Kayode Ajulo is a lawyer, activist, and social commentator, and until recently the National Secretary of the Labour Party (LP) before disengaging from active politics. In this interview, he speaks on a wide range of contemporary issues in the polity. Excerpts
There is so much agitation out there, why do you think this is happening?
I think it is happening because of the uncertainty in the polity. There are lots of questions begging for answers. First, when people seem not to see light at the end of the tunnel, everybody will wish there will be a kind of re-arrangement. Secondly, the political situation particularly when you see that the former President Goodluck Jonathan was voted out of office. As expected, his people will feel shortchanged and feel there is a way to go about it. You also know we are in a recession and when you are in a recession it is like when the patriarch of a household is sick. Different people will come with different solutions to his ailment
Restructuring is one of the things people feel would solve our problem. It seems to be sing-song, but we need to think deeply. I want to believe that yes, we need restructuring, but we should ask “how are we going to go about it?” I am a lawyer, and I want to look at it from the angle of law. We have a legal framework in this country which is the constitution. Whether you like it or not, whether the constitution is faulty or not, that is the legal framework that has to be followed. Talk about political restructuring, economic restructuring I want to believe that what seems to catch the fancy of everybody is political restructuring, but the question is how do we achieve that? We can only achieve that if the constitution is altered, and we all know the procedure for achieving that. We have to tell ourselves the truth. Another way to do that is through revolution. I will not canvass for that. It may end in bloodshed. If I have my way, I will canvass that we start with fiscal restructuring. I think we can do that, and to do that we need mental restructuring and that has to do with our leaders. Our leaders need to come to terms that we need restructuring.
When you are at the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMFAC,) the commission gives revenue formula for the nation. Since 1999, we have been using the same formula and I don’t see why the commission cannot come up with a new formula which will put into consideration the aspiration and yearning of Nigerians. It is possible, and remember you don’t need to alter the constitution. Once they do it and the Senate okays it, so be it. What we should address our minds to is how RMFAC does the desirable. For us to achieve this, we need to start with our mind set because if you ask my Northern friends it’s like you ask me to relinquish two of my three vehicles and be driving one, whereas it is more than that. Every region of this country, every state has one thing or the other that can sustain them but because of the issue of oil, nobody is thinking along that line. That is why we need mental restructuring. Look at what is happening in Chad, Niger. Then don’t have oil and they are moving forward. I visit there. The Great Britain all of us run to doesn’t have oil. They thrive on services. Go to Namibia, Tanzania, they live on tourism and they don’t have tourism sites like Nigeria.
Recently, I watched T.B Joshua on television I know once you mention his name, people think about religion, but it is more than that. The Guardian of London wrote that the Buckingham palace and the towers of London combined are less thanT.B Joshua’s visitors every day. Nobody is talking about that because everybody is talking about oil. In my state, Ondo, you need to see the bitumen deposit. Nobody is talking about that. You need to see the heavy mineral deposits in Kogi. I am yet to see anybody saying anything. Nobody can surpass the human resources we have in Nigeria.
Do you think the present administration will buy the idea of restructuring?
I am afraid the President of Nigeria is Muhammadu Buhari, but unfortunately, even with my exposure, I can’t tell you his state of health. Health is wealth. If somebody is ill, you can’t discuss with such a person. Even the acting President, how far has he been acting? We need to determine that to move forward. We don’t even know who to address, this issue to. The answer to that is blowing in the wind. That is why I believe we need to clear that issue .I wish the president well. You can see that since that he has been ill, there has been uncertainty. I am a lawyer, it is difficult to do certain things, including signing of agreements. I have to thank the CBN because I don’t know how they stabilized the naira. For naira to be stable now means they are performing miracle, except maybe it is artificial. We can’t even be certain until we clear the issue of the president’s health. Many People today will tell you we have the acting president, but the question is how effective has he been? Today, you will hear he is not the one ruling the country, it’s the cabal. We need to do away with all this.
What is the implication for Nigeria?
That is what we are seeing. The first is uncertainty. When there is uncertainty, there will always be pockets of agitation here and there. The major implication for Nigeria today is anxiety. When anxiety sets in. you find it difficult to even take a stand. The country finds it difficult to move forward. To implement projects that will move Nigeria forward is even a big problem. Who is even controlling who, you don’t know. It affects everything. Go to the ministries. This affects the progress of any country.
Is this not an indictment of the ruling APC?
I have tried as much as possible to stay out of partisan politics. The emergence of APC should be a score but it’s proving not to be. You have APC as the ruling party, and you have Muhammadu Buhari. Let’s give it to Buhari. He seems to be an honest man, because when you look at the manifesto of the APC, you will discover 80 percent of it is about restructuring, unfortunately when they got to power they did not mention it. In one breath, the APC chairman will deny promising restructuring; in another breath he will say they are already forming a committee. Committee at what hour? There is one significant take from that. I have tried to review Buhari’s promises. I found out that all through his campaigns, he never mentioned all those things in the manifesto of his party.
This is what I have found out. I wish somebody will come out to debunk this. Everywhere he went, he only mentioned three things – security, restoring the economy and fighting corruption. Give it to him, he is a man of his words. That is why we have two parallel tiers ruling the country, the president and the party. We don’t even know who to run to. That was why when Buhari was elected, he said Nigerians should not expect miracles. I don’t want to begin to castigate them. We are talking about restructuring, I believe APC itself needs restructuring. We need to restructure our minds to know what we truly want. Others states need to take a cue from Lagos because it does not depend on oil to move the state forward.
How do we drum the message into the minds of Nigerians?
If we have an agency of government that Nigerians can trust, we won’t be in this kind of situation. It is the core mandate of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to inform Nigerians, but unfortunately they seem not to be doing anything, and from what I said earlier, we should do restructuring of our minds. If we get that right, any other thing will be done well.
Are you not bothered about the incessant squabbles between the Executive and National Assembly?
All Nigerians need mental restructuring. The fight, the imbroglio between the Executive and the National Assembly is more of personal interest, than Nigerian interest. Whenever you see them fighting, it is never because of what they are going to do to fix the economy or the educational sector. They will not fight about roads except their interest is attached to it. It is when they take on issues that affect this country that we will take them serious.
As a lawyer, where do you stand on the position of the two on the budget?
As a lawyer, I stand with the constitution. The constitution defines the roles of each arm of government. When it comes to the preparation of budget, it is the Executive that prepares it. I remember we had discussion with some members of the National Assembly, with the Professor of law there who was a Senator there. If there is anything you want to insert into the budget there is a procedure. You send it to the Minister of Finance, not that you do it arbitrarily. No law envisaged what the National Assembly is doing now. Mind you, this fiscal responsibility law was passed in 2007 by the National Assembly. What stops them from following what they passed into law? They claim they are trying to stop the arbitrariness of the Executive but what they are doing, is the same arbitrariness. In Nigeria, we seem to have leaders who obey the law when it is convenient to them
You used to be part of Labour Party until lately, what did you take away?
My gain is that it gave me an indepth idea of how the Nigerian politician behaves. When I was going to the labour party, I believed I was going to the Labour Party like the one in London where the interest of the worker is supreme. Unfortunately, you don’t have any worker in our own labour party. The same politicians in other parties are the ones masquerading as Labour leaders. I wish you can interview the NLC President and the TUC president, I personally invited them. When I found out that the Labour party only bears the name of labour party without workers, I said what am I doing here? I had to throw in the towel. I must thank the Nigerian people, the labour party because without that opportunity I will not know what I now know. The sky is big enough for any bird to fly. We can fly at any time without fighting each other. That is why I am advocating mental restructuring.
Culled from The Sun.