We are yet to see any change
Tells Buhari, APC: Unveil and implement your blueprint now
Former Deputy Governor of Lagos State and the only female senator in the botched Third Republic, Senator Louisa Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele is not happy with the state of affairs in the country and wants President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to unveil their roadmap for addressing the numerous socio-economic and political challenges the country is facing.
In this interview, she also spoke among others on why the report of the 2014 National Conference must be implemented and how the flickering flames of insecurity could be extinguished.
By Clifford Ndujihe
How do you see the state of the nation now?
I see the nation in a precarious condition right now. It is very precarious because we don’t know where we are going financially.
We don’t know what the programmes of the new government are in any regard whatsoever. We need to know the way forward. There is nothing worse than not knowing what is going to happen next.
What do you think is responsible for that?
The All Progressives Congress (APC) came into power, they wanted power but they had not planned how they were going to use that power when they won the election.
You said the nation is in a precarious condition, how do you view comments by the APC and the presidency that the PDP, your party, led us to that state after ruling the country for 16 years?
I don’t think it can be true. The rot in the country started with the military. We cannot blame only the PDP. In fact, it was the military that started the rot. When we talk about corruption, what of all those military people who now have banks, farms, etc? Was any of them tried for corruption? That is where it started and that is where impunity started because they felt and they got away with it and other people came in and felt they could get away with it too.
Your comments appear to be in line with those of the APC and the presidency. Why didn’t the PDP, in 16 years, probe and prosecute the corrupt military leaders?
The PDP government was in the business of trying to move the country forward and therefore they were not in a position to probe the military. Don’t forget that the first PDP government was headed by an ex-military man and they have what they call esprit de corps.
How far do you think the president has gone in his change agenda after five months?
I don’t see any improvement at all. In fact, the insecurity situation is worsening. The unemployment situation is worsening. One soft drink company recently laid off about 200 people and many companies are laying off people. So I don’t see how he is tackling unemployment. And he has not given us a blueprint on how he is going to tackle unemployment.
So, I don’t see any changes. In fact, I think things are getting worse and I think this is because there is lack of a blueprint for governance.
What about improvements on power supply?
There is no improvement whatsoever. I have not seen it here. Right now, we are on generator, we have not had light since Friday. I was away for three weeks, and the whole of the three weeks my staff were calling me to say that they have not had light, the light did not blink once. Now, I am back, it came for two or three days and now it is off again. So, I don’t know where the improvement is. I travel very often.
Elevators and air conditioners
Three weeks ago, the elevators and air conditioners at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport were working. Three weeks later when I came back, they were not working. What is happening?
You don’t think we have made some gains fighting the Boko Haram insurgency?
I don’t think so. Before the PDP government left, we had virtually fought Boko Haram to a standstill. Now, we get bombings virtually on a daily basis.
What about President Buhari’s fight against corruption?
The fight against corruption, as far as I can see, is selective. If the president wants us to take him seriously, he should start with those people around him because those around him in the APC that brought him to power are among some of the most corrupt people in this country and everybody knows that.
Why is it only PDP members that he is bringing to trial? Why doesn’t he try those around him who are corrupt? It is only then that we can take him seriously that he is fighting corruption and not being vindictive.
Some say that whether selective or not the question people should ask is are those being tried corrupt or not? What is your take on this view?
It is for the court to decide whether a person is corrupt or not. Until a person is adjudicated corrupt by the court I don’t think anybody can be labelled as corrupt.
There are insecurity challenges across the country, Boko Haram in the North-East, Biafra struggle in the South-East and menace of Fulani herdsmen in the North- central and southern parts of the country…
In the beginning I told you the country is in a precarious condition. That is part of it all. People are not safe, you are not even safe in the street. You are driving in your car, people come and smash the windows of your car and steal from you. A young girl, who sells for me, told me that when she left for home about three days ago that on the Third Mainland Bridge, people were abandoning their cars and running because armed robbers were terrorising them on the bridge.
This phenomenon has suddenly reared its head. It used to be there in the past but it is rampant now.
You can imagine people abandoning their cars running.
So far, how do you assess governance in Lagos?
I don’t see anything of any significance in Lagos. The traffic situation seems to become more chaotic by the day. The whole thing seems to be completely disorganised.
ou don’t think Lagos is benefiting from being ruled by a party that is also ruling at the federal level, the first of its kind since the creation of the state?
Lagos has not benefited from the centre more than it benefited when it was not ruled by the ruling party at the centre. I don’t see how Lagos has benefited.
What is the way out of this?
Like I say, Lagos is part of the APC government and I said, they came into power without any concrete plans for governance and this is what is affecting the nation today. The APC leaders must get together and draw up a plan as to how they are going to govern this country and start implementing that plan.
What is your take on the agitation for Biafra by some South-East youths?
When people feel that they are being marginalised you are bound to have pockets of unrest and pockets of people wanting to secede and things like that. Government must find a way of implementing the report of the 2014 National Conference because if that report is implemented, everybody will feel they have a stake in Nigeria, everybody will feel that they can manage their affairs in their own way.
As long as we have this unitary system of government, there is bound to be discontent and people wanting to secede because they feel they have been marginalised and they want to take charge of their own affairs.
On the menace of Fulani herdsmen across the country especially in the South, which led some Yoruba leaders to threaten secession recently if the matter was not adequately addressed
I think it is most unfortunate that in this country we allow herdsmen to be roaming all over the place destroying peoples’ farms, kidnapping, maiming, burning, taking over peoples’ villages, etc. It is most unfortunate. This is not the only cattle-rearing country in the world. Most cattle-rearing countries have ranches for their cattle. These Fulani herdsmen are coming from somewhere. Cattle ranches should be created in those places for them. Yes, they are looking for pasture. If you organise it properly, there is water underground. How do they manage in places like Texas?
Even, I understand that countries like Kenya where they have a lot of cattle rearers, have organised them into cattle ranches. This is what we should be doing instead of allowing these herdsmen to be roaming all over the place. Organise cattle ranches for them in their own areas so that they don’t come into other people’s areas in search of pasture.
What is your advice to the leaders of the National Assembly to check the brewing crises over headship of the various committees?
The system we are operating is not a parliamentary system. It is a presidential system where both sides are supposed to be able to work together. If you have one side doing the winner-takes-all as you are bound to have in a parliamentary system, you are going to have problems. It is far better for both sides to try and work together to achieve whatever they want to achieve than for you to have an opposition and then there will be constant bickering.
You were the only female senator in your set, thereafter, we have had some improvement, what is your advice to women to improve their political and electoral fortunes?
Women politicians have a difficulty especially now that politics has become money game.
It is not as if we didn’t need money in those days, but it is not the sort of money you need nowadays and most women don’t have that kind of money. However, women should join political parties and work in the parties for recognition because it is when you are recognised that your party can put you forward for a contest.
Looking at affirmative action, how would you assess President Buhari on appointment of women into positions?
That was where the Jonathan’s Administration was much better.
Jonathan tried to effect the 30 per cent Affirmative Action, which was decided in Beijing and which the United Nations is also supporting. Nigeria is the largest country in Africa but small countries like Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi are doing much better than us when it comes to affirmative action. What is holding us back?
I believe what is holding us back is mostly the men in Nigeria, who do not want to give space to females. And yet they seem to forget that women form 50 per cent if not more of the population.
You were in the Alliance for Democracy (AD), went to All Peoples Party Party (APP), later National Democratic Party (NDP), United Nigeria Peoples Party, UNPP and now PDP. Where are you headed next?
I have been in the PDP since 2002. I am not moving anywhere else. Then, I was looking for a platform, I am not looking for a platform now. I am an elder stateswoman, I want to work for the betterment of Nigeria. I will do it better remaining in PDP.
If you look at the parties, PDP is the best. The APC is an amalgamation of strange parties, that is why they are having problems. Buhari is from the CPC (Congress for Progressive Change), he came to fight corruption.
The ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria) wanted power at the centre. The ANPP (All Nigeria Peoples Party) wanted power shift to the North and so they are fighting for the spoils of power.
What is the way forward for the country?
The new government must get its act together. They must bring forward a roadmap and a blueprint for Nigeria. They must give a blueprint for the economy, education and all other things that make a country a country in the comity of nations. Right now we are drifting.
What is your advice to Nigerians?
Nigerians are very resilient people. I will ask them to be patient and also to speak up and ask this government to buck up.