The Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, has insisted that there is no alternative to restructuring if Nigeria is to move forward as a nation.
Making this declaration in an interview with TUNDE THOMAS, the Secretary-General, Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr. Kunle Olajide said Nigeria can only overcome the myriads of socio-economic challenges confronting the nation if restructuring is carried out.
The YCE scribe also spoke on other national issues.
What is YCE’s reaction to the on-going disagreement and exchange of words between leaders of the two factions of Afenifere over the adoption of President Muhammadu Buhari, and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar for the 2019 general election? I ask this question considering that one faction is supporting President Buhari while the other has sympathy for Atiku Abubakar.
The altercation between the two groups is very embarrassing. YCE is shocked by the unfolding drama between the two groups. We don’t find it amusing at all. As elders and leaders, our expectations are that the Afenifere leaders should have restrained themselves. Elders are expected to behave maturely, and since the actors involved in this unpalatable drama are elders, YCE expect them to display a high level of maturity by refraining from throwing mud at each other. These are elders that are supposed to be role models, so what we expect from them are things that others can copy for good but this has not been the case. Many prominent Yoruba leaders, and even ordinary Yoruba folks are not happy with what is happening between the two groups.
However, we have been talking to them. We have been talking to both sides, and they have promised and given us the assurance that they are going to sheathe their swords. As elders, those of us in YCE can’t fold our hands while this kind of thing is happening. Although we have intervened but we are not sure whether our intervention will bring about the desired ceasefire because we can only appeal; we don’t have power to enforce any sanction on any of the party that refused to heed our appeal. Our only hope is that these elders and leaders will allow reason to prevail. They should stop washing their dirty linen in the public.
Why do you think the crisis is festering with both sides refusing to shift ground?
It is very simple. Afenifere as a group, and an organisation has always been partisan. Afenifere leaders have always been taking sides on national issues, and this has always been leading to polarization among Afenifere members. There is no way they will not be throwing mud at each other as long as these Afenifere leaders are partisan and take sides. This is where YCE is different from Afenifere. In YCE, we also make political statements but we don’t take sides. We say things the way we see it no matter whose ox is gored.
As a group, YCE is not politically partisan but we still discuss and talk politics. We talk on issues of national interests, Yoruba concerns, and we want the best for the nation. We don’t take sides. We are always neutral. However, our appeal is that Afenifere leaders should allow peace to reign. They should not allow the issue of Buhari and Atiku’s adoption for 2019 to become a subject of division among Yoruba. If Afenifere leaders in the two factions continue to be partisan, people will wonder whether they are actually fighting for their own personal interests or Yoruba interests.
For us in YCE, it is not whether it is Buhari or Atiku or any other presidential candidate; what matters to us is national and Yoruba interests. Who is the candidate that will promote national interests, strengthen its unity, and carry out programes that will restore Nigeria’s lost glory. Today, Nigeria is facing a lot of challenges, how do we resolve these challenges?, How do we restore Nigeria on the path of greatness. So the debate should not be restricted to Buhari and Atiku; the debate should be about who can do the right thing to move the nation forward. Any candidate that shows that trait, and also makes that commitment to do the needful should be the one Nigerians should give their mandate. Nigeria is greater than any individual. We should all rise above personal or parochial interests. Nigeria should come first.
So for the YCE, who are you backing for 2019, is it Buhari or Atiku, and why?
For us in YCE, we are not talking about Atiku or Buhari or any other candidate; our concern is about the present state of insecurity in the country, and other challenges confronting the country. Nigeria is still mired in series of socio-economic challenges which has to be quickly resolved to move the nation forward.
What we expect Buhari, Atiku and other candidates to be talking about are on issues relating to security and other challenges facing Nigeria, and how to resolve them. Today, terrorism, and insecurity have become a big challenge. Lives are being wasted, while properties are also being destroyed. Herdsmen are on the rampage. How do we tackle all these problems? We can’t continue like this as a nation. Elsewhere, all over the world, it is the ranching system that they have adopted but here we are still doing nomadic grazing, and this is creating a lot of problems today all over the country between herdsmen, and farmers. Nomadic grazing has become destructive with farmlands and valuable crops being destroyed. This is why we need to embrace ranching but sadly nobody among these contestants including Buhari and Atiku, are talking about how to resolve the herdsmen-farmers crisis. Then, restructuring is also important. Without restructuring, Nigeria can’t move forward. That is the bitter truth Nigeria must face. Nigeria must return to a true practice of federalism as it was being done in the First Republic between 1960-1966 before the military truncated democracy.
Are you saying that there is no alternative to restructuring?
It is the bitter reality we have to face. When Nigeria was practicing true federalism in the First Republic, everything was going on smoothly as each region was developing at its own pace. There was comprehensive security as each region had state police to complement policing efforts by the federal police. But the unitary system introduced by the military disrupted everything, and that’s why we are having all these challenges. We have to return to a true practice of federalism which is what restructuring is all about before we can get it right. Those who are opposed to restructuring, and are running away from it are not patriots. Restructuring is the only way to restore Nigeria’s lost glory, and to that extent, YCE will support only a candidate that gives a firm commitment to restructure Nigeria. It is only such a candidate that will enjoy Yoruba support. Nigeria has to be restructured, and both Buhari, and Atiku should tell Nigerians where they stand on restructuring.
The Secretary-General, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani in an interview recently said that insecurity, terrorism, herdsmen killings, kidnappings and Boko Haram insurgency currently ravaging the country are not enough reasons to deny President Muhammadu Buhari a second term, what’s your take on that?
I’m shocked and surprised by his comments. I believe that must be his own personal views. But if he is speaking on behalf of ACF as a group, I would say that is rather disappointing. Sani should be told that if he is not worried or moved by the series of problems facing the country now, others are worried. Nigeria is made up of other nations and ethnic nationalities, so if Sani or ACF are not worried by the increasing loss of lives as a result of insurgency, insecurity, terrorism, and herdsmen killings, others are worried. Others are concerned by the ugly situation in the country. I’m even shocked that ACF as a body has not contradicted Sani, and what that imply is that Sani is speaking for ACF, and that is very unfortunate.
If ACF feels very comfortable with the present state of insecurity, and herdsmen attacks and kidnappings, good luck to them but that is not acceptable to the Yoruba. ACF, and Anthony Sani are playing with fire if they are saying that the crises in Nigeria today especially insecurity and others should not be a source of worry or concern. We don’t have any other country except Nigeria and we should all be bothered about some unpalatable things going on in the country. If we should not show concern, then God save us all if things get out of control. I still repeat again that the only solution to the myriads of problems plaguing Nigeria today is restructuring. There is no alternative to it.
The issue of whether Mrs Amina Zakari should resign from her position in INEC following allegations of being related to President Buhari has become a controversial issue….
Honestly speaking, if I were the INEC Chairman, I would redeploy the woman from her current position which is generating controversy to another department. Election is getting close, and we should avoid any controversy that can affect the conduct and the outcome of the elections. Even if I were the woman, I would either resign or ask to be redeployed. The INEC Chairman should apply wisdom in resolving the issue. The woman should be redeployed to give assurance of credibility. Credibility is very important to 2019 general elections. The woman should be redeployed to another section that is not controversial. INEC should watch it. The success or otherwise of the election depends on INEC, and the whole world is watching us as a nation. I advise politicians, INEC, security agencies and other relevant organs who have one role or the other to play in the conduct of the election to play the role of patriots. They should think of Nigeria first.