TECHNOCRATS, NOT SOLUTION TO NIGERIA'S PROBLEMS

By NBF News
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That President Goodluck Jonathan decided to appoint some Nigerians in the Diaspora, minister is not popular in some circles. The impression created is that experts in various fields would know how to get Nigeria out of the hole.

But criticism of the appointment of technocrats is growing by the day. Critics claimed that the president should know by now that what Nigeria needs are people knowledgeable about the way things work in the country and not Nigerians in the Diaspora that will apply unrealistic principles. Such ideas, they said had further confused issues in the past.

Chairman of Lagos PDP, Hon. Setonji Koshoedo has joined the list of those who believe the president needs good advice to succeed in his economic policies. He argued that what Nigeria needs are people with native intelligence and not technocrats that will confuse issues.

He said: 'IMF was not created for Nigerria. It was created to serve the Western World. They cannot bend their rules to satisfy the Third World. If they offer you anything, they are taking it back in multiple fold.'

He spoke on Islamic Banking, Boko Haram and the performance Governor Fashola in Lagos. He also revealed that the Lagos PDP that has always boycotted council elections in Lagos would take part in the election scheduled to hold on October 22.

Excerpts:
Political parties in Lagos recently met with LASIEC in preparation for the council election scheduled to hold on October 22nd. Your party boycotted all council elections in the past. Does it mean that your party will take part in the election?

I want to categorically say that our party will be wiser this time around.  We found out that what is clearly an illegality is being executed in Lagos State. Elections were conducted into 20 local governments and 37 Local Council Development Areas. As far as I am concerned, it is 57 local governments, which were created, and the process of creating them was not completed. The councils are being funded directly or indirectly. They are executing the powers of local governments. I will say that it had adverse effect on our party in Lagos State and we would be wiser this time around in taking our decision. That does not mean that we agree with any illegality. We will take necessary action to make sure that our party does not lose out again this time around.

Do we interpret that to mean that PDP will take part in the council election?

Oh yes, PDP will take part in the coming council election. But we will put all things straight before taking part.

How do you deal with the illegality you referred to earlier?

But the illegality has been converted to legality by the Lagos State government. The Federal Government is funding them and nobody is complaining about it. Sincerely, that is why I could not have a clear statement. We are not relenting on our position about illegality, but our position must be based on what satisfies our people this time around.

Why is PDP always losing elections in Lagos?
Well, let me say that ACN or rather the ruling party has always been a sectional party. South West has always been known with AD, AC or ACN and so on and so forth. Being a sectional party, they have always had an upper hand in the entire South West. But, somehow, along the line, that changed for a while and it is as if the ACN is recovering.

In Lagos, PDP could not recover itself due to internal wrangling in the party. A party that is not united can hardly win a battle. That is why this executive has put in so much effort in the last three years to reconcile all the factions. We achieved a lot because we were able to form a collegiate leadership. But at the end of the day, I have found that the interest of the warring factions within the party is different. Their interest is not really for the people. It is more of ego and selfishness on who gets what and who leads the party. I believe we should go beyond that and look at the impact of whatever action we take on the people. Unfortunately for us, we could not really do things for the sake of the members. In a situation whereby our focus is different from what it is supposed to be, there could be problem.  I believe that has always been the problem of PDP in Lagos State. Leaders are not really working together. Because of past interaction, I wonder why personal things should be brought to political platform. It is an issue to be addressed if we are to move forward in Lagos State.

What are the chances of your party at the council election?

All things being equal, we will take part in the council election and we will make sure that we change our strategy. We are back to the roundtable to strategize on how to make a difference in the coming election. The truth of it is that we still want to go on with the kind of leadership we have been running. It could be another problem. In a situation whereby factions are not working together for the singular cause of the party is not ideal. So, we are strategizing and we are coming up with different personalities to man elections and so and so forth. Don't forget that this executive has been tried in the past.  We had two re run elections and we won. So, this executive has been given a chance to prove itself.  If the elders of the party allow the executive to work, we would do the right thing and achieve the right goal.   We are looking at an improved situation if we have the necessary support and understanding from our leaders.

Why is Lagos PDP so divided on the ministerial nominees that three different powerful groups sent different lists to the president. About 46 names were said to have landed on the table of the president at the end of the day.

The truth is that the situation was not peculiar to Lagos State. That happened all over the country, especially in the South West. There is hardly any state in the South West that did not have more than one list. Only a single list could be authentic and the authentic list is the one from the state chairman of the party. It goes through the National secretariat to the party before getting to the presidency.

It is part of what we were talking about. The attitude of some of our elders is that they will have to continue to benefit from the party at the expense of the others. They are the ones to be ministers at all times. They want to keep returning to government at all times. That shows some level of selfishness and when you look at the list that was signed, you discover that some elders just decided not to quit for the next generation. There should be a level of trust in the next generation to groom another leadership for the party.

Well, Mr. President in his wisdom, because he needs a team that will transform Nigeria, has chosen a minister that he feels could work for his own purpose. I believe as well that the constitutional aspect of the matter raised some controversy on the final nomination. However, haven worked with that person in the past, the party has started working with the person. At the same time, we believe the president knows what he is doing. He will make sure that appropriate thing is done as a way of pacifying or compensating the people of Lagos.

One of your ministerial nominees was said to have died at the Lagoon recently. Some claimed he committed suicide while others said he slipped. What is the truth?

It is true that Senator Abaniwonda who was our candidate for senate in Lagos East died on Monday and was buried three days later. There is no element of suicide in the situation. He has lived a comfortable life and he is a comfortable man to whatever level. His life was full of celebrations and he reached the peak of his career before retiring and joining us in politics.

He is also into good business that is fetching him good money. I wonder why he would want to commit suicide.

He is also a very pleasant person who was never troubled. The unfortunate thing is that he was the only person out of the list that categorically stated that he was not interested in ministerial slot but that since his name was there he would take any appointment.

He was one of your nominees?
He was one of the nominees of the party. He was not anybody/s nominee. The selection for the party was done through he local governments. Directive was given to senatorial zones to present names of capable people to be enlisted. Those names came from various local governments and senatorial zones. He was one of them. He was nobody's nominee but that of the party.

My name was also on the list and my name came out of the list sent from Badagry division. A process was engaged and that process brought out three nominees from that area and I happen to be one of the nominees.  So, nobody is anybody's nominee.

Many find it difficult to believe that a man of his calibre will go and urinate at the lagoon. Was he bewitched?

That is why we are saying that the situation is mysterious and nobody can explain it. What you cannot explain, you leave to God to act. The truth of it is that his disposition lately did not show any sign of pressure, stress or depression that could aggravate to the extent of committing suicide. The feedback reaching us from his business activities shows that the man was actually doing well in business. A man that already reject ministerial nomination and he is doing well in business could not have committed suicide. It is the speculation of detractors.

What do you say to security situation in the country with particular reference to Boko Haram?

The security situation world -wide has problems. It is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. It is just an extension of what is happening all over the world. It is not unexpected.

How do you think it can be quelled?
I believe the battle is not usually won in the battlefield but on the round table. I believe in what was done in the Niger Delta. I believe a new approach should be applied in a peaceful way. If we continue killing ourselves, it creates more anger and more reason for vengeance.

So, you are also of the view that government should grant amnesty?

It may not necessarily be amnesty in the way of the Niger Delta. But any peaceful way of solving the problem will be good enough. We have different approaches in solving the problem. We have different approaches to conflict resolution.

The economy is nose-diving, what do you say as a leader of PDP?

The president was inaugurated in May and he has just started a new tenure. But not withstanding, you know it is easy to destroy things. But to rebuild takes time. It takes time to transform. I think the president needs some time. People should be patient for the president. H            e has a good mind and he is passionate about Nigeria and he is willing to do the right thing.

If we pressurize him and confuse him, it would not help the matter. The truth of it is that looking at the economy of the nation what the president needs is advice. Some think that some people are gifted and skillful to solve our problems. But we have tried so many in the Diaspora and we found out that they are rather creating more problems for the country.

For the last 12 years, we've tried many professors and those in the Diaspora and we found that our local business people such as people from Kano that are selling kola nut in large quantity and the Ijebu's that are doing business are doing good business. The rules of business are the same. I want to suggest that Nigeria should begin to look into some native initiatives.  We should apply native intelligence into governance and the economy.

The World Bank will not come and help us. That is the truth. If the World Bank sends the best hands in the world to come and fix the economy of any country, they will fix the economy to suit their own needs.

But people that live all there live in the country understand the economy better. In present day economy in which we say things are bad, we have Nigerians that are making millions every day. How are they making it? Can't we apply their knowledge to effect better economic live for other people? If government supports that initiative and if 10 people were making that possible before and you increase that to 100 people in every community, the whole community will be economically buoyant. That transfer will extend to the other part of the nation.

For example people are calling for the scrapping of the NYSC. I believe the NYSC work force should be diverted to agriculture. Empower any Corper with just N1million to go into any arm of agriculture-maybe fish farming, husbandry or even vegetable planting. You will find out that the corper will be able to take care of himself and employ two or three other people. That means that he has also created employment for other people. At the end of the day, the money may yield up to N500, 000 within six months. It means the corper will have about N500.000 salary for the next six months. The next year, the rate of return will be higher. At the end of the day he is creating job.

Again, every company says there is no power supply in Nigeria. And they don't want to come. But they are sending millions of cars into Nigeria. Toyota, Honda and Nissan send millions of cars assembled somewhere and creating job for those people. You sell it here and take our money away. Why not ban all those vehicles from coming to Nigeria except they have assembly plants in Nigeria? Believe me, just three of them. Honda, Nissan and Toyota can combine to have the power plant that will run their plants.

We will provide the infrastructure but they will provide the power supply just like former Ewekoro cement now known as WAPCO, It is providing power for its own use and also supplying the estates around. Why can't they force motor companies to do that? I believe government should do more by applying native intelligence.

IMF was not created for Nigeria; it was created to serve the Western world. They cannot bend their rules to satisfy the third world. If they offer you anything, they are taking it back in multiple folds. That is the truth.

You are not an outsider in government; you are a state chairman of the ruling party.

Party platform is different from government platform. My relationship with my party is different from my relationship with the government of Nigeria. In the government of Nigeria, we have ACN, which is not my party.  So, there is limit to which I can influence things in government. But there must be a platform to do that. I tried to introduce that when I was in the House of Representatives. My idea was that there should be a platform where people will submit ideas in the Internet where people in government will view and see which one is good enough to be used. I could not finance the idea. So, I dropped it.

I also discovered that the laws of Nigeria are not encouraging people to contribute to the progress of Nigeria. For instance, the NYSC I suggested, my idea was to fund it through excess crude oil fund. I was in the House of Reps and I raised a motion on the floor of the House to divert the work force of NYSC to agriculture. But I found out that the constitution of Nigeria or the law of Nigeria did not agree with me to use the excess crude oil for any other thing than to share among the three arms of government.

What is your position on the minimum wage of N18, 000?

The minimum wage issue is unfortunate. Sincerely, I don't see it as money too much to be paid to average Nigerians. However, as I rightly said, we should be creative in governance. If someone is earning N10, 000 but knows that the welfare package is worth N1m, he will not talk about increasing salary. If an average man can afford the basic needs of life and not that you have to save for ten years to buy a television or stay for 50 years to buy a car. If housing is authomatic at an age, he will not bother about the salary.

For instance, a child in a boarding school where everything is supplied, if you give the child N1m as pocket money, he would come back with the same amount at the end of the year because the child will not need the money.

So, if you sit down and be creative and package some welfare ideas to support whatever wage you are giving, nobody will insist on any minimum wage. However, it has to be looked into by the government. It has to be done because the federal government has announced it.

But if government is having problem in paying the amount, they should look into cutting down the cost of running the government. If I say this, I am asking if we are ripe with the system of government we are giving ourselves? Is the presidential system the right one for us? Will the parliamentary system be better? Or should we sit down as a nation and decide which one is best for us?

The National Assembly reviews the constitution of Nigeria from time to time. The constitution we are reviewing, are we in agreement with the system of government we are reviewing? We must start from the cradle or the foundation of it all. We must find a way of government that will not be too expensive for us.

Nigerians say the House of Reps members are earning too much. Why won't they earn enough to maintain the institutions that have been built around them by the constitution? Believe me, I was in the House of Reps and I don't believe they are earning what people say they are earning. But even they do, I know that before the end of the quarter an average member of the House of Reps is going on over draft. I have experienced it before.  The demand from your constituency is more than what you could have collected as allowances. Don't forget that these allowances are meant for some things that you have to retire back to the National Assembly. Part of it is that you have to train yourself and take care of the constituency.  There is a list of what you have to do with the fund. They earn big salary and have big demand from home.

Let us go to the root of the problem. We cannot solve the problem on the surface.

Why do you think the South West lost out within the PDP?

Let me first tell you that politics is like waves coming in form of tides. Sometimes, it will favour you and sometimes it will not favour you. Eight or twelve years ago, it was all in favour of South West. We had the president and we had this and that. The other parts of the country too were complaining at that time. So, it is the turn of other parts of the country to rule and we should not complain. What we are supposed to do is to find our way to the round table and find a way of getting it back. It has happened and it has happened. We need to be patient to get it back. In the life of a nation, four or five years is nothing because governance is ever lasting in any nation.

What is your position on Islamic Banking?
Sincerely, I am surprised that a true understanding of Nigeria should tell anybody that any idea you want to introduce must be such that will not divide the country.

In the true sense of it, as long an idea of banking can add value to the economy of Nigeria, I welcome it. But Nigeria is a heterogeneous country. If an Islamic banking will create problems for Nigeria, why should we introduce it?

As an individual, I have nothing against Islamic Bank or Christian Bank. My own idea is that an idea that could divide Nigeria should not be introduced and should be stopped.

Many regard Governor Bbatunde Fashola as a performing governor. Leaders of your party at national level said so. What is your position?

Let me first say that we have different types of leadership. We have visionary leaders and democratic leaders.  There are six different types of leaders. The point I am trying to explain is that it is one thing to have vision to achieve tangible things and another to achieve the intangible things that affects the lives of the people. It is a good thing to do the road; provide transport and this and that. But how well does this impact on the lives of the people?

Sincerely, looking at what we had for the past 12 years, Fashola has made a difference. But, has the life of an average Lagosian improved? So, what is the theme of his governance? Is he creating beautiful environment without people?  Or, is he governing to create an environment that benefits the people? If the people cannot have three square meals, there will still be hoodlums and armed robbers.

In any policy of government, the people must be first.