Despite complaints of hardship in the country since President Muhammadu Buhari came on board in 2015, there are many who believe that the government is on course and moving toward repositioning Nigeria. One of those who believe that the All Progressives Congress (APC) government is on track is Senator Ganiyu Olanrewaju Solomon, popularly called GOS, who represented Lagos West between 2011 and 2015 in the senate. In this interview with WILLY EYA, he spoke on various issues.
Two years of the All Progressives Congress (APC) government headed by President Muhammadu Buhari in office, do you think the party has delivered on its campaign promises to the people of Nigeria?
I think the campaign promises of the president were mainly on three points –corruption, security and the economy. You would agree that in terms of corruption, he has taken some bold steps, which are unprecedented in the country particularly since 1999 when this republic came into being. Corruption is being taken care of and the Federal Government is on course in the fight against corruption. Yes, some people complain about one thing or the other but at least the president has made that bold move in the fight against corruption. Then in terms of security, particularly in the North East part of the country, you would agree with me that he has done well too by curtailing the activities of the Boko Haram insurgents and has also tried in freeing some of the abducted Chibok girls. In terms of the economy, you would want to review the situation on ground by the time he came in. The first time he came after swearing in, we were made to understand that statistics showed that the country was in recession. You would agree with me that you cannot be in recession between the time he came in and the first quarter of the next year which is 2016. The slide to recession started like 2013 and 2014 when we started witnessing a drop in the prices of oil and for insiders too, we are aware that some states were already unable to pay salaries, wages and other necessary financial obligations. At the same time, we ought to have started declining in revenue accruable to the Federal Government, which also manifested in shortage of funds to the states. There were also more demands than supply in the country. All these congregated in the recession, which was official in 2015. It could not have been the activities of the present government at that time that led to a recession. We have been in the recession period. But under this government, the situation is gradually improving. The dollar went haywire initially but thank God it has reduced drastically now. I think currently, it is about N360 to a dollar. Given time, I think that we would have an improved economy in the country under this government. There is the problem of unemployment and that is why the Acting President has been emphasising the need to create more jobs in Nigeria. So, to me, the government is not doing badly; it is on course and in scoring them, I would give them above average. We should only continue to pray for the good health of the president so that he would continue to deliver on his promises to the people of Nigeria.
You talked about the effort of the government on security but many insist that the activities of the herdsmen who are the new face of terror have diminished whatever achievements President Buhari has recorded in that area.
On the issue of herdsmen, when I was talking on security, I was emphasising on the successes recorded in tackling Boko Haram, which we all agree that the situation has subsided substantially. The insecurity from the activities of the herdsmen I also believe the government should go a notch higher so that they do not turn out to be the next menace. It is another challenge coming up in recent time and I think the government needs to give the activities of the herdsmen more attention.
Do you share the view that Buhari has not done enough in the area of fostering national unity and that his style is the cause of agitations in various parts of the country?
Let us get it right. There is only one ethnic agitation and that is the issue of Biafra. I do not know of any other one but that of the Biafra. I want to say that we should be careful how we handle some of these things. There would continue to be agitations whether on the issue of restructuring, resource control or recognition and so on. But the truth is that the desire of any president is to unite the country. No president or Head of State wants to go down in history as being one under whom the country was dismembered. There is no way anybody can allow that. You can put yourself in the same position as the president and you would agree with what I am saying. Every president of this country would prefer to unite the country no matter the agitation of anybody.
Restructuring has become a recurring issue in the country but even as many people seem to want it, there are some especially from the Northern part of the country who are obviously against tinkering with the way Nigeria is structured today. What is your view on this?
The truth is that a lot of things are calling for attention in the country. There would always be agitation for restructuring the nation just as there would always be agitation for the creation of states and even local governments. Some even say they want to get out of the country. But like I said before, it is a matter of history and no president would like to be remembered as the one under whom the country was dismembered. Then talking about restructuring, you should ask what are the components of the restructuring programme. We have different types of restructuring. What restructuring means to Mr A is different from what it means to B or C. The only way we can have restructuring is like what the past administration did in the National Conference but the only difference is that they did not have the backing of the National Assembly. We can only have restructuring if the National Assembly presents us with that opportunity and how can they do that. They can by having a constitutional amendment where they give the power for a constitutional conference to discuss the constitution. If they do that, they would have succeeded in giving it the necessary backing. That is the only way because if you do otherwise, the question would be, where did you get the power, which was what people are saying concerning the last one. Yes, they had the documents, good recommendations and the conference was made up of respectable Nigerians but how do you place them? How do you define those recommendations? You do not have any legal backing. It was not impossible that the framers of the 1999 constitution have some people in mind when they were doing the constitution. You had people for the various positions before they came up with the constitution. It should not be ; it should be the other way round. You should have the constitution before you go into the election. We have just been able to amend once. Since 1995, various attempts have been made but only one scaled through and I am not sure if the present 8th National Assembly can come up with an amendment. But if that is possible, we can look at some of these vexed issues and whether we like it or not, you cannot dodge the issue of restructuring but like I said, restructuring means different things to people. Some want restructuring to be regional, some say anything produced in my territory belongs to me and so on and so forth.