Adekunle: All of us have failed in our responsibilities
Let’s Give This Government A Little Time
Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Oludaisi Adekunle is the Bishop of Egba Diocese, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Church. In this interview with CHARLES COFFIE GYAMFI, he says the country’s political and religious leaders have failed society. He also condemns President Buhari’s silence on the incessant Fulani attacks, but urges Nigerians to be patient with the administration.
What’s your rating of this government so far?
I think the President has been trying his best, even though he is yet to meet Nigerians’ expectations. This is because prior to his becoming President, Nigerians already had a yardstick for measuring his performance based on his reputation and impressive records as a military head of state. So, we were expecting that he would surpass his achievements at that time.
People wanted change, but some Nigerians think Buhari’s government has performed below expectation so far. But considering what he met on ground after assuming office, and all he has exposed so far, I do not think even an angel could have done better. Some of us are finding it hard to believe that there was so much rot in government. Though we knew the system was rotten, but we least expected the unprecedented level of looting from the national treasury, as had been exposed. People just lost their minds. There was a psychological breakdown, where our leaders were overtaken by selfish interests and stole such massive amount of money. It is a pity, and goes to show that it is not only people walking naked on the street that are crazy. I think what the President met on ground was beyond his expectations and he has to comport himself and put things in order.
Our expectations from Buhari were too high. We were looking for the Buhari of the military era, but this is Buhari of democracy. That was what opposition parties were using initially to campaign against him and he has to prove them wrong by strictly following democratic principles in running his government. Do not forget also that age is a factor. The Buhari of 40 years ago is not the same as the Buhari of 70 years plus now. So, age has come to play.
What is your view on the raging controversy over 2016 budget?
I know that two-third of the majority of the Assembly can veto the budget and enforce it, but it is a pity all that is happening. If you have experienced the traffic between Lagos-Ibadan-Sagamu Expressway, where people sometimes spend nights before being able to come into or return from Lagos or if you have ever travelled through the East-west Road in the eastern part of the country, you will know that what road users are experiencing is worse than death. The only way we can overcome this situation is through the mass transit system of transportation such as rail, which if they can do, will serve the best interest of the country.
I don’t know why the National Assembly removed it from the budget. Maybe because of the huge amount of money involved or they could not see its importance. But they should think of the man-hour usually wasted on the road, the value of human lives that are daily lost, as well as the economic losses we experience, as a result of the road’s condition.
Are you disturbed that politicians are already fighting themselves over who becomes president in 2019?
Even without elections coming, politicians do not have the people’s interest at heart. To them, politics has become business. They persuade voters to elect them with promises of giving something later. But once they have been voted in, you have sold your rights to them and they go to the Assembly only to share money. I am yet to see a politician that has the people’s interest at heart. Maybe very few among them do.
Talking of those fighting for power come 2019, they are either those trying to secure their second coming or those that are already ending their second term, but now looking for another position. Politicians are chameleons that keep changing their skin colour, while the personality remains the same. And regardless of the party they belong, they are all the same.
Should Legislators be made to work part time?
I share the view that legislators should work on part time basis. In the parliamentary system of government, ministers are picked from among the legislators. It is not that some people will either be in the Senate or in the State House of Assembly and their main aim is to lobby to become chairman of one committee or the other. All these duplication of work should stop. It is one of the ways politicians use to siphon our money. For instance, if you are a legislator and you are also a journalist, you only go to the House at certain period. This is what obtains in the UK, as well as South Africa, where lawmakers continue to practise their professions, when the House is not in session and they only take sitting allowance instead of all this bogus salaries and allowances Nigerian legislators are collecting.
Are you satisfied with the government’s anti-graft war so far?
I think Buhari’s fight against corruption is too slow. People should be brought to book and we need to see people being punished for crimes committed. I do not believe he should set up a special court to trial corrupt persons. I think it might be another avenue for some set of people to feel very important and, therefore, use their offices to threaten others. What I think he should do is to empower the judiciary and if this is short of staff, he should recruit more people and let them perform their duties quickly and efficiently.
What is your view about the President Buhari’s foreign trips?
I do not think President Buhari is travelling too much. He is not even travelling as much as former President Olusegun Obasanjo did while in power. Obasanjo’s foreign trips gave us positive results in the area of the economy, as it led to debt cancellation and some of the stolen money was retrieved then. If Buhari is using the same style, I see nothing wrong with it. Such trips will lead to the recovery of our stolen monies stashed in foreign accounts.
He should go to fellow leaders and appeal to them to assist Nigeria in retrieving these monies. What people have stolen from this country is just too much.
What do you think of the incessant killings by Fulani herdsmen?
These Fulani herdsmen are going about with very sophisticated weapons and the question we should ask is: From where are they getting all these weapons? Some people say they are migrants from neighbouring countries such as Chad, Niger, Benin Republic and so on. Others say some rich Nigerians are the ones sponsoring them. If that is the case, then it is too bad.
These Fulanis are also ravaging and wreaking havoc here in Ogun State. Let me share my experience with you. The church has three farms. In one of the farms, where we have palm tree plantation, these boys set fire on the entire farm. This is their second time of doing that, and the church has lost over N3million worth of palm seedlings. At the second farm, where we are trying to do forest conservation, and had planted different kinds of trees apart from other things such as yam, guinea corn among others, these boys came with their cows late in the night and ate all we planted and when they finished, they set the farm on fire, destroying the entire place. This was not by accident, but done intentionally.
Their activities are going to affect us in the South, as we won’t have enough food. It will affect our economy, as people won’t have money because their sources of income have been destroyed and it will affect our climate and environment. If I calculate our loses in the last three years, it is more than N10million.
Who am I going to cry to?
Solution to this problem is to enforce tight security at our borders, which are too porous. These foreign settlers find their ways into our country through our porous borders because they are nomads, looking for good pastures to feed their animals and in the process they wreak havoc. The government must be able to know the number of people entering the country, as well as determine whether they are coming as migrants or they are coming as animal-rearers. Government should also ensure that these people come into the country with proper documents.
Buhari’s silence is not helpful, and even the Ogun State governor is not saying anything about it. I do not like his posture; he is too quiet about it. It is the poor farmers that are suffering and they cannot cry out. I am farming among these people, so I know their plights.
Nigerian Fulani herdsmen are not the only ones doing it, as there are others from Chad, Niger, Benin Republic and Mali among others. These boys are already cut out for guerilla war. They are using our borders to smuggle weapons down here, which is how the Boko Haram boys started. These boys do these things everyday and we are keeping quiet about it. I think we are too careless, we think these things are insignificant and, therefore, do not matter to us. Look at their children, who ought to be in school, but they are following their parents all about with all this Almajiri and nomadic education policies.
All these policies and whatever the government calls them are just an avenue to siphon money. What is the essence of the Almajiri now and of what purpose is the nomadic education? Rather than ensure the success of the policies and that our education system is well funded, some people have just used such policies to enrich themselves. We are so directionless in this country.
Haven’t religious leaders also failed in their duties?
It is not just religious leaders that have failed in their responsibilities, but everybody has failed. Even elders in the society have failed. It is a general thing, which started from the home. For instance, some parents bribe people to write examinations for their children. The society has failed and it is a pity that we have missed it. When we should talk, we keep quiet. There are even cases of children committing some offence in the school and the teacher flogged them, only for the parents to rush to the school to fight such teacher or even arrest him or her. We also need to protest against indecent dressing because it is not in our culture.
Whether you are a politician or a contractor, once we know you have swindled others, we will reject your tithe, except we are unaware. If you wish to hide, we will report you to the authority. If you steal public money and come to the church to bamboozle us with it, we will reject you and your money. But if you have a genuine work and your business is thriving and you come to the church to pay your tithes, we will accept you.
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