Today, Nigeria is marking its 60 years after independence. What is your view?
Let us first congratulate ourselves for coming this far. Its 60 years since our independence and Nigeria has been up and down. There have been a lot of happenings in the country since after the independ-ence. There was a coup and counter coup in 1966, the military came into power and since then it has been one thing or the other. Of course, during the military, we could see a lot of infrastructural devel-opment that took place and in 1999 there was the change. A democratically elected government came into power and we thank God that for the last 20 years, it has been all democratic with elections taking place to the extent that a sitting government was defeated during the election. While 60 years ago is just like yesterday, with the coming of independence, of course, you know the Nigerianisation of a lot of things happened especially in the military where Nigeria took over the leadership in our military and security sector.
Like I have said all along there has been a lot of development. We have seen how highways were constructed in the country and then we have the fortune in oil that was discovered in Nigeria which has helped mainly the foreign exchange in this country. We have also discovered some related problems that took place in the process with some people in Niger Delta scrambling for their own part from the oil proceeds, and in one way government and the 13 percent derivation idea came about. Politically things are stabilising now, initially in the military regime especially during the Gen Ibrahim Babangida Administration we had SDP and NRC. So I think it is so far, so good.
Are you satisfied with Nigeria as it is today?
We always hope for the best. So far, so good, we have come a long way because like I said we all saw the intervention of the military in politics but all I would say is\ that we have come a long way. If you remember, before the independence, there were basically three regions in the country. You have the east, west and northern Nigeria and there was keen competition at that time to try on how to develop. That was the time when oil was not discovered. Our mainstay was farming and in the north we got the groundnut farming. In the southwest, there was Cocoa and in the east, there waspalm kernel and many others. We hope we continued with the vision and we would continue to attain greatness.
What should we do to move the country forward?
We must have discipline in this society. It is very unfortunate that there is no discipline in this country. People do not obey rules, they don’t obey orders. We must impose self-discipline because there is nothing the government can do besides make a rule and the citizens must obey them. For instance, look at the issue of obeying traffic light; how many people obey traffic light? We are talking of obeying mere traffic light. It also comes to our road behavior, how many drivers obey traffic rules? We have to help the nation economically. Again, I go back to Niger Delta where they have oil pipelines. Pipelines have been damaged by people who are doing bunkering and so on and so forth. Also, the govern-ment should provide infrastructures for the citizen so as to engage them in the economy. Government cannot employ each and every one of us so government should provide road and other infra-structure.
In farming, government should try to assist farmers in bringing fertilizer, we can make life easier for the farming population to go about in any of their daily businesses. Security needs to be improved. I think it is very unfortunate that in the last couple of years we have this insurgency and this nasty habit of kidnapping, armed robbery, boko haram. So what we can do is expose those bad people and it is our duty to report them to our security agents, to make a report to the various security agents so that they will get them arrested. Another thing is that we don’t pay tax for revenue and at the same time we ask the state government to perform wonders. The revenue and taxes are going to be revenue government use for development. Politically, citizens should be awake to their responsibilities. They should not sell their votes and when they vote they should hold their representatives accountable to deliver what is expected of them they should not sell their vote and it is our responsibility as a people to make sure that we do the legal things, because we need to do the right thing so that we can be on our way to be a great nation.
You mentioned that during independence we had three regions- West, North and East- and that things were moving smoothly with healthy competition. So what system of government do you think is the best and what can you say about the agitations for division?
Well as for the type of government ; parliamentary or presidential system that is what you are asking about. At independence, we had parliamentary system but after getting independence, we the Nigerian people thought we can do away with parliamentary system and we decided to adopt the presidential system. We made up our minds for presidential system. It is a very expensive system, whether we should go back to the parliamentary system is left for us to sit down together and think and decide what we are going to do now. From the stage we got independence, we have moved into different stages, we had four regions when mid-west was created and then we move to 12 states and as we are today we have 36 states and with FCT making it 37.
You asked about the agitations going on, everybody wants to be a nation. You have bodies like IPOB, North Central forum , Urobo , Tiv. So every-body now wants to a state of their own. I think that is not the answer. I think we have passed that stage. What I think we need to do in reality is to sit down and see how we can work as a nation, how equity and justice will move us forward as a nation,. How do we make sure that there is equal representation in whatever we do? And also how do we disabuse the minds of Nigerians on this issue of indigeneship and the dichotomy of trying to split the country. One thing we should take note of is that there is advantage in the unity of Nigeria which is being seen today as the “biggest black nation in the world”. And I believe this way we can be great, in ensuring that we represent the black nation in the world and we should agree to maintain this leadership. When we try to split this country we just be-come small nations.
How do we make our country Nigeria remain as one?
Like I said earlier, we have to ensure that there is equity and justice and to make sure that there is equal representation as we move ahead.
What is your view on the issue of Constitutional review and calls for conferences?
The issue of nation-building is not a matter of conferences, you put up another conference what you are going to discuss has been discussed. As you said if you look into the past, there are a lot of things that have been discussed and recommendations that have been made. How many of those recommendations have been implemented? And if we sit down now and start talking all over again, how long will it take to discuss it. To me, there is no need. I think the government, our parliamentarian and our representatives would do us good if we go back to look realistically at their commendations that have been discussed and recommended so that we can implement them because if we go back to any conference there is nothing new that we are going to discus.
Everything has been discussed, the solution is there, so it is left for us to see how we can implement this. Now, you asked how do you implement this? We are now in a democratic country, we have got parties we have got members of various parties representing in the Senate and assemblies in the state. So, if we can all get together and try to see how we muster the political will to implement some of these recommendations, there is no need for any other conference.
How will you assess the achievements under democratic government and that of the military?
I don’t think that we should see it as a competition between the military and the democratic government. Achievements whether in military or in civilian administration have been made. The only difference is that in democracy, you spend a lot of time discussing before decisions are taken, and if decisions are taken the implementation is another thing. In the military, we have the commander-in-chief who gives directives and the decisions taken are being implemented. And if they are not implemented the organisation responsible to it is detailed. But in democracy, you are to make sure you carry people along and the problem of politics is always that even when you are in a ruling party you have the problem of dissidents. Within the party, you have to contend with dissidents.
So we will not be fair when we say let us compare our achievements. And of course, when you ask me I would say the military. Look at the high ways, for example, that the military constructed, now they are all dead and gone. Well, despite our problems, I think we have quite a lot of influence and in the committee of nations we could do more. It is like I said earlier, those who are put in a place should ensure they do the right thing.
Some people are saying Nigeria is a failed state. What is your reaction?
When you say a nation is failed, what caused that failure? When they point a finger to the govern-ment, who is the government? It is you and I. What we are contributing in trying to correct the so-called failure as I earlier said is indiscipline. Have we obeyed the law of the country?
Have we paid our tax and so on and so forth? It depends on the side you are coming from and what you are looking for. I agree a lot of things could be done better. So, we as a people should be doing what will make us to be a good nation.
You have been noted for working for peace in the country. There were fears that blood will flow in Edo but you and your committee intervened. What is your advice to Ondo State people ahead of the election?
I think for the sake of ourselves it is absolutely necessary we maintain peace. We thank God that Edo election has come and gone and I am sure we have learned some lessons. I believe the peace we saw in Edo election will be replicated in Ondo State. Nigerians are getting wiser, and the wiser, the better it becomes.
After everything has been done, it will be successful for all of us to realise that peace is mandatory to all, without peace there can’t be a nation, without peace, nothing can be done, farmers cannot go to the farm, Journalist cannot go for business, people will not be able to sit down, there will not be cooperation. So peace must be attained in the country. When we handle election, I would ap-peal to our political leaders to maintain peace because in politics whether you are in government or not you have a responsibility. If you are in government you do the right thing and if you are not in power , it is your duty to monitor the party in power and government so that they do the right thing.