Adebayo Adeolu, a lawyer and public affairs analyst says the citizens have not really benefitted from 20 years of democracy in Nigeria. He also calls on President Buhari to declare emergency rule in states plagued by insecurity.
On May 29 it will be 20 years since the return to democracy. How well do you think Nigerians have fared in terms of governance?
It is a good thing that democracy has been in place in Nigeria for the past 20 years. But when you take a critical look at governance, you will agree that it has not been for the people in many areas. Look at the economy for example; the devaluation of the currency at N360 to the dollar has not helped the nation or the people. It has rather led to inflation with the cost of living hitting the roofs in terms of the basic needs of life like food, clothing and shelter among others. This was in part what led the organised labour unions to put pressure on government to implement the increase in minimum wage from 18,000 to 30,000.
At the level of the states, the governors continue to owe the workers arrears of several months of salaries despite the bailout funds President Muhammadu Buhari released to them. Some states claimed they introduced feeding programme in schools, where they feed the pupils once a day, but yet deprived their parents of their salary.
In terms of infrastructure many states have done badly in road maintenance and the collection of refuse.
Security wise, many states up north and parts of the middle belt and southern states are under the siege of herdsmen and armed bandits and murderers. The Internally Displaced People (IDP) in the various camps have not been adequately provided for. So, the democracy has not really been for the people because the security and welfare of the people which is the very purpose of government have not been top priority.
The day will also mark the beginning of President Buhari’s second term. How well do you think he performed in the first term?
A president can only succeed in a democracy when the state governors are also doing their jobs. The country has not really made progress because jobs are not being created, and you can only create jobs when you have a mercantile system of government is in place. Mercantile system is a situation where there is trade balance between countries. This implies that when you are importing something from one country, that country must also buy something from you, not necessarily raw materials but manufactured goods produced internally in Nigeria. Nigeria is not a manufacturing nation thus it cannot export manufactured goods.
You talked of mercantile system and manufacturing, how is that possible when the president seems to be bothered only by anti-corruption?
Yes, the president talks a lot of corruption with rising criticism but it’s a move to sanitise what is killing Nigeria today. Look for instance at the huge price differential in refining crude oil outside the nation when the nation’s four refineries should be able to handle internal consumption needs of the country. Nigeria has four refineries but certain cliques have made sure that every rejuvenation effort is frustrated. They rather offer the sales of the refineries to cronies. We should ask how Alhaji Aliko Dangote, an individual is able to build a modern refinery, yet the Federal Government of Nigeria, a whole country cannot fix and upgrade her refineries? That is the total nonsense.
It is the deep-rooted corruption in the country that makes them say the only option is to import. When President Buhari said subsidy should go, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) convinced him to devalue the currency furthermore. The CBN devalued to official 290/300 with black market or grey market at 360 and they automatically created subsidy as the N145 becomes unworkable with the new devaluation. To sell petrol without the government subsidising it will put the price of petrol close to N200 per litre. If you refine 1 dollar a litre at the exchange rate it becomes N300 and this becomes unworkable so government gets trapped in the subsidy circle.
The president has been accused of being a sectional leader and a religious bigot and that he has brought more division in the country than unity. What do you think?
Buhari does not have too many friends outside northern Nigeria. He is feared by many who have not forgotten his leadership style during the military era. But he is a good and fine soldier without scandals. Buhari has the interest of Nigeria at heart and he is not a sectional leader or a bigot. He has only surrounded himself with people he can trust to execute his reform agenda for Nigeria. The reason he is not succeeding is that some of his most trusted men are not on the same page with him as far as his reforms are concerned. In such situation how will he succeed? Many have vowed secretly they will make his government among the worst.
The insecurity level in the country is worsening. How do you think Buhari should approach it in his second term?
Buhari should declare full emergency in the real sense of the word in states that are plagued by insecurity. If you want to solve the problem, a full emergency should be declared. Buhari must be firm on the issues of insecurity. The issues of Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen are sponsored by people who want to rubbish the administration of President Buhari because they don’t want him to succeed. What I expect the government to do is find out who are arming the herdsmen and arrest them.
The president’s spokesmen should also help him by telling him the true position of things. The president’s presence should be felt across all states in Nigeria not just is some sections. Buhari needs eyes across the nation in all states, people who will tell him the true position of things.