Prof Tunde Adeniran, served as the chairman of the Directorate for Social Mobilization (MAMSER). He was also Minister of Education, Ambassador of Nigeria to Germany and member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before his defection to Social Democratic Party in 2018 to take over from Chief Olu Falae as the acting National Chairman.
In this exclusive interview with Sunday Sun, he speaks on his worries about Nigeria, why the PDP lost power, anti-corruption fight and the criteria for choosing a Nigerian president that will deliver, among other national issues. Excerpt:
Do you have fears for today’s Nigeria or you are satisfied with its leadership?
For me, there are three areas of concern. Number one has to do with the security situation. The security of the land is the responsibility of every citizen and those in authority, it should not be treated as a partisan issue and everybody ought to be involved right from the community level to the Federal Government and everybody must realize that whatever is not done today we are not going through a movie or video that can be wined back and corrected, in other words, what needs to be done today must be done and done positively too in the interest of the nation and Nigerian citizens so that we can live in peace and there will be meaningful development because without security, without peace there can be no development. The other area that worries me is our education sector, so much is going on now that gives one serious concern. The future of the country, the future of any nation is the youth of that nation and the nature of the educational system. Once the nation is able to get things right in terms of the educational quality and programme and the youths, especially the younger ones are able to have the benefit of education the future is assured. In other words they will know the essence of peace, they will be equipped with sufficient knowledge to know what is right and what is wrong and they will be able to have what will enable them to acquire some skills later, that will keep them gainfully engaged and employed, the is why it is gladdening, the plan of the government to make sure that we have the education to be free and compulsory up to the basic education school level.
What is the basic that you are talking about here?
The first three years of secondary education, in other words, the junior secondary. It is very necessary because education is key to development, the key to peace and everything. Without education, good and quality education we are wasting our time. The third area is mass unemployment and, of course, you have underemployment, which is part of the general malaise. I believe that these things should be tackled with urgency. But also worrisome is the mass of unemployed that some of them are unemployable, I believe that we should have a holistic look in such a way that when people go to school they do not expect to come out and be waiting on government to provide them jobs, government can only employ a small percentage from those who desire to be employed, it is the private sector and particularly individual initiatives to get quite a number of people gainfully engaged. It is my belief that we have to re-orient our people, particularly our youths and students that look, in school be thinking ahead of what you can do to engage or employ yourself when you are out of school. These again goes beyond the level of the individual, our institutions too must belt up and work harder on their entrepreneurial skills in the various programmes that they are doing. In the area of enterprises to develop the skills of the individuals, that is very important. Then the various private sector operatives, I mean those who operate within the private sector, they are shrinking and not expanding, this should not be so. Right now I believe that the government is creating enabling environment and to ensure that these private sectors are ready to operate, the one thing which I believe ought to be done and to also assist in this regard is to ensure that there is peace in the land, when there is security it will also enhance the opportunities of this private sector operators. And, of course, as I mentioned earlier on the issue of infrastructure, so once there is power, I mean the supply of electricity to power the various machines that will also help them. Then there is a transportation facility to transport their products all over the place. These are very essential.
Nigeria has at various times witnessed security challenge so at what point did it get out of control, so to speak, as we are witnessing it now?
I can take my mind to flash back to when the Boko Haram, a terrible group that it has become today, was coming up and was put under the carpet. I believe that we did not take action on time; no pro-active measures were taken to ensure that they were curtailed at the time they ought to have been curtailed. Now, when you ask what really prompted that group, that phenomenon that has now gone out of hand there is a number of factors and part of which is lack of proper orientation for our young ones otherwise it would have been difficult for them to be indoctrinated to want to work against the nation, work against their own families and people. Secondly, because unemployment is here this enabled some people to now see a means of livelihood or employment in crime and then engaged in a disruptive manner. Again there is also the issue of failure of leadership. When you talk about the various religious leaders, the sect that indoctrinates their people wrongly you get this type of thing we are witnessing today. When you also have leaders who are in some states and in those states they do not take appropriate measures to make sure that such groups do not grow within their confines or territory, it becomes a serious problem. So, there is also the other issue, when you look at the phenomenon, you realize that because of the way the issues have been handled in some cases you can say the media, in some cases you can say the opinion molders’ who could also be through the media or outside of the media because those who have access within this various groups and they are all over the place, in the various villages and towns, of course, there is not a single area where you have major crisis going on now that you will not know how some of the elements that are fomenting the trouble, that are leading those groups and how they got started, but the people were not alert to rise up in time to curtail it and this is why it has spread widely and assumed different dimension in different places. It’s all over, the future is threatened, violence and a lot of destructions going on.
There is this dimension of this insecurity where former President Olusegun Obasanjo is also raising the alarm on efforts to Islamize and Fulanize the country. What is your take on this view?
My view on violence generally is that when you see certain things happening they take different dimension, it is the way they come and by virtue of my background, I see a complex that has parts that make it up and if care is not taken the dimensions that they assume will dictate the way they are interpreted. It could be interpreted along religious line, along ethnic line, along social line, along economic line or along political line, so what government needs to do is to decipher it, face the challenge and handle it not to give room for speculations as to the motive behind it. What is key anywhere, those who are perpetuating the crime, the violence all over the place, most of them do not seem to care where you come from, who you are and so on…they just kidnap you and take you away and until you pay no matter who you are they will not release you and they have been killing people recklessly. In this country today, we have a lot of these things going on in the Southwest, in the Northwest and then you see Boko Haram concentrating more in the Northeast and then you see what is also going on in the Southeast, it’s all over the place in different dimension subject to different interpretation.
You have been a distinguished university lecturer of political science; a politician and an Ambassador, does what is playing out in Nigeria have any implication with the international community?
It has serious implication, but let me mention only three. The first one is that Nigeria is so precious to humanity; Nigeria is so precious to the community of nations, Nigeria is so precious to world history, like to be a greatest disservice to allow things to get out of hand and you now have a country like Nigeria being turned to a huge refugee camp, so the world is watching and waiting and I also believe that Nigerian leaders too are also mindful of it and will take decisive steps to make sure that such thing is halted. The second implication is that it is drawing attention of our leaders to the fact that there are certain basic fundamental issues they need to create that no matter how they avoid it, how they ignore it, it will keep on coming and this issues include the education issue that I referred to earlier on, the man today who is part of the gang, those who are perpetuating criminal act was a young person in the past and so the children who are walking the streets of Onitsha, who are going about in Abeokuta, who are on the streets of Zamfara, in Zaria, in Makurdi, Jos, if care is not taken and you give them proper education the children that go to school in Funtua, in Abuja, in Akure, in Oshogbo, Aba, in Otukpo, they will give them problem in future, so the earlier we settle this education issue the better, so that every Nigerian child must be educated free and compulsory, so that nobody is left to be harvested, to be recruited to criminal gang that later graduate into terrorist gang with time. Another implication is that when you do not take appropriate action now, it will have a spill-over effect on other countries around us and, in fact, the world will be shaken as a result of negligence regarding Nigeria, so that is why we have to take the issue seriously and handle them appropriately. It is not something that has to be done by just one person or one person in leadership, the entire leadership of the Nigerian nation: political leaders, religious leaders, economic leaders, business leaders, etc all over, they all have to play a role to ensure the situation is tackled.
Do you really have regrets that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost power in 2015?
I have no regret simply because the way people handled things, you see, you do not appreciate what you have until you lose it and then when people are warned variously, there is no way when a people delight in impunity not following due process, not doing things the way things should be done and when you have some people who believe that whatever they do they should get away with it, you can see part of the consequences. It’s not that they were not warned at that time, but then when people do not take to rule of law, the fear of God…and some people arrogate themselves to do and undo, the power to make and unmake without regard to procedure or rule of law. You know I decided to leave the PDP majorly because of the impunity and imposition of candidates. I believe that people will have to learn, the leadership of our political parties: the PDP, APC, SDP, NRC and all the other parties it is necessary to bear in mind that they have to be mindful of whatever we do, if we do things right it will yield good results and when you do not do them right there are consequences. And, of course, we know that those who fail to learn from history are bound to repeat it. In other words, we should always look back and learn. I believe that the various leaders in the state with the local government inclusive and the Federal Government will from time to time be examining what was done wrong in the past and try to correct them and put personal interest far behind and put the national interest, the interest of the people over and above any other interest.
Are you really satisfied with the anti-corruption crusade of the President Buhari-led Federal Government?
There is the idea, the motive, the policy; you have to fight corruption, but my position has been that if we are fighting it let us fight it comprehensively and then not to leave any stone unturned. I believe that by the time everybody…it is wide-ranging, it covers everybody regardless of whichever political party you belong to, regardless of whichever religious belief, regardless of whether you are white or black, whether you are Nigerian or foreigner once you are engaged in corrupt practices in this country you have to pay for it because those corruptions are dragging us down in terms of development. So, what one will encourage is to encourage the president to also move it higher to a level which it covers all areas. Political corruption is not the worst form of corruption. There are certain areas, for instance, electoral malpractice, electoral offences, etc, many people do all those things and they get away with it. It should not be so. So, those are what should be born in mind, even if it means setting up a special tribunal so that no area is left out. For now I believe it should be clear that the way some issues have been handled is not the best…the judiciary is very important, when you have the judiciary that is slow by virtue of the enormity of work they have to do…they say justice delayed is justice denied, in other words, those things have to be done on time and again in dealing with court you also need to strengthen the judiciary by getting the right people in the right position so that the work will not be compromised or rendered ineffective.
What is your take on where (the zone) the 2023 Presidency should go to since the North are still insisting it should remain in their zone and the Southeast kicking and claiming it’s their turn?
My take on that is that may God Almighty guide Nigeria to take the right decision; my expectation is that in 2023 the Social Democratic Party (SDP) will produce the next president and the party will decide where it will come from. The question of where it will come from, I have always said that Nigeria must look round and get the very best. There is nowhere you go to in this country where you will not get wonderful material. If you look round you can get a presidential candidate from anywhere so what we need to do is to look widely, it shouldn’t be self-centered or self-seeking, we should consider three criteria: first is, the problem we have in the country today who is that person that can best solve that problem, in other words, preparation, capacity and the ability to deliver. The second criterion is among those who have what is in the first criteria, who among them are those who qualify, by qualification, you now refer to the constitutional provision of the country. Then the third and final one, with the present situation in the country who is that person that will indeed unify the entire country, that people will say, there is fairness, justice, and equity in the project called Nigeria. For me, it is not a zoning issue; it is going for the best that will deliver result.