Nigeria’s break up is imminent, says Oyebola
Former Editor of Daily Times Newspaper, Chief Areoye Oyebola, who is also the Board Chairman of Publications Limited spoke with Ibadan Bureau Chief, SAM OLUWALANA on the need to introduce capital punishment for corruption in Nigeria. He also advocates a sovereign national conference for the restructuring of the country. Excerpts:
Corruption in Nigeria
Corruption in Nigeria has become so monumental that it has led to the death of millions of people and there are Nigerians who are in the hospitals and do not have money to settle their medical bills. Some of them die on the roads because the roads are not properly constructed or adequately maintained. Many of them cannot afford to feed, particularly the older ones because somebody has misappropriated or embezzled their pensions. Retirement benefits of those who served this nation with their strength is either stolen or misused and some of those affected dies of illness or hunger and so on. The damages that have been done to Nigeria because of corruption are grave.
Left to me, those who are involved in corruption should be executed.
For instance, China, which President Muhammadu Buhari visited recently used to have about 56 per cent of its citizens totally indigent and poor in the 1970s but today the country has reduced the rate of poverty to just 12 per cent while Nigeria’s percentage of ‘extremely poor people’ has increased from that period from 20 to 70 per cent.
China was able to make it because a certain key official, stole 500, 000 dollars and diverted it, the head of an institution for that matter; he was publicly hanged and a public holiday was declared in his area to serve as a great lesson to others.
His deputy, who was able to convince the panel that he didn’t know his boss was stealing, was given life imprisonment.
Corruption is so monumental in Nigeria and unless people are publicly executed because of it, the situation will assume a higher dimension in the nearest future.
Some Nigerians might think it is not possible to execute corrupt people but one day, and in the nearest future, we shall witness it. A no nonsense leader will emerge either from the North, East or West. Someone like Jerry Rawlings of Ghana will emerge one day and he will execute so many people and blood will flow in Nigeria. We have no option than to do that if we really mean to save the soul of this nation from the grip of corruption.
The level of corruption has reached the stage of utter madness in this nation.
I am totally against negotiation and plea-bargaining for corruption. Those found wanting must be made to face the music. As long as we continue with the idea of collecting money back from culprits secretly, corruption will not end in Nigeria.
The reason I say this is because we don’t know what part of the stolen funds have been kept with their wives, members of their families and their close friends.
Most often what we recover from them may be a small percentage of the ones they kept with other people. So, there should be no compromise otherwise if we allow desperate men in the military to come and clean up this nation, it would bring Nigeria to a new situation and it may come to a point that it has to take place.
It is too bad, in a country where 70 per cent of the people are living in penury, they are indigent, can’t afford the kind of food that some people offer to their pet animals in civilised places.
Corruption has destroyed our roads and rail systems, hospital are ruined, educational system is in shambles and Nigeria generally is in shambles. Something drastic must be done urgently to arrest the situation.
Restructuring of the country
What I suggest we do is to create semi autonomous regions. Now, we have six zones. They should be made very powerful, semi-autonomous and they should be able to use their initiatives, control their resources and contribute some percentages to the Federal Government and not the other way round as it is now where the Federal Government keeps large percentage of our resources and doles out a little percentage to the states and local governments areas in form of monthly allocation.
This is the most bastardised federation in the world. Because ours is a federation where you take what you make in your state to the centre is not innovative of fiscal federalism. The whole problem we found ourselves in today started and ended with the military.
We need to convene a far reaching constitutional conference and not the types former presidents, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan organised. We need a general constitutional conference without restriction or no go areas.
For instance, in the conferences organised by former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, nobody could mention the issue of Biafra, or the unity of the country because they would be regarded as unlawful subjects, or no go areas.
What we actually need is the type of conference where Biafra will make their points; Niger Delta Avengers will make theirs, and it must be a conference where all aggrieved people would come out and say their minds. We must have a very loose federation where resources in states belong to them while they give certain percentages to the central government. That was how it was in the old regional structure. Back then, the regions made the money and gave the Federal Government certain percentages because the central government warehouses the money for foreign services and the rest.
Back then, the regions controlled their resources and did whatever they liked with them, and the people determined and decided their preferences. They never went cap-in-hand to beg the Federal Government for money for the states.
Monies belonging to all tiers including the local government areas must go directly to them. Now, governors take monies meant for local government areas and that is why they don’t organise local government elections. The governors prefer instead to appoint caretaker chairmen and then they collect the monies meant for the councils from them. From there, they (governors) only pay council workers’ salaries and hold the rest. That is not a federation. Things have to change, and we have to adopt a confederal system, which must be agreed upon, because we shall be making a mistake, if we think it is only Biafra and Niger Delta Avengers that are clamouring for autonomy.
Anybody looking at the present situation from that perspective is just deceiving his or herself because some years ago, people thought it was a rumour when the Yoruba met and decided to have an Oduduwa Republic.
If Nigeria disintegrates, we will just go our ways. Yoruba are very progressive and forward-looking people. That was why the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, started free education, which enabled even the poorest traders, who wanted their children to be educated to have their wish.
However, it was because the Yoruba felt that the rest of the country was holding them down that they met and planned Oduduwa Republic.
So, for anybody to remain in delusion that it is only the Niger Delta Avengers that are threatening to secede, such a person is clearly mistaken. Some people, who are older conceded to Baba Awolowo because of what he had done in the Western Region, through free education; through the cultivation of cocoa, palm oil and other things.
Nobody can stop people who want to secede unless you change the country and the system drastically. Drastically in the sense that you give everybody the chance to do whatever they want to do in their regions. When this happens, there will be great development.
Look at Awolowo’s era, there was cocoa, palm kernel, cashew and so on. Even the South East made a lot of money from cashew and palm kernel to develop the region.
In the North, the Kano groundnut pyramids and the sesame seeds pyramids were part of the many things that gave the people money to improve themselves.
So now, what we are canvassing for is for a committee to be set up for everybody to say his/her mind. Let’s look for compromises, let’s look for how we can change things and how people can grow and develop in their own regions as fast as the Yoruba have.