Over-centralisation bane of development in Nigeria, says Odunsi
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ogun State, Senator Akin Odunsi, who represented Ogun West in the 7th National Assembly, in this interview with OBIRE ONAKEMU, spoke on the effect of centralisation of power in a federal system of government and how to keep Nigeria united.
What is your reading of the political situation in Nigeria as we prepare for the 2023 general elections?
The political landscape is very gloomy. There are questions being asked by genuine democrats as we prepare for the 2023 general elections.
People are inquisitive about the transparency, openness and fairness of the process that will produce candidates for the various elections. I believe we have a long way to go to assure Nigerians that we are serious about democracy in this country.
Insecurity is getting worse in the Southwest; how worried are you?
First, my heart goes out to the various families that lost their loved ones in the Owo massacre. One would have thought that being in the church or in a worship place is security in itself but terrorists crept into the church and massacred worshippers during mass. It is unfortunate and speaks volumes about the security situation in the country.
We are still waiting for the outcome of the investigation that police and other security agencies have begun, I hope that those who were arrested by Owo traditional hunters and paraded at Olowo’s palace would not escape or be released without proper investigation.
What is your take about the monetisation of Nigeria’s electoral process and its implication for the integrity of elections?
Monetisation of the electoral process is evidence of poverty in the land. It is unfortunate that people ask for money to perform their civic responsibility. In another civilised clime, political parties raise money to ensure that those who eventually emerge as candidates are financed to fly their flag at the elections. But in Nigeria, political parties belong to just a handful of people, who can put their money into the hands of their so-called supporters for mobilisation.
Those of us who were young and now old enough will recall that if you want to be a party member in the Action Group (AG), you paid money to be a member of the party but these days, I don’t think that is happening. And I think we need to revisit that issue of parties’ membership.
It’s not everybody that should belong to a political party. One can be a sympathiser of a political party and you don’t need to be a card-carrying member. And one can look at the policies of the party to determine who to vote for. But in Nigeria, in the way we are going, I hope the younger generation will change all that. I hope so.
How will you advise security agencies as we progress into election next year?
They need to be upright and to be up and doing. Ideally, we should by now have local police. If we had provision for local policing, security would be an easy issue to manage since officers are persons who are familiar with the terrains they are operating in. In the recent primaries, we saw cases where they were snatching ballot boxes even in the presence of policemen and soldiers sent to monitor the primaries.
How will you counsel the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the need for credible elections in 2023?
INEC has displayed a level of seriousness in the Ekiti and Osun state gubernatorial elections. I just believe and hope they will continue to be serious and steadfast in assuring that they follow the electoral laws, especially the 2022 Electoral Act. So far, I don’t think you can fault their efforts in the idea of digitalisation that has also helped and I hope they will carry it forward in the coming 2023 general elections.
The country is highly polarised along ethnic and religious lines. How can harmony be forstered?
That is a loaded question. One can foster harmony by being fair and just, by shunning ethnicity and ensuring that the right people get into the right places not because of where they come from, not because of their religion and not because of their affinity to any political body. I believe that the nation we call Nigeria today is under threat, we all know it. And unless we take absolute care and do the right thing, it may no longer exist the way it is. Over-centralisation is killing this country. Way back in 1960, Nigeria was a nation moving and progressing in various areas of economic growth. We need to do something about the future of Nigeria as a nation.
The economy is not doing well. What must be done to grow the economy?
I can’t see the digitalisation or improvement that he is talking about. An economy that has been falling in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) cannot be said to be growing in any dimension. There is every need to re-engineer our economy; we need to put the right people in the right places for this economy to grow. I don’t believe we are growing as a nation when compared to the rate at which we were growing in 1960.
As I have just said, over-centralisation is one of the major problems we have in this country. I would hope and pray that at the earliest opportunity, we can sit at a round table and decide on how to decentralise a whole lot of things, such that we can have effective administration of the various zones and regions that form the country called Nigeria.
Undoubtedly, leadership failure is part of our major problems and even followership is not left out. A follower that sold his or her conscience to vote for bad leaders cannot complain of being denied dividends of democracy. This is not the Nigeria that I dreamt of growing up. There is a lot to be done!
As I have said, true federalism will help to solve some of our problems. Over-concentration of power in the centre is one of our major problems in this country. Even though the central government is too expensive, there is a need to do something about governance in this country to move forward. I pray for this nation that it can truly continue to run as one united Nigeria. And for it to run as one united nation there must be fairness.
Today Nigeria is not the nation that our founding fathers dreamt of; not the Nigeria that we as growing children, who waved the flag for independence at Tafawa Balewa Square dreamt of, but I pray that Nigeria will retrace its steps and our leaders should do what is right for Nigeria to remain one and united country.