CHIEF Tola Adeniyi, is a foremost journalist and former Managing Director of Daily Times. In this interview with Vanguard, stressed the need for restructuring of the polity into a confederal system as agreed at the Aburi, Ghana meeting of 1966 to address the myriad of problems facing the country.
While he canvassed dialogue to check the activities of the Boko Haram Islamist sect, he called on government to reduce the cost of governance. Excerpts:
Most people are talking about insecurity, but insecurity did not just jump down from Heaven. What were the factors that led to insecurity? Insecurity has been with us for a long time but it came to a head in the last five or six years. The chief cause of insecurity in Nigeria is mass unemployment. The level of insecurity in any society is directly proportional to the level unemployment and unemployment in Nigeria is over 50 per cent. There are so many Nigerians, who are not doing anything. If you have so many unemployed graduates, who know how to make bombs, then the country is in trouble.
What is Boko Haram? Boko Haram says if the education we acquire from the West, means stealing, mismanaging, embezzling, not doing what you should do as a chairman of local government, as a governor or as a president, then they (Boko Haram) don’t want that kind of education.
They are not saying they don’t want education because some of them are graduates but they are saying that western education has ruined Nigeria. And any right thinking person would agree that if all that we have to show for the education that we acquired from the West is what we are seeing in governance, then that type of education is wrong.
Yakubu Gowon and Late Odumegwu-Ojukwu
And that is what Boko Haram is all about. It is not a religious thing at all, Boko Haram is making war against society that has failed them. They are waging war against government and that is why they are attacking instruments and institutions of government like military barracks, police barracks among other institutions. When they attack churches or mosques, what they are doing is to attract attention to the situation they are in.
Cost of governance
The cost of governance in Nigeria is the worst and highest in the world where a country spends 80 per cent of all its income servicing less than one per cent of the total population. The entire people we have in government are not up to one million. Each state governor spends N1milion a day for feeding while at the level of the president, he spends N900 million annually for feeding. This is happening in a country where some people do not eat more than twice a day.
So, the cost of governance is another thing that is driving the polity into this craziness. And because we are in this kind of situation, we are going to have total collapse of law and order. When you have a collapse of law and order, it will be such that the 330,000 policemen we have in Nigeria will not be able to cope with the looming crisis. If we drive the situation far, we are going to have complete breakdown and it will be everyone unto himself.
What has compounded it is the ill-advised, insensitive and cruel petroleum tax, which government introduced on thge first day of January. There is nothing like subsidy. Government, having spent about a trillion on the elections of President Goodluck Jonathan, realised that the only option left for them is to tax Nigerians to the bones and called it petroleum tax because they know everybody uses petroleum. There is no government in the world that would impose 100 per cent tax on its people. The budget has opened the eyes of Nigerians and this has united Nigerians. The greatest unifier of people is not religion, it is not ethnicity, it is poverty. Nigerians are all united with poverty.
What government has done that is going to worsen the situation in Nigeria is trying to divide labour and civil societies.
When you divide labour and civil societies, if there is an uprising or demonstrations, they will no longer be guided by anybody and that is why I said we are going the way of Somalia. When you allow people to go loose, then, there is serious trouble and that is what happened in Somalia.
In Poland, they broke the ranks of labour and civil societies in 1981 and the people attacked the president, which led to a complete breakdown of law and order. So, it is not right for any government to go through that route of trying to divide labour and civil society organisations by making them to run against each other. The end result is that you will have a serious crisis that will not be managed by anybody and that is very dangerous.
Another aspect to this insecurity is that Boko Haram and other dangerous elements have infiltrated security apparatus in the country. You have Boko Haram in the Army, you have them in the Air Force. You have it in the Navy and in the Police. So, the security agencies have been infiltrated. Whether you like it or not, 90 per cent of Nigeria Police is not loyal to anybody because they are also suffering. It is just that because of the nature of their job, they cannot publicly go on strike. Majority of them are striking psychologically ditto the military.
One other affliction affecting the military and intelligence agencies is that it has put people, who are less learned, intelligent and qualified as heads of these organisations.
There so many qualified men and women in the Police Force, who should occupy the position of the Inspector-General of Police, but they are not been promoted because they want to create jobs for the boys. What you have in our security agencies is that people, who head them do not command the respect and loyalty of their followers. That is also dangerous for any society.
Government has shot itself in the foot by bringing people, who are not qualified to head all out intelligent and security apparatus and that poses its own problems and dangers.
Way out of nation’s woes
We don’t feel happy that Jonathan has allowed his government to be hijacked by those they did not vote for. That is why Nigerians are saying this country has no government because government has been hijacked by those, who have no business being in government.
What government must do in the interim as a palliative is for them to revert the pump price of fuel back to N45 per litre or grudgingly return to N65 per litre.
The money government is generating from oil alone is enough to do anything. They need not to have imposed petroleum tax on Nigerians.
But more than that, certainly, they have not passed the budget for 2012. The National Assembly should reduce the recurrent expenditure by 80 per cent. If the National Assembly wants to save the jugular of this country, they should immediately cut that budget and the 80 per cent they will take away from recurrent expenditure, should go into capital expenditure. It is only the National Assembly that can save this country at this point in time.
Another way out is a reduction in the size of government. All the state governors are equally guilty of the petroleum tax imposed on Nigeria because they were there when the decision was taken by the president.
The governors agreed because they knew they were going to make money. So, the size of governance, which is ridiculous should be reduced. That is in the interim and that should be immediate.
The second interim measure is for government to reduce mass unemployment. Construction is the largest employer of labour and if government decides to embark on mass construction of houses, that alone would provide jobs for about three quarter of those who are unemployed.
To prevent us from becoming another Somalia, the president must send a bill to the National Assembly to start a process of confederation. Let every region be semi-autonomous and develop at its own level. That was the Aburi agreement.
What was agreed on then was that there should be confederation. I am proposing that Nigeria should immediately go to six regions which Abacha created in 1995 and these regions should be semi autonomous. What will only bind us together will be defence, foreign policy and currency.
What I am saying is that there is need for restructuring of the polity. We were forced into a marriage, the terms of which were never made known. They never consulted anybody and because we don’t have a nation, it also contributed a deal to the problems of Nigeria.
We must have a confederation, we must have a nation and that is why we need to talk. We must have a national conference, people must come together to talk. We cannot run away from it. We must sit down and decide how to live togther as a nation.