Second Republic Politician and lawyer, Chief Guy Ikokwu, 81, is not happy with Nigeria’s development path and wants an urgent action to stop the country from sliding into what he called irredeemable trajectory, which will lead to dismemberment. With good governance system, civility, education and technology, Ikokwu, who argued that Nigeria is still in recession, said the country will start growing at six to seven per cent per annum. In this interview with Vanguard, he among others, said that Nigeria does not need a full time legislature and cannot afford the humongous severance package for non-returning members of the National Assembly.
By Clifford Ndujihe, Acting Political Editor
On the raging killings in Nigeria
It is quite a serious and dangerous situation. There are more killings in Nigeria now than in any other African country and in some foreign countries where there are insurgency and real war.
In Nigeria, there is no real war but a different situation. We have a terrorist one, the Boko Haram insurgency that is localised in the North-East zone covering one to three states. Among the other states there is insecurity of lives and daily killings in states like Sokoto, Zamfara, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Benue and Taraba, etc.
Apart from killings, the roads are no longer safe for itinerants. There are kidnappers on the roads. You have herdsmen waylaying motorists, kidnapping and taking them into the bush and asking for ransoms to be paid. These are no longer illiterate personnel. Herders who commit these crimes are quite literate. They are using telephones and sophisticated equipments. In most cases, they are not there to kill but to collect ransom and move on to other targets.
The first and paramount duty of any responsible government or authority under the constitution is the protection of lives and property. Where that breaks down it means that the government has lost its main duty to the people who are being governed. That is the current situation in Nigeria because if your life is not secured you stop talking about inflation, going to school, and running your business, etc, and everything wither to nothingness.
What is the solution? The Senate, last Wednesday, made a case for state police
It has nothing to do with the Senate. It is a function of good leadership.
In any governance system, leadership and perception of leadership count before you talk of followers. Good leadership inures the followers to follow and do good things. There is a trickle down effect of good leadership from the top to the bottom.
When the leadership fails, you have resistance from the bottom, which will take a short or long time depending on the technology of the intervention. If it is military intervention, it may be short. Military intervention can change the leadership and restore government or lead to a worst authoritarian situation, which may last for a long time. You can see that in a place like Sudan where Al Bashir ruled as a military man for 30 years and was just being resisted effectively from the bottom by the people.
Era of good governance in Nigeria
In Nigeria, we had good governance when our heroes past, founding fathers were at the helm of affairs. From 1966, after the military took over we have not had good leadership. And since then, we have been yearning, trying to have a good governance system for 50 years. Even when the military turn into a civilian garb, they are not better.
So, the time will still come and most Nigerians are asking for our destiny, sublime intervention to break away from our inordinate past and chart a new chapter for the betterment of our lives. This is why most Nigerians believe in restructuring.
There are many types of restructuring. What is the kind of restructuring you are talking about?
We should get away from authoritarian rule. We should get away from military system of government. We should move into a more democratic system now. We should move into a system that was handed over to us at independence by our founding fathers and even ingrained in the republican Constitution of 1963, which provided that we should have a weak centre and the federating units (regions or states) should have powers to look at localised situations such as resources, education, etc. In Nigeria, the moment we hand over powers to the regional or federating units, give them responsibilities, which they will handle from their resources, we will move away from the feeding bottle system and none of them will go to the centre to ask for money to pay salaries of their staff.
At the moment no state can pay the so called minimum wage because they don’t have the resources to do it.
In the last presidential election, there were two major candidates. One candidate was in favour of unitary system of the government where the centre is supreme and coordinates most of the powers than the rest of the country and believes in a feeding bottle system.
The other candidate believes in a restructured governance system where the local councils and states are really empowered so that the top becomes weaker and the stampede for the authority at the top becomes reduced absolutely.
Imagine the system in Nigeria where Senators earn more money than any other institution of government in the world. What are they doing?
At the independence, the National Assembly members were not permanent. They were part time, did their work and they did not subvert the government of the day or methodology of governance. These are the things we have to reflect upon.
The result of the last election between President Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the areas where each of them won showed that Atiku had a better territorial spread, and the states and zones that voted for Atiku reflected the areas that want the system restructured.
Taking it from Oyo in the South-West Oyo, the South-South and South-East states through Taraba, Middle-Belt, Bauchi, Adamawa, FCT, etc all believe in restructuring and change in the governance system.
From it, majority of Nigerians need restructuring and devolution of power so that those in the other tiers of government will take care of their responsibilities. In taking care of their responsibilities, you don’t have to earn the same salary. In America, all the governors don’t earn the same salary.
On the need for state police
State police is part of the devolution of power. There is no way you will devolve power and say that the Chief security officer of a state does not have security power. Akwa Ibom State has had 12 commissioners of police in a few years. In most areas, you find that the commissioner of police has no relationship with the area. They are being sent there to control and rule over the people.
When you talk about state police, you are talking about police who know the areas, terrain, the people and language so that it is easier for them to detect and have real intelligence of what is going on in those areas.
We are not saying that the state police must earn the same salary or have the same structure as the federal police. They all have their duties, which prescribed in the constitution. In Russia, and USA, there are areas the federal police do not intervene except if invited.
On the military
The military as we have seen now have bastardised our democracy. What does the army have to do with an election? They go to voting centres, collation centres, kidnap the officers and tell them what to do and write results for them. The military are for external aggression. They should maintain their duties.
It is quite clear to most people that the Nigeria situation is dysfunctional. It is not suited for good governance and progress.
On the 2019 budget
The 2019 budget is already a failure. It failed the day it was being presented. How can you sustain a budget with a foreign borrowed money to be used in funding recurrent expenditure when you have a lot of capital expenditure? Recurrent expenditure is payment of salaries, overhead, allowances and it runs into trillions of naira. It fuels corruption. It is capital expenditure that brings in money.
The international financial institutions are warning Nigeria that it is not sustainable; very soon we cannot raise any foreign loan.
The truth we should tell ourselves is Nigeria is still in recession.
What is the way out?
There are three things that can make Nigeria start moving forward and develop. One is civility; two is education; and three is technology.
When you are civil and educated, you are able to listen to the other person’s opinion and if the opinion is superior to yours, you adopt it for common good. So, education is the biggest investment you can make in your child. It is education you use to enhance technology.
Technology, artificial intelligence is a modern instrument of life, which Nigerians have to absolutely embrace. When we have education, civility, technology/artificial intelligence in a restructured situation, Nigerian economy will start growing at six to seven per cent per annum.
China did it and in 40 years were able to catch up with the Americans and Russians. They are now in space; they landed behind the moon where no other country has landed and they are now telling us what is happening behind the moon. They are going to Mars and are telling us there are some kind of living beings in Mars.
We have Nigerians who are as industrious and hard working as the Chinese. It is a function of providing them with the template and ideal situation to enable them perform. That is why we talk about a better governance system. If you go to Sokoto and Kano and take 1,000 almajaris and go to a state where there is quality education and educate them for 10 years with the other children, you will discover that some of them are sleeping giants.
If we refuse to restructure and implement good governance system, we will keep moving backwards until we end up in what they call irredeemable trajectory. If you end up in irredeemable trajectory, there is nothing that can pull you out, the country will disintegrate because not all Nigerians want to be as backward as others.
There are one or two areas in the North, South, West, East, Middle-Belt that want to move forward into the skies. You cannot call everybody in Nigeria idiots or imbeciles or characterise them by their religion, faith and tribe.
When we say these things it is for our children- born and unborn so that Nigeria will be a guiding light of Africa.
How can it be that at the moment all the ECOWAS countries are growing at a greater percentage than Nigeria?
Nigeria is now a laughing stock. They are growing at the rate of six per cent per annum.
We are talking about Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Niger Republic, Sierra Leone, Togo, etc, growing faster than Nigeria. What affects Nigeria affects them a lot and they look at us and say something is wrong with us mentally because instead of us helping to push them up, we are pushing them down.
Ghana use our resources to provide power. Today they have 24 hours steady power supply. Every house has prepaid meter. You consume power, you pay for it. They have good governance system. If you don’t pay, you cannot compromise their authority. In Nigeria, it is the other way round. Our system cannot provide light and give you prepaid meters.
On the 736 petitions filed so far and why many of the 2019 polls are being challenged
The reason we have petitions is because of unjust system and unjust performance of the citizenry. That is why we talk about civility. If two parties agree on the right things under a system, there will be no petition; the person who loses will go and shake the person who wins because he can see that four minus two is two. But in a situation where you tell me that four minus two is 12, what kind of rubbish is that? Most people will revolt.
Once there is civility, you conduct an election that is corrupt-free you don’t have people altering votes and figures, the loser will shake the winner and wait for another opportunity.
On posturing for 2023
There are some people who want to be presidents again in 2023; they want to corrupt the system and see what they can get. They are becoming an albatross for the whole nation. These are some of the things holding the country backward and may sooner than later lead to total disintegration of the country.
It is not everybody in the country that is part of doomsday. In the South, East, West, Middle-Belt, and far North, there are people who want a better future for Nigeria and the right things to be done.
On the battle for the leadership of the Ninth National Assembly and fears that what happened in 2015 when the All Progressives Congress, APC leadership could not get its preferred candidates to emerge as leaders could recur
If there is no civility, many rubbish can happen because what you see and what you don’t see will come out. Each member has interest and there are a lot of diversions going on -those who are, those who will be and those who have not been mentioned.
However, are the members of the National Assembly doing what they should be doing? Have you considered how much will be paid those who are not returning in the name of severance package? It is in billions of naira. Is that money affordable by the government? Do they deserve it? What have they added to our country? That is why I said we are trekking backwards.
With civility, education, technology and artificial intelligence, which will take us forward, these problems will be addressed. Nigeria should be better than it is now. It is for us to do it for our born and unborn children. Many countries have disintegrated and when you disintegrate, you are talked about as something past, not current.
The day there is a mass movement in Nigeria of people who have clear perception as was seen in Sudan, you will be surprised how many people will flee this country. The people who will flee are those who have held the country without regard.