Renowned labour activist and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief Frank Kokori has alleged that a mafia currently runs Nigeria and not President Muhammadu Buhari. He said the development makes the restructuring of the country more expedient than ever. He also spoke on other national issues with TUNDE THOMAS in this interview.
What do you make of the failure by the Federal Government to implement the report of the Gov. El-Rufai committee on restructuring almost three years after?
The federal government has not really decided to restructure; with the body language of President Buhari, the government is not ready for restructuring. They are not keen about it at all. I mean Buhari and those who share the same idea with him are not keen about restructuring Nigeria. Anybody or group believing Buhari or this present federal government will restructure Nigeria is wasting his time.
What they are doing is that they are just trying to amend the constitution, and you don’t take that as restructuring. If it is serious business of restructuring, then they will call a special constitutional conference but they are not doing that. They are just amending the constitution in the National Assembly so it is not restructuring they are doing.
My own take on restructuring however is that the government should decentralize, and devolve power to the various states so that everybody will develop at his own pace. That is what Nigeria was all about after we gained independence in the First Republic. But for some time now we have been running a unitary government, which those in power enjoy, and when these people are in power they don’t want to change. When Obasanjo was in power, he resisted the call for change, and by that I mean restructuring. When Jonathan was there also, he also resisted the call for change. When these people are in power, they would resist the call for change but immediately they leave office, they will now be part of those calling for change.
So Buhari is enjoying it now he doesn’t want the status quo to change. For the National Assembly too, I don’t think they are serious about the issue because if the National Assembly and all the state governors decide to take a stand on restructuring, it will be done. Those that are in power at the moment especially at the federal level enjoy the present system. There is so much power at the federal level, and those in authority enjoy it, and they are not ready to lose any of those benefits and power they are enjoying now. Initially, I had so much confidence in Buhari to fight corruption, and to also carry out some other radical changes that would have transformed this country but he has not done so. So Buhari has disappointed me.
His so-called anti-corruption crusade has been a failure. When Buhari first came into office, initially everybody was shaking, and things were then working but when Nigerians later saw his body language that it is not the same Buhari they used to know, they went back to their old ways, and this is why you see corruption now thriving. Although Buhari is in charge of the country but it appears a cabal is running the show. It is a mafia, and not Buhari that is running Nigeria. Although Buhari is there but it is the cabal that is in charge.
In any democracy, it is the ruling party, and the executive that are supposed to be in charge but in the case of APC, the party is not, it is the cabal that is in charge, and unfortunately Buhari has given most of his power to the cabal, and members of the cabal have been abusing the powers, which Buhari gave to them. Then Buhari himself is not as agile as he used to be in those days again. The cabal is so greedy, and selfish. There is nothing wrong with having a kitchen cabinet but this is not a normal kitchen cabinet, it is a mafia, a cabal, and they are the one running the country. You can’t challenge them; you can’t do anything to them. They are so powerful, and with the poverty in the country, everybody wants to kowtow, everybody wants to curry their favour. But one day, one day when the masses have been pushed to the wall, maybe they will fight back, and may get out of control. You don’t expect Nigerians to be docile forever.
But leaders, and the people of Southern Nigeria appear to be getting restive over the non-implementation of the El-rufai report on restructuring, how much more time do you think the country has without doing the needful?
The country especially those in authority are not yet serious in having it done. I said earlier that serving Presidents are not always eager to have it done because they want the status quo to remain, and this is what is happening today. Forget about any leader or groups being becoming restive, the fact is that Buhari is not keen on it, and he will not succumb to any pressure, and everybody can see that from his body language .The Nigerian Presidency is so powerful, and the Presidents themselves they don’t think of tomorrow. They think about themselves. They don’t think about tomorrow. They only think of the present power they are enjoying, and they don’t want to lose an inch of it. If Nigerians don’t struggle for it, they should not expect restructuring to come on a platter of gold.
Even if the President is not ready for restructuring, the National Assembly, and the state governors can do it if they are ready. Although the standard of living is falling everyday but those people in authority are not bothered because of what they are enjoying but there is danger. If these leaders believe that things will continue this way, they are making a big mistake because one day the unexpected may happen. When people are pushed to the wall they may decide to fight back, and by then it will be too late for those in authority to do anything on it. If you see a country where two percent of the populace is living in luxury, and others are living in poverty, and leaders don’t care or are bothered, that’s exactly what is happening in Nigeria.
But when some people talk about revolution, I disagree. I don’t think anybody is ready for a revolution in Nigeria. Nigerians are not ready for any revolution; they are not even capable of organizing any revolution. Most Nigerians were brought up by their parents, and they were trained not to take risks. But what they don’t know is that you risk nothing you win nothing. Nigerians were not brought up in hard way of revolution. Look at the National Assembly, the abnormal salary, and allowances they receive, and that’s why they keep quiet, and are comfortable with whatever government is doing even when those policies are anti-people they claim to be representing. The Presidency is so powerful, and we don’t have institutions to monitor the President.
See what is happening in America today, if America has been a banana republic or an African nation, Trump would have stayed there forever but institutions in America checkmated him. But here in Nigeria, we don’t have such institutions, the institutions are weak, and they are fragile. The President could break them all. The state governors are also very powerful in their enclaves. They can do, and undo, and the State Houses of Assembly that are supposed to monitor them can’t monitor them. The governors are like headmasters, and House of Assembly members are like their pupils.
As a former labour leader, are you disappointed that the current crop of labour leaders have not been able to lead the crusade for a better Nigeria unlike during your days?
As a trained labour leader, I know that the organized labour would have been able to save this country but the Nigeria labour movement today the way I look at it is different from our own time. They are the only organized people that could talk to government, and government would listen. They have the power but the labour movement today is not organized as it was in those days. But as long as labour is not well organized obviously the government would trample on them. The labour leaders themselves most of them are in the pockets of their state governors, so they can’t do much. I’m seeing a situation where if a strong labour leader comes today, and he gives certain directives some labour leaders would disobey him because they are not well organized.
Are you worried the country could break up if the clamour for restructuring is further ignored?
Like I said earlier, I’m not predicting any revolution now. Nigerians are not ready for any revolution because people are weak .I don’t think it will happen in my own generation. Most Nigerian families have trained their children that they should not do this or that; that if they do it that government will kill them, so how do you expect those children or young adults with that mindset to join or be involved in any revolution? Maybe with divine intervention such may happen but then you also have to struggle before you have divine intervention. You have to take risks. You have to make sacrifices. You have to suffer deprivations. Here in Nigeria, it is unfortunate that when people get to comfortable positions, they now forget others, or they forget the country. So in Nigeria, we have few patriots, and they are not rich, and because they are not rich they can’t fight the system.
What do you make of the present security situation in the country?
It is a big shame. Those people in charge of security in the country from the President to the Service Chiefs, it is a shame. Don’t tell me the bandits, and the insurgents are more powerful than the military. Our military has more superior weapons than all these insurgents, and bandits. There is something wrong in the security machinery in Nigeria.
Corruption is also part of the reason why insecurity still lingers. Nigeria is a very corrupt country. It is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Nigeria has one of the most corrupt policing system, and corrupt judiciary. The way out for us on the issue of insecurity is strong leadership, and Nigeria can never get a strong leadership because of the nature of our political system. Every problem in Nigeria has to do with leadership.
Then what are the Service Chiefs still doing there? Obviously they have outlived their usefulness .I wonder why Buhari is still keeping them there. It is rare in any part of the world where you see a Service Chiefs being in one position for five years. Moreover, they’ve reached retirement age, so what are they still doing there? They are over-due for retirement, so why is Buhari still keeping them? Only he can explain that. The Service Chiefs have got to a point of diminishing returns. We should not expect much from them again. When they started they did well but now I can’t see what they are doing. There is so much money being pumped into security but there is nothing to show for it. It is very unfortunate Nigeria is bleeding. Nigeria is bleeding in so many ways especially in the area of security, economy, and infrastructure.
Bombing of oil pipelines appear creeping back to the Niger-Delta, and IPOB coming up with security network, what does this tell you?
Frustration brings a lot of things. Weak leadership brings unfulfilled agreements, and promises. When you promise people something, and you can’t fulfill those things, that will be the result of what you are seeing now. The Nigerian leadership is not sincere with people at all levels, and when you are not sincere naturally you expect some consequences.
The militants have not even started serious bombing. They are just threatening, they have not gone back into the creeks. If they’ve resumed bombing of the pipelines, Nigeria would have been on its knees by now. They’ve not done that, and I believe that it is not fair for them to even do that. If they do, they will be degrading the environment, and the ecosystem.
The struggle for 2023 has begun in earnest, where do you stand between zoning, and merit on who should produce the next President?
That depends on the two political parties. There has been clamour for zoning, this and that but all these depend on the political parties. My own take is that you play your role in your political party; nobody will zone anything to you if you don’t belong to a political party. Then when you are in a political party, you must fight for what you want.
Some people are talking about zoning, bring it to southeast, bring it to southwest, bring it to Northeast, but it is the party that will decide. However, one funny thing about Nigerian politics is moneybag problem. If you don’t have money you can’t do anything in Nigerian politics and everything revolves around PDP, and APC. Then zoning that we are talking about is not constitutional. There is nothing specifically in the constitution of Nigeria, and that of the two major political parties that mention zoning. Zoning is a matter of compromise.
If you win primaries, and your caucus is stronger then you win the party’s ticket. That was how Buhari won APC ticket. He had a lot of people backing him that time. If you see the coalition that brought Buhari to power, it was a powerful one. When he was in CPC, he couldn’t win, when he was in ANPP he couldn’t also win the election. So it is another coalition that will bring another person to power. So you don’t sit in your bedroom, and start making permutations on zoning .It doesn’t work that way in politics. Sentiments don’t bring people to power. There is no morality in politics. There is backstabbing in politics. People stab people in politics. Politics is not like a church or college union. Politics in a Third World country like Nigeria is business, and you have to struggle for it. You don’t make profit without investment in business. So in Nigerian politics, you win nothing if you don’t invest.
Then on the news making rounds in certain circles that the North wants to field candidates on the platform of both PDP, and APC, I will say that the North has always wanted to rule forever, and that’s a fact. But it is left for the South to resist it by saying they don’t want it. They should insist on equity, and justice.
The issue of appointment offered you and later withdrawn by the federal government appears to have gone with time. Are you still hopeful something will still come your way or you have given up?
We did our best. We fought but unfortunately they had their way. Things have changed in Nigeria. If it were during my time as a labour leader such a thing would not have happened. We did our best but that job would not come back again.
Who do you blame for that embarrassment, and why?
I blame President Buhari, and the Minister for Labour, Chris Ngige. I blame the cabal in the Presidency, and Ngige .I was oppressed because I don’t have powers again .I don’t have money, and power again but my expectation was that President Buhari would intervene, and Buhari refused to intervene. He gave directives on the issue but the cabal did not carry out the directive, and he did nothing. I sacrificed my life for this country when I was in a position to do so, and I did my best but I’m disappointed the way I was treated.
Although I’m presently the Chairman of the Governing Council of Michael Imoudu Institute for Labour Studies in Ilorin, Kwara state but the place is less than a monotechnic. I’m being underutilized there. I wanted to be useful to the society but I’m being underutilized. The place is not up to polytechnic level talk less of a university .I decided to take up the appointment out of patriotism, and because of my passion for the organized labour movement.