 years in power, they failed Nigerians?
The structure failed Nigeria and not PDP; nothing can work with this present structure and system that Nigeria has. It is not a party thing it is the Nigerian factor.
We have to sit down and talk, renegotiate about this present structure, because this present system cannot work, we are not making any progress as a nation.
The present structure of the country is defective, that is why most of the states are not delivering. In most states, what we have are dictators as governors, he is so powerful and do what he likes, even when there are procedures in doing things, nobody question him and he has immunity.
Because his commissioners are not elected that connection with the people are not there, that is why a lot of people have said may be we need to go back to the First Republic were everybody was elected before you can be a minister and member of Parliament.
What of the current agitations for Biafra by IPOB?
I think it is the leadership of Ohaneze that is not managing the affairs well. It is not somebody like Kanu that should be taking these issues up for the Igbos.
If you look at the history of the country and the present set up, what is happening now is structural marginalisation. I don’t think it is political.
Look at the revenue sharing formula: it favours the North, it is about the numbers of local governments you have, and in present structure they have more states and local governments and they take more money than the igbos, so it favour them.
The Igbos are very hardworking, they are everywhere in the country, let them come together and articulate this issues and present them, that has been the problem.
We have Ekweremadu as the Chairman of the constitution amendment committee, why can’t he come up with these issues and present them?
He should know what the Igbos needs and what their grievances are, but when he want to talk he talks about Enugu State alone.
Who would do it for him? We have had some Igbo people there in the past as National Assembly leadership what did they do about it? Let them present these issues together.
What is your view of the current attempt to check the media?
What we are saying is that the media should be careful on what they publish and broadcast so that it would not divide the country. We are one country lets avoid issues that divide us.
Are we expecting you to contest any position in 2019?
I am retiring from politics, I am too old to contest for any position. What I do now is to advise the young ones, God has blessed me enough, there is nothing again to contest for.
What is your view about the state of the South West?
I am very sad about the states of the South West educationally, when you see the position of the region in the last WAEC result.
What is our pride have been taken away from us, it is a shame. Education is legacy handed over to us by Awolowo that has always been our pride.
Imagine state like Taraba performing and being ranked before South West states, except Lagos that was ninth.
Let the governors of the South West states call for an urgent education summit, let them find a way out of this mess, I am not apportioning blame on anybody, education is a right of man that cannot be denied.
Are you confident that your party can dislodge the APC in 2019?
Firstly we expect the convention to hold in December and we have zoned the President to the North and the chairman of the party to the South.
The only reason we lost the 2015 election was because the president did not come from the North, we were warned then, but it would not happen again, we would not allow that mistake to happen again. I am sure ones that is done we would win.
If we don’t restructure the country urgently, Nigeria cannot develop beyond this, even if you bring a magician to come and rule this country nothing would work. Look, we are carrying too much load at the federal level. Check all the indices that determine a nation, it has put the country down. It is bad and appalling, infant mortality is very high. The high no of children out of school is the highest in the world; look at the health institutions, how many of them are functioning? There is no future for this country without restructuring.