Fakokunde Oluwasanmi Makanjuola is the President Odua Progressive Youths, in the US to witness the tumultuous welcome of the Ooni of Ife and his entourage in key US cities and states where his subjects are domiciled including Philadelphia where he participated in the 41st anniversary of the Odunde Festival. Just as the Ooni and his queen were preparing for a visit to the White House, Makanjuola and the Yoruba in the Diaspora are strongly campaigning for the implementation of the National Conference report, a return to regionalism and resource control. He took time off to reflect on the experience and comment on issues affecting the polity back home. Nduka Nwosu reports
Can you share your American experience with us and where you are right now?
It has been wonderful so far coupled with the presence of the Ooni of Ife Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi with his large entourage including prominent Yoruba Obas at this year’s Odunde Festival in Philadelphia, the largest African American street festival held in the US. The festival, whose concept originates from the Yoruba people of Nigeria added more fun to my experience.
Here in Maryland I have been meeting with groups of Yoruba youths. I also plan travelling to Atlanta, Indiana and Texas to meet others while interacting with a cross section of Yoruba organisations. The idea is to drive home our agenda as an ethnic nationality and the need to speak with one voice in the Nigerian experiment especially in the widely discussed issues of a return to regionalism and correcting the imbalance on resource allocation.
The United States played a very big role in the last general election in Nigeria; we are making a concerted effort to make them see that restructuring is the best for the country at this moment and also to make the whole world see reason for the nation to return to regionalism and Nigerians have to learn from the political stability of the US. I realised in this country, each state is autonomous, every state has its own police, political and economic structure, not under the control of the centre. Why do we use the American presidential system without following it thoroughly?
Which of the major political parties in Nigeria do you have a leaning for?
My leaning is for the People’s Democratic Party, although it is highly regrettable that corruption has been a part of the Nigerian political establishment rising to a crescendo in 1986. It has also grown widely in the last 30 years but I tell you, it is not a PDP thing. I support President Buhari’s fight against corruption but a general is only as good as his lieutenants; what is the profile of those he is fighting the corruption war with? Are they clean too? Most of those that helped to bring the All Progressive Congress to power came from the PDP. That means such war can only be genuinely fought when it is all encompassing, accompanied with institutional frameworks that will permanently nip corruption in the bud.
What is your assessment of President Buhari’s one year in office?
On the scale of 1 to 10, I would rate the President on 3; he has done badly in his first one year in office; life is more difficult to live in Nigeria now with the usual epileptic supply of power which has gone from bad to worse in spite of the much celebrated body language of the then new president; most homes do not have access to potable water, the roads are generally pothole ridden and impassable during the rains, the price of consumables has doubled and tripled, salaries are not being paid as at when due and many workers are being owed as much as one year with mass retrenchment being the order of the day. Can you believe that a basket of tomatoes goes for N 45,000.00? It is highly unfortunate that ordinary Nigerians have to pay over N18, 000 for a bag of rice, the equivalent of the minimum wage in the country; so in my assessment, this administration has failed woefully through the hardship brought upon Nigerians in the last one year.
Don’t you think you are expecting so much from a government that has just clocked one year considering these problems have been with us and with crude oil, our main import earner, moving to an all-time low of $38 until recently when it started moving up partly because of the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers?
APC as a party rode to power with a change mantra, a false promise that it has what it takes to change the economy and turn Nigeria into a paradise in a twinkle of an eye. What are we seeing instead? The economy is on a free fall, according to experts, Nigeria’s economy is on recess. Our country has never had it worse than this and all we keep hearing is it is all because the PDP looted the commonwealth and left nothing behind. For how long will this swan song last?
The change mantra only worked when the APC in collaboration with the power hungry rebels in the PDP wanted Goodluck Jonathan out of office; every other sector of the economy has changed for the worse, you can go and have an opinion poll of the workers in APC controlled states; you will be surprised to realise the whole change mantra was a scam, most of the APC controlled states prefer to spend the little amount they collect from the federal allocation on white elephant projects than pay retirees pensions and workers’ salaries. Workers are dying in large numbers in these states because of hunger.
The President has been scored highly on security especially his war against Boko Haram and the corruption fight. What’s your take on these?
I will award Buhari an excellent performance in his war on Boko Haram; every other aspect of security is low; you can imagine what happened to the 75 year old woman in Kano, who was beaten to death over an issue of blasphemy or the young man almost butchered under the flimsy excuse he was not fasting. Not even in Saudi Arabia could such criminality hiding under the guise of religious intolerance go unpunished, a recurring decimal in this part of the country and oftentimes the culprits go home unpunished when the noise dies; there is the senseless killings by the president’s tribesmen-the Fulani herdsmen heavily armed with AK 47 rifles and the mowing down of agitators of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB).
These herdsmen have carried their assaults and killings nationwide like a people at war with the rest of the country, killing, raping women and destroying farmlands along the way and rejoicing back home in the guise of foreign invaders. What is baffling is the President’s body language of indifference, an unusual silence unbecoming of a leader whose mandate is to protect every territory of the country he rules. There is the rise of the Niger Delta Avengers and other security issues too numerous to be mentioned.
How will the country be united if some section feels it is untouchable no matter what it does while a small uprising in another is met with a military assault that leaves behind mayhem and carnage? The consequence will be reprisal attacks. This is not good for the unity of the nation. In addition, the issue of religious intolerance should not be handled with kid gloves.
The current fight against corruption is nothing but political witch hunting. If I may ask, is President Buhari telling Nigerians that corruption is only being practiced by politicians from the PDP? I do not hear of APC members and ex-PDP members who decamped to the APC.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister of Britain did not just describe Nigeria as fantastically corrupt for nothing, all the financial details of those who claim to be saints are with them; so in spite of the public display of holiness, the facts are still well known to the international community, it is only Nigerians that can be deceived.
Do you agree deregulation of the fuel sector is a step in the right direction?
This deregulation was not well structured, there were no due consultations with the stakeholders, they were only involved when the decision had already been made by the executive and there is no intention to rescind the decisions anyway. A worker, whose minimum wage is N18,000, who lives in Ajegunle, works in Victoria Island and has three children in school, a house rent to pay, is buying 10 litres of PMS for N1,450.00. Do you expect such an individual to be dedicated and not steal from such workplace if he has the opportunity? I believe so many factors should have been considered before this deregulation was effected. One is the upward review of wages and its implementation across board.
There is a growing clamour for restructuring of the country through the implementation of the National Conference report, do you agree?
I do agree with some recommendations on the issue of revenue allocation which proposed a reduction in the shares of national income going to the federal government and increasing the shares of the states. What the Odua Progressive Youths is really clamouring for is a need for the nation to reduce its administrative cost. The cost of maintaining our politicians is outrageous. There is need to reverse governance to regionalism; if this is done, it will give the people back the power of resource control Our group is hugely in support of fiscal federalism or resource control a reversal of the economic system in favour of the very progressive and development oriented regional system of government which is supportive of the agriculture agenda.
In percentage terms, the current revenue contribution of each region to the N3.86 trillion Buhari is planning to raise as revenue to finance the 2016 budget tells the story of the huge disparity on which the country’s revenue base is being shared. The Yoruba South-West generates a national wealth of 49%; Niger Delta or the South-South has 44%; Middle Belt or North-Central -2.5%;Hausa/Fulani North-West- 2%; Ibo South-East-1.5%; Kanuri North-East-1%
Now that you know where the money for the 2016 budget will come from, let us look at how Buhari has planned its allocation. North Central-31%; North-East-24%; North-West-20%; South-West-10; South-South -8%; South-East-7%
With its paltry contributions to the revenue, the current unitary system allows the Northern Region receive the highest budgetary allocation of the Federal Government, not commensurate to its contributions while the Yoruba South-West and the Niger Delta South-South Regions had always received from the Federal Government, since the suspension of the regional system of government in 1966, less money than the Federal Government had realised from the two regions.
This kind of economic injustice must be stopped. It is the reason the Odua Progressive Youths will resort to the use of organised protest if the Federal Government continues to frustrate our demand for a return to regional government.
Another issue of interest has to do with the agitation of states and their autonomy to generate electricity championed by Babatunde Raji Fashola as governor of Lagos State. Fashola was at the forefront for the agitation of freedom for states to generate power or electricity for commercial purposes. Now he is at the helm of affairs of the power ministry at the federal level, we are not hearing anything about it anymore. The minister should tell Nigerians why this campaign which should be gathering momentum under his direction has been silenced. Is this what the change mantra is also all about?