The National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, a Yoruba Socio-Cultural group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, has postulated that Nigeria has to move in a new direction for the country to develop. Odumakin, an activist and journalist, believes that apart from embracing state and local police, Nigeria needs to practise true federalism, which he said is the only solution to the numerous problems and challenges confronting the country. He spoke with OLADIPUPO AWOJOBI in this interview. Excerpts…
The #EndSARS Protests and the aftermath violence have come and gone, what lessons do you think we have learnt from these incidents?
As individuals, and someone who is aware we have learnt lessons. But as a corporate entity, as Nigeria, we have learnt nothing. The irrational way the government is behaving shows that nothing has been learnt. This kind of of bravado, freezing accounts, preventing people from travelling, shows we have not learnt anything.
The government ought to have found out what happened, what reform do we carry out to ensure that such does not happen again. What happened was a revolt, #End- SARS was just a focal point, it is a way to show that Nigeria is badly structured. As far back as 1947, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo made it clear that Nigeria is not well structured.
This government is incompetent, completely incompetent to understand what happened. #EndSARS is a product of our dysfunctional federation. Chief Awolowo said in 1947 that Nigeria is not well formed.
What does state police mean? It means we should not have just one police system. Look at the way we recruit police into Nigeria, let’s say we want to recruit 10 policemen per local government in the country, it means Kano State will have 440 men in the recruitment with 44 local governments and Bayelsa with eight local governments will have 80 men. When you now put the two side by side, we know where the money is coming from to pay the 440 men. That was what led to #EndSARS protest.
Those who have been posted to police where they don’t know their culture will misbehave. For instance, if you bring a man from Jigawa State to work as a SARS officer in Ondo State, he gets to Ondo State, he sees boys with punk hair and earrings, he says they are ‘yahoo boys.’ That is what #EndSARS means. These are people with young culture, pop culture. The policemen believe these people are into internet fraud, which may not be true. The policemen just profile young people without investigating whether they are criminals or not. That is why #EndSARS was much pronounced in the south than in the North. Apart from that, Northerners would rather protest on behalf of Allah than protest on such issues. I was a student union leader and I know what it means. Whenever there was a national issue and we wanted to protest, it is after we have shut down the schools in the South that we move to the South and let them join us so that it would have a national outlook. So, it is not a new thing. All the noise that it is only south that is protesting is not true; are there no youth in the North? All the bandits and the Boko Haram members are mostly youths.
What some youths are saying is that they want to take over and that the older ones should leave the stage, what do you think?
It is not about age. No, how old is the president elect of the United States of America (USA),Mr. Joe Biden and how old is their current president, Donald Trump, Joe is 78, and Trump is 74. It is not about age, there are people who are young, who are much more rotten than older ones. We have some state governors that are young today, and they are worse than older governors. It is not about age.
So, what you are saying now is that our federalism is not properly practised…
It is not federalism, it is unitary sysytem we are running.
I know there was a report of the Constitutional Conference of 2014, should we go back there
Yes, we should go back to the report, over 600 recommendations were made at the conference. What has President Muhammadu Buhari achieved in the last five years of being in office? What they are interested in is borrowing and spending money and you can see the way they have been spending money.
So, you support the restructuring of the country?
Restructuring does not stand alone, it is an arm of federalism. There is nothing called restructuring. Just let’s go back to federalism.
Should the federal government go back to the report of the constitutional conference or organise another one?
For what, why should they organise another constitutional conference? They want to waste money or not? The report done by Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State is just a photocopy of the report of the 2014 constitutional conference
How would you compare 16 years of the PDP with the five years of the APC?
I would not say that the 16 years of the PDP were wonderful. They made some mistakes in their 16 years in office, if they had done well, we will not be where we are today. But I would say that five years of President Muhammadu Buhari has been filled with comprehensive incompetence. Somebody wrote something on the internet that people should mention five projects that President Muhammadu Buhari has started and completed. The money Buhari has borrowed cannot be repaid in the next 40 years. They are still commissioning the r a i l w a y f o r m e r p r e s i – d e n t Goodluck Jonathan started. Like I said, it is not that the PDP did what they ought to do, no. If they did, APC would not have been here.
In the area of corruption, we have seen the way people that served in the past administration are being probed, and it appears this government is trying to fight corruption. What is your view on this?
I would not say that there is no corruption in the past administration. But I don’t think corruption has stopped. We have seen corruption in this government, why is former National Security Adviser, Ibrahim Dasuki, not being probed today? From the day he came out, the amount of money the PA of the President, Tunde Sabiu, collected from Dasuki is not little. Dasuki was funding the PDP and he was still funding the APC. Have you not seen the kind of corruption in NNPC, Pension Fund, and the one attributed to a former Secretary to the Federal Government, Babachir Lawal. We were in the midst of COVID-19 and they said they were feeding school children.
What kind of police reform do you expect now?
With what happened recently, it showed that we cannot continue with single policing system in Nigeria. We must have state and local police. Then, we should start retraining the policemen, and bring them to a higher level. You saw how armed robbers attacked a bullion van in Lagos recently. What are the fundamental things you want President Muhammadu Buhari to address in the next three years? He has wasted five years already. If he wants this country to move forward, he has to restructure this country along the line of federalism, there is no other solution to that. We have not seen a n y – thing t o show that we are fighting corruption in Nigeria. You are married to Satan’s daugther and you say you don’t want Satan to be you father-in-law, who would be your father-in-law?
The issue of insurgents in the north has refused to go, what measure do you think the government should adopt now to put a stop to it?
They have no idea on how to handle it. What this government has failed to do is to provide weapons for the military. That is what I am saying about comprehensive incompetence.
What is the blueprint of Afenifere on nation development?
We cannot continue with what we are doing. We have to go back to federalism. Allow each state to develop at their own pace. We cannot continue to concentrate power at the centre and expect Nigeria to develop. The University College Hospital in Ibadan, Oyo State, used to be an international hospital. The land in Niger State is bigger than the Netherland and land is a factor of production. The Netherland is the fourth largest exporter of agricultural products in the whole world. What are we doing with the land in Niger State. At the end of the month, we all go to Abuja to collect money. Population is a factor of production, go to China that is what they do. In this country, are we making use of that. Kano State will say they have the largest population in the country, so why don’t they train their men to go and work and make the money? At the end of the month, we all go to Abuja based on what we have made from oil. Which country has developed like that? Let every state be productive and we will be one of the best countries in the world, or else this country will collapse like Russia, Yugoslavia and the rest and disappear from the world map.
2023 is not too far and there are rumours that someone like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is contesting for presidency from the South West; would you support him or support someone else?
If he is interested in being the President of Nigeria, let him come out, anyone that is interested in the office should come out. There is a new public in Nigeria now. A President should be full of ideas; we cannot continue with the way we are doing things now, we have to move in a new direction, not the same way we have been moving.