Buhari’s best not good enough for Nigeria —Adeniran
Professor Tunde Adeniran is an elder statesman with variegated experience in public service, international relations and so on, having led Mass Mobilisation for Self Reliance, Social Justice, and Economic Recovery (MAMSER) in 1993; appointed Nigeria’s Ambassador to Germany between 2004 and 2007 and later, Minister of Education. The scholar-diplomat-politician speaks to DARE ADEKANMBI on the state of the nation and suggests solutions to the challenges confronting the country, among others.
There are growing concerns that if the challenges confronting the country are not honestly and timeously addressed, Nigeria as a country may become history. The ship of state is floundering. What is your take?
I have a different opinion. By the grace of God, Nigeria will not become history. But if Nigeria will not become history, it means that you and I and every Nigerian of goodwill will have to belt up and rescue the ship of state that is floundering. This is because, for too long, many of our compatriots have been looking in the direction of government, either state or national, to redeem the country and do certain things and it seems they have all fallen short of our expectations. So, what we need to do is to realise that nations are made up, not of governments as such, but of people who are then directed by those in authority. When you have a situation where those in authority don’t seem to be rising up adequately to the challenges of the moment, then those who have a clearer vision as to what should be happening and where we should be heading should wake up and rescue the nation. What they are rescuing is not necessarily those in authority, but they are rescuing a nation that belongs to all of us; they are rescuing their future and the future of their children; they are rescuing the destiny of the nation.
So, if those people who should rise up fail to do so, that is the only condition that could warrant Nigeria becoming history. But so long as we have selfless and conscientious Nigerians who are determined to do things right and to follow the rule of law and to be fair and just in their dealings, we are going to redeem the nation, rescue the ship and properly position it to follow a clear radar.
Does it bother you that there have been renewed agitations for secession from various groups in the southern part of the country? There are groups calling for Oduduwa Republic from the current South-West zone. Militant warlord, Dokubo Asari, declared a Biafran government in the South-South recently and IPOB is not backing down in the South-East. The country is aching in all joints.
You are right in saying that Nigeria is aching at the various joints. There is no doubt about it. But what is the solution? Is secession the solution? That is a big question. My own answer is No. The secession issue will try to solve some problems and create some other problems. My strong belief is that those who are agitating for secession are doing so because their expectations are not being met. Many things are wrong with us as a country. The leadership has not really woken up to address the issues squarely in many of the states and at the national level. So, what we need to is to address those issues. You don’t run away from problem. No matter the nature of a problem, it can always be solved, particularly when people appreciate the fact that there are problems. The very moment you realize that there is a problem shows that you are conscious of the need to solve that problem. If there is a problem and you are not aware there is a problem and you do not appreciate the nature of the problem, then there is real trouble. The realisation that problems exist is the beginning of the solution.
What, indeed, we have been lacking is the type of leadership that will lead this country with utmost patriotism, selflessness and determination to build a strong nation out of the disparate nationalities and to make Nigeria the pride of Africa and the Black race so that others will see us as a real giant, an effective giant that can lead not just the Black people of Africa, but the entire Black race and indeed become the envy of the entire world, so that other parts of the world that are having problems managing their multiplicity and diversity will now look up to Nigeria as a model, rather than our country looking up to those that have failed to handle their nationalities. The ideological orientation of the national leadership will determine where we can go. There is also one fundamental problem which many people have been dodging. If they have been addressing the issue, they will know that, that is the beginning of the solution to our problem. We should stop blaming, X, Y and so forth.
The constitution that we are operating is a terrible constitution. It is a constitution meant to install and put on us an imperial president. It promotes imperial presidential system. It will only take a very conscientious and selfless leader not to misuse the powers given to the president in the constitution or to use the powers to promote sectionalism and favouritism. There are great African leaders in that we can copy examples from. And Nigeria too has produced great leaders in the past who knew what to do and were not selfish or sectional and who were ready to build a nation out of Nigeria. But because of the hiccups that we had on the way, we could not get there and at the time we should really be thinking that this generation should do something, they are handcuffed by the type of constitution that we have which is not a constitution of the Nigerian people. The constitution is not meant to promote the welfare and the wellbeing and the development of the people. It is just packaged as an instrument to be used by opportunists to run a rentier state and run away with the common wealth of Nigeria, in terms of power, opportunities and everything required to build a great nation.
Unless we have that selfless and patriotic nationalist as a leader, we cannot make anything out of the current constitution. This is what people who are agitating for secession should be tackling. And because of the nature of the constitution, we have ended up with the type of leadership that we have at the Executive and Legislative arms. When you have very weak and compromised institutions like we have and being supported by the constitution and propelled by the type of judiciary that we have, of course the country is imperiled. This is what we should fight. It is not time for us to want to transfer the ills, shortcomings and misfortunes of the present Nigeria to a new country that some people are looking forward to as an opportunity for them to now do to others what is being done to them now. That is not the solution. That is not the way to go. We need to get a good constitution for Nigerians, a constitution that is by the people and which will become a model that even other countries will use. And within that framework, we will have a properly restructured federation where everybody will have the latitude to self-actualisation, freedom that will make the individual feel proud of belonging to this country. That is the way to go.
How contributory is the perceived nepotistic attitude of President Buhari to the renewed call for secession?
My reading of the situation is this. If the president has the right type of ideological orientation, he will know that he is the father of every Nigerian. He will know he really needs to rally round every Nigerian, look West, South, East and North and bring together patriotic Nigerians with credibility and capacity and with the resourcefulness to run a nation and use all these people to run an ideal nation and everybody will feel a sense of belonging. They will all identify with him and be ready to sacrifice anything for him, including their lives. Such people will see him as their leader. But the very moment you pursue certain policies with reckless abandon and without thinking about how some other people feel and then people see you as sectional, selfish and unconcerned about the nation, then of course there is serious problems. Those around the president would also do well to advise him that Nigerians love their country and will always love their leader if the leader does well. We have had good leaders in the past who served the people. The people’s commitment to leaders like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Aminu Kano, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and their respect for these leaders are based on their worldview, on the fact that they were patriotic and devoted and were not sectional. Look at the way leaders of the First Republic tackled issues. By virtue of their orientation and what they did, people saw them as national leaders, patriots committed to building Nigeria.
But the very moment you do certain things and then you are not considerate about the others, of course, people will lose interest and get frustrated when it is becoming a general pattern or related and done with impunity. It is not fair. In fact, God does not like that type of thing. It is intolerable and unacceptable for the people. People expect fairness, justice and equity. As bad as the constitution is as of today, a fair-minded leader can still make something out of it pending the time it will be replaced by a constitution of the people. The orientation of the leadership matters a lot and that is why we should keep praying for the president and his vice to have a change of orientation and heart and serve Nigerians generally. Not to be sectional in what they do. This is how they can reclaim the confidence of Nigerians. When this is done, Nigerians will believe they have leaders who fear God and are committed to serving them and rebuilding the nation. Wherever the challenges are, be it in the economic sphere, social relations or political configuration, once the people identify with the leadership, they will also join in finding solutions. All issues such as banditry, terrorism and clashes all over the country would be a thing of the past because the people themselves will enlist and be part of the solution.
Some Yoruba groups met in Ibadan last week and in their communiqué issued at the end of their meeting, June 12, a historically significant date, has been picked for a referendum on whether the Yoruba want to continue to be part of Nigeria or they should opt out for Oduduwa Republic. How achievable is this?
For me, June 12 is Democracy Day and it is a very important day and if some people want to do anything on that day, I think they are free to do so because there is freedom of choice. But my personal advice is that whoever wants to anything in the name of others should consult those other people. You can’t claim they are sidelining you and you too want to go ahead and do certain thing without carrying the others along. If you are doing something in the name of the South-West, make sure you carry all the key stakeholders in the zone along, not a section. We are in a democracy and for issues that are as weighty as this in terms of the determination of the destiny of the people, of course there is the need for widespread consolation and agreement in terms of what is needed to be done and how it should be done.
There is suspicion of unwillingness to allow presidential rotate to the South in 2023. This is why people are suspecting the campaign by some Northern elders that competence should take precedence over zoning. Where do you stand on this?
In this regard, I speak for myself and not for anybody. I believe in an ideology that is committed to fairness, justice and the rule of law. I believe that once we have the right constitution, that constitution will determine where the president will come from. The current constitution as I said earlier is terribly flawed. It is a constitution of anything goes, against the interest of the people. The parties that are talking about rotation know what they mean. It is part of the politics they are playing. Those who say no to rotation know what they are doing. They are playing politics with the future of the country. I can’t speak for either of them. Let them continue to play their game among and against themselves. But they should be mindful that in their conscience what they are doing is toying with the destiny of the people, which is most unfortunate. I believe that Nigerians deserve a type of constitution that will throw up that individual that will be acceptable to the people, a leader with the capacity to deliver because of his orientation to govern and his tendency to fairness and justice and because of some other elevating virtues that are inherent in that type of person. We may be rotating and we have been rotating wrongly, throwing up the wrong candidates. And you may not be rotating and you may throw up candidates who will continue to underdevelop the country and destroy its potentialities and continue to put the gear of national development in the reverse.
President Buhari won popular votes in 2015 partly on the strength of his military background which many Nigerians felt would be handy in resolving the security challenges in the country. Six years after, how would you rate his performance in this area?
I think there was this misconception from the beginning that with the military background of General Buhari he would do well in the area of security. But that does not follow. It depends on the orientation of the personality and his attitude and capability to deal with issues. Security goes beyond ability to carry guns and all that. It involves management of men and resources as well as strategic thinking. The situation is such that because many people expected too much at that time, their expectations are not being met in the area of security of lives and properties. That is the expression of disappointment you see everywhere.
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