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There’s need to redesign our political structures to reduce cost – Ladoja

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There’s need to redesign our political structures to reduce cost - Ladoja

Senator Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja, former governor of Oyo State, the Otun Olubadan, who is next in line to the throne and an elder statesman, has never relented in talking about the issues affecting Nigeria and proffering solutions.

In this interview with Olusesan Laoye in his residence at Old Bodija, Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, he spoke about the economy, workers agitations for minimum wage, and high cost of running government, particularly, salaries of politicians, compared to their counterparts in other countries of the world.

Excerpts:

The problems of the economy and other events in Nigeria are being heaped on the last administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari by officials of the present government of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, what is your take on this and would you like to compare the two administrations with what we have witnessed so far?

To be honest with you, I can’t compare Tinubu’s government with that of Bihari. You see, Buhari knew he was going and started printing money.

That singular step has worsened the economy, which is very bad.

I think Tinubu is doing his best to fix the economy. He has just spent a year and has three more years to go. When things have been damaged for a long time, causing hardships and pains, it would take sometime to fix it and to be put back into shape. From all indications, I think Tinubu is actually trying vigorously to repair what has been destroyed by the last administration. Part of what he is trying to put right is insecurity, which we have been experiencing since 2014. If you look at that period till now, you will realise that it is not just what can be put right in a day. You have to look at the issues and what is behind it, for you to know how to tackle it. By and large, i think he is trying his best and the result is evidently showing.

The organised Labour has been agitating for minimum wage and they have not come to a concrete agreement with government on this. As an elder statesman, what do you think is the way forward?

The issue to me is very simple. Government and organised Labour unions should find proper ways of reaching a compromise regarding workers demands and what can be paid. I think the minimum wage should be applied in a way that would not affect the economy that would make people lose their jobs.

At the same time, we must be very careful in pursuing the minimum wage so that it won’t have adverse effect on the private sector and the industries.

When you look at the present situation in Nigeria today, the situation is no longer friendly to many companies and that is why a lot of foreign companies are going out of Nigeria to other African countries. More are still preparing to park and go.

For instance, P&G has gone and the Uniliver is preparing to leave as well and if we are not careful, everybody would go. In this regard, I will advise the Organised Labour to ensure that they bargain for the wages, which employers of labour could pay.

How do you think we could tackle the current high cost of foodstuffs and other essentials in Nigeria?

The insecurity, to a large extent, has been responsible for this. If people can’t go to farm, how do you expect food to be available to buy.? Those going to the market will continue to complain of scarcity and if there is supply deficit, prices are bound to go up.

Things were not as bad as this last year and that is why we must all sit down to address the issue and re-jig our economy to straighten things out.

The best way out of the problem of food, is for all of us to now embrace agriculture. When you look at it, we are not a producing nation. There is a lot that we can benefit in agriculture and some of our produce could go for export to give us foreign exchange, which we have failed to concentrate on.

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The industrial sector is in comatose. We are not producing what could be exported and as such we don’t have enough foreign exchange to import either. My concern right now is, what we can do as a nation that would make us to be self reliant. If we can grow and produce what would be sufficient for us internally, this would equally improve our standard of living. At the same time we have to be very careful that we protect what we produce and make sure that we judiciously spend what we have and not be extravagant.

What is your reaction to the argument about the cost of running government, which people say has been a major factor draining our economy?

I agree with you that the cost of running government in Nigeria is too expensive. We need to redesign our political structures to reduce what we spend. One of the major problems we face in Nigeria is that the government is top heavy and cost of governance is too high. When you compare the salaries of government functionaries in Nigeria to that of their counterparts in other countries of the world like America, and Europe, that of Nigeria is top heavy.

What the president, legislators and the governors earn is far higher than their counterparts in other countries.

This is also what has brought disparity between the workers and the leaders. You see, the leaders are not mindful about the way we spend our resources, both internally generated and external ones. Nigerians like flamboyant lifestyles and we spend the way we get it. We are not prudent at all.

It is this extravagant lifestyle that we have brought into governance and those in government don’t get their priorities right. If we actually look back, what we are witnessing today did not just start, it began during the time of the Military, when General Yakubu Gowon was the Head of State. It was then that he made a pronouncement that money is not our problem in Nigeria but spending it.

That was actually the beginning of ostentatious lifestyle, when instead of growing many things we abandoned agriculture and depend on easy oil money.

Imagine then, when we had to import chicken and we were even importing ram and goats from Brazil. I will even say we import everything that we consumed in Nigeria. I believe that if we have been very serious since we started benefitting from oil money to go into agriculture and manufacturing, we won’t be where we are today. It is, however, unfortunate that we have not learnt our lessons.

Looting of public funds has also become the order of the day and if the trend should continue, it would be a pity for us in Nigeria. Let me share this with you, when I started work I was among the lucky ones; I was earning £125 pounds a month and it was sufficient to do what I needed and I also had enough to save. Teachers were earning less than £100 pounds and they were even able to buy their cars from it and as well live decent lives.

But today, people are not living within their means or income. What has always been bothering me is that if I look back, I keep asking myself how did we get to where we are now. I just hope to have the faith that we shall overcome whatever challenges we are going through now in Nigeria.

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