In a couple of days, Nigeria is going to witness yet another inauguration of a new government. This time around, the slogan of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is Next Level.
In this interview, General Ishola Williams scored the administration low on the economy, security and employment generation in the outgoing tenure, saying only a review of the constitution can end the country’s woes.
The scheming for 2023 has already begun in earnest even far ahead of the much-awaited change of baton. What do you have to say about this?
It has never happened in the political history of Nigeria that you find a situation in which an election has just been partly concluded and people are already talking about another election coming in four and a half year’s time. That is crazy. It doesn’t show that we are a serious people. It only shows that they those who have been elected are there for their own selfish interest. In fact, I have not come across any politician that is serving anybody’s interest in Nigeria. I am yet to see one. Most of those who call themselves leaders are those who are dominating the political space with money. And since you cannot become a millionaire by being a Sunday school teacher, then you expect them to be crooks. And if you have crooks as the majority in politics, then what is the hope of the country? Something needs to be done. But unfortunately, we haven’t got a leader that understands that at all. And it is not only a matter of leadership; it is also a function of followership because some of us are just behaving like Mumu.
Do you subscribe to the idea of community policing the acting Inspector General of Police is proposing?
The IGP said they are going to introduce community policing and the president has approved it. The president hasn’t got any right to approve community policing. It is the job of the National Assembly and they are already working on state police. But everybody is keeping quiet. For me, people who are talking about revolution in Nigeria are joking. Nigeria is so ethnocentric that I find it impossible for people to come together to say they want to do revolution like they did in Sudan, Tunisia or Algeria. It cannot happen. If everybody had come together for June 12, Nigeria would have been better off. But ethno-centricism will not allow us to be better off. Everybody takes care of his own side and we all claim to be one Nigeria. It is not true.
In politics, they say, the most popular may not be the best candidate and the best candidate may not be the most popular.
(Cuts in)…That is possible because people worship money in Nigeria. People pretend to respect you when you have money to throw around. If you tell a Nigerian let me give you money or give you knowledge, a typical Nigerian will take money. In other climes, they will prefer knowledge because knowledge can earn you money. Money is power in Nigeria. Therefore, popularity rests on how much money you have to throw around. If not, we would have had people of good character in politics in Nigeria. But people respect money more than character and knowledge. We talk of China, we talk of Singapore. Was it not hard work that brought people there to where they are today? Something is wrong with us. And it is not the fault of leadership as such, but the fault of followership. If we chose the wrong people among us, then we suffer for it. Somebody said our Mumu don do, but it doesn’t seem our mumu don do. The majority of us are still Mumu.
Where do you see Nigeria in the next four years with this Next Level administration?
To me, the National Assembly lawmakers are not serious. If not, why can’t they amend the constitution for us to have independent candidates? They should have given it a trial in the last election. If we had independent candidates in the last election, at least, some independent candidates could have won in some of the constituencies and that would have given chances to those who do not want to mix up with those crooks in politics and they would have charted a new course for Nigeria. By 2023, they would have matured for people to know more about them. So, the focus should be on amending the constitution. Buhari is not the issue at all, it is our constitution. In South Africa, it is compulsory that they amend the constitution every two years. Every two years, people will sit back and look at their contentment with the constitution for their parliament to do something about it. It is not so in Nigeria. Here, we say everything is with the president. The president is only one man; he has other people surrounding him. Every time you open a newspaper, what you read is how billions of naira has disappeared.
The country’s economy is very fragile. Are you expecting something new?
There are three things economists will talk about. One, what is your GDP? Two, what is the inflation rate which determines the purchasing power of the people? Three, can you provide jobs for your teeming population? These are three things that help common people to determine whether the economy is good or bad. Now, they are talking of minimum wage. Even if they pay N30,000 as minimum wage, that amount may still not buy enough of what you need to make your life comfortable. Recently, NNPC advertised for jobs, millions of people applied. I don’t know whether the Central Bank knows what it is talking about. They are just copying what the UK and other countries have done about inflation. Which economy did economists in China, in India and part of Asia study that they are doing better than Nigeria? What are the economists doing there that we are not doing here? People have said it openly in the US that capitalism is not working any more. People are questioning the whole issue of democracy. What are the political economists teaching their students in this new generation? What innovation are they bringing into the new knowledge economy?
How would you establish a nexus between the rising level of insecurity and the poor economy?
When they were creating states and local governments, they were creating them in the belief that oil will continue to flow. Some funny persons also decided to put the local governments in the constitution, thinking they were being clever. That is why I keep talking about ethno-centicism or North-South divide. For instance, if all the minorities can come together, they can dictate who becomes the president of this country. But they won’t do that for selfish reasons. Now, state governors are giving themselves pension. And recently too, the legislators in Bayelsa State took a letter to the governor asking for pension. Of course, he refused. But look at what governors are getting as pension. In Lagos State, for instance, the state must build a house for each past serving governor in Abuja and Lagos. So, Ambode that will be leaving in less than two weeks must be given a house in Abuja and Lagos though he has a house he is living in. Where in the world would you find that?
What is the solution to the security problem confronting the country?
Let’s see what the tribunal is going to say about Atiku’s petition against Buhari’s re-election. What we need to work on now is the constitution. We must go back to the parliamentary system and restructure the country to true federalism. If we go back to federalism, nobody will force some states and local governments to merge. Why can’t Kano and Jigawa come back to one? No governor really wants restructuring because it won’t be possible for them to go to Abuja to collect money anymore if we restructure. If we do proper restructuring, some state will come together. If they can’t come together, they will find a way to generate revenue to run their states. For as long as they go to Abuja to collect money, then this country will not make any progress.
Are you saying the Southwest is just pretending in their agitation for restructuring?
The governors of Southwest and Southeast are just pretending to be supporting restructuring. The people in the North have already declared their own position. Why didn’t APC implement El-Rufai report? Who are the people that do not want it to be implemented? The governors and their state houses of assembly. If they can accept restructuring now, it means the local government will be independent financially. If the local government can get their revenue directly from the federation account, who is going to take it from them? Amend the constitution and everything shall follow. But at present, no governor will want restructuring, including Southwest governors. I challenge them, they don’t want restructuring. So, direct allocation to local government that Buhari is talking about is a joke.