National Chairman of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralph Okey Nwosu, has been around as far as Nigerian politics is concerned. And he has never been afraid to speak his mind when occasion demands.
In this interview, he speaks on insecurity, leadership challenge in the country, the Obasanjo myth, the conduct of the general elections, among other sensitive issues.
In one of your recent interviews, you said that Nigeria’s problem is caused by leadership and elite hypocrisy. Can you throw more light on it?
You know that it is the leader that sets the pace and others follow. Leadership is not; do as I say and not as I do. The right type of leadership that sets a good pace is one of: do as I do. You don’t say something and do another and you expect the followers to continue to follow. No, it is not the leader giving order and says: do as I say. If you are our president and you are courageous enough to look at Nigerians and say: do as I do; this country will be a great country, and then we know that you are a leader. We still lack all of this in our political trend. Look, across the Federation of Nigeria, from the federal, state to the local government, all the elected persons in every constituency constitute the richest persons in Nigeria, that means the elected persons go and carry your money, enrich themselves and they become the millionaires and billionaires, richer than everybody in their constituency. That is wrong. So, the leaders here are the purveyors of corruption, as well as taking the trend of all the fraud that we have in the system. The elite hypocrisy is those that you expect should speak out, but will not because they are expecting one contract, one appointment or the other. They see that things are bad and they are not able to stand up and speak against it. At my level as an elite in this country, I must speak out when I see things going wrong, no matter whose ox is gored. So, our elite are hypocrites, they talk one thing and go the other way, depending on where it benefits them. With the state of our nation, it is wrong. We should be able to look power in the face and say enough is enough. Like the challenge that INEC is facing, we need to be careful, but the immediate challenge is the judiciary, how they decide the rigged elections, the monetized election among other things will determine whether this nation will move forward or the culture will continue as “do as you like”. As we speak, there are a lot of persons angling for appointments and playing ostrich, can never criticize the government, they see no ill and speak no ill of the rotten system that has been messed up. That is dangerous for us. The country’s leader at this time must be one that should wake up from slumber and face the reality of the challenges of the time. The president of the country must provide leadership, which entails translating vision into reality. This issue of celebration of lamentation about yesterday is not the reason he was elected. We need the right type of leadership that inspires hope of a better tomorrow.
You also said that the present unrest and criminality across the country clearly summarizes the President Buhari legacy…?
(Cuts in) Of course, the evidence is there? Is it not under his leadership watch that we are witnessing all these? Do you know that the train is supposed to be the cheapest means of transportation in this country, but now, even the elected persons, people with siren are boarding the train from Abuja to Kaduna and in boarding it all their security people also go together with them and the Federal Government then provide more security to also join the train follow to Kaduna, including using a helicopter to follow and monitor the train. You can now imagine the cost that is involved in all this. So, it is now more expensive for the country to transport people to by train to Kaduna than by any other means. Before you can say Boko Haram struck a particular place, but now it’s everywhere. You were aware that the government of Katsina State, where the president is from canceled all their programmes lined up for inauguration because of insecurity. So, the only one they did was the ones they did indoors without inviting people as it used to be. There is complete insecurity in the land. Insecurity and divisiveness is the hallmark of Buhari administration. He has divided the country. We have not been deeply divided as a country as we are today. It is a sad situation that security has broken down to this alarming level in which nobody is safe any longer.
Do you think we need electoral reforms considering the way the elections have always turned out, including the 2019 elections?
Leaders need to deliberately embark on reconstructing the culture under which the people, all of us operate, building the culture where we have values of integrity, character, hard work, value of patriotism etc; if we are able to build on this culture, all of us as Nigerians will fare well and better and other things, including the election will fall in line. Let there be healthy competition, allow the Federal Republic to be a true Federal Republic, let every state operate and challenge them. After all, some years back our small communities were able to provide security for themselves, they go to war with other communities, they prepare their army, they protected themselves, they had their economy, police and other security outfits, they go to war occasionally. What is happening is not only disappointing, but I feel scandalized at what is happening because Buhari rose to become a General in the Nigeria Army. If you are in a big and organised institution like the Army and you rose from 2nd Lieutenant, Lieutenant, Captain, major, Lieutenant Colonel, to Colonel, Brigadier-General and General, you must have commanded brigades; therefore, your social network will be so much. But if somebody who rose through all the ranks to the level of a General and is saying, for instance, that I don’t have any Igbo officer that passed through me whom I can trust to do a security job or assignment in an environment I am involved in then, it’s scandalous and you wonder the kind of military we have. As a matter of fact, what Buhari is doing reduces the quality of every military man in Nigeria. If the only officers you can trust are the ones from your clan then it scandalizes the Nigerian military.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo warned on the Islamization and Fulanisation of Nigeria and that attracted a lot of bashing from the Federal Government?
You know for somebody like Obasanjo to say that it means he has seen the danger ahead. Obasanjo is one Nigerian leader that we still have around us, in fact, when you discuss with Obasanjo all he talks about is Nigeria, even most of the leaders from the Southwest who are part of Afenifere have continued to tease him and say that he does not want to join them, he is from the Southwest, a Yoruba man, but he is a complete Nigerian. If there is anybody who is ready to do anything to keep Nigeria one and in peace at any time, that person is Obasanjo. He speaks, eats, sleeps and breaths Nigeria. For him to identify this dangerous trend and say it out is something that the nation and government must take seriously. If we have good people in government and just as Prof Wole Soyinka said, they should take Obasanjo’s word seriously if we want this country to move on. The way we are now, the toxicity can kill all of us and we won’t have a Nigeria to call our own.
What is that one thing you can identify and say Buhari has done well on?
I know good leadership when I see one; if good leadership is not there you don’t start to bring one element or the other element and say it is there. I heard recently when the president said from so and so date local government money will go to the local government. That is supposed to be great and cheering news, but the problem is that the leadership in place cannot sustain it. It is not about what you say; it is about what you do. When the leadership is not good when the leadership creates a very toxic atmosphere nothing good will come out of it. If at times you see anything that looks like a crystal ball, it’s a façade because anything good can only be sustained by quality leadership. It is one with a clear vision that incorporates politics for the best good, seeks ways for provision of a vibrant economy for the joy and wellbeing of citizens, maintains cultural dynamics and efficient security, among others.
Recently, Rotimi Amaechi, the former transport minister said the Igbo should forget about the presidency in 2023…?
(Cuts in) You see, there are people whom the system threw up and those people are so fickle in their thinking, so the Nigerian system only empowers you if you support Buhari. You are only a thorough Nigerian citizen if you are supporting Buhari and if you are supporting APC, if you don’t support APC, therefore, you cannot get what other Nigerians are getting. It’s so irresponsible for somebody you call a minister to say such. That shows you the kind of quality of ministers that we have. It’s a shame.