Dr Tola Adeniyi, is the former Managing Director of Daily Times Plc, he is now a media consultant. In this interview with Hallmark’s OKUNADE ADEKUNLE, he says Nigeria needs quality and strong leadership to solve its problems. Chief Adeniyi also described the past six-years as wasted opportunities. Excerpts:
What is your view about the current political trend in the country?
I think the political elites are getting there. They just started a journey to democracy we have been in civil rule now for 16 years and we are hoping that we are going to get to democratic rule. The last elections to a large extent were successful and it was towards a civilized standard so that gives us the assurance that we are moving towards a democratic culture. Having said so, we are just starting when you talk about the level of our economy because our foreign reserves have been depleted and a lot of monies have been wasted by federal government on electioneering campaigns. Also several funds have also vanished or unaccounted for, most of the resources meant for providing infrastructure, job opportunities, good health care and facilities for public use are wasted and it is also like a new beginning. I don’t envy the government that is coming into power now because last 6years have presented great opportunities. We made a lot of money from crude oil in the last 6years, but we mismanaged it.
You talked about the journey so far and it seems you are not happy with the situation now, are you saying we have got6 wasted years?
If there is a stronger word than wasted I will use it. I want to use the word ruin because we have ruin all the opportunities that we have and unfortunately the outgoing President did not have both the mental and administrative cum political competent to confront the several challenges facing the country. We are at the moment when strong leadership and political will is needed and so the country needs a quality leadership to solve its problems. I did say, may we never see the same things we are seeing nowadays again.
President Jonathan accepted defeat but from his actions recently, it seems he just did it perhaps due to pressure. Do you believe the electoral process through which Muhammadu Buhari emerged as President-elect was free and fair?
The fact is that there is no perfect election in any part of the world. If you recall the controversy that surrounded the emergence of George Bush of United States when he contested against Algore and the happenings in Texas… but the international and local observers and Nigerians generally did say the general elections were free, fair and credible but there were lapses here and there. Like I said we are just starting the process of democracy…. As we have an election of such magnitude certainly there would be some pocket of resistance from different angle, so you cannot expect total approval.
Muhammadu Buhari made corruption one of his major campaign issues, do you see him fighting corruption like has promised us during the campaigns?
I have confident in Buhari in fighting corruption to a standstill because he has the pedigree on that. He also has the experience and moral authority to do so. If you want to fight corruption, what you need is a moral authority. It is not the Police or Army that you see all over that you will use to fight corruption. To fight corruption it is a matter of moral authority by leadership, in order words if a father does not keep late night, steal or drink ‘ogogoro’ or smoke marijuana, chances that his children would take a cue from him are high.But if you have a father who brings different cars or dresses into the house, his children may also take a cue from him. So, it is the moral authority which Buhari has that would make him to fight corruption. But whether he will be able to do as much as Nigerians expect, that can only be left to the future. His performance which people judge him upon was when he was totally in-charge of the military but he does not have the total commanding structure on the military in a civil rule. He has the legislature and the media to contend with and also he has the police to contend with.
In the previous regime, he was the lord and master but in the civil dispensation, it is not lord and master, he is just one out of the four arms of government.There is the executive, legislature, judiciary and the media as the fourth estate of the realm, so it is not going to be as easy as it was during his tenure as military head of state.But as I have said, he has the moral authority to lead by example. I am sure the moment the result was declared, contractors quickly moved to site to continue the jobs they abandoned some years ago and people have started paying money back to the coffers of government. Some underground negotiations are going on by those that have stolen a lot of money to return as much as they can, so as to avoid going to jail. So that is what is called “the fear of Buhari”.
Many people think that the problem of the Nigeria state is a structural thing and not really corruption,and that Buhari may be opposed to any form of structural reforms because of the North which often wants the status quo to remain.Do you see Buhari bringing structural changes?
The thing is that he would have to be guided by popular opinion. He must recorgnise that he was not voted into power only by the North, but also by all Nigerians and when you call “the North” there is no more monolithic north as we have in the past.The Middle-belt man would tell you that he is not a Northerner, the man in Jalingo would tell you that he is not a Hausa/Fulani, and there are so many ethnic groups in the so called “North”. It is not as easy as it was during the days of Ahmadu Bello when commands were giving from a particular place or traditional palace that is no more there… Buhari is very much aware that he is not a Northern President, unless he wants to be doomed but I don’t think he is following such direction. I believe that the structural change that Nigerians need would be carried out and I also agree with you that corruption may notbe the greatest problem and that structural maladjustment may be the root cause of corruption.
And I will also say it is corruption that does not allow us to do proper adjustment, corruption did not allow us to have proper census, it didn’t allow us to answer the national questions so corruption is still the basic problem.
You said Buhari should not see himself as a Northern President but a Nigeria President, when you look at the Transition Committee that he inaugurated few weeks ago you would discover that the Chairman Ahmed Joda is an old Northerner. Is that not a signal that he may be taking us back to the old days?
I may say that I did not buy the idea of making Joda as the Chairman of the Transition Committee, I would have expected a more radical choice but having said so, transition committee is not a big deal it is just to look at the policies been enunciated, look at the character of government and the ceremonial transition. The transition committee does not choose ministers, advisers, the transition committee does not dictate policies for government, the policies of government would be dictated by the party, so Transition Committee is not a big deal.
But is that not sending a signal that the Northerners would be a major determinant of what would be happening in Buhari’s government?
You continued to talk about the structure and if you are convinced about this structure you will not be surprised that the majority that have been given to the North in the past 55years is more, so when you constitute a transition committee or whatever committee the North will still dominate based on the assumed landscape.But as I quickly observed recently in a book written by Richard Akinola, I would not be surprised that the entire population given to the North is fraud, so the North should not have got the numbers they have in the National Assembly, including the Senate if we are to go by population because there is no population really in the North. Nigeria is the only Africa country where the North is having higher population than the South; it is all over the world even in Australia when you leave Sydney and you go to the South the population is higher.
In many parts of the world, the population of the South is always higher than the North. So it is only in Nigeria that the population of the North is higher than the population of the South that is an issue for structural adjustment. The national census must be addressed, there must be proper census in this country and there must be proper representation in the Houses of the National Assembly.
Still on the Transition committee, the incumbent President had accused Buhari of running a parallel government what is your view on this?
Jonathan’s government is winding up as he has few weeks to go. His government is a government in limbo; he does not know where his government is going. Truly if somebody is voted in and the moment he has won the election, he starts his government.He may not be power, but he is already in office he is the President-elect. When you remove the elect he becomes the President, so the two of them are Presidents, one is incumbent President one is President-elect.The two of them answer the name President so if he is saying they are parallel let so be it, they are parallel.
But is that constitutional?
That has nothing to do with constitution; it has to do with the reality on ground.There is an incumbent President and President-elect; the two of them are Presidents. The President-elect would not only fold his arm and do nothing till the day he is sworn in, he must be doing something. It is not a parallel government. He is preparing for a government that would take up from May 29.