Former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran has warned that plans by the Federal Government to reopen grazing routes in the country would cause anarchy and take Nigeria back to the dark ages. While advising the government against ignoring calls for restructuring, Adeniran contended that those agitating for self-determination are doing so out of frustration. He also spoke on other issues in this interview with TUNDE THOMAS
What’s your take on the plans by the Federal Government to reinstate cattle grazing routes across the country?
I don’t know how that’s going to work in this 21st century. Any attempt to do that may not only boomerang but will take us back to the dark ages instead of moving us forward as a nation. It will result in anarchy. Ranching is the thing now globally, and majority of Nigerians have overwhelmingly voted for ranching. If this administration in its own wisdom thinks it wants to go back to re-open cattle routes, then the question that one would ask is this, if a cattle route passes through Government House or even Aso Rock, are they going to demolish those places? If it passes through some plantations owned by some corporate bodies, are they going to destroy those places because they want to establish cattle routes? That is taking this country backward to a situation we left behind ages back, several decades before independence. That would be a tragedy. When I read about it, I thought the President was being misrepresented or being misquoted.
What do you make of President Buhari’s recent statement that those agitating for restructuring have no idea about what they are seeking?
Personally, I don’t agree with that. I’m an advocate of restructuring, and I know what I’m saying. Although some people may not know what restructuring means, after some time they will understand, particularly if they listen properly and study the present Nigerian structure and polity. Restructuring is a very simple thing for people to understand. Some of those people saying they don’t understand what restructuring means live in denial.
Restructuring is what everybody appreciate at this point, that without it, this country will not be stable, that this country will not move forward, that this country will not make progress. We need a united, peaceful and very stable country for development to take place, and it can only take place within an environment that is properly structured. You can’t put something on nothing; it is not possible. Restructuring will help various organs of government to function properly. When you have a deformity in a structure, that system will be wobbling, and that is what is happening to Nigeria now. We can’t deny that Nigeria is wobbling today. When you have a wobbling structure, you will not be able to stand firm, and be able to move forward. And for those in authority, my very strong advice to them is to appreciate the essence of restructuring. For those who claim not to understand it, they need to ask those who have been talking about it or those around them to tell them what restructuring entails.
Those who believe in restructuring will know that it is the only way forward for Nigeria. There are some people who believe that we don’t want to give them room to develop, for the country to be united on the basis of fairness, justice, equity, and the freedom to actualise their potential to develop at their own pace. But this is a wrong notion, because it is actually restructuring that will give each component unit the opportunity to develop at its own pace. When you restructure, you will not have the type of central military structure we are operating now. If we have proper restructuring, the overburdened Federal Government will be relieved of those aspects of governance that have been hindrances to the smooth running of the administration. The central government will just be the coordinator of the federating units, and will be concentrating on issues like defence, foreign policies, monetary policies, and so on. Then you will not have a situation where if the organised labour is on strike in some places then the entire nation will down tools. This is not done. Such a thing will not be done in an ideal federation. Restructuring will restore true federalism in Nigeria. The regimentation that we face presently will not be there. There will be flexibility, and there will be positive competition among the states. Meaningful development will also take place because the local governments will be functional.
Let’s talk about the general insecurity ravaging the land
Insecurity is not just for government alone; it is for all of us. We all have to be vigilant, and take the issue of security seriously. Security is everybody’s business. We all must wake up. Every community must have a security architecture that will mobilise every citizen to support whatever government is doing to restore order, peace and security. Our security agencies must find a way to tackle those who are infiltrating our borders. They have to be repelled because what they are doing is a big challenge to the territorial integrity of Nigeria. They must also find urgent solutions to the menace and security risks posed by bandits, insurgents and other criminal elements that are making life unbearable for Nigerians.
Imagine the havoc and the psychological trauma being inflicted on the psyche of parents, guardians and even other Nigerians by these bandits who have turned kidnapping and abduction of students into almost a daily affair now. Nobody is safe again.
With the insecurity and the agitations here and there, what are your fears for Nigeria?
I don’t have any fear for Nigeria; I only have fear for Nigerians because if Nigerians don’t play their own part, they will continue to end up being victims of insecurity. But if they play their own part, and support whatever government is doing, life will continue to be safe. But if we leave everything to the government, government will not be able to cope with the challenges of insecurity.
Some groups have continued to agitate for self-determination. How do you see the development?
It is an unfortunate development but I believe that Nigerians should be concerned. We must work harder to unite this country. But some people are being driven to that option of seeking self-determination because of frustration, because they believe that the government is not doing enough to be fair and to be just to every Nigerian, and that they are being marginalised or are being dominated, and the politics of government don’t seem to be helping the cause of national unity and development. So out of frustration, and in attempt to get the government to do the right thing, they now resort to making such calls. But the government can solve the problem by allaying the fears and frustrations of those who are agitating for a breakup by heeding the calls for restructuring. Those agitating for a breakup or self-determination don’t know that challenges in whatever new countries they are trying to form will be far more than what they are facing now. It will be of a different nature altogether, and the pride of Africa is in having a Nigeria that is united, that is strong, and that is fair and just to the citizens. Nigeria is a pride of the African people. Nigeria is a pride of the Black race, and that’s why everybody must do everything to preserve the unity and stability of the country. This is why more importantly, the national leadership of Nigeria must live up to the responsibility to make sure that the challenges the nation is facing are tackled. That every Nigerian is given a sense of security, that no Nigerian is being haunted, that no Nigerian is being treated as if they are second-class citizens.
Once the leadership can demonstrate purposefulness, patriotism, selflessness, and dedication to the Nigerian ideals, I’m sure nobody will be agitating for a break up. Breakup is not the solution to Nigeria’s problems.
The National Assembly recently had public sittings across the country on the review of the 1999 constitution. If you were to advise the lawmakers, which aspects do you think need some review?
I will ask them to join the forces that are asking for a new constitution. But in having that new constitution, they must not arrogate to themselves what they are not. They must remember that they are representing the Nigerian people, and that they on their own don’t constitute the Nigerian people. What they should do is to allow Nigerians to come up with what they want as their constitution, then the ratification will come through them. As of now they are also interested parties, and being interested parties they should not be judges in their own case. Let Nigerians come up with a new constitution; let the lawmakers now enact it. But with what they are doing now, people are suspicious that they will end up with things that will favour them as politicians. They have their own interests to protect. But they need to give Nigerians the opportunity to determine their own future.
Where do you stand on zoning for the 2023 election?
I believe in merit. Merit should determine it. I believe that with the situation that we are in now, we should be looking for people with integrity, people with honesty, people with the attitude, and people whose emergence would signify justice and equity, and above all people with the capacity to really solve the wrongs of the present situation now. I believe in quality. Although some people have been talking about rotation and concession that it should go to this zone or this region, I don’t agree with that. That’s not what people should be looking out for. We should not just be looking out to do some geographical elections. We should do elections that will turn around things for the country. I believe that Nigeria has very competent people in virtually every part of the country but a situation whereby some people will be prevented from coming out should be avoided. By the time you have an array of people, then the country can begin to make a choice. What Nigeria should look for is a competent leader, a leader who is selfless, patriotic, committed to a stable Nigeria: a progressive Nigerian. We need a leader who will be committed to a nation where every citizen feels safe and secure, and everybody’s rights and privileges to become whatever they want to become is assured.
What we need is a President who will allow true federalism, and it doesn’t matter where he or she comes from. I’m more interested in a president that would be able to stabilise this country, that will be just and fair to all Nigerians, that will develop this country, and will allow the constitution of the people to prevail, and more importantly, one that will earn the confidence and loyalty of Nigerians. One that will be committed to national unity, stability and for equality of all nationalities in the country. One that will not allow individual rights and liberties to be trampled upon anyhow.
Some people believe the insecurity in the land may jeopardise the 2023 general election
It is not only the elections that may be jeopardized by insecurity, so many other things may also be affected. I believe that insecurity should be tackled with all the seriousness and attention it deserves. This is why I feel that it is the responsibility of all Nigerians to make sure that the rising insecurity doesn’t jeopardize our existence, and our God given rights to live. We all have to be safe and secure before we can be talking about 2023.
Governors and other eminent personalities are defecting to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and some people are concerned that Nigeria may become a one-party state. Do you agree?
I don’t know anything about that because I have not been taking census of those that defected. The way I look at it is that people are free to move right or left because there is no ideological difference between APC and PDP. There is hardly any division between the two parties. I see the two as being mere platforms to take political power. That’s why people that are in PDP today, you see them in APC tomorrow. In fact some Nigerians, especially those at the grassroots, no longer know where their political leaders belong. But the situation is not good for our political development. We need to have ideology-based political parties that Nigerians will know what they stand for. In the past you know what political leadership stands for, you know their political leanings and ideologies. But you can’t talk about that again. It has become politics of anything goes.