Comrade Razaq Olokoba, a Chartered Public Administrator (CPA), member, Nigeria Institute of Management (MNIM), and Security Consultant is the Convener and National President of the Campaign for Dignity in Governance (CDG).
The renowned pro-democracy advocate and die-hard right activist, had an interactive session with some select journalists in Lagos Friday where he reasoned that the coming general election should be used to cement the synergy between the north and the south for the purpose of true unity and political stability of the country.
Below are the excerpts from the parley as reported by Razaq Bamidele, who was at the media interaction:
Now that the general election is almost at our door step, what is your assessment of the state of the nation?
Thank you very much and welcome again to this interactive session. It is good for us as a people to constantly look at the state of things in our nation. The progress in our economy, how healthy is our polity, security, challenges in the health sector vis a vis COVID-19 and other sectors of our life is very good. In doing so, we should not limit our assessment to what is only happening in Nigeria. We must be universal in our analysis because there are challenges in the world today which Nigeria is not responsible for but which have become a global phenomenon. So, in whatever conclusion we want to draw, we must bear in mind that what we are going through in some aspects of our life, the rest of the world is also passing through challenges of similar nature.
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Coming from that angle, the political exercise is the foundation on which other aspects of our life operate. The political class will go into governance and design policies that would affect our economy that will affect our environment, security and other aspects of our life. So, that is why in all our analyses, it is most appropriate to begin with the political angle. Right now, we have gotten to the critical political aspect in our life. This is the month of election and this is the month that we need to keep talking to each other, this is the month to keep looking at events in the country and our nation.
You keep emphasising about the election and synergy between the north and the south. What exactly are you driving at?
Thank you for that question. Let me explain. The coming election is an exercise we should use to create a synergy between the north and the south. It is an election that we may no longer continue to push the excuse that Nigeria is a diverse that informs our challenges. We have been diverse for how many years now, and this is the time to use that our peculiarity as a strength. The more we look at our differences, the more we understand ourselves the more and the more the relationship between us become more robust. We should no longer accept excuse of failure from anybody. The excuse that the north and the south are different is no more acceptable.
Britain is over a thousand years old bearing different names at different times like Britain, United Kingdom on and on. And the differences still exist till tomorrow. But the differences are never a barrier to their development, not an obstacle to the good life they are enjoying today. And we have several countries like that in the world that have similar and peculiar nature like us in Nigeria. India is one of them and China is also one of them. We can continue to mention nations and nations like that non-stop.
The people of the world, over 200million of them are Nigerians as far as the rest of the world is concerned. So, the more you look at yourself as Hausa, Yoruba, Ibo the more you tend to get people outside Nigeria confused. As far as we are concerned, we are all Nigerians. And that is why we must design a modem that will keep promoting peace among ourselves. And this election is a golden opportunity for us to do so. We must speak that language in this election. We must let the world know that we are politically matured and that we have come of age. We should let them know that we are the true giant of Africa.
Do you have picture of the likely next President in mind?
Well, as we all know, it is no more news that President Muhammadu Buhari is going in less than four months’ time or so. The person that will take over from him should be a brilliant patriotic democrat with clearer understanding of a society and evolution of a nation. He should also understand that we are aware of where the power would swing to and should express that in a clear message. And that is why in my own estimation; the north/south arrangement is a perfect one.
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So, it is the synergy that we establish that will determine whether we are going to prosper between now and the next four years or not. It is the synergy that will determine the future of our children. It is the synergy that will make Nigeria to transform from a country to a nation. It is also the synergy that will engender what is called the Nigerian patriotism. When my fear is addressed, when my concern is addressed and when my understanding of what a nation should be is addressed. I will live in that country as a patriotic Nigerian. So, the state of the nation should be about a synergy. I mean a synergy between the North and the South.
What role has that got to play in the coming election?
My brothers, it has got a lot to do with the coming election. Let me tell you my, the coming election is like attaining an independence for Nigeria. That does not however mean that we are being enslaved since 1999 till date, but because it means the time we have recorded the highest political consciousness. If you look at the number of the registered eligible voters, it is over a hundred million. Whoever is responsible for that feat should be commended. Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Political Parties, Government of the day, the Civil Society, the media and Nigerians should be commended. And as a result of that, we must not waste the efforts of over a hundred million Nigerians that have taken that decision.
And that is where the question of synergy comes in again. We must understand that Nigeria is a nation of many identities. And the thinking and aspirations of these different people must be important to all of us. My affairs and aspirations as a Yoruba man must be important to the Ibo, to Hausa, to Ijaw just as concerns, aspirations and demands of other people must also be important to other people of Nigeria.
And the beginning of that aspiration is the political power. So, political power must be spread across the nation. And that is why every Nigerian that is responsible for the power shift arrangement in the country is a genuine democrat. Every Nigerian that has seen the reason that power must shift from the north to the south or whichever the case may be, is a nation builder. Every Nigerian that took the decision and was part of the decision to recognise the political spread to West, East and South of Nigeria, should also be seen as a nation builder and someone who portends something good for the nation.
So by and large, the synergy is the synergy to allow power move to the south. And going down to the south must understand the existing modem that has brought the country back to its feet without challenging the entity called Nigeria. We know what happened in the first republic, we know what happened in the second republic. The alliance now should be a model and should be accepted as a model of the north and the western alliance.
The synergy we are talking about must translate into power shift from the north to the south. And that is the synergy I am talking about in a specific term.
What then is its possibility to work?
Like I said earlier, the level of political awareness in the country today is very high. And as a political scientist, I know that when you have consciousness of this nature, it is not likely for you to take a wrong decision. The most correct decision at the moment in Nigeria is the power shift. And in shifting that power, people must be politically guided to understand the people who have clear knowledge, capacity and the experience to do it. I mean somebody who had demonstrated that capacity and understanding in the past. Such a person that has led a smaller component part of Nigeria and succeeded, if given a bigger task like ruling the whole country, he would also succeed.
What does that insinuate?
Well, in the list of contestants today, for president, most of them are qualified but on top of them is Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC). I want us to take the most correct decision. Among the first eleven in the north is where Atiku Abubakar belongs. Among the first eleven in the east is where Peter Obi belongs. And the foremost first eleven in the west is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
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And of all these people from the various regions, we have seen the clear sign that given the power, Tinubu will triumph and the country of our dream would be achieved. And the nomenclature given to Nigeria as the giant of Africa would be ascertained. And the seventh most populated country in the world, Nigeria has the population to use just as we are witnessing in India today as a leading light. And just as we are also witnessing in China today, as the third world economy in the world, Nigeria would also put the population into use to her advantage maximally. So, therefore, we would not become a burden to the rest of the world. Our nation would become one of the foremost countries in the world politically and economically.
What is your take on the on-going electioneering that is heavily laced with hate speeches and character assassination despite the earlier warning against such behaviour?
Well, the people to be held responsible for that cannot be the political class only. The media take a chunk of the blame, political parties take a chunk of the blame, and the INEC takes a chunk of the blame while Nigerians also take most of the blame.
Let me talk about the Nigerians first. You cannot be requesting from someone you want to come and succeed you to keep insulting and harassing the candidates of other people. You cannot set out every day only for you to start saying the shape of one candidate is like this and the educational background of another candidate is like that. Remember these people you are referring to are tested people already. We have major fundamental issues in our country. If politicians who want to become president in the United State of America and the United Kingdom keep insulting themselves, we would not be bothered because there has been structure and template in place for them to speak the manifestoes of their parties either as democrats or as republicans. Or either as The Labour or other various political parties in Britain. They have their manifestoes in place.
But in Nigeria, it appears we don’t appreciate the peculiar challenges ahead of us! We have not been able to establish a standing manifesto that would determine what kind of economic model we want to run, what kind of political model we want to run and what kind of direction we want our country to go ideologically. So, if you allow the candidates to do those things to themselves during their campaigns, we should hold ourselves responsible for it.
What solution can found to that to avoid breaking down of the law and order?
Oh, that is simple. That is why political parties should make it a point of their responsibility to follow the example that they are following now.
Right now, Tinubu has come out with a manifesto. Shortly after, Obi also did same. Atiku came out with something too and Kwankwaso as well as some other candidates. That should be uppermost in the mind of those in the various parties.
And INEC should make it difficult for political parties to get legitimacy to register if they don’t have permanently established and clear manifestos that spell out the ideologies of their political parties. And government of the day should also demonstrate such a thing. So, in summing it up, we cannot hold the candidates responsible for that. It is a sheer waste of our time if we continue in that manner. Campaign should be ideological. It should be issue based. Campaign should not be about how abusive your party is. Many angry youth now have found a particular party as a platform to ventilate their anger. And that is misleading for the nation! If you are angry, your anger should be productive. You should not turn a political party to an avenue for the youth to be angry without direction. It portends dangers for us.
In the rest of the world, what makes a nation great is when the youth are brilliant and intelligent enough to know what is good for their people. Ninety per cent of the youth today, if you engage them you will discover they are angry. They don’t understand the political and economic model of their country. They don’t understand the ingredients of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Paris Club as parts of the surviving modem for the kind of the economy we run in Nigeria which is a free market economy and the capitalist economy. The youth don’t understand all these and that is why political parties must do a good service to the Nigerian youth by appropriately educating them about the shape of things to come for them not to be angry for nothing because the danger of it is that we may end up taking one step forward and ten steps backward.
Lastly, with all the available indices all over the place today in Nigeria, Naira swap problem, fuel scarcity and security challenges, are you still convinced election would hold as scheduled?
In sha Allah,yes. But we have to embolden our people for the election to hold. There are some elements in this country that don’t want the election to hold. We are going to stand against them. We will mobilise Nigerians to come out to vote. The error of currency change should be addressed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). I hold the President and the CBN Governor responsible for that because a policy that appears as if it has an ulterior motive, as a chattered public administrator that I am, that kind of trap is too costly for us at this moment. It has been taken over by racketeers who are trading with our currency. And that should be addressed by them.
But given the resolve of Nigerians, I will be part of every move and every step to encourage the people, with the little available resources at my disposal, to make sure that the election holds. Our nation should not be taken over by bandits and criminals. The rest of the world is watching us. And we should not turn ourselves to a burden to humanity. We owe the world a responsibility as the seventh most populated country in the world to make Nigeria work. We must not allow our country to run into humanitarian crisis. That would be too disastrous to the rest of the world. And that is our responsibility as a people; we must not allow it to happen.
Election must hold, we must stand up against the criminals who don’t want the election to hold. We must prevent them. INEC’s duty is not an error proof process. There are errors they are correcting every day in, and they are doing their best every day out. We have to support them. We must have a brand new President come May 29, 2023.