Chief Adesunbo Onitiri has said that for Nigeria to move forward, it has to be restructured.
After 20 years of June 12 struggle, it is now the country’s Democracy Day. How do you feel about it?
It is a Greek gift. It was not intentional. That was another gimmick to get the Yoruba support. The Yoruba people cannot be deceived, because they have been deceived enough. What we need in this country is proper restructuring. Let’s go back to the old system, the regional system where everybody and all the regions will be free to develop at their own pace. This present constitution we are running now is too expensive and cannot work. Some regions are being tied down or slowed down at the expense of others. All the roads are so bad especially in the Southern part of the country. They belong to the local government and not Federal Government. Nigerians have not felt the presence of Federal Government in this country because all the revenue goes to the federal and they now dish it out to states. And when the state collects the money, they share it. This does not filter down to the local government. The local government areas are supposed to be in charge of most of the infrastructure, like roads, electricity, water, health facilities and education. It is not the duty of the Federal Government. The Federal Government has their exclusive roles in the constitution. Look at the developed nations, in America today, California is richer than the Federal Government and it is just a state. Most of these local government areas can be richer than the Federal Government if they are allowed to develop. They should let all the states and local authorities run and develop their territory at their own pace.
Is it right to declare June 12 Democracy Day?
In fact, when they say it is a Democracy Day, I was baffled. They have two dates now; May 29, for inauguration day and June 12 for democracy. It is confusing. Except May 29 is cancelled and June 12 is adopted for all the democracy celebrations. June 12 is a Democracy Day for all the democrats who had struggled for true democracy in this country, and not for the military that fought against June 12. Although we have gotten the recognition for MKO Abiola, the hero of democracy, but that is not enough. He should be paid his entitlements as a former president of this country. If the coup plotters can be recognised as presidents, then MKO Abiola that won a free and fair election should also be recognised as an ex-president. His family should be paid for his untimely death. Even the family members have not benefited after that recognition.
How happy can we be? Those who actually fought for the June 12 democracy are not in charge of the democratic setting. What we have now are people who are enemies of democracy running the democracy. What do you expect from such people who are not democrats? When a wrong driver moves your vehicle, he can’t take you to your destination. Until we have the heroes of democracy run this government, then we cannot get it right. Nobody can get power in this country if you don’t have money. Proper democracy can be achieved when people without money can contest and win elective positions. In those days, Alhaji Leteef Jakande did not have money when he contested for governorship but won. Market women contributed money for him; he got the party endorsement and won. What we have now is god-fatherism that will sponsor you knowing that you are going to steal and pay back their investment. They see politics as investment. The emolument of politicians should be reduced drastically to make it unattractive. They should see parliament as a part-time job that lasts for only four years. Some of them receive more money than presidents in other countries of the world. Governance is very expensive in this country.
Talking about June 12, some analysts said that Chief Abiola ought not to have declared himself president in the country, that he should have done it outside the country to save his head. What do you think?
No, it is not possible. He couldn’t have done that because when he travelled to London, we still had discussions with him but the British government was so emphatic that he must not declare himself as president there and must not form a government in exile or else, he will be deported. The irony was that a pressure group gave Abacha the consent to take over the power from Shonekan. This was when we approached Shonekan to hand over the power to Abiola, but he refused to do so. Abacha also promised to hand over after six months but he reneged and at that point, the Yoruba people agitated that Abiola should be made the president.
When Abacha and Abiola died, General Abdusallam Abubakar took over and promised that he will hand over to a Yoruba man. We wanted Olu Falae to be the president after Abiola’s death but it was unfortunate that we didn’t know that the northerners had another agenda. They had a deal with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to take over the power. During the election, the Yoruba did not support Obasanjo. We endorsed Olu Falae but Obasanjo was able to win the election that brought him to power.
That was the beginning of the faulty democratic journey in the country. The military that we drove away now came back with Agbada to rule. ‘What you don’t have, you can’t give.’ These people don’t believe in a democratic setting. That is why we have not been able to enjoy the dividends of democracy. And this will continue to elude Nigerians as long as these retired generals are in power. You cannot use military structure in a political setting. It can’t work because they are out to destroy and not to build. This is the problem we are facing till date.
Can Nigeria be truly restructured going by the views of several Nigerians kicking against it?
I believe we should go back to the old system where powers were given to the regions, this is my stand. What you have belongs to you. Remove the 1999 constitution and develop at your pace, after all, this country is so blessed. All the states are blessed with one mineral resources or the other. Each has what it takes to develop. We cannot be a slave to a region rather we need to sit down and renegotiate which way forward. No state is bigger than the others because this country belongs to all of us. If the South can come together and talk with one accord, we can get the power we want.