Many people are now calling for the restructuring of the country as a recipe for the challenges confronting the country, what are your thoughts?
If you have been following my media conversations, you would have known my position. Restructuring is inevitable, people think there is no need for community policing. We are likely to have enduring peace and rest with restructuring. There are different phases of restructuring and it should be done in phases. First is to deal with the issue of community policing, that is insecurity. Secondly, there must be an amendment to the constitution. The Land Use Act has to be amended. We also need to restructure to deal with the demand of states to enable them take care of health sector, youth restiveness, unemployment, skill development and so on. If we do not restructure, the country is likely to keep going down and we would not be able to contend with the level of violence from the youths. Saudi Arabia is diversifying their economy already. We must not do all things at a time. it is in phases, it is a federation. However, the critical phase has to do with the security of the country. By the time we restructure and amend the Land Use Act and the constitution, it makes things easy and it stabilises the country.
Some people believe that it is better to have another constitutional conference to discuss the problems of Nigeria than allow the National Assembly handle constitutional amendment. They argue that it is difficult and cumbersome to amend the constitution by the National Assembly due to ethnic and other pecuniary interests, do you agree?
I don’t see any difficulty in amending the constitution, what matters is for the executive to make up its mind. restructuring is achievable. I don’t know what the president will gain by not encouraging community policing. The moment the president takes critical interest, governance will follow suit. There is nothing cumbersome about it. The National Assembly is the sovereign representative of the people and should be supported to amend the constitution. The last national conference by former president Goodluck Jonathan did not achieve anything, it turned into an ethnic bigotry. The representative both at the two houses of the National Assembly are competent to amend the constitution. It is about leadership, if the leadership did not see beyond interest, the leadership should stop having shortsighted interest. There is no need for agitation, people are hungry because there is no job, the executive has no option than to restructure and amend the constitution. If president Muhammadu Buhari will develop the will and develop executive action and look at Land Use Act and community policing, the country will stabilise.
What is your response to a statement by the INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, that the political class are compromising and manipulating elections?
I don’t know if politicians are the ones that deploy materials and security for elections, certainly not, but INEC and security officials are involved. The moment INEC and security operatives stop being used to subvert election and be neutral in executing their constitutional duty as an independent body, Nigeria will be better for it. Let’s allow our institutions to prevail and be strong. The moment INEC accepts it’s role as an unbiased umpire and conduct credible and acceptable elections, nobody will be mentioning June 12 as a reference. The last election was a shame and it is a major challenge.
The agitation for presidency in 2023 by different geopolitical zones, especially south East, North East, South West and Middle Belt seems to be threatening the unity of Nigeria. What is your thought on this situation?
Equity means fairness to all. I was the first person that took PDP to court in 1999 when they said that Alhaji Abubakar Rimi will not run for the presidency under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I am against going in totality. Going in totally will produce incompetent persons, it lacks credibility and balancing. National projects will always be regional based. By going in one direction, you are only ethnicising or regionalising the office of president of Nigeria. We should do away with the era of any form of zoning to a particular region or individual. When we had Shehu Shagari as president, we didn’t have these kind of agitations. The moment we have a competent leader all these agitations will not be there. If we accept this position of restructuring, Nigeria will be peaceful. The constitution should deemphasise this zoning issue as illegal, it is discriminatory, we in the SDP challenged it in the Supreme Court and that is why we don’t practice and recognise it in SDP. I am completely against zoning which created this problem we are suffering from now. We are selecting people from their religion and ethnic background, I always campaigned against it, I am happy that Nigerians are beginning to understand it.
What do you make of the quit notice given to Fulani cattle breeders in Ondo State?
It simply reflects the kind of people we elect into office. It means when you are a governor, you must filter and mind what you say. You should not speak recklessly or carelessly. You don’t as a governor rush and dish out orders or instructions that will generate crisis. The Fulani have been there for over 100 years, whether the governor was misunderstood or not, it is least expected that from any governor. The governor is APC and the federal government is APC, if there is anything happening that he doesn’t like, he should reach out to the president. For me, we must be very careful, governors should be cautious on what they say. A governor should be a diplomat. Every tribe have bad elements. His reaction is disrespectful. The moment you have a bad leader, it will bring the country down. We should focus on good leadership.
There are suggestions that we should go back to parliamentary system of government to cut down cost of governance. Is that the right way to go?
I don’t think parliamentary system will suit this country. We have tried it before, but it didn’t work. The cost of running the National Assembly must be reviewed, the executive also reviewed it’s cost. Nigeria is suffering from depression not recession. The cost of food is rising daily, no body is checkmating these excess and I feel we must be realistic in our budget as a country. We must diversify. Agriculture is more than sufficient to keep this country, but we haven’t seen any robust sustainable agricultural policies. Our Education is the worse. The policy is bad. Our children go through a lot of things, they write JAMB, PUME and yet you have to give money before your child can be admitted. The cost of education in Nigeria is very high, there is no way we can give Nigerians quality educate that way, yet the minister of education is seating here in Abuja, what is he doing?
Little or nothing has been heard about your party since the 2019 elections ended, what are your plans for 2023?
SDP is doing a lot to reposition itself ahead of 2023. What I told you earlier is part of what our party is doing. We have been providing vibrant opposition more than the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). We have been talking with some other political parties especially those that were deregistered to merge together. In the last general elections we won some states but they were taken away from us. There was no transparency in the election, there was a lot of vote buying and we didn’t have such money. The government should start giving political parties subvention as suggested by the former INEC chairman, Prof Athahiru Jega.
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