Apr. 03 (THEWILL) – Chief Adejare Adegbenro is a security expert, politician and businessman. In this interview with AYO ESAN, he talks about the state of the nation, the rotating presidency, the zoning system and the change of power, among other issues. Excerpts:
What is your impression of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
There is not much difference between the ruling APC and the main opposition, the PDP, as both have almost the same ideologies as well as almost identical personalities. It is easy for members of both political parties to move from one to the other as they find it easy to adjust to their new home.
It is therefore not surprising to see how the two parties approach their political policy. One big difference is simply the infusion way of former ACN and CCP members by which they lean back to relate to themselves, even in the new arrangement called APC. If you look closely at those who have moved from PDP to APC, you will find that they still carry the PDP mindset into APC, which shares loot and moves on.
Whether we accept it or not, APC has focused on infrastructure development. Although it may be slow, it is steady and safe. APC has done a lot in the area of infrastructure development.
Politics isn’t about what you’ve done, it’s about how you can get your agenda into people’s minds in a way that they’ll accept you. Unfortunately, what you read in the media today speaks of a grudge, like the APC accusing the PDP of one thing or the PDP accusing the APC of another. Either way, both are aiming for 2023.
What is your expectation, vis-à-vis the candidates of the two parties in the legislative elections of 2023?
The end result of all of this will depend on the party candidates at the end of the day. What I’m trying to say is whoever emerges as the all-party presidential candidate will make a big difference. Let the choice among them be decided by vigorous debate. That the choices be based on the caliber of the candidates, and not on the political parties to which they belong. So, if the APC and the PDP present their candidates, we should encourage a very lively debate between the candidates to decide who is more capable. The consideration should not be about political parties. I want people to focus on each candidate’s unique qualities and personality, not their political party. It’s about who can do it better.
What do you think of the zoning system and the rotation of power between North and South?
As a Nigerian, I believe that anyone from any part of the country can run for the presidency whether male or female, young or old, as long as they have the ability to lead the Nigeria. Moreover, the question of religion should be excluded. That shouldn’t be part of the consideration. There is only one God. And that’s why my motto has always been, “I am a Nigerian and my tribe comes second.”
Do you have a word for the country’s women and youth on politics and governance?
It is undeniable that women and youth control the votes in Nigeria. Demographically, young people outnumber women in the country. This is because young people are a combination of men and women. However, women have certain roles to play in ensuring good governance in the country. Women have the ability to mobilise, sensitize and raise awareness of the need to do what is right for the people, as required by democracy.
And in this context, women should be more included in governance. Former President Goodluck Jonathan promised women 25% in government and he went ahead to make it happen.
Although the Muhammadu Buhari administration did not do politics, on the face of it, the president promoted women in his government. We expect these women to encourage other women.
Women also play a key role in the financial sector. Women run about four major banks in the country today. A similar thing is happening in the Niger Delta Development Commission. In fact, the Buhari administration has focused on the advancement of women in governance. But in politics, you have to understand something. You don’t sit at home and wait for manna from heaven. Women should therefore do more for themselves. Part of women’s problems is that they always feel relaxed waiting for men to do it for them.
There has been a fuss recently over the revision of the Constitution that women are not getting affirmative action on a particular percentage in government. If the Senate and House of Representatives approve such affirmative action, how do they now proceed with the selection? In which constituency would you tell candidates to stand down for a woman? Women need to do more for themselves. They have to promote, they have to go out there to identify, assess, elect and promote women who can deliver results.
There are a lot of great women out there. Today there are many programs in the country that cater to women. In terms of technology, we expect more women to be involved. The role of women is already there in the economy. It’s up to women to get motivated and organized, just like young people should too. They should organize themselves and find a place to fit in because these men will not voluntarily invite their wives to be their bosses. It is not possible. However, if they have the skill and ability, the men will not be able to deny them the opportunity to enter. I think it shed more light on that path.
Corruption is still endemic in Nigerian society. How to fight effectively against this monster?
Former President Goodluck Jonathan said stealing is not bribery and we laughed at him. But with recent events in Nigeria today, you cannot tell the difference between how to be a thief and how to be corrupt. Corruption is actually a systemic thing. Being a thief is a personality. What do I mean by that? If somebody isn’t interested in flying before, but when they come into government and you take over the job of environmental commissioner, and they tell them that the United Nations Environmental Protection Agency environment sends 150,000 pieces of equipment for a pilot program and he says, ‘All right, where’s the equipment?’ They say there is none. He says, “Let’s put the structure in place” and they say no. So they say, ‘Oga, that’s not how we do things here.’ That’s the problem with Nigeria.
The problem is the “how we do things here” system. And when you insist, they’ll tell you over and over that’s how it’s done here. As long as we have the “how we do it here” system, the corruption will continue.
I tell everyone that corruption cannot be stopped because it is systemic. It takes place in the principal‘s office according to one story. The principal told his student that I was selling this book to you for 1000 naira. The student goes home to tell his parents that the book is N1,500. The father is now thinking how he can raise the price to N3,500. It goes on and on like this in a cycle.
Corruption is systemic and we need to look for a way to stem it systemically. If you ask me which government department has been most influenced by corruption? I would say it’s the public service. From local government to state government to federal government, corruption flows like a river through their systems!
Most civil servants do not go to work with the intention of serving the country wholeheartedly. They assume that “is this my father’s job or if I die today, won’t someone else come to replace me?” If there is a formation for example in Dubai, they will rush to Dubai and come back as the same.
The civil service must therefore be reformed so that it is managed like a private sector. And for that, it will depend on the quality of the ministers or commissioners in charge. For corruption to stop, the highest officials like the president and governors must sit down to select the people who will focus on getting results. Once the measurement of results is in place, it will now be difficult to circumvent the structures and the system.
The security challenges are still there. Is a solution in sight?
The security of this country was stable until many interests came into play. Some people want to ransom certain parts of the country. However, as things stand, the best way to solve security problems in the country, we have the right training and capable hands. If you go to the military, they are more organized than any other sector in this country. Yet why do they fail? They fail because there is internal sabotage. The day when internal sabotage will stop in the army, that is to say the day when all security problems, such as kidnappings and banditry, will stop.