Only lazy Nigerians are hungry under Buhari govt —Salvador
HONOURABLE Moshood Adegoke Salvador, a delegate to the 2014 National Conference, and treasurer in the Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF), speaks on the 2019 general election and the politics of the South-West, among other issues. KUNLE ODEREMI brings some excerpts:
Ripples created by the outcome of the last general election in the country remain unsettled weeks after the polls. What do you consider lessons from the conduct of the polls for Nigerians?
The first lesson is that it is very important that people who get elected believe there is God. All the holy books: the Bible and the Quran say it; leaders emerge from among the people. Having elected you, do not ever think that you are bigger than them. For instance, it is very important we learn from the election that took place in a place like Ogun State. We also have to learn some useful lessons from the position taken by the pan-Yoruba organisation, Afenifere, which decided to rally support for an Igbo man against an Ogun son, based on the belief that their word is a command in Yoruba land. But they have been proved wrong. It is very important you believe in God and that He alone dictates the affairs of man. Another lesson is that we must always toe the line of humility and honesty in all our actions and utterances. So, the elections have shown, proved and decided a lot of things. There were some areas that the elections showed that money meant little or nothing; that money does not mean everything. A good example was in Kwara State, where the people unequivocally said enough is enough of the hegemony of a particular dynasty. All these things constitute a great lesson for Nigerians.
The governor-elect in Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, called me a few days ago and I told him you have to learn from your predecessor. I told him if you have his number, call him based on the lessons of the polls; that the incoming governor must identify with the cause of the ordinary people and know that power and position are ephemeral. It is the people that stay under the sun, rain to make sure you get to the exalted position; so, you must not treat them with scorn. Believe that it is the will of God that sent the people to work in your favour and therefore, you should respect them at all times. Never worship money against the interest of the electorate.
On May 29, 2019, it will be 20 years after civil rule was restored in Nigeria. From your assessment, do you think the Yoruba land has gained enough in terms of physical development in view of the enormous sacrifice made by the people during the bitter June 12 struggle, coupled with the fact that the South-West produced the first president in the dispensation? Has the brand of politics being played in the zone brought more good than harm to the Yoruba land?
I think there is a paradigm shift in the politics of the South-West. The late Papa Obafemi Awolowo created the template for development and good governance not just in Yoruba land but across the country and beyond. I have read more than eight of his books, where he espoused the philosophy. He believed so much in regional integration, empowerment of the people and credible leadership. That is why till today, the South-West people remain widely educated; and can be found in all professional lines, showcasing the capability of an educated mind. But what can you say are the enduring legacies of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in the South-West as president of the country? He could not fix roads and infrastructure that were in despicable condition. Not even quality appointments for the zone. But President Muhammadu Buhari quickly addressed the snag by giving choice ministerial slots and other key appointments to the zone. Thanks to the pragmatic political strategies of the National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who made sure the Yoruba land play mainstream politics.
Count the number of federal roads that are being constructed or rehabilitated in the last four years in the zone, including railway; Agege-Abeokuta road; Lagos-Ibadan expressway, which were left undone despite all promises of 16 years. The Buhari administration has assured us of a new sea port to be located in Badagry to ease the perennial pressure on the ports in Lagos and Apapa. Once that is done, truck will no longer pass through Lagos, but through Agbara in Ogun State to Badagry. We are also talking about how we can have a light rail connecting all the six states in the South-West.
Recently, some personalities, including the Sultan of Sokoto and Bishop Matthew Kukah, expressed serious concern over Nigeria’s future because of challenges bordering on the people’s welfare, security and divisive politics. The sultan particularly said Nigeria is more divided than before as politicians and even clerics use the church and the mosque to divide Nigerians. What is your disposition and why?
I know that it is religion that is dividing Nigerians; it is not politics in the real sense. The ugly trend is not peculiar to Nigeria; it cuts across the whole world. We must guide against fanning the embers of religion and ethnicity. We are in a democracy and it is our duty to promote, nurture and imbibe the ethos. Rather than promoting divisive tendencies, Nigerians must encourage serious discourse on issues that deepen the culture of democracy as it goes beyond mere elections. Population is a very powerful factor in elections. The question we should be asking ourselves is: what has been your effort towards maximising the inherent advantage in your large human population during voter registration? You know your population is considerably low, yet you don’t encourage your people to come out en masse to register; only a scanty number of the population partake in the very important exercise of voter registration. So, the carefree attitude of our people is more seriously dividing us. When other people are trooping out to register, our people will remain in their homes, condemning, blackmailing and engaging in all sorts of character assassination. You can’t get to anywhere doing that. I have told Senator Tinubu on a number of times that if the Yoruba people want the Presidency in 2023, we have to start now. We have to start educating our people on the importance of voter registration and head count. We have to let them know that if you have a huge number, you have got power. If you don’t have it, don’t dream it (about having power). You will just be wasting your time. What is supposed to create fear in the minds of leaders like the Sultan of Sokoto is impunity among our youths; their carefree attitude from the western world. For example, on an election day, you would find the youths playing football on the streets. What about those elite that prefer to spend the crucial time sleeping at home, yet they want good government.
You were a delegate to the 2014 National Conference, where key decisions were arrived at concerning fundamental issues that seem to constitute a cog in the wheel of the nation’s progress. How should the country deploy those recommendations towards tackling the clamour for devolution of power?
Yes, we made more than 600 decisions with a lot them achieved through consensus. The one that deals with devolution of powers is very important, but we must re-strategise in the campaign for restructuring. You saw how some of our leaders came at the threshold of the election on the issue of restructuring. What does it mean? There are different interpretations to different people but I think it simply means reorganisation for better performance and effectiveness. But from the way and manner some individuals and groups have been going about restructuring, it is obviously vague. Are you talking about political restructuring; are you talking about economic restructuring; or social restructuring? The three concepts are very important.
The question we need to ask is, which one should come first? Baba Awolowo remains the source of inspiration on the whole issue. He realised the importance of political restructuring, hence he implemented a holistic agenda that transformed the defunct Western Region. Part of his footprints is the Oodua investment. This kind of integration is allowed under the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended). So, let’s key into it now; it is part of what we decided at the confab and if we fail to do it, we shall only be wasting our time. There has to be serious and pragmatic approach to regional integration and nothing stops zones embarking on such economic cooperation. For example, Lagos and Kebbi states collaborated to produce what is called Lake Rice. That is the kind of novel initiative pioneered by Baba Awolowo, which made the Western Region the model and fulcrum of development to form the conglomerate called Oodua Investment.
But a lot of people and international organisations say the policies and programmes of the Buhari administration lack a human face, hence Nigeria has become the world headquarters of poor people….
Can you define poverty? If you can, I will be able to say yes or no.
The general opinion is that Nigerians were better off under the previous civilian administration in the country, based on the indices of economic empowerment and cost of living among others.
It is all political statements and I do not believe in such nonsensical statements, otherwise I will be dignifying them. It is only a lazy man that will tell you that he is hungry in Nigeria. If you give them a job, they would not do it. They are people looking for money to steal and if they cannot get money to steal, they say the government is bad. Nigeria is one of the best countries in the world. Foreigners would look at us and say Nigeria is such country where you can literally pick money from the streets. The Chinese will come to Nigeria and say the country is hugely endowed and blessed. Indians will come here and say Nigeria is rich and fantastic; it is like we breathe money, whereas a majority of Nigerians would not see it that way, because they are lazy. The orientation is getting worse. However, I will blame the society as well as the individual for the problem, because there is popular saying by the Yoruba that a bad situation can always be turned into an opportunity for good. It is in this environment that I have ever lived; I have never stayed abroad in my entire life; I never schooled abroad. Then, if I can see positive things in Nigeria, why won’t others? What stops you? Have you displayed your goods and nobody asks for them? Have you produced anything and you couldn’t get customers? So, we have to change the orientation of most of our people. You can imagine the kind of breakthroughs we keep recording in the entertainment industry because of the dexterity, skill, capacity and charisma of our artistes. That’s the kind of orientation and motivation we need. Look at where artistes like Funke Akindele, who rose from grass to grace and so many other enterprising Nigerians alike. There is nothing you do in Nigeria that you cannot get the reward almost immediately. If you know how to dance, people will turn out in droves to pay and watch your shows. Know how to sing; you will reap the reward in abundance in appreciation of your talent. People will appreciate you, even if you able to dress well. They will come to you for such service based on skill and talent in modelling and makeup. Imagine patronage for those skillful in the art of tying gele (head gear) for women. People patronise those individuals involved in manicure and pedicure, yet you keep telling me that there is no job? Let’s get serious, please. I can list more than a million jobs that Nigerians do not even consider or are not bothered about at all. So, poverty is meant for the lazy people; let them remain poor. Those people that are not lazy are not complaining of poverty because they are determined to use their brain, arms and other capabilities to succeed in life without resorting to illegalities.
There was the campaign tagged ‘O to ge’ in Kwara State, which some stakeholders in that state, claimed led to a change in the status quo in terms of defeating the ruling political party. Why was a similar campaign frustrated in Lagos State, where a particular power bloc has held the state by the jugular since 1999?
No, it is impossible to promote such campaign in Lagos. Let me explain why it is not possible. If somebody is holding Lagos by the jugular and you can see progress, prosperity and physical development everywhere, what then would be the purpose for such campaign? If he is holding the state, then it means he is forcing you to success; he is holding you to development; he is making you to grow, and it just explains how all these things are working. As I said, most Nigerians are lazy, yet they claim there is poverty in the land; that there is mass poverty. If people that are knowledgeable and understand the strategy of achieving economic growth and development; wealth creation and prosperity do not handle Lagos, you would not be getting results and making progress the way the state has been witnessing over the years. The IGR of the state was about N600 million when Senator Tinubu became the state governor in 1999. He brought in Mr Babatunde Fowler, who re-engineered revenue collection machinery of government and before long; they started generating N1.8 billion as IGR per month. Fowler even told the governor that the figure was still meagre considering the potential of the state. Before the end of the first tenure of Tinubu in 2003, the state was already generating N8 billion per month. By the end of his second term in office, they had discovered more sources of revenues. And I can tell you that even now, they have not fully discovered up to half of such channels. I can tell you as a professional in stevedoring that there are some areas that I know, especially in the marine or maritime sector; their IGR will jump to N50 billion a month if the state looks in that direction.
You left PDP as its Lagos State chairman and it is still a game of musical chairs with two claimants to seat, and one of them anchors his stance on the fact that the vacuum occasioned by your exit as PDP that necessitated an interim period lapsed after three months. Any regrets for your action?
Regrets, I have no regrets at all and as a matter of fact, I do not see PDP as a serious party in Lagos State.
But PDP constitutes the main opposition party in Lagos?
There is no more opposition in Lagos, as far as we are concerned. The PDP does not and will never pose any threat to us.
But they came second in the last general election and polled a significant number of votes…
My brother, if you say somebody came second, if the man who came first scored 55 votes and the man you claimed came second scored 45 votes, you would say it was a very good run. If the first man scored 93 per cent of the votes and the other polled a mere seven per cent, do you think it makes sense to say he same second? How do you reconcile it? So, they are just insignificant. I have pulled out the majority members of the Lagos PDP to the APC. I am not interested in moving from one party to the other but we have to prove that they are punishing their members, trying to frustrate their ambition and future.