*Says Nigeria’s restructuring is inevitable
Elder statesman and erstwhile Senate President,Chief Joseph Wayas believes Nigeria is at crossroads at the moment. But he is also of the opinion that the challenge is not insurmountable. In this interview with IHEANACHO NWOSU, he urged President Buhari to think outside the box to address the economic hardship currently ravaging the citizenry. He equally submitted that the calls for restructuring of the country are calls for a new Nigeria that will meet the expectations of the people.
What would you say of Nigeria today. Is the country moving in the right direction?
I would say no. Some children can no longer go to school. While some of their mates are paying their school fees, others cannot. So, the answer to your question is yes and no.
Do you subscribe to claims that the nation is in the situation you spoke about because of the rot left behind by the former PDP administration?
That is the first time I’m hearing that. What about other parties? Well, I do not know. I am not in a position to make judgement. I think you will have to look at Nigeria as a whole. The more we have problems and try to solve them, the more we look deep into our pockets. I think I’ll rather not comment because I am not in the same line with the politicians.
But you played politics to the highest level in the past ?
Yes, that was years ago. I am no longer partisan . I speak what I think is for the good of every Nigerian now.
What do you make of the unending crisis in the Senate ?
Well, they are passing through some stages of life. They’ll begin to acquire some experience as they go through these stages. I think we learn from experience. I would say they have learnt a lot of lessons from it.
How can peace be restored in the Chamber?
Is the crisis stopping them from working? No. So, really, you learn from every stage in life until you become matured to handle things differently. The more we have different opinions of doing things, the more we get matured, as we learn. But we stop when an idea is not as fruitful as we want it.
Looking at President Buhari in the last one year, would you say he has changed from what he was in 1984 when he was a military head of state?
Buhari should answer that question. It will be unfair for me to answer it. I do not know him sufficiently enough.
But focusing specifically on the way corruption was fought in 1984 and how it is being waged now, are there similarities?
Looking at it from a different perspective, ideally, it is like a human being growing up, he or she makes a decision and base it on personal experience because another angle can arise and you may say if you had known, you would have waited a bit. On the other hand, do not forget that like individuals, the whole nation learns lessons. If we had learned lessons that the past regime did not handle the affairs of the country well, they should give us an idea. It takes years for people who are ahead of us in democratic practices to be able to secure their future. We are making mistakes and learning lessons from it.
You have always said that your politics was anchored on service, not lucre. Were you embarrassed when you heard that some notable politicians collected money meant for procurement of arms for the war against insurgency?
I do not know much about that. I don’t like commenting on what I cannot defend. Not all questions can be answered. Some would expect people to learn from experience because it is the best teacher in all respects. If we do not have experience to deal with a situation, even as we apply old rules, we will not find it right . This is because, maybe the old rules deal with the old ways of doing things and the new ways of doing things are handled by new rules. If we accept that, we will make no progress.
You are from the Niger Delta, are you worried by what is happening there at the moment? How do you think the government should handle the crisis in the region?
I do not know if there is another method of dealing with that level of crisis. There is no harm in reviewing the situations and decisions that have been made. That is what my reaction will be. As I said before, you act based on yesterday’s experience. If it was successful the last time, it will be successful again. Government should think long and deep and provide the best solution to the current crisis. In every situation, there is a way out, the case of Niger Delta is not different. Every bad situation can be handled with dialogue.
The militants have said they are not interested in dialogue. What can you say about that?
Well, they would not have become militants if they had accepted the solutions provided. They became militants because they thought they have solutions to the problems. When you hand over to them, you will find out that you have grown from better to worse.
Some people accuse you, elders of the region of not doing enough to call the militants to order, what is you response?
When you are looking at a problem from a distance, you would see less of it compared to the people who are on the spot who see the problems every day. You ought to find solutions to these problems. So, I think we have made progress because it used to be a no man’s land. Although, it is not easy to accept if you are the one introducing the method, we ought to take a new initiative in this direction.
Do you think Nigeria should be restructured?
Whatever decision we take, we must look at stability as the result. We have the problem of youths thinking differently. Their lesser experience is not helpful and yet, they want everything to be done in their way.
This issue is not peculiar to Nigeria. Many countries are going through this experience. The approach is the same; you get answers from experience but the world can never use the same policy or the same strategy. We must know that different answers are provided for different cases of problems.
How can we maintain that stability?
What we must do is to keep our eyes on steps that would produce the desired result, that would enhance our unity. If the way we have been running this country has not been producing results, has not been promoting the unity and stability of the country, then we need to try new strategies, new policies, new understanding. If old one does not work, we should try a new angle. There is nothing we do that is not questionable but what is important is that the answer provided must deal with the situation and it is not easy to come by.
What is your reaction to the statement by Lawal Keita that the North will resist restructuring ?
I did not hear that. I do not know how to react to it because our experiences are different. Maybe he said that because of his own current situation. It may not be the same with mine because I see things from a wider point of view of keeping Nigeria united. The federation is something that God has given to this country and it should be maintained and kept at all cost. There should be no reason for giving up at some stage.
Are you saying that even when Nigerians are complaining, we must keep that unity?
It is not an easy price to pay to keep unity. Keeping Nigeria united is very painful but resourceful. Here, growth is important.
Generally speaking, what do you think is the problem of Nigeria?
If you have a house with more than three wives, you will provide different solutions compared to a house with one or two wives. It is not simple. If there were more brains to tackle the problem, there would be solutions.
The total approach is to set a target that the solutions can achieve. We must think outside the box , that is what the country needs now.
Would you say that we are in a hurry to judge the current administration?
Have we not waited enough? I would say that they have tried. It is not easy. They have tried to secure the country. We have achieved 60 or 70 percent. There is still a large chunk of solutions yet to be discovered. People are not wrong to judge the government. Government must keep working to meet the expectations of Nigeria.
What should be Buhari’s priority?
I would recommend the government to try and achieve economic stability so that we can use that as a means of addressing our problems. People would want the growth that other people tried and were successful. Government must think outside the box in addressing our current economic problem.
…I won’t let the masses down –Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari has in his reaction to the gale of criticisms trailing his administration’s economic policies assured that he won’t let Nigerians and indeed the masses down, stressing that his government is aware of the pains Nigerians are going through.
The President, who said his policies were aimed at restoring the nation on the path of integrity and prosperity urged Nigerians to be patient and persevere while promising that the current pains would soon give way to development.
He said his administration was working hard to avoid the mistakes of the last administration in tackling insecurity and corruption and to revamp the economy, which was badly affected by the drop in the price of oil.
According to him “We promised Nigerian people positive and progressive change during our campaign. We are not and shall not be deterred from that noble undertaking.
“But as we have learnt from history, change has never been attained by any nation on a bed of roses, but rather, through patience, perseverance and steadfastness.
“We are quite aware of the pains and inconveniences that have been the lot of the citizenry in the past one year as we strive to faithfully implement our programmes in fulfillment of our change agenda.
“We are however comforted by the real change and progress we have made in fighting corruption and restoring integrity to government; providing security for lives and property; and positioning the government for effectiveness and especially deregulating the oil sector.
“We must also not forget the fiscal discipline that has now characterised government business at all levels. This indeed is how it should be and we are determined to introduce and implement actions and measures that will entrench the change mantra in our individual lives just as we are doing in curtailing excessive waste and rent seeking in governance.
“We are determined to remain on track as we strive to deliver to rescue the country from past mistakes in fulfillment of our promise of improving the conditions of our people and making Nigeria a prosperous country.”