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80 hearty cheers to radical Sunmonu Twins

By Timothy Agbor and Daniel Anazia
30 January 2021   |   3:00 am
Alhaji Hassan Adebayo Sunmonu, pioneer president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC, 1978-1984) and a former general secretary of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU)

‘My Twin Brother And I Married Same Day, Same Venue’

Alhaji Hassan Adebayo Sunmonu, pioneer president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC, 1978-1984) and a former general secretary of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), celebrated his 80th birthday on January 7, alongside his identical twin brother, Alhaji Hussein Sunmonu. On the same day, his wife also clocked 76. The former secretary general, Association of Technical Officers, Federal Ministry of Works spoke to TIMOTHY AGBOR in Osogbo, Osun State, on his life, experiences and state of the nation.

Yourself and your twin brother (Hussein) marked your 80th birthday on January 7, 2021, how do you feel being an Octogenarian?
I FEEL nothing but gratitude to Almighty God because you know, in Nigeria, the average age these days is maybe is less than 60. So, for one to reach 80 is nothing but grace from Almighty God and I thank him for that. The feeling is like, ‘so, I am 80? How time flies!’ Am I really old? But thank God I am still able to talk to people, interact, argue and to reminisce the past. So, it’s gratitude to God.

You don’t look as old as 80 when compared to others. What’s the secret of your agility?
First, the grace of the Almighty Allah because, there is a saying of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW), he says: ‘Believe in God but tie your horse; do your bit before the Almighty God can do his own.’ So, that one has a relative good health is something that is bestowed by the Almighty Allah. And one also takes care of what one eats or drinks. I don’t smoke and I don’t drink alcohol; the same goes for my twin brother because we are practicing Amadiyan Muslim. We also do regular exercises and we don’t also overeat. I have a wife who prepares a family meal and for those who have the opportunity of tasting her cuisine, I will say she is one of the best cooks in the world. 

When and where were you born?
My twin brother and I were born on a Tuesday, January 7, 1941, in a little village called Akim Eshiem of the Gold Coast (now Ghana). Of Osogbo parentage, my father came from Odeyemi compound, Osogbo in Atelewo Area; my mother was born at Balogun Biro’s compound in Oke-Baale, Osogbo.

My father went to the Gold Coast in 1925 and came back finally in 1965; he lived in the old Gold Coast for 40 years. He was a cocoa produce merchant; he was a cocoa farmer. Later, he developed his farm and became a successful Cocoa produce merchant; that’s where he had his wealth in the old Gold Coast that became Ghana on March 6, 1957. 

At what age did you leave Gold Coast for Nigeria?
We left Gold Coast 1948 back to Osogbo and we stayed in Osogbo. Our mother came with us, but our father remained in Gold Coast because by the time we were coming, it was cocoa season. So, our mother, grandmother and younger sister, Idowu, came back to Osogbo and started schooling at Ansarudeen Osogbo in 1948. By 1950, we crossed to All Saints School, Osogbo because it was the best school then and most of the pupils, cousins in our compound, 90 per cent of them went to All Saints School. We completed our primary school in December 1954. So, we didn’t taste part of the free education of Awowolo, which started in January, 1955. 

What were your profound childhood memories?
Three things: First, the adoration of Yorubas for twins, particularly, identical twins like my twin brother and I have been. We were virtually deified sort of because all the people believe that twins are sacred human beings and that they have very powerful spirits. That was the belief of Yorubas, so, all the people selling goods within and outside our campus, things like eko and other petty items, they would bring their wares to our house and asked my twin brother and I to just touch them. They believe they would sell out always immediately and within an hour or two, and they would always give us gifts and told us we have great lucks. We are very lucky children.

The second one was when our mum had to go back to the Gold Coast to join our dad in 1949 and left us with our paternal grandmother who was a great disciplinarian; she also traded in kola nuts. There is no kola nut as such in Osogbo, so, our grandmother would go to towns like Ikirun and Okuku to buy and sell in Osogbo. She was called Iya Olobi (kola nut seller). Whenever she goes to buy colanut, she would leave us at home for like two days with yam, palm oil, garri, rice and so on. So, from the age of 8, we learned through our paternal grandmother how to cook and fend for ourselves. And on Saturdays, we would go to the bush twice to fetch firewood; first, for the cooking in our household throughout the week, the second to sell.

So, there was a time we thought our grandmother was too harsh on us and we thought we should threaten her. We said: “Mama, we are going to die,” and she said, “You are going to die? You see, that’s the area I am going to bury you.” We never dared it again! So, from early childhood, we know the value of work and we knew the value of money because, no matter how big the firewood we carried for sales, we knew it wouldn’t sell for more than 6 pence. We never became spendthrift as a result of the training and background our mother gave us.

How do you compare upbringing of your time with what is obtainable today, bearing in mind the moral decadence in the society?
Parents are now very indulgent with their children and that’s why they have become spoilt children. They lack discipline; they don’t respect elders and what about traditions. Growing up with our mother and later grandmother, we were able to imbibe our traditions for hardwork; for honesty, for respect for elders, for filial piety, which is the duty of children to their parents. That’s why the Yorubas have a proverb that says: ‘Enikan niibi mo, igba eeyan ni now’ (It takes a couple to bring forth a child, but it takes about 200 people to nurture and bring up that child). You are not even fit to ask for a woman’s hand in marriage if you are not known to be a hardworker. In those days, if you are a farmer, your yam ban must be always full because they would not like to give their daughter to a lazy farmer or a man who have no integrity. Then, money meant anything without integrity, but what we see now is that once you have money, you can get chieftaincy titles and marry whomever you want.

As identical twins, how did you handle situations whereby staff and fellow students would mistake you?
Yes, people use to mistake us; our staff and fellow students even at the dormitory, they used to mistake us. From one first year, I was made the class captain till the end of our secondary education but still, both teachers and students used to mistake us. But some could distinguish either of us from voice. For others, till we left, they didn’t. 

Was there instance whereby the teacher punished you instead of your brother?
No, we were not rascally students; we were very good students. Hussein and I used to compete with each other in reading novels; we used to read 30 to 33 novels every term in addition to our normal school works. We used to be Progressives; we used to question colonialism. We had a geography teacher, anytime he came into the class, he would say, ‘Where are my rebels?’ This is because we used to question colonialism and he was a Whiteman.

Was that the time you discovered the activism trait in you?
I didn’t know how and why I was appointed class captain, but during our second year, our seniors had a quarrel between themselves over who would be appointed Secretary of the Muslim Students Society branch of Yaba Technical Institute. After they couldn’t settle the dispute, they pitched on me to be the secretary of the Yaba Technical Institute branch of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria. I used to be naturally a shy person, but that activism began in 1958 when I was appointed the Secretary.

As secretary, I used to organise Friday lectures by inviting Muslim scholars and also we used to pick topics amongst ourselves to talk about and that’s what broke my shyness. During Ramadan, as the Secretary of the Muslim Students Society of Yaba Technical Institute branch, I used wake Muslim Students up and also ensure that their early morning breakfast is ready before going for my classes; that’s how my activism started.

So, after my secondary school, the Federal Ministry of Works employed my twin brother and I as Assistant Technical Officers in training and sent us to Yaba Technical Institute for what was like Ordinary National Diploma (OND) in September 1961, in Civil Engineering. I was one of the people that were asked to come back for our Higher National Diploma and by this time, the name of the school had been changed to Yaba College of Technology and I graduated in June 1967. Between 1966/67, I was appointed president, Yaba Tech Student Union. In same year, I was elected President of National Association of Technological Students. By virtue of being an affiliate of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), I was second Vice president of NANS. So, I had three positions in my final year.

How were you able to combine all these leadership positions with your studies?
Well, I finished my studies successfully. After my final year exams, I had two distinctions. 

What are your hobbies?
I love sports and reading; I used to be in a relay team at the old Technical Institute. I was into a football tram at Osogbo Grammar School called Mosquito Team. I used to engage in boxing too and reading of books. For instance, Jomo Kenyatta’s book, Facing Mount Kenya, I read it in two days. 

What’s your philosophy of life?
Very simple! To Serve the Almighty Allah and my fellow human beings. 

It seems you and your brother agrees almost on everything?
We are very cordial and close and in our youths; we made a promise to each other that come rain or shine, by the special grace of Allah, we would get married on same day. My twin brother is luckier than myself with girls; he had a steady girlfriend for almost five years. On my own, I will try and before a year, the girl will go. I was so desperate because of my twin brother and our promise not to delay him for too long. I nearly married a Catholic girl in Osogbo and you know what that could have meant; I would have become a Catholic. God has forbidden that. So, even Hussein’s original fiancée had to leave and marry another person after waiting and waiting and Hussein was not ready because I was not ready.

But eventually, to God be the glory as people would say, I got my own (wife) through the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria; Hussein also got his own through same society because we were very popular at Muslim Students Society conferences. We eventually got married on same day over 51 years ago.

At what age did you get married?
About 28 plus, on September 7, 1969. We wedded on same day and same venue.

Do you always wear same outfits?
That’s exactly what we normally do; there are so many clothes we have in common. When I went to Ghana as secretary general of Organisation of African Trade Union, any major dress I buy, I buy his own and any major dress he buys, he buys my own even up till now. But there are some local wears that we don’t buy together.

So both of were always together until marriage?
Yes, we have a proverb that 20 children cannot play for 20 years. For instance, when we were in the Federal Ministry of Works, I was elected the Secretary of Association of Technical Workers in the ministry and he was a very active member in the association. He was my greatest critic, but unknown to my other colleagues, they think how can my twin brother be criticising me and I would tell them that he wants me to do better. That’s the spirit we have.

Anybody who criticises you wants you to be better. Not a destructive criticism. We don’t spare ourselves when we think what any of us had done is wrong. I won’t say because he is my twin brother and watch him do things wrongly; I will sanction him and same with him. Even when I was elected NLC president, he was the one that was carried up by cheering crowd and journalists published his picture. They I was the one because he was not one of the official delegates who were inside when the news broke.

Up to the time we were 16, we have never been separated from each other for more than two weeks. But after we finished our OND in 1964 together, we were both posted to the Federal Ministry of Works Headquarters; he was in the planning division of the headquarters, while I was in the engineering office. So, if at all our grandmother was sick or when they brought her or our juniors were brought from Ghana that time, one of us had to come and prepare for the primary school they were going to attend in Osogbo and I had to come and Hussein would resume my work and nobody knew because we used to go to work in same clothes. Later, it leaked to one of our senior managers who decided to punish us. For the first time, he sent Hussein to Shagamu/Benin Express and he posted me to Zaria/Kaduna Road. The wife of that senior manager, Engineer M.F. Kanye, eventually gave birth to identical twins like us. Since that time, Hussein and I would get away with Engineer Kanye. 

Do you still drive yourself?
My children forbade me from driving five years ago. They said if I can’t afford to pay a driver, they would pay for me. But my twin brother still drives; he used to drive from Lagos to Osogbo even with driver seating beside him.

As an Octogenarian, do you have any regret?
No. I have no regret because every setback is a divine ordinance. For example, our inability to finish our secondary school at Osogbo Grammar School has a divine reason. First, we were not practising Muslims when we were at Osogbo Grammar School, we were nearly converted to Christianity by the late principal, J. L. Omigbodun and in fact when we withdrew, he promised us scholarship if we could change to Christianity. We said ‘no’ because we were born two days before Ileya Festival (Eid-el-Kabir) and since we were born, my father was slaughtering ram for Hussein and I until we started working and we have been slaughtering ram on every Eid Kabir day.

Most of our classmates who were Muslims when we started at Osogbo Grammar School, majority of them up to 80 per cent, were converted to Christianity through the influence of J.L. Omigbodun. When we went back to Gold Coast, our dad was the Imam of the only mosque in that village. In the morning, when the call to prayer was said, our father was expecting that all members of the family would be in the mosque to pray but after the prayer, he didn’t see us and he asked why we didn’t come for prayer. We told him that we didn’t know how to pray; he just burst into tears. So, we started learning some verses of the Holy Quran and how to pray. 

Since May 1956, we started saying our ‘give times’ prayer up till today. So, God stopped us from continuing our school because he wanted us to get close to him and also be Civil Engineers because if we ended up at Osogbo Grammar School, we wouldn’t have done engineering; we would have done maybe Accounting, Law or whatever. And God also wanted us to be known both nationally and internationally. So, when God does things, whether good or bad, thank Him.

When we were young, we used to go to Ataoja Palace to play and we were popular there and people used to call us Ataoja’s twins. There was a day the late Ataoja was being driven along the road in Osogbo and he saw us at Idi-Seke and he asked his driver to stop. He asked why we were not in school and we told him there was no money; he asked us to come and see him. We went later that evening to see him.

You know at that time, Obas used to be the chairman of Local Council. So, he asked us to write an application to the Local Council for scholarship; we wrote the application and gave it to Kabiesi. On the day they were to deliberate on the application for scholarship, an uncle of ours who was a councillor that time said ‘no,’ that we were just liars and that our dad was rich enough to sponsor us. That it was because we were rascally, maybe that was why we couldn’t get money to continue our secondary education at Osogbo Grammar School.

So, after about two weeks, were returned to Kabiesi and he said our uncle said we were rascals and all sort. That’s what sent us back to Gold Coast in May 1956. For 10 years, we didn’t use to greet that our uncle because our father used to send us money through him and he was the one that stopped our scholarship and we didn’t know that it was for divine reason. So, later, when it was apparent to us that God used him as an instrument to unblock our going to the Technical Institute, we started greeting and giving him things. 

Since you left unionism as NLC president, how do you feel when you hear stories that workers protest over unpaid entitlements and other complaints? 
Even my own pension has not been paid. My unpaid Pension is not during the time I served in NLC, it was during the time I served in OATUU (26 years and two months), but the Federal Government used to give Organisation of African Trade Unions (OATUU) annual subventions. So, it is through that subvention that my gratuity would have come. It is an amount that if I have been paid, I should not be in need of anything till my death. The NLC has been fighting for me to get my gratuity.

Your colleagues have asked a lot of questions like this, but what people should know is that there is an evolution, even in politics. Is it the politics or the politicians we knew at independence that we have today? Is it the students that we have before that we have today? Same thing with the trade Unions because, in our own time, there was no GSM, so if you have to phone Maiduguri, you must go to the exchange; you may spend three hours before the line is through for you to phone Maiduguri. But today, staying in your room, you can phone anywhere in the world. That’s part of the evolution. That’s why the Yoruba use to say that ‘aja iwoyi lafi nperan iwoyi’ (it’s today’s dog that you send after today’s animals in the bush). If you send an old hunting dog, it would not be able to catch a modern animal in the bush. So, when anybody wants to do such comparison, one must consider how things have evolved.

When the Army overthrew the Government in January 15, 1966, they said because politicians were corrupt, taking 10 per cent, when they (Army) came in, they bastardised everything, they were taking more than 100 per cent. And you have to also consider the problem of Nigeria today; the military intervention has had a negative impact on the smooth evolution of Nigeria to the modernity, to democracy and to development. We started with the Federal system in Nigeria, the military came with unitary system because they only have one Commander and they imposed it as the constitution of 1999. So, what we are running is not a Federal system and until we go back to true federalism, the center will not hold because, it will not be sustainable and whatever is not sustainable will not last.

Specifically, what’s your message to President Muhammadu Buhari and Federal Lawmakers among others?
I have said that if we don’t return to true federalism and to parliamentary system of government, Nigeria will not be sustainable and it will crash. I would like our return to true federalism and parliamentary system of government now, during the time of President Muhammadu Buhari, but if he doesn’t do it, someone else will do it. Willy Billy; nobody can stop it. You (Buhari) either do it and we have true transition to development, peace and prosperity or you refuse to do it; we run from one crisis to the other, brigandage and all what we are experiencing now. So, this should be in the front burner of the agenda of our current politicians.

First, it will help in keeping Nigeria one. Two, it will help in the faster development of Nigeria and Nigerians. Three, it will help to secure permanent peace and security for Nigerians because come to think about it, there is hardly any state in Nigeria that does not have one or two strategic minerals that will bring wealth and economy; not only to the people, but also to the country. That will banish poverty and make Nigeria one of the fastest developed countries in the world. 

At 80 and moving forward, do you have any aspirations and what do you now engage yourself with?
I have done what needs to be done, what I want to see is a United, Democratic, Federal Republic, Parliamentary, Prosperity, Advancement and Peace and Unity of this country. Look, the #EndSARS youth protest of October last year is a warning signal. If they (Government) think they have checkmated the thing without changing course, they are just deceiving themselves. The next one (#EndSARS Protest) might be unstoppable, but must we allow the next one to come before we know or you want to use potty on a tact roof? Can that prevent the rain from entering the house?

So for me, what do I do now? I am a trustee of ASUU, I am a veteran of the NLC, I am a very active member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’t, I am a Secretary in charge of the International Relations of the Jamma’at in Nigeria and I am a member of the Osogbo Elders Council. So, I have my hands already filled. 

Any message for Nigerians?
I want all Nigerians to be unanimous in returning Nigeria to true federalism, to the parliamentary system of government, to peace, unity, development and prosperity for all, not just a few.

We Have Always Looked Out For Each Other’
Alhaji Hussein Oyekanmi Sunmonu is calm, welcoming and one would find it hard to believe this gentle man is very outspoken, just like his twin brother, Alhaji Hassan Adebayo Sunmonu. He spoke to DANIEL ANAZIA at his house in Lagos on varying issues.

Congratulations on your 80th birthday; what would you say life has given to you as a gift these last 80 years?
First, I’m grateful and give thanks to God for the gift of life I’ve been given. Being 80, I must say is Allah’s faithfulness upon my life; hence, we themed the celebration, ‘Celebrating Allah’s Faithfulness’. My twin and I were born in a small village in Ghana but we soon moved to Osogbo and there we had our primary and part of our secondary education before we moved to Lagos to complete our education. Growing up in Osogbo, we attended Ansar-Ud-Deen, between 1948 and 1950 before moving to All Saints School Osogbo (now All Saints Primary School), to complete our primary education. From there, we went to Osogbo Community School, which has now been renamed to Osogbo Grammar School, where we spent a year before we moved to Lagos. It was called Osogbo Community Grammar at the time because all the towns like Osogbo, Ede, Ikirun, and other adjoining towns, pooled their resources to establish the school. Let me just say that if we hadn’t come to Lagos, I wouldn’t have identified with God the way I do now, as it would have been very difficult. Even if we had stayed 50 years in Osogbo, we wouldn’t have received the kind of knowledge we have about God now.

What year was this?
This was in December 1955. It was in Lagos that we were able to connect with some Islamic scholars (Ustaz) and clerics that go from school to school, tutoring and mentoring us into the way I have come to know and identify God. We grew up to become members of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN). You cannot get the kind of knowledge we got at the time in any other state or city in Nigeria. In 1957, we were admitted into Yaba Institute of Technology as it was then called, but now Yaba College of Technology. Our coming to Lagos helped us come in contact with Muslim scholars like Alhaji Y.B Shodeinde, who used to teach on the radio and also ran a column in the newspaper on Fridays; Alhaji L.B Augusto, the founder of Jama-At-Ul Islamiyat of Nigeria and Alhaji Mustapha Ekemode, the National Missioner of Ansar-Ud-Deen Society from 1942 to 1972. I mustn’t forget Ustaz S.B Giwa, who retired as a headmaster.

Tell us a bit about your growing up years and career as a civil servant?
Like I said, Hassan and I have never left each other but let me quickly correct you on the ‘elder statesman’ title I am sometimes called. I’m not an elder statesman; don’t mistake me with my brother. Yes, I’m an elderly man but not an elder statesman. Often time, people mistake us for one another as we wear the same type of clothes and often switch positions. One good experience was during our final year at Yaba College; Hassan contested and won the school’s students’ union president and went on to become an executive member of the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS) and member of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria, which I was also an active member. Another hilarious moment was when Hassan contested and won as the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) in 1978. The election was held in Ibadan, on February 28, 1978. He defeated five other contestants to emerge the pioneer president of the newly formed NLC. Because people didn’t know the difference between us, I was carried shoulder high by the jubilant workers and my photographs were splashed on the front pages of newspapers the next day. Another instance was in 2010, when the Michael Imoudu Institute of Labour Studies (MILS), Ilorin was honouring Hassan. He was in Ghana but I stood in for him to deliver his address at the event and people didn’t even know the difference. Like I said, we have never left each other. When we graduated from Yaba College in 1961, we had five offers of employment from five different employers including the Federal Ministry of Works and Survey now Federal Ministry of Works as Assistant Technical Officers; the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) and the Electricity Cooperation of Nigeria (ECN). We were left to make a choice from the five. We wanted to go to ECN but we were told that we couldn’t be sent to the same power station as a result of our background in civil engineering. One of us must be a mechanical engineer and the other an electrical engineer, that way we can be sent to the same power station. It was at this point that we opted for the Federal Ministry of Works and Survey. So we were employed the same day and started work that same day in the same office.

Was the decision to study the same field of discipline deliberate and why?
Of course it was. Don’t forget that we are identical twins and have always looked out for each other. During Hassan’s campaign for president of the students’ union at Yaba College, I was with him throughout the process. It was very hard for people to differentiate between the both of us.

Looking at the two of you, you seem to be the quiet one while Hassan is the vocal one?
(Cuts in) I don’t know about that as we both suffered a little bit of oppression from the authorities of the Ministry of Works for being outspoken. I was transferred from Lagos to Zaria, which was the operational headquarters of the Ministry, where I worked on the Zaria-Kano road. Anywhere the ministry wants to transfer you in the north, you would first be taken to Zaria and from there, you can be transferred anywhere, even to the remotest part like Sambisa Forest in Borno State or Sokoto, the border town between Nigeria and Niger. As a result of Hassan’s union activism, he couldn’t stay; he only spent 17 years before he veered off into trade unionism. He became the General Secretary of the Association of Technical Officers within the ministry.

In 1969, he became the Second Assistant Secretary of the Wahab Goodluck led Public Works Aerodrome Technical and General Works’ Union and later became the Union’s president in 1974. While Hassan left the public sector (Ministry of Works and Survey) after 17 years of service, I remained in the civil service, where I spent 35 years of my life before I retired. Right now, we both spend our time propagating the will and ways of God as active members of some Islamic movements. The only regret I had in my career was that I never worked in the Southeast. I worked in the Southwest and the entire North. I would have loved and even be more fulfilled if I had worked in the Southeast. My best friends today are from that part of the country and my grandson, Ibrahim is married to an Igbo woman, Enugu State to be precise. I went with him when he went to pay the bride price. When you look at all of these, if one does not have God, I wouldn’t have survived to see this day. It needs to be noted that where there is oppression there is bound to be war and where the oppressed cannot fight they turn God in prayer, and when they call, God answers them speedily.

So if there were a fight and even bullets, you would have gladly taken it for him?
Of course. In fact, whenever the Head of State invited him then, I always went with him. He wouldn’t go unless I went with him. When late Shehu Shagari invited him to the state house, he said he would not honour the invite if I did go with him.

Looking at the state of affairs in the country today, there have been calls for a return to the regional system of government. What is your take on this?
I thought that the powers that be in Nigeria would accede to the peoples’ yearning for a unitary system of government and not the presidential system we currently operate. This presidential system is too expensive for a developing economy like ours. If we had continued with the unitary system of government that we operated pre-independence and post-independence, Nigeria would have been more developed now. This is because every region has its own strength and are known for something that gives them economic advantage. For instance, the Southwest was known for its Cocoa, which proceeds was used to finance and develop the region. The North has groundnut, while the Southeast was revered for its palm oil produce. There was healthy rivalry amongst the regions then. When the Southwest built the University of Ibadan, the Southeast started the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and the North followed with the establishment of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Even though we say we are operating a presidential system, it doesn’t look like it because under the system of government, the states have their definitive powers. If you look around the country, very few states can pay workers salary without being dependent on the Federal Government. We have six geo-political zones, Southeast, Southwest, South-South, Northeast, Northwest and North-Central and I suggest that each zone be allowed to develop on their own; by doing so, there would be healthy competition amongst the zones. Also, it will help take off the stress of trying to develop one region or zone thus neglecting others, as is the case today. If this is implemented, I don’t think there will be any agitation from any zone for secession. I think the time is ripe for us to redraw our constitution because the presidential system is too lopsided. This is my personal view.

What will be the first issue to tackle if asked to proffer solutions to the myriads of challenges currently affecting Nigeria?
Security, which must start from the grassroots. Look at what Amotekun is doing in the Southwest, particularly in Oyo, Ekiti and Ondo states. They are assisting the security machinery in the states combat crime and insecurity. The Southeast is taking a cue and wants to do the same thing now. Pre-independence and even after independence, we have the police and the native authority; they worked together for the protection of the people. The native authority knew the criminals in the society at the time and they were easily fished out whenever a crime was committed. How can you post somebody from the remotest part of the north to Ijebu or Ibadan, Ede or Akure to come and police where he or she does not know anybody? It will be difficult. I’m of the view that community policing like we had in the olden days will be a better idea and panacea to the issue of insecurity being experienced in the country today; just like how Amotekun is assisting the police in the Southwest.

But most people are of the opinion that this negates the principle of federalism and federal character?
If we indeed uphold the true principle of federalism or federal character, we won’t be where we are today and I am saying this from experience. In my days in the civil service, if there are 30 promotions, experience is often jettisoned as a result of federal character or principle of federalism. You can imagine where someone who was maybe in first year in the university when you started will be competing with you for promotion all because of federal character. I’m of the school of thought that says experience is the best teacher and experience can only be gained on the job. How can you compare someone who has 30 years’ experience on the job with someone who has three years experience? The problem is that this principle tends to favour some people, putting others at a disadvantage.

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