Professor Adesegun Labinjo, national chairman of the United States chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in this interview by KUNLE ODEREMI, speaks on the issue of power devolution, revenue allocation, and attitude of the international community to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Excerpts:
YOU live in the United States, regarded as a model of federalism. Why do you think the system works almost seamlessly here, but yet problematic in Nigeria?
It has become a problem for Nigeria because of the kind of people we get to leadership positions; they are people with little or no understanding of what federalism entails. Their primary mission is to acquire power for personal gains and not to build institutions that sustain democracy and federalism. Federalism in US is practised on the principle of service to the people; service to the nation and never about the subjugation of people, mortgaging their future or subverting the system. That is the major difference because the actors subvert all known norms, values and ideals of federalism, democracy and other constitutional and legal frameworks. Therefore, Nigerians must come together to salvage the system from those who have bastradised the fundamental principles of federalism, so that the people can reclaim their common patrimony and heritage.
Then, you think we need to restructure the country to get it running? How should it be done?
So many things are wrong with the existing political structure. You have a section of the political class that is capricious and greedy. So, we must restructure in the area of resource management and control. We must bring an end to free fund; people must be ready to work to make a living. The constituent units of the country must be ready to look inward and not depend solely on the resources of others to survive. The current system encourages indolence and kills initiative and hard work. When we restructure, the individual entities will zero in on their resources, potential and endowment maximally.
In other words, we must devolve power in such a way that the various federating units can harness their resources, discourage the current practice of relying heavily on the central government for survival. When we restructure, we would have succeeded in promoting greater co-existence, discouraging inertia as leaders and their people will think outside the box and come up with pragmatic and realistic solution to the general needs of the people. A restructured Nigeria will address the current crisis of confidence, impunity and corruption in all forms; we would have returned to the path of greatness, fairness, justice and equity, which are essential ingredients for nation-building and the attainment of nationhood. We have had that experience, especially in the defunct Western Region under the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as the first Premier of the region. He was able to translate his vision and mission into concrete terms that made the region a model in administration, leadership, economic growth and development. He was able to harness the human resource to galvanise the people and lay the foundation for economic growth and development; he encouraged human capacity building and created huge business and job opportunities that transformed the entire Western Region to the chagrin and admiration of even advanced countries and democracies, including some countries that were once categorised as Third World countries that have since become economic giants. Therefore, when we restructure, the units can move at their own pace and create healthy competition for economic growth and development. You can see that many years after his glorious exit to the world beyond, his legacy endures in so many areas, including his political philosophy and ideas. So, restructuring is the way to go.
But why did APC renege on restructuring as it is one of the issues contained in its manifesto; why did it jettison the idea?
We should rationalise the issue based on the circumstances surrounding the formation of the APC. The party was infiltrated by a lot of those forces that opposed to the collective interest of Nigerians shortly after the APC birthed. They came like a wolf in a sheep clothing just to pursue the self-serving agenda of perpetuating the status quo ante, which is appropriating the common patrimony of the country. When it became obvious that it was not going to be business as usual, they decided to make things difficult for the political leadership of the country; to frustrate the government in its quest and determination to implement its policies and programmes. I remember that some of us had warned that those who were defecting to the APC could not be trusted, that they were the same people that have continued to feed fatter on the country.
Part of their mission was to make the manifesto not to work. Of course, when their hidden agenda was exposed, they quickly returned to their vomit after they had made things difficult for the APC. They almost made things difficult for APC to prosper based on the vision of its founding fathers for the country. Now that they have left, if APC is given the next four years and beyond, Nigeria will see the steady progress they have been yearning for decades after the glorious exit of Chief Awolowo. Just imagine: how can you be the party in power; you control the legislature, yet all your programmes cannot take off? That’s a gang-up against the government of Buhari by a few clique that was hell-bent on keeping the country down.
The APC would not be dissipating much energy as is being currently done by its leaders if it had fulfilled its pre-election promises to Nigerians. Today, there is seething anger over deterioration in the cost of living, security of life and property, and other serious challenges facing the nation. What moral right does the party have to still want to remain power beyond May 29 this year?
When we talk of poverty, it did not begin in Nigeria overnight. If we are talking of bringing Nigeria back on track, the path of progress and redemption, the goal cannot be done or achieved within three years. The PDP brought Nigeria down for 16 years; it created poverty in Nigeria for 16 years. What is needed to redeem the situation is what Buhari has started: revamping of infrastructural; the economy, agricultural process and progress; to be self-sufficient and reliant and the government has been achieving progress in those areas. He is equally working assiduously to fix the road network.
The country appears to be going through a vicious cycle since civil rule was restored about 20 years ago as the basic things of life are still in short supply to Nigerians. What will be your assessment of democracy since May 1999?
The journey so far has been full of ups and downs; it is like a roller coaster that gathers no moss until we got to the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket. When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was in the saddle from 1999,we thought the country was going to make a steady and meaningful progress, not knowing that he was going to cause a greater havoc to Nigeria as he represents the powerful clique that constitute a cog in the wheel of progress of Nigeria. It was during that period that the commonwealth or patrimony of the country was further appropriated among members of the cabal. Obasanjo; Alhaji Atiku Abubakar just to mention a few, belong to those forces that have held down the country.
Then came the Buhari-Osinbajo presidency, which has been trying to find a way of the quagmire. They are making conscious efforts to right all the wrongs of the past so that Nigeria can take its rightful place in the comity of Nations. My advice is that Nigerians should be steadfast; they should sustain the current tempo of economic growth and development that the Buhari administration has started. It’s not how long civil rule has been in place, but how well democracy has impacted on the life of the vast majority of the population. So, we must understand that democracy is not all about elections; in fact, election is just a phase in a democratic process. After an election, the people should be ready and willing to monitor the activities of those they have given their mandate to govern and find out if they are actually staying by their campaign promises.
You seem to be playing politics here, in view of major strides of the Obasanjo-led PDP government like the issue of debt forgiveness for the country by the Paris Club, a group of European creditors; positive image as opposed to when Nigeria became a pariah state because of a prolonged jackboot interregnum in the country. So, don’t you think these are positive areas the Obasanjo/PDP government deserves credit?
Positive indices should have to do with bringing the country back to the path of wealth and promising achievements, which as far as the PDP administration was concerned, was negligible, given the enormity of resources and opportunities at the disposal of the administration. The gains should reflect in the wellbeing of the citizenry and not an infinitesimal few comprising members of a syndicate that control about 90 per cent of the nation’s wealth. You could not talk about any meaningful improvement in public power supply during the Obasanjo administration. It was then that the fortunes of our national carrier, the Nigeria Airways, also began to nosedive to the extent that it eventually folded up. Whereas he claimed credit for establishing the EFCC, the level of corruption in public places worsened. Under the PDP government of Obasanjo, the wealth of the nation became the personal property of a clique. Now, we have a president that we can trust and is trying his best to fight corruption, which sadly, is fighting back. It was the same Obasanjo that said god should take his life instead of Atiku making him president of Nigeria. So, Nigerians should be vigilant and resolve to free themselves from the stranglehold of the cabal that has continued to hold the country down. We must change the way we have been doing things so that Nigerians can truly enjoy the benefits of participatory democracy.
But the Western nations and United States appear to have since shifted their support for the present administration in Nigeria because of perceived inept leadership as evident in the resurgence of insurgency coupled with loss of confidence in war on corruption?
It is a mere hallucination for anyone to assume that those countries have lost confidence in the administration. They are still favourably disposed to the Buhari government. The insecurity you talked about started under PDP and they have even tries to further orchestrate it. Who are those that looted the treasury and stashed the loot in the Western countries? Nigerians and indeed, the whole world know them. So, it is not true that the Western and United States have abandoned the Buhari government because they know who looted the wealth of the country.