A former Minister of Education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran has declared that there is no alternative to restructuring if Nigeria is to move forward as a nation. Making the declaration in an interview with TUNDE THOMAS, he noted that Nigeria can only attain the desired greatness if the nation restructures. He also spoke on other national issues.
The security problem in the country has continued to be a source of national concern, especially with the latest attack and abduction of several passengers at Edo State train station. What’s your reaction to the development, and what can the Federal Government do to find a lasting solution to the development?
The situation in the country today is very pathetic. The security situation in the country is not what we can wish away. We have to be proactive as a government and as a people and as a nation. Efforts are being made here and there to protect lives and properties but we have not done enough to secure the lives and properties of Nigerians. We don’t have to wait until a disaster happens before we take action or start running helter-skelter. Our security agencies should be able to know and determine what will likely happen in any part of the country. There is a tendency for people, particularly those in charge of security, to assume that the actions they are taking are working according to plans and that Nigerians need not panic about the security situation in the country. Still, the sad reality is that there is no part of the country that is safe today, and that is why every effort should be made, and every step should be taken to secure every inch of Nigerian soil. To secure this nation, we must up our game to ensure that the security that we have is the type that will ensure the safety of the generality of Nigerians.
To resolve the security challenges, Nigerians must also cooperate with the Federal Government, and that cooperation with the government will come when citizens believe that government is not only serious but that they are also taking concrete action to secure their lives and property. The youths constitute a very potent force in ensuring the security of this country but we must guarantee their livelihood before we can call on them to play their own role in the efforts being made to secure the country. But a hungry youth without the assurance of today and without hope of tomorrow will not be an ideal person to join in the fight against insecurity. The various communities including their traditional rulers also have a vital role to play., and every arm of government must also play its own part. Today many people are not convinced that when they take part or play a role in apprehending criminals that their efforts will not be a wasted effort, as there have been several instances in the past when such criminals apprehended find ways to evade justice through unpatriotic acts of some powerful individuals. This is part of the reason why some Nigerians wonder whether it is worth the effort if they try to assist the government in the battle against criminals. The law enforcement agencies at this point need to work harder than ever before for the sake of individual Nigerians, and for the sake of the Nigerian nation.
I know some people have been suggesting different solutions to the problem including seeking foreign assistance but my own position is this, what we need foreign collaboration for is an exchange of ideas in terms of how to tackle insecurity. We also need technology. We are in the age of technology, and we need to take advantage of what is available elsewhere which we are lacking here. From abroad what we need is collaboration in the areas of exchange of intelligence, and in the areas of technology to use in combating insecurity. We also need to encourage our own people at home because Nigerians are resourceful. I believe that Nigerians can manufacture some of these pieces of equipment that can be used to tackle insecurity. Nigerians are resourceful if you inspire, and motivate them I believe they can do it.
As a result of the lingering insecurity, some Nigerians have been canvassing state police as one of the viable options to solve the problem, what’s your take on that?
I don’t believe that we can be treating the issue of state police in isolation. I have said over and over that state police falls within the total framework of restructuring, and what that means is that Nigeria has to be restructured before we can have an ideal state police. State police will be a product of restructuring because, without it, state police, won’t make sense. State police is a component of restructuring, and there are so many other components to be put in place before it can become a reality. With restructuring, decentralisation comes into effect with more powers being devolved to the federating units, and by doing this some radical changes will come into effect, and this is when true federalism will start working in the country. But today with so much power being concentrated in the hands of the federal government, there is no way state police can function effectively under such an arrangement because of the overbearing influence of the central government, and this is part of the reason why things are not working in the country today. Our so-called federalism is seriously flawed. It is a mockery of true federalism and this is why we are not getting it right as a nation.
Are you saying that there is no alternative to restructuring?
Without restructuring, there is no way Nigeria can move forward as a nation. With restructuring, there will be a lot of radical changes in the polity. For instance, people have been complaining about strikes by ASUU members but by the time you restructure, you get to a situation in which when something goes wrong at the University of Kano, it won’t affect those at the University of Maiduguri or the University of Abuja, or when certain things go wrong in Lagos, it will not lead to a shutdown in other states. The restructuring will lead to a situation in which within the university structure, some states may decide to be paying their staff higher or lower than what the federal government is paying, unlike the situation that you have now where the salaries of ASUU members are uniform. When you restructure, you get to a situation whereby governors of rich and poor states will not have to be put on the same salary scale. With restructuring, people who are more resourceful will have avenues and opportunities to be rewarded than those who are not, and of course, some of the wasteful spending that takes place in various sectors including states will be reduced to the barest minimum because every state will have to cut its coat according to its cloth.
But with the structure that we currently have in the country, things can’t work, and they will not work. It is when we restructure that it will be possible to micro-manage some of the problems, and some of the challenges we are having in the country today. It is only by doing this that we can get the results. We are just papering over the cracks, we are beating about the bush because the solution is there for us to embrace, and that is restructuring. We can’t run away from it. But we don’t want to face the reality before us, and until we face that reality, we can’t get a solution. If we continue to beat about the bush, it will not help us as a nation, and it will not also help our government.
Do you agree with those who are advocating the death penalty as a deterrent to ending banditry and kidnappings in the country?
Human life is precious. Human life should be preserved. Human life should be protected. But for those who take human life with reckless abandon, who are only concerned about what they can gain materially, and don’t care about how they waste others’ lives, then their own lives should also be measured by the way they measure other people’s lives. In other words, if you are ready to take others’ lives just to fulfil your personal urge, to meet your personal interests, then of course the government must take measures to prevent you from doing so. Death penalty should be able to serve as a deterrent, particularly in view of certain circumstances. Death penalty should serve as a deterrent especially when you take into totality the number of people that have taken other people’s lives with reckless abandon.
To these callous people, no amount of re-orientation can change them. They’ve been so disoriented that there is no amount of re-orientation that can change them or put them back on the path of sanity. What we need to do is to re-engage the Nigerian nation, and the Nigerian people so that we can start the process of re-orientation of Nigerians starting from the youths, and when we do this, the urge to take other people’s lives will never occur to them again, and then there will be no need to take anybody’s life as a punitive measure.
How would you react to the recent warnings by the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu that the 2023 general elections may be threatened if urgent actions are not taken to tackle the present insecurity in the country?
I agree with him. We need a peaceful environment to conduct free and fair elections. There are rules and regulations to be maintained during elections, and if there is no security, it will lead to violations of those rules. We can’t put something on nothing. If there is no security, then the whole exercise will be endangered. The Electoral Act with some of the revolutionary changes it contains like the use of BVAS for the elections will make it difficult to rig but then you must have security to ensure that those facilities to be used are well protected from arsonists. Nigerians want to elect a leader of their own choice based on the rules, and regulations but that can only be possible where security is guaranteed at polling stations across the country.
The INEC Chairman’s warning must be taken seriously. The federal government must take necessary actions to ensure that INEC facilities and officials are protected from attacks. The commission has expressed its determination to conduct free and fair elections, and its officials have been working towards making that a reality but the federal government must take the issue of security raised by the INEC Chairman very seriously. There must be a peaceful environment to enable people to exercise their civic responsibility. All hands must be on deck to ensure that there is security, to ensure that we are able to hold the elections on the basis of the Electoral Act in the interest of Nigeria, and democracy. Democracy will be meaningless if it is not people freely choosing their leaders and their representatives on the basis of the rule of law.
What’s your take on the endorsement of the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi by former President Olusegun Obasanjo which has been generating mixed reactions across the country?
Obasanjo is entitled to his own choice, and I don’t see any reason why anybody should challenge him for exercising his rights. I believe any Nigerian has the right to take a decision or position on any issue. Obasanjo is not only a Nigerian of great stature but he is a Nigerian who is knowledgeable enough to know what is good for him and also to know what is right for him. He has the freedom to decide which direction he wants to go. Some of the people accusing him of endorsing someone, forget that this is not the first time he will be endorsing people.
In 2015, one of the people accusing him of endorsing someone now was one of those who worked with him to endorse and canvass support for President Buhari. At that time, that person didn’t challenge Obasanjo, so why should he be challenged for endorsing somebody now? I believe we should not only have open minds but we should also respect the choice of individuals no matter how lowly or no matter how highly placed. Nigeria should be a nation where everybody is free and entitled to freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, and freedom of association. I believe that while I have my position, others should also have their own position. We should not allow the endorsement of an individual to create tension, rancour and acrimony as this can lead to overheating of the polity.
Now that the campaigns have started, how have the leading candidates been faring, have they been addressing issues?
I don’t think so. I would prefer that they direct their campaigns on issues rather than on personalities. Their campaigns should be issue-based. They should talk about how they want to make life better for Nigerians, and what they will do to turn Nigeria around so that Nigeria can rise above its present pedestrian status to become a great nation. We keep on talking about Nigeria realizing its potential, but we ought to have realise this potential a long time ago, but now is the time for these candidates to address those issues that will make Nigeria realise its potential.