Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, has faulted the government of President Muhammadu Buhari on security, provision of infrastructure and national development. Adams told OLADIPUPO AWOJOBI in this interview that Nigeria has to wake up to the need to put things right and develop its institutions so that its perennial problems could be solved. Excerpts…
What is your honest assessment of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari?
A majority of what the government promised in 2015 they have not fulfilled them. They promised to tackle the issue of security, they promised that citizens who don’t have job would be given N5, 000 monthly.
The government promised to improve the standard of education and healthcare, but none of these promises has been fulfilled till today. The worst part of it is the issue of insecurity. In one of Buhari’s speeches, the issue of tackling Boko Haram was about seven to eight in it and he ordered the Chief of Army Staff to relocate to Maiduguri in Borno State.
But instead of them to tackle the issue of insecurity Boko Haram is increasing. Boko Haram insurgence has affected almost the entire North East, while bandits are in the North West; Fulani are in the North Central and even in the South West and South South.
On the issue of economy, you don’t need an expert to know that this government is not performing. Dollar was N196 to $1 in 2015, now it is about N487 to a dollar, last week it was about N480 to a dollar. Talking of cost of goods, a bag of rice during the time of former President Goodluck Jonathan was about N8,000 to N10,000 now it is over N40,000.
This is a government that within a period of about five and a half years has increased fuel price three; so talking about performance, they still have a lot of things to do. They have not scored average mark in terms of performance. All they are just doing is operating the way they were operating as opposition.
Buhari had a good image, when he got to power, most of the international communities reckoned with him but since the past two years, he has hardly been to any international forum for any presentation. There will always be an issue when you are in power, but the ability to manage the issue shows the kind of leader you are. Look at the way they managed the #EndSARS protest for instance. In my own position, this government is not on the right path regarding the wish of the people.
Have you ever made your views known to the president or get across to give him advice?
Yes, talking about restructuring, for instance, I wrote Mr. President on my humble advice about how the country could move forward. It was about 10 pages, that was about two or three years ago. The letter was carried through a courier company. Even two paragraphs to show that they received my letter and are working on it, I didn’t see anything.
All previous governments that I had the opportunity to engage since I was 29 years old, always responded to my letters. The letter could be signed by the Chief of Staff on behalf of the presidency, but no response since I wrote to President Buhari. I think the country is at a crossroads. Now, we have the second recession, which we can compare to the 1987 recession. Our economy is comatose, the country is not moving forward.
I’m afraid that by March next year, Nigeria might not be able to pay the salaries of federal civil servants because the country is highly bankrupt. All what we are trying to do is to kill the people to generate money to run the government. That is why they are increasing the price of petrol and electricity bills. They are looking for a way to put hardship on the people to generate income for the government. This is never done by any government.
You don’t put hardship on people to run your government. You can reduce the paraphernalia of office, reduce cost of governance, and you make sure that you put your citizens in moderate standard and with time the economy will grow. If the economy grows, you can increase your gov-ernance accoutrements again. When you have issues with the economy, you have to reduce cost of governance.
A minister that has four or five aides can reduce it to two; the Presidency with 20 aides can reduce it to 10. The Vice President and other government appointees can follow suit to reduce cost. You will then explain to the civil servants who normally travel abroad that it would be reduced so that the cost of governance would be reduced. Look at infrastructure, the projects that are very important should be done such as road, medical, security, education.
These are major sectors in any government; the ones that are not so important you play them down to 30% so that cost of governance could be reduced. Lay more emphasis on the ones that are important.
The issue of security is very important, health is very important, education is very important, road infrastructure is very important. You reduce the budget of other ministries that are not so important. If you manage the economy well, within five years there could be an oil boom again or some investment can come in. If you stabilise your security, investors will come and make sure you have a stable policy. In a situation where you don’t have a stable policy, no investor will come in.
You say one thing today, after three months you change it and you close the border. All the money that could have been generated from the borders we lost it. In a year, we are losing close to N500billion for closing the borders.
It was deliberate for the government to close the land borders, especially the Seme and Idiroko borders. So, all the investors that are bringing their goods would not do so and we are losing because we want to affect the economy of other countries or that of the South West. All the countries of the West African coast that bring goods to Nigeria have found other means and by the time you open the borders they would say they don’t need us anymore, they would go to other countries.
The President ought to have addressed the House of Representatives on the issue of security on Thursday, but he later changed his mind; what’s your view on this?
President Buhari does not want to interface with anybody that would drill him. The Presidential Chat was stopped. It was a normal routine of the Nigerian government that used to hold every three month, Buhari stopped it.
The first and second one he did were blunders, so he stopped it. The Presidential Chat ought to be a forum through which you gauge the capacity of y o u r president without being guided by any special adviser or minister.
It would be broadcast live and people would be saying they have confidence in their president. We have never heard that a retired colonel would head the Nigerian Customs; it had always been by promotion to the position of CGs by the officers. He brought a retired colonel to head the department. When you tamper with institutions you will destroy that government. Institutions are very important and when you make them strong then there will be good governance. Look at the election in the United States of America, institutions helped it. There could have been a stalemate in the election.
But the U.S. does not tamper with its institutions, even Donald Trump, as the President still respects the institutions. That is the reason they sustained democracy in their country despite the cantankerous election. An Electoral Law was sent to the President before the 2019 general elections, he did not sign it and that’s a law that will correct electoral malpractices; when you now see a party that rigs an election you will now go to court. That is the reason we have electoral apathy because the people believe that they will rig the election and go on their way. Even when they rig it, and the aggrieved go to court where they ought to get justice, it’s something else; some of the courts are not helping matters.
The President recently spoke with governors and said that they should work with the traditional rulers for security purposes, what roles do you think the traditional rulers can play in the area of security?
Not just the President, governors should give us roles to play. Does the Governor know that Aare Ona Kakanfo has a role to play? I played my role but they ignored it; they will be pushing the media to come and interview me. They ignored the role and they did not even encourage me to do more. See, Oyo State Amotekun, they come to me, they are the only ones doing the right thing, liaising with Aare Ona Kakanfo. They seek my advice; before they started their operations, they liaised with me.
All the Directors General of Amotekun in each state are supposed to liaise with me, not even the governor or his security adviser. But, some of them are blindfolded by partisanship and they are running into trouble. You cannot blame me because I have my own way of doing things; I have the resources that can assist. In Oyo State, OPC members in Amotekun are about 200, in Ondo State we have about 11 members, in Ekiti State, OPC members are not up to 40 in their recruitment. Ekiti State gave us one slot on the board of their Amotekun outfit, which is okay. But they have to do more in terms of recruitment. Some of the leaders of Amotekun must liaise with me; that’s my own beat as the t raditional head of defence and security in Yoruba land. I am not a rabble rouser traditional head; I have the structure to back it. I have experience to back it. So, our people deceive themselves a lot, they would be dodging, if God has recognised me and you say you will not recognise me you will fail.
When God gives His recognition and a human being says he will not recognise that person, you will fail. God has done His own, human beings cannot change it. You can see what is happening, they are burning houses, they overran the palaces of the kings, two palaces were overrun in a community in one week and the Olufon of Ifon in Ondo State was killed. Even in my community, the Oba called me that some Fulani herdsmen are in their bushes.
A lot is happening in Ekiti State now, Oyo State has rolled out 1,500 men and tension has reduced in the state. I am expecting the Ogun State government to do the same thing. Also, the Lagos State government should do the same thing. The crime rate in Lagos State is higher than those of three states in Yorubaland. Lagos State is very big in terms of population, the economy is booming and the crime rate is high. The state government is trying its best, but they need to do more through private initiatives.
Would you suggest that we go back to the Constitutional Conference of 2014?
What has happened has gone beyond the Constitutional Conference of 2014. I was one of the delegates. What we did there was that we just managed everybody to get a good report. What we got there is still okay, but the situation we are today is to bring out the 1963 Constitution and go back to regionalism. There is no alternative to that. We cannot run statism and become a great nation. The governor of a state would become an emperor. Not only in the South West, they must have a coordinating figure. You can call it a premier or we have six vice presidents, while the president would be at the centre. The vice president would checkmate the excesses of the governor, while the governor would checkmate the excesses of the local government chairmen. We can have federal police, regional police and state police. That would solve 93% of our security problems.
Want can we do to avoid a repeat of EndSARS?
I am not against any protest once it is peaceful. I am a product of protest. We protested from 1993 to 1999. So, I would be the last person to go against a peaceful protest. We watch international media every day in different countries, they protest and the government does not stop them. They would just monitor them not to be violent. They would not order urchins to attack them. Just use conventional police, don’t use army or else they would put you in trouble. Use civil police and they should not carry arms. The highest you can use is warm water to disperse them not to go out of control. I don’t know the people of End- SARS, we don’t have the same ideology. If Nigeria is not ready for regional government let us sit down and discuss separation. If we don’t want to restructure, let us sit down peacefully or have a referendum and discuss how to separate. That’s my position.
Credit: New Telegraph