- Category: Politics
- Published on Tuesday, 30 March 2010 08:07
- Written by Admin
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Chief Akin Omoboriowo, an Awoist and former Deputy Governor of old Ondo State, between 1979 and 1983 under late Governor Adekunle Ajasin of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), is a lawyer and statesman of repute.
He later parted ways with Ajasin and contested the governorship election of old Ondo State in 1983 on the platform of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and his declaration as the winner of the contest by the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) sparked violent protests in the state which claimed several lives.
Omoboriowo rarely grants press interviews and when he offered to speak exclusively with the Daily Sun Sun last week, it was not for nothing as the hour long chat was as revealing as it was interesting. The indigene of present day Ekiti State, who now lives in Abuja, spoke with panache and wit about the Nigerian nation, politics, Jos crisis and other vital issues in this interview with NOSIKE OGBUENYI. Excerpts
Later this year precisely October 1st, Nigeria will be 50 years old as an independent country and 96 years old as a single entity having been amalgamated in 1914. Taking a look at how far we’ve gone, do you really think Nigeria is living up to its potentials and expectations as a country or is it a country that is turning into a failed State as the US has predicted?
It looks to me that when all the indices that have to be considered before you can say a failed state or not a failed state, if they are applied to the Nigerian situation, sociologists tell us that at least nine of the twelve indices are present in the case of Nigeria. In other words, it’s on the road to being a failed state.
Now, when nine out of 12 indices are present, then you can come to the conclusion that this is most likely to become a failed state before long - if it has not already become a failed state. But I would say something; I’m no longer an active politician. I used to be a very active and very vibrant politician during the Second Republic in particular. But God Almighty who puts everybody here in this divide called Nigeria has touched my life and I think more of what I should do to please him than what I should do to please man. Therefore, in whatever I say and do now, I think more about giving consideration to the wish of God.
I do believe that in the case of Nigeria, applying the parameters of live and let live and do unto others as you want them to do to you, Nigeria as a united country has come to stay. I know that there are intractable problems of very serious dimensions. But at the end of the day, God Almighty who is conversant with the creation of Nigeria by the British and who has not allowed the country to go into bits and pieces even when they are in serious problems like the era of Chief MKO Abiola, when he was robbed of his presidential right, which was a period of terrible tension in this country; but God saw us through. The same God is still on the scene. He has always been on the scene.
He will continue to be on the scene and he will make sure that this country stays together. What puts Nigeria together therefore is not the wisdom of Nigerians. It is not the efforts of the political leaders. It’s not the efforts of the rulers. It’s the wish of God because God has something more than what it seems for Nigeria. It is because of that bigger consideration that I believe as a Christian statesman that Nigeria as a country has come together to stay. There may be problems, but God Almighty will see us through. That is my own understanding of the situation in Nigeria.
Our problem has been one of leadership all along. When you have good leaders, the country will do well. In the short of period of Murtala Mohammed’s regime, there was a sense of direction. We felt happy being Nigerians. He was dynamic; he was clear headed and he ran the country according to laid down programmes, even though he was a military man. Also, during the regime of Mohammadu Buhari and Idiagbon, there was purposeful leadership and they left the country in no doubt that if you did any evil, you will get judgment for the evil you did and that gave rise to this orientation of WAI – War against Indiscipline. Because a country or a community which is not run according to laid down rules or fear of God, it, will always have problems. So the problem is basically leadership. It is not that this country doesn’t have good people to lead the country. But the country has not been fortunate to get the right people at the helm of affairs. Shehu Yar’Adua of blessed memory wanted to do something. I was with him.
He meant to keep Nigeria together and to form a party that will run the country according to rules and regulations and according to policy programmes of a particular party. But, again, his life was cut short. So, we are unfortunate in having a succession of inappropriate or fumbling leadership. We have had leaders who didn’t give the country the right direction. I mentioned the case of Murtala Mohammed and the case of Idiagbon and Buhari, but they all stayed for short periods. But during the short periods, they gave the country correct leadership and the right orientation.
Buhari was right in jailing politicians
But Buhari and Idiagbon jailed so many people, including yourself. Why then do you hail that regime?
It was to instill a sense of responsibility in leaders. Although, I committed no offence, but because I was a player in the politics of the Second Republic, I was left there because the Federal agencies tried us and they said I committed no crime and I was released from Kirikiri prison under 30 days.
We were all there with people like Alex Ekwueme, former Vice President and most of the governors were there. Late Bola Ige, Bisi Onabanjo, Barkin Zuwo, Abubakar Rimi, most ministers of the First and Second Republics were all there. But within 30, I was released in company with about 12 other politicians and nothing was found against me. But the politicians in my state were wondering why this man was released now because they felt I brought problem to the old Ondo State. I didn’t eve bring problem, but I stood my ground on principles, on democracy, right to disagree and right to make ones choice on what you do in politics.
So, what I’m trying to say in a sense is that it is the leadership that dictates what happens to a country. If the leadership is right, then the followership will toe the line of sanity. There will be peace and progress in the country. The issue of stealing public funds and carrying them overseas will not arise if you have responsive leadership and people who fear God. But as long as you have a succession of leaders who don’t fear God, so will you have problems on your hand because all that I see today is politics of money. Young rulers of today, they like money and they like to enjoy the grandeur of office and that is why they steal public funds.
They don’t care about the elementary law of God – thou shall not steal; thou shall not kill, and they kill to stay in position. Even the last democratic experience of Chief Obasanjo, you realize that so many people were felled by unknown killers and no case has been brought to book. They arrested people and promised to do investigations, but there has been no trial and no conviction. So, people have seen that if they can kill and get away with it, there is no problem doing what pleases them. But they will not get away with the judgment of Almighty God for killing innocent people. If they don’t account to governors here in the world, they will before the court of the Almighty God. They cannot escape it because you cannot bribe God.
What do you think is behind that tendency to kill by some politicians, because they are still killing here and there? A prominent politician was killed in Ogun State the other . What do you think is responsible for the dangerous trend?
Over-ambition, lack of fear of God and the desire to amass money. What happens today is that once you are the governor of a state, you preside over the funds of the state. The excess crude oil account for instance, I read in the papers that each of the state governors about a month ago, shared at least N45 billion excess crude account money and I understand that right now, they are sharing another money. But what do they do with this money? Is there any development in concrete terms in various states in this country? There are few states where you have developments. Take my state Ekiti; the Governor there has tried. He wants to turn the fortunes of the people around by laying the infrastructure that will stand the test of time. In the area of education, when he came on board, there was only one University in the State. But now you have four universities – one private university and three state universities.
Then roads are improved. There is the independent power programme being faced squarely by the administration in Ado-Ekiti. But that is not so with most of the states. In most other places, all that the governors do is that they get this money and they turn them into foreign money and take them overseas for their own keep. Otherwise, why does the EFCC go after most of the former governors? They indict them, but few cases are in court. Most cases have not even been tried at all? When people commit crime and they go scot-free, then they have a field day to commit more serious crimes in future and that’s why I say the politics of this moment is not my cup of tea at all because the young men today are very tricky.
It’s not that they are not patriotic; but when they get to positions, they pay more attention on how to convert a good portion of the money to personal use. That’s why teachers are not paid. That’s why roads are not built or repaired. That’s why there is no light. That’s why there is no potable water. That’s why there is crisis of confidence between the rulers and the ruled because young people grab the money and they want to enjoy themselves and you have what I call grandeur of office. They don’t listen to elderly people because they say these people will push us off our programmes. But they have their own private agenda to make money for themselves when they leave office.
Nigeria is moving closer to a failed state
There are some countries where there was corruption, but they were still able to grow out of that corruption. Take India and Malaysia for example. But the case of Nigeria seems different because the people are stealing money and stashing it abroad. Can you explain why Nigeria’s case is different? Again I would like you to cite some of the indices of a failed state present in Nigeria which you mentioned earlier?
I told you sociologists tell us that there are twelve indices. But in the case of Nigeria, nine indices have been confirmed to really exist, which means we are virtually a failed state. But I see that God Almighty who has brought us together will keep us going, not because we are good or because we pray enough, because I don’t believe in the prayers we pray in Nigeria.
We pray in one breadth and we join them to do evil in another breadth. So, that is no prayer. God cannot be fooled. Remember God is not a man. You can fool a man but you cannot fool God because when you are thinking, he knows what you are thinking. When you are being smart with people’s money, he knows what you are doing. But I do know that because of His programme for Nigeria and the entire world, I believe God Almighty has a special plan for Nigeria and that is our blessing. That is why I believe that come rain, come thunder and lightening, Nigeria will stay together. There maybe problems like we have today in the Niger Delta, the problems in Plateau and other parts of the country. But, at the end the day, by the grace of God, I believe we will overcome and we will remain a united country and that is better for us.
I believe that it is when we are large in population as we are, we are large in resources, not only human resources but mineral resources, agricultural productivity; we have not tapped the resources that nature gave us in this country. Remember that those advanced countries that we are copying like Britain and US, only few people are agriculturists there and I have it on authority that even America, only about four percent of the population are real farmers, but they are not the type of farmers we have here who go to the farm with hoes and cutlasses. They have farmers who use large scale machine and they put on their ties and suits and administer the affairs of their agricultural investments and they are able to, therefore raise enough food crops enough for the entire country. They sell the surplus to other parts of the world.
We are an agricultural country in Nigeria but we practice the primitive agriculture. Instead of government bringing the people together into cooperatives and then making markets available for them so that they pay less money; if a farmers now want to make agricultural plantation, they have to go to the bank to raise money. The banks will ask for their collateral. But if government encourages farmers to form cooperatives and they give this money to cooperatives which are collective, then they will use the money for the general interest of the commune of those cooperatives. No single man will say let me chop two-thirds of the money and spend one third for production. We have to harness our resources for the welfare of the people. We have to encourage farmers to form cooperatives, buy agricultural materials and make them available to the farmers, so that food can be produced with bumper harvest for the nation. Then we can even export food products to other parts of Africa and the world like America is doing today.
But some people believe that Nigeria is merely existing as a house divided against itself and that most of the leaders are just pretending that all is well. What people say openly is not what they do in their closets. It is like the diverse groups have become a tangled web, conjoined together and unable to disentangle. This is a view that is very prevalent that Nigerians will continue suffering and smiling until the Armageddon. Do you agree?
I cannot predict the future, but the situation may not get very bright or much brighter than we have it now. But if we have good leaders who are brought into power by the votes of the majority then things may turn around. Remember the elections that took place in 2007 that produced the present administration, you know the elections were flawed. The international community said they were massively rigged and you are in the country. In fact, somebody stayed somewhere and he was dictating figures which INEC adopted and what happened.
If you see some of the results of the election petition tribunal – take the one of Ondo State for instance where Olusegun Mimiko eventually emerged and that is the person the people voted for. But somebody sat down somewhere and dictated election results from Ondo State to INEC and INEC announced it. The same thing happened in most parts of the country. As long as the electoral process gives enough room for irresponsibility in high places, for lack of democracy in the way we conduct our electoral affairs; the INEC we have was picked by Mr. President and you know the Uwais Committee recommended that instead of Mr. President appointing the Chairman and members of the INEC, it should be done by the National Judicial Council. As long as you have a President who is from a political party and he wants to continue in office, he will not select Chairman of INEC and members of INEC who will not do his biddings and that’s what happened.
That’s how Chief Obasanjo brought in Prof. Iwu and his commissioners. I’m not saying that all the Commissioners are bad. I’m saying that because of the way they were brought into institutions of authority within INEC, they tended to surrender to the dictates of Mr. President and this process has to change. INEC has to be totally independent, not only by way appointment, but also by funding. They should have freedom to spend their own money to achieve maximum results in the elections because if they have to beg Mr. President for money, you know that he who gives the money dictates the tune and that is what will happen. So, I think the Uwais’ Committee recommendations will help us a lot if adopted.
Gaddafi got it wrong about Nigeria
Still talking about the problems of this country, some of which manifested in Jos when many people were killed, a foreign Head of State, Col. Muammar Gaddafi suggested that the country should be divided along presumed religious lines. What is your comment?
I don’t share the view of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan President when he said Nigeria should be divided into two. It looks like a cheap convenient arrangement, but I believe in the unity of this country. I believe Nigeria as a big respected country will make it eventually. I believe we have problems, but I have said earlier on that our main problem is one of leadership. If you have an electoral process that shores up people whom the majority of the voters want, you won’t have the problems you have today. What happened in Jos is very unfortunate. If I am Mr. President, the GOC and the Police, the security forces in Jos, I will hold them responsible and deal with them as such because how can people be sleeping in their houses in the night, people who have not committed any crime, who have not offended anybody; they just pounced on them in the dead of the night and they began to cut them into pieces.
Definitely, that action is contrary to the will of God. It’s contrary to our laws as a democratic country and this thing has been happening. This is neither the first time nor the second time. It has been going on for a long time in Plateau State. Why does it not occur like that in Katsina State which has more Muslims? Why does it not occur like that in Kano? Why is it occurring in Kano where you have a minority of Muslims? What occurs to me therefore is that it may have more Christian religious underlining. But the real problem is that politicians are planning it.
They give money to killers in form of Fulani herdsmen to go in the night and kill people and when people are being killed, what is the police doing? What is the military doing? Over 500 people were killed and a few days ago, they went to slaughter again 13 people in the night. This government must do something to immediately arrest the dangerous trend because it will be accountable not only to the court of law in this country but also to the Almighty God; because if people who should protect the lives of people don’t show any positive action in a terrible situation like this, but God Almighty knows what is going on and his judgment is inescapable. We can escape the judgment of man, but we cannot escape the judgment of the Almighty God because he is in charge in the affairs of the nation.
But Nigerian leaders don’t fear God. They don’t know meaning of even to believe in God. They don’t even understand God because God is not a man. God has laws. God is an entity that is very tidy. He makes laws, stands by His laws and He keeps his laws. I’m Christian and the Bible tells us that God Himself obeys the laws He makes. He binds himself by his law. He stands by His Revelation of truth. Truth is the law of God. He stands by His laws. So, God to that extent is not riotous. He is tidy. He obeys his laws and that is why he remains God. If we say we believe in God, whether we are Christians or Muslims, we are truncating his law by disobeying the law that God us. We will pay dearly for it. Those who are in charge at every layer of government but who refuse to take actions when innocent people are being slaughtered, God will deal with them.
Some people have proposed that we should have constitutional amendment to make way for things like State Police, so that the states will have their internal security in their own hands. Like the Police and soldiers waiting for orders from Abuja and not from the state governors. What is your opinion on that?
They will not be waiting for signal when people are being slaughtered before their eyes. According to them, the State Governor called to say people are being slaughtered in certain Local Governments and the GOC and the Police chief said I will go there. But nobody went there. That can’t be the best.
But it’s not a directive because the State Governor can only appeal to them?
What I’m saying is that there is the presumption in law that when innocent people are being slaughtered and killed in the presence of security personnel, whether Police, SSS or soldiers, they are presumed to have compromised their position when they fold their hands because they do not get orders. They ought to arrest the gradual immolation of innocent people who have nothing to defend themselves. How many years will they wait for orders from Abuja. I’m not a policeman but it’s elementary that when innocent people are being killed, the law enforcement agents cannot say because we’ve not had orders from our superior, therefore we will not stop the killing of innocent people.
You don’t agree with the call for state police?
That is not the issue. What is important is that if government is responsible, whether state or federal, they will not allow a situation when on the first occasion, over 500 people were slaughtered in cold blood and nothing has come out and there were probes and probes in the past. They must immediately take pre-emptive action to prevent such situation in the future. They know their roles.
Jonathan should be supported in our collective interest
The Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has dissolved the federal cabinet and is in the process of reconstituting the cabinet. What is your advice?
I call on all Nigerians to support Acting President Goodluck Jonathan in our own collective interest. I met him for the first time when he went to bury S.G Awoniyi at Atumopa. That’s where I met him for the first time and we shook hands when he was still the Vice President. That’s the only occasion I ever met him. But I’ve watched him from distance and I’ve seen he is cool headed and patriotic Nigerian. He did not manipulate the situation to say my number one is sick and then announce himself. He cooled down. He was not rushed. He didn’t allow the press or the political parties to push him into taking certain desperate actions. He is clear headed and I think he is well intentioned. We should support him. There is no other thing for us to do than to support him. Yar’Adua is physically incapable because of ill health. What do we do? Do we say until the man who is sick comes back, Jonathan should fold his arms? That will be irresponsible.
I think Jonathan should go ahead and take steps to make people feel that we really have a government, make sure there is discipline among the security forces, make sure that no kidnapping and killing of innocent people takes place and, above all, the electoral system has to change. The INEC has to change it’s personnel because these people who took us through the election of 2007, they cannot be the same people who will take us to 2011. There should be change of those people and we should move very fast in this direction. We should pray for Yar’Adua that god will touch his life and give him health to come back. If he comes back, Jonathan has no choice than to step down and go back as Vice President and authority goes back to Yar’Adua. That is our prayer for the man. But we cannot say that until Yar’Adua comes back, Jonathan should just fold his arms. That is unrealistic.
‘I cannot predict the future, but the situation may not get very bright or much brighter than we have it now. But if we have good leaders who are brought into power by the votes of the majority then things may turn around. Remember the elections that took place in 2007 that produced the present administration, you know the elections were flawed’