by Iwok Iniobong
Fouad Oki is a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and a former director-general of the campaign organisation for Akinwumi Ambode and Babatunde Fashola, both former governor of Lagos States. In this interview with journalists, he speaks on latest developments in the polity, especially the crisis in the APC, the insecurity challenges, Amotekun, other sundry issues. INIOBONG IWOK brings the excerpts:
Recently, the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe called on President Muhammadu Buhari to resign his position because of the high level of insecurity in the land, alleging that the government has not done enough to arrest the situation; do you thing that the call was necessary and in good faith?
Let me start by saying this expressly, that the Senate Minority Leader being a Nigerian has every right to express himself and he has done that very clearly and I want to believe that he is speaking his mind as a Nigerian and not as a Minority Leader of the Senate. Because of the situation in which we have found ourselves, there are agitations here and there for the government to again look more closely at the security situation in the country and I honestly believe that there is need for all of us to begin to get together and be agitating about security issues, but a call for the President to resign is somewhat extreme. That is why I say he is just expressing his personal views and not because he is a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, more so as a principal officer of the Senate he is also privy to security and intelligence briefings and other issues surrounding security architecture and I think his yearning is more to challenge the Commander-In-Chief of the Federal Republic on the need to make more efforts and seek other ways to address the seemingly intractable security challenges. I think it is just a challenge and we must look at where we are coming from, before 2016, the issue was mainly Boko Haram and I think we succeeded in tackling the Boko Haram issue. When you look at the security challenge we currently have; I think what he is trying to say is the need for us to properly interrogate it and properly redesign a more robust way of handling it. I think that is what his outburst actually means and not the way we all want to take it and turn it into something that we should celebrate. We are in a republican democracy and calling for the head is always not the issue, but accepting that we have challenges and seeking for ways to tackle it is what I think the Minority Leader was trying to do.
The worsening security challenge has led the Southwest governors to create Operation Amotekun, a security network, which has tremendous support in the region. What is your take on this development?
Well, I think this is the only country where when we have issues we always forget, deliberately or otherwise, to look at where we are coming from and anybody or group of persons that refuse to look at their issue and understand where it emanated is not likely to get to their destination. The South West security collaboration called ‘Amotekun’ is a journey; for us, we must first look at where the destination is, it is so that the sole purpose of government which is security of lives and property is properly managed; that is the destination, the journey is how do we get there? So, if governments of the South-West geo-political zone feel that collectively we have a commonality in the security challenge facing us and let us individually look at this issue and collectively pull resources. I think we should understand the tenets of federalism and I think it is a welcome thing. Today, I am happy that several other geo-political zones are following it. Now, as part of nation building, especially such as ours that is a federalist state, you must begin to look at those issues that have constitutional stamp of approval or authority, you need to look at the constitution very well and the issue of security is not exclusive like defence, a local government can wake up tomorrow and say for our locality this is what we want to do within the context of a federal system and we must understand that. I think what Amotekun is tilting to is the need for us to begin to look inward at ways we begin to support and complement the federal security architecture. Mind you, it is not far from happening, we need to go back to the First Republic, and we need to go back to pre- the nation called Nigeria. We need to go back and look at our history, we need to interrogate whether we have had similar system, so it is not just about Amotekun, no, it is about security challenge and how to cooperate to surmount it and that is the important thing. But, if you are now talking about its acceptance, I tell you it will be accepted, there is a popular saying where I come from in Isale-Eko, that until we all suffer the same fate, we will not come together to find a common solution and that is why the support is overwhelming, because the issue of security is challenging everybody and therefore, no one can safely say I want to be or I can be an island, that is why you see the kind of support.
Somebody told me sometimes ago that if Nigeria does not consciously work on restructuring, situation will force restructuring on the country. Do you think this situation is taking the country towards restructuring or the state police that many people have been clamouring for?
I have always had my reservation about the issue of restructuring, it depends on who is talking about restructuring and your definition of restructuring and you cannot restructure without first understanding the system of government. I remember some years back it was fiscal federalism and I had to challenge some people to tell me what exactly their definition of fiscal federalism and understanding of it. This is a country where even our professors do not seem to get it right; if you look at federalism, especially republican federalism, which we call presidential federalism which we seem to copy from the United States, you must understand that up to 1776 constitutional conference in America, which is called the Gettysburg Conference, American states were absolutely autonomous, until they all came together to say let us have a federal system where each sub-nation will grow at its own pace, do this and do that and this is what will be our commonality, with regards to what we expect the central structure which we call the central government to do.
In the case of Nigeria, we shared similar fate up until 1861, but from 1861 we seem to share a unitary fate, until 1966, when Brig. Yakubu Gowon in his wisdom and the wisdom of the then Federal Executive Council said let us have a federal system and create six components; so, before we start talking about devolution of power we need to go back, prior to that time we used to have a republican Westminster system of government, to regional government as it was called. So, you cannot have a federal system devolved to states and at the same time a regional system, it doesn’t work, so if you talk about restructuring, let us first talk about the system of restructuring; what do we mean by restructuring? How do we restructure a federal system that was created from a unitary system? That is why I have chosen not to join the people calling for restructuring and jump into the trap of those clamouring for it. This is the only country where people jump up to be making agitations and demands because they cannot get what they want, but the moment they are satisfied with their personal aggrandisement, its fine, it is okay, that is not nation-building. For goodness sake, let us leave all of these and ask ourselves very pertinent questions, what was our situation prior to 1951 and between 1951 and 1960 what was our situation, what was our agitations, what was the agreements, it is only after we have interrogated that, we can begin to say okay, we believe there is need for restructuring or there is need for re-negotiation. So, until then I don’t want to join the fray of the wailers whining and crying about restructuring. You see, we have committed so much funds into consultative assemblies and we have more than enough recommendations and suggestions on the shelf, now we have a constitution, as lousy as we may think the constitution is, there is something that we must understand, there is a sovereignty which we all enjoy, so if we want to alter anything, we cannot do it without first appropriately acknowledging that sovereignty. So, for us to do anything we may first need to hold a referendum suspending the legislature.
Though your point of view is very logical, people are worried, saying the way things are going in the country is very lopsided. Don’t you agree?
What is lopsided, I just told you the Nigerian theory of power, it will forever be lopsided. God did not create us equal, it is when we want to cheat that we say we are all created equal, when we are cheated, we will say we are not created equally; it is neither here nor there, you must understand that. Who are the people agitating for restructuring, its people wanting power, the moment you make concession to them those that are agitating today will move from where they are to the other side, they will move from activism to the bourgeois class and begin to suppress and oppress, then another set of people will pick up again, it is all in the race to take power. The problems agitating the average Nigerian is not about restructuring, it is about security and prosperity of the average Nigerian, security is the safety, these are the issues that the average Nigerian wants government or its leadership to address, that is the truth. This is the only country where the haves don’t ever want the have-nots to change their status; this the only country where we are not agitated about the prosperity of the average Nigerian; this is the only country where the elite group is not concerned about security and safety of the average Nigerian, rather we all shield under the agitation for restructuring; restructuring what? Let us begin to talk about security and prosperity for the average Nigerian; let us support the Ametokun security initiative so that other regions will pick it up and that way we will begin to see the restructuring of security, rather than agitating. Talk about prosperity and you begin to talk about employment, underemployment, you talk about the issue of empowerment, the issue of health, of gender equality, you begin to talk about our tomorrow. How do we raise a nation with core social values and not a nation that is full of noveau rich, it is then that we begin to talk about the Nigeria of our dream and the Nigeria we want to bequeath to generations whose today we are squandering. This is because we have lost our own, because we are squandering the prosperity of our children and if care is not taken we will also squander the prosperity of our grandchildren and those yet unborn. Those are the issues that should agitate our minds, because it takes one to help one, government cannot do it all; the elite must come; they must invest in industries to create jobs, we must begin to talk about producing what we consume and not consuming what we import; those are the ways to go, those are the ways of prosperity, of building a prosperous nation and that is my take about your resource control agitation.
Recently, agitations for electoral reforms, like introducing electronic voting, Diaspora voting have increased. What is your take?
Look, whether we like it or not, we must take due cognizance and appreciate the 8th Assembly and all of us must cry unto the President to sign into law the 2019 Electoral Act Amendment, if not, the National Assembly must as a matter of urgency, before any election in Nigeria, be it local, state or federal, give consideration to the Electoral Act with a view to either amending or altering some sections as to engender a robust electoral system, that is the way to go.
If a situation like the one that happened in 2019 when the President refused assent to the bill before the election happens again; what should they do?
Listen, when laws are made they are made to take care of the exigencies of a particular time and that is why it is elastic, from time to time when the need arises you review; now we have found ourselves in a situation where we again need to take another look at the Electoral Act with a view to fine-tuning, amending or changing some sections of it to conform with realities of our time and I think that is what we need, it is not static, whether we like it or not we need to go into it, because experience has shown us that there is need for it, and I think that is what we should be looking at.
You are a member of the APC and there is crisis in the party in Edo State presently and there will be election there this year; if you remember, crisis caused the APC to lose Zamfara, caused the APC positions in Rivers and there is fear same may happen in Edo, what is your view?
My position is very clear and I have said this as far back as June, July 2018, that Adams Oshiomhole is the undertaker that has been contracted to oversee the death of our party, he is the undertaker that has come to nail the coffin, like it or not and he has overstayed his welcome. You see, a lot of us make some mistakes, truth be told, when he came into politics, President Olusegun Obasanjo said that Adams Oshiomhole is a double-speak union leader, who will say something during the day and come to meet him at night and that he cannot be a good politician; we all did not take Obasanjo seriously on that because we believed we did not like Obasanjo, but that statement has come to pass; that is the truth. He is nothing but an undertaker, in good climes what is happening in Edo State is enough for him to resign and walk away. If you as a national chairman of a party in your own state, your immediate and primary constituency, we are having what may snowball into a national security challenge and he does not look concerned, and we all feel it is okay, may God save us. Some of us are concerned, that is why I took the party to court, because of his actions and inactions borne out of fallout of party congresses in April and May 2018, and we are all seeing it. So, what do you want me to say about an undertaker, whose primary responsibility and objective is to see to the end of a flourishing, robust party that can and should be a fancy and model for sub-Saharan emerging nations? That is where we have found ourselves.