Bisi Adegbuyi is the immediate past Postmaster-General of the Federation. He spoke on the need for Nigeria to change the 1999 Constitution if the next president must perform. In this interview with SEYE OLUMIDE (Southwest Bureau Chief), he also expressed confidence that National Leader and presidential candidate of ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu will win the next general elections.
What could Nigeria do about the 1999 Constitution, which many people have said is responsible for all the problems facing the country?
Elections are fast approaching and it is practically impossible to do a complete overhaul of the 1999 Constitution, we can only make do with the Constitution Amendment being pursued by the leadership of the National Assembly. If we don’t get what we like, we will have to like what we will get in the circumstance, and then make political reforms one of the issues that should occupy the front burner.
In the agenda of whoever emerges as the President, which I believe will be Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, if he doesn’t want to fail in office, he must prioritise political reforms. I believe the time is ripe to put some issues in context or proper perspective.
I have always advocated within Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) that it is about time that we changed our communication strategy regarding our advocacy for restructuring. It behoves on people who are advocating for restructuring to take a second look at how far they have gone, and change the narratives to political reforms.
Let us communicate what we are advocating for in such a way that other contending forces will listen to us and will be able to address the fears of those who are vehemently opposed to restructuring. Those people believe that restructuring is a recipe for disintegration but whether they are right or wrong is a different thing altogether.
If that is the mind-set of people who are opposed to restructuring, we should not continue to make our advocacy more difficult by not changing our communication strategy? Hence, I believe that the way to go is political reforms.
Nigeria in my view, is due for political reforms and I want to put this on record that, because of the mutual suspicion, distrust, ethnic cleavages, and the fact that we have done a very poor job of leveraging on our diversity, it is now time for Nigeria to consider confederacy as a system of government.
Nigeria is by far too divided now for any federalism to resolve, what is more? Nigeria is tailor made for a confederal system of government, and I will strongly recommend the model that they operate in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E).
I think that the next president (Tinubu) would be lucky, in the sense that he has built network of friends and political associates who can easily relate with him. We can constructively engage people like Governors Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna state, Governor Inuwa Yaya of Gombe state, Governor Umaru Ganduje of Kano State and let them see the reason why we should consolidate on what they struggled for, because these were the people that stood their ground and said the presidency must revert to the south. To consolidate on that is to go further and ensure that we embark on political reforms that will engender a confederal system of government, which is a win-win situation for all the geo political zones of Nigeria.
Some people believe that whosoever wins the 2023 election must have the support of the owners of Nigeria. Who are the owners of Nigeria?
Don’t we all know them? Anybody who had ruled Nigeria twice whether as a military Head of State, or civilian President, as a dictator or otherwise, the various Chiefs of Army Staff and others. They are not more than 5000. See, very few people affect fundamental changes anywhere in the world. Whether such people will behave like statesmen, live above board, forget about their personal interest, is a different matter.
What’s your take on the recommendations for a confederal style of government?
People who benefit from a union don’t want to leave that union, they become centrifugal when they see that the union is not in any way taking care of their needs. An example is insecurity. Okay, mention any country that is more united than the United Arabs Emirates (UAE). They have forged unity without compromising the affairs of their people. That to me is a test of how to figure out Nigeria’s problems. I was PostMaster General for three and a half years and I made friends across the length and breadth of Nigeria. Nigerians want progress and when I watch the interview of a gentleman who I later found out was a Commissioner under Gov. Ganduje, I was almost shedding tears. This is coming from a Northerner, people should try and watch the viral video again. I do not have anything to add to what the man said regarding Nigeria, because Nigeria is evidently not working now, not because President Muhammadu Buhari does not want it to work, but it is beyond him. He has done his best and he’s about to complete his tenure in the race to forge a united country out of Nigeria. But the system that will run in Nigeria is a journey to nowhere until we take a critical look at the system.
We are talking about restructuring and some people are talking about amendment of the Constitution…
It is very clear that if you expect that fundamental changes in the politics of Nigeria can be achieved by the present National Assembly, no, what they can do is what they’ve embarked upon. Increases mental amendment of the Constitution to take Nigeria to its destination. But we are in a hurry to get there and a piecemeal amendment of the 1999 Constitution cannot take us to that destination. Constitution amendment is time taking, time consuming and requires deep thinkers to be involved. Nigeria urgently requires a reset, and whoever tries to do that will have his name recorded in gold and I believe Tinubu is the right man to do that, because all the issues are clear to him.
In that journey of trying to achieve unity in Nigeria, Tinubu should continue to engage his political associates in the North, who are the heroes of democracy and insist that power must be returned to the south.
Do you see Tinubu defeating former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
I’m unhappy with Atiku, he should have reasoned above partisan politics and become a statesman. Thinking about the future of Nigeria and not contesting the 2023 elections. If he had done so, a roadmap to unity of Nigeria or a path would have been created and history would have been very kind to him.
What is the way out of Nigeria’s economic situation?
Economists would tell you that foreign direct investment follows political reforms all over the world. Nigeria is where we are because we’ve prioritised our so-called economic reforms without prioritising political reforms. How do you justify a country where you spend 70% of your resources on recurrent expenditure? And the only way you can achieve economic progress in Nigeria is to first and foremost sort out your political problems and then you’ll bountifully gain the benefits of the economy that will follow reforms invariably. Cost of governance is Nigeria’s Achilles Heel. I agree that we must talk about the economy. But my submission is that take the political reforms out of the way and economic benefits will come.
How would you assess the leading presidential candidates and their capacity to transform the country?
What I will say first is we must find a creative way out of this presidential system of government that we currently operate. I submit with due respect that it is ill suited for a multi ethnic, a multi religious and a diverse country like Nigeria. How do we ensure that if we go for the next election, some candidates that are representing critical tendencies are not shut out? Because the moment the president emerges from this presidential system of election, all other candidates are completely shut out. Don’t forget I have said this is the time to approach Nigeria’s problems using bipartisan binoculars, so to say. Statesmen think about the future of their country, politicians think about the next election and that is why we have the political gladiators talking about 2023 without thinking about what will happen thereafter. Why are statesmen in short supply in Nigeria?
I have publicly endorsed the candidacy of Tinubu for the presidency of 2023. But I hasten to point out, without any apology to anybody or (unapologetic) that neither Tinubu nor Atiku nor Peter Obi nor Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso alone can solve the problems of Nigeria going forward. Consequently, we must find a creative way of getting the leading presidential candidates work together. Don’t forget Nigeria has been presented with a golden opportunity of having three of the four leading presidential candidates representing very strong geo-political zones. I don’t want to offend the sensibilities of the minorities but we all know the major tribes in Nigeria: we have Tinubu representing the Southwest, Atiku representing Hausa/Fulani region, and Peter Obi from the South East, who is having a critical section of the public rooting for him demographically. I mean, make no mistake about it, they may be trending on social media, the youths of Nigeria are evidently tired of the way the country has been governed; they want a new deal. Let me quickly point out that Peter Obi is not a new deal because he has been part of the old order. That he has successfully navigated the political water from APGA to PDP, from PDP to Labour Party (LP), doesn’t make him somebody who is new or has not been part of the problem. So, we quickly need to put that point on the table.
But again, if we conduct election in 2023, demographically speaking and having regard to what we call the psephology of election, which is (science of election) using data and statistics with a view to predetermine who would win, the odds are in favour of Tinubu. Go and check the history of Nigeria, when you have a presidential candidate, who is very popular in the Northwest and is also popular in the Southwest, he has invariably done half of the job in emerging as the president.
In other words, there are some states in Nigeria that if you don’t win them, you don’t have any path to the presidency and those states seem locked for two of the presidential candidates. So, in my view this election is for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to win.
However, talking like a statesman and not being selfish, thinking about the future of Nigeria, I believe that the next government should be a cocktail of the leading presidential candidates representing the major tribes in Nigeria. I know this may not go well with some people, but then, we have to say it as it is.