We are in a jungle of administration in Nigeria —Kwande

Former Nigerian Ambassador to Switzerland, Ambassador Yahaya Kwande, speaks with ISAAC SHOBAYO on the 21 years of return to democracy in Nigeria, among other national issues.


WHAT is your assessment of the 21 years of return to democracy in Nigeria?

I will frankly tell you that in the beginning when the country attained independent, it  was so good, it was a learning process and a learning period, it was a time for us to copy what we found on the ground, things were good and we had a swell time. We the civil servants that took over from the colonial government learnt a lot of things, how to respect the ordinary man on the streets and the honesty we had in our mind, all these went on up to the half of the area of independent, then it started declining and we started exhibiting some traits and altitudes that are contrary to the civil service rules and what we found on the ground. And now the whole things is collapsing and on the verge to total collapsing. Civil service means being civil in whatever you do, being loyal to the government but today people are now doing things with selfish motives, the whole thing is collapsing. I couldn’t believe myself three days ago when I had to go on a condolence visit to the family of a friend of mine who died at the age of over one hundred years, there I find over five thousand people who were also there on condolence visit. But to my surprise no one with face mask , I found myself embarrassed because I was the only one with face mask, that was the situation I found myself in a gathering of over five thousand people. To me there is nothing like the rule of law, justice, we are just in a jungle of administration. I thing all what is happening in the country right now will teach us a lesson and way of discovering ourselves and also serve as a platform to get ourselves on the right path again.


Sir 21 years of democracy, what is your assessment of the political class, especially those in government?

Every Nigerian also want to belong to the government, I remember during the second republic somebody wanted to fight a farmer and he said I will not do anything to you because I am a member of the NPN, it is our government I will be patient with you. Those words touched me but now the ordinary Nigerians don’t feel they are part of the government because they are just there for politicians to manipulate, lobby them during election, and give them money that they don’t know where it was coming from. The whole world is presently talking and fighting coronavirus but many don’t even know what it is all about simply because the government is far away from them. The perception of the ordinary man is that the government revolves around councilors, local government chairmen, House of Assembly members, state governor and president. The gap is so wide, whereas it was not like that in the past. Things are so bad in Nigeria today; I pit the young ones that have age advantage because it will not affect me much because I am presently over ninety years of age, I don’t expect anything anymore and so therefore I am very angry.


Quite a lot of people are disenchantment about the electoral system under this dispensation based on series of anti-democratic tendencies in vogue, what is you assessment of the system?

The best election we ever had and accepted was a primary election that involved about twelve contestants in the Social Democratic Party with very heavy politicians; they went from ward to ward to elect their presidential candidate. It went on and on until they produce presidential candidate not unlike the present situation where a governor will take his wife, sister in law and other family members so that he can dictate who to elect, this is not the best. To me unless they go back to the drawing table and the organizers, especially INEC  should be honest, the situation whereby the result of election is known before election is conducted is not the best. How many minister or public office holders have resign because their opinion is not in tandem with what the president want them to do or to show that they are highly principled, many of them today, they are not there on principle, you cannot park you friends that you grow up together in government and expect the country to progress. To me appointment this day it like invitation to come and chop, just like one of the minister was recently quoted “he is now coming to chop with us”. The question is where you there to chop?


The general belief at the inception of this democratic experience was that democracy will usher in infrastructural development at different level. Sir, 21 years down the lane, have we being able to achieve this?

Some politicians known exactly what they want to do and many other are blind, they came into the government without a focus but to others the system did not allow them to achieve what they set out to achieve. In the olden days when I was serving with the government, the budget go with planning and execution, for example if you as a Minister of Health and you have to run to the president for approval to purchase one thing or the other or study his mood before your request can go, that will be too bad. Some time ago I was with a governor when the deputy governor came in to ask for money to buy certain thing he needed in his office. When you are a minister you should be a minister, we copy the system and we are not executing the system the way it should be.


Can we say the judiciary is the hope of the common man in this dispensation?

Off course it used to be and you can say this in other places but definitely not in Nigeria. When I got entangled in some judicial complication in my life I took people to court and they as well took me to court and thought I would highly rely on the judiciary but it was a disappointed. I don’t know how we are going to change it because everybody in Nigeria is competing only to make wealth, no question is being asked, nobody is asking for source of wealth. We are the most religious nation in the world, we pray a lot, wishing and praying for wrong things.


From the inception of this dispensation it has been fight against corruption from one leader to another (cut in)

The only way they can know that there is corruption at its peak in Nigeria is to start a journey from either Lagos to Kano by road, if they can do this they would know whether there is corruption in this country or not. More so if you sit down in the living room of a Permanent Secretary or Minister and see what is happening? You will know what is happening. But why are we deceiving ourselves? Why do those in government think Nigerians are fools?


Covid-19 is ravaging the world and Nigeria inclusive, it recently hit the northern part of the country with Kano recording the highest figure after Lagos state, what is the way out of this pandemic in the north and entire country?

A lot of things can be done; the ground rules and preventive measures must be observed no matter whose ox is gored. If you don’t want the rule to be implemented don’t put the rule, those in government should stop acting like hypocrite, you set rules and people are not observing them, then you go outside the state to say things are alright, who are you deceiving? We must not wait until this virus overwhelm us before we take drastic action, don’t blame the ordinary man, blame the leaders that put up the rules and order and yet not executing them and not doing  justice to what they put on ground for people to follow and obey. When you stop people from coming out today and allow them to come out tomorrow, are you saying tomorrow you have withdrawn the sickness from the street, so that people will be free or are you telling them to go and contact the sickness so that they can go home and died, I don’t understand. Stay at home for two days, be free and do what you like, the next day go to the market      and mingle the way you want, by the time you are doing this, are you saying there is no body contact or no coronavirus in the market.  Another thing is that the government should study the culture and tradition of the people as another ways of fighting the pandemic, the psychologists and Sociologists can be engaged in this regard. Also, the government and other sharing palliatives should include soap among the things they are sharing so that people especially the Muslims can wash their hand before performing ablution since they pray five times daily. Also they can be given little turban because their religion permit them to cover their mouth. It is just about lock down, our situation, tradition and culture should be studied.


In what way do you think the northern governors can handle the menace of almajiri that has been politicized in the guise of fighting covid-19 pandemic?

Those in government should look into the archives they would see solution proffered by the Sarduana of Sokoto to halt the movement of almajiri from moving from one point to another. He usually gave 5 pound to every mallam that had up to 25 children to buy a black board, chalks and to teach them at home. If they have done this there wouldn’t have been overwhelming problem of almajiri. They should not abandon everything that was done in the past, we wouldn’t have had problem if they have implemented that policy, and the policy was abandoned that is why we are in problem today.



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