Dr. Kunle Olajide is the Secretary of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) and a delegate at the 2014 National Conference. In this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he speaks on the state of the nation, restructuring and 2018 expectations
How would you assess President Muhammadu Buhari’s New Year national broadcast?
As one will expect, he accepted to give us hope for the New Year, which is good enough. But nevertheless, the ways he went about the issue of restructuring of the country was not completely acceptable to me. The impression he created was that restructuring is for a particular section of this country. But restructuring as far as we are concerned is for the entire nation and all parts of the country will benefit from it.
I think the speech writers of Mr. President did not decipher that we are depending on a monolithic economy for now; that is crude oil, which is not going to last forever. And what we are advocating for through restructuring is to ensure that we put Nigeria back to the production mode, where each sections of the country will maximise the potentials of what each section posseses in terms of mineral resources and land resources. For example, the Northern states have plenty of land, so in the areas of agriculture, it would benefit maximally. There are more mineral resources in the North than any parts of the country. But sitting down and waiting for monthly allocations coming from crude oil cannot take us anywhere. That is what I think Mr. President is not really taking cognisance of.
For me, I am not satisfied with Mr. President’s comment on restructuring. I think he will need to do much more than that. 2018 to me is a critical year for political restructuring of this country. If you recalled about 10 days ago, the British High Commissioner said restructuring is going to be the main issue in 2019 elections. So, I think much would still have to be done in that area.
With the President’s comment, don’t you think the issue of restructuring has been laid to rest…
It cannot be laid to rest. In fact, when you talk about restructuring, it is not the responsibility of Mr. President; it is mainly the responsibility of the National Assembly and those of us who are citizens of this country. So, it has not been laid to rest and it cannot be laid to rest by somebody pronouncement. It cannot. For example, I can assure you by January 11, the leaders of South-West, South-South and South-East will meet in Enugu. We want to celebrate Adekunle Fajuyi and Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, and I can tell you that restructuring is going to be the main plan of our meeting. So, what the president said is just a mere pronouncement; the agitations for restructuring cannot be laid to rest. We will continue to agitate for restructuring because it is for the betterment of this country.
Are you invariably saying the President’s position will not stop the agitation for restructuring…
I can assure you that the agitation for restructuring will still continue because it is in the interest of Nigerians. Those of us who believes in it know that it is in the interest of this country. Nobody is agitating on ethnic basis; not at all. What we are saying is that this country can be better administered and run if it is restructure. When you talk of minimum wage for example, do you except Ekiti State to pay the same minimum wage like Bayelsa or Rivers State? So, the essence of federalism is that you draw up your priorities and run your system the way you want it run.
In the First Republic, Yoruba prefer to work for Western Region than Federal Government because Western Region was paying much more than what the Federal Government was paying. I am sure we can still have the same situation now for state that can afford to pay better. You cannot just dictate or compel something from Abuja and expect all of us to fall in line.
In term of security, central policing system has never worked in a federal system in anywhere in the world. It cannot. I have the same problem in my home town, Efon-Alaye in Ekiti State. When we are being ravaged by robbers, I went to the State Commissioner of Police at that time and he told me that he was aware of it but he made me to understand that there are some shrines around my town and he cannot go there alone expect some chiefs follow him because he wasn’t from the area. So, we cannot have a unitary system of policing in a country that is as large as Nigeria where you must have respect for culture and tradition. So, we must restructure the country. And if we don’t do it now, we will restructure one day. I have no doubt about that.
What are your expectations in 2018?
What we are expecting is for Nigeria to be a more prosperous country. I believe the total dependent on crude oil as our major source of income is not going to give us a better economy. The management of the economy is not the best so far, so, we expect some new life to be ejected into government so that new ideas can begin to come in. What we saw in 2017 was not the best, especially the confrontation between the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru; the Mainagate involving the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau and the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami. Personally, I am not happy with what happened in the Ministry of Justice with Maina case, where the Attorney-General has to meet in Dubai with the embattled former chairman of the Presidential Pension Task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina; somebody who had been declared wanted in Nigeria. We want to see a better coordination of government; somebody must be in charge. In 2018, we expect Nigeria to move forward. We need a better economy and security.
Don’t you think the conflict and flexing of muscles among government agencies is slowing down government?
The excuse I want to give for Mr. President was that for most part of last year, he was very sick. I think he is better now; perhaps he would be in a better position now to manage things.
This year will precede the 2019 general elections and political parties are expected to embark on campaigns and conduct primary elections. What is your advice to politicians and the electorate?
The electorate should know that their votes matter. They must analyse who they want to vote for and why they are going to vote. The civil society organisations must also sensitise the people. I will advise politicians to play the game according to the rules and they should not be violent. Democracy does not mean violence. In democracy, you go out and canvass your points and wait for the electorate to decide on the Election Day. The politicians should allow people to decide who should govern them. There should be no imposition. People should listen to the various contestants who come to them, ask questions, investigate their backgrounds and antecedents to know whether they are capable of governing them, and whoever they believe is better for them, they should vote for that person.
But what about the issue of money politics, which is now a major determinants in Nigeria’s elections
There is nothing you can do about money politics because of the pervasive poverty in the country. Where you have a pervasive poverty, money will play a critical role. Where people are hungry, you cannot totally rule out money politics. And then, we have no agency to supervise how much politicians spent for his election. It is not possible, so there is no way you can penalise any politician. As long as we have pervasive poverty in Nigeria, there would always be money politics.
What advice do you have for government in addressing agitations?
There is no way you can enforce things on people by force of arm. You must carry people along. That is very important. So, I will advise government to carry everybody along through dialogue.
My plans for Oyo State, by Obisesan
A former commissioner in Oyo State, Chief Lowo Obisesan, is a lawyer who is aspiring to govern the state on the platform of the Labour Party. In this interview with SUNDAY ADEBAYO, he speaks on why he is in the governorship race
As a successful business man and a barrister, what informed your interest in politics?
Actually, I am a lawyer like I earlier said, and the way things are going in Nigeria politically am not really happy about it and have not been so happy to attach myself. Some good friends and I weighed the options of joining politics then and felt it was better to wait and join at a later time. If you believe that politics is what everybody should get involved in why don’t we join the rest? And that is the reason why we find ourselves in the mist of politicians.
Why your choice of Labour Party instead of the major ruling party?
You know for the mere fact that some people are doing certain things in a particular way and that thing is not right does not mean we should join them. I was once in ACN that eventually fused into APC, but when I discovered that things were not done in the right way in my state I decided to let go of the party. Also when you consider other parties particularly PDP you can see that PDP is the type of the party where grabbers are many and people like that don’t have the interest of the people they want to govern at heart, but how to enrich themselves at the detriment of the innocent people of the country and particularly my state and you can see the way things are now. PDP brought us into this problem. We thought APC would bring us out of the problem, but look at what we are suffering today. The fear of God is not in the mind of these people that we can refer to as the leaders of the society.
What are the things you are going to do differently from what others have done to make Oyo State a better place?
I am going to do so many thing that will be quite different from what others have done and part of those thing is what I have said that you should have fear of God.
Without god fatherism it is usually difficult to win election. What’s your own view on this?
I don’t believe in that. I don’t share the idea and the principle because the issue of god-fatherism led us into this problem. A god father will push you and support you. When you win he wants to control you and will never let you deliver. But I have a lot of political leaders and mentors who are principled.
How would you analyze the Senator Abiola Ajimobi government?
Senator Ajimobi is my leader, my brother. He was my Oga and I can’t say anything about his government for now.I am grateful to him. People know me as a lawyer and but for Ajumobi I won’t be known in politics. When I was first made the Commissioner of Establishment and Habitat, I will never forget what he said about me. He said ‘you are honest and straightforward and to cap it all you have the means but you didn’t steal money in government. I will never run him down because God has used him for me sometime and if anything is wrong with the way he is running his government our people will decide whatever they deem fit when the next election comes.
What will be your main agenda if you eventually become the next governor of Oyo State?
Our economy needs to be improved considerably. If I tell you what I have found in line with what my leaders have been discussing ahead of 2019 people might steal it. So I won’t say it. If God says I will be there I will make sure that I work properly on the economy.
Osun State deserves better deal –Ogunbiyi
Dr. Akinade Ogunbiyi is the Group Chairman, Mutual Benefits Assurance and a well-grounded innovative scholar, In this interview, he speaks about his blueprint for the rescue mission in Osun State
What is your view of the security situation in the country vis-à-vis the herdsmen and other crimes?
It is really sad and inexplicable at this modern age that this is happening in Nigeria. I am sorry to say. I am gunning for a political position, because I am convinced that leadership can make the difference in everything. They will tell you that people are the most important when it comes to factors of production. But, I tell you, it is having the right people, not just people, but the right people. I don’t know how a country so blessed when you see the biblical country flowing with milk and honey, I have not seen any country in the world that fits into that description but God just decided that we won’t have the right leadership.
Fulani herdsmen (or killer herdsmen as they are called), communal clashes here and there, religious war, for crying out loud, we have to talk about what people need. I will be 56 in the next couple of weeks. We grew up in this country. I am a village boy to the core.
My primary, secondary, modern school, my university, everything was in the village. My father’s best friends, especially in my town, Ile-Ogbo, were from the Hausa community. My father was a herdsman. They thrived and they lived in harmony. You find Igbo community; you find in virtually every locality within the South-West.
You say Kano is a no man’s land just as they say Lagos is a no man’s land and you get to Kano in those days and you find every ethnic group represented and they lived as if they were in Umahia or Ile-Igbo. You get to Kaduna, it is the same thing. Is it not the same country? It is all about leadership.
You have leaders who have the capacity to lead well but they choose to do other things. This leadership issue we are talking about, they have the capacity to do the right thing, but they’ve decided to do otherwise.
You said your father was a herdsman…
Yes! My father was a herdsman. I grew up to know him as a herdsman. He would go with his friend from Ijebu to Kano and buy herds of cattle, 400 to 600, 1000; the two of them would trek, 90 days, 100 days to lead the cattle down to Oyo. There was no harassment in my locality; they were herdsmen. The three localities that make up Iwo land, Aiyedire, Iwo , and Olaoluwa local governments, we had herdsmen. We never had these issues.
If you come to my farm, about 25 kilometers from my village, you will see serve or eight year-old boys, two of them controlling about 400 herds of cattle. They pass through farms, they know when to stop them; they know when they see virgin land, they know when they see free grazing land.
So, what’s the way forward?
This is just political. The day our leaders will come together and say: ‘heck, we are one and let us line up as one these things will end.’ What else do we talk about? We are using ethnicity to divide ourselves. What do you say of India, a country of 1.3billion population; over 300,000 ethnic groups and their ethnic groups are as much as their religious beliefs. It is unfortunate. I can only appeal to our leaders. When people fail to give the deliverables that are needed for the common man to live a decent, peaceful life, they will look for alternative to engage us. This is exactly what is happening.
You are contesting on the platform of PDP. Looking at the state of the party as of today in Osun State, how confident are you that is the right platform? Looking at the economy of Osun today because it is heavily indebted, will you still be able to work within that kind of environment?
I will start from the second question. One of the things that spurred me into taking this decision is because of the common man of Osun State. For the past eight years, it has not been what it ought to be. They always say: ‘If it is not broken, don’t try to fix it.’ But as you just said Osun is indebted. We don’t even know how much the debt is. Some say it is N400billion; some say its N200billion.
The government itself said it is N143billion. But for eight years, this is the best that government can give. There is nothing bad in borrowing, the question is, what did you use the fund for? We know that Osun State is heavily indebted and luckily for all of us, there is no hidden place any longer. the Debt Management Office, every month, publishes the statistics.
So, there is nothing that is hidden. Not everybody would ride a car in his life time. Not everybody would build a house in his lifetime. Not everybody would buy bicycle or wear rubber slippers in his life time. But good leadership dictates that everybody must have access to the basic needs of life in order to live a decent life.
Coming back to the platform, I am not just new in politics. I may not have been out there in the open but I have been in PDP from God knows when. I have impacted the party. There are so many reasons why the country is going through what it is going through now. We thank God for the crisis in PDP.
Now, we have the benefit of a standard and which is the standard of APC coming into government. Failure isn’t a bad thing. But for the discerning eye, failure is an opportunity to start all over more intelligently. This is what PDP is presently is.
I was part and parcel of resolving the crisis of PDP in Osun State. Without a peaceful platform, no matter how well meaning, there is nothing you can do. PDP has got its act right especially in Osun. And Osun is like the new foundation the PDP at the national level is going to ride on.
We have learnt our lesson from our mistake. There is nothing bad in failure. It is a man who fails and still fails to rise above his failure that is a failure.
Oshiomhole and his new dawn message
Following his strong desire to inject new blood into the leadership and membership of the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC) the immediate past Governor of Edo State and aspirant for the National Chairmanship position of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has taken far reaching steps to galvanize, mobilize and sensitize all segments of people across the six geo political zones of the country.
This meeting with the elders, leaders and members who form the bulk of what today constitutes the mirror through which citizens of the nation and the world see how the party has fared in managing the collective patrimony and welfare of the people, is not only arduous but also interesting.
Indeed, the challenges facing the APC came to the fore last Tuesday when Comrade Oshiomhole visited the party caucus in the Senate to solicit their support ahead the National Convention of the party. It was an opportunity for the senators to bare their minds about the happenings in the party. It was so touching as the senators lamented how rotten the party has become under the leadership of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
The presence of the entire leadership of the Senate at the meeting showed how important it was to them. And some who are sympathetic to the APC were happy because from the close door meeting, which lasted for over one hour, it was learnt that the senators were not keen on leaving the party but all the want is to be given that sense of belonging. That has given a lot of hope to majority of members of the party who equally see the coming of Oshiomhole as the solution that the APC needs.
And to show the acceptability of Oshiomhole by the APC senators, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, who warmly welcomed Oshiomhole to the House, noted that majority of senators have this optimism that Oshiomhole has the capacity to lead the party at this point in time.
“I know Comrade has been working hard to talk to people about his ambition and I want to thank him for finding time to come personally to meet the APC caucus in the senate. I have known Comrade for many many years. We have worked together at various levels. So I know him very well and his ability to do all he said he wants to do in our party. I know he has the capacity to take up the challenges before us as a party and I have no doubt that he will do well and make APC a formidable party once more.”
Addressing the senators, Oshiomhole was able to touch on the burning issues in the party to the admiration of the senators. He stressed that the current disagreement in the party can be resolved when all parties sincerely come to the table with open minds for discussions. He said: “Today, I have come not only to solicit for your support but to also say that I dream of a political party where everybody will have that sense of pride and even the sense of ownership. I believe Sir, that the very part of our being a democratic voluntary organisation which a political party represents, means that the basis for coexistence has to be mutual respect.
“I believe that part of the challenges we had which are no secret is that the various organs of the party have not functioned in a manner that was anticipated. And I believe that without those organs functioning, we are just a collection of individuals, who can speak to a party when party members at various levels meet, debate and agree on a particular direction and that agreement becomes the party’s position. And when we now speak on issue of party supremacy, it is in the context of a decision that we democratically arrived at in which members of the party, from the “President to the senate, Reps, to governors and everyone is expected to abide by that decision because they are our own decisions. So I am convinced Mr. President, by my background, as someone who has been victim of power, both economic power and political power which pushed me into unionism and someone who has grown to become a governor, I never oppressed any one, I think I have passed through all the stages and I am fairly informed about the challenges of governors and the challenges of a political party.
“I believe Sir, and I want to assure our senators, that given the opportunity to chair our party, there are couples of things we must do differently. We cannot dream of a party in which there are no disagreements. If we have one like that it means the party is not democratic. Even in the military there are some disagreements and agreements.
“So in a genuine democracy, nobody is seen to get everything that he wants but everybody can get everything that we are able to negotiate. And the driver of this process has to be compromise. Nobody has all the monopoly and nobody is bereft of ideas. And I believe that if we approach issues with open mind with open mind we can do business
“I believe that getting support from all of you and all our leaders, that together we can strengthen our party, giving it more positive image, given our members that sense of participation and together we will confront the forthcoming election and remind Nigerians that even if we have not fix all the problems there is genuine commitment to fix them. And again cannot fix in three years what was destroyed in 16 years. This party is capable of delivering and sustaining the change that we have promised.”
Watching Oshiomhole say all these gave a number of Nigerians hope that the APC is back after the problems that plagued the party in the just concluded congresses in some states. And like Oshiomhole said, many believe that with sincerity of purpose and the spirit of sportsmanship, the crisis rocking the ruling party will be over soon.
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