Home / INTERVIEWS / Why Nigeria’s Democracy is Not Working – Amb. Hagher
Why Nigeria’s Democracy is Not Working – Amb. Hagher
Second Republic Senator, former Nigerian envoy to Mexico and Canada and 2019 presidential hopeful, Prof Iyorwuese Hagher, in this interview with DAILY ASSET’s Editors, says the current government as led by President Muhammadu Buhari has nothing more to offer than it already has, and that Nigeria needs a shift from the current democratic practice to one where the people are given the best deal.
In Nigeria, some people believe that anything is possible. They believe that you can deteriorate to whatever level of depravity; you can tell lies, humiliate yourself or your parents, be a drug addict, a depraved alcoholic and pervert who canget involved in armed robbery as a student; you can and should make money at all costs and care less about humanity and integrity
Why Nigeria’s democracy not working?
Democracy basically is a government that belongs to the people. The first implication that this democracy is not working is the fact that people are not happy. Only small elite eats up what should go to the masses. We don’t have infrastructure in this country; there are no roads, no railways, and no good and befitting airports. The elite travels by air and in SUVs on our man-hole-infested roads. An SUVs costs between N20m to N100m, and they’re the only vehicles that can plythe death traps we callroads. Surely SUVs are not affordable for all except the oppressors to acquire. It is a pity. Is this a democracy that is functional to you? It is a contraption of the arrogance of the elite, and we shouldn’t be afraid of the people that we elected, they should be afraid of the electorate unless they have found a way of winning elections without the need to go back to the electorate. If they have found such a way, it means that we are not running a democracy but something else with vested interest of some business men, who anoint who to be the next president in their closets. And that is what has been happening since 1999. Look at the economy;it is in the worst shape. We just came through a terrible depression, we are struggling to be just alive andthe callous elite tells us to goand fasten our beltstighter and make more sacrifices. The salaries of governors and senators are an embarrassment to this nation. We cannot afford these people leading us. We should fire them and get better value for our money. We cannot afford to be paying the people we have hired to work for us so much money when the basic salary of ordinary civil servants cannot pay for a bottle of wine they drink nor pay for one meal they eat at their exotic resorts. This is a shame. It has become very difficult to make legitimate money in this countrybecause of these set of elite without conscience. So, this democracy is of the rich. Neo-liberalism is an economy and a democracy that makes certain people rich, with the hope that this will trickle down and create employment for the masses. Industries, estates, oil blocks etc are dashed to people and a class society has developed in Nigeria, where you have very rich people and the very poor people. A country like this is not sustainable, and these are the reasons I said this democracy is not working.
How will you advise the government against these myriad problems?
There is no economic adviser to the President and so, who advises him on the economy? Is it the governors who on their own also need people to advise them on the economy? These are the reasons why we have no savings for the future, and the reason we have frittered away trillions of dollars of our wealth which the country has earned from crude oil. The worst thing that has happened is that the future belongs to the youths and Nigerians have the largest number of children in the streets rather than in schools in the whole World. How can we cope in a situation like this? In 2050, Nigeria will be the third largest nation on earth in terms of population, are we preparing the infrastructure to take care of such huge population or are we simply preparing a population that will be carted as slaves to other parts of the world, as some are already running out of this country on their own volition to go and be slaves in other countries? Are we prepared for a bloody revolution or a war which population bulges give nations? This is my submission on why this democracy is not working. My only advice to the Government is to make the people happy rather than the president and his cabinet, senators and governors happy. We hired them to tend our farms. They are feeding fat on the product of the farms and laughing while we the people are starving and crying.
As a presidential hopeful, what will you do differently if elected?
First and foremost, God willing, when I am sworn president next year in May, I will give gratitude to God and be a servant leader. Power belongs to God so, I will like Solomon, ask God to give me wisdom to choose the best presidential team from among the greatest thought leaders and performers who are Nigerians. I will find them from all over the world and they will be the president’s men. I believe that God has prepared me very well for this task. I have lived the life of contemplation and simplicity, I know how to manage myself and I know how to manage the nation, I know how to manage people.
How do you intend to succeed where others failed?
Actually, being a representative of the sovereignty of this country as an ambassador to Mexico and Canada, I understand the anguish of the blacks all over the world, who are ashamed that maybe there is something wrong with our genes. This is because out of the ten million people that were taken into slavery in the West, seven million were Nigerians, scattered all over the world and ashamed to be called Nigerians. So what will solve the problems of Nigeria is to have a leadership that is committed to Nigeria, a leadership based on law, equity and empathy that will unite the different ethnicities.
As a diplomat who has seen things beyond borders, what measures are you employing to fix the nation?
My major task as president would be nation building. Lets unite to fight tribalism and corruption and religious bigotry. We need unity, we need to have a common focus, we need a president who will galvanize our hopes and assuage our fears. I will immediately put my road map to national greatness to work. My main focus is to provide free education to everybody. My vision is to take literacy level of Nigerians to at least 99 per cent if not 100 per cent. Every Nigerian must be able to read and write. Every Nigerian must be able to walk up to a bank to open a bank account and operate it. It is not rocket science. It is basic. They must be able to afford education according to the capability of their brains. No Nigerian should be deprived of education at higher levels because he has no money. There should be automatic scholarships for everybody who is willing to go for Masters and Doctorate degrees.
This is because education makes us better citizens; it helps us escape gripping poverty and provides the World, and critical answers to challenges. I will also make Nigeria self-sustaining because I will open up space in the universities in such a way that we will no longer be promoting people into professorship based on basic research. We will now open up massive research centers across the country, where Nigerians learn new technologies and science. I will make Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Ethics (STEME) the basis for education so that we will enter the knowledge-based economy with human hearts and compassion for fellow humans. I will stop the grumbling about where raw materials are situated, because the best raw materials are situated in the brain, which can be found in any part of Nigeria.
What are your plans for the economy?
On the economy, I will run a people-focused economy that will mediate the harsh realities of blind market forces. I will ensure there is equity and justice in the land. I will discourage the current structure by building a visible middle class among Nigerians, who will be happy and can live in decent homes with decent jobs. The era of making money from the sick at the hospitals will be over, government should be responsible for this. I will promote freedom of speech and not gag people from freedom of expression by what is now called hate speech. Allow people to cry out when they are hurt while others respond with their own stories or with love. I believe that we should allow a robust conversation of all colours to take place and find common ground for love and patriotism. Love will always trump hate. I will not attempt in any way to gag or control speech. Democracy thrives best when the citizens freely express themselves.
The Nigerian child appears badly affected by the state of the nation’s economy. What can be done to provide for the future of average Nigerian child?
Poverty has made every Nigerian child an adult; this is because the ordinary Nigerian family is too poor to provide education. I met Habibah and Tyohee at a local Tyowanye market they were selling peanuts to customers to pay their secondary school fees. I was so impressed. Education lifts our youth out of the poverty trap. I love going to traditional Nigerian Markets – there, I find true Nigerians. This is where people produce a lot of food but don’t eat the food, they sell the food to people in the urban areas and they settle down to eat less than what they sold out to others. They sell out their fruits and are content to eat just carbohydrates. If they go hunting and catch fish, rabbit or a grass cutter, they don’t eat them.
They sell them so that they can pay their medical bills or pay their children’s school fees. The Nigerian child is naturally a good seed that has been tested all over and has gone through terrible adversity. Take any Nigerian child from the streets hawking wares, or farming or the Hausa Fulani Almajiri struggling to be adults and foregoing childhood altogether because of crippling poverty. They are saddled with very serious adult responsibilities. Look at the Almajiris, at the age of two or three years old, they are making life and death decisions, they are being pushed from one part of the country to the other where they know nobody, and they have to survive. Nigerian children and youth are exceptional. They are fertile seeds that require a fertile soil to grow and flourish.
Who is to blame in all these?
Unfortunately the Nigerian soil is toxic because we have toxic leaders! This is because the government has failed in all tiers. Our constitution is extremely well written. It says onthe one hand that we should provide free education, free health and amenities for the citizenry. But the same constitution denies this in Section 6 subsection 6 (c) that you cannot sue the government if it fails to provide those services. Wherein is the Justice?
Are you implying that there is a lacuna in the existing Nigerian constitution in that regard?
The Constitutions needs a makeover to function properly. Yes there is a lacuna that makes it dysfunctional. When we saw this, we said we were not working for the government, and so were determined to lead by example.
How do you mean?
In Nigeria, some people believe that anything is possible. They believe that you can deteriorate to whatever level of depravity; you can tell lies, humiliate yourself or your parents, be a drug addict, a depraved alcoholic and pervert who canget involved in armed robbery as a student; you can and should make money at all costs and care less about humanity and integrity. People like that lack self-esteem. These are some of the ideas that gave birth to our decision to make a contribution, because the future of higher education in this country is in the private sector.
And what are those contributions?
The establishment of Afe Babalola University is one of them. We realized that the Federal Government cannot do it alone. So we need public spirited individuals like Aare Afe Babalola who has been a great success in everything he started. He didn’t go to school, apart from primary school; he later educated himself up to the highest intellectual levels. Apart from being a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, he has received too many accolades including nomination to the Nobel Prize. Afe Babalola University is limited by guarantee; it is not an Afe Babalola and Sons or daughters institution. It is also not made for profit but to plough all back for humanity. So, this has been my experience and throughout the eight and half years that I have been Pro-Chancellor I did not take a salary or charge the institution for any monthly or duty allowances. I considered it a voluntary charitable assignment. My philosophy is to serve as a servant of my community and to serve best in any circumstance. I ask what I can do for my country and my community and what I can do for the youths of this country. I feel really proud to have servedvery meritoriously at that Institution.
What is next for you after leaving the university?
I am running to be President of Nigeria2019. I am in daily conversation with God to make this possible so that I can transform this great country that has become a basket case to a mighty and great nation. I ask God to have mercy on Nigeria and on me to be the vehicle for national liberation.
How would you justify the incessant killings of farmers by herdsmen across the country?
Government said they have done a lot to stop this from happening but in reality the opposite is happening. This escalation of crises is the fault of our governments blundering. Their acts of omission and commission are the reason why we continue from one crisis to another. They do not even know how to manage crises. The security agencies are not co-operating with one another. The police are at loggerheads with people they are supposed to be serving. The president lacks empathy with the people he is leading. He can amazingly go to a community and say that after all, more people were killed in one state than in another state, so why people in that other state are making noise? He proceeds to the state where the people are bereaved, and are in deep shock and he refrains totally from going near the cenotaphs and graveyards where the citizen victims of nomadic terrorism lie buried. He keeps a straight face of disdain refusing to show empathy with the people as if those people have no right to be aggrieved. And then he tells them, to learn to live with and accommodate others. It is the duty and responsibility of the government to protect the citizens. They seem to be failing but they say they have done their best. Let us not be too hard on them, this is the best they can do.This is all they can do!
How would you advise the government on this?
There is something that is ominous and preposterous. Perhaps the people killing farmers are really not Fulani herdsmen. These could be an invading mercenary army across our borders. Our government has neither identified them nor succeeded to stop them anywhere! They are dazed. When the Dapchi Girls were captured our government apparently did nothing to negotiate their release, and did not apparently pay ransom for their return neither. That is why the people of Dapchi welcomed the Boko Haram commanders for bringing the girls back and not the Nigerian Government. All that happened were the good people of Dapchi gleefully thanking the Boko Haram commanders for bringing back our girls except the one Christian girl who is still in captivity? Perhaps they were really looking for another set of Christian girls to abduct and when they realized their mistake brought the others back. Where is that singularity of mind that we fought the religious extremism of Maitatsines of yesterdays? Something is not adding up. The security of the nation belongs to all of us. Is there collusion apparent with the terrorists?
We need peace. We need unity. We need rapid progress. We need good leaders. May God arise and save Nigeria from her self-inflicted festering wounds.
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