Comrade Razaq Olokoba, a political observer and social commentator is the Convener and National President of Campaign for Dignity in Governance (CDG). He is also the Convener, 70 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Nigeria.
In this media interaction with a few journalists in Lagos Tuesday, Olokoba examined the five month old Bola Tinubu’s administration and declared that, he is, so far not doing badly despite the rickety political structure the country is battling with.
The renowned pro-democracy activist however offered recommendations on how the rickety political structure that has been the reason for the country’s backwardness could be reversed and put the country back to the path of progress and growth.
He also disclosed the plan of the civil society groups across the country to record and examine how far the government and it’s appointees fair in their areas of jurisdictions. The outcome, according to him, would be tabulated and publishrd quarterly with a view to exposing any sector performing below expectations.
Now that President Tinubu has inaugurated his cabinet, what else are you expecting from the administration?
First and foremost, we should tell President Bola Ahmed Tinubu that all the instruments he needs to perform his responsibility in office have been handed over to him. And that is the final equipment we need-the appointment of the ministers. Though, the appointment of aides is still on-going because recently, he also appointed a few more people. If you look at the appointments, he has placated and satisfied a lot of political camps. That has stood him out as a Legend. We should give it to him that all the people he gave those positions to were eminently qualified even if there were challenges at the beginning with the parliament. That however is expected when exercise of this nature is going on.
What else after that?
Well, we have got to a situation where Nigerians must brace up. The President has his manifesto before election and I believe every Nigerian must have gone through the manifesto. And with the appointment of ministers and heads of agencies now, we want the President to demand for a roadmap from them. We are happy that the President has made it clear that he would not take bullet for any of them. He has told them that, if they don’t perform, they would be removed and replaced. No matter any political constituency anybody might come from, any non-performing minister or head of any agency would be relieved of his duty.
There is no time for government to experiment with our lives again. From 1999 till date, there has been what we can call democratic development and consolidation. There is a universal standard to establish that. Consolidation is when opposition takes over from the incumbent. If democracy has thus been consolidated, we cannot be making excuses by the office holders, they should have learnt the rope. The years that have gone by, 1999 till date, is sufficient to serve as a backup for them to use as a guide to succeed by hitting the ground running.
There is therefore no excuse for any minister not to perform and if any of them fails to perform, Mr President should not hesitate to remove the person and replace him no matter who the person is. That is the demand of Nigerians from the government. And for the people, it is important for us to realise that, they might not be responsible for the rot we are experiencing, but they must be involved in the repair. Government has its responsibility and the people also have their responsibility.
What then are we expecting from the people?
Thank you very much. One of the responsibilities of the people is to supervise their government. You must give direction to your government. We have had the blueprint already of what Tinubu intends to do in terms of his manifesto, the moment the ministers announce their road Map, the people should form themselves into cluster groups in the neighbourhood and in the communities to begin to make demands for example, that the Minister of Mining should give us a roadmap on the solution for the disappearance of our natural resources to Dubai gold market? What is wrong with our Led, Tantalum and all those materials that can qualify us to become a super power? So, the Minister for Mining must tell us a way out of the problem.
Power sector is very important. The minister in charge must tell us the content of what the Federal Government has given to the states in terms of concession. Nobody knows that now and that is part of the minister’s duty. Should we begin to hold the federal government responsible for lack of power in the country? Is that what we are going to witness in the next four or eight years as the case may be? On security, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and Minister for Defence should put their heads together to put insecurity to an end. If it is the economy, what model of economy do you thing the federal government should adopt to revamp the economy? This is imperative because the country that is suffering from economic depression would suffer a corresponding moral depression. The insecurity we are faced within the country today-kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery, what are they doing about that?
Now, a good guy has been made the Director-General (DG) of National Orientation Agency (NOA). He needs to exhibit his own professional expertise in conjunction with the minister of Information to establish a model where Nigerians will be constantly be in touch with, not an elitist orientation but an orientation that will be simplified. How do you take message of the government to the mosques, churches and so on? A peculiar style should be adopted for Nigerians to adopt the policy of the government, the roadmap, the manifesto etc. We want to see all of them working.
And that is the way they can create barricade around the President. And that is also how the President can have rest of mind because he knows if the instrumentals are not performing, they will come for him. And so, before they come for him, he must go for them. All the critical sectors of our economy must be seen to be doing something. It must reflect in our life. We don’t want rhetoric again. We don’t want press conferences that would not explain anything to us again. We want to see the effect of what we are doing. If we see that you are not qualified, the President would do the needful by bringing on board qualified people because we have a lot of brilliant people in Nigeria today who are willing to do what the sacked ones are unable to do.
We deserve the best from this government because some people sacrificed a lot to stand for them and it is time for them to stand for us.
As an advocate of gestation period for this government, is the period over?
No! It is clear enough that the gestation period is not over. Even with the strange attitude of my own people-the Nigerians- who are not ready to accept responsibilities, even their refusal that, how can there be gestation period? There must be that admittance that we need to understand the challenge ahead. And we must realise that if a punch is coming toward your face, if you don’t brace up for it, it is always heavier. But if you brace up for it, you may not suffer much pain. We should brace up for what is to come. And what is to come is that, if we say we are not importing a particular product again, admit that it may come with a difficult situation. Admit and see whether it is going to bring our Naira up and the dollar down. So many other things we need to see as responsibilities. We must admit. It is when we fail to admit it, that the situation would be serious.
But if we keep doing the right thing, the gestation period definitely may not go beyond two years. In fact a lot of our colleagues in the management sector are combative saying two years gestation period is too generous. They say we should devote the first tenure to repair. They say I am too generous with the two year gestation submission. They said I should not put Nigerians up for needless excitement. And I can understand what they are saying.
So, for Nigerians, we need to understand this. There must be that relationship between Nigerians and the government. Every sector must take time to explain government policy. Elitist platform like the Town Hall meetings is not enough. We have to break it down the channel of your communication. We need to use peculiar platforms for information dissemination. Orientation of youth these days tends towards entertainment. They get more messages from entertainment. We have had musicians in the past who took a whole record to explain policy of a government-Census, immunisation, and operation feed the nation, and issues like that. That is what the government should encourage the musicians to do instead of using them as an instrument to create pain on the psychology of Nigerian people by encouraging our young people to take drug, become wicked to other people, break down value and other things like that.
Government institutions have that responsibility and Nigerian people also must admit their roles in all of this.
Is President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on the right course to success by your own assessment?
Yes of course. He is doing the right thing but Nigerians should also be assertive on certain issues which are about the need for him to know the importance of devolution of power to states. These are not strange to the President. It is a very familiar terrain to him and no matter the pressure of office; he must not look away from that direction.
We have reactivated all our sectors across the nation in conjunction with other civil society organizations that we would be tabulating the performance of government including the President which we plan to publish quarterly. We are also going to do same for all his appointees so that we can ascertain the integrity level of all the appointees.
The President is doing his best and we got to a point that we realised that the President is a good manager. In spite of the rickety political structure we have in this country today, we are still able to pull it this far. And for us to turn our rickety political structure to a more active and a more workable structure, these are recommendations we have for him; importance of devolution of power, restructuring, resource control and derivation formula and issues like that. He needs to look into that and it would give him more credit between now and next year.
If he looks towards devolution of power, with his brilliance and expertise, we would be able to find ourselves out of where we find ourselves now.