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Ex-Minister advocates true federalism

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A former Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Chief Nduese Essien has called on President Bola Tinubu, and the leadership of the National and state assemblies to commence constitutional reform and restructuring of the country, which would lead to true federalism.

Essien, who represented Eket/Onna/Esit Eket/Ibeno federal constituency of the then Cross River State in the Second Republic, said that it is time to embrace true federalism. He added that this should be based on the six geopolitical zones or the current state structure with states and regions empowered to take charge of their own destinies.

“The oil producing communities will not succumb to the present level of frustration and subjugation where their resources are confiscated for the development of the whole nation and a pittance grudgingly allowed to them. More frustrating is the situation where the resources of the oil producing regions have been seized and exploited without their active participation. It is a ridiculous political arrangement which cannot be sustained”, the octogenarian said.

Full statement: “In my 80 years on earth, I have seen colonial administration of Nigeria. I have seen Nigeria since Independence in 1960. I have seen Nigeria under different shades of military rule and temporary civilian rule up to 1998. I have been an active participant in the government of Nigeria from 1999 in the House of Representatives and as a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria up to 2011. Since then, I have been on the sidelines of the evolving political scenario in the country.

“Today, I stand before you with a heart heavy with concern and a spirit emboldened by resolve. Our beloved country, Nigeria, is at a crossroads, grappling with crises that threaten the very fabric of our society. Endemic corruption, insecurity, impunity, nepotism, bad governance, and a flawed leadership recruitment system have cast a shadow over our nation’s future. But even in the face of these daunting challenges, I remain steadfast in my belief in the resilience of our people and potential of our great country.

“First and foremost, let me address the cancer of corruption that has plagued our society for far too long. Coming out of military rules and an interregnum of civilian administration in 1999, Nigeria was rated the second most corrupt nation in the world. The new administration in 1999 was aware of the enormity of the problem and set out to immediately address it by instituting mechanisms to reduce corruption. By 2008, Nigeria had ascended the corruption index to 121 out of 180 – a significant improvement resulting from the efforts of 8 years. By 2023, 145 out of 180, reflecting the deteriorating level of corruption in the country.

“Corruption is not merely a crime; it is also a betrayal of the trust placed in our leaders and a theft from the pockets of every hardworking Nigerian. We cannot hope to move forward as a nation until we root out corruption at all levels of government and society. Regrettably, corruption is most unlikely to reduce in Nigeria with the laisser-faire attitude of successive administrations wanting to accumulate excess resources to outpace opponents to win the next election. What is required is a selfless leader with a determination to address the menace the way Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore tackled it.

“Equally pressing is the issue of insecurity, which has left too many of our citizens living in fear for their lives and livelihoods. From the menace of Boko Haram in the Northeast to the banditry and kidnapping ravaging our communities, no Nigerian should have to endure such terror. We must bolster our security forces, invest in intelligence gathering and technology, and address the underlying socio-economic factors that fuel extremism and criminality. But we must also recognize that security is not just about guns and bullets; it is also about justice, opportunity, and dignity for all.

“Dear countrymen and women, since 2015, we have witnessed the worst levels of nepotism in our nation, the lopsided appointments which have negated not only the Federal Character principles enshrined in our constitution, but also the tenets of justice and equity. Impunity too, has been ever so pervasive, with powerful individuals and institutions flouting the law carelessly while ordinary Nigerians suffer the consequences. This culture of nepotism erodes trust in our institutions and undermines the very foundations of our democracy. No one should act outside the law. No one should be above the law. We must collectively ensure that justice is blind – meting out punishment to the powerful and protection to the powerless.

“These maladies have become so entrenched that it appears no administration emerging through our electoral process will ever be able to overcome them. The quality of governance in Nigeria has continued to plummet through successive administrations since 1999, and gotten worst since 2015. I therefore urge President Tinubu to do his best to address these issues and keep the country together to the end of his first tenure. Thereafter, a government of national unity should be formed to chart a new course for our nation.

“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also failed in its duty to uphold the integrity of our electoral process. The cascading fraudulent conduct of general elections stands as a testament to the erosion of our democratic values. I demand for an immediate investigation of the INEC and a comprehensive overhaul of our electoral system. We cannot go to another election with this porous system.

“Furthermore, the judiciary must be reformed to ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice. The prevalence of cash-for-judgment schemes undermines the very foundation of our democracy and erodes public confidence in the judiciary.

“At the heart of these crises lies the issue of governance – or rather, the lack thereof. Governance in Nigeria has continued to deteriorate with successive administrations. Our leadership recruitment system is broken, allowing unqualified and unscrupulous individuals to ascend to positions of power, while those with the vision and integrity to lead are sidelined or silenced. We must overhaul our electoral process, strengthen our democratic institution and empower our citizens to hold their leadership accountable. True leadership is not about wielding power; it is about serving the people with humility, honesty, and compassion.

“As a former National lawmaker, Minister, and now a leader of thought, I am compelled to reflect on the pivotal role we played during my tenure in the House of Representatives. Serving as the representative of Eket Federal Constituency, I, along with my colleagues, dedicated ourselves to the service of our nation and the Niger Delta region, which has long been the backbone of Nigeria’s economic prosperity. We recognized that while we worked to uphold the unity of our nation, we could not forget the pressing issues facing our constituents back home. It was this recognition that led us to form the South-South Parliamentary Caucus – a bastion of advocacy, unity, and progress within the National Assembly.

“During those days, the South-South Parliamentary Caucus stood as a beacon of hope and progress. We were vocal, visible, and united, advocating tirelessly for the development of our region and the betterment of our people. Our influence extended beyond our immediate constituencies. When we spoke, the nation listened, and our actions reverberated throughout the country. Together with our counterparts in the Senate and the House of Representatives, we achieved remarkable feats, including quelling the tide of militancy that once threatened to engulf our region in chaos.

“Our success did not go unnoticed. Lawmakers from other regions took note of our example and formed their own blocs, leading to a more dynamic and inclusive legislative process. The result was a period of unprecedented growth and progress for our nation, as we worked together to address the pressing issues facing our country and chart a course towards a brighter future.

“Today, as I address you to wind up the activities marking my 80th birthday anniversary, I am filled with a sense of urgency and purpose. I call upon President Bola Tinubu, Senate President Godswill Akpabio, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, and Speakers of the State Houses of Assembly across the federation to heed the call for constitutional reform and restructuring. It is time to embrace true federalism – whether based on the six geopolitical zones or the current state structure – and empower our states and regions to take charge of their own destinies. The oil producing communities will not succumb to the present level of frustration and subjugation where their resources are confiscated for the development of the whole nation and a pittance grudgingly allowed to them. More frustrating is the situation where the resources of the oil producing regions have been seized and exploited without their active participation. It is a ridiculous political arrangement which cannot be sustained.

“Furthermore, I must address the alarming state of our secondary health care facilities. During my recent visits to hospitals within my Senatorial District, I was appalled by the lack of confidence our people have in the public healthcare system. Despite the efforts of past administrations, including the refurbishment and equipping of hospitals by former Governor Udom Emmanuel, many facilities are still failing to meet the needs of our citizens with some of the equipment already missing. The poor state of the healthcare system is not peculiar to Akwa Ibom, but a matter of national emergency. I call on both the federal and stategovernments to intervene urgently.

“I must commend the governors of Akwa Ibom, Abia, Edo and Borno States for the good job they are doing for their people. In Akwa Ibom, Governor Umo Eno has embodied humility, prudence and commitment to the safety and wellbeing of the people of the State. By settling the backlog of gratuities and pension to retired public officers, cutting the cost of public celebrations and leasing out the state aircraft, Governor Umo Eno has shown that it will no longer be business as usual. But there are still rooms for him to do more to cut the cost of governance. Running a smart cabinet made up of experts with proven record of integrity and achievement will not only deliver on the promise of good governance, but also show that honesty and hard work pays.

“In the light of these challenges and as I wind down on the activities of my 80th birthday anniversary, I am also beginning the exiting process of my participation in active politics. I will, in a short while, sort out and disengage from the various political groups and leadership positions I have held for so long. At the age of 70 in 2014, I announced my disengagement from seeking elective office. Very soon, I shall be out of partisan politics to allow younger people room for ascendancy. As an elder statesman, I remain committed to offering guidance and counsel in the pursuit of a better Nigeria.

“I extend my gratitude to the governors of Akwa Ibom State for their support and cooperation over the years. To the media, I commend your role in informing and educating the Nigerian people. I urge you to remain steadfast in your commitment to truth and transparency.

“In conclusion, I reaffirm my dedication to the advancement of our state and nation. I pledge to continue working with Governor UmoEno and others to serve the best interest of our people. May God bless Nigeria and guide us through these challenging times.

“My fellow Nigerians, the road ahead will not be easy. The challenges we face are immense, and the solutions will require sacrifice, determination, and unity of purpose. But I have faith in the resilience of our people and the promise of our nation. Together, we can build a Nigeria where justice reigns, opportunity abounds, and every citizen can live with dignity and pride.

“As I enter my ninth decade, I recommit myself to the cause of a better Nigeria – a Nigeria free from corruption, insecurity, impunity and bad governance. And I call upon each and every one of you to join me in this noble endeavour. Together, let us rise above our differences, transcend our divisions, and forge a future worthy of our collective dreams.

“May God bless Nigeria, and may He grant us the wisdom, strength, and courage to overcome the challenges that lie ahead”.

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