For the former minister of mines and steel development, Alhaji Sarafadeen Tunji Isola, there is no reason people of the South-west geo-political zone of the country should not vote for President Goodluck Jonathan if he shows interest in the 2015 general elections.
Isola, who was also former secretary to the Ogun State Government, in this interview with MOSHOOD ADEBAYO, appraised Jonathan and scored him high in the area of road constructions and rehabilitations while urging him to do more, particularly in area of security.
How would you assess the state of the nation now?
There is this erroneous insinuation that security rests squarely on the president, as the chief security officer of the country. That is not the correct perspective to look at security; the chairman of a local government is the chief security officer of that local government. The governor of a state is the chief security officer of that state and the president is the chief security officer of the nation. So, within the context of security, it is supposed to be a complementary role, the most important one is the local government chairman. There is no security issue that does not exist within a locality and it would be difficult for Mr. President to know what is happening in your locality.
That is why when I was the council chairman; I made sure that, at least, every month there was an active peace and security committee at the local Government level. At that level, the committee is supposed to provide intelligence about happenings in the local government because whatever security challenge we are having usually starts as a local issue.
In the course of providing intelligence, the minutes of the meetings would be passed on to the Bureau of Special Services in the office of the governor, which would collate and pass on to the governor of the state for actions.
The state security council consist of the Governor as the chairman, the Brigade Commander or the highest ranked military man in the state, the Commissioner of Police, state director of State Security Service (SSS), state comptroller of Immigrations, Prisons and customs, the chairman of the state council of Obas who would have collated intelligence from other Obas whatever is brought from the state and the local government levels are collated that would enable you to take immediate actions as the governor. Those ones that are beyond the capacity of the state Government are passed on to the presidency for further necessary actions.
So, when people now heap the issue of security on only Mr President, I take it as maybe there is a lack of knowledge or people are trying to abdicate their responsibilities and it is unfortunate that the states that we witness the highest sense of insecurity are the states controlled by the opposition to the party of Mr. President.
The issue is that security is complementary. In as much as anybody wants to shift all the responsibilities to Mr President, the governors of those states and the chairman of the respective local government areas are also responsible and that is why you see the president declaring a state of emergency.
Because of the type of the president that we have, he is protecting the constitution otherwise; it is alien that you have a state of emergency without affecting the political structure and that really show how Mr President is supporting democracy.
How do you think we can end the problem?
We should go and activate all the security structures, the peace and security committee of the local governments must meet regularly, provide intelligence, solve problems that can be solved locally and those ones that cannot be solved should be passed on to the state security council. I am not aware that whether some governors even hold their security council meetings regularly.
When I was secretary to the government, we used to do that once in a month. We hold sometimes twice in a month in case of emergency. In security, prevention is more important than actions taken when there is breach of security.
How can you assess this administration’s on transport sector?
On the issue of transportation, I want to say that within the context of the transportation network, President Jonathan has done his best. When the president said he was the most criticized president in the World today, people don’t understand because the president was not even up to a year before criticisms started pouring in.
These are the kind of challenges we have in our country, a president is elected for a four year mandate and less than two years in office he starts receiving barrage of criticisms. The framers of our constitution did not expect that the job of four years would have been completed in one or two years, before we can make a correct assessment of the president except on emergency and topical issues.
Is the current issue of terrorism in Nigeria political?
Terrorist activity is criminal; I would not adjudge it political or religious. I want to appeal to Nigerians not to take it as a religious issue because even Muslim leaders are more targeted in the terror campaign. When you say it is political, how can it be? PDP is governing in Kano State, Borno is an ANPP State, Nassarawa is a CPC State and terrorism is existing in these states, so how can it be political? I am not aware of any religion that preaches violence, so it cannot be religious. I am also aware that within the context of the 1999 constitution, the only political way to effect a change is through the ballot paper or box. There is no how an arm struggle or insurgency can lead to the attainment of power. As far as I am concerned, it is neither political nor religious but criminal.
Why should South-west vote for Jonathan if eventually he decides to contest?
I don’t want to jump the gun, when Jonathan begins to ask for vote, I would be in a position to discuss that. He has not declared an interest and by virtue of understanding him very well, until he declares an interest, it would be as if crossing a bridge without reaching it.
As far as South-West is concerned, you know South- West people are highly sophisticated. At the appropriate time they would weigh their options. They would look at the options before voting because when interests are declared. We would know who is contesting with Jonathan, is he better or worse. To expect that South-West people would give a blanket service to anyone, that would not happen. You know what happened in Ondo state in 2012 elections when the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria was pushed to the third position; that is South-West for you.
They would critically look at the options on ground, the candidates and what they have to offer and they take their decision. So, it would be pre-emptive for anybody to say whether people would vote for Jonathan or not. For now I am sure that the issue of appointments, which is our cry of marginalisation, is being addressed. In terms of structures, I have told you that, the Lagos International airport is wearing a new look. The flag off of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway has taken place. The people of the South- West are more concerned about developments and infrastructure than individual appointments.
What’s your position on Nigeria’s celebration of her centenary?
We should celebrate. We have survived a civil war. If you have cause to visit places like Sierra Leone and Liberia, you will have cause to raise your head high. Our country is worthy of celebration. No matter the situation and challenges, for 100 years we have remained as a country. Is the Germany of today the same Germany of 100 years ago? So, we have a situation whereby Nigeria is despite all odds remained as a country. I don’t believe like some people do that it was the mistake of Lugard, I don’t consider as the mistake of Lugard.
We are indeed a nation because we are able to bring what the economists call our comparative advantage to bear. As I talk to you, in Ogun state today the cow, goats, tomatoes, rams and beans we eat and consume come from the North. If we have not remained as a nation, we would have ended up as importers of those commodities. In terms of the revenue, Lagos today is buoyant as a state and city because of the ports and these ports are being used by all the states of the federation.
How has your generation been fair with the use of power?
When you talk of a generation, you don’t have to limit it to those in politics alone. Let me start from the business World, I am happy to know that people like Aliko Dangote has raised the profile of Nigerian business thus becoming the first Nigerian to be the richest man in Africa. We also have people like Mike Adenuga who also belonged to the generation. We have people like Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu in the banking sector who managed their banks well and are still doing well in their chosen career now. The present CBN governor who has sanitised the banking system from inception till date belongs to my generation. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala arguably the first Nigerian to rise to a higher position in the World Bank is also part of my generation which I am very proud of.
When we talk of the educational sector, so many Nigerians that are picking merit awards from breakthroughs in sciences, medicine and so on both in Nigeria and the diaspora, that is the knowledge driven aspect of our generation. We live in a world of globalisation that is more knowledgeable and enlightened.
If we go to the political side, Otunba Gbenga Daniel developed Ogun State. We have people like Donald Duke to celebrate; we have people like Raji Fashola to celebrate and, of course, Olusegun Mimiko is worthy of celebration to the extent that the United Nations (UN) had invited him several times to the US to enlighten and share his success stories on maternal health with the world. If you go to Sokoto, you will see what Wammako has done to that state. If you go to Edo state, you will see what Adams Oshiomohle has done. Sule Lamido is another acknowledged performer of our generation as attested to by President Obasanjo.
There are many more. Every generation has its own challenges, within the context of the opportunities that are available; they have done their best because they can only try to the limit of what is available to them. In that context, it is a generation that I am very proud of.