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Nigerian Leaders Show Responsibility Only At Election Times —Adegbite
The Secretary general of the Supreme Council for Islamic affairs (SCIA), Dr. Abdul-Lateef Adegbite, highlights some major loopholes in the war on corruption in the country, in this interview with OLAYINKA OLUKOYA
We have bad leaders, but worse still, their critics too have the tendency to become bad leaders when they have the opportunity to hold public offices. It is a very terrible cycle. It seems those who go into public office don’t have the correct intentions. Materialism appears to be the main target. When they get to public office, they begin to pursue more wealth and the interest of the country becomes secondary in the process. Honestly, when people get elected into public offices, their circumstances change, and they become wealthy. They acquire all sorts of things, but they have very little to show for the mandate given to them.
Advice For Leaders
The leaders should be more responsive. The leaders in this country think that the only time for accountability is during the period of elections; when they need people’s votes. But once they assume authority, they forget their promises to the people. Our leaders have to be more responsive to the people and they should also be responsible. Responsibility means exercising power correctly. We have what is called the three arms of government: the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. I think each should do its work correctly. A situation whereby a governor would pocket the House of Assembly is not right. On no account should the judiciary be subservient to either the executive or the legislature. There must be proper enforcement of laws. Corruption is rampant because those who should enforce the law are not doing their job.
War On Corruption
In fairness to the anti-graft agencies, they are trying their best. The former EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, did a lot, so also did his successor, Mrs Farida Waziri. My concern, however, is that the agencies appear to be discriminatory. They seem to pursue some cases and ignore others. That practice is not right. There is also a degree of executive interference in their activities. The result is that you have people who are regarded as ‘sacred cows’.
The enforcement procedure of the anti-graft agencies is a little faulty. They prosecute a suspect in a regular court, but a regular court is very busy, and that slows down the pace of justice. The regular courts encounter too much technicalities. My professional colleagues (lawyers) would always dribble the court by introducing technicalities to delay a case. There is the need for the establishment of special courts to handle corruption cases. The special courts will be like special tribunals, while all the technicalities of the ordinary court will not be there and there will be time limit within which they must do justice to such cases. When justice is swift, those with tendency for corruption would be scared and they would have a rethink.
I am for a total overhaul of our constitution. The constitution that we run does not agree with our political structure. We are a federation and we should have a federal constitution that respects the principle of federalism. The constitution we are operating now is a unitary one, although there is the prior claim that we are operating a federal system, and that has to be corrected.
The structure of the country is also defective. The country has not been able to perform well in terms of economic development. We have weak states because substantial powers are vested in the Federal Government. Many of the states are not self-sufficient to be able to run a proper government. I see only four or five out of the 36 states that are financially stable to run a proper government. They are Lagos, Rivers, Delta, Kano and possibly Balyesa.
The country should go back to regionalism, like we had at independence in 1960. We had four regions then, but we can make them six to tally with the geo-political zones that we have now, such that a substantial part of the powers of Federal Government would devolve to the regional governments. We will then have state and local governments. The presidential system is too expensive and dictatorial; we should go back to the parliamentary system. With the latter, we will have a president and a prime minister, and that is very important.
I am also for a national conference. We don’t need to call it sovereign national conference. Those who call it that name do so because they don’t want any arm of government, the National Assembly or the Presidency, to tamper with the conclusions of the conference. You don’t need to call it an SNC because you cannot keep the National Assembly out of the exercise. The National Assembly should pass an Act of the Assembly setting up the conference, provided that whatever the conference decides will be final and binding and will be submitted to a referendum.
Most countries of the world operate the parliamentary system of government and they have development. Our neighbours — Benin Republic, Togo and so on — run the parliamentary system. Given the situation of our country, it makes for dual executive, that is, the president and prime minister. If the president is from the South, the prime minister can be from the North, and everybody gets involved.
One good thing about the parliamentary system is that government is continuously answerable to the people, because the ministers must be part of the parliament and they must be in the parliament to answer questions as to what they are doing. It is a more dynamic system of government than the presidential system.
The solution is not simple. The activities of the sect have spread and are not easy to stem now, but we have to strive. According to them, they took to violence because of the extra-judicial killing of their leader and many of the followers. They said they were doing it for Islam and we have said no! They do not represent Islam because Islam is for peace. We must find a way of getting them to dialogue with the government. Those who are sensible among them can be involved in that dialogue. But those among them who are extremists and insist on violence must be handled with the stick and flushed out.
The Boko Haram situation is not totally different from that of the Niger Delta militancy. People don’t remember now because there is relative peace in the area. The militants were ready to do anything to this country at that time. They killed people, Nigerians and foreigners alike, but thank God, that situation was brought under control.
Through negotiation, the government gave them amnesty and the rebels are being integrated back into the society. The same thing has to be done to these people (the Boko Haram members). Some people are against the government having a dialogue with a group of people that is destroying lives, but in this situation, we have to dialogue with them. The extreme poverty in the land might be one of the factors responsible for the problem. People are poor and many unemployed. The devil would always find work for an idle hand. It is easy to recruit the unemployed into crime; give them little money and they become thugs and militants. So, we must address the problem of poverty very seriously. We must have a massive socio-economic programme. We must try to eradicate poverty in the society.
This administration is trying, it is not easy, but the government has to step up its programmes, as things appear a little slow. The government should hasten its programme for the masses. By the first anniversary, the government should come out with a strong economic programme, a social policy that will gladden the hearts of the masses. I said there was so much disillusionment because people felt that their circumstances had not improved; the government should take note of that.