Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye is the chairman, Board of Commissioners for Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). He had represented Ogun East Constituency in the upper chamber of the National Assembly at the start of the Fourth Republic on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 1999. He spoke with journalists on the reasons President Muhammadu Buhari should be re-elected, the division in Afenifere and others. SEYE OLUMIDE and ENIOLA DANIEL were there.
Why Buhari deserves second term
If we are to face the fact confronting Nigeria in terms of governance, President Muhammadu Buhari should be given another opportunity to lead the country again. The current administration has done a lot in the circumstance the country found herself. We knew what the country was during the military era and when civilians took over and how our economic fortunes dwindled in terms of revenue. Nigeria was indebted in many areas; there were collapse of many values including education, power, health and major infrastructure especially under the erstwhile ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The only thing I can commend PDP’s administration for is agriculture. The party scored beyond average achievement in that sector during the 16 years of its rule. It was in their time that telecommunications got a new dimension in GSM services. Those things I can credit the PDP administration for in 16 years; there may be others, but those are the two I remember but the rest is abysmal failure.
But since Buhari came into power, there had been tremendous improvement just within the space of four years. For instance, look at what happened to the banking industry in terms of BVN, which is good for the economy but it is only unfortunate that Nigeria, like the rest of the world, went into cyclical collapse. The economy was in a free fall in 2008 and we didn’t start climbing up till about 2011. Some have not recovered as much as Nigeria has recovered, but the Buhari administration has done something credible in the area of putting Nigeria on economy recovery path.
Before the incumbent government, power generation was in abysmal level but it improved when APC came to power. Although we are not yet there, the government is doing its best better than in the preceding years. I give kudos to the incumbent Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who is trying his best.
PDP didn’t pay attention to road construction and rehabilitation in the 16 years it was in government particularly the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which is the artery that links the major port in Nigeria to the hinterlands. The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, is also performing in the rail sector.
Telecommunication today contributes 10 per cent to the GDP of this country. It contributes between N3 trillion to N4 trillion to the economy.
See what the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hammed Alli (rtd), is achieving in custom. I am not aware of any country where there is no smuggling, but certainly, we’ve seen noticeable improvement.
The Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mr. Babatunde Fowler, has also done so well to complement the work of government. Nigerians can make the comparison themselves. What were we getting from tax revenue five years ago to what Nigeria is generating now?
Another policy of this government, which people seem to underrate, is the ability to build than to destroy. I mentioned agriculture as a good area the PDP can point to and that earned the former Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Akinwumi Adesina, who is a relation of mine, the position of President of African Development Bank (ADB). One good thing I want Nigerians to know about the Buhari administration is that he never destroys where he finds something good, because of personal ego but he would rather continue with it.
I saw, for the very first time in Southern Nigeria, agricultural pyramid when Governor Ibikunle Amosun invited me to a function. When we were growing up, we only saw the groundnut pyramid in Kano. I saw rice pyramid in Abeokuta in December 2017.
Most governments don’t continue with the good policies of their predecessors; they rather stop and focus on new programmes, but Buhari is never like that. It is in the interest of Nigeria to allow the incumbent to have another four years. Then, if Nigerians feel that we are only deceiving them, then another party should come in.
But the government has done less in the area of security considering the resurgence of terror, herders/farmers’ crisis and other crimes?
It won’t be easy for me to come out publicly to attack my own party unless I have a major reason to do so. Those who know me understand that I am very outspoken. Boko Haram started more than four years ago. If anything, APC has done more to quell it than it was, but Boko Haram is a wild fire. Unfortunately, the media also contributed adversely to the problem by leaking information. Those sponsoring Boko Haram don’t mean well for this country. I learnt some of them come from other countries to disturb our progress.
Look at the situation of that young girl, Leah Sharibu, who was The Guardian person of the year. Somebody picked a girl who should be in school, for more than a year and say she must change her religion. Nobody in his senses will support that type of situation; Boko Haram is a devilish movement.
I believe the president has done enough in fighting against insurgent, but those people have access to ammunition. I am, however, convinced that the Nigerian Army is up to the task if all of us can render the little help we can to assist the military. My charge to the military is that it should make sure that insurgents do not disrupt the coming election.
The coming election appears to have pushed the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, to a ridiculous state. Some of its members are supporting restructuring while others are indifferent. What is your reaction on this?
What is happening in Afenifere is not new. The skirmish started almost 20 years ago when late Pa Abraham Adesanya was still in charge. I remembered in one of our meetings held at Yaba, Lagos; there was a serious debate whether the group should go out as a political party to campaign. Some of our seniors in the group said we should be a political party, but I opposed it and Baba Ayo Fasanmi and a few others agreed with me and said we should not because it would contradict the idea of the founding fathers of Afenifere.
But regarding developments now in the group, I want the people to decide which of the two sides of Afenifere – those supporting Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and we that are supporting APC – is right. It is not yet time to talk; let’s go to the election first. I want to let people to know about the achievements of President Buhari and Professor Yemi Osinbanjo’s administration. When we talk of welfare, let us take a look at ‘TraderMoni’; it is a novelty for the welfare of market people to gain back and take good care of their children.
Do you mean that if Chiefs Obafemi Awolowo, Adekunle Ajasin and Pa Adesanya were alive today, they would have been members of APC?
There is no doubt about that. If it were possible to sound the bell, for Awolowo, we know what he stood for. Many people who claimed to be close to to him, for those with disabilities, intellectual capability can tell. These other people who are saying that they are the original Afenifere, how many candidates do they have in the local governments of their respective areas, in the state assemblies, in the Federal House of Representatives or in the Senate? Go and do a sample in any of the legislatures, which side are you, the Afenifere for PDP or for APC? I can bet that 90 per cent, if not 100 per cent, will tell you that they belong to APC. We just differentiate this Afenifere to be the ‘Egbe Itesiwaju Yoruba’ to interpret it properly.
Are the Yoruba elders supporting Buhari administration out of fear?
Fear? Throw it away. How many people have the type of courage the Yoruba had when they confronted the former Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha (rtd) under the umbrella of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO)? Though we have some Igbo like Real Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd), but they were very few; it was mainly the Yoruba and then Pa Anthony Enahoro. Those who engaged vicious military dictators this country ever had are Yoruba. I suffered more than a year in isolation. I was on a floor in a small room, given one meal a day: does that reflect fear? And when it comes to integrity, I am one of those who can beat their chests. So, the theory of fear cannot be justified by fact. I have run for the president of this country.
What do the Yoruba stand to gain if Buhari is re-elected?
The Yoruba’s approach to life is not what is there for me to gain. There are Nigerians who are motivated by what to gain but the Yoruba are not motivated by such selfish consideration. Awolowo suffered as opposition, but he never joined anyone for selfish reason, and that is the difference between a selfish man and rabbit politicians. We are very consistent.
What is your reaction to the appointment of Amina Zakari by Buhari?
I want to ask PDP, if Zakari is asked to go on leave and resume after the election, will that improve the lot of the party? Former President of U.S., Jefferson F. Kennedy, appointed his blood brother his Attorney General. So, I don’t see any reason why PDP is making noise. Let’s forget this minor tribal trivia thing and go for merit.
Do you support restructuring?
Yes. Certainly, we believe in restructuring; we as Yoruba, and I think the Igbo too, and there are people in the North who also feel there is a sense in it. Restructuring is not the only thing we will be talking about. In fact, we say the presidential system is too expensive; let’s go for parliamentary system and we have been saying this since the time of NADECO. Two party systems will be more meaningful. So, that was the basis of the 1960 Constitution. So, it’s not by warfare. We have to convince those that are oppose to it and tell them why we should restructure.