Chairman, Centre for Ethics and Cultural Orientation, Dr. Olusanya Awosan, speaks on restructuring, anti-corruption war, President Muhammadu Buhari’s health and national issues
Why do you think some leaders from the northern part of Nigeria are opposing the call to restructure the country?
I think some elites in the North are opposing it because they are profiting from the imbalance and injustice inherent in this present structure. The northern elites have not used the power they have to better the lives of their people. The only reason is simply that they are profiting from the present structure. In every part of the country today, there is agitation. We cannot run Nigeria based on the terms of the North alone; there must be an agreement among the component parts of Nigeria. The Biafra agitation started because of the imbalance in the current structure. Poverty and illiteracy are still the order of the day in the North. I think these problems manifested in the form of Boko Haram.
As the former Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Relations, why do you think it is difficult for President Muhammadu Buhari to do the needful?
President (Muhammadu) Buhari is a beneficiary of this inherent injustice. He came into power because he is a northerner. If he had come from the South, of course, he would have been opposed, especially based on his health status. Those who brought him forward knew he had mass appeal from the North. I am not saying the President does not have the ability to restructure Nigeria. But it will be difficult for him to rebel against such a system that brought him up. It is not a question of the President now; it is a question of the component parts of this federation who should demand this (restructuring) for the good of the system.
Those who demanded for the resignation of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua have kept quiet over President Buhari’s deteriorating health. What is your take on this?
Nigerian political class is not only hypocritical; they lack ideology and commitment to the country. People speak, not in the best interest of this country, but on how it will benefit their political arrangement. There is no ideological difference between the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party. The only thing holding APC together is the fact that they are in power. The PDP crisis has been on the ground before but being in power didn’t make it conspicuous. The PDP was not strong. President Jonathan lost the election because, by the time the party approached the election, peace moves were fragmented.
But Jonathan claimed that the UK and USA were responsible for his failure?
There is no perfect election anywhere. I believe that in some parts of the North, the election was a sham. There was a conspiracy against Jonathan. The PDP leadership in many parts of Kano State also compromised. That is politics. But aside from that, there was a conspiracy within the government itself which assisted in weakening the party before the election. There were no concerted efforts to address the real issues. I said it was unfortunate that the Afenifere endorsed the candidacy of Jonathan. I am a Yoruba man. I know that the Afenifere has no support to muster votes for any candidate. There is no record that Afenifere had supported any candidate in the past and that candidate won. Also, a former PDP National Chairman, Adamu Muazu, was never sincere about supporting Jonathan.
The party positioned itself for defeat by the way its administration was handled. Elected party officials were removed based on the instigation of those who saw themselves as highly influential with the government. An example was the unjust removal of Olagunsoye Oyinlola, even after the man had pledged his loyalty to the government. The unnecessary crisis between Rotimi Amaechi and Jonathan, which should have been handled locally, was allowed to snowball to a national party issue and became one of the issues that fragmented the party. Imagine how the South-West executive of Segun Oni was unceremoniously dismissed. A number of national chairmen were removed until ‘the wise men’ brought Muazu, who outsmarted everyone and presided over the defeat of PDP in 2015.
Is the anti-corruption war on the right path?
I have not seen any member of the PDP probed that deserves not to be probed. If the government started the war from the PDP, I think it is good and shows work in progress. If the current government cannot probe those in the APC, another ‘Pharaoh’ who will not know ‘Joseph’ will come will come. So, I support the loot recovery efforts. Corruption is sinking us gradually. However, we have not started a serious war yet. There is no system in Nigeria that is not sustained by corruption. The recession is not the cause of poverty. It is the fact that money is no longer available in a cheap manner as before. That is why there is agony. The government itself has not brought strategies to address basic problems of the system that will provide succour to the people before tightening the belt. The government must look at those areas. This is why we are calling for restructuring for each region to use its resources to develop its area.
Do you think Dr. Junaid Mohammed was expressing the thought of the North when he said the region will insist on two terms if anything happens to Buhari?
That is their feudal belief. That is why people are agitating against this system. For them, the rule of law is defined from the perspective of what is in the best interest of the North. It is not new; that is what they have been doing. If we are going to be together, it must be on agreed terms. If we are on agreed terms, Junaid won’t say that. His statement is a direct insult, not only to (Acting President Yemi) Osinbajo but to the Yoruba, Igbo, Niger Delta, etc., that we are less human in this system than an average northerner.
Are you surprised that the Buhari administration was able to rescue some of the Chibok girls?
Looking back today, I believe that the approach and mainstream thinking of the government then were weak, uncoordinated and lacking in strategic planning. The initial doubt expressed in government quarters created so many gaps that gave the insurgents enough time to consolidate and complicate the whole episode.
One would have expected a more strategic approach to this issue considering the gamut of security apparatuses and intelligence network available to government. Even if the remote cause of the abduction was politically motivated, the approach to the rescue of these innocent girls should have been more strategic and decisive. It is a thing of great joy that the present government is recording great success in bringing back the girls. The greater joy will be in the rescue of the remaining girls.
You have expressed concerns about lack of ideology in Nigeria’s political parties. What is the way forward?
There is an urgent need for fundamental reforms in our political process and strong determination to enforce existing electoral laws. The huge financial investment by political parties and candidates, far above the limit set by the law, is one of the systemic drivers of high-level corruption in the country. This also accounts for the failure of our democracy, leading to a lack of direction and development. The money-politics syndrome does not give any hope. Look at the issue of Ekiti election rigging episode. Politicians should stop denigrating our judiciary. No matter the challenges, our judiciary parades, especially at the centre, highly articulate and incorruptible men and women. The media campaign by politicians against the judiciary anytime a case is pending or when the decision of court does not favour them should not be encouraged by the citizens.
This government has been in governance for two years. What is your assessment of it?
The office of the president is very powerful. Everything starts and ends with the office. Those who are brought from the World Bank and other international organisations dance around what the President wants. If I look at that and the fact that the President is not always around, I can only pray that God grants him good health. Not only does he need the intellectual capacity to lead, he needs physical capacity too; because he must vigilant. If there is no vigilant president, many people will use his absence to feather their nest. He has integrity. It is unfortunate that he is sick. I think it is becoming too much for him. I join others to tell him to take care of himself. Those saying Osinbajo won’t succeed him will create problems for him as acting president. The best interest of Nigeria is what we should advocate for. – Culled from Punch.