Politics

2023: Nigeria can’t have elections amid rising insecurity – Arogbofa

..says INEC not independent, it’s controlled by govt

In this interview with ADEWALE MOMOH, erstwhile Secretary-General of Afenifere, renowned author, literary critic, and Asiwaju of Okaland, Basorun Seinde Arogbofa, bares his mind on the 2023 election, the autobiography of Chief Bisi Akande and other issues. Excerpts…

SOME WEEKS BACK, THE FORMER GOVERNOR OF OSUN STATE, CHIEF BISI AKANDE LAUNCHED HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY TITLED ‘MY PARTICIPATION’ WITH A SERIES OF CONTROVERSIES TRAILING IT. WHAT IS YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THE ISSUES RAISED IN THE BOOK?

First, for a good understanding of the issues at stake, let’s briefly situate autobiographies where they belong in literary and creative works. There is the group that can loosely be grouped under fiction. There are the drama (play), the poetry, and the prose. These are the main ones under this category. There is another group that deals mainly with facts and not fiction.

Among this group are histories, biographies and autobiographies. Each of the two groups and genres has its own method of presentation and technical language. However, the background of every writer matters; for you are your language and your language is you. However, one thing is central, and common to them – Truth.

In the second group which concerns us, by virtue of its name, autobiography is most popular among elderly people all over the world, people who by virtue of age experience, exposure have a lot of stories to tell and a lot to share with the reading public.

From the Eastern World, Europe and America we have great autobiographies like “The Story of My Experiments with Truth – an autobiography of Mahatma K. Gandhi” from India; “Winston S. Churchill – My Early Life” from Great Britain; and from America, we have “Living History – Hilary Clinton”, “Barack Obama – The Audacity of Hope” and “Milestones to Immortality – The Pilgrimage of Abraham Lincoln”, a biography by Dr. Pindell. From Africa we have also had from South Africa, Nelson Mandela’s “The Long Walk to Freedom” and West Africa, Nigeria in particular “AWO – The Autobiography of Chief Obafemi Awolowo”, “My Life by Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto”, and lately “My Life, My Legacy – Service with Integrity and Excellence” by Chief R.F. Fasoranti.

“Black Star” by Basil Davidson and “African Revolutionary” by Alan Feinstein on Kwame Nkrumah and Aminu Kano respectively are great biographies. From my research what marks these books out of other books in their class is Truth and the use of impeccable language even when unpalatable situations are being painted. Let me tell you what a former university Vice Chancellor and a great historian, Prof Ayodeji Olukoju, said about autobiographies when he was writing the foreword of my own story at 80 entitled ‘To The Stars Through Bows & Arrows’. The don describes “autobiographies as unmasking authors true characters, inner convictions, aspirations, apprehensions, hubris and insecurity. Autobiographies are legitimate bully on the pulpit from which authors can tell their own story unfettered. It is a right that cannot be denied no matter how disputable their narrative.”

What I would however add to this is that whenever writers climb the pulpit, they must be concerned with the truth which is the main essence of writing. Autobiographies have their healthy attractions and values. Amongst others, they are good sources of historical compilation, inspirational sources for people, and relaxation and information avenues for those interested in the reading culture.

There is also the spiritual angle which is a bye-product of controversies sometimes embedded in such books. Such autobiographies offer the writers the opportunity to belch and spurt out their hidden or sometimes open hostilities or bitterness against other people. When this happens that way, in most cases, a way is paved for intervention, solutions, eventual relief and spiritual healing among the affected and the society at large. Most great people are controversial, and their autobiographies are invariably controversial. For example, look at Obasanjo’s book ‘My Watch’ which didn’t go down well with very many people. One of such people who knew him very well came back with his own book, (that was my dear younger brother who passed away early sometime in 2021, Yinka Odumakin, entitled ‘Watch the Watcher’ to debunk some of his claims.

Earlier on in 1990 or so, Ebenezer Babatope had come out in his book “Not His Will” to dismiss what he regarded as untruth in Obasanjo’s “Not My Will”. Well, Akande has come out with his book. Let others react. They will make the atmosphere interesting. He has come out like somebody on the pulpit to say what he wants to say about himself and all that. Let them react, they will make the literary atmosphere more interesting and exciting. Look, when Papa Adebanjo came out with his own book ‘Telling It As It Is’, the book aroused the anger of a few people, like His Excellency, the former Governor of Ogun State, Segun Osoba.

He took him up on the print until somewhere down the line when the fire was put out. When my friend, Senator Dr. Femi Okunrounmu came out with his own volume, it hit a lot of people. I’m not sure the fire is down yet. But it has kept the literary world going. Who knows whether anybody will still pick a fault with my own book, but it is not likely because of the language I deployed and my keeping to the rule of the game.

I haven’t read Akande’s book; I just heard about it. My only reservations, however, is about the timing, especially when there is the need for us in the South especially South West to avoid anything that can further tear us apart. We should for now concentrate on issues that can bring us together to face the challenges of insecurity, kidnapping, unemployment and many other social problems facing the people. Nonetheless there is a lot of public enlightenment from such crossfires from leaders. My problem however is with timing.

BEING AMONG THE DELEGATES THAT WENT TO THE 2014 CONFAB, WHAT WILL BE YOUR REACTION TO AKANDE’S CLAIM THAT CERTAIN PEOPLE SHOULD NOT HAVE GONE TO THE CONFAB DUE TO THEIR AGE, AND THAT THE ALLOWANCE PROMISED MADE THE DELEGATES TO ATTEND THE CONFERENCE?

I’m not sure Chief Bisi Akande got things right if he said that. The CONFAB comprised people from different backgrounds: it cut across ages, sexes, professions. It was not an assembly of old people. Let me use one typical example. I don’t remember the name of this girl from the Northern part of the country, but she was about 24 years then. When The Lamido of Adamawa and Papa Ayo Adebanjo had it hot on one another, and a crossfire ensued, this girl came out to lambast Lamido Adamawa, saying that he was one of the old people who misled the North and still bent on keeping them down.

That was at the initial stage of the conference when some people were bent on disrupting the proceedings. Would Chief Akande have called people like us elderly people, as at that time, nearly 10 years ago? There were even younger people.

Take Ondo State for example, there were young women and men like Dr. Yemi Mahmud,Barr. Sola Ebiseni, Remi Olatubora who were indeed firebrands. Would anyone have called them old people now, not to talk of 10 years ago? It was an assembly of bright young people of all shades and mature people to get very robust discussion, so that robust decisions could be taken, people cutting across race, boundaries, religions and so on. I’m not sure he got the whole picture right. On the allowance, again, I’m not sure he got his facts right if he said that. Most of us in Afenifere, without being immodest, are gentlemen like Papa R.F Fasoranti, our own leader in Afenifere; Gani Adams; Tanko Yakassai, Edwin Clark and others: what was their business with materialism when the country was burning? Afenifere has never bothered about materialism.

The last time I came close to any government was when late Chief Adefarati was governor of Ondo state. We fought for him, we put him there. But even then, I didn’t hold any political appointment. The last political appointment I held in the state was under late Colonel Usman long before Adefarati came into power. And I served for less than a year as Chairman of Water Corporation before my Board was dissolved due to Board room politics. I didn’t want to take the appointment initially because Afenifere was initially opposed to serving in the government of Gen. Sani Abacha.

But I had to be excused when my own Kabiyesi told me that if I refused to be the Chairman of Water Corporation Akoko people would stone me because they needed water badly. And of course, our political leader, Baba Adekunle Ajasin said ‘okay, you can go and serve.’ But the technocrats didn’t allow me to serve up to a year. So apart from my abhorrence of corruption, how could the promise of allowance attract me to serve in the CONFAB? However, if Chief Akande said that, he might have had in his mind some people who are materialistically inclined.

In Afenifere, I’m not saying we are all angels but to those who are real Afenifere, money making is not their priority. We are about the welfare of the common people, struggling for them, fighting for them like our forefathers such as Papa Obafemi Awolowo, Papa Ajasin, Papa Abraham Adesanya and of course our current leader Papa Fasoranti.

These are the leaders whose footprints most of us are following. That is why we are still fighting for restructuring in the country because that is the only way out of our problems. Nobody can silence people like us with money or material things. We were not even told we were going to take any money during the CONFAB. I, for example, got in not even through the ethnic nationality label in the first instance. I delivered a brilliant lecture on restructuring which caught the attention of the government, and that initially did it.

DO YOU SUBSCRIBE TO THE CLAIM IN SOME QUARTERS THAT CHIEF AKANDE HAD AN AGENDA IN PUBLISHING THE BOOK AT THIS TIME?

I wouldn’t know. As a writer, you must have a goal. Me, I write for different reasons. I write to educate people, I write to inform people, I write to provoke thoughts. I write for today and tomorrow; I write to raise issues of concern. I wouldn’t know that of Chief Akande. I haven’t read the book except the things I read in the newspapers.

AS AN ELDER STATESMAN, WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE FORTHCOMING 2023 GENERAL ELECTIONS?

Some people say one of my books ‘The Path Nigeria Refuses To Take’ is controversial; some say it hit the nail on the head. I granted an interview when Gen. Muhammadu Buhari was just coming to office and warned that he had to demonstrate enough strength of character and commitment to fight corruption and insecurity. For example, I postulated that unless he finds solution to the problems of our legislators, he would not be able to arrest corruption. If those surrounding him were corrupt, he would be seen as the number one corrupt leader presiding over other corrupt leaders. Unless he was firm and sincere, I argued he might leave Nigeria worse than he met it. Talking of election in 2023, how can we have an election in an atmosphere of insecurity, when you can’t go out? Where people are now being kidnapped in their rooms? How can you have a free and fair election when some of the people in charge of managing elections have been alleged to be card carrying members of the ruling party? How can they be fair judges? Whether you like it or not, INEC is not free, it is being teleguided by the government and party in power. Remember he who pays the piper dictates the tune. With this type of feeling, most Nigerians in the South in particular are developing the fear that there is the agenda to overrun them, to achieve a kind of moribund old age agenda. How can we have an election when people are being murdered and slaughtered like goats and when life is so cheap? Look at what is happening in the North East and the North West and which is gradually moving down South. Right now, we have people who are privileged and who want to continue rightly or wrongly and who are quite prepared to overrun others. How can the others be onlookers? We can’t have a free election in that manner unless we restructure this country. Mr. President must come out to save this country. Let him come out and act. Look at what the Governor of Kastina, Aminu Masari said a few days ago, telling his people that you can now carry guns. Is this not a pointer to a failed state? When I first heard that, my mind went to my second year in the university when I was the first member of my hall and I had to deliver an address during the Students’ Representative Council inaugural meeting, I think Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balawa was the Prime Minister then. And I said that young people, educated people, should know how to use guns if criminals in the society, murderers, can illegally purchase and use guns. Why should educated people not know how to use gun? That was different from Masari’s standpoint. His is a way of saying we have failed in this country to protect our people and so everybody must own and carry gun for self defence. Our submission about election is very simple: if the government can’t restructure this country all together, let it look at certain areas to handle to make our election feasible. Unless that, we are looking for chaos. We have sown the seed of chaos and discord in the country, that we need to be extremely careful. I have my doubts about election in 2023, unless certain things are done. It is not likely we have an election that will make this country better. With the way things are going in the country, how do we think we are going to have better 2023 thereafter?

DO YOU THINK PRESIDENT BUHARI CAN STILL DO THE NEEDFUL?

Knowing the right thing to do is one thing but doing it is another. If he wants to change the unhealthy atmosphere, he can do it. In politics, a day or two is enough to change a lot of things. So, if he wants things to happen, he can. The Nigerian President is one of the most powerful in the world. He has enormous powers. The National Assembly is always there for him. The security arm of government is there, too. What about the APC, the party in power which he leads?

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS OF HIM IN 2022?

Let him see Nigeria as one. A few things had been done that give people the impression that oneness in Nigeria had been destroyed but he can still do something. He can still correct nepotism if he wants to. He can still handle those who are very corrupt in his government. He can still do a lot if he wants to. Let him tackle and restore security of life and property. Let him restore hope in the people that they have an impartial father. G

IVEN THE MANNER THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DEPLOYED MAXIMUM FORCE TO CRUSH THOSE AGITATING FOR SELF-DETERMINATION, PARTICULARLY IN THE SOUTH WEST AND SOUTH EAST. DO YOU THINK, THIS WILL BE ONE OF THE MAJOR FACTORS AHEAD OF THE 2023 POLLS?

Agitations will never end until the causes of agitations are addressed. People are talking about being independent. It is not that people want to secede really; it is the action of some of our rulers that are pushing them to that extreme when they are being treated like second class citizens. Yes, they have the right to ask to be left alone, to be allowed to manage their lives. Nothing can kill the will of people who want certain things they feel belong to them. If you kill some, others will rise and take over the struggle. You knew Nigeria’s experience with #End- SARS, mainly a youth movement. The government can start using force here and there. Even the people who were asked to use force, is it not on their own people? Do you think they have no feelings? The government should address the issue of the common people and address what is causing all these problems. Force is only temporary. Government should adopt lasting method to solving the problems.

WITH THE ISSUE OF INSECURITY IN VARIOUS PARTS OF THE COUNTRY, SOUTH WEST SEEMS TO BE THE REGION TACKLING THE ISSUE HEADLONG. ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE SECURITY ARRANGEMENT OF THE REGION?

The emergency security outfit in the South West Region is the Amotekun, brokered by our South West Governors under the leadership of Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu. It was a child of circumstances, put together to arrest the armada of foreign invading murderous Fulani herders destroying our farms, bandits bastardising of our values, rapists desecrating humanity and reckless people bent on taking away our ancestral homes. Before it was inaugurated we could not sleep with two eyes closed, kidnappers were on the prowl, raping of women was a common story and life was no longer worth a kobo in the hands of these marauders who illegally occupied our forest reserves and hid everywhere by the roads to kidnap for ransom or kill for fun. The Federal Government was not helping matters as it has refused to create State Police that know their environment who can fish out criminals from their hideouts. That was how Amotekun came into existence to the rescue, an Amotekun which has the prospect of the forerunners of the State Police. Unfortunately the Federal Government has been hostile to it. For instance it has refused to give it Constitutional recognition. It denies it the right to carry guns. But thanks to South West Governors and Akeredolu with his legal background in particular for wriggling out of the situation. Every one of the Governors had to make an extraordinary contingency budget for it, recruit, and train the personnel almost the same way as the scouts or the use the Roman soldiers were using our modern Corp of Signals to collect facts and guide the Infantry before it can strike. However, more still have to be done to get there. First to achieve the ambition of the Governors we must continue to collectively fight for the State Police. Secondly, there must be forged a greater synergy between Amotekun and the traditional rulers and the natives and also religious leaders. Amotekun must be catered for, but also monitored to avoid being corrupted. The above notwithstanding I am happy the South West Governors are undaunted. They have changed the atmosphere and challenged their colleagues in other zones to do same. Things are looking up.

 

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