Chief Olabode George, a former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, speaks on the security challenges and the need for President Muhammadu Buhari to kickstart the restructuring of the country ahead of the 2023 general elections. Excerpts:.
President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged to boost internal security by creating more police mobile force in the country. As retired Naval Commodore, do you think this will go a long way in addressing the myriads of security challenges we have in the country?
The President spoke copiously on the security issue in the country. For me, I believe it is now the concern of everybody, irrespective of which ethnic, religious or political divide you belong to. We are all at the precipice of a total collapse. Everybody is looking at the physical security. I trained with the United States Naval War College and one of the major topic that was taught was national security. When I came back to Nigeria after going to Nigerian Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) in Jos, I became a Director, also teaching at the Nigerian War College. I also went to a special training learning about being a retired Commodore. Now, security is not only about physical security, there are so many aspects of security and it is the combination of all that you just refer to as national security. You have food security to guarantee that every Nigerian must be able to find something to eat every day.
There is public health security which guarantees that anybody who is sick will be able to get treatment in any clinic. There is transportation security which ensures that those providing public transportation don’t misbehave or drive carelessly and dangerously to injure their passengers.
Number four is physical security, safety of lives that people can sleep well at night without marauders, that people can travel long distances without being kidnapped and armed robbery. The most important of all is food security”. Yorubas have a saying that ‘Ebi kii wo inu, ki oro mii woo’ which means A hungry person is not a good listener or a hungry man is an angry man’.
What is causing those people to be engaging in what they are doing? It is joblessness and lack of guarantee that they will have half a meal per day. They look around and see people who are overfeeding themselves, yet they cannot have half a meal per day. Let’s give urgent attention to food security. I have gone many times from Kebbi to Sokoto; from Sokoto to Zamfara; from Zamfara to Katsina; from Katsina to Kano; from Kano to Kaduna. Now it’s no longer safe to go to those places. The worst one is the people are now getting educated, they want jobs, housing and good lives; because these things are not provided, you that carnage along those routes. While the federal government is planning to buy fighter jets and bombers, it must first ensure that Nigerians have food on their table; then create employment. Those who are not educated, give them some training in carpentry, mechanic, tailoring and so many things that will keep them busy and put food on their tables.
Some Yoruba elders have called on the Federal Government to restructure the nation, else the 2023 general election will not hold. What is your perspective on that?
I am not talking as a PDP man; I am speaking as a Nigerian. At 75, if I can’t speak the truth to power now, then what am I living my life for? If I don’t say my own, my God will ask me. I have received Number one, the structure we are using as a nation is very, very defective. We are more than 200 million in population. The total number of policemen we have is 400,000. How can that be effective?
There is a need for us to have state police for effective management and protection of the lives of the people. How can we have a policeman who cannot speak the language of the people he is to protect? The way the colonialists set up the police by sitting in Lagos as the overall police boss in Nigeria, that time has gone. While we should have one man as the head in the Federal, there is need to have state police for effective management of protection of lives and property of the people. There is nothing wrong in having Federal police like the equivalent of the FBI in America. Including the FBI, they have the state police and the county police which are in the local governments. The need to have restructuring is now. We cannot postpone it and we cannot continue to run this country under the present arrangement.
What advise will you give to President Buhari on the way forward?
The last two years of President Buhari, he must use it to see how best he can restructure Nigeria. He shouldn’t push the issue of restructuring under the table. The system that the British left for us is not working and has collapsed. That is why we are having cacophony of voices across the country demanding for one thing or another. We are the precipice of total collapse.
The last two years for him is to address this issue. Restructuring is the most topical issue in the country today. There is a constitutional conference report that dealt with a lot of this issue; let him open it up and forget about playing dirty politics. Whether you are from the North, South, East or West doesn’t matter; we are all Nigerians. What is the problem of the federal government collecting all the money and then redistributing to the states? The centre is so strong and Nigeria is so massive. Let us make sure that we sit down and start from that 2014 conference report because most of the issues that are agitating the minds of our people now were discussed there and suggested approvals were given.
Do you see that possible especially now that the zoning of the 2023 presidential election is being debated?
The way we are going, in 2023 we will have another election and people are saying let the Presidency come to the South as if that will bring the solution to our problems . It cannot settle this way. I have been in both sides; both military and civilian governments and I am saying it with boldness it is not working. Look at the British; they existed for long under United Kingdom. But later, they have devolution as a policy. By that, the Scots are now managing themselves; the Welsh are now managing themselves, the Irish are managing themselves but there is still the federal parliament in London. They came here. We have borrowed the American constitution, let us run it the way they run their own. Everywhere you go today, there is so much tension and unease in the land.
Look at COVID-19 for example. When it became so unmanageable for the federal government, they said each state should adopt its programme. If it is working, why are you then telling the states to go and set up their own? Is that not a typical example of what I’m saying? So, for me, the way forward is restructuring, restructuring and restructuring. We cannot continue with the way we are. Look at the number of people in the House of Representatives, with all these committees being set up, purchase of exotic vehicles and so on. Which Nigerian will listen to those stories and be happy? People are hungry and angry. We are in a state of helplessness and hopelessness.
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