Sunday, 7 June 2015

Afenifere Says it Has No Regret For Supporting Jonathan, Charges Buhari to Implement National Confab Reports

Image result for pictures of Pa Reuben Fasoranti 
Pa Reuben Fasonranti, the leader of the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, in this interview talks about the expectation of his organisation from the Muhammadu Buhari-led government

In the last presidential election, the Afenifere supported former President Goodluck Jonathan. Now that the election did not go the way you expected, do you have any regrets?

No, we have no regrets. We decided to support Jonathan because he agreed to organise the (2014) National Conference to solve the problem of this country. He also agreed that if he won the election, he would restructure Nigeria, so that everybody would have a sense of belonging. That was why we supported him. During his campaign in Akure (Ondo State), he came to my house and my people welcomed him and we stated our terms that if he won, he would restructure Nigeria because the system of government being operated in the country is a form of unitary system; there is much centralisation of power at the centre. Every month, the governors go to Abuja to collect money. By restructuring Nigeria, it would give each section or region of the country a sense of belonging and self-determination.
But President Muhammadu Buhari also promised to restructure Nigeria by tackling corruption, insecurity, economic problems…
(Cuts in) Those are topics; restructuring Nigeria means each region. Like the time of Pa Obafemi Awolowo, will have a sense of belonging and self-determination. For instance, we shall have the power to mine our mineral resources, which is not so at the moment. For example, we have had bitumen in this state (Ondo), but for many years now, nothing has been done about it. If each region is given the power, there will be plenty of opportunities; each region will be able to mine its resources. Mining, you know, is on the Exclusive List and by so doing, each region will be able to do what it likes with its mineral resources. Another example is railway. If there is restructuring, a region will be able to construct its own railway the way it wants, and many other things like that.
Now that President Buhari has begun his administration, what are your expectations?
Our expectation is that we shall continue to say the same thing, and that is for regions to have self-determination; that the six geopolitical zones should be given the opportunity to decide on certain things that affect their region. Apart from being able to mine our resources, we will be able to develop our ports. There will be more money in our regions to carry out many developmental projects. Also, like I said, the state governors go to Abuja, every month to collect money, which has led to laziness on the part of the regions. If one is allowed to fend for himself, then one will find ways of generating funds to develop one’s state instead of expecting money from the Federal Government every month. Now, most of the states in Nigeria are insolvent. Look at Osun State and many others now, they cannot pay salaries of their workers. If they had been given that opportunity to look inward and look for sources of revenue, they would be able to determine their own fate.
Do you think Buhari will move towards this direction in his administration?
I don’t know because I am not a member of his party, but we will keep on reminding him. We shall keep on repeating the same thing, because that is the basis on which we decided to support Jonathan. Whether we like it or not, that is the way forward for Nigeria.
As an elder statesman, how would you advise Mr. President on the current state of the nation?
If I was to advise him, I would say he should encourage true federalism. He should allow the regions to do some things that will give them self-determination. We will continue to tell him until he does these things. We will allow him to settle down, still visit him and then tell him all these things we have been saying. True federalism is the only solution to this country’s problems. It is the best thing to allow the regions develop at their own pace and also look for ways and means of generating funds to cater for their needs and development. At the moment, the states are in a messy situation. Osun State has not been able to pay salaries for the past six months; most of the states are crying seriously and there is no money. They should be allowed to fend for themselves, to find their means of surviving.
Some people believe that operating federalism the way you present it, there may not be equal development among the states. What do you say to this?
That is what we are saying; all the states cannot develop at the same pace. For instance, during the time of Awolowo, the now defunct Western Region was dictating the pace; the region started free education, it focused on agriculture, especially cocoa production. Therefore, it is not possible for all the regions to develop at the same pace but it will give rise to healthy rivalry among the states in the country. I could remember, it was when the Western Region started free education that the defunct Eastern Region followed. Initially, the Eastern Region did not believe in it but when they saw what was happening in the Western Region in terms of development, the region too began its development process. We cannot keep some regions down for others, we should just allow them to develop at their own pace.
It is believed that corruption is the bane of the nation’s development, and Buhari has vowed to eradicate it. Do you think this is possible?
As a matter of fact, corruption is our major problem. But let us wait and see if he will be able to do that because it is neither here nor there. Tell me who is not corrupt in this country? The top-notches are corrupt; even within the rank and file of the All Progressives Congress, they are corrupt, within the Peoples Democratic Party, there are corrupt people. If Buhari is serious about it, he should close his eyes and perform a surgical operation. It doesn’t matter whose ox is gored. Even within his own rank and file, they are corrupt, but if he can close his eyes and do the surgical operation, he will succeed.
But is it possible for him to do this as a politician?
If he is still the person he was when he was a military Head of State, it may be possible. For instance, I was a victim when he was the head of state. I was kept away for 20 months for no reason. I think he was trying to instil discipline at that time. If he can still maintain that stand, if he can still maintain that frame of mind and if he determines to work, he will make a tremendous progress. But if Buhari has some sacred cows, it will be very difficult for him to fight corruption in this country.
The President is taking some steps now to tackle the insurgency in the North-East geopolitical zone of the country and one of them is to relocate the Defence Headquarters to Maiduguri. What is your take on this?
He is a military man. If he makes up his mind to do so, if he strategises and reorganises the security forces, I am sure he will make progress. He should also seek the assistance of the neighbouring countries, like Chad, Niger Republic and Cameroon to tackle the insurgents, and I am sure he will get their cooperation.
It is generally believed that until certain amenities like electricity are put place, Nigeria cannot have any meaningful development. Do you see Buhari succeeding in this area?
It depends on his advisers and what he himself has in mind to do. It is unfortunate that at the moment, we cannot generate enough power to go round our country. Look at South Africa, the population is less than that of Nigeria and it is generating more than enough electricity to go round its country. In our own case, we cannot boast of 6,000 megawatts. Thus, these are some of the things we will emphasise when we visit him.



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