Comrade Debo Adeniran is the Executive Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL) and a public affairs commentator. He spoke to EJIKEME OMENAZU on the South West Security Network, otherwise known as ‘Operation Amotekun’, and some challenges the outfit may face, even as he touched the Ondo and Edo states governorship elections that will come up later this year, among other crucial issues. Excerpts:
How do you see the formation of the Amotekun security outfit by the South West governors?
Operation Amotekun would have been unnecessary if the nation’s security had been effective. The regional security system became necessary when the people of South West became vulnerable to attacks by people they believe are strangers. They also believe that the security forces are strangers and do not know the terrain. Amotekun is home-based and understands the terrain. It is a necessary step.
What challenges would you foresee for the Amotekun project?
The first challenge is the problem that the Police, NSCDC and the Army may see them as rivals. They may see the Amotekun as taking their glory. They may therefore work at cross purposes. If the security forces and Amotekun operatives clash, that may make a mess of the objectives. Again, there is the problem of adequate training and equipment as well as the security of the Amotekun operatives themselves. If there is no rivalry between security forces, they may abet such attacks.
Already, the Inspector General of Police has threatened that there are certain categories of arms that will not be found with the Amotekun. Thus, they may be under the power of the herdsmen with superior fire power. They may also face the challenges of funding. The South West governors face a lot of financial challenges. If they are not paid by the governments, the Amotekun operatives may become criminals themselves.
Northern youths were said to have rejected the project. What is your take on the development?
But, the Arewa youths, through Yerima Shettima, has denied it. However, whatever fear any region has does not hold water. Each region had always had their security arms. The North has nothing to fear unless they have some criminals in South West who may be checked by the Amotekun. If the Federal Government fails to protect the people, the people have the right to protect themselves. Security is everybody’s business. Any part of the country that wants to set up security outfit is free to do so.
With the crises in Edo and Ondo APC involving the state governors, how do you see the governorship election coming in both states in the later part of this year?
Elections in Nigeria have not been without various forms of intrigues, horse trading and violence. The two elections may not be exemptions. Already, there has been no trust situation in both states. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Federal Government have the duty to protect the people. It should not go the way of Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections, where there were a lot of instances of killings. Elections should not be seen as do-or-die. The people should not see elections as personal, but by convictions. Politicians should not trade in the blood of the innocent people to acquire power. Such things should prick their conscience. A number of alignments and realignments may occur. Political friends may become foes and political foes may become friends. If the government does not allow manipulations, it will be free and fair. But, a lot of political actors may want to foment trouble. Security agents should make security reign. They should work hard to pre-empt violence. Security apparatus of government are expected to get information in advance and nip crises in the bud. I don’t see any trouble if everybody do the required things at the right time.
Do you think that possible defection of both Godwin Obaseki and Rotimi Akeredolu would not adversely affect the fortunes of APC in both states if the crises in both states remain unresolved?
Cross carpeting is part of the political game in a multi-party democracy. People bring up allegations and counter allegations against people when there is an election. What is happening in Edo is an anathema. When the Edo Governor, Godwin Obaseki, got to office, he was sober. But, now, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, feels betrayed and that he is being edged out and reduced to nothing when he should be an asset. He feels he is a strategist that should be consulted. But, if Obaseki defects to another party, he may lose the election. Those edging him on do not want him to leave the party. They do not want to be in opposition giving what is happening in Bayelsa and the lackadaisical attitude of the governor of Rivers State. So, they do not want to leave the mainstream. Governorship is transient. If the governor is not careful, he will be the loser. It is proper for Obaseki to consider well before jumping the ship. It may backfire and affect his credibility.
In Ondo State, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is already mending fences with the party leaders. Although, Alliance for Democracy is becoming more popular. But, if Akeredolu plays his card well, he may be forgiven. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu supports those in power. But, Akeredolu should not undermine the person of Asiwaju. Those he may anchor his support in Abuja may not be there for him. The former Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, did not undermine the influence of his leader and the leaders of the party. Amosun did not defect to Allied Peoples Movement (APM) even though he supported the governorship candidate, because he knew the influence of the National Leader. That should teach Akeredolu a lesson. He should remain in APC and fight it out instead of remaining strong headed.
What is your take on the planned hike of electricity tariff?
The National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) has denied that. Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) can come up with surprises. GENCOS and DISCOs can, in fact, wield undue monopoly. The hike is wicked for people who are not enjoying constant electricity. They do not access electricity well. It is unfair for government to allow that. There is no reason for the agencies to overcharge the people. If they get constant light, people will be ready to pay. But, now, there is epileptic electricity supply as the whole country has no power. It is only a wicked government that will allow this. They should not overcharge people who do not have regular electricity, cannot do their business, suffer damages and spend more to maintain generators. Electricity supply cost Nigerian consumers more expenditure due to the multiplier effect of lack of electricity. No government should try it. Nigeria consumers should rise up against the planned increase. Nigerians should resist it and let the suppliers go to hell.
It is beyond INEC to some extent. The National Assembly should rework the electoral law. The voter register should be electronic. Electronic voting should be legalised. If banks should use the BVN to regulate banking, voting should not be an exception. People should do voting from their homes, like banking. The voting number should not be duplicated. Anybody caught in manipulating votes should be barred from contesting elections. Those who participate in violence and killings should face the full wrath of the law. If the penalty is stiff and the judiciary does not back down, everybody will sit up. The lucre for political offices should be reduced. Salaries of political offices should be equal to those of public officers. They should not be given luxuries they cannot afford.
It pains people that the politicians are paid so much for doing nothing. Their salaries should not be more that those of Permanent Secretaries in the MDAs. People should not spend so much to cause brigandage if they know they will not be getting much. Those to be appointed into INEC should be above board.
The Professors used by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are said to be making mistakes in calculations. What options do you think INEC has if they drop academics? Do you think the nation has enough experts to do the work instead of the academics?
You cannot have enough experts. People do not study elections in universities. The best we can have is the academia. The best thing is for INEC to be thorough. It is not the Professors that do the calculations. That is why we advocate for electronic voting system. It is those who work with the Professors that make the mistakes. If the votes are electronically calculated, errors will be eliminated.
What agenda would you advocate for President Muhammadu Buhari in 2020?
President Muhammadu Buhari should strengthen the anti-corruption efforts and deepen the reach of the anti-graft system. President Buhari is doing well. But, there are a lot of detractors who undermine his efforts. He should ensure there is more publicity of what is being done to combat crimes and corruption. It takes a lot of efforts and patience to extract a virus that has ravaged the body. Corruption has taken deep root in Nigeria. Right from when the colonial masters left, we did not know the level of corruption until all the system began to collapse. It will take a gradual process to repair. People in government are used to our corrupt system.
Basically, President Buhari administration should be vigilant. Whistle Blowers should be well compensated and their payment made easier. Corruption cases should follow due diligence. He should establish anti-corruption courts for them to handle corruption cases. Adequate punishment should be meted to those found guilty. Their properties and assets should be confiscated. Those convicted should live the rest of their lives behind bars. They should be wearing tags showing their former positions and offences they committed and the jail term they are serving so that anyone coming to see them in prison will know what they have done. They should be in special prisons where students will go for excursion, with their names and positions displayed. They should be working in the prison or taught skills there. They can practice all skills in prisons. However, they should not be paid, but should be well taken care of so that they will be healthy to work in the prison. Lastly, President Buhari should constitute a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) to evolve a national ideology to give direction to everybody. If the SNC is conveyed, it will give everybody a sense of belonging.
With Nigerians expressing worries over the rising cost of governance, how do you think this could be reduced as Nigeria moves into 2020?
About three or four years ago, we suggested that Nigeria should adopt what Senegal did. Senegal did away with their Senate and reduced the salary of their lawmakers. In Nigeria today, a lot of people see government as an industry and abandon their trade and businesses. They go into government to get rich. People attach themselves to public officers to get rich. That is why Nigerians are getting lazier by the day. It also accounts for the huge amount the lawmakers take, be it at the federal, state and even the local government level. Reducing cost of governance does not mean reducing the structure of government. The Senate does not do more than what the House of Representatives does. Nigeria can do away with the upper legislative house, since the House of Representatives is more representative of the people.
Each constituent should be able to take care of the representatives. It should be the responsibility of the constituents to determine what the salaries of their lawmakers should be. The constituents should be able to determine the take-home pay and allowances of the legislators and aides. The idea of government paying everybody huge amount at all levels has made people to become lazy in raising funds, even at state and local government levels. People in local governments should sit down and determine how to take care of their state lawmakers at both state and local government levels. Every state should contribute to the centre, every local government should in the same way contribute to the state. This should be the way to restructure the federation.
Some of us have suggested the scrapping of state governments, while the local governments should contribute to the centre. That is the only way to reduce cost of governance and people will be active in generating income. Everyone will know how to hold their representatives responsible accountable.
The National Assembly, especially the Senate cannot legislate themselves out of office and the executive cannot remove them from the constitution. That is why we advocate for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC), which should be the beginning of true nationhood, instead we will continue to be a contrived geographic expression which people will not take care of. That is why we are advocating that President Buhari should convene a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) to consider all systems, decide on revenue generation and allocations to different sections of the economy. This will reduce cost of governance. Although there will still be some oligarchic leaders who may want to control government, they could be checked, instead of the type of unitary system we are running now.