• Monday, June 17, 2024
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How faulty structure, failed governance impede Nigeria’s progress – Okenile


Akinwole Okenile a lawyer, social critic and human rights activist, in this exclusive interview with INIOBONG IWOK, spoke on President Bola Tinubu’s one year in office and the secessionist agitations in South Western Nigeria. Excerpts:

What is your take on Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration one year in office?

I’m sure many people will tell you that one year is not enough to make a judgment. However, from where we all stand, we know that we are all in a very difficult situation. One year after President Tinubu was inaugurated, those who voted for him and those who opposed his choice as president, are grinding their teeth in pain.

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There are a number of activities undertaken by President Tinubu, yet we do not get the feeling that the government is making much progress. The scorecard is nothing to write home about.

All we keep hearing is the usual political promises of a better tomorrow. You look at the downward trajectory of the naira, the raging inflation and cost of living, then you look at the momentous decision to remove petroleum subsidy, and you realise that it is high time the government turned things around for the good of Nigerians.

Cost of living has been high since Tinubu assumed office; most Nigerians find it difficult to feed. Where do you think the problem lies?

One of the primary factors contributing to this situation is undoubtedly linked to the recent naira devaluation and fuel subsidy removal by the current administration.

The government policies at various times have exacerbated Nigerians living conditions. Nigerians are in various levels of pain and they are pains that are unintended. But they are the results of certain policy decisions that, hopefully with time, can be amended to serve the welfare of the people.

Until the Nigerian government begins to implement effective policies that strengthen the naira, Nigerian citizens are in for a hard time for the foreseeable future. Nigerians are already trying their hardest to adapt to these unreasonable costs of living. The government must play its part by providing targeted support for lacking populations and executing responsible fiscal management alongside viable monetary policies to stabilise the weak naira and lay a foundation for long-term economic development.

What is your take on agitations for Yoruba nation by some people in the South West?

I am a core Yoruba man and I am deeply rooted in the agitation for a Yoruba Nation. The agitation is a result of lack of a comprehensive and effective response from the Nigerian government to address grievances and dissatisfactions expressed by some of us. We are agitating because we want a restructured Nigeria; we want a Nigeria where Yoruba will be free to develop at their own pace.

We believe we are being held down; we believe we are not able to demonstrate our talents. We believe if we are allowed to progress at the pace set by late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, by now we would be better than Brazil, Singapore, and China.

China was behind us in those days. Malaysia came here to get its palm kernel; today, we import palm oil from Malaysia.

Yoruba people are not agitating for Yoruba president, we have had one. We are agitating for the restructuring of Nigeria. A Yoruba president will come and go; if the structures are not made okay, there will be no development for any ethnic group.

We want a restructured Nigeria like we had in 1960 so that each region can develop at its own pace. That was the time we had the development we still refer to, today. We are agitating to go back to that arrangement whereby the Yoruba will be able to travel at a faster pace than now. We are being held back now, and we don’t want that anymore.

Some people say agitation for succession was not known with the Yoruba’s, especially during the time of Obafemi Awolowo, he was one of those who believed in one Nigeria. What is your take?

The reverberation of the Yoruba nation’s movement dates to the era of late Herbert Ogunde, a philosopher and dramatist who resonated the need for Yoruba self-determination in his musical documentation entitled ‘Yoruba Ronu,’ meaning that Yoruba should have a deep thought.

He pleaded that Yorubas, who represent one of the dominant ethnic groups in Nigeria, should look back and observe their greatness. Another reflection of such calls for liberation was made by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the former Premier of Southwestern Nigeria. He argued that the time is coming when the Yoruba people will advocate for self-liberation from Nigeria’s political enslavement.

The foregoing assertions were some of the few futuristic plans for the Yoruba sovereign nation promoted by late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. This shows that the Yoruba nation’s self-determination groups have been in existence for many years, and until recently, the Yoruba Nation Separatist Movement.

But it does not seem the Tinubu’s administration is ready to listen or even dialogue with the agitators. Does that surprise you?

I’m not surprised at all. The International Human Rights Commission had urged President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to hold talks with Yoruba Nation agitators, but the presidency turned a deaf ear. The situation is not anyway better under a renewed hope agenda of President Bola Tinubu.

Every political office holder believes that the position he or she occupies is a national cake thereby affording them the opportunity to steal from the cookie jar.

This is one of the reasons why the political gladiators believe in one indivisible and indissoluble Nigeria. Against the backdrop of the invasion of the Oyo State House of Assembly Complex in Agodi, Ibadan, by Yoruba Nation agitators, the presidential spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale said Tinubu has thundered that there is no allowance for any sort of agitation from the Nigerian people.

Democracy Day is here, many people believe that democracy has failed in Nigeria. What is your take?

Let me start by saying that Democracy Day is now June 12 and not May 29. The May 29 and June 12 dichotomy is a topic for another day. Be that as it may, the recent President Tinubu’s warning against the Yoruba Nation agitation is in itself undemocratic.

Failure of democracy is inherent in the government’s response to #EndSARS, Yoruba Nation agitation, mis-governance, to mention but few.

Further, our leaders have made democracy fail in Nigeria because they don’t want to be questioned, a political office holder doesn’t want to be asked about issues, a Nigerian leader doesn’t want to be held accountable, and these are the tenets of democracy.

Nigerian leaders believe in autocracy, they believe in chiefdom, they want to rule over everybody, they want to always have that mega authoritative aura and these are things that are not democracy friendly. Democracy is not working because we don’t want it to work, simple.