We just concluded an election and there are so many litigations, what is your take on this? In a democracy when you are aggrieved you go through the legal process and you are either proven right or wrong. There are cases where people went to court and got their mandate, there are also cases when people went to court and they were told that they did not win the election. This is a part of the development of democracy and it’s okay for people who are not comfortable with the outcome of the election to seek redress. So it is good development that all those that participated in the elections are going through the legal process. Owing to the number of litigations, people approaching the courts, how will you rate the election process as a whole?
We issued a statement after the election and on the surface it looks like one of the best arranged elections. There are gaps of course, INEC through their own process convinced citizens that they will use the electronic transfer of results and they failed in that respect. There are also cases where people tried to tamper with the election, there were cases of violence, but compared to what has been happening before, the incidences have reduced. The only thing like we said before is that INEC needs to tighten up their system. In this digital age we know there will be cases of attack, hacking and so on, they need to tighten their security measures, I mean IT security. They should also ensure that whatever they tell the people that they will do, they should do so as to enhance the confidence that people have in them and the process. Let me also add about the political parties, if there is any failure in the process I think it should be from the political parties, they have done things that were injurious to the system.
The process of leaders emerging usually gets compromised from the political parties themselves. If our democracy must develop, political parties must wake up, act properly and evolve a process where sensible, respectable, competent people will emerge from the leadership recruitment process, so that when they emerge they can give Nigerians better options to choose from and not to tighten the options. Like we said before, in a political party, you will find two neighbouring states that are from the same party running different programmes, parties must have articulated programmes so that people can vote based on those programmes, not on individual or personal submissions, instead of individuals campaign- ing, let the parties campaign based on their manifesto and party programmes.
A president can only tinker with the programme to make it more effective. So I feel if there is a gap it is with the political parties and I am talking about all the political parties. People need to have confidence in the process, not just during the election period. A president elect has emerged, what agenda will the North be setting for him? We have three or four major issues that we expect the president to tackle; the North has been known for peace, but over the last decade there have been a number of challenges, security wise, so we expect that the President-elect will approach the security issues differently. About three administrations have confronted this security challenge, Late Umaru Yar’adua/Goodluck Jonathan, President MUhammadu Buhari, a former military man.
We might be having push backs but we have not been able to address the fundamentals, I think we are just addressing the symptoms; we are using the kinetic way to approach the issue. More hands, more guns, more equipment and apparently the issues have not been resolved. My hope is that the new government will look at things differently, address the issues from the fundamentals and bring back confidence in the system. We have so many youths on the streets, it does not really speak well about the country, the truth is that as long as you do not pick them up for positive use, someone else will use them for mischief; so government must address the issue of security, in doing that they must look at the issue of education and skills acquisition and ensure that we pick up some of these people from the streets into youthful enterprise.
We expect the new government to give priority to agriculture and the value chain around agriculture. In a country where we have to import palm oil, rice, grains with our population, landmass, and the beauty of our ecosystem, I think the government should put a lot of attention to get that sorted out. Government must do anything that will encourage production, we must be providing our needs inside, if you have to cloth two hundred million people and you have to import the materials from outside and you have to feed two hundred million plus people and you have to import the food from outside that is a major fault.
I think that if power is improved, ease of doing business is improved and we see a change in terms of local production, Nigerians will be happy with this government. We have a huge market, if we are able to do the right thing, we will affect the African sub region and Africa as a whole. You talked about the youths of this country and this administration said they have taken so many people out of poverty, has anything really changed on the ground? There is a difference between giving palliatives and taking people out of poverty, as long as you don’t engage with the people, if you just give them money they will consume it, this idea of encouraging handouts should be stopped, government must be deliberate about it, there should be straight engagement with the people, not giving palliatives.
I am hoping that the new government, being from the same political party, should be able to review what has been done so far. As a forum, the impact has not been positive, throwing up statistics and making verbal statements that you have taken people out of poverty is not the way to go. They should be deliberate, if you work out the agricultural value chain, people that will be on the farm, people that will be involved in processing, marketing, logistics, youths will be engaged? But if you just give them five thousand or ten thousand a month they will consume it.
Also, the collaboration of the state government must be sought, we want to call on the incoming government to engage the state governments one on one on how they intend to tackle poverty in their states and collaborate with them, because the federal government is too far away from the people to address some of the issues at the local level. There are so many ungoverned spaces in the state, so they must be engaged. What is your take on the issue of removal or no removal of fuel subsidy controversy that is ongoing? I think it was a sensible decision that the National Economic Council defers this issue to the incoming administration, when you consider the energy situation generally, oil, gas as a commodity, the market should determine the rate, when you look at it generally energy plays a fundamental role, government must have an articulated energy policy, energy as a whole must be addressed. Government must give attention to energy so that local production can start. To subsidise any part of energy is counterproductive,
it is better to subsidise agriculture, education and others. People will say you have to pay for transportation, this and that and inflation will rise, but the truth is that let us be realistic, can the government afford to subsidise two hundred million people riding motorcycles, driving cars? Subsidy has been removed from diesel, cooking gas. We are not against removing subsidies, but what we are against is a situation where only some people will be benefiting from that, government must put a clear structure on how market structure will determine price and when the government needs to intervene, they must intervene.
The government can also look at mass transit, as long as we are going to be using millions of cars and motorcycles, it is going to be costly. It is going to be a longtime thing, if we are going to be putting the trains in order, it could take some time but it is not impossible. If that is addressed it will reduce pressure on the demand for petrol. But it was wise to allow the next government to determine what should be done. The insecurity like you said is a serious issue, but there was a serious reduction during the cash crunch, but it has resumed now especially in Kaduna, how can this be resolved?
The cashless policy has a number of consequences both positive and negative, it is not only kidnapping, even crimes in town reduced, because there is no cash to take from people, that was an unintended consequence which was positive. But the issue of insecurity is one thing and the issue of the cashless policy is another. We believe strongly that the cashless policy should be promoted, but not in the manner it was done before. There are parts of this country that are under-banked, or even unbanked, that is the issue to address first, a situation where items cost differently for those with cash and those without cash must be addressed first to convince people. On behalf of ACF I want to say that the cashless policy should continue, it should be given a longer tenure, and people must be convinced that it is good for them.
Also, the government needs to promote the Micro Finance Banks, when you go to some parts of the North you will see a lot of kiosks with POS, that cannot solve the problems because there is no structure, microfinance banks are better. The policy on micro finance should also be looked into to make sure that they survive, thrive and cover the aspects that people are afraid of. It is a process, it will take some time, but for the urban population, it should be promoted. Are you satisfied with the performance of this outgoing administration in terms of appointments, engendering unity across the country?
The problem started a long time ago, the sectarian kind of arrangement or appointment has not been encouraging right from (Olusegun) Obasanjo’s time. If you profile some of the appointments and the way they are done it promotes internal discomfort for the other parts of the country. We are not saying that this administration has done anything better than the previous ones, but we are talking about National unity, so even when people from a particular part of the country are appointed, it does not appear to solve the problem of those areas.
When Obasanjo was the president, appointments were based on religion rather than region. When Goodluck Jonathan was president there was a little mix here and there. But you will find out that, especially when Pius Anyim was the Secretary to the Federal Government, every single appointment that came went to the South East. Now if you go to the Ministry of Science and Technology all the parastatals except one or two are headed by people from the South East, I think we should be conscious of all these things and that was why at the beginning I said, I hope Tinubu would be a Nigerian President.
Not a president for the South West because it is not only the South West that voted for him. Substantial part of his votes came from the North, against a Northern candidate, which makes a statement that what we are looking for now is not where someone comes from but whether he can be a Nigerian President. I don’t mean because the North voted for you, everything should go to the North, we want a Nigerian President.
But don’t shortchange us, because if you shortchange us we will scream. In this government which is basically Northern, because substantial appointments are also Northern, we said we don’t like the way things were done, because this is not the right way to do things, so if anybody comes and feels he will be the president of one section of the country, or exhibit one tendency, whether religion or region or zonal, we will scream and try to bring him back to base. Our hope is that any new government coming, should look at the country as a whole. We should not be looking at our corner.
I schooled in the South West and if you go to any state today, all these issues we are talking about are also taking place at the local level. The point is if we have a bigger country and you make Nigerians proud of their country the better for us all. Better than promoting sectional bias. The North in particular has Muslims, Christians, Yoruba, Kanuri, Fulani and all that, so we are used to a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic agenda.