Chief Olorunfunmi Bashorun is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and a former secretary to the Lagos State government. In this interview with ADEWALE AJAYI, he speaks on the security challenges in the country, how Nigerians should choose their leaders in 2023 and why Alhaji Lateef Jakande performed well as governor of Lagos State.
There is a major security challenge in the country, no part of the country is safe, how did we get to this level, and what can be done to put an end to it?
The word insecurity exists because there is insecurity and there is nowhere in the world we can say is peaceful. What is happening in Nigeria is that the security situation gets worse every day. There are several factors that are responsible for this, the major one is unemployment. With the way the president is tackling it, I believe the security situation will improve soon. What borders one a lot, and this is personal to every Nigerian, is the issue of ethnicism, particularly about the herdsmen who we are familiar with, and we know they carry their cattle, take their cattle anywhere do the grazing and go away. Now that they are carrying guns and a state governor, Bala Mohammed, even suggested that they should be allowed to carry AK-47 rifles, we should pray that such people, God should enter their minds so that such utterances don’t come from them, because the situation is already worse. How can someone say people who take their cattle to graze should carry guns, guns to do what? To defend themselves, who are the attackers? The farmer who is working on his firm, is that the attacker or the ordinary man on the street? So, with what the president is putting together and some of the governors, particularly in the North, they are meeting and trying to find a way to keep their people safe. The issue of insecurity is gradually going into an ethnic problem.
Before this problem escalated to this level, there were suggestions on how cattle can be taken care of, some suggested building ranches, but none of those suggestions was implemented, why is that so?
They are all considering ranches now, but I don’t know if building ranches will solve the problem, because it is not everywhere in Nigeria you have a large number of cattle, you have them more in the North than in the South. The fact that most of these Fulanis are not Nigerians is what government should watch because there might be an extension of the Boko Haram problem, so that we don’t continue to experience the situation of herdsmen fighting farmers and raping our children, while they are trying to extend the Boko Haram fight to other parts of the country. We should not ignore it. It has now been discovered that most of the herdsmen are not even Nigerians.
Some are of the opinion that the way out of this problem is to restructure the country, your party, the APC, also set up a committee that came up with suggestions, how do you think we should go?
The word restructuring seems to have been given a social name in Nigeria, what we want is a better Nigeria. What we want is true federalism. If true federalism and better Nigeria is restructuring, yes, but we have to put our house in order, because most of us don’t have the mind of losing a united Nigeria, when a little thing happens to some people, they start blowing hot and cold and saying all sorts of things. If restructuring means true federalism, where Nigeria and Nigerians can enjoy the fruit of their labour, where law and order will be respected, the issue of creating states is secondary, what is important now is let us relax the hold we have on creating more local governments. Let us go to Section 7(1), Section 3(6) and other sections of the Constitution and amend them, and let the states create local governments. That is one of the steps of either restructuring or true federalism or otherwise and this is very important, let every state cut its coat according to his cloth. I have seen the man in Rivers State having an entourage of 20 utility vehicles, and a man in Niger or Zamfara State will also aim at having such entourage at the expense of the state, that should stop, the issue of minimum wage the country has put at N30,000 is just a minimum for the country. N30,000 is not good as minimum wage for some areas. The states should determine what is good for their people according to the wealth available. Lagos State pays a bit above N30,000, it should do more, Rivers State should also pay more, and those states that have enough. Minimum wage should not be across the board, let every state cut its coat according to its size, not that a state will try to imitate the other when they don’t have same source of income. That is a major issue on restructuring, there are several things the National Assembly is talking about every day, I cannot see them doing anything because it appears they are not serious, they are not serious, if they are serious they should address issues that are germane, that touch the lives of the people, creation of local governments affects the lives of the people, it is going to help development. Kano State now has 44 local government areas, if they want to increase it to 100 local government areas, good luck, they have to go developing them according to the available resources, not that they will go and copy another state. If Lagos State that has 20 decides to go to 80,so be it, why not. All the local government areas we have, all the states we have are military creations. We are now in the 22nd year of the Fourth Republic, we are still operating on the structure bequeathed to us by the military at the local government and state levels, I think we should break that jinx.
Youths recently protested against the plan to re-open the Lekki toll gate, how can these protests by youths be stopped?
The incessant protests is a function of the increase in unemployment and unhappiness on the part of the youths against people in government, and they think any opportunity they have, they should protest. The #EndSARS# protest should not have gone the way it went, I also had a bitter experience of it because the protesters invaded my house thinking that I kept palliatives in my house. I was attacked, it was good citizens around that protected me to that extent you find that it was a useless thing, every small thing they say they want to protest, because when they protest they damage and destroy things and nothing happens to them. If this thing happened in the United States of America they would be prosecuted. The answer to all this is, let Nigeria restructure and believe in the country, many do not believe in Nigeria. Could be because the country has failed them, no good plan for them, that is why they don’t believe in the country. The country cannot provide for everybody, whatever happens to us is a product of our own approach to issues, when government makes rules, don’t do this, don’t do that, you find the elite close their eyes to do otherwise, that is where the problem starts. I read in the papers that the economy is improving. The economy can only improve if we decide, if we Nigerians decide to let it improve by performing our civic duties, many don’t, all in the excuse that government is not satisfying our requirements. Government cannot satisfy our requirements, if the government has any fault, then let there be panacea, not that you destroy, if you destroy, to come back and build has negative effect on the economy. Well, as regards 2023, in our party there is an unwritten agreement that after Buhari, the presidency will come to the South.
Is there any specification as to whether South West, South East or South South?
I said it is an unwritten agreement. It was agreed and some of our leaders have said this several times, and nobody has contradicted them. Even El-Rufai says the presidency should come to the South. On the quality of who should lead us, the man must have the wherewithal to grapple with the problems of Nigeria. What I mean as wherewithal, he must have knowledge, education, track record. Look at the newly elected American president Joe Biden, he was in the senate for 35 years, the vice president for years, I am not saying they must go to the senate, but they need the track record. We don’t want somebody that will just wake up one morning and say I want to be president of Nigeria just like that, even if he has been governor twice, that is also as good as being in the senate. Not just for somebody to just wake up one morning because he has money, knowledge first, then track record of administrative confidence. We cannot avoid it, of course Chief Obafemi Awolowo died some years ago, he used the word ‘mental magnitude’, the person must possess mental magnitude, I believe so much in it. That person must have a minimum of first degree, then he must have ideas in all professions. He must have a small knowledge of law, computer, political science and so on. The conjecture of what Chief Awolowo was saying, when we say mental magnitude it frightens some people. As Awolowo put it, one should have minimum knowledge of at least 50 percent of what you can do when you get into office.
When the death of Alhaji Lateef Jakande was announced, many recollected the massive development he brought to Lagos State as governor of the state, you were secretary to the state government then, why is it difficult to replicate what he did ?
There was political discipline when Jakande was governor of Lagos State. There was a political party, the party had a mindset for election. There was a leader of the party who maintained discipline over every member of the party. He ensured that every member of the party subjected himself to the rules of the party. Before Jakande went into government he had the party manifesto. He sat down, he wrote the policy paper, the first day he was sworn in the policy paper was taken to an exco where I doubled as the secretary and approved the policy and that was the guiding pole throughout the four years and three months he spent in office.
One thing the Buhari administration is noted for is the fight against corruption, but recently Transparency International an international agency rated Nigeria as the second most corrupt country in West Africa, isn’t that an aspersion on what the government stands for?
That report is not about government but individuals in government, this particular government is doing everything possible to reduce corruption, but the people should examine themselves, people through many means are circumventing efforts of government. Imagine, a man sent to an organisation to stop stealing and he got there and stole everything. He is now in court, he first ran away. He was extradited, he now claims to be sick, there are so many of them. There was another one that was imprisoned, the case got to the Supreme Court and a judgement was given that he should be retried, he is trying to frustrate the retrial, and he is occupying an important position in the parliament. lf Buhari is fighting corruption, those are areas they have tied his hands. But seriously, Buhari has fought corruption, no doubt about that. Several people and about four former governors are in prison now, whether that will serve as deterrent to others only God knows.