Renowned anti-corruption crusader, Maj.-Gen. Ola Ishola-Williams has said that the 2019 general elections would be very tough for President Muhammadu Buhari. In this interview with TUNDE THOMAS, he spoke on various national issues.
Few days after the resignation of former Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun over fake NYSC exemption certificate saga, news emerged that the minister for Communications, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu also evaded the mandatory one-year NYSC programme after his graduation from the university over three decades ago, and since then, some Nigerians have been calling for his resignation, what’s your take on that?
It is a shame that Shittu is still in Buhari’s cabinet. After the discovery that the Minister didn’t take part in the NYSC programme, there is no justification for him to remain in the cabinet again. It is not only dishonourable but also a big shame that Adebayo Shittu is still in Buhari’s government.
Shittu’s continued stay in Buhari’s cabinet is a big stain on Buhari’s government. If he refuses to voluntarily resign, Buhari should sack Shittu. Buhari should tell him to go. Adebayo should be ashamed of himself. He is a very dishonest person. He doesn’t have conscience. If he has morals, since he knew right from day one that he evaded NYSC programme or that he didn’t do it willingly, then he shouldn’t have sought any public office or appointment.
Imagine what an insult, this is a person that is even aspiring to be governor of Oyo State; it’s good he has been disqualified, otherwise that would have been a big blunder on the part of APC. It is a big setback for this country that men of honour are no longer in politics. Shittu should not be allowed to remain in the cabinet, pressure should be mounted on him to go if Buhari in his usual style refuse to fire him.
The Adeosun, and Shittu saga have resulted in a controversy among Nigerians over the clearing and screening of would-be public office holders by the nation’s security agencies especially the DSS and the police with some saying that the security agencies should be asked questions on how they cleared the two ministers without detecting the flaws in their CVs, how do you react to that?
What has been revealed to the larger world, and the Nigerian public through this Adeosun and Shittu saga is that our security agencies, especially the DSS, and the Police don’t do their work thoroughly. It means that those who do check on nominees for public office positions don’t do their job thoroughly. If it were to be in other climes, those people that are in charge of security agencies that cleared these two would have been fired.
Again, the problem is not only with the security agencies, the National Assembly is also involved. Our lawmakers also don’t do any thorough screening before they clear nominees. It is unfortunate that our security agencies and the National Assembly members don’t understand the importance of checks.
Sincerely speaking, if Buhari refuses to sack Shittu, it will be a big stain on his government. If it were to be in another country, the Director-General of DSS would have resigned or be fired because what happened in Shittu and Adeosun’s case are a clear indictment of the security outfit.
How would you score the Buhari’s administration on the war against corruption?
Is Buhari fighting any war against corruption? No. Buhari can’t do anything about corruption. Buhari is not fighting corruption. They are just deceiving Nigerians.
Even if Buhari wants to fight corruption, he can’t because he is surrounded by corrupt elements.
Again, anybody that wants to fight corruption must have a clean record. Does Buhari have a clean record? No. When he was chairman of the defunct PTF, there was a lot of corruption going on around him with some people close to him being linked with corruption, was he able to do anything then? No.
What about the case of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal who was removed from office over corruption, this man who is supposed to have been prosecuted is still roaming the streets free because he is close to Buhari.
What about the case of Rasheed Maina who was involved in billions of naira pensioners fund scam, has the man been brought to justice? No. There are several other instances. Even the ADC to the First Lady, Aisha Buhari is being investigated over a reported N2.5 billion fraud. This is why I say Buhari is not fighting corruption. Even if he wants to fight corruption, he can’t especially when those close to him are involved. Any leader that wants to fight corruption will go the whole hog not minding whose ox is gored.
Look at the cases of Korea and Brazil where former presidents have been sent to jail over corruption, can that one happen in Nigeria? Why can’t Buhari put any of our past leaders who have been accused of corruption on trial? Again, Buhari has not got the energy and strategy to fight corruption.
On the lingering Boko Haram insurgency, what do you think is the solution, why has the insurgency been lingering for a long time?
It is sad and also very unfortunate that the Federal Government has continued to give impression that it is handling the insurgency or taming it; Boko Haram has become daring and more deadly. Two posers must be raised before one can provide an answer as to how to tame Boko Haram. First, who is funding the insurgency? How do the insurgents get money? Who is financing them and who is providing them logistics?
What we must realise is that we can only defeat Boko Haram on three conditions, and these are that we must have an intelligence system that is working very well, and not only that soldiers that are being trained to fight the insurgents must be given proper training. Our armed forces must also use the right tactics for us to defeat Boko Haram.
It is also sad that the Army is being distracted. It is unfortunate that soldiers are being drafted to duties where they have no business. What’s the Army’s business with armed robbery, kidnapping and cultism? Instead of dragging soldiers to contain some of these crimes, what government should have done is to form a police commando unit. This is one of the reasons why I have been saying that Buhari’s government lacks strategic thinkers. It is the same with the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC leadership; they also lack strategic thinkers.
Why do you say NLC leadership lacks strategic thinkers?
If they (NLC) have strategic thinkers, they will not be demanding for wage increment which they are asking for. If these labour leaders have strategic thinkers they would know or think whether it is feasible for this present government to pay N56,000 minimum wage they are demanding.
As of today, when the minimum wage is N18,000, many state governments can’t still pay it. Many states are owing their workers backlog of salary arrears running into months on the N18,000 minimum wage scale. Now, the labour leaders are demanding N56,000 minimum wage; does that make sense? What are they saying? They should be realistic. A government that can’t pay N18,000 minimum wage. Where do these labour leaders expect the same government to pay the new N56,000 minimum wage they are demanding.
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One doesn’t need to be an economist to know what some of these things are not realistic. Assuming government agrees to pay the new minimum wage, it means that funds have to be sourced somewhere, and that will lead to borrowing, and we all know the implication of borrowing. Let me say this; the day government agrees to wage increase demand and start implementing, it will be the beginning of fresh trouble for the nation, and our economy. Inflation will go up, and there will also be other spiraling effects. I don’t know the economist who is advising the NLC leaders on this wage increment issue, they are just not being realistic at all.
It’s few months to the 2019 general elections, but there has been a lot of anxiety and tension, what are your fears about 2019?
I harbour no fear or anxiety about 2019. It will come and pass away like any other year. Elections will also take place, and life will continue. Even when Obasanjo as President then threatened that the election then would be a do-or-die affair, did heaven fall? No. We are waiting for 2019 while the different political parties are now picking their candidates.
How do you see the political parties faring in 2019?
Nobody can predict that now. Nobody can say what will happen in 2019 but one thing I can say for sure is that it is not going to be easy for APC in the South West, South East and the North Central geo-political zones. It will also be difficult to rig elections. With the advance of technology, and presence of all political parties’ representatives at the polling units, it will be difficult for INEC to compromise. Like I said earlier, with modern technology, it will be very difficult to rig elections.
The issue of whether President Buhari should go for a second term or not has been controversial, even though APC as political party has cleared him to run for a second term, what’s your take on this?
It is better for Nigeria that Buhari should not run for a second term. As an individual, he may not be corrupt, but as a leader, he has failed.
If Buhari is sincere and honest to himself, he should do a kind of self-assessment of himself, and his intellectual capacity to govern; he will discover that he doesn’t have the capacity, and the courage to lead this nation. Those urging Buhari to run for a second term are doing so for selfish reasons. It is not that they love Buhari, but they only want to protect their own interests; they want to protect their own interests that are secured as long as Buhari remains in office as President. It is not that these pro-Buhari elements love Nigerians.
One of the areas where Buhari has demonstrated that he lacks the courage of a bold leader is his failure to restructure Nigeria. There is no way Nigeria can continue like this as a nation without restructuring. Without restructuring, it is just a matter of time before Nigeria becomes a failed state, and already the signs of a failed state have started manifesting. Nigeria can’t develop without restructuring. Like former President Olusegun Obasanjo who enjoyed all the goodwill to function and perform as a leader but blew away the goodwill and eventually failed, Buhari also blew it.
However, since he has won the nomination of his party to seek a second term, it is left for Nigerians to decide his fate. But left for me, Buhari has nothing to offer again. He should step down on completion of his first term, and go back to Daura in the overall interest of Nigeria. Restructuring is vital to the restoration of Nigeria as a nation. Nigeria was virile, stronger, and development was faster in the First Republic when Nigeria was practising true federalism, especially fiscal federalism.
But today, what we are practising is more or less a unitary system of government and it has been dragging us back. What we need is a true and genuine practice of federalism as enshrined and put in place by the nation’s founding fathers. The system was working well for us until the military intervention which led to the collapse of the First Republic. Nigeria will become a healthy, stronger and virile nation with restructuring. Restructuring will eventually result in true practice of federalism.