By Olayinka Oyegbile
Elder statesman and former Nigeria Ambassador to Switzerland, Alhaji Yahaya Kwande, is optimistic that Nigeria will not break up, the current challenges facing it notwithstanding.
He described the challenges as part of nationhood and not signs that the country will split.
Speaking with The Nation on Sunday in his residence in Jos, Plateau State, he said experience has shown that many Nigerians want the country to remain united.
The former Ambassador, a member of the 19-man committee raised by the late Gen. Sani Abacha to prepare an agenda for the Constitutional Conference, said the committee, during its deliberations, was initially reluctant to include discussions on the country’s corporate existence out of fear that many might vote for separation.
However, according to him, it was discovered that the issue of the nation’s corporate existence was one many people saw as indivisible.
Asked why various sections of the country had been calling for or supporting agitations for the break-up of the country, he said most of the calls were simply meant to scare off others. He said, “Those who call for separation only do that to throw fear into each other. We all want to be one.”
Assessing the country’s performance 13 years after the return of democracy, he said progress had been made with the establishment of new educational institutions and provision of infrastructure.
He, however, scored the country low in terms of political development, saying: “Politically it is worse…when the only way to be rich is to dabble into politics.”
He also blamed the citizens for demanding too much (financially) from their representatives.
“The ordinary citizens always make it worse because they make too much demand on the political leadership. We have gone back several years in terms of politics,” he said.
Kwande who was also a civil servant said he is in support of the Steve Oronsaye Panel recommendation that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent and Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) should be scrapped. He said the “EFCC and other anti-graft agencies are making corruption worse and so we should scrap them and make the internal audit departments work”
He said: “In our days we used to have Audit Departments that were courageous and up and doing. They did not wait for you to steal before they would act. As a revenue collector, an audit officer was there to check what you collected. If he checked your safe and you had more money than you recorded as collected you’re a thief. If you had less you’re a thief. We don’t need EFCC or ICPC to work and make things better if the various departments are made to work.”
He decried the level of wastage in government. He asked: “Why do you have a Minister of Information or the ministry when you have an agency on orientation? What is the minister of information doing when you have an agency of orientation? That is duplication.” On the current debate and hustling for 2015, he said there was nothing wrong in politicians embarking on campaign now because they have to plan and consult ahead of the next election.
“The bad aspect is when you have people abandoning their primary responsibilities. There is nothing wrong with planning. I learnt from the media that Muhammadu Buhari went to Lagos to see my friend Bola Tinubu. It is in order; they are planning and there is nothing wrong in planning for 2015.”
Turning to Plateau State, Kwande lauded the administration of the governor, Jonah Jang but said he has slowed down the pace of development adding, “Perhaps he impressed us during his first term and has now slowed down.”
On the crises that have bedevilled the state he blamed the cause on injustice and autocracy. He said “There are autocrats and dictators here even though we are operating a democracy” and blames this on the participation of former military men in politics.
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