Chief Tunji Braithwaite
Prominent Second Republic politician, founder and National Chairman of the Nigeria Advance Party (NAP), Chief Tunji Braithwaite, in an exclusive interview with Ademola Adeyemo and Ayo Ophiah, speaks on political developments in the country including the urgent need for a people oriented constitution before the 2015 general election
You played a prominent role in the politics of the Second Republic as the leader of one of the five registered political parties. What really went wrong, why did the Second Republic fail?
The Second Republic did not fail; it was aborted by the military- the opportunistic military that aborted the Second Republic on December 31, 1983. Babaginda, Buhari and Abacha truncated the republic for their own selfish interests. But the politicians then were involved in political acrimony and corruption. The economy was down at the time, so people were yearning for change and when the military came, the people embraced it.
Don’t you think the Second Republic politicians failed?
Well, let me put it in proper context: till now, Nigeria has had poor leadership; poor leadership in the sense that those who have been steering the ship of the state lack direction. Secondly, it is not just a poverty of ideas, but poverty of the mind. People of different characters find their ways into government. The first thing they do is to dip their hands into the treasury and steal people’s money. If you are saying that the politicians failed, you are only partially correct. But the military exacerbated the whole situation. Check the list of those who have benefited from the resources of this country and you will find that it contains top military people and their acolytes.
Your party failed to capture any seat both at the state and federal parliaments in the second and subsequent republics. Why?
Let me remind you that when the military took over; when they seized government in 1983, what they did was to round up all the political leaders with the exception of myself, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Awolowo and Mallam Aminu Kano. Others were rounded up. Beyond that, in their first public declaration, Idiagbon and Buhari made a declaration that our party was the only party that was not involved in corrupt practices; it was a banal head line that NAP was the only party that was not involved in corrupt practices.
So, it has a badge of honour to be exempted from the corrupt practices. I do not regret our failure, in quote, to capture some seats in those elections; if I can go further to tell you, we had a choice, we were invited even before the conclusion of that election to join forces with the ruling party and we were promised some allocations in the federal parliament, even some governorship slots but we declined them. I still have witnesses.
We were not in politics for self-aggrandisement or enrichment; we came into politics to introduce revolutionary practices of constructive ideas for service. But the obstacles on our way were so formidable; but we still remained committed to those ideas and I believe that sooner than later those ideas will have to come to the fore for the sake of this country.
What is the state of your party now?
The party is still there, we have our national headquarters in Abuja, two parties are constantly in alliance with us – they are PRP and the Labour parties. So our party is still there and still functioning purely on an ideological basis.
But in the 2007 general election, your party was not active.
We did not contest because we did not have funds, we did not have money. If we had money, we would have contested. But we have always been cash strapped because the concept of people donating to political party is still alien to the Nigerian people. It is the other way round here, you find the so-called big parties giving money or food commodities to the people. But in terms of activities, we are involved in many. Remember we led the protest early this year against subsidy removal; we used the platform of the party as well as our strength in the civil society movement. The civil society movement in Nigeria is being developed to become the roaring force for the ultimate revolution.
You will observe that political parties today are less democratic; they have been hijacked by some powerful political leaders who dictate who gets what and when. What has gone wrong with the parties?
In 1999, when this republic started, we said expressly that a governor of a state will soon become an emperor. And look at today, they have acquired more power, they anoint their successors, they nominate their chief of staff to succeed them, so you make your own deduction for obvious reasons. Uduaghan succeeded Ibori in Delta State and is a relation of Ibori. In Lagos State, Fashola was chief of staff to Tinubu and also, in Abia State, Orji was chief of staff to Kalu. The situation is similar in other states. Another thing that we have discovered is that the governors control the state party machinery, so we don’t have a proper democracy.
The bottom line is that democracy has not taken its roots in Nigeria and that is why we are saying the evil day is just being postponed and that there will be a revolution in this country for the soul of this country. Nigeria as a country cannot be dissolved and if the country as a whole cannot be dissolved, then there must be an internal showdown; there must be an internal house cleaning to build the institutions of democracy.
Do you think the present opposition can play that role?
I just told you there are two kinds of opposition – opposition to bad governance in Nigeria is coming from outside the political system. They are all participants in the looting of the treasury, that’s why they recycle themselves. The House of Assembly does not enjoy the respect of anybody in the country, much less outside of the country, because they know what they are doing; we have all their dossiers.
Some people believe that something is wrong with our political system and they are clamouring for Nigeria to revert back to the parliamentary system of government. What is your opinion?
The present constitution, which we call Decree 24, is a bad constitution; it is a constitution that does not provide for development. It is a constitution that gives immunity to rogues. A constitution that allows scammers, unfit person to take over government; a constitution that does not enforce transparency and accountability; a constitution that scuttles regional development, such a constitution is not only anti people, it is a constitution that must be torn to pieces. You can’t amend this kind of constitution, you have to sit down and draw up a proper constitution and that is why we are calling for the national conference, which they are resisting, but they are only resisting it to their own detriment, because there has to be national conference.
If they said they are amending the constitution, they are only deceiving everybody, they are only papering over the cracks on the wall so that they will continue, but we are not going to allow it. Mark my word, the new constitution or rather, the surgical operation to Decree 24 must take place before 2015, it must take place before the next election. If it does not take place, that is when the country would have become a failed state, it must be rectified before holding the 2015 elections. If they do not and they try to hold elections in this country with this present constitution and this present mindset of corruption, the inferno will simply engulf all of them and there will be no escape. We need a brand new constitution, brand new mindset before the next election. The last election that will be conducted under the 1999 constitution has been conducted in 2011.
So how do you think we can move forward?
Well, I have no suggestion for the people in government, but I have a call for our people in Nigeria from all zones to brace up to retrieve our country from the hands of these vampires, from the hands of these people who have sat over them for so long. The time has come and I know that the call is being heard. For instance, there was a bribery scandal in the National Assembly involving the Farouk Lawal committee and Otedola over the petroleum subsidy; suddenly we don’t hear anything any longer about it. Where in the world could such a thing happen and a responsible government will continue as usual, even the law enforcement agencies like the EFCC have been looking the other way.
Can’t you see that the people in government are actually provoking the masses and they will have themselves to blame? What happened to the many probes? You don’t see the outcome; they never see the light of the day. No follow up, everything is swept under the carpet and the masses are suffering from lack of basic things. There is no portable water, no electricity, no security and the country has trillions of foreign exchange. Meanwhile, the cost of governance has gone through the roof, so we are not going to agree; we are not going to allow the people to just take it like that. A revolution is coming, it is certain.
What can stop it?
Thorough cleansing of the executive, judiciary and the legislature, those are the minimum conditions that can stop the revolution. To expose the rogues among them- the three arms of government- so that those who are sitting on the wealth of the people will be exposed in time. People said because Jonathan came to endorse my book we have endorsed Jonathan, there is nothing further from the truth. We did not endorse Jonathan, certainly not like we publicly endorsed Mimiko. We had a book presentation and we did not ask anybody for a penny, no government agency donated a penny for the launching; it was an honour for him to come and launch the book. It was a great privilege for him to come, but that does not mean an endorsement at all.
Can you assess Jonathan’s performance so far?
Like I said at the book launch, Jonathan is a listening person but the people surrounding Jonathan and his godfathers and unless Jonathan is able to free himself from their influence, they would make him a failed President. He should free himself from those mongers in his party and the other influence or else, he would be a failed President and that will be unfortunate. For example, government has lost direction in tackling the present security problem and that is the truth, which you journalist must always point out for the sake of this country. He cannot succeed without the support of the masses.
The Boko Haram situation is a protest. It is unfortunate that the protest is leading to a lot of bloodshed, and they are trying to make it look like it is religious as well. But that is unfortunate and it is deliberate to cause disaffection and pluralise the society. That is why I blame the government for ineptitude and ineptitude is the result of corruption of successive governments.
In the South-west, there is a clamour for regional integration. Do you share the idea?
I do not see these parties- either ACN or PDP as enduring; they are a mirage. These parties are not in the heart of the people nationwide, not in the South-west, not in South-east, and throughout the country. These are not parties for which people have a total commitment in ideology, even in spiritual content, because they are opportunistic. After the revolution, the people themselves will form parties, parties that will evolve from the people, from the grassroots. All the talks about South-west integration are all self serving. If the elections are free and fair, you will find out that these people will not control this zone; the elections were not free and fair.
Also, the judiciary has been compromised, everybody knows that. Go and dig deep into the story behind the Salami and Kastina-Alu issue, and so on and so forth, you will see that we have a long way to go. As such, there must be house cleansing, a showdown. We must have a new constitution, a people oriented one because it is like a compass for the nation. The compass must be put in place so that we know where we are going and it is to be put in place before the next election; otherwise, the inferno that will be thrown up in the days running up to the 2015 elections will engulf all of them. The election of 2011 will be the last election that would be held under the 1999 constitution, mark my word. The revolution will terminate the reign of looters in every zone; it will usher in a bright future for this country.
The new constitution or rather, the surgical operation to Decree 24 must take place before 2015, it must take place before the next election. If it does not take place, that is when the country would have become a failed state, it must be rectified before holding the 2015 elections.