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.
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