‘Only truth, sincerity as political culture can deliver dividends of democracy for Nigerians’
Communication and Language Artist, PROFESSOR TAOFIQ ADESINA AZEEZ of the University of Abuja, takes a panoramic view of Nigeria’s two decades of un-interrupted civil rule and delivers a scorecard that is repugnant as well as optimistic, especially when political culture of truthfulness and sincerity is adopted as the rule of the game.
What is your assessment of the 20 years of democracy in Nigeria?
It is sad that after twenty years of democratic practice some of us are still shocked at the development. In terms of the actual practice of democracy, it could be said that we are still learning. And it could be said that we are not learning. We are still learning because it is an evolving process. It is supposed to be a representative governance. It is supposed to be a process in which the governed participate. It is supposed to be a process in which the governed have input but is usually practiced in Nigeria in a military fashion to the extent that some of the military terminologies actually play out as military actions. Campaigns have been done so far like actual campaign in the theatre; highly militarised; people killing one another; campaigning with a lot of violence; non-issue-based campaigns; sentiments and the use of force.
I remember a slogan in the process it is a ‘do or die’ affair. But it shouldn’t be so. But what is so sad about it is that there is what I call ‘pandemic criminals’ among the people. A person without integrity, no virtue, no value, no attribute that would make anybody like to entrust their affairs into his hands, but once he comes with money, Nigerians would take his money and vote for him. He has not promised them anything and if he does it is empty promises. But when he gets there he gets there to be in charge of the commonwealth and he spends the money anyhow nobody questions him. So, this fosters corruption. And for 16 years, it was just looting, looting and looting; impunity and people never cautioned anybody. Nobody thought that what was going on was wrong as long as it pays, as long as the politician knows how poor the poverty here is more than pandemic. Those playing this democratic game know the general condition of the people. So, they keep them poor, give them pittance to get their votes. It is not as if anybody is giving them votes, they only need some people to make up the number they need in order to justify the election.
In my own experience when I was much younger in 1979 when we were following Awolowo in the South West, my late father used to tell me that there was no truth in it. It was Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) then. He was in Action Group (AG) and he told us this experience. When we were in the UPN as youths, they used to tell us there was no truth in the UPN, there was no truth in Awolowo and we followed it up till 1979 when after the election we scored 50,000 votes in a small village for UPN and this was the evidence of what my father was saying. So by 1983, it was clear that there might be no difference between somebody who pretended to be holy, truthful, to have integrity and somebody who did not pretend. Somebody used to call it honest stealing and honest criminality instead of dishonest corruption.
So I was lucky to meet with the late Olusola Saraki, the father of Bukola under a tree. My father told him that this was a boy who felt that all the truth in this world could be found in Awolowo and all the falsehood could be found in Shagari! Saraki laughed and said the ‘holier than thou’ perception of Awolowo was not true. He now asked me how much votes we gave to Awolowo in that small village, he made me go there to count the number of houses most of them huts. And I was shocked that the number of houses and the number of the people was not up to ten per cent of the votes that we gave to Awolowo. So, out of anger we decamped to the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). As a youth and as a party agent, we got the result on Thursday night, the result of an election that was to hold on Saturday. We did some other things that are not printable. And in the end, we had a landslide victory. That was my last time of participating in partisan politics because I discovered that nobody practices politics in Nigeria in truth and with sincerity including the most taunted Awolowo.
Are you invariably saying western form of democracy is not suitable for Nigeria and thus, we may need to create an indigenous template?
The problem is with us. We are just hypocritically religious; there is no goodness, God- consciousness in us. We have filled the whole of our lives with religion and there is no space for God. No politician in Nigeria is Godly. We have interacted with them. We have experimented this democracy since 1999 and again by certain accident I had to also be in Alliance for Democracy (AD) and held a political office as a board member. My brief spell in active politics again made me know that there could be few persons with integrity in politics. But their integrity would be rubbished by majority of people that surround them. So Lam Adesina then who was our Governor in Oyo State was a man of integrity much like President Muhammadu Buhari. But then his integrity did not add up to anything because everybody that surrounded him wanted to loot just like everybody that surrounds President Buhari who is a man of integrity is a looter. So his integrity does not add up. And it does not show and indeed it is this integrity in the midst of corruption that is causing the heat in the polity today.
Will Buhari Presidency ultimately offer the panacea to the myriad of problems besetting the country?
It is not possible because it is not possible to live up to our expectations for three reasons. One, he is coming now as one person in a democratic dispensation. He did not sponsor himself. They used his integrity to win election in 2015 and so, they dictated three quarter of the way to him and he has no power to solve the problems because he has to consider so many things. At any rate by 2015, there was no party, it was an amalgam of ‘criminals’ who wanted to win elections by all means from the former ruling party came to the new party which they called mega party. There was actually no APC in the last four years because before the end of the four years they had gone back home to start their grand sabotage. We had an APC which had the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives from the PDP.
So Buhari led no government in the last four years, he was alone. So it doesn’t add up and it cannot work.
The second reason was that the level of corruption was underestimated and he didn’t know. And there was no way he could know. That was why he felt that it was going to be easy. And because of the character of democracy in Nigeria, he could not remove critical stakeholders in the economy, he could not tamper with the structure of the economy and so by the time he assumed power, the economy and Nigeria itself was down and out. It required only a saint to get us out of that recession. If it wasn’t a Buhari, we would still have been in recession by now. And then the sabotage combined and conspired with a really bad situation. We were not paying salaries three months before, so he had to pay salaries because if he didn’t pay that would have been a big minus. He had to struggle to pay salaries. People were afraid that he was going to deal with them they withdrew their money from the banks and the economy crashed. People withdrew their dollars and dollars went up to the roofs. There was no magic to save the nation’s economy from recession at that time.
Unfortunately for him, he promised change and what he met was more than what he bargained for. So, he had to smartly retain Emefiele as CBN Governor, did the same for the man at the NNPC and a number of other people and thread softly because criminals made him feel that they put him there. And he knew. He made moves and he almost paid with his life. He is a human being. If he had died who would have taken over? And where would Nigeria have been now? Nigeria would have gone back to them and then there would have been no Nigeria. In fairness to him, he tried. He had the spirit, the intention but he was walking on a strange terrain. And he had nobody to work with. So, all the people that put him there as an investment spent their money and they would naturally want to recoup their money.
So, his first problem was appointment and they forced him to appoint who they wanted so that they would get their money back. There was this conflict again between the President and the National Leader of the party as well as the National Working Committee (NWC) of the non-existing ruling party. He battled with all these complex situations with the sabotage from people who were shocked that he could win.
These same people started with Fulani herdsmen because he is Fulani and the bandits are Fulani and so it is this thing they now twisted to be Fulanization and Islamization today.They also came up with restructuring, then Islamization and Fulanization. Anytime there was a move towards capturing a corrupt person, he uses and deploys his power to mobilise Nigerians against the ruling government. I am talking specifically about Obasanjo and T.Y. Danjuma. They know what they are doing, they know what they have been enjoying and this man came and said no, we should stop looting and if he had allowed the looting which they expected to have continued we wouldn’t have gotten out of this recession.
So, he saved Nigeria, he stopped corruption at the most critical high level, but it is not possible for him to stop the general corruption. And this is the main issue. You are holding them almost by their jugular but the ignorance that pervades the whole nation would not let us know what Buhari was doing. Buhari was offending them by the day, he was stepping on their shoes and toes by the day. Unfortunately for all of us, he is not the talking type.
He is not going to talk or tell you what he is doing but they know what he is doing. So he has stopped them from draining the country and they are reacting. This is terrorism. What is happening is nothing but terrorism. But it would fizzle out. So, we have not had it as good as expected and we couldn’t.
Are you saying the alleged Islamization agenda is not real?
They know it is not true to islamize or fulanize Nigeria. What is Islamization? Is it possible? Why didn’t Nigerians refer to the control of the economy by the Igbo everywhere in Nigeria Igbonization of christianization of Nigeria. An average Igbo is a Christian and there is no space on Nigerian soil that you won’t find Igbos. And there is no market they are not controlling. They sell everything that the Hausa man sell. They have captured the spare parts market and nobody can enter. If you try it you will be liquidated. You cannot get a shop in Aba, Enugu, Onitsha, and you cannot get a choice shop where the Igbos have formed a cartel anywhere in Nigeria. Is that not more dangerous than the itinerant Fulani who lives in the bush? That is their life and they have lived like that for more than a hundred years before Nigeria.
Why has it become a political issue now? This is to use it to bring down somebody that is attacking them frontally from the point where they were destroying this nation. You can hear them making noise all the time. IPOB, Avengers, South South, South East failed when they wanted to bring this government down. What they did was more than terrorism. Now South West is now taking it up.
But this is very dangerous. It is dangerous because in the calculation it should be the turn of the south west. If the south west elect to be in opposition now they are destroying their chance now. They are taking a risk of loosing the chance of the presidency coming back to the south west in 2023. And it won’t go to the south east. So what they are doing is a familiar thing. They want negotiation. The south west is saying we don’t want you but what they mean is we want the presidency.
And they are saying that if you allow us to align with the south south and south east we could secede and Nigeria would no longer remain. We would seek independence after all IPOB sought independence and they failed. They now feel that if the Yoruba really say something and they mean it there could be problem.
What is your take on the clamour for state police as a means of curbing the spate of insecurity in the polity?
State police is a good idea. But what is basically missing in our polity due to our ignorance is that insecurity is not the business of the federal government. The chief security officer in the state is the Governor. And if there is insecurity in any state what the Governor needs to do is to command and order the state commissioner of police to take action. So if the state governors cannot control the commissioners of police in their states and the commissioners of police in their states cannot control the DPOs, and the local government chairmen are not aware of the ungoverned part of their states, how did it become the fault of the federal government?
So I believe the state police is good but the solution is declaring a state of emergency. Wherever there is incessant insecurity, the president should just declare a state of emergency. When that happens the Governor would go. A soldier would be appointed. Nobody would dare a soldier. Then in three months the soldier would stop the nonsense. The civilians lack capacity to stop insecurity whereas the primary essence of governance is security. But where the civilian governor is benefitting from insecurity, he would keep demanding for security votes don’t you think that such thieves would fuel the security challenge? Are we not sure some of these governors and local government chairmen are not gaining from it? Are they not beneficiaries of these millions some of these bandits collect as ransom? Why should there be any portion of a state that should be ungoverned? Kidnapping thrives in places where there are no government presence.
So it is hypocrisy to blame insecurity on the federal government. So when we have a state police it is going to be easy for the community to know the accomplices of the criminals. I have been a victim. My brothers have been kidnapped before. Five of them on different occasions. And unfortunately, all the kidnappers are Muslims. And my brothers are also Muslims. So what are they talking about? The Muslims are the greatest victims from the South West to the North West
I don’t know of other places but the kidnappings did not start from the north, it did not start from the South West and it is not solely by Fulanis. It started from the South South and South East. Why are we turning the table? We are turning the table because we must use it as a point of argument against this government to declare it as a failure. And to make people fear and to make people lose hope. And to make people rise against the government.
Is there any hope in the Next Level agenda of the Buhari-led administration?
Yes on the face of it! If we look back at the last four years I will personally say there is no hope if President Buhari will continue the way it was in the last four years. But looking at the Buhari that I personally know he needed the second term and that was why he probably played it down; he didn’t reveal who he is. But something played out in the last election the generality of the people rejected money and voted integrity. If it was just natural, ordinarily with the backing of the most powerful elements among the elite behind Atiku, he should have won the election hands down. But the way the election turned out only the places where the elite were went for Atiku. So Buhari lost the elite, but it seems that the non-elite are in the majority and he won the election. From my personal experience, there is a particular state in the North that had to do a governorship rerun election. The people were told that the rerun was to authenticate Buhari’s election. So, it was the name of Buhari that won the 2019 election. It became clear that APC had no hand in his success. It became clear therefore that Buhari has a free hand since he is not seeking third term.
It is very imperative for him to make fresh, non-partisan, non-emotive appointments. He should look for people who have the courage, the integrity to run his government for him. If he allows pressure from his people this time around from his party to appoint miscreants, looters, Nigeria may not survive because if this country would continue like this, the President would look away from petty corruption and when you put three four five petty corruption together it would add up to a major corruption. The corrupt elements in the country are organised, they have the control of the Press. Buhari is stingy and he doesn’t have strategic media handlers and he does not do the talking himself. But he needs action.
He needs vibrant young intelligent people and not politicians. An average politician would go there and look for money to contest election. There are few people in this country who know the value of service and have integrity. If he can look for them and they can offer to work for him, they can handle strategic sectors especially education, health, power and security the sky is the limit for Buhari’s success.
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