Nigeria: Why the Yorubas must avoid a president that will serve our term but not our interest in 2023-By Rasaq Olokoba
London, Oct. 26, 2019 (AltAfrica)–In the realm of activism in Nigeria, the name Rasaq Olokoba rings the bell. The youthful pro-democracy crusader, political analyst and public commentator is the National President, Campaign for Dignity in Governance (CDG), a coalition of about 70 other pro-democracy organizations.
In this interview with Alternativeafrica.com in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, the vocal pro-democracy crusader took a critical look at the state of the nation and declared that for peace and unity to continue to be the order of the day in the country, the seat of power should be occupied by somebody of Yoruba extraction from the South-West zone of the country in 2023.
According to him, the shifting of power to te South West would demonstrate and portray the country as one with great unity and one with peaceful co-existence among the various ethnic nationalities that occupy the geographical space called Nigeria
But he warned that such a person must be such that is ready to serve the interests of the Yorubas in the same manner of being the president of Nigeria saying the 1999-2007 experience was too traumatic for the Yorubas to be repeated
AltAfrica:It is believed in some quarters that it is too early to start discussion on 2023 election that is four years away. What is your own take on that?
Rasaq Olokoba: There is nothing wrong to begin to look at the political projection towards 2023 from now. And that is what every organised country in the world would do. Even, institutions that are not political in nature have projections of shapes of things to come. So, if we start to talk about colouration of the political future of Nigeria, there is nothing bad in that. Particularly, one of the most important issues in Nigeria today is what is going to happen in 2023. It is about where the presidential pendulum would swing. It is important for organisations like ours to keep sensitizing the people to keep bringing out issues to make Nigerians live harmoniously.
We have to keep advocating for character and attitude of each ethnic group, organization and each political party about things that would make Nigerians to live in peace and harmony. And that is why the ethnic group that has the largest number in the country, which is the northern part of the country, should concede the higest political office in the land to the southern axis of the country. We have to keep talking to them because their case has become a recurring decimal in national discourse. And I think that as someone from another ethnic group also, I hold it as a responsibility to express my view on what will continue to bring peace and harmony amongst all the ethnic groups that make up Nigeria.
AltAfrica: But, with democracy being a game of number universally, don’t you think…….
Rasaq Olokoba: (Cuts in) The Hausa Fulani, no doubt, are prominent ethnic groups in Nigeria and they are organised, you can give that to them. But there are other things that they have to add to the quality they have at their disposal which is the impression other people have about them. And if you look at Nigeria from 1960 to date, you would kind of agree with me that there is the need for them to analyse the type of relationship they have had with other ethnic groups in the country.
The first alliance they had with our brothers from the south-east, I would say with due respect that it ended in fiasco. We can say shortly after that, a new alliance emerged between the north and the south-south. And what came out of it is now history.
So, the most profitable relationship they have ever had is the one with the Yoruba of the south-west. And since 2015 till date, there is no breaking out of war. There is no threat to the unity of the country. So, it is therefore important for them to do a profit/loss analysis of relationships they have had with other ethnic groups in the country. And if that is true, which I know is correct analysis that means that the relationship should be guided jealously.
It means such a relationship that portends good for the nation should be protected and secured.
And because of that, I will encourage our northern brothers to understand the implication of break-down of trust by the three other regions. If they cannot be trusted by the south-south and south-east, they should, for God’s sake, promote and nurture the good relationship they have with the south-west. When we entered into the relationship in 2015 through the alliance, some other ethnic groups were insinuating that the relationship would soon hit a brick wall. Their reason is borne out of their belief that our northern brothers have the penchant for not taking to agreement and disrespect for understanding and mutual relationship they have had with other ethnic groups in the past. And this is the notion to be proved wrong by our northern brothers this time.
There is no single ethnic group that can rule the country alone. So, there must be an alliance. And in fact, I am hoping and wishing to have a country where all the regions would come together peacefully. A country, that would, as a nation, have trust for each other because the biggest challenge we have in this country, whatever the reason, is mistrust and mutual suspicion in and among the ethnic groups. So, if there is anything we can do to promote the trust, the understanding amongst all of us, we should do it.
AltAfrica: What then is your proposal towards achieving that?
Rasaq Olokoba: My proposal is simple. It is that 2023 should be used for that experiment where all of us should begin to trust each other, where all of us would look at what Nigeria looked like 50 years ago of mutual understanding among us. The population is increasing and we are having more children. And we cannot be having more children into a country where those children would not have trust in each other. That is not how to build a nation!
And building a nation should begin when we start to have mutual trust in ourselves. So, public office is a litmus test to that. So, our northern brothers must understand that everything has colouration. Tendencies come and go. If tendencies come around, they should allow other tendencies also to come around. That is how nations grow.
But to say that a particular tribe should occupy the space for ever, I don’t see where that would happen and survive. Nations with such tendencies don’t survive. A nation that survives is the one that has multi various tendencies to flourish and germinate.
AltAfrica: What exactly are you driving at?
Rasaq Olokoba:What I am trying to say is that it should not be a question of debate again that the topmost political office in 2023 should go to the Yoruba of the south-west. I don’t think there should be any debate on that again. It is only fair enough to a nation, because that has been the most prosperous alliance we have ever had in this country, I mean the alliance between the north and the south-west.
AltAfrica: But don’t you realise that rotational system is undemocratic and unconstitutional?
Rasaq Olokoba: If that is so, it means the happiness of Nigerians does not matter! Each ethnic group must have the feel of the centre so that everybody would be happy. And can anybody show me where it is written that we cannot have it that way?! In fact, in other countries, democracy is not holding elections in every four years. Democracy is not when you vote to replace the leadership at all times. No. Democracy is the will of the people. If it is the will of the people that, major ethnic groups, major tendencies should have the taste of presidency periodically, that is democracy. It is not essentially about ballots and boxes. It is about the wish of the people. So, the people’s wish is that, I can only be comfortable as a Nigerian when an Ibo man, a Yoruba man, Hausa/Fulani man and the Ibiobio, Urobo and all others can preside on the affairs of the country in turns. If that is the wish of every Nigerian, well, that is democracy.
It is confusing and misleading to continue to create an impression that presidency cannot rotate between the north and the south. In as much as the people agree that, that is the pattern they want, that is democracy.
AltAfrica: If your wish eventually materialise in 2023, who are those you think are qualified to go for the post?
Rasaq Olokoba: There are lot of names being bandied around that are eminently qualified to succeed President Buhari. Mention can be made of the former governor of Lagos State and current National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a tested and trusted man. Another former Lagos State governor and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (BRF), whose tenure as governor still remains talk of the town. He is currently the country’s Minister of Works and Housing. Then, the incumbent Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and former Lagos State Attorney General and Justice Commissioner to mention just a few.
But what we have to guide against is the emergence of another Yoruba president that would serve our term but who would not serve our interest. My organization would work against such an individual. Between 1999 and 2007, it was a popular insinuation that, that was a Yoruba slot. But the president at that time repeatedly stated that he was not the president of any ethnic group. And we really suffered for that. Whereas, the idea behind a Yoruba presidency is not solely for the life of Yoruba people to be better than that of other ethnic groups. The agenda of every Yoruba man is not to supress or oppress any ethnic group. The topmost agenda of an average Yoruba man is equal opportunity and equal access to the wealth of the nation. That is our agenda. We don’t want to be oppressed. We want a common economic system, we want a common railway system and we believe we would run faster if Nigeria is tailored along the pattern I have just said.
That is what some people are wrongly insinuating that this is our term and we must have the largest chunk of the national cake. What we are trying to say in essence is that, the style of governance, strategy of governance defers. Certain things are germane to some ethnic groups in Nigeria. Certain things are more important to some ethnic groups than others. That is what we are saying. We are not saying that any ethnic group that presides over the affairs of the nation should have more access to the resources of the nation than others, no! What we are saying is that the manifesto of an ethnic group vis a vis derivation formula, free education as well as spiritual freedom should be upheld.
AltAfrica: What advice do you therefore have for the north?
Rasaq Olokoba: My advice to them is simple. It would not cost the north anything if they can prevent the greed of the few to tamper with the integrity of the north. You know the north has a very high integrity and that integrity, they should not allow it to be soiled by the greedy few who would want to insist that the presidency should still remain in the north. I want the north to take the advantage of the goodwill they have among other ethnic groups to remain intact.
They should allow the perception of their integrity to flow and not be disrupted.
And the effort President Muhammadu Buhari has put in place by creating a brand new image for Nigeria abroad as the father of the nation should not be allowed to be wished away. That effort is commendable and so, he should be supported more to do more for the nation. Buhari has the confidence of all Nigerians who believe that he is the best hand the country deserves at this particular time of our life.
AltAfrica: Do you have a word about the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu?
Rasaq Olokoba: Sanwo-Olu is walking his talk by fulfilling his campaign promises. Today, with the State of Emergency he has declared on roads and agreement to pay more than N30,000 minimum wage to the workers, it is a testimony that he is a man that is bent on keeping his promises.
Now, a state that has about 20 million populations which is more than the population of several countries around the world, we have to understand that Lagos is an entity within an entity. And thus, there are glaring limitations when the issue of solving the state’s problems arises. We should constantly have that at the back our mind that he needs our support and understanding to excel. There is nobody, who is elected governor that would not want to excel.
So, looking at some of the steps he has taken so far, not a few people would agree with me that, if he sustains the tempo, in the next one year, Lagos would have moved higher than the level we are expecting it to be. So, he needs our supports, words of encouragement, useful advice and constructive criticism for him to remain more focused.