Alhaji Musa Maigida Abdu is the chairman of the Unity Forum, a pro-democracy think-tank made up of eminent Nigerians of northern extraction. In this interview with MICHAEL OCHE, he shares insights into several topical national issues.
There were reports that the federal government had started negotiations with the Boko Haram through their agent, one Dr. Datti. Later the talks reportedly broke down. What happened?
Quite frankly, I read the report as you said on the pages of the dailies. I really don’t know who Datti represented nor the government representatives handling the negotiation and in fact, if Boko Haram now has an offically recognised leader. As far as I am concerned the Boko Haram crisis is a debacle that needs careful handling.
We hear of bombs here and there; we also hear of culprits being arrested or gunned down. But we are yet to see or read of those jailed and for what number of years. Surprisingly though, those being caught look too young for the hideous crimes being committed.
While the nation is talking of Boko Haram, politicians are heating up the polity with their utterances about the future of the country. In fact calls for Sovereign National Conference are everywhere. Are you worried about all these developments?
Politicians can always cry wolf in order to divert attention. In my view, sovereign national conference or not, Nigerians are wallowing in poverty. People do not have light. Let’s us talk of restoration of power for industries to work. Let there be water and good health services while talks of national conference can go on.
Do you share in the call for creation of more states?
I have a feeling that the states are too many and they are not viable. Their viability so far depends on the revenue allocation they receive from the centre. If I have my way, Nigeria should be divided into six states based on the present six geographical zones in the country.
By this method we should then go to proper federation as the former regions were operated before. In fact, instead of creation of additional states, more local governments should be created.
Some states in the north want the present revenue allocation revisited. The argument is that there are smaller states that get 300 per cent over bigger states. Again, the south-south governors are calling for 50 per cent of the derivation formular. What is your position on this?
True federalism in my opinion means that what exists in a state belongs to a large extent to that state. But it is true that the costs of development of infrastructure in some states are more that the others. In sharing the revenue of the country, cognizance of this should be taken, but not to the extent of taking 50 per cent of the allocation to oil producing states.
I will opt for 15 per cent for three years and thereafter 20 percent after five years and then the increment will continue. There should be increment of allocation to the local government authorities. Joint accounts between state government and local government should be abolished.
What is your opinion on the recent case of corruption in the police pension scheme?
It is sad. But the success of corruption in Nigeria is because those who are corrupt are being honoured everywhere and not only that, they are in control of everything in the land. Until corruption is fought to a standstill we will not achieve any meaningful economical and social development.
What approach would you proffer so that corruption would be fought to a standstill?
We must all join hands to fight it. Let us start from religious leaders. Religious leaders accept dubious donations to build mosques and churches; nobody queries how the monies are brought to them. For example, a governor will jump and donate N50milllion to build a church or mosque.
Where did he get this money? Chiefs give chieftaincy titles to only those who can pay for the titles. Why not reward those who have made small contributions in their own way to the image of Nigeria?
My answer or solution to curbing corruption should start from those who preach against it by their refusal of dubious donations. In a harsher way, we should copy some countries like China, Malaysia etc where corruption is punishable by death
The elections have come and gone but the judicial handling of some cases were allegedly controversial. What’s your view?
From the way I see it, Nigerians have themselves to blame. Take for example, the National Assembly made the amendments to Electoral Act before the elections of 2011. No Nigerian or group ever saw reason to appear or send views or recommend actions on the way forward.
We all sat and the National Assembly passed the electoral law. You cannot blame the judiciary; the judges interpreted the laws as passed by the National Assembly.
There are speculations that a constitutional amendment for a seven-year tenure is being prepared to suit the presidency. Will this not bring another political crisis?
There are no political crises because of a proposition; crises come when force is used to make the proposition a law. I do not think anybody is thinking of forcing such a proposition on Nigerians.
All the same, if Nigerians accept the proposal, good luck for the country. But we in Unity Forum have worked on proposal for constitutional amendments and we will submit them to the National Assembly in not too distant time.
What do you have to say about the allegation that once elected into office, some Nigerians love to appoint only those from their ethnic groups?
My own tribe does not belong to the ruling class. How then will I be a member of the so-called clique? But let me be emphatic to you, any ruler who thinks that he could only succeed in governing Nigeria when he surrounds himself with people from his area will fail woefully in the administration of this country
What is your view about the federal government’s decision to cede the supervision of water ways to an individual?
The Unity Forum views with serious concern the Federal Government’s decision to cede the supervision of the coasts to any outsider; more so, as our navy has the singular responsibility of protecting our water ways including our territorial borders.