Bode George Wants Immunity Clause For Presidents, Govs Expunged… Says Regionalism No Longer Viable

Bode GeorgeA former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, Olabode George, on Saturday said the immunity clause for presidents and governors should be deleted from the Nigerian constitution.

Mr. George said no Nigerian should be above the law, including the president and vice, as well as governors and their deputies who are currently enjoy constitutional protection from criminal charges while in office.

“In America, nobody is above the law. We still remember the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky case while Clinton was in office.

“Exponents say that the fact that people trusted you to manage their resources does not make you a super human being.

“But the opponents said Nigeria was at the level of democratic practice where removal of immunity will lead to frivolous cases,” he stated.

Mr. George was one of the few high profile political officials tried and convicted of corruption. He was jailed in 2009 for 30 months.

In December 2013, the Supreme Court quashed all the charges against Mr. George, saying he was charged on a law that did not exist at time the said crime was committed.

Addressing journalists in Lagos, Mr. George said the immunity clause has outlived its usefulness, and that there are procedures to follow if frivolous cases are raised against a president or governor.

“I support the idea that it should be expunged because it will start to assist the growth of the nation,” he said.

Mr. George, who is a delegated at National Conference said that regionalism is no longer a viable in Nigeria.

The debate on regionalism and removal of the immunity clause has continued to generate heated arguments at the on-going National Conference.

Mr. George, who is a member of the Committee on Politics and Governance at the conference, argued that states would refused to merge in the hope of regionalism.

“We tried the analysis at the confab and 33 out of the 36 states representatives said no.

“If states that think they are not very viable to stay alone are so concerned about survival, then let them merge via referendum of their people.

“The idea of regionalism was muted by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo to recognise minorities on both sides of the divide.

“I do not see many states agreeing to be ruled again by one premier. It cannot work.”

He said there is a need for economic cooperation among all the federating states which, he said, would make more sense.

Mr. George said Nigeria is better off with a presidential system of government, based on the principle of zoning.

He said that Nigeria’s democracy would not have lasted this long if not for the zoning arrangement.

“With zoning, every region has something to go home with. If Nigeria wants to practise true federalism, the Federal Government should concern itself with the states.

“Let the states decide how many councils they want but sharing will be on two levels. The councils will cease to be part of the national sharing.

“We are talking about equality and fairness. If we want peace in Nigeria, let whatever comes to the pool be shared equally.

“That way people will still have a sense of fairness and belonging,” he argued.

The PDP chieftain also criticised the payment of pension to elected public officials, urging states already practising it to cancel it.

“We kicked against the issue of pension, when it was started in Lagos.

“As an ex-governor, I don’t take pension from my state. No ex-governor deserves a pension after eight years in office.

“It is immoral and ungodly to reap the people off like that amid so much poverty.

“Gov. Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State is a man, who respects the voice of the people by cancelling his planned pension scheme.”

Mr. George said that if elected, a PDP government in Lagos State would cancel pension for ex-governors.

Speaking also on the current insurgency in the country, Mr. George explained that the method of fighting terror is different because the enemy is unknown.

“Yes the buck stops on the President’s table but every Nigerian must be involved and speak up against it.

“It is not a matter of going to rout the Chibok girls out. The President is also concerned because he is also a father.

“The Chibok girls’ abduction is a national disaster for all Nigerians. Our sympathy should be suggestions not castigations,” Mr. George said.

On the upcoming Ekiti polls, he said that it would be a repeat of the voting pattern in the state in 2003.

“Ekiti people are ready. Nobody can rig and get away with it in Ekiti State. This time, it will be one-man one-vote,” he said, charging the people not to be cowed or muscled.

“I pray for peace. I pray that all will go well”, he added. (NAN)