Former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu, has expressed concern over the worsening security situation in many parts of the country, noting that the calls for restructuring as a way out of the numerous problems presently facing the nation is a good one which should be accorded the attention it deserves.
She also spoke on other national issues.
The inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term is days away, what are your expectations?
I congratulate President Buhari on his re-election, and our prayers is that he will succeed in taking Nigeria to the next level as he promised during his campaign. We also hope that he will be able to fulfil his promise of making Nigeria clean, that’s talking about his anti-corruption campaign.
I believe that once corruption is successfully tackled, the economy of Nigeria will pick up. I believe that it is not that our economy is that bad but too much corruption is stifling the economy on many fronts, and that is why there has been no industrial growth and commerce is not thriving the way it ought to. I’m praying that Buhari will set up committees made up of decent people, people of integrity to oversee and help him expose those things that pose as clog in the wheel of progress of Nigeria’s economy.
Nigeria does not lack policies. We have so many policies, but the question is this, are these policies being implemented? Are they being implemented to give the desired impacts? These are some of the tasks the committee members will be saddled with. These committees can also help the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to monitor policies that are being effected. Once you can curb corruption, there will be a boost in the economy and life will be more meaningful and abundant for Nigerians especially the masses.
Still on corruption, some Nigerians are suggesting that the government may need to adopt radical measure like death penalty to curb corruption in Nigeria, as it is being done in China and some other nations of the world, do you subscribe to such an idea?
If you jail anybody for corruption in Nigeria, the next administration will release that person, and this is what has been happening in Nigeria. But I believe that if some people who are found to be corrupt after thorough investigations are made to face the firing squad or are hanged, this will serve as a deterrent. We need to start making examples. But like I said earlier, thorough investigations must be carried out and the trial must also be fair. It should not be a case of vendetta or persecution. Due process must be followed. If after all these, a person is still found guilty of corruption, then let him or her face the music. There is nothing wrong with death sentence for corrupt elements because through their own acts of corruption, they are also killing some people.
If you are stealing money that is meant to buy drugs and put some vital equipments in place in hospital, through your selfish and unpatriotic action, you are killing some people or if you are diverting money meant for road construction into your personal accounts, you are also killing some people because the bad roads you fail to fix will cause accidents which will result in the death of some people. It is high time we let Nigerians realise that corruption is evil, and that it doesn’t pay. We have to start from somewhere. I’m not one of those who is against death penalty for corruption, but there must be thorough investigation and fair trial. It must be established that the person that is being sentenced to death for corruption has through his action of being corrupt caused the death of others. It should not be a case of somebody being sentenced to death, and then later investigations will reveal that he was wrongfully convicted and meanwhile the man has been executed, it should not be like that. There must be thorough investigation devoid of vendetta or persecution.
But if you cause the death of others through corrupt practices, then you also deserve to die. It should be an eye for eye, tooth for tooth like in mosaic laws. If we can do this, sanity will be restored fast. Corruption is thriving because some corrupt elements believe that they will always get away with a slap on the wrist, but when you introduce death sentence, everybody will fall into line. Nigerians don’t want to die, they love life. The moment you introduce death sentence for corruption, everybody will sit up. But then you will still have people who want to dare it, but when they dare it, then they should go for it. We need death sentence to serve as a deterrent in the fight against corruption.
On the issue of cabinet, Nigerians are saying President Buhari should not delay in putting a team together like happened during his first term when it took him six months before the cabinet was put in place. Do you share that concern too?
I agree with those who are saying that President Buhari should ensure that his cabinet is quickly put in place for the task ahead. In 2015 when he was elected for his first tenure, it took a long time before the cabinet was put in place, and then I began to wonder if there was no think-tank in place to give the president the necessary advice on why it was very important to have cabinet in place as soon as he was inaugurated.
The practice all over the world is that when you are contesting an election, you must have it in mind that you can win, and then by that time you would have started assembling a team that you believe will help you actualise your vision and goals as soon as you are elected. To this end, I will advise President Buhari that when he is assembling the team that will work with him for this second term, everything should be done on the basis of merit and competence. It should not be job for the boys. He should look for highly skilled and qualified people, and people of integrity that can help him turn the economy around. He should look for patriots who will help him actualise his vision and goal of taking Nigeria to the next level.
He should look for people who believe in one Nigeria, and not people whose loyalty to the nation is in doubt. I pray for President Buhari that God will give him the wisdom to assemble the right team that will help him not only to move Nigeria forward but also help him to restore Nigeria’s lost glory. It is not possible to be everywhere, or see everything, so he has to pick the right people that will help him to succeed. If Buhari is able to pick a good team, posterity will record it, and if he doesn’t get it right, posterity will also record it, but my prayer is that the Almighty Allah will give him the wisdom to assemble a cabinet that will make Nigeria proud.
What is the way out of the security challenges confronting the nation, especially the attacks by bandits and kidnappers in many states in the North?
Some people are linking some of these security challenge issue to unemployment, but I believe that when the economy improves some of these things will naturally be resolved. Federal Government should act fast to make the economy work better. But at the same time we should think deeply over some of these things happening. There is no smoke without fire. Federal Government should do more investigations into what is happening. We should not rule out the possibility of a third force also trying to make things a bit difficult for the government. Those in charge of the nation’s security architecture and intelligence should do everything possible to nip in the bud all these vices including kidnappings and banditry. We need to make Nigeria secure and safe for the economy to thrive and also to attract foreign investors.
Some are suggesting that a state police will help the security challenge. What do you think?
State Police is what some also refer to as community policing. There is nothing wrong with it, but it is a double-edged sword. State Police can be turned into instruments of terror against perceived opponents by state governors. State Police is a good idea, but the fear of it being abused by state governors is there. State Police is ideal but the question is this, are we mature to have it in a clime like ours where some state governors behave like emperors?
What is your take on the calls for restructuring?
True practice of federalism is not only ideal but will help Nigeria to attain the desired greatness as it was in the First Republic when each region was thriving and developing without interference by the central or what we call Federal Government today. The regions were autonomous, but what we are practicing today is unitary system which the military bequeathed to us. True practice of federalism is what we should return to. There is no region or geo-political zone that is not endowed with natural resources. There is no reason for any zone to fear. The natural resources are there for them to thrive and excel.
I still remember with nostalgia the era of groundnut pyramid in Kano, cotton, skin and hides in the North. All these were being exported in commercial quantities. The North is also a food basket to the nation through agriculture. In those days, the West was also known for cocoa production, and it was through the export of cocoa that the then Western Region was able to achieve many firsts including building the first TV station in Africa. The then Eastern Region was also known for coal and rubber production. But the discovery of oil and exploitation of oil on a commercial scale made us to abandon all of that. Restructuring is not only ideal for us; it will help us to move forward. It will also help President Buhari to achieve his goal of taking Nigeria to the next level with ease.
Of recent you have been canvassing the setting up of a Truth, Restitution, and Recovery Commission. What is it about?
The commission will help us if it is set up. It should be fashioned after the Truth Reconciliation Commission in South Africa where those that did wrong during the apartheid period came out to confess to their evil deeds, and made restitution. In the same vein, people who stole Nigeria money and are afraid that they may be caught, jailed and be shamed will come to the commission and be given immunity from prosecution after they have coughed out what they have looted.
Membership of the commission should cut across all divides; it should be all-embracing. An eminent Nigerian should head the commission. But any looter who fails to take advantage of this window of opportunity to voluntarily surrender his loot should then be prosecuted and face the consequences of his selfish and unpatriotic action.