Senator Femi Okurounmu represented Ogun Central Senatorial district between 1999 and 2003. He served as a commissioner in Ogun State during the Second Republic administration of the first executive governor, Chief Olabisi Onabanjo. He also held several political positions including Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference in 2014 under the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan administration.
In this interview on the state of the nation, Okunrounmu, who called on President Muhammadu Buhari to resign over his poor handling of affairs, said he had warned Nigerians not to vote for Buhari in 2015. He, among others, accused former Governor of Lagos State and National Leader of All Progressives Congress, APC, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, of misleading some Yoruba leaders into political slavery. Excerpts:
What is your assessment of the state of affairs in the country?
The situation in the country today has called for everyone to weep, like in the Bible, a prophet is weeping for Jerusalem, which means we all should weep for our country. The fate of our country, compared to how we were at independence is that we have been moving fast backward in the opposite direction.
Credit to founding fathers
We must give a lot of credit to our founding fathers and those who ruled us in the First Republic. They gave inspirational leadership; they gave us patriotism such that we want to serve our country and we want our country to move forward.
At that time, things were moving forward in Nigeria; infrastructure was first class, University was also first class compared to any university in the world. Secondary schools were first rate. They established industries and there was development in agriculture.
There were a lot of resources generated internally and each of the regions was so autonomous and there was healthy competition. This competition helped to move us forward because if the West was doing something, East would also do it and North would also follow.
Cursed nation since 1966
That was the period of progress in Nigeria. But since 1966 when the military took over, Nigeria has became a cursed nation, we have been going from one terrible period to another. When we talk of corruption, we saw corruption during the time of Gowon even worse in Murtala, Obasanjo, Babangida, Abacha and Abdulsalami’s time. Obasanjo didn’t do anything better.
Buhari’s administration worse than Jonathan’s govt
Buhari who is carrying the change mantra all about, his administration is worse than Jonathan’s. The whole country now has degraded very much, our leaders have degraded our humanity to animal kingdom. Buhari has no clue on how to revive the economy and yet we are carrying ‘change’ all about. I am happy with my conscience that I spoke out my mind during the election of 2015, I warned Nigerians not to vote for Buhari. I took out advertisements in newspapers on why we should not vote for Buhari. Even though Jonathan didn’t fight corruption, I asked us to vote for Jonathan so that we can restructure this country but people were crying ‘change’ in an ignorant manner.
Are you calling for regional system?
I have been consistent in the last 20 years in calling for the return of regional system because the regional system of government brings about good government.
When we had regional system of government Nigeria was moving forward and making rapid progress. Most of the things we are seeing now were made by the First Republic government.
Buhari’s government is just a year and four months, is it not too early to say he is worse than Jonathan?
The morning shows the day. A man who runs four times for President, one would have assumed that he has plans to address the problems of this country. He tried in 2003 to run for President and also in 2007 and 2011 while 2015 was his fourth attempt. One can’t run for President without making plans and also analysing how he is going to rule and try to do something to solve the problem. I believe he has been following the problems of this nation since before 2003 and had drawn plans he would pursue, if he became President.
So, that his government is young is not an excuse at all. He didn’t just wake up one morning and to find himself as President.
Problem of the nation
He had once ruled the nation as a military Head of State, so, he was more familiar than others who became head of state without knowing the problem of the nation.
Since he came to power, he has not made any impact. Unemployment has increased and he promised us jobs, instead of jobs, he is increasing unemployment.
He also promised to improve the economy but many factories have closed down, all manufacturers are down even the banks are stretching, agriculture and electricity are down. He was just making empty promises. I think Buhari should just resign and say, ‘I am sorry I cannot go further.’
If he resigns, who do you think can go further, do you think his deputy is better?
I am not saying his deputy is better, what we need in this country is a social revolution not violent revolution.
In that kind of arrangement, do you think Nigeria will still be better of?
In this country, we need someone, who has been agonising the way I have been agonising; it is that kind of anger that will make somebody to perform. In every country where you have a sudden change forward, it is anger against the status quo that propels the change.
How best do you think Buhari should fight corruption?
The way to fight corruption is that he should start from all the cases that have been investigated before him. We know Nuhu Ribadu investigated many governors. All the political actors since 1999 who have been investigated; most of them are still working free because they have not been prosecuted.
You must chain people who have stolen. Apart from recovering the loot, you must also put them in jail. Also their relations, let the society scold them. But now, all those who stole are the ones given chieftaincy titles, they are the ones being given front seats in every social gathering. In this country, we encourage corruption but if we start putting them in jail and shunning them they will sit back.
Some people believe that the energy dispensed on chasing corrupt people should have been used to revive the economy, where do you stand?
There is need to do both, it is not physical energy you use to fight corrupt people. There is a department of the government that investigates corruption and charges people to court, that doesn’t stop the President from reviving the economy.
And to revive the economy, you need some experts,you alone can not do it. You need brilliant minds not just economists because, it is not all economists that can do it. There are a lot of patriots and nationalists who know what is good for people, let the country eat the fruit of their work.
On Niger Delta crises, what advice will you give to Federal Government, is it force or dialogue?
The Niger Delta crises would go maybe when we restructure. People should control their resources. Niger Delta people are not taking it out of the country, they are still in Nigeria, whatever companies exploiting the resources would still be paying tax to the Federal Government. America also has oil but private companies operate it and pay tax to the government.
So, there is no problem about that, let the people of Niger Delta control their resources. If they are controlling them they won’t be damaging oil and gas pipelines and bombing facilities.
Northerners are feeding from the oil and they are getting fat on crude oil from Niger Delta because with political connection they get oil blocs and make money. Let us restructure Nigeria, if we do, everyone will benefit from it.
What are Yoruba leaders doing about what is happening in the country?
If we are talking about Yoruba, it is a bad situation because the leadership in Yoruba got hijacked by a person who does not fit classically into the definition of an ‘Omoluabi’ from the authentic Afenifere leadership.
If we look at the last election, Yoruba people were misled. The masses voting for APC were crying ‘change’ all about and I warned them through media publications, saying that all of you in the South-West and in the North are crying ‘change’ but what change means to northerners is different from what it means to Yoruba. Yoruba people, who were crying ‘change’ wanted change for better economy, better opportunities and infrastructure not corruption.
To the northerners, ‘change’ means one thing: change of leadership to the North.
They believe that northerners have been kept out of power for too long and they want the power that is what change means to them. They got the change they wanted because after Buhari got there most of the appointments went to the North, whereas the Yoruba were left carrying bags.
We warned the APC leaders in Yoruba land that they should remember the son of whom they are.
But Yoruba leaders also cried out during the administration of Goodluck Jonathan that the appointments were lopsided…
There is no comparison between the lopsided appointments we had under Goodluck Jonathan and what we have under Buhari. Let’s go back to Jonathan’s time, a lot of things were caused by those who became APC leaders. When Jonathan got there he wanted a Yoruba woman, Mulikat Adeola, as the Speaker of the House of Representatives but it was one of those who became APC leaders from the South-West that said no, and went to support Aminu Tambuwal, who is now the governor of Sokoto State and frustrated our Yoruba person. That was the beginning of the act and a lot of imaginary acts were caused by APC. If we look at the degree of what we are now having, all appointments are going to the North and even the East are regretting being part of Nigeria. Everything goes to Fulani people, Jonathan didn’t do that.
Talking about the crisis in the APC, are you satisfied with the way former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is being treated by his people in APC?
I cannot pretend, Chief Ayo Adebanjo has been speaking but I don’t agree at all. I disagree with him in his position. We cannot condone what Tinubu did. Tinubu misled the Yoruba people and virtually, he has led us to slavery into subordination under the Fulani that we are now second class rated to the Fulani people and it is not because we didn’t know it will happen.
We knew and we warned him but he allowed his selfishness to take pride of place over the interest of Yoruba nation and he sold the Yoruba nation. If he’s now being denied of the same self-interest, I will say it serves him right, that will teach others not to be selfish.
The disease of the Yoruba man is selfishness, if we secure the group interest then our own personal interest will be achieved. If Tinubu hadn’t betrayed our self-interest we would have been in the forefront of restructuring, which had started more than 20 years ago.
Tinubu himself was part of those shouting that this nation must be restructured, which has been the cry of the Yoruba nation. What Tinubu is thinking is that if he gets Buhari into power he would be able to control Nigeria but Buhari has denied him that.
If Tinubu and his people come back to you elders, will you still maintain your stand?
He is the only person, who betrayed the nation, those you called his people were equally betrayed. That is why I said he misled Yoruba nation; the propaganda was too effective, he brainwashed everyone.
It was learned that Tinubu is trying go back to AD
Those who are foolish will follow him, I will never be part of AD, which Tinubu leads. Why should anyone say Tinubu should come and lead AD? He was the one who frustrated AD, he rebelled against Pa Abraham Adesanya. Adesanya almost gave his life, they shot him, he was only lucky that he escaped by whiskers and continued the struggle.
Adebayo, Adesanya and Adebanjo, etc., all these people were in prison after Abiola’s wife was murdered.
Coming to lead
Everyone knew that Abacha killed her but they went ahead to arrest these old men on the pretence that they were the ones who killed Kudirat. These people worked together to put AD together, when the party was being formed, Tinubu wasn’t around, he was abroad.
He came back after we had done the work, got voted in as governor of Lagos State and went ahead to rebel against everybody. He threw away Adesanya, Adebanjo, Sholanke Onasanya, he couldn’t listen to anybody. Is it the same AD he rebelled against that he is coming to lead?
What is your advice to Yoruba people?
My advice is that the Yoruba people should come together again and get our acts together but not by getting Tinubu to come and lead us again; otherwise he would mislead us again. Let us worship intelligence not money.