Politics

Okurounmu: We don’t trust FG to protect us

‘We don’t trust FG to protect us’

Senator Femi Okurounmu represented Ogun Central Senatorial District of Ogun State between 1999 and 2003. He also served as Chairman Presidential Advisory Committee on the 2014 National Conference. In this interview monitored on African Independent Television (AIT), he speaks on rising insecurity in the South-West and ethnoreligious challenges facing the country. ANAYO EZUGWU reports

 

 

The Federal Executive Council has approved $1.5 billion for the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refinery, what do you make of this development?

 

If there is one thing I have learnt about this administration since they came to power six years ago, it is that they have not fulfilled any of the promises they made to us before coming to power. So, when they make a promise I don’t take them serious because they make promises in order to budget money and not that they will use the money to do anything or what they have promised to use it for.

 

We all remembered before they came to power, all the promises they made, I don’t know which of them they have fulfilled.

 

One, they said they are going to make $1 equal to N1, we all know where naira is to a dollar today. They promised to reduce the price of fuel to N45 per litre; we know how many times since they got there price of fuel has been jacked up. They said they will create jobs for many unemployed people and so on and so forth.

 

They also promised to restructure Nigeria and start free education and all the things they promised in their manifesto. But apparently, they were to get our votes. In the fight against Boko Haram, they promised that within a few months of getting to power, Boko Haram would be a thing of the past.

 

Today, Boko Haram is getting stronger and stronger by the day. So, I’m only saying this to show that when they make a promise, it is people who are taking them seriously that I’m worried about.

 

One of the promises the APC government made was that they will rehabilitate the refineries; don’t you think that it is cheering news now that the government has woken up to this?

 

I am saying that their records show that they have not fulfilled any of the previous promises they made. How can we then rely on them to fulfill this one?

 

If a person has made promises to you before and he did not fulfill any of them, and he makes another promise, do you need a wise man to inform you that he will not fulfill it? Of course, he won’t, so I don’t expect them to fulfill this one and that is what I’m saying.

 

So much has been happening in the country with regard to the security situation, we have had mass abduction of school children in recent times. What do you make of the security crisis in the country?

 

Again, you remember that the issue of security was one of the reasons why they removed President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, but we have now seen what had happened to security since then. It is for Nigerians to now decide whether security has been better under this administration or whether it has gone worse.

 

The problem with security is that there is no transparency and accountability with the money budgeted for security. Every Naira budgeted for insecurity does

 

not translate to Naira of security. A lot of money is budgeted for arms for the armed forces but this money does not translate to improved arms for the fighting troops. In fact, most times,

 

Boko Haram insurgents have superior arms than our soldiers and that is why the soldiers are regularly ambushed because they have very outdated equipment. They go to face Boko Haram with very modern arms and most times they get wiped out.

 

This has affected morale within the armed forces. The morale is low because they are poorly equipped and armed, not that they have not budgeted money for arms but the money budgeted has not translated to arms.

 

Again, the issue of tribalism that is within the society has also reflected in the armed forces. Sometimes, people are reluctant to go and fight because they feel that some tribes are the ones that are being sent to places where they would be killed, while others are more or less saved from going to the war front. So, morale has gone down within the armed forces.

 

When you have Boko Haram people being granted amnesty and given money but within a short time, they will go back and join Boko Haram and use the very money they have given them to fight us.

 

This cannot help us in fighting insecurity. You cannot be rewarding those who are disloyal to the nation, those killing us and integrating them into the society. You are rewarding rebels and criminals.

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is currently investigating mismanagement of funds for purchase of arms under Jonathan, which was allegedly misappropriated. Recently, the National Security Adviser (NSA) made a revelation that about $1 billion meant for arms purchase were also mismanaged by the immediate past service chiefs, though the NSA has recanted that statement. What is it about mismanagement of funds meant for procurement of arms to deal with insecurity crisis in the country?

 

This has to do with fighting of corruption in the country as a whole and the problem is that once you politicize the fight against corruption, you can never fight corruption.

 

And when you politicize it, it means that you have placed people above board and once you make them untouchable; when some people are said to be corrupt and you did not do anything to them and you only look at the members of the opposition as being corrupt, you have given those people free passage to do whatever they want.

 

What is happening in the country is that corruption is being fought but it is not holistically across the board. That is why we talk of the money for the armed forces not being utilized judiciously for the purchase of arms.

Let us look at the position of South- West governors on how to deal with the issue of farmers/herders crisis. What do you think should be done?

 

You know there are many aspects of insecurity in the country; Boko Haram is only one of them. The problem of farmers/herders is another and the problem of banditry and killing of people is another. What the South-West is saying is that to have proper security in the region, we cannot have herders seeking to establish colonies in the South-West.

 

The zone will not allow that because there is no land available for herders to use as colonies. Secondly, the herders constitute terror to our citizens, farmers, women and children. They are no longer safe to go to their farms. They kidnap them; even the traditional rulers are kidnapped. Even doctors and professors are kidnapped on the highways; our people are not safe. So, this is why our people are now suspicious of these herders. They are not herders in the real sense because these herders carry AK47 rifles. They attack people and kidnap people for  ransom and so they have constituted terror to our people.

That is the reason we insisted on having our own security outfit. The Federal Government has shown that it is not impartial in securing our people. When there is crisis between herders and farmers, it is south westerners who are usually arrested and taken to Abuja for trial and interrogation.

 

The people with whom they have the crisis are allowed to go, nothing happens to them. Even when the Yoruba are defending themselves, it is the Yoruba who are defending themselves that would be arrested by the police and taken to Abuja.

Those they are defending themselves against; nothing happens to them. So, this is why our people have lost faith in the Federal Government.

 

It is like the insecurity in South-West is taking ethno-religious dimension. We saw what happened at Shasha Market in Oyo State and massive destruction that followed…

 

It has no ethno-religious dimension at all.

 

What do you make of what happened at Shasha Market?

 

The foreigners are trying to become landlords which cannot happen. But the problem is caused by ethnic tension and until we deal with the problem of ethnic tension, we will not solve the problem. Ethnic tension has been with us in the last 60 years in Nigeria, so the best thing to do is to remove the problem of ethnic tension. Let the government handle the issue of ethnic tension by not showing bias for any ethnic group or against any ethnic group. Let the government not turn the other eye when one ethnic group is killing the other. If the government takes every incident of killing any Nigerian as a crime and actually prosecute the criminals, everybody will know that the government is fair, not when certain ethnic group commits a crime and get away with it and nothing happens to them. And then it is when other people are defending themselves that the government will crack down on them; that is the cause of ethnic tension.

 

Looking ahead to the 2023 general election, some people are saying that Nigeria may break up considering the tension in the country. Do you subscribe to this and what do you think should be done to avert it?

 

What I think we should do in Nigeria is to recognize that the present political class has failed. The present political class across board has failed whether they are in All Progressives Congress (APC) or Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or any other party. And we cannot have more of their failures.

 

That is why I support the view that it is high time we allow young people to take overpower. Young people should come up and organize themselves and takeover power and give us better governance. After all, they have more at stake than the older ones.

 

But the present political class appears not ready to give the young people that opportunity?

 

The older ones will never give the younger ones a chance. Nobody ever gives anybody a chance in politics.

 

Those who want power actively work for it and then they take it. If the young people want power, they don’t expect the older ones to call them and hand-over power to them, they have to organize themselves by joining political parties because they are in the majority.

 

By the demography of this country, the young people are by far in the majority

 

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