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Ex-govs in Buhari cabinet can aid Nigeria’s return to true federalism – Ogbeni Banjo

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Ogbeni Lanre Banjo is a three-time governorship candidate in Ogun State. A  Certified Public Accountant (Chartered) with wealth of experience in both government and governance, he had served as a Treasurer for a member of the United States’ House of Representatives, Mayor of the District of Columbia, and a Council member.

As a member of the All Progressives Congress, what can you say about the governance style of the Federal Government led by your party?

I will quote my brother, Babatunde Fashola, “May our loyalties never be tested”.  If in bondage of destiny, mine is tested, I will prefer to remain loyal to Nigeria, my future, the future of my children, and, of course, with the interest of my principal at heart.  Why? President, governors, all elected officials will go one day, political parties can be dismantled anytime, whatever we make of Nigeria shall stare all of us in the face. So if I am loyal to a political party sacrificing Nigeria, I will live through it.  I spoke on that premise because this is not about my party, it is about Nigeria.  The change cannot be brought about by President Muhammad Buhari alone. The President means well, but most of the governors are not doing their best.  They create more problems for the future of our children than preparing  a good future for them.  They do not allow local governments to function as they should and designed by founders of democracy.

Suggestions to government for change

If Nigerians have to struggle to generate power for themselves, maintain their own roads, practically perform the function of a local government, and now you get on the road, we are further frustrated by police who often require you to show the chassis number on the engine of your vehicle when each car has Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), I think if this administration establishes rules and regulations to stop this nonsense, people will begin to feel the change we all voted for. If members of the National Assembly or even the Houses of Assembly in the 36 states make it illegal for the Customs to ask for Customs papers on registered vehicles, we would be begin to feel the change.  For every vehicle registered in Nigeria, Customs papers are submitted.  We only water corruption when we allow Custom officers to stay on the road to collect bribe because of vehicles Customs papers. An arrangement that simplifies the registration of companies at the local government level instead of going to Abuja would make Nigerians feel change. These are rudimentary changes that government can quickly establish for Nigerians to feel. To export food out of the country, police, Immigration, NAFDAC, Customs have roles to play just to frustrate and encourage corruption that the administration is fighting against at the national level. These are prerequisite changes that can be established.  Since we are all Nigerian citizens and we only cede our rights to those in position of leadership because all of us cannot occupy those elective positions, we must exercise our rights to protest if we feel any pain resulting from government policy.

There has been no improvement in power supply and Nigerians are not paying less. What is your view?

Recently, Babatunde Fashola presented an ‘electricity lecture’ in an interview carried by Sunday Vanguard.  Really, I appreciate him taking me through ‘electricity 101 to 505’.  However, I disagree with him on the issue of increase in tariff.  It is unfair for any government to allow investors to charge for services not rendered.  Take his example of Ragolis water, and I quote: “The logic behind it is like ten people are thirsty and there is one bottle of Ragolis water and they ask the seller to buy more Ragolis water when the cost of production has increased and they are not ready to pay for the difference, they won’t get enough Ragolis water to quench their thirst.”  His example assumed that Nigerians are not ready to pay for “the difference”.  That is insulting to Nigerians. The prudent and business approach is for the Ragolis water seller to identify demand and borrow money, if he has to, in order for the demand to be met. Our fathers and mothers who never stepped into primary school did this very well before Western education came. Once you borrow money with interest, you can dictate the price; if those thirsty people have no choice, they would have to buy. The telecommunication cartel dictates and rip off Nigerians today, are we not paying? In as much as supply is available, consumers would be glad to pay or they would not have access. To increase the tariff for services that are not available to enable availability does not make any economic sense.

Ogbeni Lanre Banjo
Ogbeni Lanre Banjo

The other issue that bothers me is the issue of true federalism. I believe former governors who suffered from unitary system and who have now become ministers should find a way to ensure the evolvement of true federalism, but that is not the case.  On Jan 5, 2008, the then Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) insisted on true federalism as the basis for true national integration. On that day, he said, “The truth is that the Federal Government is an artificial corporate entity created by the Constitution. The powers that it holds reside with the states which are at liberty to withdraw such powers”.

On Aug 25, 2008, Fashola, while  in Abuja, called for the downward review of the number of items reserved for the central government in the Exclusive List as a means of achieving true federalism in the country. Fashola, who spoke at the three day annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, also asked the NBA to think seriously of how to bring the various laws made without legislative competence into conformity with the Constitution.

On February 29, 2012, as reported by Olasunkanmi Akoni, Monsur Olowoopejo & Oamen Areguamen  of Vanguard, the then Governor Fashola said, “There was urgent need for true federalism for the country to achieve its potentials as a nation, even as he said the state government would in the next few months commence house numbering exercise, as part of measures to improve security in the state.” Since I am jobless, I keep track of what these people say which is different from their practice.  He is now the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, serving what he described as “artificial corporate entity”. Can’t he maintain that the President has too much and powers, and that the Federal Government should be backed by law that empowers her to give grant to states to be in charge of their own electricity? My brother is now wearing Babariga, and he is avoiding his loyalty being tested.  In Islam, when we pray, we will bend down and rise from what is called “Ruku” to say “Semi allahu Limani amidahu” meaning only God knows who worships him. I am glad Fashola says that each time he prays in Islamic way.

All the southern former governors serving President Buhari are guilty of the same thing. Look at my smooth operator brother now Senator Akpabio and Uncle Chris Ngige who as a governor was almost overthrown in a civilian coup backed by Federal Government police.  Is Ngige doing anything to ensure true federalism? Kayode Fayemi wears Awo’s cap, speaks like Awo but refuses to act like Awo. I did  not mention any of my brethren governors from the North because, to them, if it is not broken, you don’t need to fix it. So tell me how change would come if we concentrate on praying without action. If Buhari, like many governors, is surrounded by Ministers and advisers who are economic slaves to their jobs, how could there be change? All these folks are just deepening unitary form of government.

On herdsmen’s aggression.

This issue goes to the core of federalism, and I pray that Nigerians would not kill Buhari because of unnecessary pressure and I also pray that the President himself sees reasons with the practice of true federalism so that every Dick and Harry would not continue to blame him for all the vices in Nigeria. I agree with Governor Ajimobi and a few governors who had spoken against the commissioning of grazing area but I do not hear all of them proffering solution. Fulanis are bona fide citizens of Nigeria who have the right to move about and do their business in a legitimate manner. If you are coming to my state to do business, you must be ready to obey the law: Lease a piece of land, if you cannot afford to buy one,  where your cattle would be fed with water and  food, sell your cattle there, period.

Your opinion on Fayose’s position?

Brother Peteru Ayodele Fayose may be seen as brazenly crazy and lousy, but I  have seen where a mentally-ill person drew the attention of the public to someone who was supposedly dead and buried but still alive.  There were many things that happened under President Jonathan that, if it happened under President Obasanjo, those involved will regret.  We need such people in our society. If Baba could say “CAN my foot”,  CAN knew better than to mess with him throughout his days in power.. What Peter is saying is simple, ‘This is my state. I have the duty to protect my citizens, and I will protect them by any means necessary’.  Fayose is simply saying ‘I am not Governor Mimiko under whose watch Chief Falae was kidnapped by Fulani and his security guard later killed and the governor called on the President’.  Fayose is saying ‘I am not Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu under whose watch  scores of my brothers and sisters were killed and he and other South East governors regard it as a national problem and expect Buhari to solve the problems’.  Fayose is saying ‘I am not Samuel Ortom of Benue State under whose watch the Agatus are being wiped out and he is expecting Buhari to come and help’.  He is horrible and brash in my own opinion by making his strategy public, but the message is clear.  If we have crazy governors like Fayose, true federalism will probably be achieved. Now, the Federal Government is winning the war against Boko Haram. Are we sure Boko Haram is not changing strategy by using  herdsmen to start killing people? Have we ever wondered why these herdsmen are so bold, moving around with rifles that average people cannot afford?  Where are they getting their weapons? If I were a governor, I am not going to wait for Buhari to come and protect those who will  and may not vote me.  These are citizens that I am vested with the power to protect.

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