• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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Nigeria is disintegrating, we must sit down and discuss now – Ogunbanjo

Olatokunbo Ogunbanjo

Olatokunbo Ogunbanjo, who represented Ogun East in the Senate between 2003 and 2007, was also the secretary of the Southern Senators’ Forum and a founding member of the Institute of Legal Practice Managers UK. In this exclusive interview with INIOBONG IWOK, he spoke on the state of the nation, the worsening insecurity, among other issues. Excerpts:

What is your take on the state of insecurity and killings in Nigeria?

It is a cause for concern, whether it is in Southern Kaduna or any other place. Whether it is one person killed or two, it is not something that any government should be proud of. It is alarming; this is not something that the citizens should be content with. The paramount objective of government is to provide security. Nobody wants to see this happen.

But are you surprised that President Muhammadu Buhari has not sacked the service chiefs despite pressure from Nigerians?

It is not the responsibility of the army to provide internal security; it is the job of the police and obviously the police have not been able to do what is necessary to curtail all the killings. The army can only come in when we have external aggression; we are back to the days of the military. It is politicking that allows us to be using the army for internal security. But this brings to the fore the demand from everybody about the need for state police. The police are the one in charge of security internally and the army should not be playing the role that they are playing now. There is a need for more investigation and new methods and that is the work of the police. But when there is external aggression, like what is happening in the North East army can then come in. But obviously they are not using the right strategies; because this thing has been going on for some time, ten, twelve years or so; they need to review their strategies and do something. If the service chiefs have exceeded their tenure in office they should go. I don’t know if there are people who are below them that they have brought up and have the ability to do this, but it is very bad because this administration promised to tackle insecurity in the country.

What is your assessment of the Muhammadu Buhari administration’s five years in office?

I don’t know many Nigerians, who are satisfied with Buhari’s performance. When he came on board in 2015 we received him with open arms; because things were not going right, we all welcomed Buhari to government and we thought there would be a new direction for discipline, security and probity in Nigeria but so far, it does not seem these have happened after five years in power.

What areas do you expect him to give priority?

The number one thing is security of lives and property; everybody now feels insecure in Nigeria. You don’t want to travel on the road, except it is absolutely necessary. If that is sorted out we can begin to talk about other things. You can’t run an economy, when the country is not secured; how do businesses thrive when I cannot go round and monitor them safely? The whole place is just unsafe. The other day I was reading about some countries advising their citizens here on the states they should not visit in Nigeria; it appears almost a third of the country is no go areas. It means something is wrong if such advice is coming from abroad about us. Nobody is safe everywhere.

Being a former member; what is your assessment of the performance of the National Assembly?

I personally don’t think that the National Assembly has met the expectation of Nigerians. The perception among Nigerians is that they are not doing what is right, though it is predominantly dominated by one party. The primary role of lawmakers is to make laws, but now the revelations coming out of the NDDC smell a lot; it is too bad. A situation where lawmakers are hand-in-glove with the executive is bad. If you point at the number of people involved and the amount, it is shocking and the NDDC is not the only agency in the country, we don’t know what they would come out with when they go to another agency. This means that the entire country is the same; all this corruption is abominable.

In cutting the cost of governance can lawmaking be on par time basis?

You know there is what we call the National Salaries and Wages Commission; they recommend salaries of lawmakers. It is not the National Assembly that set its own salaries and allowance that is where we have to look at it from. If you look at it in real time the National Assembly is the scapegoat, I mean the corruption that people are talking about. But I think the real issue is with the civil service; there is nothing that can be done without the civil servants being involved. They, to me, are ones behind the bulk of the real corruption but the National Assembly is just the whipping boys. I am not saying that they are not part of what is going on like we have seen, what I am saying is that the civil servants are part of it. As a lawmaker, I cannot go and do anything without the knowledge of the civil servant. People talk about constituency projects, but people have forgotten that it is just to give a dog a bad name. Constituency projects came about because a lot of people go to the National Assembly and throughout their stay they could not influence a project to their constituency they tend to be hijacked by the leadership and committees’ chairmen.

So, it was initiated so that lawmakers can say at the end of the day I have done these projects in my constituency and the amount budgeted for such was N50 million, but I don’t know what it is today. So, you can say I need this and that in my constituency within the money; but in order to give a dog a bad name they are crucifying the lawmakers. In real time, nobody knows what the Ministers, heads of parastatals are earning in Nigeria and that is where the graft is. Look at the NDDC; and the number of people involved in this, but the federal lawmakers were able to go there and discover the fraudulent acts and ask questions. The real corruption is in the agencies.

So you are not surprised with revelations in the NDDC and EFCC?

The impression I get is that there is really no oversight by the President on the entire agencies, you would realise when you check. If you have a company and you don’t check what your managers are doing and they are getting away with all sorts of things; they found out that the MD is not doing anything they know you would not sack them. It is the same here; why should all these people be worried about the National Assembly probe? But I am surprised why the National Assembly has not said we would not fund any project in the Ministry next year. You have a situation where they call a Minister and he refused to come, they should simply keep quiet and say in the next budgeting, your Ministry would not be funded. You can see what they are doing in America. They said they would not fund the police again, it means the police cannot function because there is no money.

What is your take on zoning of the presidency in 2023?

I believe that we must have zoning, rotation and I believe in oscillatory rotation. What I mean is that if the presidency is in the North and North West when it comes to the South, it should either come to South East or South West; when it goes back to the North it should go to the North East, when it comes back to the South it should go to the South West. So, with this there would be fairness and all regions can have opportunity to rule. But if not I can tell you that no one from the South- South-south would become President because of numerical minority. Every time a Yoruba man comes out Yoruba people would vote for him. Let’s forget about competency, Nigeria is not ripe for that; if it is rotated to the South we find them.

What is your take on alleged lopsided appointments in the current administration?

Yes, this is one of the problems of this National Assembly; we have the Federal Character Commission they really should have taken them to task on that; it is not right. What happens when the President comes to the South East and he now populates everywhere with people from his region. That is what they are setting themselves for; if the next leader does the same you can’t question him. What is happening is wrong, people are bitter. What the ethnic leaders did recently by taking Buhari to court is right, even if they don’t succeed; they have sent a message to him.

Are you still in PDP or have you defected to the APC?

I don’t believe in cross-carpeting and looking for political relevance. I was in PDP, I have stepped aside since 2017 and I am on the side-lines, just like the late Bola Ige said; ‘I dey sit down dey look’. But naturally, my sympathy is still with the party I was in before, even though I don’t attend their functions. I am not the type of person that would say this is the ruling party let me go there, no. I want a situation where we would move forward; we must restructure the country. I was part of the constitution review and I believe the present constitution must change for this country to survive. Unless some people are hell bent on discontinuing what we call Nigeria, we must sit down and discuss; the country is disintegrating

So you would not contest any election soon?

No, it is not my intention, but I would certainly lend my voice to what would set things right. I want fairness, equity and justice; everybody should have a sense of belonging and that is what I have been doing. My fear on a spiritual level is that we are heading to a crescendo, unless there is some sort of intervention but that can only come from inner desires of everybody. My fear is that toward 2021 the signs would be clear. There is a need for an intervention for the positive good of the country.

But Bola Tinubu is said to be interested in the presidency in 2023. Would you not support him?

Everybody can aspire. I don’t know if anybody’s interest would be achieved. But my personal sense of fairness is that, if we are going to continue like this, the presidency should come to the South and it should go to the South East.