From: TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt Hundreds of youths in Rivers State yesterday, staged a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt, condemning the activities of some operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the state police command. Protesting on the platform of Niger Delta Non-Violence Youth Leaders Assembly (NDNYLA), they marched through some major streets in…
… Says region can’t produce 100 engineers, but a local government in
South can produce 1000 engineers
From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
GRANTING this interview was a Herculean task for the former governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, not because he was not willing to talk, but because he admitted, “I am weak, health wise, I don’t think I can speak for very long, but let me try, as long as you will not drill me for too long.”
Alhaji Musa also appeared not to be in a good mood last Tuesday morning when the correspondent went to his house, saying, “Apart from the fact that I am weak, I could not attend INEC meeting in Abuja because they gave only two days notice for the meeting, and I would have loved to attend the meeting myself, but I cannot. So I have asked the national secretary of my party to attend.”
So with this situation, the former governor was not in his usual mood and as such the reporter could not stretch him much on burning national issues. Nevertheless, he managed to release an arsenal, saying, “North is the problem of Nigeria because the region is educationally backwards to be able to help in reconstruction of the country to achieve socio-economic greatness among comity of nations.”
President Muhammadu Buhari returned to the country recently from London where he underwent medical treatment. He admitted that he had not been so sick in his life, but before now, the President’s handlers did not open up to Nigerians as to the true state of his health. What can you say about this?
Well, the handling was very bad, very unexpected, they took Nigerians for granted when they should not because the health of the president affects everybody, every Nigerian, whatever any Nigerian feels, Buhari is president, and Nigerians future is linked to the president’s presence or absence. And therefore people should not be indifferent to the health of the president. And the president’s handlers must make sure that they keep on informing Nigerians about the true health of the president. When they said the president was not ill, unfortunately we did not hear about the true health of the President.
This is not the first time, the same thing happened during the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua. But fortunately enough, the president has returned in a healthy condition. I said in a healthy condition because, seeing how the president came down from the aircraft, I was confident that his condition of health is not worse than all of us because he came down from the aircraft without being held and in a strong position. So as long as Nigerians are concerned, unless the president is hiding something medically, he has returned healthy and he is carrying out his responsibility.
Hardly had the President returned to the country than Nigerians were told that he would soon go back to London for another round of medical attention. Do you think it is good for our politics, don’t you think our politics will suffer for the president’s periodical absence from Nigeria?
No, certainly it is not good for our politics. But this can happen to anybody. We have all been in and out of hospital, so it is not unexpected, particularly when the president has greatest share of pressure. It is not unexpected of him to go back with the hope that his condition will be better than when he was released from the hospital, and what treatment he got after his return, and later he will stay there for the mean time.
Away from Buhari’s ill health, Let’s talk about the last national conference under former President Goodluck Jonathan. As it is today, many Nigerians are yearning for the implementation of the report of that Confab, particularly, the restructuring of the country. But up till now President Buhari has not looked at the recommendations. What is your reaction to this?
President Buhari is right, not to have approved the report of that confab because the national conference was not legitimate; it did not reflect the wishes of Nigerian people. It was Jonathan himself who dictatorially decided that we should have a national conference. It is he who appointed those who participated in the national conference; it is he who gave them the…, so that national conference has nothing to do with the aspirations of Nigerians, it has nothing to do with democracy, and it has to be dismissed. There may be aspects of it that are progressive. For instance, the call for restructuring. This is an incidental thing, and we should pursue it, but not as a result of the national conference. The confab should be dismissed because it is irrelevant. It has nothing to do with the aspirations of Nigerians, and it has nothing to do with the destiny of Nigerians. It has to do with the will of a president who wanted to continue in office.
From what you have just said, you are in support of restructuring the country. How do you want Nigerians to pursue or go about the restructuring agenda?
Well, in the first place, let’s determine what we mean by restructuring because at the moment now there are various meanings of restructuring. As far as I am concerned, I am in support of restructuring, particularly in two areas; in return to the arrangement of the First Republic, where we had regional governments which were viable, and we should return to that. The 36 states are not viable, and everybody now knows it, and it is not in the interest of the country to continue with it. Let us have six regions, the North-west, the North-east, the North-central, South-west, South-south and South-east. This is the way to transfer Nigeria into three regional governments, each with its own constitution and government. Let also be units and not the statutory states, let any financial allocation come directly from the Federal government to the regions. And let the regions establish as many local governments as they cope with them with regard to financial allocation with the centre. And in fact what they need from centre will be reduced. They will be viable like the former Eastern region, Northern region, the Western region, and even before the Mid western region, they were viable. They needed the Federal Government support just to ensure even development and national unity. But definitely, even without the Federal Government support, they could survive. This is not what we have now.
The second restructure I want is that let us return to the situation before the military came in where the government played the leading role in the economy to ensure, equality, justice, dignity of the human person and progressive even development of the country. It is the major restructure, this is economic restructure. So we should have this political and economic restructures. There are other aspects of restructuring that we can tolerate as long as they keep Nigeria united as one nation and capable of equal development because as long as we have one region not having the equality to participate in the affairs of the country, we will not have unity, we will not have peace. For instance, at the moment now we have major problems which we must face and solve as a country. Free education development is central to any form of national development. At the moment now because of historical development, the North is 40 years behind the South in educational development. If this condition continues, there is no way we can have national unity, there is no way we can have even development, there is no way we can avoid the North being the problem of Nigeria. It is a fact, and we have to face it. If we have people like the Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello and so on, their contributions to development would have continued, we will not have problem of even development, particularly in the educational sector. Let’s not forget that because of the colonial policy, the North was left behind right from 1950. For instance, by the time I left school in 1951, there was no single secondary school in the North.
And therefore, a northerner could not go straight to university. He had to go to the South, that was in 1943 when there were about 100 secondary schools in the South. And this disparity has continued up till today, and we are calling on Nigerian leaders to know that this is a threat to peace, to national unity and even development of the whole country. But Nigerian leaders, particularly, the present crop of leaders don’t listen to this. But they now have to listen because we want peace and progress, and there is no way we can we have peace and progress if a section of the country does not have equal rights to participate in the affairs of the country, and you can’t have the equal rights to participate in the affairs of your country if you have this disparity in educational development. I always give an example. Let us say the present government of APC, (just for the sake of mentioning the party) decides to go revolutionary, decides to face the problems of Nigeria in a revolutionary way, in a way that within a short time we can see Nigeria becoming one of the second largest economy in the world. This is possible, it is not a dream. Take the case of the Soviet Union in 1976, take the case of China in 1949, what are they now, they are the leading countries of the world. Nigeria can achieve this within a short period of time because Nigeria is large in every respect, and it has resources.
Let us suppose, just for the sake of mentioning it, that if the present APC government decides to go and do what these other countries have done to bring them to this present position, if that happens, for instance, the role of the engineers will be very vital. Of course, the roles of doctors, administrators, educationists will be vital. But the roles of engineers will be more vital in the sense of changing.
Let us suppose that that government because of the need to reconstruct the country, to rebuild the nation quickly, wants every one of the 36 States, including FCT, Abuja, to produce 1,000 engineers for the sake of achieving this rapid development, how many states in the North can produce 1,000 engineers instantly without deploying the state engineers to the central pool. Now, maybe, if they can, it is Kwara and Kogi states that can produce such number of engineers, but I don’t think they can. They can’t even produce 100 engineers.
But let us take the South, in the South, even one local government can produce ,1000 engineers to the national pool. How can we expect equal development under this condition where there is an unequal role in the society? So let’s face the problem. And that is why we in the PRP who aimed to bring about new and equal Nigeria to its God-given status, advocate socialist reconstruction of Nigeria, starting with the leading role of the state in the economy to ensure peace, equality, justice, dignity of the human person and progressive, even development. If we adopt this, I can tell you that within the next 20 years, even less, Nigeria will be different from what it is today. It will be one of the most developed countries in the world because we have the people, we have the geographical area, and we have the resources.
Sir, you spoke with passion and sincerity about the problems of the North, in this case, will you advise President Buhari to organise a national conference to replace that of former President Jonathan?
I don’t think he can because, I mean, he is not in any way politically different from former president Jonathan. President Buhari won’t do a better job from Jonathan. Let us find ways and means of agreeing for the need of the relevant national conference, and let us decide how it should come about.
You mean President Buhari is politically weak to organise a national confab?
No, I am saying that President Buhari is not different from Jonathan because Buhari is the product of the wasteful system we have been having for so long since the beginning of Nigeria. So you can’t expect him to do better than Jonathan. Maybe marginally, but not importantly because, for instance, he may have the courtesy to say that Nigeria should decide whether there should be a national conference or not, what is the agenda of the confab, Nigerians should elect who should participate in the conference, and so on. If he does that, he will definitely be ahead of Jonathan.
Sir, INEC has just released the time table for 2019 general election. What is your observation about the time table because Nigerians are saying is too early, and others are saying it is not too early?
I think it is proper that INEC has released the time table now because that gives all political parties, at least two years, to prepare for the election. It also gives INEC itself sufficient time to ensure that the time table is followed to the letter, and to conduct free, fair and transparent election leading to a legitimate government. It will also give INEC the time to make sure that the government provides it with the money it requires to conduct the election. So I think the time table is quite good. The only thing is that INEC should know that they are in a privileged position with regards to telling political parties when to starting campaigning doesn’t hold, whatever the law says, whatever INEC says, election campaign should start from now since INEC has announced time table for the election, and INEC should tolerate it.
Kaduna State SIECOM has proposed electronic voting for local government election, are you in support of e-voting system of election?
I am in support of anything that can lead to legitimate election, leading to a legitimate government.
But many of the stakeholders expressed the fear that the powers-that-be may use the machine to manipulate votes in their favour. How do you react to this?
They can use anything to manipulate votes, but it is up to the political parties to organise themselves, and if necessary to unite and make sure that the election is free, fair and they participate equally.