Fayemi: Nigeria is at War



Kayode Fayemi

Chairman, Nigerian Governors’ Forum  and Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi formally declared his intention to contest the presidential primary on the platform of All Progressives Congress  in Abuja penultimate Wednesday. Shortly after his declaration, Fayemi provided insight into diverse challenges undermining Nigeria and proposed some strategies to stabilize the federation at a session with journalists. Gboyega Akinsanmi brings details from the session

What do you consider Nigeria’s most challenging problem?

In every polity, impunity is a very serious issue. There are a number of dimensions to the impunity that is in our country. I always say something that as a leader, it is not enough to be competent, particularly in Nigeria. Also, as a leader, it is not enough to be committed and compassionate. In Nigeria today, what is also lacking is  leadership and also courage to do what is right. Some people consider themselves principalities and people who believe that they are the owners of this country. These people believe they can do whatever they like. Also, they believe the law cannot catch up with them. We will not be arbitrary in our approach to governance. But we will be very sneaky about upholding the rule of law, and access to justice to all Nigerians.

Can you explain in clear terms how you intend to tackle impunity in this polity if eventually elected the president of Nigeria?

There are different levels of impunity. We need to also make sure that we do not leave our people with the temptation to do the wrong thing under the guise of religion, culture, ethnicity or whatever. At all times, we must be advocates of citizen’s rights, as well as responsibilities. Because when you have rights, you also have responsibilities as a citizen of the country. We must uphold this value and live by it. Impunity reigns because our justice system has been crippling and because the entire justice sector  in our country is problematic. If we look at the journey from the investigation of the crime to conviction, you will have forgotten that the person actually committed the crime. I think swift delivery of justice, access to justice and accountability in society are priority areas we need to pay attention to. We need to also support our judicial officers so that we will not again tempt them to resort to misbehaviour because the state has not effectively taken on its own responsibility in terms of remuneration and in terms of support the judicial officers deserve.

In a few weeks, political parties will be conducting their primaries to enable them nominate candidates for different elective positions. Even though the Electoral Act recommends consensus, direct and indirect modes of primaries, which mode will you prefer most?

Under the APC Constitution, the model of primaries can be consensus, direct or indirect. These options are spelt in our constitution. Now, we have an Electoral Act that says all players must sign off for us to adopt the consensus mode. For me, we have a lot of people who have expressed their interest. I think we must commend the party for being so popular to attract this calibre of Nigerians offering their service to the country. I think, for me, Nigerians who also want to fill the post of  President of Nigeria must be citizens of the country. From all my travels around the country over the last one month, I believe the sentiment appears to be anything, but consensus inside and outside the APC. However, people are advocating other modes because people want to have a say. Also, do not forget we have a president, who has been an advocate for bottom-up political practices. President Muhammadu Buhari is known for his passion for every member of the party having a say in the decision that affects the party. So, in that sense, I have no problem with growing demand for a primary process, whether it is indirect or direct. I do not have a problem with that.

Nearly all geo-political zones in the country are insecure and unsafe despite different initiatives taken to address security challenges at different levels. What has the government left undone?

There is a lot that the government is doing. Because security issues are sensitive, the government cannot talk about all its strategies. Also, there are areas of impediment that we need to tackle quickly. Given my background, I spoke to let us know some of the challenges our principal officers in the security sector are facing. I always talk about Egypt. In 1967, this country was able to recruit in an emergency manner. It moved from an army of 10,000 to 250,000, within the space of one year. In Nigeria today, there are all sorts of bureaucratic impediments that are not allowing us to increase the number of men and women in the Armed Forces and Nigeria Police. We need to do that quickly. If we are not able to do that in the shortest possible time, by clearing the bureaucratic impediments, we need to bring on board our reserved elements, who are still on duty. Our soldiers, even in retirement, can be brought back to duty. Our Major Generals, Colonels, Brigadiers and others are all over the place. Many of them would love to serve and help tackle this problem probably in the shortest possible time because it is, firstly, the problem of men. We do not have enough people in uniform. Even the ones we have, they are undertaking police duties.

Considering your perspective to the constitutional mandate of the military, what explains military involvement in managing internal security challenges?

Today, there is no single state in this country, where we do not have military officers and soldiers patrolling on internal security issues. That is not the job of a soldier.  Sometimes, we may need soldiers to act in civil authority. Those are exceptional circumstances. But we need to populate our security agencies. Egypt, as I pointed out earlier, is not up to half of our population. We are told Egypt has one million police officers. In Nigeria, we always tell ourselves we have 350, 000 policemen. But of this number, 150, 000 are doing VIP duties. So, not only do we have to expand and turn our schools during vacation to training facilities because part of the problems we have is training facilities. We may have to turn our schools to training camps during vacation to enable us to train more men and bring into the task of defending Nigeria. Taking cognisance of this approach, we can get more men in the force.

Given unconventional nature of security challenges we are facing as a people, do we need a new strategy to fight banditry, insurgencies and terrorism nationwide?

As I was talking about operating in a new environment, a new order of battle, a new force posture has to be developed by our military because we are not fighting a conventional war. Like you said, what we are dealing with now is unconventional. More often than not, you do not even see the people that you are fighting. So, you need to devise counter insurgency and counter terrorism measures that will go beyond infantry and other approaches to warfare. We are at war. What happened in the train is an indication that we need to take immediate measures. Around the suburb of Abuja, I hear some of these things are beginning to happen that we really need our immediate response. We need to really watch. President Buhari is not a man of many words. I believe he is taking too many steps that some of us may not be able to speak to. He is also preventing many things that they cannot also come up with and say that we stopped attempts by bandits to destroy this particular community or that particular settlement. The task of securing Nigeria is ongoing. It is continuous. It is a work in progress. We must really have faith, but we must take adequate steps on intelligence, on better recruitment and on equipment in order to address the issue.

Electricity is still a huge challenge crippling businesses and economic activities in Nigeria. What is your approach to ensuring stable electricity supply?

I think the solution is simple. It requires changing our strategy. It is time to do away with a national grid. We now need to begin to look seriously in the direction of zonal or regional grids or even micro, or mini grids outside of the mainstream of the official national energy grid. This is the only way to solve this problem. Our focus should also be on new energy, especially on renewable energy as well. This national grid is completely broken and fixing it everyday is a problem that we cannot easily tackle. 

The level of unemployment is indeed appalling. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, it is as high as 33.33%. What can we do to break this vicious cycle of unemployment?

For me, it is not the job of the government to start focusing on employment. However, it is our job to provide an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive. It is our job to encourage the agricultural sector to thrive. It is our business to enable the infrastructure sector that will have to create jobs. There are so many jobs tied to these various critical segments of our economy. That is what we need to do in addition to address the question of skills. Because we talked about employment, the majority of young people do not have the requisite skills to do the job that is necessary. We need innovation. We need creativity. We need technology. We need skills in addition to providing the enabling environment to allow this to happen.


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