Chief Patrick Isioma Onyeobi, is the Iyase of Asaba, the second in command in the traditional leadership of Asaba, the Delta State capital. He was a successful civil servant who, through dint of hard work rose to the peak of his career when he was elevated to the position of Head of Service and Secretary to the defunct Bendel State Government. In this interview with Omos Oyinbode in Asaba, he speaks on crisis rocking the National Assembly, other political issues as well as the economy. Excerpts:
How do you look at the leadership crisis that has polarized the National Assembly?
Well, ours is a growing democracy. It is a relatively young one and we have to accept that the road to the future is always under construction. But we must be prepared to learn from the mistakes of the past by pursuing a policy of give and take. One cannot always have what one wants in life because sometimes, ‘NO’ can be an answer to one’s prayer and you have to accept what you cannot change. Our leaders and politicians have to learn that life is give and take and that when you are in the service of your country, a complex heterogeneous society like ours, one has to learn to stoop to conquer in the interest of the whole country. We’ve been watching the development in the National Assembly in the past few weeks since the last election and the emergence of some persons on the national scene either as Senators or members of the House of Representatives and one appreciates the differences because, like as I said earlier, ours is a growing democracy and some of the politicians have been moving from one political party to the other. So, they have not been able to consolidate and in fact, there are no ideological differences in the two major political parties in the country. This is why it is easy for one to move from one side to the other but one hopes that with time, the political parties would develop strong ideologies so that one would know the differences between them. The drama that played out in the House of Representatives on Thursday, June 25, this year which was televised live to a global audience where some members of the House were carrying chairs and fighting themselves was very unfortunate, embarrassing and highly regrettable.
What do you think are the implications of this leadership crisis rocking the National Assembly?
One would have liked to believe that with each election in the country, we would have learnt more lessons that would impact positively on our march towards building a viable democratic system but what we saw on Thursday, June 25, this year with the Legislators in the House of Representatives behaving in a very disorderly manner makes one fear for the future of our country as this sort of disorderly conduct could unwittingly encourage mischief makers to try to terminate our democracy and history will condemn us if this is allowed to happen.
Again, the crisis, if not timely nipped in the bud, would slow down the tempo of legislative activities in the National Assembly for the good governance of the country. I am not pessimistic but what is happening in the National Assembly, if not checked, portends a great threat to our democracy.
How do we, as a nation, get out of this precarious situation in the National Assembly?
Assembly? Our legislators should quickly call themselves to order and organize themselves to work for the development and evolution of our democracy. In the first republic, people say that we did not perform well in our democratic effort because many of those piloting the affairs of governance then were not highly educated but with successive changes and elections over the years, more and more educated people were elected into various legislative houses in the country. Our political leaders should know that if they do not get what they want today, they could get it tomorrow. We should pray and sincerely hope that the leadership should intervene in the current crisis by calling all the stakeholders in the impasse to order because most Nigerians did not bargain for what is happening now in the National Assembly. One had hoped that by now, the whole system would have stabilized.
What is your take on President Muhammadu Buhari’s seeming non-interference posture in this National Assembly’s leadership crisis?
I think he is being careful so that Nigerians will not start accusing him of being a dictator considering his military background. However, I believe strongly that he is talking to his people.
We would like to know your opinion on the alleged debt profile President Buhari claimed to have inherited from Jonathan’s administration?
Politicians must be politicians. At the end of the day, we shall know the truth about the whole situation. However, President Buhari should draw a line on what he met on ground and build a better future for Nigerians. Knowing the current financial situation in Nigeria, we should not expect change immediately from Buhari. We need to give him a little more time to enable him start making positive and dramatic changes in our lives. He has to build. Nigeria is a big country with immense resources. A country like Japan was down at certain stage of its national life and today, Japan is one of the biggest economies in the world. Once we have the will and sense of direction as a nation, noting would be impossible for us as far as our growth and development as a nation is concern.
Again, what is your comment on the debt profile Senator Ifeanyi Okowa allegedly inherited from his predecessor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan?
It depends on what the debt was incurred for. If the projects for which the money was invested would have long term benefit for Deltans, one would look at the debt with forgiveness but if the money was recklessly spent, one would condemn it. If there is strong evidence that the money was misappropriated, of course, the law has to take its course.
How would you prioritize your expectations from the present administration in the state and at the federal level?
First, is the issue of security. There can be no positive development without peace and security either at the state or federal level. No foreign investor would like to invest in an environment characterized by insecurity. The government should address the problem of insurgency, armed robbery and kidnapping among other criminal vices. The issue of non-payment of salaries of workers and monthly pension to pensioners, which has become so worrisome of late, should not be encouraged at all. In Delta State, the state government should develop health care facilities in Asaba, the state capital in order to take care of the health need of the ever-increasing population of Asaba. Again, every effort should be made to promote ethnic peace in the country by ensuring justice, equity and fairness in political appointments. More importantly, we should diversify our economy by investing massively in agriculture in order to ensure food security, employment generation and wealth creation