The Director General, Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu, on Saturday renewed his call on separatist groups in the country to drop their violent agitations and support President Muhammadu Buhari in his efforts to rid the country of corruption.
He stated this in Enugu at a reception organised for him and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, by their kinsmen under the aegis of Eke Progressives Forum.
Among the groups clamouring to break away from Nigeria are the Movement for Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra and Niger Delta Avengers.
Describing corruption as the bane of the nation’s development, Mr. Okechukwu, who titled his speech “True Federalism: Panacea or Placebo to Nigeria’s Paralysis? Eke Town as a Case Study,” reminded the groups of Mr. Buhari stand that if Nigerians fail to kill corruption, the menace will kill the country.
He said ethnic merchants and religious bigots hide under ethnic and religious fault lines to corruptly enrich themselves just as he blamed greed and corruption for the inequality in the country.
“Corruption in all its ramifications, not just the fleecing of the state fund, includes petty human frailties like jealousy, hate, stereotypes and prejudice. We shall presently return to these two opaque pages of the same epitaph of greed and corruption and commonly misunderstood theme,” he said.
“These two opaque pages may help us to show that ethnicity and religion play less crucial roles in our dysfunction than greed and its grandson, corruption. Ethnicity and religion are more of the tools of scavengers and predators. It would amaze us to look closely at our communities, local council areas and zones. We are most likely to find that they are the victims of the cankerworm called corruption.
“Consequently, an honest and pragmatic assessment would surely expose the popular sentiment of True Federalism as an innocuous medication to a paralysis engendered and poisoned by the fangs of corruption. The narrative will also show how ethnic merchants and bigots exploit our weaknesses to advance themselves at the expense of the same tribe or religion for which they claim to fly their flag.”
The VON DG said corruption was equally responsible for the paralysis in his hometown, Eke, which he said shared the same ancestral history, 99 percent Catholics and one Wawa dialect, but yet seriously divided.
He traced the debate on true federalism from the pre-independence era to the 1990’s when it exploded as an unintended consequence of annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election and championed by the National Democratic Coalition and its constitutional conference arm, Pro-National Conference Organisation.
He said at the 23rd commemoration of June 12 election, PRONACO advocated Nigeria’s restructuring based on democratic self determination and citizens ownership of the constitution and urged the federal government to set up a technical committee to navigate concrete strategy for reconciliation and stability in the country in tandem with the spirit of June 12.
Mr. Okechukwu, former spokesperson of South-East APC leadership caucus, said when democracy was restored in Nigeria in 1999, in deft moves spiced with patriotic enlightenment and national interest, the northern elite zoned the presidency to the South and Olusegun Obasanjo emerged the president of the Peoples Democratic Party.
“A cursory analysis of the eight-year tenure of Chief Obasanjo revealed unfortunately how the regime did not improve the lives of Nigerians in spite of the unprecedented oil windfall, which at a certain point sky-roofed to $145 per barrel.
“The regime’s record was that a few billionaires were created and more people descended to abject poverty. No doubt, this was occasioned by a nebulous economic policy, which held that the state has no business in business, and that the private sector is key to development.’
“It happened that the captains of industry which the regime heavily relied upon were mainly those with no factories, but peddlers on petrol dollars. The outcome was a renewed agitation for True Federalism, especially with more people impoverished, hopes lost, and to add salt to injury like other African-Big-Men, the high chief sought the infamous capital intensive third term agenda that was later aborted to the joy of most Nigerians.”
Mr. Okechukwu noted that the succession or third term gambit created unimaginable state of anomie, despondency and despair on Nigerians who had viewed democracy as a prelude to a state of Eldorado.
According to him, the successive regimes, “instead of prudently and transparently managing the Excess Crude Account and Foreign Reserves inherited from the Obasanjo regime and their own accruals, further eroded the confidence of Nigerians more on the Federal Government than on the state and local councils.”
He said not more than 10 out of the 36 states of the federation operate democratically elected local governments as stipulated by Section 7 of 1999 constitution of Nigeria and that those which run democratically-elected councils do so in less than transparent manner.
Mr. Okechukwu assured that Mr. Buhari was determined to plug leakages which accelerate corruption, recover looted funds and cap and trim unwarranted allowances to public office holders.
Bartho Okolo, the Chairman of Eke Progressives Forum, thanked the President for finding the two illustrious sons of Eke town worthy for federal appointments.
He asked Messrs. Okechukwu and Onyeama to be good ambassadors of the community, “known for excellence, integrity and selflessness.”
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