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JONATHAN SHOULD FORGET 2011 PRESIDENCY – LAM ADESINA

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Lam Adesina
At a time when President Goodluck Jonathan is rumoured to be hobnobbing with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, he has been warned to beware or risk regrets.

According to Chief Lam Adesina, former governor of Oyo State, Jonathan would be ruined if he works with Obasanjo.

The former governor, while saying that Jonathan should not contest for next year's election, said that the agenda the president should pursue is to ensure electoral reforms, stable electricity and security.

Adesina spoke on these and many other things.
How would you assess Nigeria at 50 as well as democracy at 11?

Democracy in Nigeria is a perverted version of democracy. We can say we have civil rule in Nigeria, not democracy, as people like us know it. It is not what the people, NADECO, Afenifere fought for, during the Abacha regime. We fought for a democracy that will be practised as true democracy, as you have in India, America, Britain and other advanced countries of the world. What we today have in Nigeria is another version of democracy that is not even similar to the one practised in Ghana and South Africa. One of the major ingredients of democracy is the ability to conduct free and fair election periodically. That has eluded us. The one we could see, was the one conducted in 1999, when the military wanted to hand over. 2003 and 2007 elections were only selection and it was known to the international world; most of Nigerians knew, but, there are some people who wouldn't want to acknowledge it, especially in 2003. But, the one in 2007 was so well known that even the late President, Alhaji Umar Yar'Adua himself acknowledged that his election was imperfect. He said it in Nigeria and abroad.

That was why he instituted an electoral reform committee, which was headed by Justice Muhammed Uwais and the report of the committee had been submitted. Till now, no deliberation was done on it. A bill to enact a law had been sent to the National Assembly, they have not deemed it fit to do anything about it.

What I'm saying is that, even when I was a student in the First Republic, I knew how democracy was practised then. There was rigging, no doubt, but, in those days our forefathers rose up in the Western Region to protest the rigged election for the NPC government in October 1965. So, we saw how in the Western Region, the opposition party, NCNC, almost captured the region from the Action Group, the ruling party in 1956 elections. Also, in transition to civil rule, in the Second Republic, I participated in the election to the National Assembly.

The military conducted it. To a large extent, we could say it was free and fair election and also we saw the election of MKO Abiola, which was the freest and fairest in the political history of this country. Then, come to think of 2003/2007. The two elections were more than useless; that is how I could describe them. Is that what we are planning again?

The international community is watching us and they say there must be free and fair election in Nigeria. Some of us fought for democracy. I can say that God has compensated me somehow. But it is not full. I became governor after a fight in which I almost lost my life, fighting for democracy, but, after then, another form of democracy is what we are seeing now in Nigeria. So, democracy has suffered a major setback in Nigeria and I want to say it, with every emphasis at my disposal, the 2011 election must be well conducted, credible, free and fair, otherwise at 72, I'm prepared to lay down my life to save democracy in Nigeria. I have been fighting the cause of democracy, championing the cause of the people since I was a student at the University of Nigeria, at least way back in 1965, after the 1964 federal elections, which were disputed by the opposition, particularly the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA). I was a member of the Students Representative Council. Isaac Boro, a friend of mine, was the president. We prevailed on him at the SRC to take the government of Balewa and Nnamdi Azikwe to court. We went to court to challenge the validity of the election in December 1964. That case was when the military struck. So, we have been fighting constitutionally for free and fair polls in Nigeria ever since I was a student and that is what culminated in my being imprisoned in 1998 and eventual triumph of democracy in 1999.

In the National Assembly today, those people there were not elected. They were not elected by the people and only one party controls the overwhelming majority there, which is not good for democracy. They are weakening the opposition by making sure they rigged the polls in 2007 and that is why nothing is moving in Nigeria today. If you say democracy, as defined by Abraham Lincoln, is the government of the people for the people and by the people, we do not have it.

Talking about that, what has been the lot of the people, in terms of democracy dividends since we have had the restart in 1999?

In advanced countries, there is what we call basic irreducible minimum for the benefit of the people, because they vote periodically for their leaders. For example, most of these advanced countries, Britain, America, Germany, France, Malaysia, India and other places, never can you see that energy supply is failing; that is what I call basic irreducible minimum of comfort, dividend of democracy. There is potable water; the roads are good; education is excellent; health facilities are there. Look at India today. A friend of mine had heart problem about a year ago; they recommended him to go to India. He went there for treatment and came back and he is living fine now. There is another uncle of mine who had eye problem. They couldn't treat him well in Nigeria. In fact, UCH spoilt his eye and his children decided to take him to India. They repaired everything and he is living fine now. Do you get that in Nigeria? What is the comfort here in Nigeria? The roads are not good. The air is polluted; no law, even if there is law nobody is enforcing it, the oil God has given us, we are not enjoying its benefit, no development, the educational system has almost collapsed, corruption is at its peak. Efforts are made to fight corruption to a standstill, but, at a point the more the fight the more that canker worm gets stronger. Where is the dividend of democracy? I see none, except governors and local government chairmen advertising what they didn't do in their states or local governments on the pages of newspapers and electronic media. That is what they do with the huge money they collect from the federation account every month.

The fact of the case is that those who know how to run the affair of government are not in position to do it. They have been pushed to the back through rigging of election. We have nonentities in government. I make bold to say that in advanced countries they reduce unemployment everyday, but in Nigeria, unemployment is on the increase side everyday. I was reading a newspaper, which said that America had warned her citizens not to go to some states in Nigeria, because we lack security. We have land; nobody is making use of them; most of the people in the rural areas have migrated to the urban centre. In the past 25 to 30 years, we were saying migration is from the rural to the urban centre. What have we done to stop this migration?

When the late President Yar'Adua was sworn in, he raised Nigerians' hope. Can you assess his administration and the Jonathan presidency?

I can't assess the administration of Yar'Adua, because the man was ill. He was ill before he took over presidency and during the course of his administration he was sick till he finally succumbed to death. So, nobody can judge him correctly. If he had been well, if he was strong enough to handle the affairs of this country, I know he would have achieved certain things in that agenda; particularly, he would have fought corruption to a standstill. For a man, for the first time in Nigeria's history to have come out to declare his assets publicly, you should know he meant business and honesty. When you see certain things on the economic front, certain steps he took, like the appointment of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who brought about the banking reforms, you will see what I mean. This reform allowed us to see that some banks chiefs are looters, living fat on people's money. Soludo was there before.

Was he able to institute such reforms? But, Sanusi is a real professional banker. Again, the woman Yar'Adua appointed as the Chairman of the EFCC, Farida Waziri, is a round peg in a round hole. There are certain cases some people in this country wanted to push under the carpet, but the woman said no. That is why I said if Yar'Adua had been well, he would have performed reasonably well. We will wait and watch Jonathan. The only fear I have for him is that there are many people who are giving him several options. He has not started his presidency and people are telling him to go for 2011.

They are confusing the young man. I hope that he will not be confused. The highest position anybody could aim at is the presidency, either by luck or by accident or anything. Goodluck Jonathan has become the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria even if he spends just six months, it will forever remain on record. I will continue saying it. Jonathan should not contest 2011 presidency. Let him concentrate on the programme he has. If the programme is well implemented, at the end, he should step down. He would be the happiest man on earth. He would have even been the greatest Nigerian, but any attempt to contest any election, he will put Nigeria in chaos. I'm talking from experience.

Why did you say that?
I said it because I'm a realist when it comes to politics. Yoruba fought for democracy against Abacha. As one man said, Abacha is gone, Yoruba people should bring out candidates in all political parties then. Nobody, both northerners and easterners would contest with you and that was exactly what happened. Falae came out, Obasanjo came out, it has never happened in the political history of Nigeria before and I doubt if it will ever happen again. They voted and picked Obasanjo; first term of four years, second term of four years, making eight years. Either by zoning or anything I don't know, Yar'Adua, a northerner became the president. He represented the North. He could have completed even the second term if he had been alive; it is an issue of common sense that the North should be allowed to run for 2011 again.

So, you believe in the zoning policy of the PDP?
No, there must be zoning. Even locally we do zoning; it has been happening several years back. But people are saying it's no longer exigent, perhaps, that of 1999 was understandable in face of the injustice of the June 12 election, but as we gradually evolve as a nation, we should respect the constitution, which provides for no barrier to every Nigerian to contest.

No, let me tell you, it is not practical politics now. I want us to face things practically, that one is more academic than practical. Nigeria has not developed to the stage where we can say anybody can come out at anytime. We are not yet a nation, have you forgotten? I see myself as a Yoruba national, before I see myself as a Nigerian national. One of the basic ingredients that will make a nation come true is education; do you know the number of people that are educated in Nigeria today? We have to tread softly.

You spoke about weakened opposition. Is that not a liability or a fault of the opposition parties themselves to rally round to dislodge PDP?

If you go through the history of Nigeria, you will see that it is difficult for opposition parties to come together and fight the party in power. There are many differences, either tribal or religious or whatever. From the First Republic, 1959 federal elections, NPC won the majority, followed by NCNC and Action Group came third. Nigeria would have become an El Dorado today if the NCNC led by Zik and Action Group led by Awolowo had come together to form a government. But Zik was negotiating with Awolowo at one point and then other people were negotiating with NPC at another point. Eventually, NCNC and NPC coalition government emerged in Nigeria, which collapsed after some years. At least opposition could have come together to save Nigeria that time. We could have got a more enlightened government that would usher in the president for Nigeria. Also, in the Second Republic, NPN came first, followed by the UPN of Awolowo, followed by the NPP; then the GNPP, PRP and what have you. Why is it that the opposition parties did not come together that time, even if it was a presidential system of government and Alhaji Shehu Shagari was the president? The opposition could come together and give the government tough time to collapse in two weeks, if they were patriotic. But we tried our best; we couldn't get it. It is only the UPN and some parts of the GNPP and PRP that cooperated together in the National Assembly. The NPP had gone with the NPN.

It's believed that former President Olusegun Obasanjo has great influence on President Jonathan. What do you make of this?

Let Jonathan follow him and see what happens. He will follow him to his own ruin, everybody has known Obasanjo for what you have said. He is a trickster, a dictator. He believes he is God that knows everything, whereas he knows nothing and is merely a powerless human being; he is only lucky. But, to me, Obasanjo has stretched his luck too far and if Jonathan wants, he should allow Obasanjo to influence him and see what comes out of it. But I pray Jonathan will not allow himself, especially when I know Jonathan's relationship with Alamieyeseigha. Alamieyeseigha was his boss before and you see what Obasanjo did to him, disrobed him as governor; he did what that man did not deserve. Alamieyeseigha and Jonathan were close. Alamieyeseigha brought him to be deputy governor and Obasanjo was staunch enemy of Alamieyesiegha; then you are saying Jonathan is hobnobbing with Obasanjo. I know that for the people over there, blood is thicker than water.