In a recent dialogue with Professor Abubakar Olanrewaju Sulaiman, former Minister of National Planning and current Director General, National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, Hammed Shittu uncovers his thoughts on many issues of national importance
With your experience in your new office, how do you think Nigerian democracy can be deepened?
Sixty years of independence of this country is full of ups and downs as well as various challenges and progresses. But quite frankly, if we have not got anything at all in terms of deepening democracy, our 21 years of uninterrupted democratic governance points to good future of peoples’ government, a future of democracy, a future that despite our differences as a people, we can still make tremendous progress in the areas of democratic practice and procedure. Yes, in my stewardship of almost 16 months in the institute, we have seen some politicians who are ready to learn about democratic tenets, we have seen the people, politicians, parliamentarians that are ready to let go, we have seen the people who want to conduct election without necessarily going to litigation thereafter, we have seen consensus among contestants, we have seen acceptance of defeat; what we had in 2015, we never had it before in this country, the election we had in Edo, we never had it before now, the Ondo election was not bad. So, I think we are making tremendous progress.
INEC has released timetable for 2023 elections, some political parties have been deregistered, while some people are calling on the National Assembly to look into the amendment of the Electoral Act, what is your take on these issues?
There is no doubt about the fact that our democracy cannot survive with the kind of “jankara” political parties we have in this country. We have to cut the number down. A lot of political parties we have are “shoprite” political parties, let me use that language. Just one shop, no office, no followers, no members and no disciples. You begin to ask a question, of what relevant are they? Adding to the number on ballot papers, adding to the confusion in electoral process? I think we need some legal frameworks to bring them down. I pray to Almighty God that their recourse to the law court for justice in their own word, will not see the light of the day. We must have two or three vibrant political parties that can represent the various opinion of people of this country. We cannot survive with 60, 70 or 80 political parties. It does not make sense at all. If we must practice democracy the way it should be, we don’t need all those “shoprite” political parties. So, we need serious electoral reform. National Assembly is looking into it, and I want to believe that with the kind of National Assembly we have now as we had in the 8th National Assembly, we should see something possible in terms of result that will come out from the National Assembly as far as electoral reform is concerned.
What can be done secure the ballot, electoral officials and the voters?
On ASUU strike, what do you think can be done to resolve the impasse ?
The trade dispute on campuses between ASUU and government is being resolved, I want believe that, National Assembly has waged into the crisis. It is a persistent thing. Even after this, another one will still come because resources are very limited and demands of academics are unlimited, and when you give to them, it is in the best interest of Nigeria people, our students and our children. In managing resources, government needs to have one and let go the other one. It is not an easy thing to so, what we have today as TETFUND, UBEC emanated from the struggle of ASUU. Nigerians should not see academics or trade unionists as hoodlums. These are intellectuals These are people that trained all of us and still training our children. Therefore, their demands should be seen from the objective point of view. Yes, we appreciate government’s predicament, we had lockdown, prices of oil at the international market have gone down. We are resorting to a lot of loans to survive and even to implement our budget, a lot of crisis. When you have these kind of crises, I think we just have to appreciate ourselves. The one government could do, they should accept it, the one they could not do, they should let go. And with the intervention of the Senate President, the Speaker of the House, it is being resolved and I want believe in next one week or so, ASUU will call off the strike.
What are the implications of the EndSARS protest for the future of this country?
It is simple, as long as we practice democracy, peoples will to prevail. We have gone beyond the military mentality where people that handle weapons believe that they are at liberty to make use of the weapons the way they feel. It suggests that our Police Force needs reorientation. This is a Police Force that had their root in the colonial and military era, but with uninterrupted democratic dispensation of 21 years, our law enforcement agencies need to inculcate the spirit of democracy into their operation. Police Force should be civil, law enforcement agencies should be civil. The army could be uncivil but the Police should be civil. It calls for reorientation, reformation of the Police force. It goes beyond mere cosmetic change of name, there must be tactical reformation and reorientation of the Nigerian Police force
May we ask transpired at the meeting you had with the Governor of Kwara State?
The governor is my friend. He is my long time friend. He is my brother. We were in the same political parties. We have the same ideology and that ideology we still share. It was private meeting to strengthen our friendship and brotherhood. It was nothing more than that.
It is simple, as long as we practice democracy, peoples will to prevail. We have gone beyond the military mentality where people that handle weapons believe that they are at liberty to make use of the weapons the way they feel. It suggests that our Police Force needs reorientation. This is a Police Force that had their root in the colonial and military era, but with uninterrupted democratic dispensation of 21 years, our law enforcement agencies need to inculcate the spirit of democracy into their operation. Police Force should be civil, law enforcement agencies should be civil. The army could be uncivil but the Police should be civil