What is your advice to the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government amidst challenges bedeviling the country?
The fact is the most severe problem facing the people of Nigeria is the issue of security of life and property. People are very disturbed because they see almost daily in various parts of the country, how people are being kidnapped, killed, and so on. So, insecurity has become a very serious problem and I want to appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government to have a critical look at the issues of restoration of peace and security across the nation. The Constitution of Nigeria affirms, and we all agree with it, that the security and welfare of the Nigerian people is the primary purpose of the government.
The second is the economy. Nigeria’s economy is in a precarious situation, especially if you look at the exchange rate. The exchange rate has put Nigeria at ranks with some worthless currencies in Africa now. Somebody was reminding me just yesterday that in 1980 a thousand dollars cost N519, now it is one dollar that is the same value. Most importantly, the government should critically look at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) policy to achieve desired results. Some of the CBN policy is wrong and the government must try to get it right starting from the fundamentals of providing infrastructure for rebuilding the economy in terms of road, railway, and waterways, and especially power. Nigerians deserve a better life.
Amazingly, we are still unable to reach the level which we got to under the first democratically elected President of Nigeria, the late Shehu Shagari administration in 1983. It is totally unacceptable because the previous government raised power generation to about 6,000 megawatts and built about 10 power plants but none of them are working effectively today. The issue of power is critical, power energizes the economy, the industrial sector, the production sector. Without power, you cannot transform the economy.
Consequently, you can go back to the basics by restoring power, security of lives and property, and return to the issue of agriculture, industrial production that will, in turn, create jobs. This will revive the economy, and the economy will move on. Nigeria is well endowed with humans and materials. What is lacking is the leadership to move things forward. Nigeria certainly is well endowed. We should not be at this level we find ourselves.
Amidst the call for restructuring by some state actors, some agitators have taken a step further to call for secession of the country, what is the way forward for the country, what is your stance on this?
The calls for secession, restructuring, and federalism are simply expressions of frustration. It is not what they desire, the government should note this. Of course, many Nigerians love Nigeria, but things are getting more frustrating for them that is why they are making those calls. Therefore, our appeal to the government is that Nigerians have been speaking so, respect what they want. Nigerians have called on the government to respect the very essence of federalism. Federalism is different from the unitary system. We cannot run a unitary system in a federation. Fundamentally, the federating units in the federation will have their reserved powers, to look at issues of urgent concern to them, and they will be empowered to use the resources they have to perform, it is very important. Nigerians gathered during the 2014 Confab, and reached certain conclusions but unfortunately, this government came into power and did not open that report, this is unacceptable. The Report of 2014 National Confab is yet to be utilised.
Restoration of genuine federalism in which certain functions are reserved for the federating units remains fundamental and necessary. This is how it ought to be, take security, for example, you cannot run the security at the national level with federal police. Security formations must be decentralized and made sure that all the major generating units can look after their security. It is very important. Security is not national, it should be localized; most rural areas are insecure. Insecurity is affecting villages and their populace. You cannot secure every local government area, or village from Abuja; you have to give the locals the means to defend themselves and protect themselves in line with best practices.
Also, on power, let every part of the nation have the power to generate electricity for themselves. If they have a surplus, they give it to the nation, every part of the country has the resources to generate power for itself. The issue is respecting the issue of federalism. Wherever there is plurality like we have in Nigeria. Where there are different ethnic groups and people the only system of government that can manage such a nation effectively is federalism.
Therefore, respect the principle of federalism, so that you don’t concrete much power at the centre. Power should be devolved, when people are talking about restructuring, they are not calling for a total breakup of the country. They are calling for respect for the principles of federalism in which functions are delegated down to the federating units.
Ahead of the 2023 election in Nigeria, do you hope that there will be a free and fair election?
We are trusting God and appealing to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for free, fair, and credible polls. This is because when we came in, as part of the people towards the restoration of our democracy in 1999. One of the key things we sought for then was the word independent in the nation’s electoral body. Before now, INEC was called the National Electoral Commission, but we ensured that the word independent was added. We insisted that the body should be independent, and it should be independent because they are not a creation of the federal government. My call is that INEC should conduct free, fair, and credible elections and let the people’s will be respected. There should be no manipulation of results, let the people of Nigeria choose. If the government has failed, let them be voted out of power.
On the other hand, religious leaders have a role to play. The most powerful role of worship centres is to prepare the people. This is because the people go to worship places on a daily basis for solace. Hence, the leaders should help to transform their lives while preaching the word of God so that they are truly transformed and also teaching the citizens how to create a civil society governed by righteousness and obeying the law. For instance, worship centres should be orderly so that they will, in turn, create free and fair, and peaceful elections. The people’s choices should be respected and finally, worship centres should endorse through prayers very good candidates for leadership positions. Because it is only through prayers that the nation can move forward. The church must be leading through prayers, good preaching, Godly intervention. The church must show the light to the people.
Insecurity challenge is not unique to Nigeria, countries globally face security, however, pessimists are of the view that insecurity challenges in the country can largely affect the 2023 general election, what is your opinion on this?
The security situation is something of a profound worry. However, people should see it differently because this is the beauty of our democracy. Understandably, we must see it like that because and that is what the government has promised to do especially in the areas of insecurity, however, they have failed to deliver.
The people should wait for the election and not get frustrated. Because elections are ways of rejuvenating and putting new people in power to do the needful. We should not be discouraged. As we are moving on, we hope we will keep using the election for a change of government. That is why the election must not be rigged. The people’s will must prevail. If the people now feel very frustrated, they should express it at the ballot by rejecting failed politicians and bad people, and put good people into government so that there will be peace and security. We should punish those who have failed. That is the beauty of democracy.
The federal government had a fortnight ago ordered telecommunications companies to shut down their base stations in Zamfara State for an onslaught on bandits, the Zamfara State Government also said they were deceived by bandits that they will accept amnesty, what is your stance on this?
The issue of insecurity is always profound. Fundamentally, we wish the military success. However, the security infrastructure of the nation must be reorganised because security is not achieved from the top but at the grassroots. The new structures should know the reality on the ground. Government must look at the security infrastructure of Nigeria and decentralize it so that proper security outfits are located in every community and this will allow people that do evil to be dealt with firmly and decisively.