Nigerian politicians are deaf and blind—Kadiri
Senator Alex Kadiri, who served in the National Assembly, was the chairman of the Senate Committee on Education between 1999 and 2003. In this interview by OSARETIN SADEBAMWEN, the All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwart says Nigerian leaders are unwittingly calling on the people to revolt through their actions.
In your opinion, to what extent do you think the new federal cabinet will impact on governance in view of the claim in certain quarters that the appointment of the ministers was based on political reason than professionalism?
Anywhere in the world, it is the clime or the environment under which the people operates that matters because once you reach the age of 40, irrespective of your qualification, expectedly you can manage any situation. The ministers are just managers. If they are architects, they can manage hospitals. They do not have to buy drugs themselves; there are people in the system who will do that. If you are a lawyer, you can be in the ministry, provided the clime is correct. With us here, the clime is not correct. That is why all these disruptions are taking place. Mr Babatunde Fashola is a lawyer but he is now handling the Ministry of Works and Housing. That is an example of what we’re talking about. Your background can be anything; if you are a good manager you can manage any ministry. However, with the exception of Geogrey Onyeama, all the rest, to me, are politicians. I may be wrong. Dr Ogbonnaya Onu was a governor and became a minister and has returned as a minister; same with most of them who were ex-governors.
So, do the new ministers indicate better days ahead based on the Next Level agenda of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration?
This takes us back to your first question and I said only if the clime is correct for them to excel. Look at what is happening in the United Kingdom? Boris Johnson is a journalist. He is a good politician; a good leader of men. His weakness is that he is very erratic and you can see that. He is in a hurry. Look at the United States’ President Donald Trump. He is more of a business man than a politician. Look at how he is messing up the American system. The Americans say he is doing well in the economy. Are you contesting their views? The economy of the US is booming in quote but those who know are saying it may soon explode. A lot of people are making money doing the same job they did under (Barack) Obama. People are getting to pay for their mortgages. That is also correct. Something must give way somewhere. There is no windfall from heaven. As people are making this apparent gain, an apparent loss is piling up. It is like the Nigerian debt, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, for all his evil ways, cleared our debt as a nation before he left. Now, we are in debt to the tune of over $60 billion. Can you point at anything?
As a leader who feels the pulse of the downtrodden regularly, what are your expectations as the ministers settle down to work?
A good number of ministers are in a very unfortunate situation. Some of them that left not too long ago were barely able to feed. And I mean it. By Nigerian standards, they were poor. All those quick access to money has disappeared. Where it existed then, it was an all inside trading. Those within know what to do with those who are in other departments. You will only hear about what is going on if someone tries to be selfish. If they are not selfish, you will never know. Contracts of about N5 billion or N10 billion comes and goes under insider’s trading. What has it translated to? You have a cabal in a Ministry of Works that deals with a cabal in the Ministry of Industry. You have another cabal in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) that deals with a cabal in the Ministry of Health. Everything is just inside. From what the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is pulling out, you can see that those in power have surrogates that are doing these businesses for them. A businessman goes to register a business and do some studies, as well submits his proposals to the authorities for a business. It is kept under the table when you have left that office. Nobody is going to read them, no matter how brilliant your business idea maybe because of the insider’s trade that has dominated the civil service among those who know. For the new ministers, no matter how brilliant they may be, they either become part of the insider’s trading and businesses or you lose out! It is a very murky business.
Are you encouraging the ministers to engage in inside trading in a government that has declared zero-tolerance for corruption or are you saying the war is only being fought on the pages of newspapers?
I don’t know. How many people have been taken to court by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Matters Commission (ICPC), the EFCC and other agencies for financial crimes? What is the success rate of the arrests and prosecution? I ask again, what is the success rate of those prosecutions? People have said it is one-sided because most of those who have been tried were the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or non-All Progressives Congress (APC) members. I do not buy that argument even those who have been taken to court for six months or nine months, as the case may be, have been granted bail of N20billion, with some first-class traditional rulers standing as sureties for them. These are the fanciful things they have been doing in the court. In all of these, how many convictions have been secured? Except for two former governors: Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame. Are the only corrupt people in Nigeria?
Does what you have said suggest anything for Nigeria?
Whether we like it or not; whether you want to please President Buhari by saying what he and others want to hear or not;whether you want to be in the good book of the government or not, the fact of the matter is that the situation in Nigeria is very grim. People are looking at us from outside. It is very grim. That is how revolution starts; when a man or woman feels that they have nothing to lose. That is all, nothing more.
Given the prevalent situation, what will be your advice to the government?
As I have always said, my message is the same and that is why I am not getting on with people. That doesn’t bother me. I am not on the payroll of any government; whether local, state or federal. I do not earn five naira from the APC that I belong to in any shape or form. I am able to say what I believe is right.
I believe that the set of politicians governing us now are all deaf. If they are not deaf, then, they are blind! Or they are both deaf and blind. Take Kogi State as an example. How many bailout funds has Governor Yahaya Bello received? As we’re talking now, the news doing the rounds is that he has paid workers. Drive into the state capital, Lokoja, or any other part of the state and ask workers how much they have been paid. Those workers who are on N100,000 or N120,000 as salary per month are paid N20,000 each four times. Yet, the government claims it has paid salaries for four months. Meanwhile, the cumulative of these payments do not add up to one month salary. So, this gives room for corruption. I pity the people working in the accounts department in Kogi State. Sometimes, the workers get alert and go to the bank, only to discover that the money does not reflect in their accounts. Aren’t we trying to provoke the people?
Some Nigerians claim the North-West alone was given the post of seven senior ministers as against the other zones. What is your view on the issue?
The world is coming to an end because of the way leaders behave. Remember Donald Trump. Immediately he was sworn in, he brought his son-in-law and his daughter into the White House and gave them roles. His son-in-law made his first trip to Israel as if he was the American foreign minister. In our own case, a good number of the cabinet members are related to President Buhari by blood. Again, the issue is this: you elected Buhari, it is in his right to pick whoever he desires to assist him either as ministers, special advisers or assistants or even body guards. That choice is his; we cannot quarrel with that. However, if he is mindful that he is the president of Nigeria, a diverse country, he should do things properly so that people cannot criticise him on these issues. I have read the analysis of the distribution of the ministerial portfolios, where the North-West alone has seven substantive ministers; the South-South and North-Central have two or three substantive ministers, including Senator George Akume, who is the Minister for Special Duties. The rest are all junior ministers.