Why Nigerian leaders must be held accountable for their promises to the electorate – Oyegbola
Lanre Oyegbola is a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the CEO of Boomerang Havas. In this exclusive interview with INIOBONG IWOK, he assesses the state of the nation, 2023 presidency, and the spate of insecurity, among other issues. Excerpts:
Nigeria clocked sixty-one years after independence last Friday. What is your assessment of the state of affairs?
Nigeria has gone through different phases like every other nation. But for Nigeria, we are on our way to a greater, bigger nation. We may not be there yet but we are not where we used to be. Many years ago we didn’t have a telephone but we have one now. Years ago, we struggled with the internet, we used to go to café; but now we have mobile networks in our homes. This is a time of reflection and a time of thanksgiving.
What has held us back as a country from attaining where we should be?
Our major issue is that we suffer to have equilibrium between leadership and followership. I would not subscribe to that position where everybody looks in the other direction when it comes to problems in the home.
When the children would say it is my mother and the husband would say it is my wife. When you come to the whole country citizens would say it is the leaders. But we have things that as a country we have not measured up to as followers and citizens. Many of us are evading taxes, we don’t want to pay for anything, but we want everything.
There has to be effective equilibrium between leadership and followership. Leadership must be held accountable for their promises, but also followers must be ready to offer their side of the bargain. That is one of things that is a major concern here in Nigeria. There has to be that balance.
But do you agree that there is also the problem of accountability?
Yes accountability, even on the side of the followers, there is an accountability issue.
It is not when you become a leader that we should be talking about accountability. In the little space where you are, are you accountable?
The problem we have in Nigeria is that everybody thinks there is a monster in the government house. As soon as you get there it takes over you. It is the same people that are now saying it is now our turn to rule. That is why some people could be fighting over rotational presidency; why are we so concerned about having a taste of it if it is all about service?
It should be a function of who is qualified and can provide the service; I don’t care where he or she comes from. But because we have a peculiar problem here, where when the next person gets there, the next thing he thinks about is himself; the next thing is his people before Nigeria.
What is your take on the Northern Governors opposition to zoning of the presidency?
I would say that both sides have a valid point to argue. The people who are saying it is time for power to rotate to the South have a valid position. Our return to democracy was through a Southern president and it returned to a Northern president and by faith it moved back to a Southern president, maybe, we need to look in that perspective. I think they have a point to say this is what we have been doing.
The Northern Governors also have a point because there is nowhere in the Constitution where a rotational presidency is written.
But personally, I think what we need is an effective equilibrium to be able to balance that would help us. If you say follow the constitution, even within a political party you may have some people who say why are you changing what we’ve been doing? Because it is a process and agreement both parties have a position.
But the South-East say it is their turn to take the presidency in 2023. What is your take?
Democracy is popular political participation. Everybody can advocate but I believe it would be a process, either through consensus or through contest. The South-East makes a point which I consider valid. Because we have had presidents from other sections of the country, but now even the North-Central are making a case.
Let not forget that democracy and election is determined by popular political participation which means; the person that has the highest following emerges victorious in the election.
What is your take on President Buhari’s performance so far?
We must understand that governance is a continuum. You continue from where things stop, it is not about Buhari, there is no one that would sort out all Nigeria’s problems in eight years.
I think the issues we are dealing with now cannot be tackled in a spring; we must be ready to deal with it for a long time.
We have only had how many circles after the return of democracy? This is probably the fourth. We can put our leadership to task more and be consistent then we should be getting somewhere positive. We came into democracy with a lot of restlessness that the military brought to governance with high levels of corruption, indiscipline and a lot of nepotism.
These are issues that cannot go away because you have a Buhari in government. Maybe, we need to do an assessment of what Buhari said, his promises and how he is delivering in that perspective.
What about the economy; are you satisfied with the direction it is going?
The economy is a function of production; I know people would be expecting that the dollar would be equal to the naira, which is a good proposition.
Just like when you start a business you come into a year and set a budget and in the course of the year you meet the realities, it either helps you to achieve or surpass your budget or measure up to your budget.
What is your take on the spate of insecurity across the country?
Everything is connected to the economy; when it is bad there would be a rise in crime of various forms. Some people would take to internet fraud; some would take to kidnapping, banditry and the rest. When you look at all of these, it is all about surviving. And we are in the midst where people are struggling economically; there is a high level of display of wealth and affluence.
So, there is a high level of poverty which is on the extreme now. Currently, the display of wealth is unimaginable in Nigeria. All the issues of insecurity are because the ones who are struggling see so much around them. You say the country is not good and you see people displaying wealth at an unimaginable level. If you check it down, you see it is one of the things driving it.
You are a chieftain of the APC; what is your take on Bola Tinubu’s presidential ambition?
I believe we should judge people by capacity. I believe we live beyond primordial sentiment. I believe that a man should be judged by his antecedent because if you tell me what you would do it is futuristic. If you make reference to what you have done, then I have a basis to compare.
Who are the possible hopefuls? We have more than enough. So, if Tinubu decides to run, I would be glad. Why? Because we know his antecedent.
I saw a photograph of Bola Tinubu this morning and he said; this was a photograph I took when I was still a governor in 2006. When you look at the picture, all the people he had with him had gone through his mentorship.
He had the Vice President, some present Ministers, and the rest, etc. What do you need in Nigeria? We need someone who is able to rally talent. This is a matter that cannot be fixed by one person we have established.
But he has opposition, some said he is greedy. Do you agree?
If he is self-centred we would not have someone from him that is Vice President. We know certain leaders in southern Nigeria, if you ask them they can’t parade this sort of list of people. We have to move beyond sentiment. The people that are talking, if you give them a chance they would not do things differently.
What is your take on clamour for INEC to transmit election results electronically?
INEC has said almost 97percent of the polling units are covered electronically, meaning that we should not only be talking about electronic transmission of results, we should be talking of electronic voting.
If we check against the recent election in the US which produced the highest number of votes cast ever in America, over 200 million people voted through mail ballots and it was because the Democrats looked at the law and were able to seize the window. In America that law facilitates and galvanises the electoral process. Especially at this period when we are talking about social distancing and reducing personal contact, we should have that, people should see the relevant base on the time we live in.
It would make the process more transparent and restore confidence, reduce voter apathy and the last election was 35 percent. We have a high level of voter apathy. The young population are the majority of the population and are lovers of convenience; give it to them in the form that is.
What is the secret of your success in business?
The advice is to focus on service; that is you just have to make yourself available to service either in the public or religious setting. You have to commit yourself towards serving people and society. That is what brings the result and increase.