An activist and Secretary of pan Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, in this interview with Oladipupo Awojobi, posits that only restructuring can solve the numerous problems facing the country. The Afenifere chieftain also berates the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for not having a clear cut economic policy, adding that the issue of security has yet to be properly addressed
It is now almost two years that President Muhammadu Buhari got to office, of course, we are in recession, would you say the government has improved on its performances on the political and economic front?
I feel the administration is still on the same template as at when it came in 2015. Up till now, we are yet to see a robust economic agenda of the government. They have no economic team, and no coherent policy thrust. All we have been having are episodic reactions, Treasury Single Account (TSA) today, and tomorrow it is something else. We have multiple exchange rates in one economy, and you should expect a free fall of the naira at the moment. You just woke up and banned importation of cars through land border and instead of making money for the government, the customs men are making money for themselves. The government said they were giving N5,0000 to one million poor people, and I wonder, where is common sense in governance. N5,000 today does not cook a pot of soup for an average family in Nigeria.
When you give N5,000 to poor people, this money would be used to consume alcohol, some would use it for marijuana. It would not add value to their lives. In any case, you could even see some politicians sharing some of that money, they would just write fictitious names as the beneficiaries of the money. The total of that money is N5 billion in a month and that is N60 billion in a year. If you take that money, and you ask people to come up with Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), you would have almost 200 SMEs per state of the federation. Let us say each of the SMEs employs an average of 10 people and they are gainfully employed, then they would have put their feet in the first ladder of prosperity rather than just giving N5,000 to one million people each. Since there is no economic team, it is affecting the system.
On the political scene, we are yet to improve from where we were. Look at the elections that have been held so far under this administration, it is like warfare. You see people disappearing, people being beheaded and all that. All these things we are saying add to the mood of the political situations in the country. In a situation, where up till today, the President has not congratulated Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State after he won his election is not good enough. Yes, the President belongs to a political party, but once election has been held, you should put political party apart and accept the will of the people. Those who vote for your party and those who did not vote for it are all under you as the President. The moment you become the President, you should forget about political party. When elections are being held, you could hide under your party, but after that you should embrace all the parties. You must show that the system is much more important than your political party.
It seems the government is achieving a lot in the area of security, don’t you think they should be commended?
The University of Maiduguri was bombed this morning and a Professor and many students lost their lives. A philosopher said, “tell no lies, claim no easy victory.’ We said people are insurgent, so you can never know where they would be. They could be in Sambisa Forest today and Yankari Games Reserve tomorrow. So, it is empty and noisy propaganda for the government to say they have taken over Sambisa Forest. Sambisa is more than the entire South East of Nigeria. Anytime they claim that they have conquered them, Boko Haram would start bombing. What kind of deception is that? You are no longer contesting elections, so you must be responsible to all rather than engaging in propaganda. Everybody knows that the greatest challenge in the world is fighting terrorists. Today they would be in Sambisa Forest, tomorrow they would be in another place entirely. You don’t know where they are.
On corruption, people have commended the President for arresting some judges and prosecuting them. People feel he has thread where nobody dares
The President has been going all over the world, telling them where we are. Well, some bold moves have been taken, Also, some people are being prosecuted. But you should know that there is a root of corruption, and we have not dealt with the act of corruption. Unfortunately, the government is only fighting the effect of corruption. But, the root of corruption is still there and some corrupt people are around him. You could see that there are corruption scandals amongst the people working with the President.
Corruption is not an animate thing that you can arrest, jail or shoot and kill. It is something we need to root out, but we have done nothing in terms of a serious effort to combat corruption. He has done it before, when he came in as a military head of state in 1984, many were jailed up to 200 years, 300 years. Unfortunately, since the last two years, they not sent anybody to jail. Some of the arrests and probes they are doing now have they jailed anybody? If they jail four or five persons throughout their tenure, then we are very lucky. There are exposures everywhere. Even the late Gen. Sanni Abacha, whose loot is being recovered till today, fought corruption.
Look at the 2017 budget, all those that were accused of padding the budget have been transferred to the cash office of the Ministry of Finance. Not one person has been punished. Since the last seven years, the highest of the budget has been recurrent. Look at the money budgeted for electricity last year and the one budgeted for it this year. When people were talking about former President Goodluck Jonathan and they were saying all sorts of things, I told them that the problem of this country is beyond Jonathan or Buhari and that our problem is the structure. Any leader you put there today would not perform.
Let us talk about restructuring of the country
The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo said it as far back as 1967 in his book entitled; ‘Thought on Nigerian Constitution,” that any attempt to continue with the structure of the country would lead to disharmony and that the administration of the country would collapse. We cannot continue like this, where every state governor goes to Abuja monthly for handouts. For as long as we depend on going to Abuja, we would continue to have problems. That has also assisted a lot of indolence all over the country, that is why people are falling victims of MMM. They don’t want to do anything again, just investing and making more money. Whatever you say, it is Ponzi scheme. People just want to get their own part of the national cake.
We must allow every section of the country to develop. We also need a state police. We must allow every unit to develop on their own. They made the laws and they must be able to enforce the law. Chief Obafemi Awolowo did many things as building of Cocoa House, the first television station in the country and all that. He ruled all the entire South West up till Asaba in Delta State with just 11 commissioners. Now, we have several states with several commissioners and advisers. But, now we have several states with several commissioners, advisers and others. When we are talking about restructuring, we are not talking of abstracts, we are talking about something that is real, something that is practicable. We have a lot of thefts, and people are busy stealing money. The Minister of Works is in Abuja, he does not even know some of these roads. So, we need a new model for our government. We need to practice federalism in this country, our growth has been stunted.
We must unbundle this country. Go to Benin Republic, Togo and Accra, you would not see a single pothole there. These small countries, see what they have done. If those countries can do well, what of us? The country is overweight.
You could see that the word; ‘change’ has been bastardized in the country.
People are praising Buhari today, they are condemning Jonathan. Somebody once commended the government of the late General Sanni Abacha. That is what we have been having, you praise the past government. If not that former president Ibrahim Babangida is not well now, he would have been warming up.
It seems the PDP has been silenced and someone like you ought to be in government by now?
I am not keen about public office. I am not in any political party, the last party I joined was the Alliance for Democracy (AD) then. Since then, I have not been in any political party. Even, when I worked with President Muhammadu Buhari in 2011, I was not in any party. I am still the Secretary of Afenifere, which is not a political party. I would like to say that there is no party in Nigeria, now even the APC, is it a party? People are just interacting, we don’t even have one political party. The PDP have their own internal crisis. My plan is not to be in any government, especially with the current arrangement. When I supported Buhari in 2011, it was on the basis of the promise he made that he would restructure the country. If you look at the manifestoes of Pastor Tunde Bakare then, the first thing there is the restructuring of the country, and that is not happening now.
Would you have taken any appointment if Buhari had won the presidential election in 2011?
If he won on the basis of our agenda and he is ready to implement them, I would take it. But, I didn’t make any demand from him, he is still alive, they can ask him. In 2015, I supported former President Goodluck Jonathan because he organised a constitutional conference in 2014 and I was part of it. He made a pledge and we passed a resolution that he would implement the reports of the constitutional conference. We had over 600 resolutions, if we implement half of the resolutions, the problems of this country would be over. No other thing made me supported them. Even the Vice President recommended restructuring.
Don’t you think the former government mismanaged our economy, which is why we are here?
Don’t look at government from the angle of Jonathan, Buhari and what have you. It is a continuum, Awolowo warned us in one of his columns. It is a progressive regeneration. Somebody said that if you make the Lord Jesus Christ the President of Nigeria and Mohammed the Vice President, or vice versa, we would still have the kind of problems we are having. They would fail under this structure.
Would you support the government interfering with religion?
The state should not interfere in religion. But, if you are a religious body and you engage in commercial activities, you would pay tax on the business. Even, Jesus Christ, our Lord, he was going about preaching and they asked him to pay tax with his disciples. He then called Peter to go and get money from the mouth of the fish and give it to them.
I don’t think the government should interfere in religion. On the stepping down of Pastor Adeboye, I think he decided to effect what Federal Financial Code (FRC) was saying. There are two positions; there are those who said people must leave office after serving for some years, while other people disagree.