Weekly Trust: President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration has just presented its mid-term report. How would you assess Nigeria under his watch?Hon. Orker Jev represents Buruku federal constituency from Benue State. Now serving his second term in the House of Representatives, he ditched the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2011 to vie for re-election on the platform of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN. Jev says President Goodluck Jonathan ‘s mid-term report is all about reeling out figures without corresponding development indices and adds that in PDP, one is criminalized if he attempts to perform in an elective office among other issues. Excerpts.
JEV: I think the government is still struggling to find its feet. I can safely say this and I think I am reflecting the perception of majority of Nigerians about his administration, because he has not performed in key areas. First, the Constitution says the whole essence of government is security and welfare of the people. It is a summary of the entire essence of the existence of any government. There is alarming insecurity all over the country and the welfare of the people of this country is so bad, and no one needs a soothsayer to know this. We are still groping in the dark as far as this issue is concerned. Personally, I am not impressed with the mid-term report card, because it is not all about reeling out figures of growth; growth with unemployment; growth with insecurity; growth on paper alone will not translate into any upliftment of the lives of the people. So, his administration is neither here nor there. Opposition mergers in the past, as manifested in the All Progressives Congress (APC) now, have never worked. How do you rate the present outing of the APC? It is obvious that since democracy launched itself again in Nigeria 14 years back, this is the most determined and serious effort at a merger and a lot of things have come with it. First, I think the merging parties are learning their lessons from what has happened in the past and second, they have realized that in to upstage the ruling party, they really have to be serious about it because it’s not a tea party. Expectedly, the PDP that is about to go will fight and kick. So, you really have to be determined. You can see the desperation the PDP showed by sponsoring some small parties to claim the acronym of the real APC. It shows their desperation. It is afraid of what is happening. We have never seen this kind of desperation in the past; but before now, the PDP could ignore, but you can’t ignore what is happening now. And again, like I have said, Nigerians have made a statement that they can no longer tolerate the impunity, the arrogance and the mis-governance of the people. Nigerians are giving these merging parties a great opportunity to try and see what they can do to clean the mess. We are not a merger of convenience, just like the PDP was formed as a measure of convenience to drive away the military. It is not just about driving away the PDP; it is about good governance thereafter. So, from the past experiences that we have had with merging parties, I think this is the most serious attempt and from all indications, this one is designed to succeed. The process of Constitution amendment is in progress. What should Nigerians expect from House of Reps on the areas proposed? Nigerians should expect what they themselves said they wanted from the NASS. What NASS did particularly, House of Reps, where I belong was that we went round the 360 constituencies across Nigeria to sample their views on what they wanted to be included in the Constitution amendment. We have the records and I think we are going to be guided by what they said or their views. It will make no sense if we went round to ask them what they wanted and at the end of the day, ignore their views. All of what they want, I believe, is what the House will try as much as possible to include in the Constitution basically. But before this stage, there were allegations that collated views of the proposed Constitution amendment were doctored, has this not tinkered with document which is supposed to guide the House? The most interesting thing is that we all have copies of what was collated during public hearings. So, even if you doctor anything and it comes back to the House, we are there and we will confront any document that is incorrect. I think it should not be much of an issue for now, because whatever the Joint Committee of the NASS that was saddled with the responsibility of recommending clauses for amendment has done would not be final. It will be subjected to debate and if there is any alteration by them or something we feel was not there, but included at this stage, we will correct it. So, Nigerians should not be unduly worried about it. I am yet to confirm the doctoring of the final document; but indeed, if anything was doctored, it’s not a problem, we will confront them. Whatever the committee did was and is not the final statement on the Constitution amendment. Remember that at the end of the day, we cannot sit at the NASS alone and amend the Constitution; we have to involve the legislatures across the states. So, anything that we do there is subject to review by a wide range of organs saddled with the Constitutional mandate of altering the Constitution. So, there is no cause for alarm yet. Based on the crisis in Nigeria’s Governor’s Forum (NGF) which is a small election, what would you predict about the likely character of the 2015 general elections? The NGF crisis is really, really funny. Like someone commented, it is like children playing, when you look at the very serious issues facing the country and then you have an election of less than 40 persons, 35 to be precise; then there is so much noise, which shouldn’t be so. The truth of the matter is that somebody outside there, even outside of the NGF doesn’t want the outcome of the election. This is really sad because the President should live above partisanship. Of course, the President was brought to the seat by politics, but once you are there, you become a statesman. When it comes to election time, you can begin to emphasize politics, but before then politics should not be guiding your day to day conduct of state affairs. But that is what we find happening and until we walk away from this mentality, we would continue to have problems and it is a very bad omen for 2015. Like people point out, if we cannot conduct an election of 35 persons without rancor or accept the results, how are you sure that if PDP loses, as it is imminently the case, how are you sure that they will accept the results? From all indications, PDP is going to be voted out by Nigerians, so are they telling us that they are going to accept the results? Just 35 persons in an election that does not carry any material benefits such, yet they will not accept results. I am shocked at what would happen in 2015 when we display this kind of attitude. So, it is really sad, but is not too late to retrace the steps of those who are causing confusion in the polity. You ditched the PDP in 2011 to the opposition ACN, where you contested elections and won. How would you describe the experience? In my own little corner, I assisted in building the PDP to the extent that I had some level of influence there. I really felt it should be a platform where you could get into public office and serve the Nigerian people, but what I saw happened in the PDP was that if you show some seriousness in trying to serve the people, you become an enemy to others, who feel you are trying to be popular or something. So, it doesn’t matter to me whether I win an election or not, but I cannot belong to that platform (PDP) again. So, it wasn’t desperation to win an election. I left the PDP even before the party primary election and it is not as if I Iost it and went over to find a platform to contest at all cost. I thank God that the concerns some of us raised are still there and leading to an implosion within the PDP. And it is good for Nigeria because they have now known that the PDP has become a big burden on the country and Nigerians are waiting for the ripe time to flush them out.