A woman activist and Itsekiri leader, Chief (Mrs.) Rita Lori Ogbebor, has reasoned that what can solve the country’s problem is addressing the issue of the minorites across the country in line with the recommendation of the pre-independence Henry Willikin Commission. The concerned elder stateswoman, who spoke with RAZAQ BAMIDELE, insists that creation of more states would create more problems for the country.
I am very sad about the conduct of the exercise. At my age, I did not believe that I will see this kind of wishy-washy exercise when we are talking about the constitution, which can be called the bible of our country that will affect our lives and lives of children yet unborn.
Before independence, that type of exercise could not have been conducted the way it is being conducted. Questions drafted for us to answer were only good for the primary school pupils. It is not even good for the primary school pupils because before the examination, they should have been taught what they were likely to meet in the examination hall. That must have happened before they could be asked to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’. But before the exercise commenced, we were given a paper that looked like examination script, which we were told to adhere to strictly without bringing in any addition. And funny enough, we were given only one minute to answer each question. In fact, they not ready to accommodate any other view besides the ones contained in the papers given to us. It was just a matter of ‘yes’ or ‘no’. you can imagine somebody in my position, I was here before independence; I participated in independence. And now, I am being told by people, who are more or less our children now, that I should say yes or no to their questions. It is sad and baffling that what our founding fathers fought for is being bastardised this way. I was sad and angry. And, of course, a lot of other people felt that way. It just did not go down well with us. And you can see all over the country, there is dissatisfaction, fracas and so forth. It is extremely sad that our own children can take the whole country for a ride! Yes or no!
Take the first question they asked us for example. They said according to section 8 of the Constitution, should the clauses that make creation of states difficult be removed or not, and they expected us to say yes or no. I mean, it is infuriating. First and foremost, it is not everybody, even some lawyers know what the Section 8 of the Constitution is all about not to talk of laymen who are not lawyers but who are definitely stakesholders? And these people have their own contribution to this country. And you are asking them to say either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ without knowing what section 8 of the constitution is all about. In fact, that is where we had the deadlock because people like us called their attention to their mistakes. We said, look here, what does section 8 of the Constitution say? We told them that they had to explain to us. Or they should give us some days to go back to our children, who are lawyers to explain to us before we wpould come back to answer their ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. People in attendance were disatisfied and that was how all of us walked out on our ‘yes’ or ‘no’ teachers.
I participated in Warri Federal Constituency. And to my greatest surprise, the exercise started at 4 O’clock. It was initially slated for 10am. Later they shifted it because they said Mr. President was in Warri for the birthday of Pastor Ayo Oritsajefor. They moved it to 2pm. By that time, the exercise did not start until 4pm. How then did they expect us to carry out such an important exercise successfully with over 40 questions that were waiting for our ‘yes’ or ‘no’?
And most of us flew in from different parts of the country. I flew in from Lagos by 9am. I left my Lagos house by 5am to catch the plane. So, I sat down from 9 am till 4pm. You can see the exhaustion! It is not tenable.
I see the exercise as a way to rubber-stamp the agenda they already have. It is the way they are ruling this country that gave rise to Boko Haram and other forms of insecurity in the country. We are not surprised. In a society where there is no justice, people would look for justice. And if there is no justice, there would be no stability. That is what we are going through.
The ongoing attempts at reviewing the constitution must be canceled so that it would give the public time to understand the questions they are posing to us and some Sections they are quoting from the Constitution before we can say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ They even told us that other questions beside the ones on the sheet are no go areas. That is incredible! As far as I am concerned, the problem of this country is not state creation. State creation is a way of bringing more problems because a number of states on ground now cannot take care of themselves. They are not viable. It means more revenues would be expended to create jobs for the politicians while there would be nothing left for infrastructure maintenance and development. And that is the problem we have today in the country. All the infrastructure are decay and there is no money to maintain, revive and bring them back to live. Presently, the system we are running is so bogus we cannot find money to maintain it. We have the Senate, the House of Representatives, the governors, States Assemblies, local governments and wards levels. The states are also running the same numbers of portfolios being run by the Federal Government. How many tiers of government can we say we are running?! Yet, they are not effective!
We that fought for Local governments have realized, rather sadly, that they have become cubic problem. We are just squandering resources without accountability. So, these are frightening signals we are seeing that make us believe that creation of more states is never a panacea to our problem.