Former President of Senate in the botched Third Republic, Dr Iyorchia Stu in a rare interview speaks on Nigeria’ s journey to nationhood since Independence in 1960.
How will you assess our level of development so far?
Interms of transportation, we have improved on road network, we hardly improved on the rail system and the water system deteriorated. We also improved in the area of road transportation, so many private airlines came on board, so there’s development to some extent. If you come to education, we had only few secondary or primary schools in most areas today there are so many primary, secondary schools and universities, by the time I went to university, there were only five universities in Nigeria today we have over one hundred and twenty or fifty universities in Nigeria there were hardly any polytechnics then, there are so many of them now, whether we argue that the quality has declined definitely, there’s a step forward and we can improve on it.
it depends on where you are taking off, if you are somebody who experienced the state of nigeria in the fifties, you can say we have moved forward, because development has so many parameters, there is physical development, manpower development and cultural development. Let me talk on few of them ,some of us that were born in fifthies before independence, it was very difficult to travel from point one to the other because there were no roads at all , the rail lines were rickety, of course they worked, there were hardly water ways, both river Niger, River Benue and the coaster areas.
There are so many other areas that Nigeria has moved forward, even though we haven’t moved as fast as people expected because if you take the first development plane 1962 to 1966, which was modified later to 1968, you will find out that we started at the same level if not better than the Asian Tigers, particularly a country like South Korea.
Today, south Korea, whether in the area of manufacturing, manpower development quality has moved ahead of us so we have every reason to lament. We went through a very difficult civil war, 30 months and killed many Nigerians, not many countries would have survived that type of experience but will survived it.
There is a good and bad and ugly in the last 60 years of our life and I think in the last ten to eight years, we have gone through another traumatic experience of terrorists, who are literally destroying Nigeria, many of them come from outside the country, the disintegration in the North Africa and have infiltrated Nigeria and recruited a lot of people like if you go to the North-East today or even the Northwest, places like katsina and Zamfara you will find out that the people are completely terrorised ,they can’t sleep so many people have been killed, its literally as if we are in a civil war, the same thing in the North Central and other places.
Psychologically, Nigeria has never been as divided as we are today, the leadership is incompetent, particularly the current government, many Nigerians have called on President Buhari to be more decisive in dealing with the security situation, the platform whom he was selected and it’s almost unanimous that he has failed woefully, he has not handled the security situation not even in his own State.
So it has given the impression that, and some of his policies for example nearly all the appointments, you have to be a muslim to be in government, it has never been like this before. For example, of 28 ministers in the northern part of the country, only two are Christians and with inconsequential ministries, special duties and women affairs, the rest are muslims.
Names of security personnel when they’re anounced is always a muslim and this has given Nigeria the impression that there’s no future and I think is likely because of bad leadership but my plea to Nigerians is that this bad leadership will not be there for ever that is the beauty of democracy.
In a democratic setting, whether you like it or not you will go at a particular point and another leadership will take over and I believe they’re a lot of good Nigerians who will provide qualitative leadership to this potentially great country, and lift it forward, because even if you look at the industrialization, with the founding fathers of Nigeria started in the 50s and 60s and even president Shehu Shagari pushed it forward, what you find is complete destruction of that base.
Even in the petrochemical industry, whether in the automobile industry in every industry, because if you don’t have a visionary leadership that knows what to do, a leadership that’s clear a leadership that sees every Nigerian as a brother or sister, a leadership that is myopic can not move us forward it has to be a leadership that’s all inclusive , so I believe that there is still Hope for this country.
As a one time Senate President, how Will you assess the functions of the legislature in Nigeria since the Independence?
The Legislature has gone through a lot of trauma given our peculiar political history you know very well that at anytime the military takes over the first line of attack is the scraping of the legislature, so the legislature has not grown the way it should have grown, for the last 50 years, a small group of military officers dominated and manipulated the development of this country largely negatively and what has suffered mostly is the legislature.
I remember that, when I was elected Senate President in 1992 the military hardly allowed us to do anything the only thing will did during that period was fighting the military in all their attempt to curt us and make sure that they stayed in power permanently.
We resisted it and that led to my removal as president of the Senate because I refused to be party or collaborate with the military to deny president Abiola his victory. I believe the legislature as currently constituted is very young , it has only been there in any stretch of time for about 20years.
It is not perfect, its not doing the best it should do but it’s better than military decree coming from one individual. Nigeria has a certain degree of representation, a number of them are very very serious about the development of their individual areas and I have seen the number of them have ensured that the projects go to their communities.
So, much as Nigerians will be frustrated with the legislature, I don’t think giving the short time they have been there, is gradually a learning process. I think over time it will improve and should never go back to the period where one individual sit with an unelected people and give us decrees, we should try to improve the legislature rather than trying to scrap democracy, because when you talk of democracy, the real democracy is the legislature.
There have been calls for reduction of cost of government, one such way should be by making nigeria unicameral legislature instead of presenting two chambers for them, what’s your take on this giving Nigeria’ s economic situation?
It’s ignorance, largely because people don’t understand that entire amount of money you spent on the legislature does not compel to one single ministry spent either ministry of Works or Ministry of Defence, which is controlled by the executive, the cost of government is not just the legislature, the cost of government is actually the way the executive arm of government spend the resources of the country year in year out.
I can give you the specific example. Lagos -Ibadan road, every year billions are budgeted for Lagos – Ibadan road, nobody ever sees the completion of that road and nobody sees the development of the road where does the money go to? And if you compare what the legislature always does and the amount spent on the legislature, is very tiny amount compared to the total expenditure, so if you want to control the cost of governance, we have to be more transparent, everywhere make sure that the resources budgeted for specific projects go for those projects, then Nigerians will not complain about the cost of the legislature because I don’t believe that the legislature spends money.
There is no where in the world that the legislature is cheap even in the united state that we keep citing, the legislature is expensive because you are dealing with a large number of people who are elected and you have to make sure they do their work.