The campaign by the North to contest the 2023 presidency with the South is capable of plunging the country into a major crisis, Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE, scribe, Dr Kunle Olajide has warned. He spoke with TUNDE THOMAS on this and other national issues.
What’s your take on the ongoing controversies and debates over 2023, especially calls for scrapping zoning by Governor Nasir el-Rufai, Alhaji Bashir Tofa and some groups in the North?
Nigeria is indeed a funny country and our political leaders are very greedy and unpatriotic. They don’t think about the interests and welfare of the nation and the citizens. They are self-serving and very unpatriotic. It is a big shame that we don’t have genuine leaders in the country again. We no longer have leaders in the mould of the nation’s founding fathers like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Sir Ahmadu Bello and that’s why Nigeria is bleeding and drifting today.
It is a big shame that while citizens are wallowing in poverty and hunger, while kidnappers and bandits are having a field day, what these greedy politicians can be talking about now is 2023. By the way, who even knows who will be alive by then among all these greedy politicians?
While one is not wishing evil for anybody, the inevitable fact is that it is only almighty God that knows what will happen tomorrow. Again, these politicians talking about 2023 are not doing so because of Nigeria and the citizens, but they are only talking about their interests. These politicians are self-serving.
Is it not even a bit premature to be talking about 2023 when President Muhammadu Buhari and other elected leaders have just been inaugurated for a second term? For me, all these talks and debates on 2023 is a distraction. What should be of paramount concern to all these politicians is how to quickly fix Nigeria now because the nation is drifting towards anarchy. Sadly, the most prominent news that we hear daily now is how kidnappers, bandits, and armed robbers are striking all over the country and yet the government appears helpless to find a solution. If our leaders have a conscience, what they should do first before talking about 2023 is to make life comfortable for citizens.
What is then your advice to the political class on the 2023 issue?
These politicians should stop the nonsense. Unfortunately, the debate over 2023 is louder in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. APC leaders and members are distracting President Buhari and the nation, Buhari should call APC members to order over 2023. He should call his party members to order. Buhari should call Governor el-Rufai to order. These people are not only distracting Buhari, but they are also disturbing the peace of Nigeria. What Nigerians want is good governance and not this desperation for power by these unpatriotic elements. These people are not allowing Buhari to concentrate. They are distracting him, and if this continues, it will hurt governance. APC is already polarised over this issue.
What’s your position on the calls for scrapping of zoning and 2023?
There should be no controversy over 2023. It is the South’s turn in 2023. Zoning is sacrosanct, and el-Rufai, Tofa and these groups from the North calling for the scrapping of zoning in 2023 are not only greedy and unpatriotic, but they are also enemies of Nigeria. They want to derail Nigeria. Northern leaders and elders should call el-Rufai, and Tofa to order.
Nigeria is a fragile country, and presently the country is tottering and bleeding, politicians have to watch it. They must not make careless statements or remarks that can plunge Nigeria into crisis. This is what el-Rufai, Tofa and others calling for the scrapping of zoning are doing. If they truly love Nigeria, they should stop making inflammatory statements. They should not allow their personal interests and greed to put Nigeria’s unity in jeopardy.
Nigeria is already deeply divided, and scrapping zoning is like inviting anarchy. Scrapping zoning will create further division among Nigerians. The present zoning arrangement should not be tinkered with. Scrapping zoning will have grave consequences for Nigeria.
For Tofa and el-Rufai to say that zoning is dead or should be scrapped when it is supposed to be the turn of the South in 2023 is an insult to the sensibilities of Nigerians, and it is not acceptable.
I believe that Gov. el-Rufai is just testing the waters by saying that zoning should be scrapped, and perhaps he is doing that because of the rumoured reports that he has presidential ambition in 2023, but if he has that ambition, he should just drop or forget it because by now his eyes should be clear that he and others in their group in the North who also have same interest will be resisted.
Why must el-Rufai, Tofa and others in the North be calling for the scrapping of zoning in 2023 when it is supposed to be the turn of the South? This is why I said earlier that some of these politicians are greedy and very unpatriotic. They don’t think of Nigeria first. They are selfish and self-centred.
Then again, Tofa and el-Rufai should not think there is one monolithic North again. The North is divided now and you can see that the people of the Middle Belt are already saying that they are no longer part of the North.
For me, I believe that all these jostling for power at the centre will stop if Nigeria is restructured. If we return to a true practice of federalism like it was done in the First Republic, all these struggles for power at the centre will stop. Not only that, restructuring will also put an end to all the present socio-economic woes facing Nigeria. This is what I expect all these elements in the North and APC talking about scrapping zoning in 2023 to tell President Muhammadu Buhari to do. If Buhari truly loves Nigeria and also shares the same vision and ideals with the founding fathers of Nigeria, he should take the issue of restructuring serious, and ensure that he does it before the expiration of his second term.
How do you see the recent declaration by elder statesman Chief Ayo Adebanjo that there is nothing wrong if Nigeria breaks up since the North is not allowing the country to work?
I don’t agree with Chief Ayo Adebanjo on that. Chief Ayo Adebanjo is an elder statesman that loves Nigeria. He has been in the struggle to make Nigeria a great nation since we got independence. I believe that he made that statement out of frustration about the way things are deteriorating in Nigeria. He is sad about the present decay. Honestly speaking, those patriots who truly love Nigeria are not happy about the present rot. This is not the Nigeria of the dream of the founding fathers, and this is why some people like Chief Ayo Adebanjo are angry, and the bitter truth that those in authority must hear is this, Nigeria is bleeding, people are hungry and are also angry. The situation in Nigeria today is explosive. It is like we are sitting on a keg of gunpowder, and this is why our leaders must do the needful now, otherwise, we are postponing the evil day.
My appeal to Chief Ayo Adebanjo and others is that we should not yet give up on Nigeria. Adebanjo and other patriots are getting tired, and are not happy that Nigeria is gradually becoming a source of embarrassment because of insecurity, poverty, hunger, bad governance and other vices.
Look at some of the other nations that we started together 59 years ago, they’ve overtaken us, while we are still crawling, and this is why some elders in the country are feeling embarrassed. We all want a nation we should all be proud of. But I still believe that we should still give Nigeria a chance.
And for those saying that amalgamation of the North and the South in 1914 is a curse, I will say we should all still exercise patience. If we have been co-existing since 1914, why should we be talking of a break up now? Restructuring is what we need to do and if we do it, all will be well.
The election of Professor Banji Akintoye as the new Yoruba leader has been generating a lot of controversies, what’s your position on the issue?
I don’t agree that Prof. Akintoye is the new Yoruba leader. Who elected him? Who are members of the group that elected him? Who are these elements? On whose mandate did they elect Akintoye as Yoruba leader?
No, Akintoye is not Yoruba leader. He is just a Yoruba leader and not Yoruba leader. The credentials of those who elected Akintoye Yoruba leader are doubtful.
Although I agree that Akintoye is a Yoruba leader, but it is going too far to describe him as Yoruba leader. If you call Akintoye Yoruba leader, then what do you call Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi?
There are several other prominent Yoruba elders and leaders who are eminently qualified. Why then do you call Akintoye Yoruba leader?
To me, Akintoye remains the leader of the group that elected him and not the leader of Yoruba. I respect Akintoye but for a group to name him as Yoruba leader is not only wrong but also unacceptable. Akintoye and his group should describe him as a Yoruba leader. His brief should not go beyond the group that elected him.
Nobel Laureate Prof Soyinka and former President Obasanjo recently called for the convocation of a national conference to discuss a way out of Nigeria’s present challenges, what do you think about that?
I don’t agree with that. Organising another conference will not only be a waste of time but also a waste of resources.
The solution for us is to look into the reports and recommendations of past national conferences that we have been organizing. President Buhari can set up a panel to do that, and at the end of the committee’s works, its findings and recommendations should be sent to the National Assembly to look into it and take action on it. However, the final work by the National Assembly should be subject to a referendum. Nigerians should have an input into it because sovereignty belongs to the people.
To tackle insecurity, some states in the North including Zamfara and Katsina are negotiating with bandits, but some Nigerians are kicking against it saying that such action can be counter-productive, what’s your stand on that?
Negotiating with bandits and kidnappers? That’s the greatest disservice to Nigeria. To negotiate with bandits is an open admission of failure on the part of the government.
Negotiating with bandits is not only wrong but it can also have a boomerang effect. Others may be encouraged to take to banditry and kidnapping believing that it will make the government to also negotiate with them. Those states that are doing that should stop because negotiating with bandits will send a wrong signal to members of the society. You don’t negotiate with criminals.
What government should do is to ensure that the police is well equipped. They should provide police with the necessary logistics to do their work. Then most importantly, government should be alive to its responsibilities by providing good governance. They should provide the basic social amenities, employment for youths and the other jobless people. They should make life comfortable for citizens. When hunger and poverty are reduced, crimes will naturally reduce.
I have also read where some people are canvassing the death penalty for bandits and kidnappers, that is not the solution, the solution is for our leaders to improve the socio-economic conditions of citizens. Good governance is the key to these challenges facing us as a nation.
Our leaders travel abroad, and they see how things work over there. Why can’t they make things work here? Our leaders need to imbibe a new orientation towards public service. They should realise that public office is an avenue to serve, and not a platform to serve their interests. They should put the interest of the citizens over and above their interests.