Okai: President Has Failed Woefully to Secure the Nation

An activist and Peoples Democratic Party’s House of Representatives candidate in 2023 poll, Austin Okai, in this interview with Juliet Akoje, says President Muhammadu Buhari has done nothing to stem the tide of insecurity in the country. Excerpt:

The pate of insecurity in the country generally is on the increase and as a very strong vocal voice in the society, what is your message to President MuhammaduBuhari concerning  insecurity in the land?

He is unnecessarily being stubborn; he is not doing anything about it. As I am talking to you, it is getting to seven months that some students were abducted from Katsina, they have not yet been found. What of the train attack, you are aware of the train attack between Abuja and Kaduna, the victims are still being held in the hands of the abductors. You can’t tell us that they don’t know what is going on, it is becoming alarming and we see it as business as usual.

If somebody like me is even in the national assembly, I will press more to ensure the president talks to Nigerians about the spate of kidnapping and killing, it is unusual, it is uncalled for, for a president who is a former general and the nation is insecured under him and he sees it as a normal thing, it is an aberration and everyone of us must stand up to it, you can’t govern a nation with this kind of condition. And this has shown that truly they lack the capacity to rule. Thank God February 18, 2023 is coming and Nigerians are eager to effect changes but even at that, we must call a spade a spade, he has failed woefully, he has failed to keep to his constitutional responsibilities, the oath he swore to protect Nigeria’s integrity, to ensure security of lives and properties, he has failed.

Today as I am talking to you, the sit-at-home order in the south east is well being observed even by the government agencies and parastatals and he is not doing anything about it. Killings across the six geopolitical zones, no zone is safe anymore because of President MuhammaduBuhari’s government; he finds it difficult to fire those he is supposed to fire, the National Security Adviser is still there despite the resolution by the national assembly that he should fire the man. The NSA is the custodian of the Nigerian information and intelligence gathering, processing and he acts on it, until that man leaves, because he has so far demonstrated that he lacks the capacity to be the National Security Adviser of the president.

Until there is an end to it, the government must keep changing hands and now that he has refused to hire and fire, it shows that he is comfortable with it; therefore he cannot be exonerated from the ongoing crimes against Nigerians.

We are approaching that time of the year where the people will be  electing their leaders; what is your message to the youth specifically because in most cases of electoral malpractices and all that, the youth are said to be behind some of these things. What is your message to the masses concerning the 2023 election?

Whoever we think, we have tested so many of them and if you observed some of them are our grandfather’s mates, they enjoyed their own life, they are enjoying our father’s opportunity and now they want to also take over our own chances. And that is why people like me stood up, I am standing up tall to ensure that the constituency which has 80% of the votes as Nigerians, 80% of the eligible voters fall into the age of the youth and unfortunately we are  under represented.

Look at the cabinet of President Buhari, is there any youth among the ministers, none. The highest thing they can give you is one SSA where you don’t even have a port folio or some of them don’t even have an office. Where the critical decisions are being taken, the youths are not there.

Now that you are planning my own tomorrow and I am not there, how do you know what I want? They don’t hear from us, most of them use the old methods as it was obtainable in the 70’s, in the 80’s and that is obsolete. The world is changing and we must effect changes too. I know experience matters most but what is wrong in having all the Ministers of State as young ones, what is wrong in having 90% of the people in the House of Representatives to be within the age of 45, 50, 45 to 35, what is wrong? We should be involved in planning our future, we shouldn’t just be used only for election malpractice, thuggery, destruction of election materials. No, this is our time. At what time did Yakubu Gowon became a president, ditto Ibrahim Babangida, all of them were within the age of youth. President Buhari became a governor at a younger age, he became a minister at a younger age, he even became a president but up till now, he is still our president when some of us have graduated and still looking for jobs.

So unless we speak in one language, nobody should come and define the youth any more in the name of religion, this is a Muslim, we should stand by him, he is our brother, this one is a Christian, we should stand by him because he is a Christian, he is our Christian brother, we say no to that; let us talk sense into ourselves.

What do we want? is this a country? is there any future  for us? is this the type of country we want to live for our children yet unborn with what we are going through? And if we must say no to that, to have a better Nigeria for our children yet unborn, then it is now we should rise up, the time is now for us to rise up, let us get massive orientation about the APC and let us effect change of government in a democratic way by voting out those that have failed, by voting out the party that has failed.

Today President Buhari has nothing to lose, he may leave after his tenure, he may leave to London, he has everything, as a former military head of state and as a former president he may go back to Daura, the environment will be safe. But what of you and I, today we cannot travel on the road, the road is not safe, you cannot travel by the rail, the rail is not safe. You cannot fly on the air because of the exorbitant rate of the flight, even some time ago, there was an invasion of the airport by the bandits, so none is safe and we know that anybody can fall victim of it. And the government, not only prayer, whoever told you that it is only prayer that can solve this problem is lying. There are some actions that must be in effect by the government of the federal republic of Nigeria to put an end to this.

You can’t tell me the government is ignorant of this, no, it is a conspiracy against ordinary Nigerians, it is a conspiracy against the poor Nigerians, it is a conspiracy by some elites, by some groups against the masses and it is only us that will reject.

It is not about going to church to organise a prayer, it is not about going to the mosque to organise a prayer, we must ensure we elect competent men with good character and until we learn that we will keep suffering this. Anybody can fall victim of it, even Abuja is not safe again, the kidnappers are here, the bandits are here, it is just that the rate of crimes is underreported. And for that I am appealing to ordinary Nigerians on the street, to the young people on the campus, to the young people on the street, the unemployed, even those that are employed. What is the essence of having in the midst of abundance of people that don’t have. Until we stand up, these people will keep fooling us and there is nothing we can do about it, the solutions lies in our hands.

You recently won the primary election to represent Dekina/ Bassa Federal Constituency of Kogi State in the house of representative on the platform of PDP; as a professional accountant, how do you intend to go about it if you are elected a legislator?

It is all about accountability, government is accountability, representative government is about being accountable to the people. So, as a qualified accountant, a chartered accountant, the onus of being accountable to my people gives me an edge to represent them soundly because I knew as a professional that the government belongs to the people and now that the people owns the government, as a representative of the people, your responsibility is to be accountable to the constituency that elected you, therefore it gives me an edge over every other person.

Considering the fact that Kogi is an APC state, how positive are you about winning the poll?

Character matters and they have tested PDP and today we are testing APC, the testimony on the ground shows that they have failed to live up to expectation. Everybody on the streets of Kogi state is eager and tired of the current government, they can’t wait for the PDP to take over the leadership. We are aware of the situation in the state, where our voices are no longer being heard at the national level and other areas. There are things I don’t want to go into because it is not time for campaign. I can assure you that the issue of winning is not negotiable, I am optimistic.

What difference do you want to make if elected member of the 10th  National Assembly?

Contributing to national development. I believe that the national assembly should act as an audit to the executive arm of government, you don’t just go there and sit down there.

I want the voice and immediate needs of my constituency to be pushed to national front. Apart from that, you are aware of the need for strong legislation that will curb unemployment, the strong legislation that will put an end to insecurity. You are aware today that insecurity is business and nobody is being held accountable. With a strong legislative act, the executive will sit up, with a strong legislative act, the judiciary will be up to the task, with a strong legislative act, the president and the cabinet members will know that someone somewhere is checking their activities and the government will be accountable to the people and the people will know that the government is living up to expectation. It is not about being elected there, go, sit down and be collecting allowances, it is about ensuring that the voice of your people is being heard at the national level.

Look at a place like Bassa in my federal constituency, a land full of opportunities for agriculture but today nobody is pushing it; the farmers there don’t have access to loan because the representation is weak, the government is no longer taking it serious and I think it is not about political party, it is about character. And that is why you see since I won my primaries, both the APC, PDP, APGA, SDP members are happy that a man of a strong character will finally get the place, to showcase the character he is made of.

You are a well known activist within Kogi state and even outside the state. What is fueling your motivation?

At times, criticizing, complaining is not enough when things are going wrong, you seek opportunity to go there to correct it. We can’t be complaining all the time and if we see that the characters representing us are not up to the task, why won’t we go there? We are tired of sending people, we want to go there ourselves and effect some changes.

We want their voices, the voice of the people to be heard at the national level, we want to press home the demand of my people, we want to press home the point where people should know that the people of Dekina and Bassa were left behind, even as one of the largest local governments in West Africa with no impact at the national level. Are we just big for nothing? No!

So as an activist, a political activist with that background, I know I will be scrutinized very well, and that will fuel my passion to do more. As an activist, i am not there just to be correcting or to be making noise, I mean to be complaining, no. I can seek the opportunity to go there to correct what you think is wrong. So the decision to go into politics was fueled by my passion to effect some changes, bring some changes on board and ensure my contributions to national development.

What is your assessment of the 9th National Assembly?

I must commend them for the new electoral act, that is the only thing that is remarkable. So it is not about passing a bill, it is about having capacity to influence the president to assent to the bill. It is not about moving  motions.

We have so many motions, so many bills passed by the 9th assembly that have not been signed. But I must commend them for the new electoral act which was even fueled by the pressure from the society, civil society groups; if not left for them, everything that the president wants is what the 9th assembly wants to do and that is not what it should be.

The principle of checks and balances must be encouraged and that is what we will be looking at in the 10th national assembly that the executive arm should be held accountable by the legislative arm. Legislative arm cannot be a rubber stamp in the hands of the executive. So we will ensure that in the 10th national assembly, the principle of checks and balances should be adhered to strictly by ensuring that every action of the government are being questioned not for witch hunting but to ensure deepening democracy and the dividends of democracy for the citizens.

The call for Southern President was actually ignored by your party, the PDP, as AtikuAbubakar emerged the presidential flag bearer of the party. Do you think the Southerners were cheated?

The PDP did not ignore the clamour of a Southern President. It was thrown open; we have Governor Emmanuel Udom from AkwaIbom state, he is a southerner, Governor Wike who came second is from the southern part of the country, Pius Anyim Pius, they are all from the southern part of the country.

So you can’t say that PDP ignored their plight, it is democracy. The ballot was thrown open, they went into the primaries and the man with the largest number of voted emerged with the second person from the southern part. So assuming the first runnee up and the second runner up came from the north, that is when you can say that the party abandoned it. Assuming the party act or zoned out the southern part of the country that is where you can say that the party abandoned the zoning arrangement.

The zoning arrangement was strictly adhered to and if you observed it is a gentle man agreement. There is nothing like after the north, the PDP ticket should go to south and even if like I said before and I will keep saying it, the 16years of PDP in power, the southerners had 14years.

So the party now, zoning out the north will be seen as unfair to that region and that is why people like me canvassed for the northern candidate not because I hate the south, I love the south and not because I am from the north, no, it is because there must be justice and fairness. Obasanjo’s eight years was for the south, the other six years was for the south, only Yaradua of two years was for the north, so there is nothing like the PDP ignored the call for the zoning arrangement. All these things are being pushed by various political interest groups and you can’t take that away from politics. So it is all about interest.

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