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2011: SOUTH WON'T PRODUCE PRESIDENT IN 50 YEARS IF JONATHAN RUNS — SAM ALUKO

By NBF News

Professor Sam Aluko has called on President Goodluck Jonathan not to contest the 2011 election. According to him, it would be unfair to deny the North the right to produce the next president because of the unfortunate death of the late President Umar Musa Yar'Adua. He argued that if the late president were to be around, he would have contested and won the 2011 presidential election.

He warned that the North is more populated than the South and if Jonathan contests and wins the 2011 election, the North would make ensure it gets back power in coming elections and hold on to it for the next 50 years.

Although he is not a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Aluko is in support of the zoning arrangement of the party. He argued that zoning would ensure that the presidency goes round the country.

'Our peculiar circumstance favours zoning. Without zoning, the largest town in a local council would continue to produce the chairman while the largest tribes would continue to produce governors and the president,' he said.

Aluko also said that the energy situation in the country can be improved upon if states are given the responsibility of generating power. He suggested that Jonathan should meet with governors and discuss how to improve energy generation.

President Goodluck Jonathan is in charge of energy ministry. Do you see this as the solution to the electricity problem?

I don't think he is holding on to the ministry as minister of power. I think he wants to ensure that whoever is minister for power reports to him from time to time. The duties of the president are so multifarious and so exhausting that he cannot afford to hold on to a federal ministry. I don't think he is holding on to the ministry of power. I think he has an adviser on power and a minister of state for power.

What can he do to achieve his ambition of stabilising energy generation in the country?

I think he has only one year and even within this one year, he can meet the aspiration they could not meet in three years. But I think that if he can guarantee supply of gas to the various power stations and he can ensure the supervision of those power stations, he will do well. The problem is not that the stations are not there but most of the things that are supposed to be bought to make the power stations work were brought in as second-hand equipment. I was chairman of Economic and Intelligence Committee for three years and I was able to know that most of these problems we have, arose from the fact that obsolete equipment, instead of new ones, are being used. Take the power station in Ikorodu, which was supposed to be supplied with gas, for example. They went there and pumped something else into it and the thing exploded.

Three out of four exploded. They did that because they felt that the element was cheaper than gas. So, it is the same thing with the refineries. Instead of using modern equipment and allow the NNPC to use it to regenerate and refurbish what is called the turn-around maintenance for the refineries, they will award the contract to a politician who will re-award it to another politician and then go and use obsolete equipment or just polish the equipment and say that the things have been done.

The same thing applies to our pipelines. The pipelines were supposed to have been changed three times over since they were laid in the 1950s. But they are still there. The pipes were vandalised because they are old. Sometimes, the force of the fuel is higher than what they were carrying in the 1950s. That is part of the problem. If they can ensure that faithful, loyal and honest people are in charge and are maintaining them, using the relevant equipment and they are not putting the money in their pockets, the power system will work. We have enough stations today to even supply Nigeria more than the 6,000 power megawatts that they have promised. But the power stations are not being maintained loyally and honestly. That is the problem.

Again, the whole idea of concentrating the management of the energy sector in the hands of the Federal Government alone is wrong. There are many countries in the world that are not as large as Ondo State or Ekiti State or even Bayelsa and they are generating their own energy and maintaining an uninterrupted power. It is a shame. We have 36 states, Federal Capital Territory and the Federal Government. We ought to have 38 units of energy generation in Nigeria.

In Europe and America, local governments generate their own energy. So, the whole idea is that we are not doing what we should do. We are not practising division of labour. We concentrate too much power with the Federal Government. Federal Government is concentrating power in the private sector. Private sector has its own responsibilities. They cannot even maintain energy for their own. They are looking up to the Federal Government to generate energy for their industries and we are saying they are the ones who will generate energy for the country. You could see the vicious circle of foolishness that we are engaged in.

I think, really, the Federal Government should have a meeting with the states and concede it to them. The states have money. Ondo State has more money than many small countries in the world. I did a study for one of the state governments. There are 59 countries in the world, which are members of the United Nations that are smaller than Ekiti State or Ondo State and they are not as rich, in human resources and material resources. They have ambassadors; they have airlines and they have shipping lines, railways, and airports. It means something is wrong with us. It is because we stopped planning in the 80s that we are where we are now.

You suggest Jonathan should meet with state governments to discuss it. Why?

He should ask them what government could do to improve the energy stations in their states. If Ondo State takes control of its energy supply in its own state and other states can take control in their states, the problem would be minimised. That is what the council of states' meeting should be about and not to be sharing money from excess crude account. They should be working in concert with the Federal Government to solve our energy problem, unemployment and road problems.

Why should the Federal Government maintain roads in Ondo State? There is a government in Ondo State. They can contract that to the Ondo State government and not a contractor in Sokoto, who doesn't know Ondo State. That is what is done in America. The Federal Government in the US stipulates the quality of the roads that should be in the country. That is why there are competitions to see that their roads are good. That is why there are no potholes on their roads. Here we give the contract to a contractor, who is a lawyer. He will sub-contract to a third party and there is nobody to supervise. How can the president or minister in Abuja supervise a road in Ore? These are things we need to put right.

What do you say about the circumstance that brought Jonathan to power?

It is an unfortunate circumstance that our president died. Anybody can die. It is a natural thing that all of us will die. That is an unfortunate circumstance. But it is also fortunate for Jonathan that he, being the vice president, automatically became the president. So, we should rejoice with him in the same way Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar became head of State when Abacha died. Those are circumstances that occur in countries from time to time. It is a natural thing that he is there because he was the vice president.

Some people are asking him to contest the 2011 election despite the zoning formula of the PDP. Do you think he should contest?

I support the zoning formula, even though I am not a member of the PDP. In this country, most of us, particularly, in the South are shot-sighted. When we have a temporary advantage, we believe that it will be permanent. We don't look into the future. When I was chairman of Ado Ekiti Local Government Area, there were only four local government areas in Ekiti. That was in 1954-55. I had my own local government police. At the time, there was local government police. There was state police and there was federal police. If any thief came to Ado, the local people knew. They spoke the local language.

The state police spoke the local language and nobody could defeat them.

We started campaigning in the Action Group (AG) that federal police should be responsible for states and local governments. They wanted the police federalised because northerners were using the Andoka, the native authority police, to harass our supporters in the North. I said that since we have our own local government police here, they will not be able to harass our people. They said no, arguing that if we centralised the local government police, we would win the federal election, produce the president and use the police to do a lot of things in the North. I asked them what if we didn't win. And they were confident we would. That is how we campaigned to federalise police. Today, we are shouting in the South that we want state police and we want local government police. But we were the ones who started the campaign, in those days, for a federal police thinking that we would rule Nigeria and use the police against the northern emirs.

We started the campaign for presidential system of government. We used to debate it in the Action Group (AG). We had somebody who would be both head of state and head of government. I said it could lead to tyranny. They said no, that we would win the presidency. I know we are not like America. Look at Britain. Very few countries in the world have this kind of presidential system. Even some countries that have presidential system have heads of state and heads of government. The head of government is a parliamentarian. Now, we are saddled with presidential system. Who are the people now arguing for parliamentary system? Southerners. This is because we now see that what we thought we would be able to hold on to, we couldn't.

I said the same thing to Moshood Abiola when he wanted to contest the presidential election. I told him that I believed in division of labour. I told him that God had given him a fortress. He came from nowhere and became one of the richest people in Africa. I told him to be contented with that. He said no, insisting that he wanted power. He said I would be the head of his economic team. I said I could not be because I didn't think it was right. Did he become president?

We are talking about the same thing now. We started democracy, and we have 57 parties. We are now arguing that it should be a two-party system. But we were the ones who argued that the freest and fairest election was that of MKO Abiola. It is the same thing we are now saying now, because Jonathan is a southerner. People are saying he should contest in 2011. They are saying that zoning by the PDP is wrong. You forget that the North is in the majority. If you don't do zoning, we may never be president of Nigeria in the next 50 years in the South.

In a free and fair election, where we count one man, one vote, northerners will always have majority. So, whoever they put up there, as the presidential candidate, would become the president of Nigeria. The South would be short-changed. But when we rotate, we know that at a point in time, it would be our own turn.

Are you endorsing zoning?
I support the zoning system of the PDP, even though I am not a member of the PDP. It is a very civilised system. It is an equitable system. It is because of our peculiar circumstances and the structure of our population and homogeneity or lack of it. If we don't do that, we find that the town that is in large majority, in a local government area, will continue to produce the chairman forever. The largest area would continue to produce the governor forever. But when we rotate, we say look, you have done it two or three times, let somebody else do it.

I think we need that and that is why I don't think Jonathan should run. If Yar'Adua had not died, he would have had a second term. The North would have retained the presidency for eight years. We should not say because of the misfortune the North suffered, let us deny them the presidency for the next four years. It is not fair. As a Christian, I don't think it is right. What is not fair cannot be right.

Are you therefore telling Jonathan not to run?
Yes. His time would come. After all, he did not aspire to be president and he is there now. Even if he is not president forever, he has made a name that he was once president. Look at Shonekan. He was there for only about three or four months. Look at Gen. Abubakar, he was there for only about eight to nine months. He is now honoured around the world. When we were in government, many military officers tried to prevail on Gen. Abubakar to have another year, but he said no. He is a honourable person today. So, I don't think Jonathan should run.