Interview

We can not restructure without amending 1999 Constitution—Olafemi

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Chief Clarence Olafemi was the former governor of Kogi state. In this interview with some journalists, he spoke on present crisis and other issues.

60 years of Nigeria independent where have the nation got it wrong that today has snowball into protest and killing of Nigerians youth by the Army?

Honestly , the situation of Nigeria at the moment is fearful and calls for concern. I have seen this coming a long time ago.

Unfortunately Nigerians are the cause of these problems because the military started creating the problems we are passing through today when they ruled the country for over two decades without an iota of plans for the country.

The military were trained to fight war , defend the territorial integrity of this nations, but they were not trained to be an administrator and as such they can not deliver good governance.

Sadly, they forcefully took over power and leadership of the country for a long period of time and they only succeeded in messing up and balkanizing the future of the country.

The military were the entity that started manual adjustment of the foreign exchange killing our economy to the root. They were the one that started banning this , banning that when they truly knew that the country can not produce even a pin.

They collapsed the economic viability of this nation without recourse for the future and the future we are talking about has just started now. For instance some of the military junta came with little sense of governance while some does not have an iota of idea on how to govern a nation.

The military were the one that started , aggravated and almost institutionalised corruption in this country because they were not accountable to anybody other than their boss that assigned public office to them especially those assigned as administrators of states or ministers.

There is no auditing of the income and expenditure and they don’t owed any Nigerian explanation as per how they governed the nation and they seems to have a written agreement within the system that whosoever come into government can not probe his predecessors.

So the genesis of corruption was not during the era of leaders like Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Sardauna, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and the host of others who have served us selflessly before 1966.

It was during the military that corruption started and I could remember an interview Chief Awolowo granted and he was bluntly told that he can not be a president of Nigeria because he is too straight forward and he is too intelligent .

Our colonization was extended beyond the coup of 1966 by the British , the French and the Germans. The colonial leaders will not give you the technology that will make you economically buoyant and Nigerians under the military was not intelligent enough to fashion our its own pathern of government that will make us economically independent and as such we kept on depending on crude oil.

Instead, the colonial power keeps on advising us to take IMF loan that will not help us to grow our economy. In 1981 for instance, the naira was far stronger than the dollar as one dollar then was 70 kobo . Within few years the military came and manually turn a dollar to #8 , then #22, #54 and at a point all our economic prospect nosedive and started collapsing like a pack of cards.

First, the price of imported goods started skyrocketed , we could no longer import goods to meet our demands and we started living a life of second class citizens in our country.

We started buying second hand cars because new cars are virtually out of reach of ordinary Nigerians except government or very rich companies. So disheartening , 95 per cent of the economy of the country depended solely on crude oil.

And because of the manually adjusted naira and dollar , many companies folded and packed out of the country. Companies like Leventis stores, Chellerams, Kingsway , Bata and host of other that are viable and add value to the growth of the economy closed down while some left Nigeria to other countries where they felt the economy is good for businesses.

More universities are established and more graduates are churn out annually without a place of work to engage them. It is a fact that if you must grow human resources you must grow correspondent economy setup that will absorbed the graduates. There was no statistical consideration , there was no balancing and I said to myself when Leyland motors collapsed , Volkswagen motors collapsed, styer motors in Bauchi collapsed, Fiat motors in Kano collapsed and the Peugeot in Kaduna remained moribund I said we are heading toward disaster in this country.

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That is why since the independent which is 60 years ago , there was no deliberate attempt by the country to manufacture its own car even when God gave us Ajaokuta steel company which was started by late President Shehu Shagari and truncated by the military junta that forcefully took over power from the civilian government.

Nigeria as a country has nothing to show for its intellectualism because we have not gotten the right people to lead the country and we have been handing over a delapidated government to another government while people who have nothing to offer in the area of good governance were being recircle and problem arising from bad leadership keeps on compiling and the resultant effect is what we are witnessing today.

Sir, what is the way out now?

To be honest I can not totally blame President Buhari for the woe the country is passing through these days because every former presidents that have governed this country have a share of the today’s problem .

When the military gave us the opportunity to govern ourselves through democracy, we expected that the constitution they will give to us is that type that will create avenue for the development of the country , but the military created a constitution that caged us.

It is not possible to effectively review the constitution to effect restructuring. Part of the sensitive areas that can give us life line , can not be amended until the masses go to the street to protest because of the nature of the constitution.

Lagos state tried it some years ago to create more local government councils and ran into a storm with former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. Even where there are certain needs to be amended in the constitution it can not be carried out why? because the constitution said to change any item in the constitution you must have two third of the national assembly both the Senate and the House of Representative and after passing through the national assembly, the amendment must passed through the 36 states of the federation and must be subjected to simple resolution and governors who have the control of their Houses of Assembly can truncate such effect if they believe that it will not favour them.

That is why simple autonomy of the State Houses of Assembly can not sail through because of the behaviour of some governors in the country.
Imagine, some speakers of House of Assembly voted against their independent because of their governors which is worrisome.

If we continue this 1999 constitution handed over to us by the military till the end of the world we will not be able to amends grey areas that can better our lives. To even amends our electoral laws for smooth conduct of election is a problem because of the cumbersome nature of our constitution.

The constitution was fabricated by those who does not love Nigeria but themselves so that they can perpetrate themselves in power.

What is happening today has been building up year in, year out and we are only hoping that there will be government who will have the courage to do the right thing concerning the constitution, but a situation where the balance between the party in government and the oppositions are narrow it becomes extremely difficult for the ruling party to perform.

In a situation where the ruling party does not have 80% at the senate, 80% at the House of Representative then they can not come together to take a positions that will favour Nigerians

But ironically, most of the provision in the constitution requires two third to sail through and the ruling party at the national assembly does not have two third and it becomes extremely difficult to take decision because the ruling party does not have two third of governors and National Assembly membership , so the only option is the social disagreement called protest to bring the government to its knells which of course is anti-democracy and can not be done without shielding blood.

And when the government try to use excessive force it degenerated into something else. As a student of mathematics we know that quadratic equation is difficult to solve but the moment you get the necessary parameters you solve it.

One of the critical problem we have today was the approach to curb the civil protest , yes ! the government needs to stop the protest but the approach was full of error and what was applied in Lagos was excessive force which is not allowed in any democratic setting using live ammunition where there is tear gas, hot water , pepper and other items that can be used without causing death.

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Soldiers were trained to kill , they were not train to be a peace makers. The question Nigerians are asking now bothered on who sent the soldiers to the venue of the protest and who gave them order to shut the protesters.

All these are happening before the Nigeria government after the civil war did not plan for the future of the country. There was no attempt made to bring back all the companies that folded as a result of poor economy. There is no expansion of jobs in the oil industry, the refineries in the country are not functioning and government preferred to be importing fuel from outside.

A situation where there are graduates unemployed, where the poverty level is high, where people can no longer shoulder their family responsibility then there will be continue unrest as a result of grievance from the masses.

Nigerians are asking for restructuring of the nation , what is your comments on this?

Yes!, It is a fact that all the grievances of Nigerians can not be attended to without changing the constitution of the country and I have said it that the areas in the constitution that need to be restructured can not be done by this administration because they don’t have the capacity to do it.

To create a ward which is the smallest aspect of our democratic setting can not be done under this dispensation because of the cumbersome nature of the constitution, we just have to be honest with ourselves.

So whenever people are mentioning restructuring, I usually laugh because it is not feasible unless Nigerians are ready to collapse the 1999 constitution and rewrite it and that also can only be done if you have a president who control 75% of national assembly and 75% of the State Houses of Assembly and has 75% of the state governors otherwise there is no miracle that can be done to effect restructuring as desired by the citizens.

What is your appeal to the protesters.

In fact , the protester have made their point very loud and clear and to avoid more causality if only the protesters are sincere in their quest , they should leave having made their points and give the federal government one or two years to address their demands.

Also the President has to come out and surety the government that what the protesters are asking for is genuine and give assurance that the demand would be attended to , and if government refuse to fulfilled the promise after a year or two the protesters can come out again .

I am also advising government not to allow any loophole for anarchy otherwise the government can come down because of the challenges the country has been passing through in recent time. The president should act fact before it is too late.

The President has made a broadcast what are your comments?

The President had listed all the things he will put in place to address the demands if the protesters which will cost the country a lot of money to actualise . Apart from covid-19 palliatives which of course is a global challenge , all the youth programmes are issues that erupted as a result of the rot in the system which the President inherited in 2015.

But the real problems still remain and how long are we going to divert our resources to put those items in place because they are things that is necessary today as a result of where we have found ourselves as a country. This effort is not a sustainable approach to solving our problems, it is not a lasting solution to our problems , it is like a sick person put on a life support and can not permanently live on the life support forever because with time the life support has to be detached and at that point the sick person can not live on his own after the detachments of the life support.

We are talking about the economic crises in Nigeria and I am saying that these avalanche of problems we are facing today as a nation does not start 2015 when President Buhari took over the mantle of leadership of the country via democracy, these problems started the day the military bulldozed themselves into power through the barrel of guns.

The military started tunning the exchange rate manually without allowing the actual forces to determine the exchange rate and as a result of this scenario was what made a dollar that is less than one naira early 1980’s to suddenly shut up to 8 naira, 22 , 54, 180, 250 and recently over 400 naira.

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The irony of it all was that we are not growing the economy to sustain the naira , so the naira was crashing and crashing until it make life very difficult for an average Nigerian. The best we could achieve in any government was when former President Olusegun Obasanjo free us from external debts and made all the states of the federation owing to pay their debts, so that the amount meant for servicing the debts can be deployed to other areas of needs , but as soon as he left office , this effort was not only suspended , it was completely jettison without recourse for the future of this nation.

Supposing successive government continue in that line , we could have achieved successes economically by now.

Secondly , we were not growning our industries and we were not reviving our industries that are viable and needed for our economic growth and instead we allowed excessive wrong economic policies to kill the economy of this country.

For instance, we were not reviving all our automobile industries which by today could have employed close to half a million Nigerians in the sector. We were not reviving our textile industries not to talk of growing them and these industries could have created more than a million jobs across the country where the industries existed. By now we could have started exporting textile materials to earn foreign exchange. These are areas government should focus if truly they meant well for the nation.

Again , one of the major impediment of our economic growth is lack of electricity which had forced many viable companies to move out of the country because they could not cope with the use of generator and buying diesel that run into millions of naira monthly.

The elephant project which is a railway from Nigeria to Niger republic does not have any economic value and several billions of naira was sunk into the project while the internal economy continue to decay. It is a simple logic that if you have three thing competing for limited resources , you must be able to evaluate the return on investment in determining where to place your priority and that is what is lacking in this country.

Sadly, we don’t even have the statistics to analyse , we make polices without implementation and as it is today Mr President can not come out and said within six months this is the number of jobs he will create for so and so sources because of the sorry state of the economy.

I am of the opinion that it is high time the government should address the nucleus of Nigeria problems before we address the youth demands. The palliative we are putting in place are too temporary to solve the numerous problems confronting the nation.

What is the way out ?

The government should sit down and plan how best it can grow the economy because without growing the economy the youth restiveness can not be solve . for instance , you want the inflow of capital and shoprite is been vandalised and planing to leave the shore of Nigeria and you expect other foreign investors to come and invest in Nigeria, it is not possible.

The boko-haram attacks, kidnapping and armed robbery that have taken the centre stage of the nation is also enough to scare foreign investors and it will certainly takes a lot of time for us to repose confidence on the foreign investors and they are the ingredients that can grow our economy because no matter how strong a nation is, it can not grow its economy alone. Therefore we need to work on our security system so that we can attract foreign investors into the country.

Infrastructure development like roads should be developed because delapidated roads across the country aid the kidnappers and armed robbers to attack people who traveled.
There is need for government to focus on these areas so that we can get things right because the suffering among Nigerians is becoming unbearable.

We have to really sit down as a nation and consider the calibre of people we elect or appoint to occupy sensitive positions . Appointments are made base on politics not on the basis of capability and experience. People who have nothing to offer are recircled from one position to another because they know how to manipulate things .

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