by KEMI OLAITAN
Dr. Kunle Olajide is former Secretary General, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) and a delegate to the last National Conference. In this interview with KEMI OLAITAN, he speaks on the 2015 general elections and expectations from the incoming administration of Major General Muhammadu Buhari among others. Excerpts:
What is your view on the just concluded 2015 general elections?
As far as I am concerned, I see the outcome as a victory for democracy in Nigeria and Nigerians. If you recall, in the last couple of years, there had been prophecy of doom that the country was going to disintegrate and that there was no way we could put through with the elections. So, to me, it is victory for Nigeria. Then secondly, the election, coming immediately after our centenary celebration to me portends a lot of things for Nigeria and I think Nigerians seized the opportunity to do a general reappraisal of the country and cast their votes in the direction in which they thought will better the country. So, to me, it is a victory for Nigeria, Nigerians and Africans in general.
As a Nigerian, what are your expectations from the incoming administration of Major General Muhammed Buhari, most especially, in the first 100 days in office?
Nigerians have voted for him, having being in the saddle before and having tried three consecutive times without getting it, I personally believe he has a vision for the country. I believe with his resilience, doggedness and God having answered his prayers and perhaps Nigerians too, I think he should dig the ground well. He is not like somebody who is not prepared, we have had unprepared leaders in the country before.
We’ve had leader who said what do you want him to come and do again, we’ve had leader who was never ever prepared for the position at all. So, now that we are getting a personality who has been head of state before and who has been itching persistently and contesting elections to come back to this position, I believe he must have vision for us. So, I expect him to hit the ground running.
I expect a completely new Nigeria. We have been together for 100 years and what I found lacking in Nigeria as far as I am concerned is the emergence of a truly national leader. We have not had a good fortune of having that. We’ve had sectional leaders, tribal leaders and so on, but a truly national committed leader, the only one I can say perhaps was General Muritala Mohammed, but his time was very short. So, nobody could really say whether he would have put us on the path of progress, but with General Buhari coming in now, I want to see him as the father of a new Nigeria, making attempts to build the nation out of the several nations we have, because Nigeria is a country of many nations – Yoruba nation, Igbo nation, Ijaw nation, Hausa nation, Fulani nation and so on.
What implication do you think the outcome of the last elections portends with the Hausa people voting for their own and the South-South as well as South-East people too voting for their own?
Like I said before, it is quite unfortunate that till today Nigerians still see themselves first as Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa. It’s now his duty in whichever way he gets to that office, either predominantly through Northern votes or not, it is his duty now to wedge the new Nigeria and to begin to detoxicate us from our various tribal stronghold. While one can say that he has evolved with predominantly Northern votes, that does not make him a Northern leader.
Some Nigerians are already asking General Buhari to convene another National Conference. As a member of the last National Conference what is your take on this and what becomes of the report as General Buhari himself sometimes ago called the conference a waste of resources ?
That was before the election, that was during electioneering. Yes, some leaders felt that Jonathan was going to score a political point with the conference and that he was never sincere with it. So, they didn’t want him to score a political point, so they had to do everything possible to ridicule or attempt to ridicule the conference, but watch it, to their disappointment the conference succeeded . I have said it for the umpteenth times in many newspapers, radio and television that a time will come in Nigeria where a recourse will be made to that conference, because the conference came up with resounding resolutions to put Nigeria on the path of success and progress.
So, there is no leader, no true leader who wants Nigeria to be alright that will not in his quiet moment flip over to look at the report of the conference and if you and I recall, the first amendment to the constitution that the National Assembly gave to the President which he returned a few weeks ago, consist essentially of most of the resolutions of the conference. Essentially, and in any case, if one sits down and puts politics aside for a while, once the elections are over in serious countries, politics are put aside only for politicians. Elected leaders begin to see the nation as their constituency and they need every advice wherever they can get it from to make them succeed. So, I am sure in Buhari’s quiet moments, he would make reference to the decisions of that conference.
Will you then advise him to look at the report of the conference?
He must look over it because there are so many things wrong with this country now. The mindset of the average Nigerian is warped and defective, the mindset of most Nigerian is me, me, not all of us. So, in the conference, we worked on the mindset of Nigerians, on how we begin to do what the British refer to immediately after the depression as moral re-armament. There is a section of our report that deals with moral re-orientation of Nigerians right from childhood to begin to see Nigeria as his or her own. So, it is important, it does not have to do with local government or this and that. And Buhari himself will admit now that the centre is over-loaded. I heard him saying that during the electioneering that there was too much at the centre; there was the need for devolution of power.
The conference did that. So, he will need that document. I heard Dr. Kayode Fayemi saying this in Britain (two days ago); he said that the centre is over-loaded and that there was the need to do something about the centre. So, ultimately we are talking the same thing. Those who assembled at the conference are Nigerians first and foremost and they must be interested in the stability and the progress of this country. Whatever is in there, I will advise His Excellency to look into the resolution of that conference, then begin to act in tandem with some of the resolutions that he considers germane to the progress of Nigeria.
What is your take on the fear that the country may be moving towards one party state with the overwhelming victory of the APC in the last elections?
Nigeria can never move into a one party state; it can never and I will give you my reasons for that. First and foremost, we are many countries, and that is the truth of the matter. We think differently which is natural, that is number one. Number two; quite a sizeable of Nigerians are now empowered financially. In the last 25 to 30years, we had a lot of people who are empowered even from their own vocation from the businesses, from their industries and so on; not from government. A lot of Nigerians are empowered, such a people cannot be boxed into one party. Number one, he has financial empowerment, number two, even looking at after the election, PDP still won in one or two of the rerun elections, which really meant that people are not looking for what is happening in the centre.
So, I imagine we will have defections, which we have had and I congratulate General Buhari for saying it early enough that defectors will not have a place in his government and I think it was Lai Mohammed who now said defectors should go back to their party and rebuild it. So, for me and in any case, I am sure the new president will be committed to reducing governance. What you have in America and the western world is little government, I am sure most of you must have travelled out, you hardly see government looming large over you. It’s the private sector that dominates; government is stocking somewhere.
With the PDP soon to be out of power after 16 years in the saddle, what lessons do you think our politicians have learnt?
I think many lessons must have been learnt. One, power belongs to the people. In other words, any government that is not performing, the people will vote it out and four years is a short time in the life of any government. Anybody in government now must first and foremost be servant of the people, not bosses of the people. I am sure the results of these elections will now put in proper perspectives the responsibilities of those in government that they owe their being there to the people and the people can withdraw the mandate anytime they have the opportunity.
Don’t you see the on-going development in Ekiti State as a threat to the nation’s growing democracy?
No, it is not a threat to our democracy. Democracy is evolving, we are in the transition phase and I tell people that when you are in a transition stage, you go through some drills and pains. It is like pain of labour, a woman has been pregnant for nine months, she wants to deliver, she will go through pains but after delivery, you see her smiling and happy. So, this is still part of the evolution and in any case as far as I am concerned, we must respect the wish of majority of our people; that is the lesson of democracy. If majority says this is where we are going, it is wrong for two per cent to say it should not be so, we are wiser. If the majority of Ekiti people put the governor in the saddle, if anybody wants to remove him, he must go through the constitutional processes that have been laid down.
Given the results of the last elections particularly in the South-West, will it be right to refer to the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as the current Yoruba leader?
I have never heard anybody saying the leader of the British, the leader of the Germans or the leader of the Americans. Yes, Tinubu really did a good job in championing the formation of APC and bringing it to victory but if you regard him as a political leader, I probably will agree with you. There are so many sectors of human life, we have leaders in commerce, we have leaders in industry, leaders in the Ministry of God and so on. So, to me, it is a little bit preposterous to now say Yoruba leader, perhaps Yoruba political leader since his party controls majority of the states in Yorubaland and you and I agree in any case that politics dictates the direction of any group of people. So, you can rightly say Yoruba political leader, but leadership in the context in which you are saying it is a very serious matter. Leadership in that context evolves and you do not look at a particular thing and say this is the leader.
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