Hon. Kayode Amusan, a one-time national lawmaker representing Abeokuta North, Ogun State, at the House of Representatives, is also a former Governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with OPEYEMI ADELANI he advised President Muhammadu Buhari to heed the advice of former President Olusegun Obasanjo not to seek reelection in 2019.
Some argue that Nigerians have hardly enjoyed the dividends of democracy since 1999, wondering if their lives weren’t better under the military. As a former member of the National Assembly, would you agree with the position?
One thing that is certain is that, military rule is no longer fashionable, so we have to continue to nurture this democracy. As far as I am concerned, democracy is far better than military rule. If you look at the military era, even when they were doing anything wrong or going astray, nobody could ask questions. It was like an animal kingdom. No law, no right. Nobody could challenge them, but today, even if you are the president we can challenge you whenever you are taking a wrong step. Assuming that we are having a military ruler today, who will dare challenge him they way President Muhammadu Buhari is being taken to task on virtually every aspect of the country? The moment you do that under military rule, you become a subject of arrest, and you are endlessly locked up and no court can save you. But, today, even if any law enforcement agent rests anybody for doing anything, the next thing is to go to court. Don’t just compare the military with democracy. Those who are saying that, I am sure they don’t understand the concept of democracy. In the history of Nigeria, when you look back, my first car that I bought in 1976 was six hundred and twenty naira (#620), a Volkswagen. As at then, my salary was #124, but today what is the cost of vehicles? What is the salary wage structure, as we are growing? Don’t forget that foreign exchange was bastardized by the military. I remember vividly in those days, they had a series of exchange rates, ranging from health to personal, business and so on. Once you were connected to the military, they could make you rich. All they needed to do was just to give you a paper at a particular rate near CBN’s office. You needed not trouble yourself, just sell the paper and the difference is worked out and given to you. Sometime in 1989, I was going for a course in Germany. I remember that the exchange rate then was 67 kobo to one dollar and one pound was N1.20k. Valuable as the Nigerian currency was then, you could walk into any bank in Europe and present it and they would give you local equivalent.
I am sure that if our oil is refined locally, the value of the Naira will shoot up again. I know this because I am in the oil and gas industry. I once went to the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and met with one of their Directors there. I asked him, “why don’t you people encourage the Niger Delta people who are doing local refineries?” He said what they are doing is adulterated. The argument may be correct, and it may be wrong. The question is: “why not encourage them to do it correctly until they get it right?”
There is no sense in exporting our product and in turn they still bring the refined version for us to buy. It doesn’t make sense at all. It’s like in the early days when the Igbo were imitating products and everybody was running away from them until the traders got smarter and started putting foreign labels on the products — Made in Taiwan, Hong Kong, United States of America – and they started making a lot of money! Anything made in Nigeria, we reject. Look at what happened in India and China years back. They shut down their doors at foreign products. Those days, we were looking at them with pity, believing that they were suffering; not knowing that they knew what they were doing and they were building a future for their unborn children.
The best car in India then was TATA. If you looked at that TATA then, and its tricycles, you would say that they were suffering. They slammed high tariffs on imported products. If you wanted to bring an imported car into India in the early 1980s, you would break your account because the duty was almost 1000 percent. India insisted that they wanted everything to be produced locally. Look, when the colonial masters were coming, they came with religion, they had technology. India took their technology and retained its religion. In Nigeria, and the other parts of Africa, we chose religion and threw away technology and language. Look at them today, they are enjoying. Those TATA cars that were looking terrible then are on the streets of Lagos today. TATA has become an executive car. They keep developing; they are the best in IT, they build their aircraft, they’ve done virtually everything in India.
So you are suggesting that Nigeria should shut its borders?
Yes. Shut it and forget anything imported. That is our major problem. That is why we rely on foreign exchange. Tell me one thing in his country that doesn’t have forex component, one thing that is being produced in this country that doesn’t have forex component. Where are the Peugeot Automobile cars, where is Volkswagen Nig Limited? Virtually all those warehouses have been turned to churches. People keep contributing money in church, coming with their jets and cars. The overseer will tell you that God will protect you, but while he is going to his own house he doesn’t believe in God. He will surround himself with Mobile Policemen, but he will tell the congregation that God will protect them. Why does he not wait for God to protect him also? He uses church members’ contributions to build a school where even the members who contributed the money cannot pay the fees. And this is untaxable money. You hear the G.O or Overseer saying that he wants 10 people to contribute one one billion naira. Where do you think people work for money will donate one billion naira? This is the country where you will see people staying in their houses and praying that God will bring food to them in their houses. We need to have a rethink if we want to build a lasting nation for our unborn children.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo just advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek reelection. He also said that for 2019, neither the PDP nor the APC can take the country to the promise land. Do you agree with him?
President Obasanjo has seen it all in this country. When he speaks, you don’t just overlook what he’s saying because most of his predictions have come to pass. When he said that (former President Goodluck) Jonathan would not return for the second term, what happened? Did Jonathan return? So, I will not want to argue with what Baba has said. He’s somebody who has seen and knows Nigeria from head to toe. Before he speaks, Obasanjo know all things.
Generally when you look at the situation of the country, we deserve a change for the better and not the change of propaganda. What we had in 2015 was a change of deceit. It was not the proper change that Nigerians expected. The foundation of this present government was built on deceit, so Obasanjo has a right, as a Nigerian. Where are the activists of those days when Jonathan was in power who were sleeping at Ojota and were promoting protests? Wole Soyinka, Pastor Bakare. Where are they now? They cannot speak again? They should go back to Ojota and start killing cow and feeding protesters. They now issue statements in newspapers and on the social media. How many of the poor protesters can afford to buy newspapers or listen to news on radio when there is no light to power your radio. Even to power generator, where is the fuel? Is that the way it is supposed to be?
Many would disagree with you on this. It is strongly believed that the protests were spontaneous, that the anger of Nigerians over fuel price increase by the Jonathan government was justified. Do you agree?
Talk is not cheap in this country. As at the time we were in power and they were talking, somebody was promoting the protests, spending money. Somebody was providing the brown envelope. That is what I mean by where are the activists of those days? Have they all died? Those days, somebody was igniting them, promoting them. That is where you see the difference between the APC and the PDP. We are best in governing and not propaganda. We are not used to propaganda. But I believe that at the appropriate time, the people themselves will rise to the challenge.
How will you rate governance in Ogun State these past six years?
Economy activities are completely shut down in this state, as far as I am concerned. Building roads is quite good. There is nothing wrong with it. That is the concept of the governor. That is what he believes in. But man shall not live by the roads alone. If you are building roads for the people and the economy of that state is not buoyant, how do we know they are going to survive? We have frequent travelers out of this country and we see how other countries have built their own countries. There is no country that does not have what they call ancient cities. Go to the city of London today, you will see what they call monumental structures. When they want to redevelop their countries, they go outside the cities and build new towns. In Ogun, we have the landmarks, the tourism potential of the state is yet untapped. Ogun is sitting in the midst of five other states including an international community. By the time I was contesting for governorship, I had gone to Dubai and sat with the king there who promised me that whenever I was elected into the office I should let him know. What were they asking for? Just the land. The fund that is being wasted on bridges can make Ogun mini-Dubai. I ask, what is the vehicular traffic pressure in Abeokuta that we have bridges all over? The bridges that are being built by Chinese firms, let’s wait for the next five years and see what will happen to them. Go to Ijebu Ode today and drive through the bridge and you will feel sorry for Ogun State. This is a bridge that was constructed less than two years ago. Most of the roads only needed to be resurfaced. Channel other resources to the hinterland and open up everywhere. I can tell you that the whole of Nigeria will come and buy properties in Ogun State and at no cost. Look at the Ogun East Waterside, Ogun state has the deepest sea in West Africa, if not Africa. Dangote was eventually driven away. Look at what Dangote is doing in Lagos now. He has gone to give about 20,000 jobs to Lagosians. If you give 70 percent of 20,000 jobs to Ogun State indigenes, what would happen in Ogun? Drastic reduction in employment. I have said it on several occasions that a leader who does not add skill to the knowledge of his people is not leading tight. How many graduates are walking around the streets of this nation today who don’t have a jobs, graduates doing all sorts of menial jobs? That is a simple thing to tackle. Just add skill to what you are doing. I have said it many times in my interviews: Amend the NYSC Act, change that one-year service to skills acquisition and see what will happen at the end of the day. When you see a graduate that does metal work, you will see the difference, a graduate that does tailoring you will see the difference. I can tell they will live better by that rather than looking for job of #20,000 in a month. A part of my proposal is also to amend the secondary school curriculum and add a skill acquisition as a compulsory subject like English and Mathematics from SS1 to SS 3. At the end of the day, by the time the children leave school they will come out with two clean certificates — one is school certificate, the other one is skill acquisition certificate. Such a child does not need the help of anybody to send him to university. I remember vividly why I lost the election because I refused to swear to secret oaths. I am saying this openly, I said I would never because it is a service to the people and humanity. I would not do it. “If I am going to swear in court when I get elected, there is what we call oath of office, and oath of allegiance to the state.” That is what I believe in; to everybody and not just to one person. That was what happened in 2015 election. I have not spoken but at the appropriate time i will voice out.