Alhaji Umar Dembo (mni), is a man of many sides. He is a one-time Minister of Petroleum, publisher and politician to mention but a few. In this interview with IBRAHIM MOHAMMED, he speaks on challenges facing Nigeria and the way forward as the nation celebrates 60 years of Independence.
As a statesman who was in government, what is your take on the country’s federalism against the backdrop of rising calls for restructuring of the political system under which Nigeria is governed?
Well, the Nigerian constitution is not sacred, it is not a holy book and it cannot be called perfect. I participated in two of the constitutional conferences; still, people are crying and asking for a state of their own.
After 60 years of living together, it will be disastrous to split the nation for selfish reasons. We must learn to continue to give and take, besides, restructuring must allow for human rights, tolerance and acceptance of one another, it must be seen to work within and between Nigerians. We are such an undisciplined lot and life cannot condone it, so Nigerians must be prepared to obey laws and pay for disrupting the law. The executive, unwieldy the legislature, unpredictable police and our uncertain judiciary must be prepared to work for a greater nation, so must the constitution reflect.
Recently, a new group known as the North Central Peoples Forum (NCPF), was formed with some Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), stalwarts as its leaders, thus prompting feelings that all is not well among northern leaders. How will you react to this?
The North Central Peoples Forum, some of whose leaders have moved to another forum, is certainly unfortunate and can only worsen matters than make it better. It is really sad as they fall into the traps of those that want to wreck the country from within and outside Nigeria. Anywhere anybody goes in Nigeria, the so-called Middle Belt has no identity of its own, always northern. Whether it is trouble or joy, real Nigerians know who is who. I am sure those who want a peaceful world must try to contribute positively rather than worsen matters, why not stick to realities. I am sure the common and peaceful men in the middle belt know the right way.
The country is experiencing security challenges such as insurgency, armed banditry, kidnapping etc, what roles can elders like you play to assist the federal government to bring the country out of these
It is not only elders like me that are needed to contribute to getting rid of our present travails. We must embrace and help one another, help our-selves by being as good and truthful as possible in individual, group and government activities. The present nonchalant attitudes of Nigerians toward the development of the country must be jettisoned, especial-ly; those that are in key positions must obey the law and behave well for our nation to have the right growth for good people make good nations.
The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari recently announced the total removal of petrol subsidy, what is your view on this as a former Minister of Petroleum?
We better congratulate the courage of President Buhari for taking the burden of several former heads of states/presidents for their inability to tackle the problem of maintaining the four refineries, let alone building new ones. Nigerians should also praise the NNPC for keeping petrol flowing in filling stations nationwide for all the years of Buhari presidency.
As Nigeria attains 60 years of nationhood, what is your assessment of the journey so far?
As Nigeria attains 60 years, we are not doing badly, but wehave too many uncompleted projects, too many losses in our development plans, too many carelessnesses hindering our success as a nation. We Nigerians are too selfish and tribalistic, lazy and self-destructive, should we run away from such vices, we will be a brand new Nigeria. Besides, As Director-General, Buhari Support Group Centre, I ask Nigerians to help and encourage President Buhari to complete his laudable capital projects which can be the basis for our industrial and economic progress. The ongoing boosting of the agricultural sector and fight against corruption amongst others are worthy of note. We need Buhari to put the country on the right track and conduct credible elections that will bring in another government to continue the task of building a Nigeria of our dreams.