Bad Politics, Military Intervention Hampered Nigeria’s Growth – Yakasai
Elder statesman Alhaji Tanko Yakasai is founding member of the apex northern socio-political organi-sation, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF). He also served as former Liaison officer to President Shehu Shagari. In this interview with TUNDE OGUNTOLA, he reflects on Nigeria's independence journey since 1960 and posits that military intervention and subsequent negative politics were major set-backs for the country. He however believes Nigerians have every reason to grateful for a country
As Nigeria marks 60 years as an independent country, there have been ups and downs over the years. What is your general assessment of Nigeria’s independence journey 60 years after?
We have every reason to be grateful to Almighty God for sparing our lives through this journey of na-tionhood. Yes, we have some achievements and yet we have problems as it is part of human nature. We recorded very good successes in the nation amidst challenges. We started very well after our in-dependence but unfortunately, the military encroached into our politics and swiped our achievements because when compared, the achievements we made within five years after independence, and the achievements we made in 1966 when the military intervened to date you will see that the speed, as well as the rate of growth and achievement is now at snail speed not as when we started with three or four regions.
What are those factors that may have hampered the swift growth we had in the past?
The military intervention is the cause of hampered progress experienced in the nation. You know orig-inally we were having three regions then it became four but after the military took over then the agita-tion for more states began. So, from that period things changed, we created 12 states we went to 19 and 21 but we were not satisfied. We had 30, 31 and now 36. But we are not satisfied. But the trouble is that the more we create states, the more ethnic agitation grows. Because when you create a state there will be ethnic rivalry and it is also intensified. So, the creation of the states came with ethnic rival-ry in our politics. People who thought the creation of more states will solve the problems of under-development of the country have now been proved to be wrong because by creating 36 states at the moment, we now boast of using 70 to 75 per cent of our total revenue to service the states.
We have 36 governors as well as 36 deputy governors and 36 secretaries to the government, so many commissioners and all these commissioners and deputies also need staff to operate and that means that a lot of money and resources are now devoted to running the states apart from the federal gov-ernment and that has denied us the opportunity for development. When we were four regions we were able to take care of our administrative cost and have some reserve for development. Since 1966 when the military hijacked power things started to deteriorate.
We thought creating states would solve the problems, the military created 12 and now we have 36 states, and the more states we created the more cost of running these states in addition to the feder-al government so we are not able to develop. If you take, for instance, countries that we were at the same level with then, like Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, and many other countries at the time of our independence, you will glaringly observe that today they are far ahead of us because they did not have this problem that we have. They were not creating more states but they were build-ing their economies. So, they were able to develop their countries economically.
What is the way forward for Nigeria?
We have to go back to the drawing board. You see when we were three regions, we were not spend-ing so much on administration and we have enough resources for development. At the time of inde-pendence, I can travel from Kano to Lagos or Port Harcourt. I will leave Kano today and tomorrow af-ternoon I will be in Lagos because of good infrastructure but not anymore. We were able to generate revenue from different parts of the country. Kano was the second most industrial city in Nigeria after Lagos now Kano is not because there is no power and without power supply you cannot run industry and that means less revenue-generating capacity.
In 1966, the number of aircraft we had in Nigeria was far ahead of what Egypt, Ethiopia had at that time but now we do not even have airlines of aircraft operated by the government. So, all these were brought about by not running the nation properly but thinking of creating more states and I can say this was as a result of laziness; we don’t want to work hard or think critically. We were thinking the creation of more states is the best so that we can have a bite of the national cake and all this is con-suming our revenue.
At the time of independence, we had seven political parties that were thinking hard on how to better the lives of Nigerians. NCNC, Action Group amongst others but now the Nigerian politics destroy itself and destroy the nation. In the past, people looked for money to invest in industries and commerce but now people invest money in politics, because people are not working hard they all want to invest in politics to get power and after they are in office they start stealing public money and they forget to invest for the people and the country. Nobody is going into politics anymore with smart ideas.
What do you think about the presidential system of government as against the parliamentary system we practiced before?
The presidential system of government is very expensive and thinks that is the issue and the reason that we want the president to look at every part of the country as his constituency so that every area will be given the desired attention in terms of development but we don’t do that anymore. The clam-ouring for more states has diverted the attention of the people from national development to the idea of sharing the so-called national cake.
Today we face a serious security situation, how do you think it can be solved?
Good governance will end insecurity in the country because there is poverty in the country and pov-erty is the reason behind kidnapping and banditry. So insecurity will be solved by good governance.
Electoral system is central to our democracy as an independent country. Over the years our electoral bodies and systems have evolved into what we have today. How critical has the role of the electoral commission and the system been over the years?
One of the things that have destroyed the quality good governance in Nigeria is the bad electoral sys-tem. In most cases, the result of an election is not the popular wishes of the people and the people in Nigeria are not getting the people they voted for and they are represented by the governors as well as the members of the National Assembly by the people they did not vote for, and this is not reflecting the true wishes of Nigerians. Prior to now, political parties were formed to champion change but now political parties are formed to ride to power not to develop the country but to steal public money. Elections are supposed to be conducted so that people will go and support their political parties with programmes that will better the lives of the populace and develop the country but, this is not what we are doing.
Somebody will go into a business and make money as contractors as soon as they get that money they will want to be governor, senator, member of the House of Representatives, or even the president so that he will make more money. So, people join politics not for national interest but to make more money and by doing that they bribe both electoral officials, security agencies as well as engaging in all forms of vote trading. And in cases when you are popular and voted for somebody somewhere will be busy writing a petition against somebody who wins an election and when taken to court such an indi-vidual will use his money to induce the judiciary to ensure that the person that won the election with a popular vote is removed.
Most times some of this person who writes the petition may have enough money to even bribe offi-cials in court to get judgement in his favour. Until elections reflect the wishes of the people until politi-cal parties are controlled by its members, not president and governors, we might not be getting it right. Our Waterloo started when former President Olusegun Obasanjo declared himself the leader of his party, PDP and also appointed governors as leaders in their respective states. Since then, nobody aspires to be a messenger, at every level, most times, it is not the party members that determine who runs for election at the state or federal levels but by those in power.
During the Obasanjo era, the leadership of PDP was changed three times. The president will just dis-solve the national working committee elected at the convention and appoint a new one that will re-flect his own wish. So since then, the party was hijacked by the president and governors. We need to stop these tendencies and INEC conducts a free, fair and credible election and the court does not transfer mandate based on a petition from the winner to another candidate. I feel the constitution should prevent the court from awarding a mandate to another candidate, and if they find out that the election was not conducted in line with best practices called for a new election.
However, INEC on its part should make the laws that can perfect the electoral system. The current INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, should make sure they meet the wishes of the electorate. They tried in the recent Edo governorship election so they should do more to ensure that election re-flects the true wishes of the people even at the national level.