From Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Chief Alani Bankole is the father of the former Speaker of the House of Reps, Dimeji Bankole. He is presently the Board of Trustees, BoT, chairman of the Action Democratic Party (ADP). In this interview, the erstwhile national chairman of the defunct All Peoples Party, APP, opens up why ADP places age limit on aspirants in the party and other national issues.
You are always seen as being aligned with the north when it comes to politics, could that again be responsible for your choice as the BoT chairman of ADP, that seems to be another northern party?
This party is not a northern party, it was established by just six persons, and coincidentally three among them are from the northern part, while the other three are from the southern part of the country. As at today, the strength of the party from the north and south are similarly equivalent. Meanwhile, I have not joined a northern party; I have always got involved in a party that is all inclusive. I did not choose myself as the BoT chairman of the ADP but when our chairman announced me, probably we could have easily deduced the reason for my emergence when he highlighted some attributes like exposure, knowledge, age and maturity.
Your party announced that anybody above 60-65 years has no business in politics. What is the reason for this or has it got anything to do with our present predicament?
Not at all, it has nothing to do with the health status of Mr. President, I did not say they have no business in politics, what I said was that they have no business leading government or political affairs of this country for the following reasons: If you look at most advanced and most progressive countries in the world, you will find out that most of those that have been leading them in the last 20 years are between the ages of 40 and 50. And they led successfully. Secondly, I have had opportunity to work with about ten Heads of state, and I have since found out that the younger ones performed beyond expectations unlike the aged politicians.
Shagari became the President at the age of 55, Gowon 33, Obasanjo 41, Babangida 42, Buhari came in at age 39 and available records have it that they all performed excellently. Obasanjo came the second time at age 62 where he worked for an average of 18 hours in a day; I know this because I was very close to him. I would leave his house around 2a.m and get back to his house around 7a.m; I would still meet him working. In other words anyone who will become a President must have both mental and physical strength. I have the opportunity of becoming the national chairman of APP in year 2000 at age 59. I still recollect how I did suffer from insomnia until 2a.m before I could be able to get some sleep. But as of today, it has become unbearable for me.
Again, we have indulged in recycling the same set of people and we have not thoroughly achieved anything as a nation. Obasanjo became the Head of state at 41 and only to be brought back again in 1999, 20 years later.
Today, most of our senators were once governor, senator, House of reps members, at what age? But when you look at most successful private organisations you will find out that they are being managed by young people. In fact, Awolowo became the premier of western region at barely 30 years old. But all these young people who have been successful while ruling are known to be surrounded by the older ones who do play the advisory role.
When Awolowo was the Head of government in the western region, the likes of Dr. Majas, Dr. Doherty and the likes served as advisers to him. But if a person between the age 60 and 70 becomes a President, who will advise him? If the younger ones should advise him that is when they will count it as an insult to his or her office, but our party believes that, if the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, then they should be given the chance now.
Today our problem is bad leadership, and our idea is to introduce new faces that will ameliorate all the mistakes caused within the spate of the last 16 to 18 years. We want to stop recycling the same set of people. In essence, Action Democratic Party was formed to introduce the youth into politics.
Do you think the political structure of this country viz-a-viz the huge money involved can be afforded by the youth?
Whether you like it or not, Babangida’s political programme was one of the best until the annulment. He introduced the two party system and the option A4, where it was impossible for you to bribe everybody who is going to line up behind the candidates. But when they brought in this delegate system where delegates are bribed with millions of naira and even thousands of dollars at national conventions, it puts politics into absurdity. This bribery will render some youths useless due to financial incapacitation. But we have introduced a way that will encourage the youths to get involved in politics by making our membership card available at the rate of N250, while N100 would be contributed every month for effectiveness to be recorded. That is the philosophy behind our party.
Also, ADP believes that the Nigerian venture as it is today is being run at a loss. How can you be spending only 30percent of your resources on developmental project that affect about 70percent of the population, while you spend 70percent of your resources on recurrent expenditure which constitutes less than 10percent of the population? Any government who spends anything less than 60percent on developmental projects cannot lead us to anywhere in this country.
We spend so much money to run our government and we have no business to do so. If our party is elected into the office, we would propose a parliamentary or semi-parliamentary system, though this might be cumbersome as it would require constitution amendment, to reduce the cost of running government.
People have advocated that once we introduce fiscal federalism, more funds would be available to the state governors to run their states. What is your take on this?
Introduction of fiscal federalism will solve the problem of too extended government at the center, too small government at the state and the local government. But these will create another problem because the people at the state and local government levels are not mature enough to manage such funds due to mismanagement. If they can’t manage the small fund in their possession now, how will they be able to manage the fund that will be allocated to them under fiscal federalism? We in ADP are going to run an all inclusive government by the people because nobody can be appointed unless he or she is ratified by the local government party exco.
We have to remove the possibility of individual being too strong for their people. There must be checks and balances. We did it in NPN and it was very successful, we tried to do it in PDP when we started but Obasanjo scuttled it by taking over the structure of the party and the government. He further encouraged the governors in their states to become autocratic leaders in their states. And as a result, nobody could question their authority both at the federal and state level, except under the late Yar’Adua’s government.
When Obasanjo started it, I warned them on OGTV on the 21st of November 2005 in Abeokuta here that, PDP would eventually collapse because of Obasanjo’s totalitarian way of handling the party at the federal level which would serve as an example for other states being ruled by the party. Whenever there are no checks and balances, the end is chaos and after that it is destruction.
When the people at the local government have to approve the appointment of the commissioners, then, the governors will have no other option than to do things that will satisfy the people at the grassroots, whereas if we allow the governors to appoint willingly, they will just be there to please their selfish interest. For instance in Ogun state today, what we have is the government of roads and bridges at the capital and that is why people are lamenting of scarcity of funds.
When UPN came in 1979, they introduced four cardinal point of governance – health services, education, rural development and agriculture. You will see that there were activities at the local government even till Gbenga Daniel’s administration because works were in progress even at the rural areas, and of which most works were handled by the local contractors.
However, today, the available funds in the state are being used to build gigantic edifices to the advantage of the foreign contractors who took money to their own countries at the detriment of Ogun indigenes. Even when they employ local labours here, they only get paid 1/3 of their wages which wouldn’t have been so if the job was awarded to our own local contractors.
Nigerians are calling for the implementation of the 2014 Confab report, especially the restructuring aspect. What is your view on this?
I don’t want to talk about the Confab.
Because who conveyed it? Why was it conveyed? Who were the members of the Confab? What qualified them? Were they the true representatives of their people? And again, we have an existing House of Reps and Senate, who then went ahead to choose some people? It was a highest level of impunity and it was on that basis that the delegates were chosen. I do not believe in a noise making Confab but I want a referendum, let the people make their choice. You can’t imagine that some of the people in that Confab cannot win an election in the polling unit in front of their house. Our problem in this country is about the kind of government we run and not about ethnicity. When I was growing up, our people were not concerned about your ethic group but only interested in your behaviour. Let us take party from individuals and give it to the people. Until we can hold government responsible and accountable, that is when we can make progress in this country. We shouldn’t be talking of restructuring now but let’s take power from the hands of the powerful ones and let’s give it to the masses. We should not continue to look at those stealing our money and do nothing. If we want peace we must prepare for war.