Dr. Makanjuola Owolabi is an All Progressives Party (APC) gubernatorial aspirants in the forthcoming 2018 election in Ekiti State. In this interview with OLUSEGUN KOIKI, he spoke on the performance of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and his ill-health, as well his plans for Ekiti State, among other issues. Excerpts:
What is your assessment of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration so far?
A government is the reflection of the society; no government can perform better than the ability of the components of the society. The problem we have is that there is character deficit in Nigeria, not only in terms of the leaders, but also of the followers to the extent that they are now so corrupt that they are now looking for thieves, armed robbers and the most corrupt elements as people that they will vote for because they will buy them.
There is no magic this government, the last one or the future will perform without the transformation and change of attitude of the followership. But, it is the job of the leader to put in place a mechanism to change the attitude of the people voluntarily and not by coercion as we are doing in Nigeria. It has to be a deliberate effort to use knowledge and wisdom to transform the minds of the people.
So, I call upon all professionals, all those who have gone through the walls of tertiary education to come out, no good job can be done by an individual. You remember when the former President of United States, Mr. Barack Obama came to Ghana in 2009, he refused to come to Nigeria. He sent a missile to us, he said, ‘you guys are looking for strong men, you should be building strong institutions.’ If we cannot have leaders who have the capacities and the desires to work together, we cannot develop Nigeria.
Do you think this present government uses coercion, rather than wisdom and intelligence to govern the Nigerian people?
The government we inherited, civil or military, has been indoctrinated in the culture of command and control leadership. That is why we operate a military system, while we are supposed to be a democratic country. Democracy is the government of the people, for the people and by the people. It is a team approach. But, here, we have been indoctrinated to believe that there is a magician who will come and solve a problem that is for all of us to solve.
So, we have people who abuse authorities and think they are not part of the problem. We need a leader who understands the human needs, body, psyche and has the knowledge to help the people. But here in Nigeria, we are recycling people who are motivated by passion to capture power by any means, even when they cannot remember what that power is supposed to be used for. This is why we are in a mess today.
There was a protest recently in Abuja against President Buhari’s stay in UK due to his continued ill-health. What is your take on the absence of the president from office?
My opinion is actually based on the training that I have been giving professionals in the past 40 years because in aviation, we have come into a position where we now know that it is the entire team that would be responsible for the survival and safety of the aircraft and not just the captain. President Buhari is not the only one who will rescue Nigeria. Has he not got ministers? Are they spare tyres? Has he not got a vice president? The constitution puts the power in the hands of an Acting President. It is the attitude of the ministers and the followers that is causing problems because we should have our loyalty to the nation and not to a human being. This is clear in the oaths that we take.
The loyalty is to the flag and not to an individual. When you go to London, New York or even Dallas, do you need to know their governors or President or Prime Minister before anything works there? Unfortunately, we have a culture of command and control in Africa. But, we need to start changing it. Culture is meant to be dynamic.
There are several ethnic agitators across the country, demanding for restructuring. How do you think Nigerian can move forward as a nation?
Nigeria is a country manufacturing answers and forgetting the questions. That is why it has taken us 18 years to have a nation. A reasonable people and country would have sat down to look at the mechanism, structures and the modalities. That would have been number one issue over 60 years ago. But, here we are today still doing trial and error. Restructuring is a disaster that has come because of our attitude and mode of operation. I served in the Nigerian Air Force, I lived in Kaduna for over 40 years and three out of four of my children were born in Kaduna. When it came to politics, to get an ordinary party card, despite my years there, I was being reminded that I was not a son of the soil. I had to come to Ekiti State to have a party card.
We don’t have a country based on patriotism. Chapter 2 of the Nigeria Constitution actually made it very clear on what should be done. But we are not doing it. If we can make Chapter 2 justifiable, we would all be Nigerians first before you remember where you came from. An American is an American before he remembers he is from Texas or Dallas. The disaster we have in Nigeria is that we didn’t form nationality citizenship whereby you are first a Nigerian before you remember your tribe.
It is that disaster that is still hunting us till date. How come that my children who didn’t grow up in Ekiti, but in Kaduna, cannot have same rights as others in that state? Our systems are designed in such a way that even when they were going to Armed Forces Primary School, to even get that form filled, I needed to first get a local government chairman of my state of origin. By the way, I was born in Ile-Ife.
But, these leaders who are doing these would get their own wives travel to London, New York, deliver there and claim all the rights of those countries. But, here, we cannot do that. This is what has led us to where we are, where people have the gut to be calling other Nigerians by their tribes. It is because all of us have not first formed a nation where we have a common citizenship that we are Nigerians. The only exception is maybe when we are playing football. We should be a Nigerian first and that is what Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution says. We need to put it into effect.
How far have you gone with your desire to rule Ekiti State?
I am not one of those who wait to be drafted because that is not leadership. I have been fully trained, prepared with the wisdom and the knowledge necessary to serve any group of people, even the entire country. But, I want to start from Ekiti State. In the whole of my town, there is no electricity in this modern world. Look at those children, their libraries are on the internet. Even to get forms for exam purposes, they are on the internet. Have we not sentenced the next generation to destruction? This is my own passion and motivation. I am not here for the love of power; I am determined to recognise that the only legitimate and lawful ways is to have a democratically elected government with a leader with good character, who can develop the entire land for peace and progress of the society.
We are blessed. Ekiti State has the capacity to be the food basket of the whole of West Africa. I know when President Buhari was campaigning in Ado Ekiti, he made a promise of an airport, which we plan to make an agro-airport, just like Kebbi State. Even now, some good leaders in the North, Kaduna State for example, has been able to key into the Federal Government plans and their own leadership acumen to get the people to be enjoying travels from the state to all over the world now. We shall also ensure that from Ekiti State, people can go all over the world. But, that require leadership.
This is why I tell my followers that my political party is Ekiti State. But, Ekiti State is part of Nigeria. I do not believe that we should make the mistake of the past where the Yoruba leaders, for example, were more of regional politicians. This country belongs to all of us. Until it is restructured, power and resources reside with the Federal Government. Those resources are for all of us.
I am telling my people through this medium to understand that the basis for choosing the political party to support is that which controls the Federal Government. We need to tap into our resources as a nation to develop Ekiti State, too just as they are developing other parts of Nigeria. It would be a suicidal mission for anybody to do otherwise. Anything sectional, it can’t stand. The state can’t pay workers’ salaries now. It is the Federal Government that is bailing it out. It is a shame. So, we have to be reasonable, not because I am a retired military man who was schooled in patriotism. Quite frankly, Nigeria as a nation is great. If I had my way, it would be like China where we have only one national party. But the focus should be to develop the nation and not the pockets of individuals.
That requires people who can think out of the box, people who are leaders and have the strength and courage of the Biblical Joshua because the job at hand is very difficult. The road may be very complex, but leaders must have the courage, strength and character to ensure that we succeed in this nation.
What is your assessment of the present government in the state?
There are seven dangerous character traits that are responsible for failures and disasters even in politics. Anybody who has anti-authority attitude is a disaster waiting to happen.
Every one of us is to support whoever God puts in a position. Whether he’s a David, Herod or Nebuchadnezzar it is irrelevant. I tell everybody around me that anybody who abuses Governor Ayodele Fayose would leave my camp because you are indirectly abusing me too.
I am from this state and as at today, he’s the number one citizen of this state. Also, anybody who abuses President Buhari is insulting himself and also insulting all of us because Buhari is the head of the country today. So, people with anti-authority attitude are very dangerous.
Reasonable people should within the authority support each other. I must support Fayose even though we are in different political parties. He too must support Buhari because he’s the head of the country today. We are in a nation where we don’t support people because they are not in our camp. We must communicate with each other. We must respect each other even though we disagree. We once had a President in this country that drove away his Vice-President, just because they disagreed. Those are not the good traits of leadership. It’s like a pilot who drove out his co-pilot. Of course, they are going to crash. They must work together, they must respect each other.
Also, we must educate each other. A political leader or a governor should not be the one who sits on a seat and be collecting salaries, cheating people. You are supposed to educate the people. That is what we call the leader. Also, a leader must be assertive. We now train our co-pilots that they are not extra-tyres. The captain may be better than you, but he’s not the deputy God. We are prone to errors, but we can only be safe if we operate as a team. That is what we are lacking here and that is why we are failing.
Politicians should not be jobless people, you must have a second address. That is why we have this buying and selling of votes. We should have seen you succeed in something before venturing into politics. A man who has not succeeded in anything, why are you surprised that he’s crashing your state or country? They are disasters waiting to happen. In my own situation, I am fully prepared by God.
What I am saying is that leadership is what we should take very seriously. That is why I coined my political movement ERA (Ekiti Restoration Agenda), which is to restore the political dignity and honour of Ekiti State, the Fountain of Knowledge, but has become the butts of jokes all over the world; home of Professors being ruled by people who hardly know their left from right.
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