…Says 2023 Election’ll Hold
Renowned rights activist and public commentator, Comrade Razaq Olokoba, takes a critical look at President Muhammadu Buhari’s performance in his seven years in office and gives him a pass mark.
The youthful social analyst, who is also the Convener and National President of a pro-democracy group, Campaign for Dignity in Governance, CDG, at a mini-press conference in Lagos on Thursday said that despite all the various challenges confronting the country, President Buhari is able to scale through and achieve a lot for the country, asserting that no other person could have surpassed him going by the hindrances plaguing the country.
Olokoba however suggests that the President should blow his own trumpet for all the doubting Thomas to know he has done well, saying this is time to make some notices and not time to keep quiet. Excerpts:
What is your assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari in the last seven years?
Thank you very much. Well, we have experienced a lot of challenges. We have identified a lot of challenges and we are still being confronted with a lot of challenges right now. However, be that as it may, we cannot close our eyes to what President Muhammadu Buhari has been able to do in the last seven years or thereabout. At the beginning of his administration, some of us noticed that President Buhari was full of energy and patriotism. And from the picture of what we have seen in him, we have realised that he is a leader that is committed to the pursuit of our collective happiness.
We however warned about the structure he inherited. We said the structure is lopsided and thus causing hindrances to the development, progress and moving forward of the country.
What structure are you talking about, please, if we may ask?
The structures I am talking about here include lopsided polity, weak institutions and the likes. The structures I am talking about include not giving required power to other component parts and layers of governments, like the states and the local governments. We have identified those things from time immemorial; we are not just saying it for the first time. And so, if President Buhari has been able to go this far with the suspect structure, I think he should be commended.
In fact, the best anybody could do with the faulty political structure in operation is what Buhari has done. Anybody, with this political structure on ground today, would not have been able to do more than what Buhari has achieved. No matter how committed you are, the structure would drag you back, and pin you on a spot, whereby you would not be able to move forward. That is the impediment that has affected Buhari’s performance in the last seven years or so.
For me, I commend him for what he has done so far since 2015, when he ascended the presidential throne of Nigeria. Against that background I think by now he should be looking at what his exit from power would look like.
Exit? How do mean by that?
I mean, between now and May 29, 2023, what is expected to be uppermost in his mind is how his exit from office would be. This is the moment he should start to prepare for an account of his stewardship with a view to laying a new foundation for the next person that will collect the baton of leadership from him. This is the very moment for that.
He should by now be looking at what the next President would do for the people and the country. This is the time he should prepare the mind of Nigerians on how to receive the next President. This is the time he should be thinking of what requirement to put before the next President that would be in tandem with the wishes and the yearnings of the Nigerian citizens. This is the time Buhari should be doing all that.
Against that background, are you comfortable with the silence towards his exit plan?
For any president or governor, whose time is tenured to serve either by appointment or election, he must be able to account for every second, every minute and every hour of his being in office. And this is the most appropriate moment for Buhari to start doing so. If you see people trooping out to visit previous leaders of this country, that means those leaders being so visited must have laid a smooth path through which they moved out of office.
So, if you fail to prepare for how your exit from office would be, as required by universal standard, you would have a challenge when it comes to historical basis. People may deliberately or ignorantly begin to joggle your achievements with those of others, forgetting they are yours. The right moment for the President to begin giving account of what he has done is now before people start to forget.
To people, seven years is a long time. People may tend to forget some achievements of his first year, second year and his first tenure of four years. And this is the eighth year, the closing year of his second term in office.
He should know that the public has no wide memory for committing a lot of things in their heads, unless you keep reminding them on a daily basis, particularly now that his time is running out. Doing that now would assist Nigerians to score him correctly. The current situation we find ourselves in the country, Buhari should not allow the people to score him with it, if he wants to be awarded marks on his real achievements in office. He should not allow that. What he should do is to instruct all agencies in his government to start dishing out his administration’s performances in various sectors under them. That was exactly what former President Olusegun Obasanjo did when he was leaving. He kept reminding us that, here was where I met Nigeria. I took over from General Abdulsalami Abubakar at this point. And this is how far we were able to go. That is why today, Nigerians will remember Obasanjo brought GSM, Obasanjo increased workers’ salaries to a dignified amount. It was not that people remembered. It was Obasanjo who consciously reminded them and that is exactly what Buhari should be doing too and this is the time to start doing it.
He must make concerted efforts at doing it and mark my words; this is not the time to keep quiet for the President. If he cannot do it, he can delegate his vice, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to do it, because if he wants to be received with a red carpet after office, Osinbajo also would share in the glory. So, Osinbajo should be able to do it if delegated to do so. It should be a concern to the President as well as to Osinbajo. It should also be of concern to Alhaji Lai Muhammed, who is the government’s image maker. Muhammed should start profiling what every sector has done for the government.
I remember clearly when former President Goodluck Jonathan left office, our oil was almost rejected all over the world. The reserves were gone, there was nothing coming in. At least we should reflect the mood of Nigeria that time. If half of us had the opportunity we would have left Nigeria, because of scary future we did not know what it would offer. And as soon as Buhari came on board, people started buying our oil. And people started offering us bail out, they started to give us facilities. I think that is what the President should start doing now. If he doesn’t do that, the tendency that he would not be appreciated accordingly is there. So, anytime Buhari is talking now, he should lay much emphasis on what he has done. And in actual fact, he has done a lot.
We remember very well that the banking sector was reformed by Jonathan administration. And when Buhari came on board, he didn’t throw it away. The voters’ register that was initiated before him, he didn’t throw it away when he resumed office and Nigeria is benefitting from it now. There are so many other things like that we may not readily remember now. He should try to remind us where he met Nigeria and which point he has moved the country to when exiting. He must keep doing that.
For example, if you see the number of roads Babatunde Raji Fashola’s ministry under Buhari did and still doing, if you put that side by side with what Obasanjo and Jonathan administrations did, Buhari’s surpassed them. So also the railway project by Rotimi Amaechi’s ministry under Buhari, it is also a fantastic job Buhari has done there. Also, the agro-allied economy, which Buhari delved into, you will realise that the cocoa industry, which had become moribund is now very much alive and doing well. On this and many others, Buhari has performed tremendously by rolling out policies to revive agro-economy in the country. Those are some of the things he should prick the consciousness of his people with. It is not me, it is Buhari who is the President of Nigeria, who rolled out policies and signed them to be in operation. So, he should tell us to earn his deserved credit. He rolled out some initiatives that affected and still affecting our life till date. He should be the one that is doing the talking. He should be the one that should inspire all his aides in government to do it.
He should be the one to say, fellow countrymen; we have raised the standard of this country from this point to this point. Thank them for their support and assure them of more to come till the last minute. Just something inspiring would do. He is the one to tell Nigerians that the future is not bleak. He should be the one to tell Nigerians that, there is surely the light at the end of a dark tunnel. He is the one to assure Nigerians that, whoever comes in as the next President of this great country would not be traumatised because he would try to put on ground a solid foundation the person would build upon.
This is the period our president should be talking to us and raising our hope of better tomorrow. He should let us see that the future would not be as bad as some people are insinuating. To tell us that, as the giant of Africa, we merit it with what we are able to do in the last seven years. It is because he didn’t do it or has not been doing so that makes some people saying some negative things about him and his government. And the moment he starts, it is not like campaigning, but just telling his people what he has done and he is still doing. No offence in that and no crime would be said to have been committed. It is just about stating the obvious.
Additionally, he owes his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, on which platform he rode to power that, because of what he has done; his party should be considered for retention of power in 2023. He owes his party that moral responsibility and the greatest thing he could do for his party is to state all the above. If we say he should be apolitical, means he should not influence who wins the election or who succeeds him, because that is the duty of the electorate. He should not mandate any apparatus of the government to support any of the candidates to win. That is being neutral and apolitical. But that doesn’t prevent him from his role as a member of the APC, by showcasing what he has done on behalf of the party in terms of the party’s programmes and its manifestos.
He should be saying, let us assume that I didn’t come on board when I did and the security architecture of the country continued as it were then, just imagine what the country would be now. I mean security apparatus like the Army, Police, Navy, Air force and the civil security personnel. If the custom and immigration department have not been reformed and reorganised since the last seven years, how would the country look like with porous borders!
When Amaechi was mandated to do the railway project, people thought it was a joke. But today, we can see the wonder he has performed. Likewise Fashola, SAN, when he said he would deliver the Second Niger Bridge and Lagos Ibadan Expressway by December, we didn’t take him serious. But we are all witnesses to what they have done so far even with paucity of funds.
We should be hearing the debt profile of the government now. The loans collected side by side with what the government has used the loans for and let us see the justifiability of the loans and their judicious or otherwise of their utilization. You just have to tell the whole Nigerians and the patriotic people would be able to reflect on it and score the administration accordingly.
This is the time Buhari should let Nigerians know that his administration is not a waste.
With the security challenges all over the place, are you optimistic that 2023 election would hold as scheduled?
Yes. I am optimistic.
There is no country in the world that doesn’t have security challenges. Everything must go simultaneously. As we are fighting corruption, we are combatting insecurity and health challenges. As we are combating COVID-19, we are combatting economic depression. So many problems and we must not allow any one of the challenges to shut the country down. You must not allow the economic challenges, which is a universal phenomenon, to shut down your country as you should not also allow COVID-19, which is more serious health challenge universally. And even during COVID-19, countries conducted elections.
So, if that is the case, with the security challenges, we still need to find a way around it to make sure we conduct the election in 2023. And I am highly convinced that the country’s security agencies – the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Police, the Civil Defence Corps, the Custom, the immigration and all other paramilitary outfits have the capacity and capability to keep this country as one up to the time we are going to conduct the elections and beyond.
So, I am convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that there will be elections next year and for people who are saying there will be no election, let us tell them that with or without them, there will be an election. We must be prepared for the 2023 election, because the PVCs in our hands are our weapons to move the country forward together. The only power you have for the desired drastic change of your choice depends on the way and manner you use the voter’s card in your procession.
You can choose from the many presidential candidates whose pictures would appear on the ballot papers. And nobody, I repeat, nobody can convince me that none of them is capable of effecting the change anybody might have been yearning for.
If not Bola Ahmed Tinubu, it could be Sowore or Atiku. If not Atiku, it could be Obi, Adebayo or Kwankwaso. One of them must fit the picture of what you want your country to be. It is the time the President should create an uprising against insecurity. And you can only do that by raising the consciousness in the faith and belief in commitment of the people to your nation. With that, terrorism can be defeated, banditry can be defeated. Kidnapping can be defeated. All the challenges in the country can be surmounted. It is the President that has the key to the ignition. He has to spark it alive and the vehicle of victory would keep rolling.
Take Ukraine President for example. Despite the bombardment from Russia, he would appear on TV as if nothing is happening to his country. He would appear as if just coming from a disco dance floor. If he addresses the media, it would be as if his country is not at war! It is in order for countries to have such challenges, which are not anybody’s creation.
What role is expected from your constituency, the civil society organizations, CSOs, to play towards the election?
Part of it is what we have done now with this interview. Our own role as CSOs is to give force to support institutions that are correct in whatever they are doing. If the masses are the ones that are trying to make the present better than the past, we are going to support that cause. And if it is the government or any of its agencies that are on the right path, it is our duty to create an awareness to recognise that and give support. What we are saying is an advocacy that we are known for. Civil societies give advocacy. Criticise, then offer proposal. Point out errors and offer solutions. Tell the people in government what they have done well and commend them. That is how to do it. So, this is our role. We must keep telling Nigerians that we do not have any other country besides Nigeria. And I am telling anybody reading this interview that, for his own good, Nigeria better be united. Nigeria better be safe and secured. Nigeria better be prosperous. History has taught us that any humanitarian crisis that is beyond minimal demand by the nation would be rejected. Ukraine knew before the war that they are part of Europe. But it got to a point recently that Poland started rejecting people from trooping into their country, because they have had enough. Germany also said similar thing until the world begins to find solution to the problem.
Nigeria is moving towards similar scenario. If anything happens, which country is going to harbour 250 million people from Nigeria?! No country would do it. The whole of Africa would not do that. No country in the whole world would attempt it. Russia has the biggest land in the world, it would not try it. For countries that keep preaching peace, they have seen the picture. They have assumed and imagined what their countries would be if anything should happen to them. That is why I am saying that anything that would make Nigeria work is the path we should be towing. We should not keep escalating the problem of the country to the point where the bubble would burst.
That is why I have been emphasizing that if we have experimented a policy for so long and it is not working, why must we continue to tow that line again and always?! And that is why the next President coming in should realise that as he is emerging and coming in as the new President of Nigeria, God spares our life, he or she must have it at the back of his or her mind that, there is the need to look into our institutions in Nigeria. Nigeria’s institutions are weak and something must be done about them.
Why people plot against the government is because of weak institutions. And that is bound to happen when we have weak institutions. With weak institutions, plotting against the government is always the order of the day all over the world. It is the strong institutions that make people have confidence in their leaders.