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Soldiers may take over if…

Posted by By FUNKE EGBEMODE on 2007/12/30 | Views: 1393 |

Soldiers may take over if…

The way the nation is managed by politicians worries many citizens sick. The concern takes them back to an innate fear – fear for the possibility of the return of the highhanded faceless brutes who in the past had cashed in on the failings of the selfish leadership of the political class to stage an intervention that spells worse doom.

The way the nation is managed by politicians worries many citizens sick. The concern takes them back to an innate fear – fear for the possibility of the return of the highhanded faceless brutes who in the past had cashed in on the failings of the selfish leadership of the political class to stage an intervention that spells worse doom.

That is the fear Dr. Doyin Okupe, PDP chieftain expresses. He is a member of the ruling party but seriously concerned that the nation is not managed the right way by the party. He sees selfishness, rudderless politics and desperation as the low points of Nigeria’s leadership and the factors capable of propelling the military into their usual excuse of staging a hijack of the polity once again. His discussion with Saturday Sun bared the ill feelings he has for the nation’s leadership, and how he thinks sanity would be brought into the system.

What is your assessment of the council elections we just held?
Nigerians are still not serious with the issue of politics. Politics is what destroys and disrupts everything else that we do. We had colossal fraud at the presidential and governorship elections. Nobody has found any solution to that and we went ahead and conducted the local government elections. Worse than what INEC did, the local government elections were organized by the governors, appointing their own electoral commissioners who did their bidding. So what do you have? If I am a PDP governor I win 100%, if I am AC governor I win 100%, if I am ANPP governor, I win 100%.It does not make any sense.

Perhaps the governors have 100% followership and are in charge of their states.
The governors are not in-charge of their states. What it means is that in the country today, opposition is not defeated, opposition is killed. And that is not good for democracy. I have played opposition politics for years in this country. I was allowed to live. We lost some and won some. Sometimes out of 20 local governments we won three or four but we were allowed to live. What is going on now is political hara-kiri. It does not make sense.

It will not help our democracy. Nobody should beat his chest that he has succeeded in anything. As far as I’m concerned, the local government elections was a huge fraud. Having gone through what we went through in April, you would expect that people would quickly come back to find a way of ensuring that we did not have a repeat performance. But everybody seems to be suffering from mental apathy. We are expecting miracles to happen. The fraud at the council elections was greater than what we saw at the April polls.

Do you foresee those who were defrauded recovering their electoral victory at the election petition tribunals?
A: Is that what we are going to do for four years, defraud at the polls and then wait for a tribunal to upturn it? Why can’t we put in place a system that will produce reasonably acceptable election results? People should have sat down to map out how the council polls would be done. But nothing like that was done. In many places, opposition was not carried along, in many others opposition did not participate. Majority will have their way but minority must be allowed to have its say. In Britain, apart from Labour, the Conservatives, I knew the Social Democrats as a young politician, they controlled about 2% in the House of Commons but today they are doing about 25%. They have grown. I have it on good authority that the Social Democrats nave moved Britain in terms of policies than the popular parties because they need to woo people to join their party. They work harder, bring fresh ideas which the popular parties adopt when they win. So, everybody has a role, we don’t have to kill opposition. Opposition must survive for democracy to thrive.

Where do we start then?
Without political reforms, all the other reforms will not work.

What do you have in mind as political reform(s)?
The type of politics we play must be addressed. The amount of money that is deployed in politics is criminal. I’m part of it but I have nothing at stake now so I can tell you what others will not tell you. You can’t be a governor of any state in Nigeria now without putting N5b on the table and you cannot be president without N20b on ground. That is crazy. It is okay for you journalists to say one governor is a thief but if I have to go and borrow N5b to run an election to become a governor, what do you expect me to do in office? These have to be addressed.

When people are voting only because of money, there will be issues. If money becomes the only denomination in politics, there is a major crisis. We’ve got to address the electoral process, how we sanction those who violate electoral laws. These are issues we must address in the next four years. Always, politics brings the country backwards. All the progress we are making in the banking industry, stock exchange will be brought to nothing with one major political disaster. That is why we need political reform as a baseline to develop on.

We have a rare opportunity now. We have a President who appears to be a different breed, a radical. If he gets the right advice, he can move this country forward. Politics disrupts peoples lives but Nigerians have a way of keeping quiet, allowing the place to run. All those putting their money in the stock exchange now, I pray no calamity befalls us, the Stock Exchange will crash. People will commit suicide. Those who are putting their money in Stock Exchange do not realise that they have to put their mouths in politics.

Well so far, politics has not affected our Stock Exchange…
You wait. If the army takes over tomorrow, you will see the Stock Exchange crash.

You see the army coming back?
This is a third world country. You can’t rule it out with the kind of things we are doing.

We seem to be coasting along fine without military intervention.
This is a third world country. We are just developing, we still do not have the reticence that is required to resist certain drastic changes in the polity. So, don’t rule out anything.

What exactly will bring the soldiers back? What is threatening our democracy?
There are many issues here. PDP itself as is presently constitutes is almost a threat to democracy. PDP is the largest political party in the country, controls the majority of the state executives but it is not offering the leadership that it should. The party has failed the nation, no doubt about that.

That is an anti-party statement and you may have to face the party’s disciplinary committee?
Well, I don’t mind. I don’t have to play politics. I’ve done enough. If at my age I cannot critically examine a system to which I belong, then it is better for me to just die. I am telling you that we have the biggest party in the country and therefore we must take responsibility for whatever goes wrong in the nation. The party does not have a policy you can call a PDP policy that runs from Oyo to Gombe, for instance or that if something happen, this is how PDP people will react.

There is nothing like that. Everybody is an island. That is why you have such a group as the Integrity Group at the House of Rpresentatives. It is a failure of leadership. They could no longer wait for an ineffective system that cannot show direction. And they got together to say we are not going to allow things to slide and if it must slide, we will not slide with it. That is the most eloquent testimony of the failure of the party. If a party as big as PDP cannot get its act together to hold a national convention, that does not show an organization that is run by sensible people. Party politics is a serious thing especially if you are holding the reins of power. To whom much is given, much is expected.

You see the party disintegrating?
No, PDP will not disintegrate but what is the purpose and value of a party that cannot offer the leadership it should? What is its value to the people that it is supposed to govern? PDP will use various loci of power all over the country to reinforce itself but Nigerians are looking for a party that is cohesive, a party that has direction, focus, has ideology that will help its government, a party that can sanction its own people, move the country forward. Not a party where everybody is jostling for power. The other day I read in a newspaper that Obasanjo and IBB are jostling for control of the PDP convention. I pray to God that it is not true because if it, that would be an end game.

They are both powerful PDP members, what is wrong in them wanting more power?
You see, the elites in this country do not know what is in their own interest. The custodians of power are not knowledgeable enough to protect even their own interests. There are some battles that you fight that the consequences are irrelevant because at the end of the day, everybody is a loser.

If PDP has failed Nigerians and PDP will not disintegrate, where does that leave Nigeria?
You’ve got a huge party of people who will stick together because of selfish interest but lacks the moral fibre, uprightness of character, knowledgeability to move the country forward. It’s a typical disease of third world countries. For how long are we going to continue like this?

You have enunciated the problems, so what are the solutions?
The leadership of PDP has indeed expired. We need to have a new set of leaders who are intelligent, purposeful and charismatic politicians, people we’ll naturally defer to. If you have no knowledge you cannot be a leader.

Have you seen those qualities in those who are coming out to contest for positions in PDP?
I am afraid you are asking a very bad question because I have friends who are contesting. But there is nobody in politics in Nigeria today that I should be afraid of. A man like the former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, I would travel barefooted down the length and breadth of Nigeria if he wants to be chairman of this party because he has proved his mettle. He has integrity, character. He has demonstrated leadership and to some extent probity and he’s a tested politician.

Unfortunately, he’s not running. Pius Anyim’s another front runner. He had a successful tenure as Senate President. I can vouch for him. Egwu is another good candidate. We need a brand new arrangement in PDP, a new vision. Not the kind of arrangement where you just impose candidates who do not know their left from their right. I am also glad that we have a president who will allow the emergence of a popular candidate. Once the Presidency is not tilted to any side then people will be free to make their own decision.

Those who are passionate about the country, the PDP are just talking instead of coming out to contest, where does that leave the future?
There are still impediments. For instance I cannot run for the Chairman of the party because it is zoned to the East. What is zoned to the South West is not a position I’m interested in but I will support a good candidate. I have done my bit too. I have been in party heirarchy, being in government, ran for governor. If the Chairmanship of the party was free for all, I would run.

You’ve got problems with zoning?
There must be a limit to this zoning thing. I don’t believe in zoning. It cannot be a permanent thing. After almost 50 years of independence, we must be able to move to the next level.

Let’s talk about corruption and the fight against it.
Corruption is the main issue in Nigeria now and as long as it is fought even if policies are not advanced, projects are not executed, it appears as if it is okay. Corruption should not be a main focus. It should be something to deal with as we go along. Yes, corruption is like a virus that destroys the host environment but there is insincerity in the way we are fighting it.

Yes, insincerity on the part of all of us. People are driving on the main road and giving policemen money. Parents are paying for JAMB to manipulate results for their children’s admission. University lecturers are collecting money to give grades to students. Bankers who have not done any business in their lives are multibillionaires in dollars. Civil servants have million in their accounts at home and abroad and nobody is talking.

What we concentrating on now is governors who are stealing money. Virtually every Nigerian is a thief. Those who have not stolen are praying to get into offices so they can steal. The Ribadu group has been doing a good job, parading big men, governors. But has it stopped corruption? While Ribadu is fighting his battles, we must start to work on the psychology of the citizenry.

I do not believe in scapegoatism. When they parade big men for corruption, everybody claps. The people clapping are also thieves. We need a general amnesty in Nigeria where we’ll say if you have money that you have not legitimately earned, you have 90 days in which to deposit it somewhere under a secrecy act where it is not made public but if after 90 days you have not done so, you go to jail for 21 years and whatever we recover from you will be confiscated. Parading governors and big men while a million others are allowed to go away with their loot is evil and unfair.

You mean arresting governors is scapegoatism?
Yes. Since we started arresting governors has corruption stopped. When we were killing robbers, has armed robbery stopped? If we jail all the 36 governors corruption will not stop. In fact, the next set will device a better way of stealing. The system is faulty. Aren’t we ashamed of a system that allows one man to steal billions of naira and take it through the banks and without EFCC we would not have known. This may not be a popular opinion but I have no apologies. If you have 100 public office holders, 90 of them have stolen money. All public office holders are taking money that does not belong to them. Local government chairmen and their councilors are doing ‘kill and divide’. What kind of jail are you going to build to contain these people? Let us restructure the system.

Do you agree with those who have accused former President Obasanjo of ruining our moral fabric and wasting eight precious years of our national life? What kind of man was he as a boss?
Under Obasanjo, there was some advancement in the country in certain sectors. Whatever Obasanjo did wrong was with his person and character and style. At first he was accessible but then it got to a stage when he became so powerful, awesome. Those who surrounded him led him astray. Sycophancy has become national character. Sycophants say things that are totally unreasonable to leaders just to endear him to themselves.

You need the grace of God to rule this country. I once heard a man tell Augustus Aikhomu that if his brain is buried with him when he dies, it would be injustice to Nigeria. The man was embarrassed. When President Obasanjo first came into office, he had no air about him. He was extraordinarily simple. Then ministers started walking in their knees to talk to him. Those who didn’t do it were like arrogant people. Towards the end, I believe that a lot of people had very negative effects on President Obasanjo. I do not agree that Obasanjo’s years were wasted years.

With the frightful way the election tribunals are upturning results, what do you think will happen if President Yar’Adua’s election is upturned?
A forward-looking party leadership would start thinking seriously about the prospect and map out a plan to tackle such an occurrence. I pray that scenario does not happen but if it does, the constitution is clear, that does not imply that the President will quit. The President will quit under the conditions that have been laid down in the constitution. The question is will PDP represent Yar’Adua and will he supervise the election?

The nullification of his election does not invalidate his election. He remains in office unless he is impeached. The best man that can be on the throne for that kind of judgment is the one there now. Yar’Adua is not a desperate person, he’s not willing to violate the law. He does not want power at all costs. If the country asks him to step aside, he’d do it. God is just kind to us. I am not entertaining serious fear but it is a scenario that we must give serious thoughts. There are still many flashpoints in the country and this is a third world. I do not want to say anything suggestive.

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