Public office holders have been advised to focus their attention on how to implement programmes that will have meaningful impacts on the lives of Nigerians, rather than talking about 2023 general elections.
Making the appeal in this interview, the presidential candidate of KOWA party during the 2015 general elections, Prof Remi Sonaiya implored politicians in the country to focus their attention on good governance.
She also spoke on other national issues.
What’s your take on the present state of the nation, especially the insecurity challenge?
Candidly speaking, this is not the best of time for us as a nation. Apart from other challenges, insecurity has become a big source of concern. It is a worrisome development that must be tackled by the Federal Government. People are now concerned about travelling. They are afraid of kidnappers, especially Nigerians who live in areas where there are cattle rustlings, and where herdsmen attacks are very frequent. Even in the South here, nobody feels safe. I live in Ile-Ife, Osun state, it is the same feelings people have. People are afraid. The Federal Government should do something about the situation.
Aside insecurity, our roads are also in deplorable condition. They are in very bad shape. What are supposed to be expressways have become horrendous. In some cases, travelling on our roads have become a nightmare. On the issue of insecurity, the Federal Government should know what to do. From my own point of view, maybe some of these things are happening because we don’t have people who want to take responsibility.
One is surprised that when something happens, it will be announced that the President has ordered the Police to investigate, and take necessary actions but I wonder if the Police are doing their job. If they are doing their job, must they wait for the President to give them order before knowing what to do? Last night, the Police were reported as saying that some people were stockpiling arms in Kogi State for elections coming up there but should the Police be telling us this? If the Police know that some people are stockpiling arms, they are supposed to have arrested those involved and then tell us that they have been arrested. From the look of things, it doesn’t look as if the Police know its responsibilities, or how to perform its duties without being prompting. Must they wait to be ordered to do their job before knowing the right thing to do? The Police must do their duties without being ordered or being prompted to do so. If those in charge of security don’t act decisively on the worsening insecurity situation across the country, the situation will degenerate, and this will not be in the best interest of the country.
Some Nigerians have described the on-going debates and talks among politicians on 2023 as a distraction to governance; what’s your reaction to that?
For me, it is not a distraction, and I believe it should not be a distraction to those who are in government. Those in government should know how to do their job. They should be focused and not be distracted. We’ve started seeing different kinds of kites being flown by some politicians who are seeking to position themselves ahead of 2023. They are testing the waters but I don’t think that’s a big deal, and it should not be a distraction to those in government, especially if they see governance as service to the people.
They should not even be involved with all these debates on 2023 because they have a lot on their plates. They should address issues that concern Nigerians and not personal issues that border on their personal ambitions. Nigerian political class are too pre-occupied with who occupies which or what position; it doesn’t bother them that more Nigerians are sinking more and more into poverty.The welfare of over 180 million Nigerians doesn’t concern them. More Nigerians are getting poorer and they are not addressing that. Epileptic electricity supply is preventing many Nigerians from being productive. It is how all these problems can be solved that should be their focus but sadly, what we see them talking about is 2023.
The call for scrapping of zoning in 2023 by some politicians from the North has become a subject of controversy with some politicians from the South…..
Cuts in….Is zoning in our constitution? These people should just stop throwing all these at us and it is unfortunate that the media is allowing these non-performing elected people to distract us from real issues. Is this what should be paramount in the minds of these people? All these debates about 2023 and zoning, are they the issues that should be the object of their focus? The issues that they should be talking about, and give attention are security, and welfare of Nigerians. Do I care about zoning? I belong to a political party that doesn’t talk about or believe in zoning. If zoning is an issue in their own parties -PDP and APC, that’s their own business. I’m more interested in the plight of Nigerians.
Some prominent Nigerians recently canvassed the need for us to organize another national conference to proffer the way forward for Nigeria, what’s your reaction to that?
A new national conference might be useful but what have we done with the report of 2014 confab? Nothing, and this was a confab that was organized with billions of Naira. Not only that, many prominent Nigerians from different parts of the country were there, and after finishing their work, they wrote a report but unfortunately somebody is saying that he is not willing to consider the report. What kind of leadership is that? Nigeria doesn’t belong to President Muhammadu Buhari, so he can’t say it is what he wants that he can do. What about former President Goodluck Jonathan? What did he do with that 2014 confab report? Why didn’t he implement it? Why do our leaders keep on wasting Nigeria’s resources? This is one of the reasons why we continue to be one of the under-developed countries, rather than a well governed country that uses her resources in a reasonable manner.
What’s your position on the controversies over Restructuring ?
The reality is that Nigeria used to be a federation but the military truncated that arrangement and created a central government. This was a clear negation of what the nation’s founding fathers negotiated before independence. What they negotiated was that Nigeria was to be a federation and that was in practice before the military scuttled that arrangement. We have to go back to what we negotiated before independence and that’s true practice of federalism. That’s the only way for us to move forward as a nation.
It is our failure to practice true federalism that is plunging the nation into anarchy, and poverty since mid-80’s. But we can’t continue like this. We have to restructure. I don’t see why anybody should oppose restructuring. Nigeria is not working , and I believe that it is those who are dishonest, and don’t like justice that are saying No to Restructuring. The reality which we must be honest to accept is that Nigeria as being presently constituted is not working.
We are wasting our resources. The crude oil that all of us are scrambling after is being wasted. Not only that, a quarter of our budget is being set aside to service debts. What kind of country does that if that country wants to develop? Nigeria has about 30 million children who are out of school. The money that is supposed to be used to create jobs is being wasted to service debts and also to give luxurious lives to public office holders.
What gives our public office holders the right to be earning so much as salaries, and allowances when millions of Nigerians are wallowing in poverty? Is it because they were elected, and that’s if we agree that they were elected, and that they didn’t rig elections to get elected?
Are you then calling for a review of salaries , and allowances of public office holders?
I’m happy that many prominent Nigerians are already calling for that. Former governor of Imo State and now a Senator, Rochas Okorocha was recently reported as saying that what do we need three Senators representing each state for. Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State was also reported as saying recently that whether we need to have the Senate at all or not.
In 2012, Senegal suffered a terrible flooding and the nation’s leaders were looking for ways to tackle the problem without borrowing. So, what did they do? They then voted to abrogate their Senate, and just stick with one parliamentary chamber. By doing this, they were able to save money, and they used the money they saved to tackle the flooding. But can we do that here? Senegal is now attracting international investors. When other nations see countries that are serious in dealing with issues, they will go there, and invest but our leaders are spending our resources on paying elected leaders, and not on development.
What’s your take on President Muhammadu Buhari’s foreign trips as some Nigerians are advising the President to stay more at home to address pressing domestic challenges?
Some of these trips are not only unnecessary but are also wasteful. Whenever Buhari travels, he goes with a retinue of people and all these people collect estacodes, and other allowances. All these don’t give the impression of a nation that is serious. When China decided to become a developed nation, they locked down themselves for about 13 years. Their leaders were not travelling outside the country but they were busy with how to transform China within that period and today, China is a great nation. China is now even re-colonising Africa. What is Buhari showcasing, travelling all over the world without feeling ashamed? Our leaders enjoy travelling to other nations where their own leaders have worked hard to make their countries great but here we live in penury.
Any advice for President Buhari on this?
I don’t have any advice for Buhari. He knows what to do. He has been there before, and I believe that he is deliberately embarking on these trips, and this is sad. It is not all these trips that are necessary. He can delegate. It is my hope that our leaders will change.
There has been calls for reduction in the number of political parties in the country from the present 72 to a much lesser figure……
Cuts in….What we need to do first before talking about that is for us to address the fundamental issue of over-centralisation of governance in the country. If we decentralize, it will solve a lot of problems. In the first instance, why must we all vote on the same day as it is being presently done? If we are not practising a system that places emphasis on over-centralisation, then each state or federating unit can decide the time it wants to conduct its election without the Almighty INEC now deciding to conduct elections on the same day. If we decentralize, then some states can decide to have electronic voting, while some other states can decide on manual voting by using ballot papers. Centralisation gives room for corruption. Not only that, it also leads to confusion and where you have confusion, there will be corruption.