Why every succeeding government in Nigeria is worse than the preceding ones-Professor Olurode
-Advocates individual contribution to finance war against insurgency in Nigeria
By RAZAQ BAMIDELE
Professor Lai Dawud Olurode, is a house-hold name in Nigeria, especially in the academics and political circle. Until recently, he was a National Commissioner with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the electoral umpire in Nigeria. He served under the immediate past Chairman of the commission, Professor Attahiru Jega whose team conducted the successful 2015 general elections.
Earlier,Professor Olurode was the Head of Department (HOD) and Dean of the Social Sciences Faculty in the prestigious University of Lagos, former Capital City of Nigeria. But currently, he is back to the Sociology Department as Professor of Sociology in the same university. He also doubles as the current Chairman, University of Lagos Muslim Community.
In this interview with Bamidele Rasaq of alternativeafrica.com, Professor Olurode gives expert insight into likely causes of insecurity in any society, especially Nigeria and proffers possible solutions to the monster.
Prof., what are really the causes of insecurity in any society?
Well, basically, there are two or three theoretical approaches to understanding insecurity in any society. The first one is that no matter how much you try to make a society to be saved, some are born criminals. And they would behave in a way that constitutes deviation from the norms of the society. They want to pursue goals of which they are not being adequately prepared. That is, they want to live the best of life, they want to ride the best cars and they want to live in choice places. But in terms of the means to attaining those goals, they had suffered some disabilities which are either because of parental background or because of inadequate role preparation. They are ill-prepared for the type of goal they want to achieve. Or, for them, the means of reaching those goals are too rigid and uncomfortable for them. So, they just perfect means of deviation to succeed.
Secondly, some people who are fatalistic just believe they cannot do anything but whatever life makes out of them. They don’t subscribe to the notion of the idea that they are purveyors or champions of whatever the life wants to make out of them. They allow life to make anything out of them. And if they have not been sufficiently socialised, or they have not been fortunate to be accepted, or to feel a sense of belonging to a family, they also lose their bearings. They are fatalistic and they just let life make anything out of them. There is no strong determination in them.
Some people may say that they are those people that believe in pre-destination, that they have been pre-destined to become what they are and that there is nothing to be done to make them otherwise.
But some people, especially those of Marxist origin, especially the critical scholars, they believe that a major cause of insecurity in any socio formations, be it small or big, is the materialistic approach. They reason about how people relate to the means of production in society. That is, socio-exclusion. Those who are excluded, they cannot be out of society but they don’t have the means to belong. So, therefore, the only thing they can think of is how they can perfect deviation from the means.
So, if you have a state, for example, like Nigeria, or any of the other countries in the world like in most African countries where a large number of people like 80 to 85% are excluded and don’t even know how incomes are generated, oil is far away and the revenue they are untouched by it, they are not affected by it because they are not working for Local Government, they are not working for the state and they are not working for the federal and to connect them with the oil rent is very difficult.
And how do you connect them in a better society is to make provision for social security, you make provision for education. Sadly, even within our country we are trying to make restriction in education-access to higher education.
What implication could that have on the citizenry?
There are a times, what we can see from government is passing the buck of financing higher education to parents. And you pass the buck to parents who are already poor without means of livelihood, who cannot take care of themselves. What are we doing? It is simply to say bye, bye to higher education to the children of the poor. But unfortunately, many don’t just understand. And nobody is talking about the high pay of our critical state actors like the National Assembly, members of the Executives, whose pays constitute or drain away, nothing less than 75% of the country’s resources. Nobody is asking any question but the burden is going to be transferred to the people who are already poor. How do you expect those people now to act in consonant with the law of the country?! They are denied, they are deprived and the only alternative they know is either they starve to death or they deviate from the major means of achieving those things in the society. So, social exclusion, relationship to the means of production, relationship to the means of sustenance, because the people are excluded. When they are restricted, either they submit sheepishly to their fate and die of hunger or devise means of deviation to survive.
Of course there are people who are socio relegates who cannot make it even if you give them opportunities. If you give them opportunity of going to school, they would just drop out. There are some people like that. But again, if society tries as much as it is possible if there are people that would never have made it in this country, when they exit from Nigeria and travelled out, they would be the ones that would come back and ride the best cars and build and live in the best places. It is an opportunity made available for them outside the country and they made use of it. If Bill Gate had grown up in Nigeria, probably he would not have made it at all. He dropped out from school, but the society he belongs to still found relevance for him in that society.
So, basically, whatever your persuasion is, when people have no access to means, and large people have no access to means, they cannot make sense out of their lives. There is no opportunity at all. You and I are lucky that probably we had parents or someone somewhere who took care of us, otherwise, human beings are just like animals. Research has shown that if a baby is born and is thrown into the bush, the child will never know anything about civilisation. He would grow up very wild. He would not even be able to work. This has been experimented upon before. So, it is really very important that we enlarge opportunities for people. We should create opportunities for them. In fact, if your family denies you, if they did not take care of you, you cannot attend school, you cannot do anything if you were completely abandoned, you would not experience affection. Affection itself is not automatic. It is something that you learn to love people. So, these are the challenges.
Can a hundred per cent perfection be possible in any society?
I am an advocate. It is not that you can have hundred per cent compliance with what you want. You cannot make hundred per cent success of your children. Even within your children, you want some of them to be doctors, you want some to be engineers or lawyers, you cannot attain hundred per cent because perfection belongs to Allah.
But again, we cannot be seen not to be trying. We are not trying enough in this country. Look, what is the budgetary allocation to education? It is less than 10 per cent. So, what happens if you expend most of your God given resources on trivial things, on people who already have? Every year in this country, vehicles of former presidents are renewed. Governors will retire and go to Senate; they collect their retirement from the state. They build houses for them almost in all the states of the federation. I mean all the governors who have
retired since 1999. We support these people who don’t need support because they have taken more than their shares from the state and the society. And that is why some people become criminals because nobody wants to be criminal.
What then can Nigeria do to nip insecurity in the bud?
It is implied from what I have just said. We must restructure. The distribution of resources in this country is not fair. The people that need resources are not getting them. Look at statistics, poverty in this country is on the increase. Every succeeding government is worse than the preceding ones. That does not mean that the government is not trying. But the approach is wrong. You are not putting money in the pocket of those who should utilise it-which is wrong. The only way you can cure poverty in any society, that is what America is doing, that is what Britain is doing, you invest in Education and health.
Putin, the President of USSR said Nigeria is a large grave yard, a cemetery. He said he has never seen a country where its people would run out and when they die abroad, they are brought back home for burial. We don’t have hospitals. We pray not to be sick. It is terrible. Life is meaningless. Look at what Allah tells us in the Qur’an. The people who don’t have Qur’an, no revelation, no books, interestingly they are the people who are implementing the tenet of the Qur’an.
God bless us a lot unless if we don’t want to do anything. I respect Alhaji Lateef Jakande, former Lagos Governor a lot. One day, I was with him. He said, there is nothing as easy as to be in job for government. I said why? He said government will give you all the resources that you need. I don’t see why we should have problem with election in this country. That is why Professor Attahiru Jega, former INEC chairman, his team and I did our best. We were given the resources, the facilities were there so, there was no excuse at all not to succeed. And every politician who made attempts to reach me, I said no. Government has empowered us to do our job and even, if the government had not, it is not our business to come to you.
What would you suggest as palliatives for the suffering masses in this situation?
We need a large measure of dosage of ethics into the way we govern. Ethics is completely absent from governance in this country. Look, the only asset President Muhammadu Buhari had in 2015 was not money. He had no money. What he went into election with was ethics. Ascetic life. And when you see him, you get image of somebody who is not opulent, who is not in wealth. And that was what Nigerians voted for. But unfortunately, we don’t see that there is poverty of ethics in Nigeria. They throw around money, they throw around influence, in fact, some of the people you see want to subvert the due process everywhere, all of them. And there is no country where you subvert and indulge in subversion of due process that would give you good governance.
Does that suggest that the war against the insurgency is far from being over?
Did you listen to Borno State Governor, Shettima? He said there is so much poverty in Borno State. If you look at the statistics of distribution of poverty in this country, the North-East is worse off in the country and even it is getting more aggravated. More than a thousand or two thousand have been killed. Schools have been destroyed. Health facilities destroyed. What do you think would happen to those children who are excluded from education? Who are excluded from life itself? They cannot go to any hospital, they cannot get treatment. Doctors have died. Teachers have died. It is complete decimation of the society.
What implication can that have on the whole country?
I don’t think Nigerians understand the dimension of the problem. They see it as North-East problem. But it is getting back to us because those people who have been displaced have no other place to go besides coming down here to us. It is a national emergency that needs all of us to participate. It is not government’s fight alone. It is not a fight for Buhari alone. We all need to galvanise whatever resources we have. I am even surprised, by now I would have expected government to say we are prosecuting a major war and every Nigerian should donate 10 per cent of his/her income and private/public sectors should donate to the execution of the war in the North-East. Otherwise, we would not make any progress at all.
But why is the war still lingering?
It is because some people are benefiting from the crisis. See some power generating gadget importers for instance. They would not want power supply to improve in the country so that they will be in business. This is why you have to look at the burden on the Minister of Power, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), as not burden on Fashola. It is about the country.
In your view, what is the way out?
For me, the way out is, even the presidency can say, let us all stop using power generating sets (Generators). You will see improvement and whatever we have then, that is truly what we have. We are living on borrowed time we are not truly ourselves. And these are human and we don’t need to call on Allah because what else do you want God to do? Look around you, a lot of slump areas where you can grow anything. We can grow cassava, we can grow rice and any other things.
I was at Ikeja recently for a function and I saw plantain growing out of a concrete slabs. In Saudi Arabia, every tree you see there is planted. And everything has a file. It should be monitored. But here, nothing is monitored. Allah has thrown everything to us and we are not seizing the opportunity to excel. It is unfortunate.