Chineme Okafor and Dare Adesanya in
A former Minister of Information and Culture, Dr. Walter Ofonagoro, yesterday lamented that despite Nigeria’s return to democracy after many years of military rule, the same sets of ex-military chiefs who held sway in the past are returning to rule the country again.
Speaking at the 2016 annual general meeting and conference of the Nigerian Institute for Public Relations (NIPR) in Abuja, Ofonagoro said one of the former military chiefs in fact had 12 years in power and subsequently installed two former presidents and fell out with one of them on alleged grounds of disloyalty.
He spoke alongside the likes of Alhaji Maitama Sule, Seinde Arogbofa, Mrs. Sarah Jubril and Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah. All of them however lamented that the norms and values which was inherited from Nigeria’s founding fathers have been thrown overboard and the country left rudderless.
“In passing, I note that the military has entrenched itself as the nation’s political leaders,
after displacing the political leaders from the founding fathers of Nigeria till date.
“One General in fact ruled twice for a total of 12 years out of 50 years of military rule, and still was able to install his last two successors, Umaru Yar’Adua, 2007 – 2009, and Goodluck Jonathan, 2009-2015,” Ofonagoro said.
He then added: “When his protégé refused to accept his advice not to seek re-election in 2015, he left PDP for him, tore up his own party membership card publicly, and assisted the opposition politicians to install a fellow general for a second coming into the political arena as president.”
Ofonagoro further stated that over the years of military rule in the country, all the safeguards, carefully negotiated into the country’s independence constitution have been consigned to the bin.
According to him: “The revenue allocation formula which was agreed to before independence, for sharing mining proceeds in the petroleum industry in the proportions 50 per cent for derivation, 30 per cent for distribution at agreed percentages to all the regions, and 20 per cent for the Federal Government, was discarded in 1969 by the Gowon government in order to use all the funds to face all the challenges of the civil war.”
“It is now 46 years since the war ended, and the mutually negotiated formula has never been restored. Instead President Babangida approved three per cent derivation to commence after his tenure, while General Abacha approved 13 per derivation to commence after his tenure,” he added.
The ex-minister also condemned the current governance structure in the country, saying: “if we consider that none of these states are viable, it means that Nigeria exists just to pay the salaries and benefits of millions of civil servants and politicians.”
“In such a scenario, business cannot thrive, as uncaring and unfeeling bureaucrats tax and fine entrepreneurs to exhaustion until they give up, close up shop and leave the country, or try something else that does not employ more than five people and has nothing to do with regulators,” he added.
Ofonagoro also commended the Senate for rejecting President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to borrow $29.9 billion, stating that allowing the president to borrow such huge sum may enslave unborn generations of Nigerians through unforeseeable ballooning of interest accumulations in cases of default.
On his part, Sule said Nigeria has continued to fall apart in all of its governance indices.
He said: “This was not the Nigeria we know; things have fallen apart and we need to reverse that. We do not have leaders that we used to have, where despite all the challenges the country faced then, it was able to overcome.”
Bishop Kukah in his remarks explained that Nigerians would need to imbibe greater tolerance for each other’s perspectives for the country to experience true unity.
“Muslims who say they cannot stay in Nigeria until Sharia law is fully entrenched across the length and breadth of the country, should leave the country and go to countries where Sharia or Islamic constitution is practiced, such as Saudi Arabia. Same applies for any Christian who thinks that way,” Kukah noted.