Chief Akintayo Akin-Deko, who has been involved in politics since 1978, founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is said to be eyeing the national chairmanship. In this interview with SULAIMON OLANREWAJU, the convener of Majeobaje Movement, a socio-cultural group dedicated to better governance in the country, speaks on the national convention of PDP and other issues. Excerpts:
SOME PDP members like Professor Taoheed Adeoja and Professor Tunde Adeniran, who like you contested for National Secretary in 2012 are contesting for the national chairmanship. why are you not in the race?
In my opinion, the PDP is not yet ready to choose a new chairman. There is still a lot of house cleaning to be done starting from 2015 when we lost the presidential election and then heard that party funds had been horribly mismanaged. This needs to be investigated. There are currently about 15 cases in court challenging the actions of the party leadership. This shows that a lot of genuine members are unhappy with certain decisions. But even more importantly, we need to allow the courts time to resolve their own squabbling so that we can have a single judgement, possibly at the superior Appeal Court. Then of course there are the many PDP leaders that are at political daggers drawn, waiting to settle scores or run for the 2019 presidential nomination. So, though I believe I am amply qualified to be national chairman, I won’t contest under these conditions. I don’t want to be the product of a faction or God forbid preside over the disintegration of the party.
All our PDP governors, Assembly members both state and national, ex-ministers, ex-this and that, who are currently dominating the headlines with their legal manoeuvres are doing so because they are in PDP. They have to realise that they are holding power in trust for all PDP members. We are the ones that do the work to win elections in our respective states and therefore all PDP officeholders are answerable to us. The tail cannot wag the dog, no matter how rich and powerful the tail becomes. So for now, PDP elders and leaders should be given time to first arrange a truce between these warring groups, reinforce the BOT to include more of our wise and less ambitious grassroots elders, and then support Ahmed Makarfi or a similar leader to run the party for a few more months while all these court cases are resolved. They can at the same time investigate the state of our party finances. After that I will, God willing, contest for the chairmanship if the position is still vacant and if my Idanre constituency wants me to.
You are the convener of Majeobaje Movement, which evidently supported the emergence of this administration. As an economic consultant, would you say President Buhari is doing the right things to resolve Nigeria’s current economic problems?
The man has been in power for just 15 months or so, and the recent conclusion of our Majeobaje Group was that he has not been in power long enough for us to assess his performance. President Buhari and most of us never realised just how deep and wide the rot had eaten into the economy at the time he was sworn in. He is also in an emergency coalition of political parties each with an eye on taking over from him in 2019. Let’s give the man time to implement his change agenda and to groom a good successor before we assess him. But in the meantime there is no getting away from growing criticism that he is nepotistic and has filled Aso Rock with his relatives, and that he does not consult enough especially with key elders in the society.
Does this mean that President Buhari is on the wrong track by focusing only on fighting corruption?
People voted for President Buhari in 2015 because of his integrity and because they saw an urgent need to kill corruption because it had reached dangerous levels in all areas of life. On this fight against corruption, Buhari has done well; very well. What his 15 months in office has shown is that it isn’t only politicians that are corrupt, but public office holders generally: soldiers, civil servants, lawyers, doctors, engineers, and so on. People who by their professional training, oath, salary and exposure, should know that much more is expected of them than from the average person. But recent revelations show that once some of them get into public office and are surrounded by the trappings of office, they forget everything including basic home training and join the corruption train.
Look, INEC officers that accept bribe to rig elections are worse than soldiers who plan coups. NASS members who pad budgets without the knowledge of the executive are worse than armed robbers. Corruption is today a way of life in Nigeria. Yes, Buhari is definitely doing very well in confronting corruption. But it will take more than one good man as president or another as EFCC chairman. The entire justice system must be seen to be systematically and transparently investigating corruption cases, prosecuting suspects and jailing the guilty ones regardless how high and mighty they are in our society. We just must move away from this current, knee-jerk frenzy to expose a few highly visible and very greedy officeholders.
There is also need to have an ethical revolution to bring back good old moral values. Our social leaders and people we look up to such as religious leaders, teachers, judges, traditional rulers and professionals, must come under closer scrutiny with the bad ones humiliated and rooted out. Fighting corruption must become a permanent mindset of all Nigerians at all times.
But would this resolve the nation’s economic problems?
It would be a useful first step to resolving the fundamentals. Something like pruning a tree to make it grow stronger and to become more fruitful. The fact is that the Nigerian economy often seems to defy economic logic because we do not apply the needed medicine in large enough dosage or for long enough to get the desired effect. What we need is a medium term Rolling Plan, which government will stick to and which carries all stakeholders along. Not just the usual group of government, IMF, organised labour and the private sector, but also the informal sector which still forms 60-70 per cent of the economy and includes market women, artisans and traditional rulers.
The plan must show how to get students to leave the comfort of life in a city which has roads, water, electricity and viewing centres to go and get land to start farming without too much hardship. Government must help to provide land, build roads, source equipment, provide extension services and help with unsecured loans to make such shifts in attitude and lifestyles a reality.
Would you subscribe to the view that restructuring Nigeria would make the country work better?
Interestingly, the conclusion at a recent Majeobaje Movement forum was that the term restructuring is so vague that it can be taken to mean anything, for example, reorganising to have less waste in government or operating true federalism or amending the Cconstitution entirely. There is no doubt that the current three-tier structure of one Federal, 36 States and 774 Local Governments is too expensive as it needs very many employees most of them highly paid technocrats enjoying fat allowances. But that can be sorted out if the government, especially at state and LGA, is ready to follow Buhari’s footsteps in cutting waste and laying off workers. But restructuring by changing the constitution needs to be very carefully handled and must be done without ulterior motives such as settling political scores or promoting sectional interests.
Keep in mind that the basic reason for restructuring Nigeria after independence, during the military rule, was to strengthen Nigeria’s unity and to share oil money equitably amongst the regions. Today the pressing need is for efficiency and fairer representation amongst 350 clearly identified ethnic groups. Therefore any platform to review the current constitution must reflect the interest of all these ethnic groups and also recognize that all Nigerians above 18 years of age are qualified to talk on the matter. It’s not like the widely over acclaimed English Constitution, which was drawn up over 800 years ago by a king and a few barons, his feudal landowners who ruled over about 3 million people. Or the American Constitution, that was written 250 years ago by just 55 men, that represented less than 20% of the 3 million population because in those days women, native Indians and blacks could not vote.
Nigeria has a population of 175,000,000 in 350 ethnic groups where everyone above the age of 18 can vote. Any constitutional amendment must be under a well-thought out, all-embracing plan to avoid the same crime of non-representation that the current Constitution is accused of.