By Daniel Kanu
Activist and erudite scholar, Prof Sheriff Folarin is the head of Department, Political Science and International Relations, Covenant University.
Sheriff, a highly cerebral educationist, researcher, and writer of international repute, has won many academic awards, including the US Commanding General’s Award for Excellence, Fort Jackson, South Carolina, lecturer of the year, Covenant University (2007), 2014 Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Host-Scholar, best graduating student in History award (University of Ibadan 1997), and Oba Lipede Prize in History for Best undergraduate (1994).
In this exclusive chat with Sunday Sun, he spoke on the state of affairs of the country, the failure of leadership, the Anambra governorship election, INEC performance, Igbo president and agitations in the land, among other critical national issues. Excerpt:
At last Prof Chukwuma Soludo is now the governor-elect of Anambra State. What are your thoughts on the Anambra election?
Let me begin by saying that INEC performed well and deserves kudos. I am extremely excited that Prof Soludo is finally the governor-elect of Anambra State. I had looked forward to this many years ago. In fact, I look beyond the governorship of Anambra State for him. I had always thought that Soludo is a potential candidate and one of the most qualified candidates to rule Nigeria as president. Let’s hope that this is a step forward among the Igbo political elite, I think Soludo is one person that still has the clout, the records, and the pedigree to want to say that he can contest for president of Nigeria. This is because he has not been messed up by the political infractions we have had over the years. Secondly, he has the good records as far as his handling of the Central Bank assignment was concerned and I hope that this governorship platform will offer him a very unique opportunity to be able to prove himself more morally, politically, intellectually and mentally that he is fully prepared for a higher assignment and more important assignment such as the office of the president of Nigeria. I will rate INEC high, I will say that INEC probably, the game plan wasn’t that Soludo should win….There were speculations here and there among the people that Andy Ubah of the APC was the choice of the powers that be. And when the inconclusive announcement on the result was made the apprehension was heightened, but we give God thanks that the best candidate, as well as the choice of Anambrarians, won.
You have made some comments elsewhere concerning the attack on Justice Mary Odili’s residence…?
(Cuts in) That action is despicable, it is taking lawlessness too far because everything seems to be woven around the government, that government was behind it. It’s like celebrating, glorifying, and institutionalizing disorderliness in the country and if it is coming from the highest office of law then there is a fundamental problem. I don’t believe that anyone can have such audacity to go and attack the home, the primary residence for that matter of a sitting Supreme Court Justice. I think that this thing must have come from the highest office in the land, it is not impossible that the speculations whether it came from the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the speculations might just be right, afterall it wasn’t hoodlums that went there. Those that went for that operation had strong backing from very high quarters; they got proper approvals and mandate. All evidence point to the fact that this thing was ordered from the top. We are in a country that anarchy has become the order of the day and you have all sorts of miscreants all over the country that are going from one place to the other ransacking, turning things upside down, making life nasty, brutish and short and when you now have the Ministry of Justice, that is involved in this kind of lawlessness, it becomes an appendage and endorsement of lawlessness in the country. There should be a thorough investigation on the matter. The I-G of police must give Nigerians real evidence.
When you reflect on Nigeria’s politics, looking at your background and what you teach, do you really have hope that the nation’s politics is on the right part towards developing the country?
(Laughs) I am glad you have already put me in a box and that box is the box of history and political history for that matter, going by what I know and my field, what I teach. Looking at what the actors (politicians) are doing, it is far from it, it is far-fetched. Trying to find out plausible factors or justifications is far from the prognosis. You cannot say that the institutionalization of lawlessness is the right part to develop the country. You cannot say that the political elite that is made up of probably, some half-baked graduates or barely educated people or educated people who have become corrupted by the corrupt establishment itself or people who are after lining of their pockets, who are adept in aggrandizement and the rest of it, you can’t say such people are those that will bring about development. Development does not start with corrupt people or corruption. Development is not possible when you have misfits, barely educated people in power. Development is impossible when you have a political class that is not thoroughly screened, but which buys its way because of their moneybags in their coffers. Development starts with people that have a clear mind, that have the mental competencies, and that have the moral fortitude to be able to rise to the very highest positions in the land, that’s where development can start. Development starts with those who are educated about economics, politics, the history, everything including science and technology, etc, who really are prepared mentally, intellectually, etc, and who also have leadership skills as well as good team players. These are the kind of people that can develop this country, but as it is now with this lawlessness going on, what should border us at this moment is about, whether the way things are going Nigeria will not be consumed by this snowball of violence that is all over the sky. That is what we should be bothered about at the moment. When we are able to overcome that then we can now begin to talk about whether we really have those that are fit for leadership. But of course, we know that those who are fit for leadership are the ones who can fix these issues, but right now 2023 seems to be far away, sometimes it’s far, sometimes it is near, it depends on how you want to look at it. It’s far because of the sufferings that are going on; it’s near because at least there is a ray of hope.
You also raised the issue of agitation and when you consider it, agitation is almost everywhere in the land. What do you think is the cause of these agitations or perhaps, what is wrong?
People are agitating for different reasons, there are some who are agitating because they feel that they have been politically marginalized over the years and the agitation is expected and deserved. There are some who are agitating because they feel that the level of economic abuse is becoming unbearable and they are really agitated because even the middle class is disappearing once again. The economic indices are not favourable; they are not increasing any ray of hope anywhere, the Naira is sliding further and further and the government seems to have run out of all ideas and so they are coming up with e-Naira and other things that are confusing the more. People are agitated because of the level of insecurity. This is one area that is giving people nightmares, whether in this Nigeria we will remain the same before 2023, whether indeed, we will see beyond 2023 even if we are together. People are seriously agitated about insecurity. The government people are not even safe any longer. Those in the military are also not safe any longer. We have heard of the case of how bandits ran into the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA) and what did they do? They killed and even kidnapped and these were impossible things to hear of before. You heard about how bandits raped a female soldier the other time and then she got pregnant and she was dismissed by the Army. You hear of how bandits raided a military barracks and ransacked the military barracks. You hear about how bandits entered the universities, including that of Abuja University and they are kidnapping people. You heard about the recent kidnap of a retired Air Vice Marshall, you hear of all sorts of things and you begin to wonder, who is safe again? People no longer understand what is going on and we are having more and more crises by the day. These things are not helping issues. If you have people that are highly placed and they are no longer safe then what of the safety of the common man? What is the hope for the ordinary people? This is a serious issue that we must understand. People are agitated for reasons that border on infrastructural deficit. You could see that people in Ogun State, for instance, are agitated, they feel that the present administration in Ogun State is irresponsible because the economic hub of the state Adodo-Ottah is totally neglected while Shagamu, Ijebu-Ode, and some other places are being developed, adorned with the best roads. People in the state feel there is some kind of primordial sentiment in the infrastructural development of the state. You can see the lockdown we had in Ogun State led by the NLC and some other groups, calling the government of the state to come to reality and see that they fix the roads in Sango Ottah which are becoming a show of shame. The local government is a money spinner not only for the state, but for the Federal Government yet the place is neglected, so the people are agitated. Some are agitated either in the Southeast or Southwest because they want self-determination and you must listen to them, address the issues. There is not only political marginalisation, but lack of equity, lack of justice, lack of fairness, lopsided development. Look at the military, for instance, there seems to be a deliberate affront, the audacity of the leadership of the country to take all the military infrastructure to the North and then leave South totally out of it. Perhaps in their calculation, in future, in case there is any kind of insurrection or agitations reaching a crescendo there will be a military might from the North to descend on the South to crush such insurrection. Agitations are everywhere, there are so many hungry people on the streets of Nigeria, and so many people that don’t have jobs are badly agitated.
You talked about marginalisation and all that, the reason the Southeast zone seems to be strategizing for the 2023 Presidency, citing injustice, lack of equity, lack of fairness, etc.
(Cuts in) Although, I don’t believe in zoning and all that…I believe in competence, in having quality leadership, having qualified candidates etc, but I will say that I want to see an Igbo president. I really want to see one. If truly we are in one Nigeria then we need to have an Igbo president. I am not saying they should be zoned to the Southeast or something, but I am saying that there should be a concerted effort, a deliberate move by the Southeast to produce a very competent person, a personality that is acceptable everywhere around Nigeria. I don’t think that the Southeast doesn’t have them that is why I am so happy that Prof Soludo is the governor-elect and I want him to use this platform to prove a point that the Igbo can truly have a candidate that can stand the test of time. I have never met Soludo and I am not supporting him because he is a Professor like me, but I am supporting him because of his credible, sterling records, his integrity and if he fixed Central Bank, he can fix Anambra and by extension, he can tackle Nigeria’s issues. But one thing the Igbo must do is to kind of close their ranks, the Igbo (sorry to say this) are the kind of people that I know that are more united when they are abroad, abroad can mean within Nigeria, but outside the Southeast enclave. They are united and they tend to always walk together, they tend to always identify with one another as brothers, but back home it is a different narrative. If the Igbo can change that narrative, it is not about me, it is about them looking for their best candidate, a rounded figure, one acceptable in different regions of the country, and then pushing that candidate, giving the person collective support. They need a person that has not been messed up or humiliated by the EFCC. The Igbo also need to stretch their hands across the Niger, towards the Southwest. At this time they really need to close their ranks, forget about their differences of the past, forget about what Awolowo did or did not do to them (because they are always saying that), forgive and forget and then stretch out their hands of fellowship across the Southwest because if an Igbo man must win an election in this country, they don’t have to play the fool again to the North, they have to stretch their hand of fellowship to the West and wrest power from those guys who don’t want to let power off. If they keep on maintaining malice with the Southwest and they now think that they will get any kind of support from the North they will be playing the fool again, and they are going to lose out. I want to see the South closing their ranks and the Southwest also allowing a Southeasterner to be president. I want to see an Igbo man as the president of Nigeria and I am really serious about it. Until there is an Igbo president the problem of Biafra will definitely continue because they will continue to have that feeling that they don’t belong to Nigeria, that Nigerians don’t want to accept the fact that they are also Nigerians. The Igbo have a sort of homework to do and that is making sure that they get the best candidate with no question mark around his neck. The Igbo need to rally round someone, a personality that cannot be rejected for any reason.
How would you assess the leadership of President Buhari so far?
I am not satisfied with the leadership of President Buhari. I was his strong supporter and they even labeled me a traitor here that I was supporting somebody some of my colleagues, folks, and even superiors, my Ogas, were not supporting. I was given all sorts of names if not for the recent times that I have been a bit vocal to make my stand known about his leadership and my dissatisfaction. I am not happy for a number of reasons. Firstly, this government is nepotistic and Buhari is not pretending about it. He wants his folk, his core Northerners, Muslims in particular in all strategic offices. I love Northern Nigeria so much, I was brought up in the North, but his leadership has messed that place up so much. Yes, you can say this thing (security challenge) started under President Jonathan or even getting root during Obasanjo, particularly in the North, but see what is happening in the North now. Kaduna which I regard as my first state even before my own state, look at what Kaduna has become now. It’s a mess now, despite all the military formations there. Go to the Northwest, the North-central, banditry is reigning supreme there and Boko Haram is reigning in the Northeast. The president is simply supervising and presiding over a mess, presiding over anarchy and his body language does not even show that he is ready to fix Nigeria. Yes, sometimes he tries to grandstand by what he says, but the fact remains that this president does not appear sensitive enough or committed to ensuring that this insecurity is arrested like a leader that he should be. What about the manner his government is handling the economy? Everything is upside down and nothing is happening. I may give him some pass mark as far as infrastructural development is concerned, as far as the building of the second Niger Bridge is concerned, construction of some federal roads, railway lines, etc, but you have to be alive to enjoy infrastructure. How is Nigeria’s health sector, can you say it is functioning or effective? How is the educational sector and the government’s commitment? Buhari has two more years to salvage his reputation, so let’s hope he does that, but the way I am looking at him, I used to love him so much, I don’t hate him right now, I don’t, but I am not just happy with the way and manner he is governing the country. But the way, I am seeing his body language he doesn’t look like he is going to do anything in two years and I just hope he will hand over to the candidate that truly deserves it in 2023. I give him kudos that they didn’t have to rig the Anambra election, they did not use APC or the federal might to rig the election. Sometimes he tries to be impartial, but the truth is that nepotism has truly destroyed his administration and then the lack of a very clear policy and political will to fight insecurity and the way he tends to kind of protect these bandits or the way it looks like he is protecting some of these bandits and terrorists leaves much to be desired.
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By Daniel Kanu Activist and erudite scholar, Prof Sheriff Folarin is the head of Department, Political…
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