Senator Femi Ojudu, a journalist, represents Ekiti Central Senatorial District in the Senate. He spoke to Sunday Vanguard in his Abuja office on several national issues.
When you wake up in the morning and you look at the Nigerian situation, what comes to your mind?
What comes to my mind is that things could be better and ought to have been better if we have taken Nigeria seriously.
How do you mean taking Nigeria seriously?
I have a feeling that those of us who are leaders have not taken Nigeria seriously and there is a need for us to do so, quickly, before things got out of hand. There are so many problems that need to be solved quickly. And I look at the environment and see most of our people moving around without hope; that does not portend a society that will create a future. Today, the young ones do not even have any compass as to where they are going, and we are not assisting them to know. So, how do we have a future that is going to be better than today?
When you have a problem and you have a solution, you are happy that things will get better. But we have so many problems today and nobody seems to be addressing them or, do I say, they are not being addressed seriously. There is no hope for a better future if we continue this way.
When one observes the Nigerian situation so well, it is possible to see a disconnect between the leadership and followership, which makes it difficult for anybody to want to believe that there is any good leader left in the country. What is the problem with Nigeria and the leaders?
It is true that there is a gulf between the leaders and the led. And this is due to the fact that the masses lost hope in the leaders. Anybody in the position of authority, either at the executive, legislative or the judicial level, is seen as a thief. And why it is so is that the people have been betrayed over the years by the leadership. You believe in somebody and you sing his praise to high heavens, he gets to the position of power and he begins to do things contrary to what you have known him to profess. Under no circumstance would you then believe in such person again. So, we need to work very hard to return that credibility into the person because if you are not trusted by those that you are leading, there is no way they would follow you. We must work hard to return that credibility.
You were one of those who had it rough under military regime. But given our current experience under civil rule, some people have been tempted to say things can be better under the military. What do you think?
Under no circumstance would I glorify military regime. I believe that what we have today, as unfortunate as it may seem, is much better than the military. Again, we have to be cognizant of history. How did we get to where we are? History will show you that we were brought to where we are today by the military. The few years that we had civil rule before and after independence showed the giant strides the country made. Suddenly there was military intervention till 1979 when soldiers handed over power briefly and they came back again up till 1999. So, all of the things you are seeing today are symptoms that came into being when we were under the military. Therefore, glorifying the military is not going to help.
The problem with the country is that our yesterday is always better than our today and our today, the way things are going, will always be better than our tomorrow. But we have to stem the tide of this abnormality.
But what it should be is that today should be better than yesterday…
But it is not so here! That is why somebody, during Obasanjo administration, say, “Oh, Obasanjo is not good.” But now that Obasanjo is not there, they say, “Oh, Obasanjo was much better than Jonathan.” Today they say Jonathan is not good and may be tomorrow somebody comes in and they say, “Ah, Jonathan was much better than this.” It is so because, by our attitude to life, our today is always better than our tomorrow and our yesterday always better than our today. And by that, you can explain that we are not planning and we are not progressing.
We are not thinking of development. If we are thinking of development, why should we stop our national planning process? For more than 27 years ago now, we have stopped the national planning process. We suddenly stopped and nobody cares. Budgets do not get announced in January any longer and budget for a year gets announced or starts to be implemented mid-year. That is why we are in this state of ass and why our people are becoming so despondent. They are becoming cynical about society. I am saying now that we all have to come together and say enough is enough and put a stop to this drift.
People like you have always spoken about the way out of our problems but none of those in positions of authority to make things work seems to be interested. What new thing is the opposition putting together to ensure that, whatever it takes, 2015 would be the time to really come together and say enough is enough?
People are worried, they are concerned and, as a result of that, they are organizing to ensure that there is change in Nigeria. What I cannot assure you is whether this is enough or not enough. We again may have to wait and see how it translates. But I can assure you that in our different level we are organizing.
Nigerians as a people don’t seem to know what they want from the leadership. And I think this is part of the problem facing us generally as a people…?
I disagree. I do not believe that Nigerians do not know what they want. I have my reason for that deduction. For instance, when President Jonathan removed subsidy in January of 2012, he and his lieutenants promised heaven and earth as to how funds from the removal would be reinvested for the good of Nigeria. Today, even the buses that were said to be part of the measures to mitigate the effect of the subsidy removal in Nigerians have been withdrawn from the roads without anybody talking. And when Mr. President directs FERMA to patch a portion of a road, you hear people singing his praises. It also happens in the case of the governors.
Again, it is the failure of leadership at different levels. And when we talk of leadership, we are not just talking about those in positions of president, governor. Although we have leadership at the levels of social organizations and families, it is about lack of vigilance at all levels. We are too concerned about immediate survival. We want to eat good food, we want to live in good houses and we want to ride good cars. And that is what we are focusing on. We are not focusing on building a society that will ensure where all of us can live a comfortable a life; where all of us will leave legacies for those who are yet to be born.
That is why we are not often consistent in our assessment of things; that is why you have people say, “Oh, this system is good because I have benefited from it and that one is bad because I have not benefited. If I support this, may be I will benefit in future.” Look at the type of trivialities we are all concerned with. People who change societies do not look at ‘what do I gain’ from this thing? They look at it from the collective interest. Even if I die in the process of pursuing this, I will have left the society better than I met it. People who are real and true leaders, that is the way they think and that is the way they look at life. But here, we are too short-term in our approach to matters.
Senator Ben Obi, Special Adviser to President Jonathan on Inter-Party Affairs, has called on all parties in the opposition to come and join hands with Mr. President to enable him move Nigeria forward. What is your comment?
That is calling for one-party state and, when you have one-party state, you do not have a democracy. When you talk of democracy, you talk of having choices to make as to whether I have to go for Party A or Party B. When it comes to a point whereby everything becomes come and chop, then we do not have democracy.
And that is the wish of the PDP, that Nigeria should become one-party state. But that is not going to happen. That is why some of us raise up our voices in the Senate to say, “Look, some of us are in opposition and we should carry out the role of opposition.” We cannot continue to be robots that must be led on. So, no matter the lamentation of people like Obi, Nigeria cannot become one-party state. This democracy must stand. There must be progress in Nigeria. There must be plurality of political parties and there must be plurality of views.
How workable is the emergency rule as solution we all long for in the North to the insurgency there?
From information from the military chiefs who came to brief the Senate Committee on Defence of which I am a member, on how far they have gone in the course of the emergency rule in those three states, what they told us was reassuring. They said they had recovered all the grounds seized by the insurgents and that normalcy had returned to those places. People are now moving freely. If we have been able to achieve that, I think we must commend the military officers and men on ground and those who are managing the emergency process.
How does that affect the issue of call for dialogue by leaders like Prince Bola Ajibola, Chief Olu Falae?
In fact, if the report given by the military chiefs to our committee is anything to go by, it is about time to dialogue. You dialogue at a time when your enemy is at the weakest position. You do not dialogue when the enemy is as powerful as yourself. But when you have pushed him to a point of surrender, you can then invite him for dialogue.