Former Chairman of the Nigerian Chapter of Transparency International, Major Gen. Ishola Williams (retd), has said time is ripe for the South East to produce the president of Nigeria. In this interview with VINCENT KALU, he said the South should not allow the North to retain power after the expiration of the incoming administration in 2023.
Nigeria has turned to a killing field with increasing reports of killings across the country, especially in the North. What does this say of the country?
It will continue to get worse. Again, we have to decentralise policing; we have to decentralise crime fighting to the states and local government level.
People have been talking about community policing; for example, Lagos has what it called Neighbourhood Watch, which is a form of community policing.
We have a fundamental problem, the local government system we are running is completely wrong; we need to go back to towns and city councils. When you go to places like Cotonu here, they have a mayor of Cotonu City, they don’t have all these mushroom local governments as we have all over the place. It does not make sense at all.
There was Enugu City Council before; Lagos City Council and Kano, etc, why not go back to that. The governors don’t want us to do that and in fact, they are the impediment to our progress in this country, and they know. The day we have governors who are interested in the progress of Nigeria, things will change, but now, they are shortsighted and they are selfish.
The local government system cannot work and so, we must go back to city and town councils because if you have a city mayor for Lagos, the governor of Lagos will be afraid that he has nothing more to lose, maybe in the next election, the mayor of the city will win. These governors are so self-centred and selfish. All over the world, you have city councils. New York, its budget is greater than the budget of Nigeria, and it is a city council.
We have to decentralise crime fighting, decentralise policing and then let us run a federal system. If we can do these, crimes will be reduced to the minimum because the states will be doing their responsibilities; if a state is looking for economic development, it will do something about crime; it will do something about kidnapping; it will do something about banditry, it will do something about what they call cult, which is a deadly gang.
But, the danger of state police is that the governor can use it to torment political opponents?
People are afraid that if you give the governors state police that they will use it to terrorise their political opponents, but see what has happened in Rivers State. What is then the difference between the state police and the federal police?
The issue is that when states take up some of these responsibilities, there will be mistakes, but after sometimes, it will stabilise. See what happened in Kwara State, whoever believed that Saraki could be disgraced out of that state, and he has accepted his fate, that is what people should understand.
People can continue to fool around, but after sometimes, they begin to do the right thing. Look at the case of Lagos State; see what happened in the state; if people had not been intimidated in that last election, it would have been a different result in the state. Let us be realistic, let the state take responsibilities of what they can take care of, and that include state police.
The president was saying that the states couldn’t pay salaries, but every state in Nigeria buys equipment and give to police. So, where did they get money to give to the federal police, why can’t they use that money for the state police. Where is the Lagos State government getting money to run the neighbourhood watch; many of the states have all these traffic controllers in uniforms, where are they getting money to pay them? People just give some stupid reasons to kill it.
Some analysts are of the opinion that Buhari’s second term will not be different from his first term. What is your view on this?
I don’t see him doing anything greater than he has done in the first term. I don’t see him performing any magic.
The second thing is that the money is not going to come easy as you can see we keep borrowing money, and at the present moment, out debt both external and domestic is at a very frightening level; the external debt is about N24 trillion, so where is the money to do work going to come from, because if you want to do more, you need more money. Then you look at the civil service you have to pay; they just approved N30, 000 minimum wage, which increases the bill, as well as pension to be paid.
Like the Npower and other programmes cost a lot of money. In between that, you find the NNPC in decrepit condition; people are not paying taxes, etc, and above all, what do you find? They cannot reconcile our account between Central Bank, NNPC and Ministry of Finance; up till today, they have not been able to do that. In between this, people are making money. What type of country is that?
People are already talking about 2023, saying that for equity, power must go to South, while some argue that zoning and rotation are dead and that power should remain in the North. What is your position on this?
Forget about those who argue that power must remain in the North. That will not happen, except if the Southerners are stupid. Like Charley Boy used to say, our Mumu don do. If our Mumu don do, it will happen in 2023.
In terms of balancing, it should go to the South East, nothing should be taken away from this, and the vice president should come from North Central. The president should come from South East, and who that person will be, I don’t know, but there are so many qualified people from there. Examples are some people like Muoghalu, Peter Obi and co. There are others.