Comrade Mashood Erubami is the President of Nigeria Voters Assembly (VOTAS) and Executive Director Centre For Human Rights and Ethics in Development (CHRED). In this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he speaks on 20 years of uninterrupted civilian administration in Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari Administration and the Ninth National Assembly, among others
How would you assess Nigeria’s 20 years of unbroken civilian administration?
Let me confess that Nigeria’s 20 years of unbroken civilian administration has been uneventful even though it has been free from military intervention. Politically, Nigeria has been unlucky to be saddled with political infidels whose ambition is to watch after their progress and selfish development at the expense of the well-being of the majority of Nigerians and development of the country. Nigeria has in the last 20 years underplayed the character and competencies of those who should be in power. Ethnic affiliation and religious bigotry have been the bane of equitable consideration of competent hands for the occupation of political offices and this has largely caused drawbacks on effective and efficient mandate delivery.
The past 20 years of civil governance has failed to bring the people any joy of civil rule and deliberative governance. The people are still far away from the elected office holders in the legislature, which should be a key government institution through which the citizens are expected to bear their expressions in terms of representations, passing bills into laws and effective discharge of incorruptible oversights of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). To this extent, citizens have also witnessed consistent exclusion by the executive when determining policies and taking decisions on projects that will make qualitative impact in the lives of the electorate. Sadly, Nigeria’s abundant human and material resources have for the last 20 years of exclusive and clueless governments been lavished on frivolities while hospitals remain consulting death clinics, industries are working in jeopardy, they still cannot depend on regular and adequate supplies of power and gas, schools are not performing to standards of best practices, most school periods are engaged for staff strikes and withdrawal of services to settle industrial conflicts.
Let me restate that the country has not paid due respect for democratic practice and corruption-free adjudication of offences and upholding the rule of law as a precondition for running a rational society has had been in jeopardy while the people and political leaders are not concerned with taking charge of the ethical reforms in a way that is convincing that nobody, however well connected even from the ruling party is able to sway the anti-corruption revolution from achieving its targeted objectives. In respect to security, it is clear that national apparatus, as currently constituted has been incapable of meeting the constitutional obligation of the government as a priority. Indeed, the last 20 years of civilian rule has not brought the three arms of government to become reliable allies. In a visibly, real independent form, there is no constant dialogue between them on the project model of anti-corruption fight and agreements on what the victory over its menace meant in the lives of Nigerians and its setbacks to Nigeria progress, a good reason why fighting corruption to or its knees has been herculean. With all these, the 20 years of civilian rule has only created spaces for civilian occupation of political offices without delivering on the mandate of the people and making public spending to be beneficial for the acceleration of growth and sustainable development.
Would you say the human rights society, which played an active role in the struggle for Nigeria’s democracy is still viable and strong as it was 20 years ago?
Honestly, the human rights society has become less viable and strong because in the last 20 years, they have been playing less of explicit roles in the human rights and pro-democracy fields. Nigeria is one of the countries that recognises and set aside a day for the yearly celebration of “International Democracy Day” set aside to promote and advance the cause of democracy but has not been working constructively with Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to elevate the country. Sadly, the rightful space of civil society in Nigeria democratic space has been put into question because of the years of consistent alienation of the non-governmental groups by politicians, taking ‘non-governmental’ to mean that their government have nothing to do with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), whereas, civil society in Nigeria can boldly lay undisputable claims to its role in enthroning democracy in the country. Today, some NGOs are however pretending to be apolitical, showing less concern about politics that bring about government and have through their indifference submitted to being ruled by their inferiors. Ironically such apathetic NGOS are not ashamed to criticise government on the basis of fantastic superior analysis, leaving the question of, if they know better, why are they sweeping the dirty room of politics from outside, why are they outside politics?
What are your expectations from President Muhammadu Buhari as he starts his second term administration?
My expectation from President Buhari after taking his oaths of office is to format all areas of failures identified during the first tenure of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from 2015 to 2019, which people will hope to see improved to raise the bar of democratic and deliberative people driven government, should be fixed by new policy measures and forward looking programmes, coordinated policies and step by step plans towards winning the heart of Nigerians to not only key into the policies of his administration but also own it. President Buhari next level government must start building new institutions, system and legal regimes in collaboration with the state governors and involve the informal sectors workers in the implementation of the contract system with direct award of applicable contracts to carpenter, bricklayers, mechanics, painters, foodstuff vendors to conform with a new model project approach of making government to be inclusive, participatory, and people driven with government too becoming people owned.
My candid advice to the President is multifaceted in view of the unveiled weaknesses that were located during the first tenure runs in terms of the inability of states to pay salaries running into arrears of months and in some cases years, evidence of non-compliance with Court judgements, escalating devaluation of the naira arising from inflation and exchange control lapses and naira/dollar relation deterioration, and steadily resulting insecurity. The people expected strong interventions from the party working compassionately with the President, not leaving the President alone in the fight against unethical practices in the economy, judiciary, military, politics and the civil service, particularly in dealing with intraparty disputes and conflict resolution. I will further advise the President to retrace his steps in validating past court judgements delivered but which are not yet respected. As a matter of urgency, whatever will affect state governments not to be able to pay salaries as and when due must be settled with redistribution of percentage revenues accruable to the States. The amount accruing to the Federal Government is presently on the high side, a big factor creating economic strangulation in the states, making workers to be going hungry, unable to pay rent, meet their personal and social obligations, living with most retirees who cannot meet their health needs, except to stay at home and die since they cannot afford to buy drugs and even pay hospital bills.
What is your take on the battle for the leadership of the Ninth National Assembly, among members of the ruling party, APC despite the fact that the party has already endorsed Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan and House Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila for Senate President and Speaker, House of Representatives respectively?
My take will be for the President and the party to be concerned this time with the way the leadership will emerge, the character of the people who will contest for the Principal positions as members who will join hands with the President in driving the party’s program to the desired end. The party must be wary of other opposition party throwing their candidates into position against the choice of the ruling party. It is becoming clearer than ever before that the reluctance by party members to accept the party’s preference for the leadership of the National Assembly might hand another Bukola Saraki/Yakubu Dogara over to the All Progressives Congress to contend with. It will be lamentable if the ruling party’s choices of candidates are rejected by individual party members for the selfish ends. It should now be time for the President and the APC leadership to seriously resist and strongly stand against any anti-party activities that might slow down the next level government for the president or make the party to fail.
To avoid a repeat of unethical legislative recklessness witnessed in the 8th National Assembly and selecting and electing National Assembly leadership, the President and the party leadership must genuinely call off the bluffs of any party member whose personal interest might want to be carried above party’s interest in the 9th Assembly. The next level National Assembly must be a new partnership with the executive that will jointly promote and defend democracy and good governance in which the critical mass will be the oxygen of democracy that will act as catalyst for social progress and economic growth.
How do you see the decision of President Buhari National Assembly to declare June 12 as Democracy Day?
The decisions are quite patriotic and great. The decisions represent signs that the “Hope 93” that was derailed on June 12, 1993 presidential election can reincarnate under President Buhari through renewed efforts to bring past latitude into the review so as to lay down good examples for future leaders. It is a thing of joy that democracy will be celebrated on June 12, 2019 as a nationwide Democracy Day as undoubtedly the most significant and remarkable change in Nigeria’s political evolution. As a matter of fact, President Buhari declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day is a triumph of light over darkness and by this singular action, the President has shown he is a man of great character and truly a remarkable President of the moment who should be commended glowingly for achieving where his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, demonstrated very weak leadership in upholding justice by not backing with law, the posthumous naming of the University of Lagos after Basorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola.
The displacement of May 29 to yield way for June 12 as Democracy Day is therefore a good pointer that we are gradually transiting to a democratic order, all other things being equal. We can only pray that those who may want to seize the government for their selfish ends and slow him down are relieved of their evil intentions to allow the President and his expected new team to perform spectacularly.
The decision of President Buhari is not only a courageous reversal of the years of injustices of not recognising the inherent principles in June 12 and the principal, Chief MKO Abiola, it is also a product of historically tough and consistent ideological struggle of activists and pro-democracy crusaders who believed in June 12 as against the mischievous and inappropriate designation of May 29 as Democracy day by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
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