By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Senator Femi Okurounmu, a die-hard awoist, is a notable leader of thought in the South-west. In this interview, he insists that the senate has the final say on the appointment of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, adding that the president may be impeached, if he pushes his demand on the matter beyond his constitutional limit
Following the recent Ife crisis involving Yoruba and Hausa/ Fulani, the Afenifere accused the Inspector-General of Police of parading only the Yoruba as prime suspects in the clash. And he replied them by saying that crime does not know colour or tribe. How would you react to this?
The IG was talking rubbish. It is only when they want to be oppressive that they tell you all these beautiful things like crime does not know colour or tribe. But when Fulani are committing crime, at that time, crime will know tribe or colour. Whatever Fulani do, they go scot-free. The Fulani have become law onto themselves, killing and maiming people throughout the country, while the police do nothing. It is only when the people who are the victims of the Fulani attacks react that the police will swing into action and begin to tell us all this nonsense. When the Fulani are the aggressors, the IG doesn’t see them as committing crime. If you look at the killings, is it not the Fulani who have been doing the killings? It is not Yoruba who are doing the killings; it is not the Igbo who are doing the killings. Most of the times, it is the Fulani who are doing the killings. And they do it with impunity. That is why we are saying: ‘Let us restructure.’ We cannot subject ourselves to Fulani imperialism. What we have now is a resurgence of Fulani imperialism. And unless Nigerians stand up and say no, unless we stand up to resist it, it will continue. It is time for Nigerians to stand up and say no to Fulani imperialism.
What is the implication for the unity of the country, if an important institution as police is seen to be a partisan party in a crisis like this?
They are supposed to be neutral body, but they are not. The conduct of the police is a reflection of the kind of leadership we have. Ever since Buhari became the president, he has been governing the country as if he is the president of the Fulani. We started complaining from the time he made his key appointments. All security-related appointments were mostly from the North-west. If you look at the security apparatus of the state, they are mostly Fulani. That is why the Fulani have the kind of impunity they have to kill people anyhow and get away with it. When a president is that partial in appointing people to security positions, then you should expect this kind of behaviour. And that is why we are crying for restructuring. We must decentralize; we must reduce the power at the centre.
Despite the Senate’s rejection of Ibrahim Magu as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), President Muhammadu Buhari is still insisting on his appointment. Between the president and the Senate, who is on the right track on this matter?
There is separation of power between the executive and the legislature. The power of the executive in this case is to nominate. It is the power of the legislature to confirm or not to confirm. Once the Senate declines confirmation, that is the end. The Senate has the last and final say. That is what our constitution says. The president cannot appoint a man to a position, if the Senate says no.
But some legal experts say he can continue to be in acting capacity for as long as the president wants. Is there any crime in that?
There are two issues involved here. If the Senate rejects him and the president allows him to act, that is an impeachable offence. If our legislature is up to the task, if our lawmakers know their rights and they are men of honour, that is enough to impeach the president. Even American president cannot do that against the wish of the people. Once the president nominates and the Senate refuses to confirm, that is the end of the matter. If the president insists that he must continue to act, the president himself can be removed. The president is insisting on his appointment because he has his own agenda. And it is not for the president to come and implement a personal agenda. The president is not a dictator, he is not an autocrat. He was elected by the people. He is a constitutional president. As a constitutional president, there are constitutional limits to his powers. And if he exceeds those constitutional limits, he should be removed.
You mean the constitution stipulates that once a nominee of the president is rejected by the Senate, there can be no further action?
There can be no further action once the Senate rejects a nominee. That is what the constitution says. The president has no powers beyond that.
How would you also situate the controversy between the Senate and the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col Hameed Ali (retd), vis-a-vis the revelation of some underhand dealings involving some senators? Are they trying to be vindictive in their approach to the issue or they are doing their normal oversight functions?
My reaction to that is that we are being governed by gangsters. There are gangsters in the legislature; there are gangsters in the executive, there are gangsters in the customs. All over, we are being governed by gangsters. It is a case of the pot and the kettle chasing each other. None of them has clean hands. They are all terrible characters. Sometimes they tend to be vindictive on one another because they are all committing crimes.
You spoke about restructuring which the authority at the centre is not favourably disposed to. Other than restructuring, is there any other way out for the current situation in the country?
We should stop being lethargic, we should stand up for our rights. Who are the people at the centre? Those who don’t want restructuring are the oppressors. They don’t want restructuring because everything is in their favour. They are trying to impose their wish on the rest of the country. And because the rest of us are very timid and lethargic, we just talk and we don’t do anything, they hold the rest of us down. If we insist on our rights, they will succumb because we are in the majority. The moment the rest of Nigerians stand up and say no, enough of this, they will find out that they cannot have their way anymore. Nigeria must restructure.
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State recently pleaded with the Federal Government to release Nnamdi Kanu in the spirit of reconciliation. Is there any justification for his continued detention?
What is his offence in the first place? What did he do that is treasonable? He is agitating for a state of Biafra. And agitation for self determination is not a criminal offence. Minority people all over the world are agitating for self determination. The Scottish people in the United Kingdom are agitating for self determination. So, he has not committed any criminal offence as to deserve being locked up. He is just being unjustly treated by the government. If the people of Biafra want a state of their own, it is their right to do so. If the Yoruba want Oodua Republic and they agitate for it, it is their right to do so. If the people in the South-South want self determination and they are fighting for it, it is their right to do so. It is a question of right of self determination. If these people are not satisfied with the union, they have the right to go their different ways. Czechoslovakia did so.
Are you saying that without restructuring, the inevitable may happen?
The breakup may happen and that will be better for all of us. If a particular section of the country does not allow other people to develop, is it not better to go our different ways? If we go our separate ways, we won’t be killing one another. And we will develop at our own pace. Isn’t that better than having the Fulani killing us?
Would you say the South-west and those who made the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last election possible have got what they bargained for?
South-west was misled to vote for the APC in the last election. And some of us said so. During campaigns, we told them not to vote for APC, but they didn’t listen. The events have proved us right. Many of them who voted for APC are now regretting. Events have shown that South-west made a mistake by voting for APC. Even those who led them are also regretting.
What does the future of politics in the region look like?
The South-west always stands for justice, equity and fairness for all Nigerians. If we are able to have a system that ensures justice and fairness, there will be one Nigeria. And that is why we are asking for restructuring. We had regions in the First Republic and the regions were free to develop at their own pace. That is the kind of thing we should go back to. That is what is called federalism. Federalism means you allow each region to develop at its own pace.
A lot has been said about the lawmakers in the National Assembly. What is the way to ensure that credible people are elected to represent the people in future elections?
Nigeria has now got to a stage where it is impossible to find such people. The system we have been operating in the last two decades has corrupted the whole society. The society is now so corrupted that even young boys are aspiring to go to the National Assembly to steal. Young people are now willing to go into government just to steal because they see our leaders stealing. Until we have a reorientation of the entire society, we will not get any credible people in government. What we need now is a leader that will reorientate the society. Right now, we have lost all sense of value. There are no values in Nigeria any more. The values have been corroded, corrupted and bastardised. The only thing people understand now is to steal and acquire wealth by all means possible. They think the fastest way to achieve this is to go into politics. Look at what happened when James Ibori returned from London prison. His people went to welcome him with drums as if they saw a national hero.
What is the way to make politics to be less lucrative?
That is why I said we need a reorientation. We need a reorientation of the society. If Buhari had lived up to expectation the way we thought he would fight it, maybe he would have gone a long way to do that. But he is not fighting corruption the way we thought he would do it. Corrupt people are still enjoying their money. They took some money from them and they are now enjoying the rest. A lot of people are still stealing today. They are stealing in the National Assembly, they are stealing in the executive, they are stealing in the judiciary. They are stealing everywhere and nothing is happening to them.
But the president has said it time and again that judiciary is like a clog in the wheel of progress. Don’t you view the conduct of some judges to be less desirable?
Then, he should so something. What has he done about it? Let him jail the judges who are found to be corrupt.
The same Nigerians shouted when the DSS arrested some judges, and accused the government of impunity. Won’t they also shout, if the government decides to act the way you said?
A leader that wants to change the society will not listen to what people are saying. He will do what he believes to be right. Let them shout, as long as you know that this man is corrupt, let him go to jail. Justice demands that if people steal money, they should go to jail.