Dr Tunde Moses Elebute is a public affairs commentator, developmental economist and human rights advocate. He spoke to EJIKEME OMENAZU on issues relating to the 2019 general elections, especially as they pertain to the two major political parties, and other crucial issues. Excerpt:
As Nigerians get ready for the 2019 general elections, what are your thoughts on the elections?
We are praying that the will of God will be done. Even though we have our personal preferences, we must pray for the will of God. We need a president who will keep the nation as one, who will ensure the security of the nation, protect lives and properties, a president who will not allow the killings presently going on now. We need a president who is not nepotic, but will give every region the opportunity to serve. Former Presidents like Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan did it. Even the late President Shehu Shagari stressed it. We need a strong president who will make the nation one so that we can see ourselves as one. I wish the old days will return. Gowon came up with a slogan, “To keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done.” We want ministerial positions and other appointments o be spread.
How do you see the booing nd jeering of President Buhari during the recent 2019 budget presentation at the National Assembly?
It shows the level of performance of President Muhammadu Buhari. It showed how competent he is. It is also because of what happened in the All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries. Many APC lawmakers lost out during the primaries. That booing was not done by the opposition alone. APC members took part because they were not happy. It showed that President Buhari is losing his goodwill. People have been disappointed, even members of the APC. You can see that some of the governors are still in APC, while their supporters are in other parties. A lot of people are not happy with the government.
What is your view on the controversy surrounding Mrs. Amina Zakari’s head of the INEC’s national coalition centre for the Presidential election, being a supposedly niece to the President?
I wish the kind of image we had on President Buhari is still there. What stops him from removing the lady and putting her somewhere else? Even the international bodies and countries are watching. If this election favours the president, he should expect litigations. This is the first time both President and the INEC chairman are coming from the same area. Right from Babangida’s tome to Obasanjo’s era, and even Jonathan’s period, the INEC chairman is always from different region. It was either that the President was from the North, while the INEC chairman was from the South or vice versa. Buhari is from the North and the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, is also from the North. On top of that, that woman is still there.
President Buhari has given room for litigations if he wins. By now, the lady, Amina Zakari should have requested for her to be moved elsewhere. Judges reject or disqualify themselves from cases. When people raise issues over cases they preside, they maintain their honour and integrity and that of the Judiciary by disqualifying themselves from such cases.
President Buhari, having been a Head of State, should be above all these. People around him do not tell him the truth. The world is watching. Nigeria should be above this level of retrogression by now. Nigeria should be an example to other nations now. Once the president is from the North, the INEC chairman should be from the South. It shows that our president is not as responsive as people expect. Even the nation’s defence structure is not proper. But, all these cannot last forever.
What is your take on the reported plans by President Muhammadu Buhari to extend the tenure of Mr. Abubakar Idris, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), by six months after his retirement date?
There are other men in the Police Force who have been working with the IGP. If he has reached the time for him to retire, either by age or years of service, he should retire. Let other people move up. There are people who may be more competent than Abubakar Idris in the Force who can perform better on the internal security situation of the country. Buhari should allow Idris Abubakar to retire when his time is up. He can join politics if he so wishes.
Idris, who does not respect the National Assembly should be allowed to go. How can the Senate invite Idris and the Customs Controller General, Col. Ahmadu Ali (rtd), and they refused and the president allowed them to stay till now? Democracy has not really taken roots in Nigeria. Look at what happened in Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Let us start following the principles of democracy.
With the recent onslaught of Boko Haram, killing several Nigerians, including soldiers, what would you say is the state of national security vis a vis government’s claim that the insurgents had been decimated?
Do you still believe that they degraded the Boko Haram? What we see and hear speak louder, making us not to believe that Boko Haram has been degraded or decapitated as the government is making us to believe. Government should take the issue of insecurity more serious. President Buhari should call a meeting of former Presidents and Heads of State. Let them strategise. The nation does not belong to the President alone. Instead of keeping the former leaders at arm’s length, he should get closer to them. Nigeria belongs to all of them.
As ex-presidents and former Heads of Sate, they belong to a constituency. They can have have ideas and suggestions to offer. President Buhari needs Obasanjo, Abubakar, Jonathan, Gowon and the rest of them. Let them meet together as leaders and let them meet with the Military chiefs also. Let them offer their advice and make suggestions.
President Buhari should not rely on politicians alone. Politicians will not advice him properly due to their selfish reasons. I do not believe that Nigeria cannot defeat Boko Haram. He should also invite ex-military leaders and retired senior officers for all of them to brainstorm on how to tackle the Boko Haram challenge.
How do you see President Buhari’s campaign theme of ‘Next Level’?
Next level of what? I don’t think they are telling the president the truth. Well, we really need a next level. Where we are is not good enough. We need a level that is better than this in terms of security, economic growth, more jobs for the unemployed youths. The level we are is not good. We really need to go to the next level. We urgently need to move to the next level.
But, does this government has the capacity to take us to the next level? Even at the state level, some governors, like the Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, should go. A lot of people in government and several governors do not have the capacity to govern. Several state governors cannot even pay salaries and they do not know what to do. They cannot even cut the cost of governance, especially the salaries of the executive and legislators. Let them go.
We need people who have capacity, expertise at both federal and state levels. We have seen Audu Ogbe, the Minister of Agriculture, and Babatunde Fashola, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing. They are trying. But, we need more competent people in government.
There should be changes in several areas if we can get to the next level.
The electorate should vote people they believe in, who can really take us to the next level. They should not vote based on parties. People should vote individuals, people they know. They should not vote based on party affiliations. They can vote for Party A in the presidential election and Party B for governorship or legislative elections, both in federal and state levels.
Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate, has come out with his campaign slogan of ‘Making Nigeria Work Again’. How relevant is the campaign theme?
Nigeria is working. But, the speed we are working is not enough. At the level we are working, we cannot go far. I just mentioned Audu Ogbe and Fashola. It is not as if Nigeria is not working. We need to work faster. We need to go digital. We really need Nigerian leaders who can make Nigeria move faster. What we are saying is that we need a change of leadership. People are hungry. People are jobless. There must be real change. We need it. Things cannot continue the way they are.
We have seen some infrastructures. We have seen policies. They are working. But, we need the nation to work faster. Nigerian leaders are too selfish. If the presidential system is not working and is too expensive, let us change to another system. We need a government of Nigeria for Nigerians and not a government of Nigeria for a set of people.
Nigerians seem not to have any choice except the PDP and APC or Atiku and Buhari. Why is it so when there are 92 political parties?
That is why I say that people should not vote parties. They should vote competence, character, courage. We have 92 parties. What stops the 92 parties to be represented in the Senate? If the President or governor is not competent, we should vote him out. At my level, I cannot be forced to vote for any party. Nigerians should vote individuals.
Don’t you think the younger presidential candidates stand a chance in this election?
The issue is that Nigerians do not trust the youths. Most of the youths have not demonstrated integrity, maturity. Many have not done much. The youths who are in politics should study and learn. I believe with time. We will get there. We have the rank of the youths. But, we are yet to get there. Some of these young presidential candidates, like Sowore, Ezekwesili, Moghalu are good. It is good they have started. I commend them. If they do not get the position, they are gaining practical democratic knowledge. Many of them are learning to mobilise and gather people. They will get there soon. I believe that one day, they will get there. Look at Peter Obi and Yemi Osinbajo. They are intelligent and they are still young. One day, a youth will be the president of this nation.
Do you foresee a change in the Lagos administration?
If APC will win in Lagos, it needs to work harder. There should be internal reconciliation. Again, the image they are giving to the public is not very good. But, it is possible they win because they have structures. Unfortunately, the opposition does not have strong structure. I cannot see their structure. PDP needs to have structures, whether they are in power or not. PDP does not have structures. They do not have people that can look at the APC eyeball to eyeball, even at the local government level. It is difficult for PDP to win in Lagos.
PDP and the other opposition parties in Lagos need to build structures. That is the problem with PDP. 2019 should have been the chance of PDP. But, it lacks structure. What they have is not strong enough. Jimi Agbaje lost in 2015 with narrow margin and just went underground and waited till few months to the election and resurrected.
For PDP to remove APC in Lagos, it must have structure, be visible, take care of people, even before the election. If PDP has been solidly on ground, since 2015, they would have defeated APC. A lot of people in APC would have voted against APC in this election. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is an experienced politician. He has structures and has been spreading the structures. But, if APC does not want a repeat of what happened during the Otedola time, there must be reconciliation. Too many people in the party are angry.
What is your last word to Nigerians as they prepare to go to the polls?
I want all Nigerians to continue to pray very hard for this election. They should go out and vote. Nigerians should not sell their votes. They should go out and vote. But, they should not vote party, but competence, character, integrity. They should vote individuals and not parties. We really need a leader who will unite his nation that has become so divided.
The post Nigerians Do Not Trust Younger Presidential Candidates – Elebute appeared first on Independent Newspapers Nigeria.
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Author: Ejikeme Omenazu