Following the worsening state of insecurity in some parts of the country, the Secretary-General, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Dr. Kunle Olajide has raised fears that Nigeria may turn into another Somalia if the Federal government does not take drastic measures to address the situation. In this interview with TUNDE THOMAS, he spoke on various issues.
What is YCE’s reaction to the growing state of insecurity across the country?
The situation has become very worrisome. It has become frightening. As elders, we are deeply worried that Nigeria is bleeding. It is sad that we are not fighting any battle, and yet it appears as if we are in a state of war. Nobody is safe again. First, it was Boko Haram, and while we are still battling to contain the scourge of the insurgents, now the herdsmen and armed bandits have joined the list of those making life hellish for Nigerians. Kidnappers and abductors are also having a field day, kidnapping people for ransom at will.
Many states in the country are now under the siege of bandits,herdsmen and kidnappers. Lives of citizens are now endangered on a daily basis. This is sad, and very unfortunate. We have to do something fast to restore sanity. We can’t just continue like this. The nation’s founding fathers would be turning in their graves because this is no more the Nigeria envisaged by the founding fathers.
The question we should ask our leaders is this, how did we get to this present situation? It is very unfortunate that anarchists are on rampage. Something fast has to be done because if the present situation continues, then Nigeria faces disintegration and this is why the President working in hands with the members of the National Assembly and other stakeholders have to do something urgent to restore sanity.
But what do you think is responsible for the present situation; I ask because many Nigerians give diverse reasons?
What is happening is a reflection of the poor state of the economy. There is much poverty in the land. Many youths are unemployed and moreover, there is inequitable distribution of wealth. The gap between the rich and the poor is also getting wider and wider.
But one important factor that must be noted is that Nigeria’s geo-political structure is very defective. We are running a government of deceit. What do I mean by this? We are running a unitary system which we are masquerading as a federal system. Nigeria is a heterogeneous society, meaning that we have so many different ethnic groups, and this was why the nation’s founding fathers in their wisdom adopted federalism at independence for Nigeria.
The system was working perfectly well between 1960-1966 when the military took over power in a coup. The military intervention led to the introduction of unitary system, a system that has remained with us till today, and this is what has been giving Nigeria problems since. Unless we revert to a true practice of federalism, these problems including insecurity will not go away but will continue to get worse.
Are you in a way calling for Restructuring which is also being canvassed by some other Nigerians?
Whatever name you want to call it, we need a review of our present structure. It was in the realization of this that even President Muhammadu Buhari’s party, APC set up a committee headed by Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el –Rufai on devolution of powers.The committee had since concluded its report. While presenting the report, Gov. el-Rufai called for a speedy implementation of its committee’s report. One of the highlights of that report is the call for the creation of state police.
It is clear and now obvious that a central police command in the hands of Federal government can not handle the security situation all over the country. The Police have been overwhelmed and this is why the Army and the Airforce have been drafted to join the battle against these criminals holding the nation to ransom. But all these bombings by the armed forces are just temporary or ad-hoc measures. The best thing for us is to find permanent solutions. With the State Police, it will be easier for states to tackle security challenges in their domains.
Again, State Police will enhance what some people call community policing. Since these officers are from that particular zone or areas, they will be better placed to understand how to tackle security challenges in their domains. Imagine posting somebody from Ekiti state to Gombe to go and work there as a police officer; he may find it difficult to understand the terrain.
I think the President should face the reality now, moreso when members of his own party, APC have realised the need for devolution of power if Nigeria is to move forward. President Buhari should implement Gov. el-Rufai’s committee’s report, and also some of the recommendations in the 2014 national confab report. What we are talking about here is not whether President Buhari as a person is in support or opposed to Restructuring, we are talking about the survival of Nigeria as a nation. Buhari should act as a true statesman. He should put Nigeria first. In this era of globalisation , no part of the country should think it can lord it over others anymore. The earlier he wakes up to this reality, the better.
On your call for State Police, the argument by those opposed to it is that of the problem of funding; they are saying that many states are finding it difficult to pay salaries of workers, let alone funding State Police….
I don’t think funding of State Police should be a problem. State Police can be funded from security votes being collected by state governments. Where there is a will, there will always be a way. Security issue should be accorded top priority. Look at the number of states where bandits and herdsmen are operating in the country today. Zamfara, Taraba, Benue, Sokoto, Kaduna, Kogi and even the President’s state, Katsina is also under siege of bandits. There was a time it was widely reported that bandits were operating in about 10 local government areas in Katsina. This is time to give utmost consideration to the establishment of State Police.
With the 2019 general elections concluded, preparations are being made for the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term, what advice do you have for the president and other newly elected leaders?
My advice to the president and others is that they should realise that the present state of insecurity is a big problem and it is festering. Nigeria is burning and bleeding but it appears as if our politicians are not all paying attention to this issue. Buhari should stay more at home. He should cut down on his foreign trips and face the problems at home. Nigeria at this point in time needs his attention. He should not behave like Emperor Nero who fiddled while Rome was burning.
When I look at these politicians, the way they act and behave, I often feel disappointed. Imagine when bandits and herdsmen are spreading, and operating in many states, politicians are talking about the spoils of office. They are talking about who gets what. But is it not when Nigeria is secure that they can also feel safe? Nigeria is bleeding. They should do something quickly to bring the situation under control. Some of these politicians are also talking about 2023 now. Fine, it is their right to do so, but who knows what will happen between now and 2023? Our prayer is that bandits, kidnappers, and herdsmen will not turn Nigeria to another Somalia.They may even sack Buhari and others from Abuja if they are not quickly neutralised. The situation has become so bad that some foreign nations are already warning their nationals about travelling to Nigeria. However, I want to seize this opportunity to warn those rampaging bandits, and herdsmen not to venture near Yorubaland. They should not burn their hands. They should stay away from the South-West in their own interests.
At independence in 1960, Nigeria was a nation with a bright future and in fact, many western countries then projected that within 10 years, Nigeria with all its resources, both human and natural would become a great nation. But sadly, 59 years after, we are still nowhere,we are still crawling. This is in sharp contrast to other nations like Singapore and Malaysia that got independence from the colonial masters around the same time with Nigeria. Malaysia and Singapore are ranked among the best nations in the world today. It is very sad that for us, it is either Nigeria is being ranked as the poverty capital of the world or the nation with the most hungry or unhappy people in the world while other nations are excelling. Our leaders should put on their thinking caps. They should do everything possible to make Nigeria realise its potentials.
What’s your take on the just concluded general elections?
I believe we’ve made some progress, even though there were pockets of violence here and there. There were also allegations and counter-allegations of electoral malpractices. But I believe the solution to all these is for President Buhari to sign the Electoral Act into law. With Buhari’s assent, manual voting will be replaced with electronic voting. Digital voting will bring an end to anomalies associated with manual voting.