Senate Minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe has said Nigerians are struggling for basic democratic rights because “democracy is difficult for some people to really fathom”.
Abaribe said this on Thursday night at the Government House in Port Harcourt during a condolence visit by the Senate Minority Caucus to the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, over the death of his uncle, Charles Wike.
He said, “Nigeria as it needs to move in a different direction from where we are moving now. We need you (Wike) to support us in our effort to make every Nigerian feel the impact of good governance.
“We understand the difficulty every Nigerian is feeling today. We understand the pain most Nigerians are going through. We understand that those who came on the platform of change have ended up even being worse than those that they came to change.
“The disappointment, the disillusionment that most Nigerians are feeling today is our responsibility to bring to the fore in our public debate.”
The former Abia State deputy governor added, “We have been keeping up with our ideals. Democracy is difficult for some people to really fathom. I think that is why the government at the centre is finding it really difficult.
“You cannot have democracy without having democrats. Only democrats can give you democracy. Autocrats can never give you democracy.
“What autocrats want at every time is to say that their word is law. We believe in interaction and the contestation of ideas in the public space. That is what will lead us to a better Nigeria.
“We have been trying to steer the ship of state in the right direction when we get communications from the Presidency and it has been very difficult.”
He added though the Senate Minority Caucus had continued to work to correct the anomalies in government, the struggle had been met with resistance.
Abaribe said, “It has been very difficult for us. We thought we would have been able to change the direction of Nigeria in 2019. Be that as it may, we also resolved that we would give a positive direction to government, considering that all of us are supposed to be working for the interest of the country.
“But as you have seen from interactions and what has come out in the media, it has been a very difficult task. Even today, we had to go into a very difficult discussion with our colleagues on the propriety of plunging Nigerians into further debts.
“What we have seen is that maybe there’s a reluctance on the part of the Federal Government to take good advice from the citizenry represented by us.”
He said the security challenges facing the country were making development difficult.
“You cannot have development when almost all parts of the country are burning. The insecurity we contend with, we have tried to get the government to see reason and change tactics and the personnel.
“It is those who refuse to buy into the new ideas that don’t want the economy to grow and they don’t want anything good to happen,” he said.
He commiserated with the governor on the death of his uncle.
Responding, Wike said, “It is unfortunate that one minister from the South-South said Rivers State was being denied projects because of kidnapping cases. It is painful. There are killings all over the country and in different states. But they are siting projects in those states. But in Rivers State, not a single federal project.”
The governor said the exclusion of the state from federal projects had raised critical questions.
He said, “Are we really part of this country? Is Rivers State part of this country? They have taken away the majority of the prominent positions occupied by our sons and daughters in the Federal Government.
“Rivers State is part of this country. We did not commit any offence to warrant the total exclusion from federal projects under this dispensation.”