David Mark Rules Out Diaspora Voting Right
The Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator David Mark, has ruled out the possibility of achieving the much agitated Diaspora Voting Right by Nigerians living abroad just as he said that local government autonomy was very crucial in order to ensure that local government were better run in the country.
Addressing Nigerians during a courtesy visit on the Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United States, Professor Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye, at the embassy’s chancery in Washington, DC yesterday, Senator David Mark emphatically said that Diaspora voting would not work for Nigeria, saying that the logistics involved to get Diasporan Nigerians to vote from their individual location were just too many.
“The logistics are too many and they are not right now so we will not be able to do it. You know we tried to introduce the idea before but when we discovered the problems in the logistics involved to make it work, we had to drop the idea for the sake of the nation.
There is no way we will do diaspora voting that it will not cause problems because political parties will always complain that we have rigged elections and we all know what allegation as this can cause in Nigeria, so we do not want that to happen now.
“Even Nigerians in the Diaspora will be saying that the officials of our foreign Embassies have manipulated such elections in favour of a certain political party and we don’t want this to happen.
Again, the local politics in Nigeria, if brought to the Diaspora, will end up dividing Nigerians living abroad. Now, you are very united but there will be a division the moment we introduce diaspora voting” the longest serving Senator in Nigeria said.
Mark pressed further that Nigerians should not compare the democracy in America with the one in Nigeria, noting that America had been in democratic system for a very long time while Nigeria is just trying to stabilize its own democratic process.
“Over the last fourteen years, we have tried to achieve a proper democratic foundation and this has become a slow process and it is very painful but all the same, we are working with efforts at the National Assembly to work for the benefits of the nation and Nigerians” he pointed out.
On the poor funding of Nigeria’s Embassies, the Senate President noted that the National Assembly was aware that embassies do not have enough funds to be able to carry out their duties, saying that had to be addressed urgently.
He said: “I am carrying that news home that you have been able to function well despite the little funds that you get.
I will make sure that we consider the allocations our foreign missions in the 2014 Budget because they need a lot of funds to be able to carry out their duties.
I have been speaking intensively on this with Foreign Affairs Minister, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, and we already have it in plan to put lots of funds in some of our big embassies like the ones here in Washington, DC, London, Japan, South Africa and others like that.
“I thank Ambassador Adefuye for all his effort that we read in the media everyday to defend our country. I also want to laud the embassy’s officials for the good job they are doing together with the Ambassador to defend the integrity of the country.
You have done well to launder and protect the image of the country in a big nation such as America. America is a big nation and there are lots we have to do to keep up as the giant in Africa.
“And to you, the Ambassador, i must say that I am impressed with the achievements that you have recorded since you assumed duties here as the Ambassador in 2010.
I also need to say this that this is the first Nigerian embassy that I am visiting since I got to the Senate because I try as much as possible not to bother our embassies abroad each time I am out of Nigeria.
I must say that if Nigeria has a representatives who are working like you in our foreign missions, the image of the country would have gone up. I also have the knowledge that you are working very hard to secure a meeting between our president and President Obama in September”
On President Barrack Obama’s recent visit to Africa, Mark said that it was a mistake for the president to have excluded Nigeria from the trip just as he urged Nigerians to put it behind them now and work towards the cooperation between Nigeria and the United States.
He said: “But for the future, both countries are very important to each other and we must recognize that importance based on mutual respect for each other and not on servant-master relationship.
Nigeria is ready to take advice from the any country but we will not allow the imposition of something that is not in our best interest on us.
If the visit of the president to African countries was based on Trade and Investment, I think Nigeria qualifies more than any other country in the continent”
On Security, he said that the emergence of Boko Haram had got the country into an unfortunate limelight, but noted that the government was working very hard on it.
“We are being careful because we don’t want the insecurity in Nigeria to bring collateral damage that will make the government to be unable to defend the situation in the country”
Senator Mark however blamed the international media for not being fair to Nigeria by often misleading and misinforming the international community with reports which he said were very untrue.
He added that the reports that the international media present on the killings were over-exaggerated, stating that such reports had given the country a bad image in the presence of the international community.
His words: “Like the recent city where killings took place, the Senate Committee on Security visited the place and we discovered that the total number of the people living in the area was not even up to the number of the people that the international media claimed to have been killed by Boko Haram members and this is very unfair to us.
No matter how proactive you are, the international media will not look kindly and all they do is to exaggerate events and make our country look completely unsecured.”
On the agitation by Nigerian to designate Boko Haram as a foreign terrorists organization, Mark that such designation would mean that all Nigerians were terrorists if implemented by the United States government.
He said: “We are working hard to bring the activities of Boko Haram under control. On the designation, I want to say that we have to be careful because once the group is labeled a foreign terrorist organization, it is the whole country that has been labeled.
This issue is what we can still control by ourselves and we should not call for actions that will run the country’s image down as a result of our eagerness to see Boko Haram being phased out of the country.”
On local government autonomy, he said: “I am for local government autonomy because as at today no local government in Nigeria is functioning properly, not even one, and the reason is because they are under the State Assemblies and the state government.
The National Assembly cannot make laws for the local government. As it goes, no state in Nigeria is going to allow local government autonomy.
I think it is an appropriate task to try to make it work but when it fails, we are not to be blamed for it. I think the local government autonomy is very strategic because it will allow the local governments to get their own allocations directly.
On state creation, Mark said that the agitation for state creation was not for a selfish reason, noting that it would make governance to be nearer to the people in the country.
He said the argument that people who were against state creation give that some states aren’t viable was capitally, stressing that it was not applicable to all the states in the federation.
“If a state fails, it doesn’t mean that another state will fail. State creation if allowed will give the people a better opportunity to decide for themselves” he noted.
In his brief response, Ambassador Adefuye thanked the Senate President for deeming it fit to pay a visit to the embassy, promising to always fight for the rights of Nigeria in the USA.
Adefuye said that he would work very closely with the Nigerians in America so that they could be better informed about the ongoing transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria. He said that the relationship that Nigeria enjoys with the US is growing higher by the day.
“The Bi-National agreement between Nigeria and the USA has brought lots of gains to both countries. American investors are now seeing Nigeria as a place where they can invest their money into all kinds of sectors without any risk” he noted.
Also, members of the Nigerian community in the USA lauded the federal government under President Goodluck Jonathan for the transformation which they said was taking place In Nigeria.
While they lauded members of the National Assembly under the leadership of Senator David Mark for all their efforts to stabilize the democratic process in the country, they also lauded Professor Adefuye for all his efforts to bring Nigerians together and to defend the integrity of Nigeria in the USA as the Ambassador.