Dr. Olapade Agoro is the National Chairman and former presidential candidate of National Action Council (NAC). In this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he speaks on 20 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria, the Muhammadu Buhari administration and declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day
Nigerians on May 29 celebrated 20th years of uninterrupted democracy. What is your take on such achievement, being the first time the country will be under civilian administration for such number of years without interruption from the military?
There is no form of government that is better than democracy. Democracy is a government of the people for the people and by the people, but then I want to give kudos to the military that enabled the subsisting and existing democracy otherwise the democratic process we are managing would have gone. The military would have taken over. But we thank God military saw it as a necessity to be part and parcel of governance through their stay in the barracks which is very good for us. The politicians we have now have offered nothing right from the time they took over from General Abdulsalami Abubakar on May 29, 1999. The civilians saw the opportunity and they became rogues in government and that was why they have offered anything in the 20 years that we’ve had democracy.
Are you saying that we have not been able to achieve what we ought to achieve as a democratic nation in the last 20 years?
As a Nigerian, give me one good example of what we can point to in Nigeria. Just mention it. Is it in education? Is it in infrastructural facilities? Is it in security? Before the military took over, our security wasn’t this bad. Today, we are killing ourselves; we are not only fighting one insurgency or the other, insurgency is taking over. Insurgency has taken over the country and we are now practicing democracy under threat of violence.
Nigeria in the last 20 years has produced four presidents – Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari. How would you assess their respective administrations vis-à-vis the state of the nation?
You cannot judge the leg without thinking of the head. You saw a man with crooked head and you are blaming the leg; you have to first of all think about what is going on with the head. The four persons we had to date were demonstration of funfair without nothing to offer. The first president – Obasanjo – is a brother of mine and a man I love. Naturally he shouldn’t have stayed for four years in government, but he meandered and ran a government of threat and dealt with many people who offender him. That was what he did in his first four years. I believe strongly and seriously that a good government should have something tangible to showcase.
Well, Obasanjo gave us something to write about in GSM, but that is GSM of paying through the throat. Nigerians are just silent people; nobody can do what we are doing in Ghana. He installed Yar’Adua, but it is not possible for us to judge Yar’Adua because he felt sick. Our democracy is democracy of lies; they covered up Yar’Adua’s sickness until he died.
That gave room for Goodluck Jonathan; a man who was never prepared. Jonathan was never prepared to be president. He came in to do what he knows how to do and we had lots of nonsense in governance, lot of terrible nonsense, terrible stealing, terrible pilfering and dipping of hands into the treasury. Jonathan was rushed out of power by Western power.
It wasn’t Jonathan’s government that gave birth to Boko Haram; it was Yar’Adua’s administration and the situation was mismanaged because people thought it was a joke. And now we have been fighting Boko Haram and various insurgencies that have reduced the earning power of the nation negativity. I was reading a newspaper few days ago and I read the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) declaring that the security situation and the elections have brought down the performance of our economy to two per cent. Is that a good story?
Now, we are not only fighting Boko Haram, we are fighting various insurgencies. Anybody can be kidnapped for the fun of it. I don’t know if it is the security situation that is on top of the police or police is on top of the situation. To be honest, I am a senior citizen and at 76 I have done my best. What is happening now is not anything to write home about. It is not what I hoped for.
President Muhammadu Buhari has just been sworn-in for a second term, what agenda would you set for him?
I love Buhari and I like him as a person, but I believe he has to set an agenda for himself. Nobody can set agenda for Buhari. One of those things any serious head of state should ensure is the security of the people, security of lives and property without which the economy cannot be grown. The economy cannot grow and cannot be grown. We are living in a situation of fear and nobody is sure. Accident occurs here and there; our roads are not safe talk less of the sky.
What are your basic expectations from the President in his second term in office?
You can’t expect much from a man having nothing to offer. You can only expect something from somebody who said I can do this. As far as I am concerned, President Buhari has only been talking about security. I believe that for us to expect something from the economy, the security must be well placed. Security is in total disarray in Nigeria. In the last few days, we have seen police killing herdsmen and putting some people in detention. Until we have an ambiance atmosphere of peace and tranquility, and until average Nigerian can sleep with their two eyes closed, we are wasting our time.
Buhari has been talking about security and corruption; let him finish the job on security and corruption. We don’t know what has happened to the money recovered from those arrested for corruption. Buhari told us when he came to power that there were too many aircraft in the presidential fleet. Jonathan left 10 aircraft and Buhari said he was going to sell some of them, we don’t know what has happened in four years and you are asking me what I should expect. He should tell us what he is doing.
Buhari went abroad and spent over three months and kept the presidential aircraft on the tarmac, we don’t know who took care of the cost that was incurred. The way we run the economy makes it impossible for it to make positive impact on the people. President Buhari talked about fighting corruption but it is corruption that is fighting back. So, it will be very difficult for me to say we should expect Buhari to do this or that.
What is your take on the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day?
June 12 can never be Democracy Day.
Why do you say so?
Because you cannot change your date of birth! Our democracy’s date of birth is May 29, given to us by the military. What we are trying to say by declaring June 12 as Democracy Day is that we are changing the history of Nigeria. Buhari cannot change the history of Nigeria. I can go to court over that.
But June 12 has nothing to do with the May 29 hand-over date because it still remains the hand-over date, while June 12 is now Democracy Day…
Hand-over what? With what government has done, it is saying power was handed over on June 12 and not May 29. That is writing false history about Nigeria. They should not confuse our children.
But June 12 was declared Democracy Day in remembrance of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which till date remains the freest and fairest election in the history of Nigeria as well as celebrating the winner of that election, Chief MKO Abiola…
It doesn’t matter, we can name June 12 MKO Abiola Day, not Democracy Day. It happens all over the world. We have the United States declaring Martin Luther King Day. We can declare June 12 as MKO Abiola Day because Abiola deserves it. He died in the struggle as a martyr of democracy. If those behind Buhari are serious, they should declare June 12 as MKO Abiola Day and leave May 29 as Democracy Day. We have our children, who have been told 20 years ago that May 29 is the day the military handed over power to the civilians, so we should not confuse them.
Prior to the 2019 general elections, many political parties were at the front burner, but shortly after the polls, not much is being heard about them. Do we really these political parties?
We now have 91 political parties. Prior to the 2003 general elections, when I wanted to register my political party – National Action Council (NAC) – it was so tough, but now anybody can wake up and say he wants to start ‘cat and mouse political party.’ Let us be honest with ourselves, I don’t see any political party with strong existence in Nigeria; we have only strong money politics. There are people who are buying the conscience of the people. Let Buhari not tell me that he won the 2019 presidential election clean and square and let Atiku Abubakar not tell me that he fought a good battle. Atiku must have spent billions of naira and dollars for the election as our political system has been monetised.
Would you support the call for a reduction in the number of political parties in Nigeria?
There are 91 political parties and 71 contested the presidential election. The vote won by other political parties put together is not even up to one million, while All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had over 26 million votes. How can about 71 parties got less than one million votes and two parties gathered over 26 million votes? The democracy we run now is the more you look, the less you see. It is money politics.
The present Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that conducted the elections should be disbanded. How do you register a political party on the eve of an election? And let us be honest with ourselves, some of the fringe political parties belong to either APC or PDP. They are rabble rousers, not political parties that mean well for the nation.
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