"Buhari Has Abandoned Those That Brought Him To Power" – Dr Olufunmilade


IM

Dr. Femi Olunfunmilade is the
Head of Department of Political
Science and International
Studies, Igbinedion University,
Okada. A staunch believer in
President Muhammadu Buhari, he was a member of the Buhari-
Osinbajo Presidential Campaign
Organisation. In this interview,
he scores the administration of
President Muhammadu Buhari
high in the fight against terrorism and anti-corruption,
but laments what he describes
as the abandonment of those
that worked tirelessly to make
him president. Excerpts: How would you rate the
administration of President
Buhari? President Buhari promised three
major things during his
presidential campaign to the
Nigerians. He promised to
eliminate insecurity which was
on the high side, because at that time, over 20 local governments
were under the control of the
Boko Haram terrorists. He also
promised to fight corruption and
to revive the economy. To an
extent, he has tried to fulfil these three promises. Today, terrorism
has been severely degraded,
and I do not think that the
terrorists are controlling any
local government and the North
East is fairly safe now. People are returning to their homes. Those
who are still in the Internally
Displaced Persons (IDP) camps
are being rehabilitated. Farming
activities and trading have
resumed and the evidence is clear for us to see. It’s true we
still have occasional bombings
but we have reclaimed our
territories from Boko Haram. In
terms of security, I will give him a
pass mark. In terms of fighting corruption, those who are older
than us who were already adults
during the first republic and
have seen it all will tell you that
no government apart from that
of Muhammed Buhari from December 31st 1983 till August
17th 1985, can compare in
terms of fighting corruption. It
has been an all-out war and no
one is considered sacred. It is no
longer business as usual. In the National Assembly, even the
lawmakers are doing house
cleansing and it is all to fight
corruption. But are you impressed with
the administration’s method of
fighting corruption? It is not by taking people to
court and prosecuting them
alone; there are also institutional
reforms aimed at fighting
corruption. Look at the Treasury
Single Account which showed all kinds of loose funds that no one
knew existed. Some of them
have over 40 accounts; this is an
avenue for leakage. Now it is
easy to know what comes in and
monitor what goes out. There are other things that are being
done in terms of institutional
reforms. At the Federal Ministry
of Finance, there is an efficiency
unit which is meant to take a
hard look on various expenditures in the government
just to save funds because we
are in an era of scarcity. Items
like conference bags, elaborate
brochures and other gifts should
be discarded, even the programme of events shouldn’t
be more than one page and it
should be in black and white not
coloured, because every kobo
counts.
We are not only fighting for the billions; we are fighting for the
thousands of naira too. In terms
of anti-corruption, I will score
Buhari high. However, the
challenges are there, those who
are being prosecuted have the money to hire the Senior
Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) and
some people will try to make it
an ethnic issue by saying the
president is persecuting one
ethnic group but he is doing very well. Opinion in many quarters is
that nothing has been
achieved in the area of
economy; what’s your take? When we talk of the economy,
from the government side, it is
having money to embark on
developmental projects and
ensuring there are no leakages.
We have a huge infrastructural deficit; but a look at the items in
the 2016 budget would show
that they unprecedented. We
have the coastal railway which
will move from Lagos to Calabar
but also connect other states; another one will move from
Ibadan to the North connecting
various states and capitals. The
plan Buhari has, is to make sure
that every capital will be
connected by rail and when that is done; our roads would be
saved form quick depreciation.
The price of barrel has quite
changed; also the serious
sabotage by the Niger Delta
Avengers is making it all worse. In general, the president has
tried. There is this friction with the
National Assembly; what can
say about relationship
between the Presidency and
the legislators? We have to put things in their
proper context. As far as the
president and the National
Assembly are concerned, I think
they have had good
relationship. All the appointees that have been sent to the
National Assembly have been
cleared without any
unnecessary delay. The only
issue is with the national budget.
I want believe that it is an issue that has come and will also go. If
there is anything that would
come out of it, it is the National
Assembly becoming better and
stronger. Looking at it from
another angle, the President and his support base have a good
relationship; the support base
refers to his party, the All
Progressives Congress (APC)
and the various support groups
round the country. All the support groups have been left in
the lurch and I can tell that
people are not happy. I carried
out the need assessment survey
for Buhari’s campaign on the
platform of the support organizations. It was decided
that I conduct a research. I
proposed it and it was approved
by them. It was meant to find out
the peculiar needs of each state
and the Federal Capital Territory and condense these needs to
bullet points. After the survey,
we told them to promise those in
Ekiti State a Federal Secretariat
Complex because the state
doesn’t have one. In Cross River, the people are still unhappy
about the Bakassi issue, they
were told to promise them to
revisit the issue of the displaced
persons. It was done nationwide
and I was supported by the coordinators of the Buhari
Support Group across the 36
states. A lot of Northerners who
were part of his support base
are not happy, so people should
stop having the impression that he is only favouring the
Northerners. He cannot give
everyone an appointment but he
can make symbolic gestures. We
have leaders and most of them
have what it takes to serve in the government. Are you saying that his
appointments so far have
been in order? Many of those who were
appointed were unknown to us
and you can quote me. In the
Buhari political family, we have
professors, and some of the vice
chancellors that were appointed were unknown to us; they just
came out of the blues. Many of
the people appointed in National
Examinations Council (NECO)
and other tertiary institutions
were not known. Maybe they are people known by him, but we
did not know them. We are not
saying that if he finds qualified
people he shouldn’t pick them;
he should go ahead and pick
them. We are happy that he put a professional in the oil sector. We
don’t even know how the
appointments are made. How
many people have access to the
Secretary to the Government of
the Federation? Sometime last year, the leaders of the party
asked us to send 50 names,
what became of that exercise?
I do not know the criteria the
President uses for the
appointment. It is not about me getting an appointment,
because, even during his
presidential campaigns, I always
spent my money to lodge in
hotels. Many say that the president is
not behaving like a politician
going by the lopsided nature
of his appointments. What is
your take? President Buhari appears to fit
the description of him by former
President Obasanjo. I watched a
documentary over 20 years ago,
and I was one of those who
wept when he was over thrown. About six months after he was
removed, I saw the direction IBB
was going and I wept for the
country. I remember what
Obasanjo said when they asked
him to comment on Buhari, he said, “Well, Muhammadu
believed in the righteousness of
his mission and his mission was
a patriotic one indeed. However,
he was only a good
administrator and not a politician.” Today I think that
description still fits him. President
Buhari is a good administrator,
he likes efficiency and wants
things to be done the right way
but we are in a democracy. In the university, we do not teach
Nigerian politics in isolation. The
course is called Nigerian
government and politics and we
do not teach government in
isolation. It is a basic fundamental course in any
political science department.
Governance and politics must be
balanced. You cannot divorce
governance from politics and
vice versa. He is carrying out a lot of reforms, but if he doesn’t
balance his governance with
politics, his reforms will end in
2019, because he wouldn’t be
able to return to power. It is like
a house without foundation. I am not tongue tied when it
comes to appointment because I
suffered and laboured for
President Buhari to be in power.
He should allow people like us to
come close to him and tell him the truth in order to avert the
impending tragedy. Most of the
leaders cannot talk to him, they
are afraid even when they
themselves are not happy. What about the relationship
between Buhari and Tinubu? Tinubu’s media aide was
recently appointed as a
commissioner in the National
Communication Commission
(NCC); that shows that he is
being carried along because he wasn’t or isn’t a politician just an
aide to Tinubu. So, for him to
have been elevated to that level,
it means that he is still reckoned
with him. I knew Tinubu from a
distance but though at the time, I never had an interaction with
him. After I published a book
which I dedicated to Buhari, I
sent him a memo that I wanted
to meet with him, but I did not
get any response. I want them to work together that will benefit
Nigeria. It is normal to have
personal differences but for the
sake of Nigeria, they should
close ranks and reposition the
party. It wasn’t only APC that delivered power to Buhari; the
support groups played a very
critical role. They shouldn’t think
that because they are big
leaders, other people do not
matter. Everyone matters, even the
person that supported with one
vote matters. If today an election
is conducted with the way the
party and its support groups are
I do not think we will win. The call for restructuring is
growing by the day. What do
you have to say? The people who talk about
restructuring cannot articulate it.
There are various levels of
restructuring. There is the aspect
of constitutional restructuring,
economic restructuring, restructuring the country
politically. Some think
restructuring deals with the
region running the show. If you
go to South West today and
decide to return the old western region, we would not have Ekiti,
Oyo, Osun, Ogun and even Lagos
states. We will just have one
region; I do not think that the
people will support your idea.
What we are to do is work more towards developing the country
economically. The call for
restructuring is also a product of
frustration because people are
not fulfilled. They feel that if
power is taken from the centre and put in the regions, their life
would be better. Creating a new
layer of government will only
add to the administrative cost of
running the government. The
best thing to do is to restructure the states. The civil service in the
various states are bloated; they
are not generating any income
and yet the little taxes that
people pay they are consuming
it and now there is nothing to consume. The type of
restructuring we need is to make
the machinery of governance
run effectively.