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June 12 as Democracy Day is a Greek gift — Osuntokun

•Says restructuring inevitable, willingly or forcefully

By Dapo Akinrefon

MR. Akin Osuntokun, Director-General of the News Agency of  Nigeria, NAN, was Political Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He is pained by Nigeria’s state of affairs especially rising waves of insecurity and stunted socio-economic growth and development. Thus, in this interview, he berates those attacking former President Obasanjo over his fulanisation and Islamisation agenda comment. He also bares his mind on burning national issues. He said although some stakeholders have fanatically and stubbornly remained opposed to restructuring, Nigeria will be restructured eventually willingly or by force.

Osuntokun

Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has come under heavy bashing over his comments that the Boko Haram insurgency is about fulanisation and Islamisation of Nigeria. Do you agree with Obasanjo’s statement on the war against insurgency?

What President Obasanjo said was that from our direct experience of the Boko Haram insurgency, it is no longer tenable to limit the explanation of its persistence to religion and poverty. That it has become clear that they have a more ambitious political agenda and he calls it the fulanisation and Islamisation agenda. This characterisation is not new and it is one that objective observers have reached a long time ago. After all, it can hardly be said that Farouk Mutallab (the underwear bomber and son of billionaire Umaru Mutallab) was motivated by poverty.

What is new and alarming is that the number one Nigerian nationalist, Obasanjo, has tragically reached the same conclusion and he is prepared to admit it publicly.

What is your take on the decision to make June 12 Democracy?

This government has not made a better and well-considered decision. It is a score of slam dunk quality. But it is tainted by the ulterior motive and insincerity behind it all.

Professor Wole Soyinka characteristically exposed the hypocrisy behind the Greek gift. It is internally inconsistent and questionable to purport to uphold the villain and the victim as heroic at one and the same time. It is the height of hypocrisy and self-deceit to absolve the late dictatorship of General Sani Abacha of guilt and complicity in the persecution unto death of Chief Moshood Abiola and in the same breadth celebrate him and the victory of June 12, 1993, as a martyr of Nigerian democracy.

Many opine that the clamour for restructuring is waning, do you agree?

You are correct to the extent that it is futile talking to the deaf. When, regardless of the merit of your argument, many have chosen to be fanatical and blind in opposition to it, there isn’t much else you can do by way of persuasion. Why do we even need to knock our heads against the wall when restructuring is inevitable anyway?

On restructuring, Nigeria is locked into two options. We can seize the initiative and be proactive about the imperative or we can choose to wait until it is forced upon us by extraordinary circumstances of political implosion, which is already at the door. Were you not surprised the other day, at the sudden shift in the position of the President when from nowhere he started talking about true federalism?

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I can assure you that the shift in his position was not voluntarily he was compelled by, for once, correctly deciphering the writing on the wall. As anarchy looms, didn’t you also hear the defence minister urgently appealing to a group of Northern communities to embark immediately on community policing and deployment of local vigilante force? So how is this different from the decentralisation and devolution of powers back to the states that we have been shouting from the rooftops?

It was Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was fond of saying that it is only a fool who wilfully waits to learn from history when God has endowed you with the facility to anticipate and not wait for tomorrow to tell you what to do. His precise words were ‘history is the best teacher but only for a fool’.

And those who have done the greatest damage to the cause of the restructuring advocacy are the Yoruba wing of the APC who started singing a new song on restructuring when they tasted power in Abuja.

How do you view the spate of banditry, kidnapping, insecurity now in the South West?

These are all manifestations of a systemic failure syndrome and the inability of the government to successfully grapple with governance. It is a practical demonstration of the need for a course reversal from the prevailing selfish, greedy and blind attachment to a failed and increasingly untenable status quo.

It has powerfully called attention to the complete bankruptcy of our centralised national security model.

There is also the speculation of a sinister political agenda that is not yet completely clear. The danger, of course, is that it has assumed a dangerous ethnic colouration (against the background of evidence of the ethnic nationality identity of the perpetrators) and the seeming complicity (by omission) of the security agencies. Some are even suggesting that it is an orchestrated pretext for the declaration of a national state of emergency. Whatever may account for the development, it is pregnant with ominous end time portents for Nigeria

Northern traditional rulers recently met with the Minister of Defence over the rate of insecurity in the region. Don’t you think there is a need for Southern traditional rulers to come together and discuss ways of curbing this worrying trend?

There we go again. Is he the Defence Minister of Nigeria or Northern Nigeria? The security of Nigeria is constitutionally entrusted in the government, not the traditional rulers. It is good to meet with critical stakeholders but this should be at the instance of those who bear primary responsibility for the security of Nigeria.

It is good for traditional rulers from the South to meet and share experiences and recommendations for the way forward. But this is complementary to the efforts of government in this regard. And as I said earlier, all these efforts would be in vain without rectification of the fundamental problem of all these manifestations of sociopolitical dysfunction. And the place to begin is the restoration of federalism also known as restructuring.


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