From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Prince Ademola Ayoade is an associate of ex-military president of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB), former governorship candidate of the National Democratic Party (NDP) in Oyo State. In this interview with OLUSEYE OJO in Ibadan, asserted that only four Nigerians actually planned and prepared to govern the country, but only two IBB and Gen Murtala Mohammed (retd) had the opportunity to rule. The other two, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief MKO Abiola, never had the opportunity. He also insisted that the legacies left behind by IBB still exist till date.
If you take a cursory look at those that have ruled Nigeria from 1960 till date, how many of them would you categorically say actually planned to rule the country with the picture of how he wants the country to be in their agenda?
Most of those that found themselves at the helms of affairs in this country did not plan to rule the country.
So far in Nigeria, only four persons actually planned to rule the country, but only two among them got there. Those who did not get there were Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief MKO Abiola. They planned and prepared, but they did not get there.
Gen Murtala Mohammed was the first among the two to get there to rule Nigeria. The second person is Gen Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (retd). Murtala planned, prepared and he got there. Unfortunately, his regime was cut short barely after six months.
Babangida really planned to rule Nigeria. If you saw him the day he took over the reins of government, his appearance showed that he was ready to work. He dressed like a soldier going to war front. On that day, he announced his official position as Military President, not Military Head of State. He understands the meaning of president in democracy.
If you listened to his maiden speech and you analyse his regime, you will discover that everything that was in his speech was what he did during his regime. But his regime had to come to an end because of an inconclusive election.
Babangida did his best. What he did then are still in vogue today, either in different names. None of the initiatives of Babangida was not put into practice by successive governments after him, except one. The one that is not put into use is the political engineering, which is the two-party system. If the two-party system had been allowed, Nigeria would have been a better place.
Babangida started privatisation and liberalisation of economy in Nigeria. When former president Olusegun Obasanjo came back in 1999, he expanded on the privatisation and liberalisation polices of Ibrahim Babangida. IBB also assembled best brains in the country to work in his government. This showed that he had identified them before he assumed power.
Every minister appointed by Babangida was put in his area of specialisation, and they performed extremely well. His government started MAMSER, which focused on mobilisation of people to believe in Nigeria and to do the right thing. He started rural development programmes. He did DIFFRI. He brought in Peoples Bank, Agriculture Bank, NERFUND and industrialisation.
Babangida built and moved the Federal Capital to Abuja from Lagos. The Abuja idea came during Murtala/Obasanjo regime. But there was no development until IBB came.
I grew up to know about two bridges in Lagos – the Carter Bridge and Eko Bridge. The Carter Bridge was built before I was born, which means it is about 70 years. The Eko Bridge was built by General Yakubu Gowon during the oil boom. At that time, the traffic situation in Lagos was terrible. The situation led to development of traffic management strategy in Lagos, which was ‘even and odd numbers.’ It was to reduce the traffic tension in Lagos.
When Babangida came to power, he constructed the Third Mainland Bridge. Then, the traffic tension in Lagos fizzled away. He planned to construct the Fourth Mainland Bridge, but he could not before he left power in 1993. Since then, Fourth Mainland Bridge has not been constructed. He also brought boreholes to the country, which help in eradicating guinea worm.
If IBB did all these, why are people saying he legalised bribery and corruption in Nigeria?
Those saying he legalised corruption are not economically intelligent. If they are, they would know that in a competitive economy, there must be an incentive to outsmart your competitors. For instance, each of the telecommunication companies in the country will give you one incentive or the other to use their line; that is bribery. They will even do promo or bonanza. So, people should stop criticising Babangida that he legalised corruption. The Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) he introduced did not bring corruption, but belt-tightening.
Is it feasible for Nigeria to return to a two-party system?
Two-party system is the best for this country if we are serious about developing democratically and have a good government. It was only Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that was a party from 1999 till about three years ago. We got to where we are today due to the political engineering that brought up a mega party. Many parties came together to form All Progressives Congress (APC). By the time APC was formed, it became clear that we have two parties – PDP and APC.
The advantage we are going to have with two-party system is that cross-carpeting will be limited. Politics will be played based on ideologies and association. We must realise that multi-party system will lead us to a situation whereby the strongest party will become a dictator. Let us consider what PDP did when it was the strongest party in the country and what APC is doing now. You will see tendencies for dictatorship about the two parties.
With the way things are in Nigeria presently, how can we make things better in the country?
The best way to make it better is for Nigerians to think of tomorrow and the future of their unborn children. We need to vote for people who have plans for Nigeria. What we need is someone, who really thinks about this country. It is good to fight corruption, but selective fighting of corruption is bad.
There are good people in the country that can make meaningful impact. But the system of Nigeria places to much premium on certificates and financial status. Good people that are certificated don’t have money to contest an election and win.
Again, we need to change our political system. This presidential system is too costly for the country. We need to go back to parliamentary system, though it may be a modified parliamentary system. If we don’t want to return to parliamentary system, and we still prefer this presidential system, then the legislative work at the National Assembly and houses of assembly should be made part-time. The part-time lawmakers should be paid sitting allowance.
We don’t need to buy cars, rent houses, give money to buy dresses for lawmakers. They should probably be paid N50,000 per sitting. If the National Assembly and houses of assembly are less lucrative, people who really want to serve the country will have opportunity to get there. But many in the positions of authority now are just serving themselves, not the country. We need two-party system to move forward.
With your modified parliamentary system, are you not envisaging leadership crisis?
Oyo State will still exist, but it will be a province under Western Region. In the same manner, other states in the South West will become provinces under the Western Region. There will not be problem of leadership for the region.
The way parliamentary system works is that everyone that will go to parliament must contest the election in his own province. All elected will meet at the regional parliament. The Western Nigeria Parliament will send representatives to the national parliament. Ministers will be appointed from the parliament. Also, commissioners will be appointed from the parliament. Such ministers and commissioners will only receive salaries as parliamentarians, though they may get allowances as ministers. But you are not getting double money. This will reduce the cost of governance. It will also check a situation where by a politician will identify with you during campaign and would see you as nonentity after winning an election.
Coming to Oyo State, what advice do you have for Governor Abiola Ajimobi on the Paris Club funds and the bond secured by the state?
I have a lot of respect for Governor Ajimobi. He is my friend and brother. Sincerely, since he took over the mantle of leadership of the state, he has tried his best in improving the state. He is very intelligent. Looking at his background, he came from business circle and in business, you make use of people to work for you and when you get results, you make profits. But when people work for you and you don’t pay them, what do you think will happen? It is their productivity that will dwindle.
I am using this opportunity to beg Ajimobi to use the entire Paris Club Funds to the state to pay outstanding salaries of workers and pensioners. We don’t need any capital development now, we need stomach development. Workers are hungry and many if them cannot send their children to school any longer because they are not getting their salaries.
If the governor should pay all the backlog of outstanding salaries, he is developing the economy of the state. A lot of workers and pensioners are in debt. Why does he want to put us in bondage? He wants to borrow money to develop the state by constructing and expanding roads. You are making roads that are not useful. They should stop the bond. It is not good. You are mortgaging the lives of our unborn children.
Is there any rationale to use the entire funds to pay salaries and pensions? What about other critical sectors?
Let them pay the workers all the arrears of salaries the state owes. The remaining money should then be used for physical development. I am becoming uncomfortable with the government of APC. All the states being controlled by APC, except Lagos, owe salaries. I am begging him in the name of God Almighty, to use the funds to pay all outstanding salaries and pension. He should clear all at once.