Chief Abdulkareem Adebisi Akande is an elder statesman, former governor of Osun State and presently the National Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He recently met with journalists in his country home, Ila-Orangun, Osun State, where he discussed topical national issues. SEFIU AYANBIMPE was there for LEADERSHIP.
One of the topical issues in Nigeria today is the renaming of University of Lagos (UNILAG) after late Chief MKO Abiola and it has been generating reactions and tension in some quarters. What is your own position on the issue?
The renaming of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) after MKO Abiola, the hero of democracy in Nigeria, was one right thing done in a wrong way and at a wrong time. I say that because it is right to honour the memory of Abiola because he stood and died for something noble - which is democracy, but it is not right to do it the way it has been done at a time when the university lost its Vice Chancellor and people are preparing for his burial. It is insensitive of President Goodluck Jonathan to use that occasion to make such a good announcement.
Secondly, the only university funded by federal government in Nigeria during the First Republic was University of Lagos; all the other universities today, like the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, the old Ife University, were built by the Action Group government of the old Western Region. Ahmadu Bello University was built by NPC government of Ahmadu Bello; University of Nigeria Nsukka was built by the NCNC government of Nnamdi Azikiwe in the East; Ibadan University had been built by the colonialists before independence. The only university built or initiated at least in Nigeria before the mushroom universities we are having was University of Lagos, and it was set up by law.
We are not in a military era; if somebody just woke up one day and announced to us all, without reporting to the National Assembly, that the name of such a university has changed, it is the wrong way of doing it. It is the military style of doing things; it is anti-democratic. There was no consultation with the stakeholders like students, teachers, Alumni, or anybody not even with the National Assembly who can change the law for the president.
On the issue of Abiola, you said President Jonathan’s action was done at a wrong time. I want to ask, which monument do you prefer to be named after Abiola?
MKO Abiola was a great sports philanthropist and he was so recognised all over Africa as a Pillar of Sports. He had Abiola Babies Football Club and he funded a lot of sports activities, I do not see why the (National) Stadium in Abuja should not be named after him, particularly when the National Assembly once had a resolution that it should be done, but it was because Jonathan is leading an administration that is not doing anything right. So, it should not be surprising that he left what is right for the wrong thing.
I want you to look at the recent strike embarked upon by the Lagos State Chapter of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), what is your take on it?
Everything in the Nigeria system is wrong and I will say it is absolutely wrong for doctors to abandon their patients, and so insensitive to allow the patients to die while the doctors are still alive. In medical ethics, doctors are supposed to work 24 hours a day and 365 days a year because their duty is to save lives. And for the same set of people to, because of money or any welfare, abandon such duty and say people should die, I do not think it is in favour of their professional oath. Having said that, in all civilized countries, labour is paid per hour. We practise federalism and democracy like America; every doctor in America today is paid per hour. You clock in when you go to work and you clock out when you leave work and it is the numbers of hour that you work that you will be paid – that is practice in America and the practice in all most civilized countries of the world. We are not a communist country; where do we get system we are running now that the workers will dictate the salary and the time they want to work. Even in a communist country where it was practised, it collapsed, the economy totally collapsed and there is no communist empire anymore because the system was wrong. Definitely, the country and the whole system will collapse unless we reverse the situation. So in a non-communist society, to pay wages by way of salary is anomalous, but in a decadent socialism like Nigeria, that is what we do and if we insist to continue with the old system, we will all regret it. So, my take is that Governor Babatunde Fashola inherited an unworkable system and the doctors took advantage of this unworkable arrangement and they held the whole state to ransom.
There is argument on the best way to advance the interest of the Yoruba race. From the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) side, it is regional integration but for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it is mainstream politics and there is the argument that it is the lack of exposure on the side of ACN, that it is advocating regional integration. In your own view, which one do you think it will help to advance the interest of Yoruba people?
It is very difficult question, for two reasons. I am the leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria, I don’t know how much question I can answer about Yoruba interest but, nonetheless, I am a Yoruba man. The general belief of the progressive politicians is that, first and foremost, federating units should be according to ethnic nationalities. If that theory is accepted, Yoruba as an ethnic nationality would be one federating unit and therefore would be developed according to its own beliefs and culture. It would not be opposed to what should be allowed among Igbo; the Igbo people should develop according to their beliefs and culture, the Hausa/ Fulani should be developed according to their own beliefas and culture - same for the Ibiobio, Binis, Kanuris, Tivs and several other nationalities in Nigeria.
So, the issue of regional integration is God created because we cannot blame God for creating Yoruba together - the Yoruba of Lagos, of Owo, of Ilaro, of Ilorin, of Kogi - God created them together without any intervention, geographically from beginning to the end. If God has created us together as one, why should our development not be uniform and the same; that is what we call regional integration.
What the PDP means by main stream, I do not know because it is not well spelt out, but we have been in a mainstream since 1914; the only thing we gain from it, is poverty. For sometime now, nobody has been able to travel between Lagos and Ibadan successfully, and that is heart beat of Yoruba and Nigeria economy. If it is mainstream arrangement that produced that confusion in the midst of a single ethnic nationality, it is foundation of poverty which you are now reaping through unemployment and all kinds of inadequacies, and if we are not careful, our children are going to inherit it. We had better use ourselves as an agent to stop it now and then collaborate as one entity, one nationality and develop together through regional integration. What PDP believes in is what you saw in Osun State in the period between 2003 and 2010: you can judge for yourselves if you have anything to write home about. So the regional integration is the ideal thing for single ethnic nationality.
Recently, the developmental agenda for South West was launched in Lagos, engineered by Afenifere Renewal Group (ARC). How are you going to resolve the crisis emanating from the different political parties in the states of the zone for interest of the people?
I will start by saying that God will forbid a situation whereby any Yoruba will be governed by any other political party apart from the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). We should be very careful: if something happens to Nigeria, the Yoruba Kwara and Kogi would be the nemesis of the other Yoruba states; they will become the agents of the enemy for not carrying them along. So, there is no Yoruba State that we will be praying to be governed by any other political party; otherwise,the wheel of progress will be backward there. So, if it happens, it will be the beginning of a big nemesis on the progress of Yoruba people.
I want you to look at the 13 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria; what is your own assessment?
I would not call it 13 years of uninterrupted democracy; I will call it 13 years of transition to democracy - that is what we had; we never had democracy at all. The kernel of democracy is in the choice of leadership through electoral process; the elections in the last 13 years were rigged in such a way that it cannot be called democratic. Until we are able to resolve election rigging, we will never have democracy and we will never have progress. Corruption is the election rigging in itself, because the purpose of rigging election is to enlarge the scope of corruption. If you are an election rigger, whatever evil you do, nobody can ask - you are not accountable to the people but accountable to the agents of riggers, like the Police and INEC and the thugs. Because if you are the agent of election riggers, the people you always pull together, those are the people you will find money to be nurtured, and corruption will continue to grow; unemployment will continue to grow, poverty will continue to grow, and destruction will be the end of the society So, the last 13 years of Nigeria is a period of waste. And it is the unusual resilience of the national public of Nigeria that has sustained this country till 2015 because all confidence in the court is destroyed. Let’s see what happen after that election, whether there will be any Nigeria.
People of the country are afraid if Nigeria would not become another Somalia with the statement credited to General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) that if the 2015 election is rigged, there will be crisis, what is your reaction to this?
I don’t want to be a mouthpiece for General Muhammadu Buhari, but I know for a fact, like it has been stated by the Americans themselves, if injustice continues in a corrupt environment like Nigeria, Nigeria in the end would be worse than Somalia; all indices are there for us to see that things are not going well or right. Until injustice is arrested; until corruption is eliminated and diminished; until democracy is truly enthroned, Nigeria would be worse than Somalia.
What is your reaction to the delay in the reinstatement of Justice Ayo Issa Salami by President Goodluck Jonathan?
Justice Ayo Salami’s suspension is the biggest fraud of the century, because the case of electoral rigging between Jonathan and Buhari was before Justice Salami. The court has begun to hear the case and Jonathan was afraid that Justice Salami might not take bribe to adjudicate on the matter, so he removed Salami for being honest in his own duty. So, Jonathan has assassinated the confidence of the public in court and also removed the confidence of the people in their last hope and the country is waiting for 2015 to demonstrate that without court they can do and undo, and without transparency democracy and fair election, there can be no country. So, it is the worst fraud that anybody can impose on a country which Jonathan did by removing Justice Salami.
Boko Haram is becoming more popular in Nigeria; how do you view it?
I am becoming afraid of what you call Boko Haram because it began as a reaction against fraud, bad government, injustice. Their leader for whatever reason was arrested and was not allowed to be tried in a known court of justice - their leader was extra-judicially killed and nothing sensible was quickly done about it; that was why they started reacting by attacking the institutions of government. But like el-Rufai said recently, I am becoming afraid that some of the bombing are being done by Jonathan’s government with a view to silencing people that are trying to protest against the bad governance. So who will now be able to differentiate between the angry people and the government that is destroying the churches only to make a point; so, I am afraid Boko Haram might not be cured anymore because the Jonathan government itself might be Boko Haram.
Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) in the media recently stated that they were prepared to match the Boko Haram bombings, warning the sect to spare Yoruba land for their actions, how do you react to this comment?
I do not belong to the OPC and I don’t know what they stand for and I cannot say anything regarding whatever they may have said. But I know there will be no peace in Nigeria until everybody agrees to be trained as a soldier immediately after grammar school education, before you would be qualified for any employment, qualified for any advanced education you ought to have a training in military tactics and that should replace what we call NYSC. If you and your wife and children are already trained as soldiers, there would be no time anybody would come by your door and say open the door we want to see you. So all these people you call OPC, Boko Haram, Egbesu or whatever name you like, they will all fade away, and you will not hear or see them again. You are the only one that can maintain security for your family and the country must allow you to be trained. It was being done in America; it’s done in Israel today; it was being in USSR countries and some other countries. And that is why you can’t see anybody calling himself the thief or armed robber and say ‘open the door.’ Until people energize themselves, other people will come and invade them. So, we train ourselves individually, we must start now.
Don’t you see that before the government trains people on military strategy, would you not subscribe to the need of the government to fix social infrastructure before military training?
In my own opinion, until you are strong, the strong will destroy the weak and it has happened in the society from the beginning of the world: only the strong can stand the strong and when they know you are strong, they would not attack you, but if you are weak, they will always attack you with a view to destroying you. In a non-democratic society like Nigeria, we are degenerating into animal kingdom and you see one man using the money he stole to destroy you, to destroy democracy, security, destroy anything destroyable, and until individually you are trained, you would not be able to resist it.
The gubernatorial election in Ondo State is around the corner and the ACN is yet to pick its flag bearer; what is delaying the nomination of your party candidate?
Thank you very much for this question. INEC said we should submit the list of our candidates by the end of July. I do not think we are late by this time or the end of June. We have not done anything abnormal for not having our candidate now. But one thing that is slowing us down is that two things integrate the party in Ondo and that is very difficult thing to do because you talk about integration it means unbreakable. We had members who are loyal to the party before the last election; we have labour party members who are crossing over from Labour Party to ACN; we have many PDP members who had crossed to the ACN since the last election. To go ahead without considering them would be most unfair and unjust in politics. So, we want to integrate those incoming Labour Party and PDP members into the ACN, as you know in Ondo State before we go ahead talking about nominating of candidate, otherwise, maybe you are suggesting we should not bother about those who are just coming and we just pick one of our own but we don’t want it to be like that; we want to pick the best and most acceptable among our people in Ondo State, either in the original ACN or incoming Labour Party or PDP in Ondo State, and that is why we want to be careful.
What would say about the new electricity tariff regime of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN)?
It is an anomaly; anomalous because what you cannot produce, you cannot sell at whatever price, or let’s put it the other way, what you do not know how to produce, you cannot know how to cost and therefore your price index would be wrong. Nigeria does not know how to produce power, energy, electricity. Nigeria does not know how to transmit, Nigeria does not know how to distribute - what are they pricing? Nigeria is in debt and it wants to pay its own dept at all cost, and it is taxing you, indirectly. How can tariff of electricity will be increased in such a manner; that is bad governance. It should not be accepted.
In Osun State, I want your candid assessment of your political son who governs the state presently?
There is argument going on: some people said he did not go to school. I,Bisi Akande know that Rauf Aregbesola is very educated. He might not be certificated, I don’t know how much certificate he had, but I know many Nigerians with certificates who are not educated. If you move close to Aregbesola and you talk to him, you will know that he is very educated. I want to say that he is on the right path and is going to succeed.
What is the position of your party, ACN, towards 2015 election and merger of the party with progressive ideological parties?
The ACN was formed to protect the ideals not the individuals, and the idea is that whoever should be in power is for the people, we don’t want to be in power for ourselves, our families, our friends alone; we want to be in power for the people and that is making us different from the PDP that is in power for itself and money. So in the case of ACN towards 2015, we can work with whoever and whichever community, organization that believes in taking power for the benefit of the people and we are already talking to such people and we will soon let you know where we are.