The history of Nigerian democracy will never be correct without looking at the June 12 struggle thatf took the life of prominent Yoruba son, Chief MKO Abiola. Over the years, the calendar of Yoruba land has been wide open for yearly remembrance of this illustrious son of the soil.
In this year’s edition of June 12 celebration, we hooked up with MR. OLUKAYODE EZEKIEL SALAKO, who happens to be the Chairman Organizing Committee for the D day.
The out spoken and public commentator took us on a wide range of discussions from the democracy struggle, the recent recession, President Buhari’s health and the Nigerian government.
June 12 was a memorable day in Yoruba land and Nigeria democracy, after the struggle. Does Nigeria have what it takes to say we have a good democracy?
First of all let me introduce myself, I am Olukayode Ezekiel Salako, I’m the national coordinator for change agent of Nigeria network (CAN) and also this year’s local organizing committee chairman for the June 12 anniversary.
That is the version of it that we always host inside M. K. O Abiola’s house courtesy of June 12 Democracy movement of Nigeria, we have been a prominent member of the June 12 Democracy Movement of Nigeria for more than ten (10) years. This year I chaired the committee which organized this year’s event.
Well, let me now come back to your question June 12 shall forever resonate in our consciousness as the agitators of ideal democratic governance in Nigeria, I am one of those who have been agitating for the entrenchment of ideal democratic ideals and tenet in Nigeria which the June 12 phenomenon symbolizes.
It was that election of June 12 which brought into the consciousness of every Nigerian that military rule would end in Nigerian and that democracy must take over, and that was when we all became conscious of the fact that Nigeria must urgently be transformed from military to democratic rule but unfortunately the military junta of the period led by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida annulled it for their own personal and privet reasons, reasons which have not been tellable to Nigerians till today.
So, since that June 12 1993 election democratic experiment, the consciousness for Nigeria to continue to be a democratic country, a domestically governed country has been the yearning of every Nigerian.
So far, 24 years after the death M. K. O. Abiola, I want to tell you that it is still the same story of Nigeria, of that country which is still searching for how to get it right in everything, 24 year after that man scarified his life for us to have enduring democracy, Nigeria is still not getting it right, why? Because of the absence of justice, equity and fairness in our system, justice is still scarce, equity is still scarce, and fairness is still scarce.
That beautiful government that will come and give Nigerians an ideal judicial system, socio political economy, equity and fairness is yet to be born, that beautiful government is indeed yet to be born.
Maybe we are just having a resemblance of it with this current federal government. 24 years after, I want to tell you that Nigeria does not have democracy yet, what we have is just civil rule because all those elements which give the society ideal democracy are still absent, they are not yet in manifestation.
It is still all about the political kabals, the god-fathersim dictating things, is that the element of democracy when you as citizen of Nigerian cannot decide that you want to run for an elective office without the hindrances of some god-fathers somewhere or some people putting those plots somewhere, so Nigeria is still not yet there. We are still blundering and fumbling in search of ideal democratic government that is what we are still searching for. The country is still democratically confused, they are frustrated that is why there is tension all over Nigeria, agitations, tensions, traits, harassment, because democratically we are not ideal yet.
Let’s look at APC as a party, when they came on board they promised a whole lot of developmental prospective that made every Nigerian think that the desired change has come, how can you assess the two years of this government’s performance?
Thank you very much, I’m one of those who worked passionately for the emergence of this present government of change in Nigeria, because I’m a change agent. I’m a chief change agent in Nigeria by virtue of the movement I run. Since 2010 I have been passionately in the lead of that crusade for change to come to Nigeria “let’s change Nigeria” has been my slogan since 2010. I founded Change Agent of Nigeria Network (CAN), before APC was formed or before Buhari could ever even emerge to come back and become the president, I have been an advocate for the Nigeria that must change to benefit of all Nigerians, so when the APC revolution became a reality l was one of those who first of all bought into it, I worked passionately, and was committed for the emergence of this government within my own capacity as the National Coordinator of CAN, but I want to tell you that so far I’m still okey with the government but I’m disappointed with the party, APC as a party has not carried on well to the expectation of someone like me, everything about APC so far has been about acrimonious and treacherous tendencies, members within the same party are fighting themselves and fighting their own government therefore, standing against their own programmes.
On the progressive efforts of their own government, I’m not going to blame anybody but the President and Commander in Chief himself Mohanmadu Buhari, the moment he came in and took over power the first statement he made was that he belongs to everybody and to nobody. How can you as an individual or as a person belong to everybody and you now say you belong to nobody? It means you are not sure of what you are saying, you no longer belong to those people who fought and worked for you to become the president, you now belongs to everybody, including all those people who do not even believe in your change agenda, you now belong to all those people who have run Nigeria down, you now belong to all those enemies of Nigeria, you now belong to all the corrupt elements, politicians who rendered the economy of the country ussless, that was the message he passed and since then all those people who are not supposed to belong to him have been struggling with this government to belong to him by force, he now saw it that even the person that the party did not want to be the number three citizen in the senate president. He eventually emerged the senate president because everybody now wanted to belong to him.
So, what I have always said is that Buhari as an individual can not belong to everybody because democracy wouldn’t give you the power to everybody to chose only one person, some people will vote for you because they believe in you, some will not. A lot of people did not believe in Mr. President’s change agenda, they didn’t believe in him, they even work against him, but the moment he got there he said he was part of them and he belong to them, that was his statement to show them as an appreciation for not belonging to him.
What I have always said is this Mr. President as an individual can not belong to everybody, it is the service of his government that can belong to everybody, he belongs to somewhere, he belongs to a movement, he belong to a ruling class, a set of politicians who believe in him sacrificed all their hopes to make sure he got there, these are the people Mr. President should belong to, while his service the presidency should belong to all Nigerians. For example if Mr. President is able to finish Lagos-Ibadan express road, that is the service and that road belongs to everybody, including his enemies, so that is the service of his government.
You cannot say for example that you belong to Evans now the king of the kidnappers, you can’t say that, so that was where Mr. president started getting it wrong and that was the beginning of APC,s problem, since the day he made that statement APC ran into organizational problems and up till now the ghost of that statement is hunting the party, because the party is more divided within itself now than it should be.
So, APC is sick, many of the APC stalwarts have been seeing it that their party is sick, APC as a party is not alright at all, but I still have likeness for the government because of the credibility of the leadership, the leadership of this federal government is very responsible. Can anybody accuse Buhari and Osibanjo of stealing Nigeria’s money, of running Nigeria recklessly, of turning Aso Rock to a circus, of not being men of integrity, nobody can do that. The only thing you can accuse this government of is maybe the polices of the government which maybe are not favourable enough and it is because this government wants to focus Nigerians to look inwards, some of those policies are to correct the wrongs made in the past.
Buhari and Osibanjo are grandfathers who cannot deliberately be suffering Nigerians, sometimes a father has to introduce some strict measures in the family in order to force the children to be serious, so some of the policies the government has been implementing are meant to reorganize the system, reform the system and focus Nigerians to look inwards. Why should we depend on our neighbours to feed us when all of us don’t want to grow the food we eat. We have expansive farm lands, we have that opportunity in agriculture, but nobody wants to go to the farm. So, we have to depend on our neigbouring countries to grow what we eat and yet we claim to be giant of Africa, these are some of the policy directions of this administration and leaders also know when they are making mistakes, they know and they try to retrace their steps, so APC as a party in terms of performance, in terms of the way it has carried out so far is below expectation, the party men and women are not together. There are lots of rancorous, acrimonious tendencies, suspicious, distrust and arrogant display of power which are not necessary.
If with the way this government has been steadfast is the way the party has been there to support this government, the government would have gone far. How do you explain the fact that Dino Melaye an APC member is still one of the strongest oppositions of this government, how do you explain it, then Saraki an APC Senator, the Senate President has been the one giving this government problem and many of them like that, how do you explain that. So, the party men and women need to come together and decide whether they still want that party or not, they must decide whether they want to run that party for the purpose of building a new and ideal Nigerian or not, but so far what is have seen about APC is a big disappointment but I’m still okey with the government because the government is different from the party, normally the party and the government are suppose to work together, so the programme of the government are supposed to be the programme agenda of the party, but unfortunately it is like the president is separate from the way the party machinery is been run, that is my point.
Let’s look at the President’s health today and what happened during Yaradua’s time. Don’t you think that Nigeria as a nation is big enough to know the state of their Presidents health? Well, what I feel in all these is that the President himself is a man of integrity; he knows when to throw in the towel. I want to believe that he’s on sick bed and not incapacitated. He’s a responsible and decent man, so he should be able to know what the dictate of the Constitution is, so l believe that whenever Mr. President feels he’s no longer going to be able to perform his functions as the President of Nigeria, he knows what to do. That’s on one part, on the second part; we cannot compare the health situation of Yaradua to Buhari. Everybody knew that Yaradua was sick and that he didn’t have a clean bill of health and that he was actually ill even before OBJ imposed him on the country.
From what l have read, it was when the President got there that he was poisoned and if it is true, why should we see that as a problem even when the Constitution says he must have a deputy or vice who can deputize. The vice has been performing very well so there’s not been any vacuum. In fact some people will prefer he hands over the government to Osibanjo to run, but you know the political situation of the country especially as Mr. President is from the north. Anything that has to do with the north is very delicate especially when it concerns religion and politics. I believe those who are in charge of this are putting that into consideration. The north is a very sensitive part of Nigeria in terms of politics so if the person representing them as the President Has not come out to say that he is not fit and only said he was going for medical vacation, it does not mean he is incapacitated based on his Doctor’s advice. I think the best thing that can happen to Nigeria now is to have peace.
Let’s look at the recent situation in the country?
Well, as far as Nigeria has decided to run this type of government, it will still be able to work for Nigeria, but if we decide to restructure the present system of government it is still ok. If we want to change the system completely it is still alright after all it is not the system that runs itself, it is the human beings who run the system. My own concern is that we can have a bad system but if we have good Manages, economic resources, they should be able to turn that bad system round and make it a very good system that can develop our country. We can also have a very good system and if we run it with bad Managers, it will still be the same old stories of lamentation, agony, confusion and all that. If the present presidential system we are running now can work for the greatness of the American government, then it is good, though they practice theirs with some element of true federalism. If it can really work for the United States of America why can’t it work for us here.
How are we sure that even when Nigeria is restructured the same bad political and economic managers will not hijack it and still mess it up?. How are we also sure that even if we go regional in which the likes of Kanu is asking for will work?. It will all boil down to the fact that we need good politicians first, good political system and an ideal and properly orientated political system before we can start talking of splitting or whatever.
We were practicing Parliamentary System and it was working before it was changed, so if that system was perfect, then why did they decided to change it to Presidential?. It means there was a problem with that system then and it might be about the character element of the people or the orientation of the people running the system.
For instance, take all the Nigerians to America and bring all the Americans to Nigeria and give them 5o years, you’ll be surprised how much the Nigerian space will develop and you’ll also be surprised how much the American space will be messed up. It’s not the system that run themselves but the people.
If the system is changed, will you import new politicians to run the system or is it not the same old people who ran down Nigeria that will run the new system?. Is it not the management of the same resources with good policies and good programmes? We should ask ourselves first, if we really want a good Nigeria and a great Country. If the answer is yes, then we must first of all change. All of us should change our mindset on how we run Nigeria. Until we do something about this, we might not be able to get it right in this country.
We have 36 States already and it is like having 36 regions with each region having it’s own head as a governor. They generate their own resources and the federal government has it’s own way of generating resources. Is a Yoruba man the governor of Imo State? No. It is still the Igbos that are in charge of the 5 States that are in Igbo region, so instead of having one person controlling the whole of South East, the system even made it 5 people to enhance division of labour to make the governance closer to the people. The presidential system has given it to 5 people, divided the resources of the regions into 5 and gave it them for the running of the states.
The real problem with us is corruption, badly orientated leadership, leadership without conscience, dirty minded politicians and what have you. Thank you.