Why ninth NASS will be truly independent —Adeyeye
Former Minister of Works, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, is among senators in the ninth National Assembly inaugurated on Tuesday. In this interview by KUNLE ODEREMI, the lawmaker gives an insight into the tactical role he played in the process that culminated in Nigeria’s return to civil rule on May 29, 1999. Excerpts:
As a key player in the prolonged struggle that led to the enthronement of civil rule, what are those striking events you would recollect?
I was the Media Adviser in the MKO Hope 93 Campaign Organisation when Doctor later on, Senator Jonathan Zwingwina, was the Coordinator. Both of us were classmate in the University of Ibadan and both of us were also in the Presidential Campaign Organisation of Chief Olu Falae during the aborted Third Republic. We later moved to the campaign organization of Chief MKO Abiola in 1993 after we had a meeting with Abiola at Ikoyi Hotel. So, we worked hard to ensure victory for Abiola in the SDP presidential primaries and the general election.
When the election was annulled, of course, we joined the struggle to de-annul the election for MKO Abiola to reclaim his mandate. We were active in the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) and beyond that, some of us belong to another organization, whose members included a lot people like Dare Babarinsa and others. And within our corner, we did whatever we could to ensure that we kept the spirit of June 12 alive and hopefully to actualise it one way or the other. We were also young members of Afenifere which was equally in the struggle for the de-annulment of June 12.
At a stage, some of the leaders involved in the struggle began to sing discordant tunes, given the impression of a crack in their ranks. What really went wrong? I I don’t think anything went wrong. You see, a few people were opportunistic. They wanted to be part of the (Gen Sani) Abacha regime and they went ahead and became part of the regime. But a lot of others involved in the struggle were resolute and I can recall that Chief Falae met with General Oladipo Diya a day Abacha seized power. Diya invited me; (Chief Olabode) George was there. Chief Olu falae was offered the position of Minister of Finance, which he rejected outright. Those who want to serve, they would always find any excuse. So, there was nothing wrong at all. And you know as politicians, we can always twist things around; before you know what was happening, some will introduce ethnic sentiments and what have you and say the South-West people have taken it (struggle) as their own. I mean we were all fighting to actulaise June 12; we all voted for MKO Abiola and it was annulled. I didn’t see any reason for anybody to introduce ethnic sentiments. It just happened that the majority of those people who were active in the struggle were South-West people and that should not be an excuse now for you to say that they are ethnicising it. So, I think it was convenient with those people who did not want to continue with the June 12 struggle.
Given the tears, blood and sorrow that characterised the struggle, do you think the gains of the effort have been achieved, 26 years after the annulment?
No, I think that by and large, the democracy we are enjoying is as a result of that struggle like or not because it was obvious that Nigerians were not interested in military rule. They were ready to fight the military and it became very clear that you cannot have a sustained military rule for long any more in Nigeria. So, the democracy we are enjoying, we must attribute essentially to that June 12 struggle.
But 26 years after the struggle coupled with 20 years of civil rule in the country, do you believe Nigerians are truly reaping the benefits of their enormous sacrifice?
All we need to do is to look at 20 years of military rule and 20 years of democratic dispensation; you can compare them in terms of democratic dividends; in terms of economic dividends and social welfare, and you would realise that democracy is a far better system of government. When Abacha amassed those wealth; millions of Dollars, nobody was in a position to know because he was all in all. He was the Parliament; he was the Executive; he was everywhere. So, that’s the way we must look at the whole situation. Compare the 20 years of democratic rule in terms of what we have achieved in terms of infrastructural development; in terms of the welfare of the masses; the level of accountability. Can you compare this with 20 years of the military? What we achieved under the military is actually zero. All the developments you find in Nigeria are mostly done during the civilian rule: First Republic; Second Republic and even in the current Fourth Republic. The universities were established by civilians; Alhaji Shehu Shagari did his own when he was President in the Second Republic; former President Goodluck Jonathan did his own. So, Nigerians should be patient, this is the best form of government we can have and you will always have the choice and opportunity to elect your leaders. If they (elected leaders) don’t satisfy you, you throw them out when next you have the opportunity to do so through an election. And that would put everybody on their toes. Ultimately, they are responsible to the masses. A military government lacks accountability because it is not responsible to anybody; because they acquire power through the barrel of gun. But the ballot paper gives the people the power in a civilian regime. So, I think this is the best form of government; we will make our mistakes; there will be hiccups along the line and ultimately, this system will work for everybody. Nigerians should be patient with this system of government; a greater part of life our lives was controlled by the military and what has been the result? It has been one disaster after another; it resulted into a civil war and after that there is virtually no development in any sense. Don’t forget that when this democracy started in 1999, university lecturers were being paid N10,000 a month. Look at the issue of national minimum wage; people can now approach government and demand for their rights; put political pressure on the government and ask for accountability and freedom. So, every democracy in the world is work-in-progress; there is no perfect democracy and even America, democracy is work-in-progress. We keep on refining the system; we keep on making it better.
With the conclusion of the election of the principal officers of the National Assembly, what would say is the kind of paradigm shift Nigerians should expect in the new dispensation, as the power structure already seems skewed in favour of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)?
I believe that things will be quite different this time around, by the grace of God. This election that produced the officers was free and fair; we elected the best people to the offices. These are people we believe will work closely with the Executive to move the nation forward; to ensure rapid socio-economic development. What the people want is their own wellbeing; their own economic and social wellbeing and security and we must cooperate with the Executive to achieve this for the people. The National Assembly is not set up to be antagonistic to the Executive; it was set up as an independent body that should relate well with the Executive to ensure stability, ensure security and to see to the general aspirations of the masses. So, we are not supposed to be antagonistic to each other; we are interdependent; we believe we are autonomous but at the same time, people expect to cooperate with each other and I believe that while we are relating our independence, this particular leadership will ensure cooperation.