Reverend Sam Ekeledo is the former executive Chairman of Umuahia North Local Government Council. He was former senior Special Assistant on Documentation and Strategy to former governor Orji Uzor Kalu as well as General Manager/CEO Abia State Transport Corporation. In this interview with News Critic, Ekeledo advocated for the abrogation of NYSC Scheme. Excerpts:
Q. On Local Government administration?
A. We don’t have local government as they should be, what we have particularly here in Abia state are parastatals of the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. They are not councils that deliver some of those dividends of democracy. We have a situation where in terms of staffing, appointment or promotions or even sack, the local government in Abia is totally subjected to the Local Government Service Commission. On the other hand, the administrative control whether it’s budgeting or receipt of allocation, they are again subjected to the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Local Government Affairs. Ask the Accountant General, no local government chairman can authoritatively say that what the federal government publishes as their allocations is what they actually receive.
In my time you only appear at the JAC meeting and what you are given is what you take back to the council. In view of this kind of foundational deficiency, you can’t expect anything better. What I advocate is local government system as it should be, as it is practiced all over the world whether it’s USA, UK, or Hong Kong. It’s a different ball game because when you are a local government chairman you are in-charge.
Abrogation of NYSC
I always believed that a healthier and productive society is built by what we call youth acculturation. What we have today as NYSC scheme should be abrogated and in its place we should have compulsory universal military service. To me, this is the best way we could build back our nationhood. We are a divided people now, but we can build back our nationhood by making this a three year programme. It’s universal in the sense that it’s not your graduation from the university that qualifies you, what qualifies you is attainment of a certain age across board. At 18 years you become eligible, and you will be drafted into the compulsory universal military service, so that you can actually get to serve your nation whether male or female. All this idea of trying to train people in entrepreneurship skills etc will be subsumed in the programme. That is to say that people will pass out after three years full of skills, of discipline and of course greater zeal and sense of patriotism.
Q. Do you think Nigeria is ripe for this kind of programme?
A. What are we ripe for, armed robbery?
Q. But our system…
A. It’s easy, what we will do is utilize the standing army to train the reserve army, that’s it. During the three year period, they are active, at the end they are discharged into the reserve, it’s simple. Then you carry it out in phases, every year we take a certain number. It’s for our own good and we are not lacking in military facilities, then we expand them. We are actually delaying the development of our capacity. I can tell you again that one of the things it will ensure is that there will be no crime again in this country because every other person is trained.
Q. How do you view Abia state in terms of development initiatives?
A. If it is a race I will say that we started well in 1999, but over time we have lagged behind. We have not made much progress, we are held down by the peoples’ inability to question certain situations and events around them. Again, maybe in our attempt to elect our representatives we do not make the right choices. We had in 2015 a situation where there was a balance between the PDP Assemblymen and the APGA lawmakers, but overnight what happened? The APGA assembly men disappeared into PDP. Of course everybody understands how those things happen that people are usually induced to decamp.
This is for me a call for our electorate to ensure that anyone you will send to the state Assembly should be a person of consequence, who has a mind of his own and who understands that the responsibility he bears is first to his constituency and second to the administration. We are not too many in numbers in Abia, we don’t carry much burden and we have three major cities to explore. Any state in this country that has Aba alone does not have to request anything from the federal government, but we need to harness these and turn them around to become who we should be.
Q. Biafra resonates 50 years after the civil war, what do you think?
A. Biafra is not about a people seeking to break out. Before the civil war we were one people, by virtue of the DNA we carry as Igbo people we are not contented in staying in one place. There is nowhere in the world you will not find an Igbo man, it’s impossible. It’s acknowledged nationwide that anywhere you didn’t find Igbo man better not stay there, that’s the way it’s now. We are witnessing the fact of historical injustice. When the war ended and we knew we fought a war of attrition, no attempt was made on helping to rebuild the Biafran enclave. And we also have lingering issues in the memory of the fathers and to some extent the children of this enclave. Our fathers were denied whatever money they had in the bank and they were only qualified to receive 20 pounds. Such official policy of impoverishment is what I think the federal government should apologize. There are other sentiments that give rise to some of this Biafra logic. But be that as it may, I don’t believe that Nigerians of this side called Biafra really want to break away. They want correction of some of the injustices and of the fact that we are part of the project called Nigeria.