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Ex-Lagos Deputy Governor tells Buhari: Don’t jail looters in your second term, kill them

•Asks President to set up Truth, Restitution and Recovery Commission

By Wale Akinola

Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu is a former deputy-governor of Lagos State. She served in the administration of Sir Michael Otedola. In this interview, Ojikutu speaks on what she believes President Muhammadu should achieve for Nigeria in his second term due to begin on May 29.

Sinatu Ojikutu, Buhari, looters
Sinatu Ojikutu

The inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari for second term comes up next week. What are your expectations in the fresh term?

I congratulate President Buhari on his re-election, and our prayer is that he will succeed in taking Nigeria to the next level as he promised during his campaigns. We also hope that he will be able to fulfil his promise of making Nigeria clean, that’s talking about his anti-corruption campaign. I believe that once corruption is successfully tackled, the economy of Nigeria will pick up. I believe that it is not that our economy is that bad but corruption is stifling the economy on many fronts, and that is why there has been no industrial growth and commerce is not thriving the way it ought to. I’m praying that Buhari will set up committees made up of decent people, people of integrity to oversee and help him expose those things that constitute a cog in the wheel of progress of Nigeria’s economy. Nigeria does not lack policies. We have good policies but are these policies being implemented to give the desired impact? This will be among the tasks the committees will be saddled with. The committees can also help the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) to monitor the policies in place. Once you can curb corruption, there will be a boost in the economy and life will be more meaningful and abundant for Nigerians especially the masses.

On the issue of cabinet, many Nigerians are saying that President Buhari should not delay in putting together his team unlike what happened during his first term when it took six months before the cabinet was inaugurated. What’s your take on that?

I agree with those who are saying that President Buhari should ensure that his cabinet is quickly put in place for the task ahead. In 2015 when he was elected for his first tenure, it took a long time before the cabinet was put in place, and then I started wondering whether there was no think-tank in place to give the President the necessary advice on why it is very important to have the cabinet in place as soon as he was inaugurated. The practice all over the world is that when you are contesting an election, and you have it in mind that you will win, you should, from that time, start assembling a team that you believe will help you actualize your vision and goals as soon as you are elected. Then I will advise President Buhari that when he is assembling the team that will work with him for second term, everything should be done on the basis of merit and competence. It should not be job for the boys. He should look for highly skilled and qualified people, and people of integrity that can help him turn the economy around. He should look for patriots who will help him actualize his vision and goal of taking Nigeria to the next level. He should look for people who believe in one Nigeria, and not for people whose loyalty to the nation is in doubt. I pray for President Buhari that God will give him the wisdom to assemble the right team that will help him not only to move Nigeria forward but also help him to restore Nigeria’s lost glory. It is not possible to be everywhere or see everything, so he has to pick the right people that will help him to succeed. If Buhari is able to pick a good team, posterity will record it, and if he doesn’t get it right, posterity will also record it, but my prayer is that the Almighty Allah will give him the wisdom to assemble a cabinet that will make Nigeria proud.

On the issue of the fight against corruption which President Buhari has been spearheading, suggestions are being made that, for the fight to be successful, we may need to adopt radical measures like death penalty as it is done in China and a few other nations of the world. Do you subscribe to such an idea?

If you jail someone for corruption in Nigeria, the next administration will release that person, and this is what has been happening in Nigeria. But I believe that if people found to be corrupt after thorough investigations are made to face the firing squad or are hanged, this will serve as a deterrent. We need to start making examples. But like I said earlier, thorough investigations must be carried out and the trial must also be fair. It should not be a case of vendetta or persecution. Due process must be followed. If after all these have conditions been met and a person is still found guilty of corruption, then let him or her face the music. There is nothing wrong with death sentence for corrupt elements because through their own acts of corruption, they are also killing people.

If you are stealing money that is meant to buy drugs and put vital equipments in place in hospital, through your selfish and unpatriotic action, you are killing people or you are diverting money meant for road construction into your personal account, you are also killing people because the bad roads you fail to fix will cause accidents which will result in the death of people. It is high time we let Nigerians realize that corruption is evil, and that it doesn’t pay. We have to start from somewhere. I’m not one of those who are against death penalty for corruption, but there must be thorough investigations and trial. It must be established that the man that is being sentenced to death for corruption has, through his action of being corrupt, caused the death of people. It should not be a case of somebody being sentenced to death, later investigations revealed that he was wrongfully convicted and, meanwhile, the man has been executed, it should not be like that. There must be thorough investigations devoid of vendetta or persecution. If you cause the death of others through corrupt practices, then you also deserve to die. It should be an eye for eye, tooth for tooth like in mosaic laws. If we can do this, sanity will be restored fast. Corruption is thriving because some corrupt elements believe that they will always get away with a slap on the wrist; when you introduce death sentence, everybody will fall into line. Nigerians don’t want to die, they love life. The moment you introduce death sentence for corruption, everybody will sit up. But then, you will still want people who want to dare it, but when they dare it, they should go for it. We need death sentence to serve as a deterrent in the fight against corruption.

On the issue of insecurity confronting the nation now, especially the attacks by bandits and kidnappers in many states in the North, what is the way out?

Some people are linking the insecurity challenge issue to unemployment, but I believe that when the economy improves, some of these things will be naturally resolved. The Federal Government should act fast to improve make the economy.

[READ ALSO] We inherited broken economy – Buhari

But at the same time, we should think deeply over some of these things happening. There is no smoke without fire. The Federal Government should do more investigations into what is happening. We should not rule out the possibility of a third force also trying to make things a bit difficult for the government. Those in charge of the nation’s security architecture and intelligence should do everything possible to nip in the bud all these vices including kidnappings and banditry. We need to make Nigeria secure and safe for the economy to thrive and also to attract foreign investors.

Some people have suggested state police as way out of the insecurity challenge, how do you react to that?

State police is what some people also refer to as community policing. There is nothing wrong with it, but it is a double-edged sword, state police can be turned into an instrument of terror against perceived opponents by state governors. State police is a good idea, but the fear of it being abused by state governors is there. State police is ideal but the question is, are we mature to have it in a clime like ours where some state governors behave like emperors?

Still on the insecurity challenge, some people suggest that if the solution is for us to seek foreign assistance. What’s your take on that?

Definitely, if we can’t tackle it on our own, if we can’t cope, there is nothing wrong in seeking foreign assistance but the terms have to be clearly spelt out so that we don’t compromise or lose our sovereignty in the process.

The call for restructuring is gaining momentum in view of the challenges facing the nation while President Buhari was reported to have stressed the need for true federalism in the country. What do you think?

True federalism is not only ideal but will also help Nigeria to attain the desired greatness as it was in the First Republic when each region was thriving and developing without interference by the central or what we call Federal Government. The regions were autonomous, but what we are practicing today is unitary system which the military bequeathed to us. True federalism is what we should return to. There is no region or geopolitical zone that is not endowed with natural resources. There is no reason for any zone to fear. The natural resources are there for them to thrive and excel. I still remember with nostalgia the era of groundnut pyramid in Kano, cotton, skin and hides in the North. All these were being exported in commercial quantities. The North is also a food basket to the nation through agriculture. In those days, the West was also known for cocoa production, and it was through the export of cocoa that then Western Region was able to achieve many firsts including building the first TV station in Africa. Then Eastern Region was also known for coal and rubber production. But the discovery of oil, and exploitation of oil on a commercial scale, made us to abandon all these. There is no region that is not blessed with natural resources. What is left is for us to harness these resources for the common good. Restructuring is not only ideal for us; it will also help us to move forward. It will also help President Buhari to achieve his goal of taking Nigeria to the next level with ease.

Of recent you have been canvassing the setting up of a Truth, Restitution, and Recovery Commission. Are you insisting on the body being set up as President Buhari is set for second term?

We should set up the commission. Such a body will help the nation a lot. The commission should be fashioned after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa where those who did wrong during the apartheid period came out to confess to their evil deeds and made restitution. In the same line, people who stole Nigeria money and are afraid that they may be caught, jailed and be shamed will come to the commission and be given immunity from prosecution after they have coughed out what they have looted. Membership of the commission should cut across all divides; it should be all-embracing. An eminent Nigerian should head the commission. But any looter who failed to take advantage of this window of opportunity to voluntarily surrender his loot should then be prosecuted and face the consequences of his selfish and unpatriotic action.

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