Mr Moses Abimbola Orogade, a lawyer and official with the United Nations, speaks with MOSES ALAO on the recent kidnap of school girls in Dapchi and what it portends for girl child education in the country, the country’s recent rating by the Transparency International and its classification as one of the capitals of extreme poverty in the world.
IN 2015, following the failure of most countries of the world to achieve the targets of the Millenium Development Goals, the United Nations rolled out the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with one of its objectives on battling extreme poverty. How well do you think Nigeria is performing in this regard, given the recent news that the country has overtaken India as the country with most people living in extreme poverty?
I am not surprised that it became news that Nigeria has overtaken India in terms of extreme poverty. The United Nations came up with the Millenium Development Goals to tackle the issues of extreme poverty, hunger and illiteracy, among others, giving a lot of measures which it believed that if they were taken, most of the challenges would be resolved. However, having seen the failure of the countries to meet the target, it reviewed the goals and set a new target of 2030, which it called the Sustainable Development Goals.
Unfortunately, Nigeria did not take the MDGs and even the SDGs seriously. Whereas, some countries of the world looked at the measures in the MDGs and just rolled their achievements on to continue to the SDGs and by so doing, they are achieving results in tackling extreme poverty. But for Nigeria, in the last 10 to 15 years, the unemployment rate is increasing at an alarming rate. A lot of people do not have gainful employment or are underemployed; youths leave higher institutions without anything to do and where you have this kind of situation, automatically, the level of poverty will be high. It is actually sad news that Nigeria has been classified as the capital of extreme poverty, because in the 1960s, we were high up there in terms of economic standard. There were adequate measures to solve the basic need challenges of the people. But in the last 10 to 15 years, as a result of measures that should have been taken but were not taken, we have found ourselves in this state. How did we get here? Instead of setting up industries like cottage industries, even the industries and factories that we had in the early 70s, you will discover that these big churches are buying their plants and converting them to churches. I am not surprised that India has been able to address its extreme poverty challenge; even from Information Technology industry alone, it has been able to devise a strategy to address youth unemployment. The Indian government has been able to channel the productive capacity of its youths to IT, such that even the United Nations now engages Indians in the IT sector. It now outsources IT-related issues to them. But in Nigeria, instead of youths to channel their focus to IT, they engage in internet fraud, hacking and so on and those who could not do that remain jobless. Even those who are working in Nigeria, how much do they earn? The minimum wage is N18,000. How can that sustain a family of five people? The Federal Government has set up a panel to look into how to review that but how long will it take? So, these are the issues.
Another critical issue is that even in the rural areas, where people cultivate crops and live on farming, you discover now that you plant your yam or cassava but by the time you are supposed to harvest and make money to take care of your needs and those of your family, some Fulani herdsmen will just show up and graze the farms. The Fulani herdsmen with their assault rifles take over farms and even kill people. So, in an atmosphere where you have insecurity, youth employment and government policies that are not favourable to economic growth, automatically, there will be extreme poverty.
Do you think the Buhari government is doing enough in terms of the right policies to drive the economy?
That is a loaded question. I will say yes and no. I will say yes in the sense that if you look at the situation of things prior to Buhari’s taking over, the economy was in total disarray.
But that economy was adjudged the best in Africa at that time…
That is statistics. In most cases, you find out that statistics may not be the true picture of what is going on. A lot of people come up with statistics and graphics but when you go deep into the economy, you will see the reality and that was what happened with Buhari. But without continuing to shift blames to the Jonathan government and those before him, Buhari needs to do more, because that was why Nigerians voted for change. If the government before Buhari had done well, no one would have voted to change it. But in this case, Buhari came into government and six months after, he didn’t have a team. Look at the United States president, Donald Trump, with all the criticisms; it didn’t take him a whole year to form his cabinet. Within a short period of winning the election, Buhari should have formed a team which should have hit the ground running. But it took him so long to form a team and it was not a team of people from heaven or non-Nigerians. So why did it take him so long? And that is why I said he has not been doing enough.
You made reference to the issue of Fulani herdsmen grazing on people’s farms. There are allegations that the attacks on farms, especially in the Middle Belt and parts of the South, were an attempts by some Fulani powers that be to restart the conquest that was halted after the takeover of Ilorin. What do you have to say on this?
That is a tragedy and that is why our first class Obas like the Ooni of Ife, the Alaafin of Oyo, the Alake of Egbaland and the Awujale of Ijebuland should come together to say ‘come, this was what happened when Ilorin was taken away from the Yoruba. If we are not careful, that history might repeat itself. So let us come up with an organised strategy. Thank God that the Alaafin got it right by appointing Otunba Gani Adams, who has a good antecedent of fighting for the Yoruba cause, as Aare Ona Kakanfo. Nobody is saying that we should take bows and arrows to go and attack anyone, but there is no law that says we cannot come up with a strategy to complement the efforts of the security personnel to checkmate the incursion of the Fulani herdsmen.
Another concern I have is that if you look at the herdsmen terrorising the country today, most of them are not even from this country. And that is why the country needs to come up with a sound policy empowering the immigration service to profile those coming into this country. The talk has always been about our borders being porous; if they are, government should employ more youths and train them as immigration officers. Our landmass is not bigger than that of the United States or Russia; so our youths who are wasting away can be employed to checkmate those coming in as a result of the crisis in Libya, Mali and so on, bearing AK 47. Also, the issue of Boko Haram, which this government is fighting, should be better managed. Many of those enlisted by Boko Haram had been dispersed after the invasion of Sambisa and they still have their guns. They wander around parading themselves as Fulani herdsmen. Government should not only be addressing the issue of Boko Haram; it should also face the issue of herdsmen attacks, because it has been leading to mass unemployment. Imagine, a man tok a loan from the Bank of Agriculture or any financial institution; he clears acres of land and planted maize or cassava and someone just took cows and they ate up the crops. Those engaged to work on the farm will be out jobs and poverty will continue to increase. Fighting Boko Haram is not bad; we need to take them out of the way. But this Fulani Boko Haram must also be addressed. Government must come up with a sustainable strategy to say enough is enough. I also expect states where they have these herdsmen, especially Oyo State, to come up with a strategy and tactic to address the issue once and for all.
Don’t you think the cattle colony suggestion will be an effective strategy?
Honestly speaking, I really don’t see it as being effective. But if it is going to be the solution for now, they should go for it. You would recall that in the 60s, when Chief Obafemi Awolowo was in government, there is a place called Moba Local Government in the current Ekiti State. It had a big expanse of lands where all the cattle were assembled. There was also somewhere in Ibadan along Iwo Road; there used to be a place where they kept cattle. There is nowhere in the world where people move cattle from one place to the other. It is even good for the Fulani cattle owners to have a ranch; why can’t we have a place like that? But where the government will come in is that since the Land Use Act vests land in the governor, he can take up an area for ranching. My only worry is that you cannot just take up someone’s land and give it to a Fulani; if you do that, you will have to compensate adequately. So, if the government wants to consider the ranching option, it will have to sensitise the people to the situation. We should sit down and think things through by saying we don’t want these killings, if it is cattle colony or ranching that will solve the problem, then the government should do it and that will also help it to collect tax and generate revenue. The good thing about that kind of ranching arrangement is that the cattle will not be wandering. There will be no herdsmen and farmers clash and attacks and the cows will be healthy enough. At the same time, government will be able to generate revenue. But the people must be well educated and enlightened by the government.
You said the government has been doing well in the fight against Boko Haram, but two weeks ago, about 105 school girls were abducted in Dapchi, Yobe State. What do you this portends for the fight against insurgency?
Honestly speaking, it is a very bad advertisement for this government in terms of security. I do not know how that happened after the Chibok girls’ abduction during the Jonathan administration. One would not expect this kind of thing to happen again. The Chibok issue was the reason Jonathan lost power, because people were so aggrieved at the way it handled that situation. I want to see a situation whereby President Buhari, a General who fought in civil war, will rise up to the occasion. No one can say he is not skillful enough. But a situation whereby about 105 girls are missing and we are still looking for them may end every hope of improving girl child education in the North. The parents in the North may no longer send their children to school and that will increase illiteracy in that region and lead to further backwardness in the area. I am sure those girls might still be within Yobe State, so I urge government to come up with explanations to let the country know what is going on. One would have expected that between 2015 and now, the insurgency issue would have been overcome. But it is sad that today, one hears a cheery news that Sambisa has been taken over or Boko Haram has been degraded and the next moment there is another bad news of abduction or killing. One of the three cardinal programmes of this government is security. So one would expect this government to do more.
Talking about bad advertisement for the government, the Transparency International recently released its Corruption Perception Index (CPI), rating Nigeria as the 148th least corrupt out of 180 countries. What is your take on this, given the much-touted anti-corruption war of this administration?
One of the reasons Nigerians voted for Buhari is because of his promise to fight corruption; so if our rating by the Transparency International is that poor, we should ask ourselves where we are. I don’t know the criteria used by the Transparency International, whether it is about the government doing enough or it is having enough convictions or whether the institutions saddled with the responsibility of fighting corruption are doing enough. They might have looked at things in totality, but for me, we are not doing badly. The EFCC is not doing badly; we should not deceive ourselves. Though Ibrahim Magu has not been confirmed, which is a demotivating factor, he has been fighting on. He is doing his best.
Some people say he is engaging in media trial…
Call it media trial, but we saw the people being arrested and tried. This is a complex situation; people that are getting ill-gotten wealth do not want it to stop. A lot of Nigerians swim in corruption; corruption is everywhere even in the religious organisations. You go to the ministries and you cannot see the head unless you grease the messenger’s palms and that is how you pay your way through to the top. Your level determines how much bribe you collect. For me, I think the government is trying, but it needs to do more.