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“What the people want” – John Odigie Oyegun

By Interview by Lindsay Barrett in Abuja
Posted on Wednesday, 26 September 2018 12:52

TAR: Why did your party set up the Committee on True Federalism?

JOHN ODIGIE OYEGUN: It is an issue of popular concern. There were calls for some kind of return to the regional structure of Nigeria. But no one was certain whether we should return to four regions or whether the six geopolitical zones should become the federating units – or, if eight new regions would be carved out, with the South-South and the Middle Belt being split into additional regions. Everybody was up in arms about restructuring, but nobody could say what it meant. We wanted to find out exactly what people want out of government rather than what government should impose on the people.

Which issues will take priority?

The overwhelming support for state police and community policing will have to be put in context of the existing system. The relations that will exist between the state police and the federal police force will have to be worked out in watertight regulatory codes. Some states might commence before others. All states in Nigeria are not equal: some are marginally viable, while others are very buoyant.

Our recommendations will lead to a massive rethinking of government funding. Our attitude towards the control and management of resources, especially mineral resources, will be radically transformed and the formula of sharing revenue from these resources will be reformed, with increased shares for regional authorities and reduced shares for federal authorities.

How will this resource policy work in practice?

The proposal is for onshore oil and gas sites to be vested in the state [governments] while offshore locations will be vested in the federal government. This is an eminently sensible proposition, but it will have to be implemented after extensive surveys and planning […] We depend on all patriotic politicians to cooperate with us, just as the governor of Bayelsa State Seriake Dickson recently pledged in a meeting with his Edo State counterpart Godwin Obaseki.

All states in Nigeria are not equal:
some are marginally viable, others are buoyant

Will any major parts of the report come into force before the 2019 elections?

Our intention is that this should occur. We are going to try to carry the party along with us and carry the nation across party lines. We are going to approach stakeholders in the hope that people will buy into the real advances in governance and public empowerment that these recommendations represent […] The implementation of True Federalism will be one of the major subjects of the campaigns.

How does your report reflect people’s aspirations?

The recommendations are especially reflective of the wishes of the youth and other special interest groups. We used social media extensively, and the response from women was intense. Our committee sat with panels of ordinary people in two locations in each of the six zones, and we think we have done a thorough job of distilling the public mood towards governance and the responsibility of political leadership.

From the April 2018 print edition

Top Photo: John Odigie Oyegun,
Chairman, All Progressives Congress, Nigeria
Credits: Olamikan Gbemiga

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