NASS invasion: Nigeria now on the precipice —Olajide
Dr Kunle Olajide is the Publicity Secretary of the Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF) and Secretary General of the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE). He speaks with ABIODUN AWOLAJA on last week’s invasion of the National Assembly by the Department of State Services (DSS) operatives, 2019 election, vote buying and sundry issues. Excerpts:
THE National Assembly was invaded by operatives of the Department of State Services last Tuesday. What do you make of the incident?
What I make of it is that Nigeria appears to be drifting into dictatorship. Somebody in the very high levels of government does not think Nigeria has moved far beyond 1966 or 1983. Nigeria is no more a banana republic. Ordinarily, we should be in the league of first world nations. For anybody to have contemplated and in fact acted that script yesterday (last Tuesday) is obnoxious and I’m happy he has been fired, because he is taking us years back. So, to me, it should not even occur to anybody to want to go and shut down the National Assembly, the bastion of democracy, where representatives of the people meet regularly to discuss the affairs of Nigeria and the future of Nigeria. So, I think that at the end of the day,we should thank the Acting President for taking that decisive action of relieving the DSS Director-General, Lawal Daura, of his job.
Could Daura have done what he did without the backing of some people in the Presidency?
Definitely not. There are, apparently, people in the high levels of government who still have the mindset of dictatorship and believe that Nigeria is still in the 50s or 70s, so they can do whatever they like and get away with it. Then, sometimes, you don’t want to blame them because they had done unbelievable things in the last two years. We had the Abdulrasheed Maina saga; we had security agencies that are supposed to be most disciplined fighting publicly in front of the director of DSS: Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) operatives struggled with and fought DSS operatives. We have not heard the last word in the Maikanti Baru $26 billion contract awards saga as documented by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu. For a long time in the last three years, it has appeared that Nigeria is on auto pilot.
President Buhari is interested in a second term of office. As a frontline figure in the South-West and elder statesman, what would be your reaction to his ambition?
It is his constitutional right to want to run. But it is the decision of the Nigerian people to re-elect or refuse to re-elect him. You cannot begrudge him of his aspiration. But as I said earlier, for a long time in this administration, Nigeria has been on auto. About three or four weeks ago, security agencies went to Benue to give cover to eight members, out of the 30-member legislature, attempting to impeach a governor. At the end of the day, the president disowned them but up till this moment, we have not heard a word of sanction against whoever took that decision,so that gives the impression of executive complicity in some of these things. Certain things would happen, the presidency would deny them and nobody would be brought to book.
Things seem to be disorganised in the Presidency, with the Acting President saying that he wasnt even aware of what Daura did. If you were in a position to advise President Muhammadu Buhari or Acting President Osinbajo, what would you tell them to do?.
First and foremost, I need to commend most sincerely, the courage of the acting president in terminating Daura’s appointment. Daura has been very high-handed in the last two and half years. I mean, it was he who invaded the residences of judges at midnight. Security agencies are supposed to be the most disciplined organs of government anywhere in the world, completely independent, even of those who appointed them. We’ve seen it in the United States where appointed Attorney-Generals had prosecuted cases against sitting presidents. But in Nigeria, the right does not know what the left is doing. The heads of our security agencies have a particular mindset and that is what worries me. They can do what they like. On one occasion, we were told by the president himself that he gave an order to the Inspector General of Police to relocate to Benue and that he was surprised that the IGP didn’t go there. And he (the IGP) was not sanctioned.
There were reports that the EFCC freezed the accounts of Benue and Akwa Ibom State governments following the defections in the states…
I do not believe that the EFCC has the right to freeze the accounts of a state government. We are running a federal system of government for goodness sake and the governments at the federal and state levels are to coordinate. In other words, the people of Benue elected the Benue State governor and the states are not satellite states under the presidency. I don’t believe that can happen.
Ahead of 2019, we have had alignments and realignments here and there.It looks like we are in a political transfer window.What is your assessment of these movements?
I am not excited about these alignments and realignments. One, I don’t see the difference between the two major political parties. It is the same group of people who moved from PDP to form APC in 2014 that are now moving back to PDP. It shows clearly that we have no ideological divide between the two parties. So the movement is for personal aggrandisement: it does not have the people in view. In other words, they are not moving because we don’t have power supply, nobody has moved because the roads are bad or because there are no drugs in the hospitals,or because the educational institutions are collapsing. Nobody has moved from one party to the other because in their respective states, salaries have not been paid for over six months. So, you can see personal interests at the centre of these movements.
Does it then mean that the movements may not be good for the country?
Well, sometimes in bad things, you can find some elements of good. I think it is now time for us, the electorate, to take advantage of these moves because if you observe, the political leadership of this country at the highest level is in a panic mode, acting without rational control. You can see the national chairman of the APC talking as if out of control, you can even see the PDP chairman and all of them are in panic mode because they do not know where what they are doing will end up. So this is an opportunity for us, the electorate, to now take our sovereignty back from them. The leadership elite at the ordinary level, not the political level, should now take advantage.
The civil society groups should take the lead in sensitising the electorate to let them know that what is happening at the highest political level, and that is slowing down government, is for the interest of people at the highest level and that their (the masses’) own situation is not taken account of. So, we should seize this opportunity to lead our people aright and ensure that when next they are voting, they give conditions and extract commitments from whoever they want to vote for at the council, state and national levels.That is the only window of opportunity I see in thus haze of confusion.
Vote buying or”see and buy”was a big problem during the governorship elections in Ondo and Ekiti states. How do we overcome this problem?
I have said it for the umpteenth time in your medium that the political leadership on both sides of the political divide —I am talking of both APC and PDP — are in a conspiracy against the electorate. They are taking advantage of the poverty among the people. Poverty dehumanises the human being and so at a stage, the voters appear to have sold their souls for money. You see fathers and mothers selling their children. Vote buying is a criminal offence, a capital offence against democracy. You are purchasing the life of the person, the future generation of that country.
How do we overcome the problem?
We have to develop our institutions and ensure that we have the right people in the right places. We have no strong institutions in Nigeria. In fact, the institutions appear to be completely independent of one another and they all are doing what they like. DSS is going one way, EFCC another. They quarrel among themselves and fight. Nobody is in charge.