With mounting security issues plaguing the country, the general secretary of the Yoruba Elders Council (YCE), Dr Kunle Olajide, speaks on the implications, skewed appointments, 2023 presidency, among other issues, in this interview by Kunle Oderemi and Sunday Adepoju. Excerpts:
What is your assessment of the general situation in the country, especially security, economy, and others?
The state of the nation is not inspiring because Nigeria ought not to be where we are today in the world arena. We are in a nation divinely endowed by God with abundant human and natural resources. If we recall; I think it was British prime minister, Harold Macmillan, who said he was confident with the resources in Nigeria, that 20, 50 years after independence, we would be among the league of the first world. But where are we today? We have been declared the Poverty Capital of the World. And in my humble opinion, we have never been so polarised as we are in the last five years of this administration.
I was very optimistic when President Muhammadu Buhari was elected believing that, perhaps, his records in 1984 would take us somewhere and still, it is a measure of politics in the polity to fight corruption. It has often been said that if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us. And that is what is happening now.
In the five years of this administration, corruption is almost virtually killing Nigeria now under Buhari’s very watch. So, for me, the state of the nation is not the best at all. Look at the various indices of life. Look at the health, education, infrastructure, power, among other sectors. On power, we have less than 5000 mega-watt for the population of over 200 million people. Is it water or security? When this administration took over power, I think a dollar was about N200. Now, it is over N400. Even in the management of the economy, I have not seen any improvement. So, personally, I am not too happy with the state of the nation. This is not the type of country some of us will want to breed our children and grandchildren. It is not! In the first instance, it is clear that we are operating a dysfunctional federalism.
The federalism is dysfunctional. The colonialists brought many nationalities together in a false marriage. They never sought their consent. They gave us federalism with the Independence Constitution. They looked at Nigeria before independence. They realised that the South was educated and they did all in their power to manipulate the process of electing the pioneer leaders of Nigeria, handling Nigeria over to the North that said they were not ready for independence. The North was also less-developed educationally.
They were not as advanced as the South. They could hide under the North to continue to manipulate Nigeria and they are doing it in this very moment. And all the nationalities put together in the last two or three decades have been clamouring for restructuring and reorganizing the federation in a way that would work. For a country as expanding as Nigeria, from Atlantic Ocean to this Sahara Desert, land space of over 900 square kilometers, having a centralised police force cannot work and it has never worked anywhere.
But more than 60 years after independence, we ought to have overcome some of these challenges.
I have always said that two/twin evils bedeviled the emergence of a potentially great and prosperous Nigeria. One is military truncation of our democratic march to progress in 1966 and 1983. The second is the oil boom that I want to call oil doom. The oil was supposed to be a blessing but the boom came during time of military intervention leading to the military rule. The military guys were very young. And you and I know that the military in those days were trained to kill and destroyed, for warfare. They were not trained in the management of human beings and they were in very tender age to rule over a complex country like Nigeria. What happened was that the oil boom that was meant to be blessing to Nigeria served as an intoxicant, alcohol and drugs to the young rulers to the extent that one of them said money was not our problem but how to spend it. That was why it turned out to be oil doom where you had matured experienced leaders in other countries where you had oil boom, they invested the resources from building solid infrastructure, anticipating the future and ensuring that they laid a solid foundation for a prosperous tomorrow. But in Nigeria, it serves as intoxicant and other hard drugs for the young men. In fact, on one occasion, we paid salaries of one of the West African countries for one month. That was because we had no maturity to manage our resources that time. So, those were the twin evils that made it difficult for Nigeria to achieve its potentials and you may not agree with me; the Constitution we are operating is military constitution. A group of people would sit and develop a constitution that would suit the whims and caprices of the military.
About 21 years after the military left the stage, many believe nothing seems to have changed significantly.
We are still under a quasi-military rule. The Constitution bequeathed to us was military constitution. And at this stage, I want to say God bless Pa Abraham Adesanya and Pa Solanke Onasanya. They didn’t want us to be part of the transition process in 1998; they denied. They wanted the people’s constitution written by Nigerians for Nigerians before the transition. But General Abusalami Abubakar, together with other who wanted to be governors and senators and what have you persuaded them. Abusalami Abubakar deceived us that that would be the first duty of the civilian regime. And you know where we are today? Olusegun Obasanjo came and went. Umar Yar’Adua came but his health did not permit him to do much. Right from his time, there was David Mark, another military man, in the Senate. Goodluck Jonathan came and David Mark, a military man, was there in his neck as the head of the National Assembly. And what do we have now? We have a military man.
So, we are under a quasi-military regime, a quasi-milito-democratic government. And this is why Nigeria is not making progress. Remember the time Nigerian people have been calling Mr President to change service chiefs. They have over-spent their time for two major reasons. One, in my opinion, is to have fresh ideas in this anti-Boko Haram war. Two, it was meant to allow the immediate subordinates of these service chiefs to be able to aspire to becoming service chiefs. So, retaining them there does two evils to Nigeria.
They are using their own old strategies that they have used in the last five years. They are also demoralising their juniors who are looking forward to ascend to their positions. So, those ones are not giving their best. Nobody wants to be where they are fore ever. And these people are aging and their subordinates too are. But Mr President has not yielded; the National Assembly went and advised him in a resolution. He said it was the prerogative of the presidency and cannot be changed. The National Assembly members are representatives of the Nigerian people. So, when they come up with a resolution, it is a resolution that ought to be taken seriously. Though the resolutions are advisory, the president of Nigeria must be a listening president to what the people are saying. So, even if elected representatives of the people even come with resolutions, of course, Mr President should listen. This is not supposed to be a dictatorship.
What do we need to fix the security sector? What are those steps that the government should take?
My humble opinion is that I don’t see sincerity on the part of this government. I listened to President Buhari about a year and a half or two years ago when he was accepting the police commission he appointed. He said that I was time to have state police and community police because of the insecurity in the country. Do we have it now? No! There are no structures in place. If you think contrarily, should we wait for all Nigerians to be killed before we do the needful? The All Progressives Congress (APC) set up the El-Rufai Committee on Devolution of Powers. That committee consisted of APC governors from the six zones and some other members. They came up with a report that would have taken us a step forward. Up till now, nothing has been done with report of the committee. I watched (ex-APC national chairman) Chief John Odigie Oyegun receive the report and during the presentation of the report, El-Rufai, the chairman of the committee said they had already prepared all the necessary bills for implementing their recommendations to be forwarded to the National Assembly. What happened to the report now? The present government is not listening to the people. Again, Nigerians have been talking about lopsided appointments in the last five years. The system is going from bad to worse. Some reporters were asking me that some people said that dialogue would have been a better option. And said ‘No’!
Why do you think dialogue will not be a better option?
What type of dialogue do you need when all Nigerian newspapers that I know, including yours, have written editorials on this issue of lopsided appointments? Nigerian columnists have written and rewritten about this. The broadcast and electronic media have been shouting and shouting about this. Statistics have been displayed in newspapers. What other dialogue do you want? Do you want people to go and start prostrating in Aso Rock? For me, going to the court is only option left.
Under the Jonathan presidency, there was a similar agitation by the Yoruba. What the leader did was to walk up to Mr President then….
I was part of the leadership that met Mr President. In fact, I spoke for the South-West, alongside Chief Olu Falae, Chief (Mrs) Akerele. The strategy didn’t work then and, still, it cannot work now. We were led by General Adebayo of blessed memory. We also demanded to meet the President in camera. I was part of those that even met the president in camera and he called his chief of staff at that time. He told him in our presence that he would re-fix us and that was all. What other dialogue do you need?
People are already talking about 2023 presidency. What is your take on the issue of which zone takes the presidency?
The first thing that amazed me was the comment by Mamman Daura, the president’s cousin, about a week and half ago. He said that 2023 presidency should be about rotation but by competence. I laughed. Well, I agree with him that we have to look at what we call the 3Cs – competence, character and capacity – to elect the next president. Definitely, that is the 3Cs. But I can tell you that this present administration has done more harm than any other administrations to the unity of this country in the last five years because of these lopsided appointments and the apparent insensitivity of the administration to the cries of the people for it to adhere to the federal character. Every part of this country is more ethnic-conscious hitherto and before. In such a situation, the only binding force that remains is the rotation of the presidency between the North and the South. Otherwise, there is nothing there to unite us from what this administration has done. Absolutely nothing! The rotation must continue until such a time that this country has been restructured to achieve true federalism and to recognise ethic diversities that exist in Nigeria.
The argument in certain quarters is that the issue of rotation has not allowed Nigeria to tap into its full potentials.
I disagree entirely with them. There is no part of this country that does not have capable, competent people of character to lead this country, either in the South or in the North. The problem that keeps turning out is the constitution and the political system. Constitution is the foundation. Recall that in the First Republic, Chief Obafemi Awolowo contested only in Remo Constituency and he became the premier of Western Region from Atlantic Ocean to River Niger. Tafawa Balewa contested only in Bauchi Constituency and he became prime minister of Nigeria from Atlantic Ocean to the Sahara Desert. You can look at their constituencies in terms of the expenditure that it should have caused them as at that time. Now, when you want to be president, you have to contest and all Nigerian electorate must vote in the election. You must have private jets. Therefore, people like you and I who have ideas but don’t have access to private jets cannot contest for the presidency. In the process of presidential aspirants hiring private jets, they get compromised and there is no way any leader can emerge out of this political system without being basically corrupt. The winner has to please his paymaster. So, the political system is a bane to producing competent leadership. In the First Republic, politics was a service industry; it was not a commercial venture. Today, it is a commercial venture. I have been involved in about two to three presidential campaigns in the last 10 or 15 years. I was very heavily involved during Dr Peter Odili’s presidential aspiration. I know how much it cost us. I was part of Ibrahim Babangida presidential aspiration in 2010. I know our budget. I was part of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s campaign. So, the existing political system cannot give us patriotic competent capable men of character to lead us. Until we rewrite the Constitution to reflect ethnic diversities.
Again, presidential system cannot work in this country; it is too expensive to finace. Look at how much we spend on the National Assembly alone, a gathering of less than 500 Nigerians costing about 20% of recurrent annual revenue in the population of 200 million people. I repeat, this political system cannot give us the desired result. Therefore, it is not the rotation that is causing the problem; it is the Constitution and the political system and the mode of evolution of people aspiring. Even, a senator will have to spend close to a N1billion to get there. And he has to be committed to stealing nothing less than N10 billion. Now, where do you get the money for development?
Are these issues responsible for the level of corruption in the country?
Of course! If it costs somebody over N100 billion to become the president of this country, and before then, and the national treasury has less than N10 million, you must have got the N100 billion from businessmen, drug peddlers, cocaine pushers, oil bunkers, and so on. So, he has to be grateful to them once he emerges as president. So, there is no way he can whole-heartedly fight corruption since people will demand for their investment. And this is what is causing godfather, godson battle even at the state level. The political system, presidential system, is too expensive and it cannot work. That is the reality of the matter. It will continue to produce businessmen, people who want to make money or to make their relations and cronies to be billionaires.
But this government has been frontally attacking corruption. Are you saying it has not achieved anything as far as the war is concerned?
I don’t give this government a pass mark on fighting corruption. Yes, they recovered money. But the money they recovered was again re-looted by those appointed to fight corruption. From what you and I can see in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and many other agencies now, where is the fight against corruption? People are compromised. The fundamentals are the constitution and the political system evolving from this military constitution. Until we have the people’s constitution that will be reasonable enough to know that we can only do well in mixed parliamentary presidential system, not entire presidential system like America.
Some people have suggested that death penalty could curb the menace of corruption in this country. Do you share that view?
Simple! You and I have seen it. When we had Oyenusi and the likes, were people not stealing then? A man who goes now with AK 47 to go and rub a bank, of course, knows that he might be killed later. It is not a matter of punishment. It is a combination of a number of factors. One, the moment you become a National Assembly member, governor and so on, you get transformed to the billionaire. And young graduates see this and begin to ask themselves, “Look at this friend of mine who didn’t have anything and two weeks of his brother becoming a senator, he has come with Lexus Jeep and so on. Of course, he will be motivated to go and commit armed robbery or kidnap to make money. –
YOU SHOULD NOT MISS THESE HEADLINES FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
COVID-19: FG directs civil servants on levels 12, 13 to resume
The Federal Government has directed civil servants on Grade Levels 12 and 13 to return to work immediately. The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HoSCF), Dr Folashade Yemi-Esan, gave the directive in a circular dated August 10, 2020, where she similarly directed those on essential duties to resume full duties. Since the initial lockdown measures over the COVID-19 pandemic, only workers on Grade Level 14 and above had been allowed to work…
UPDATE: Why Boko Haram recruit more members ― North-East governors
Following the recent attack on the convoy of Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State, six governors of the northeast states and heads of security agencies have met with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja, with the state chief executives disclosing that insurgents are able to recruit more followers because of lack of access to farmlands…
Deregistration of political parties: INEC approaches Supreme Court
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last night gave an indication that it would approach the apex court to set aside the judgment of the appeal court which overruled it on the delisting of political parties. The electoral umpire had delisted 77 political parties after the 2019 general elections. It premised its action on the failure of the parties to win a single seat in the last elections…
ASUU set to present alternate salary payment platform to FG
After months of opposition to the implementation of the Integrated Payment and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is set to make an initial presentation of its own platform known as University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) to the Federal Government…