Division not solution to Nigeria’s problems – Abdulsalami | Dailytrust

Division not solution to Nigeria’s problems – Abdulsalami

Former head of state, retired General Abdulsalami Abubakar
Former head of state, retired General Abdulsalami Abubakar

Former head of state, retired General Abdulsalami Abubakar, in this interview spoke about Nigeria’s journey 60 years after independence and what citizens need to do to attain the country of their dreams.

What is your take on the journey so far?

First I congratulate all of us for coming this far since independence 60 years ago.

Since our independence, Nigeria has been through ups and downs.

There was a coup in 1966 and there was a counter-coup and since then it has been one thing or the other.

Of course, during the military incursion, a lot of infrastructural development took place and in 1999, there was a change and a civilian, democratically government came to power, and we thank God that for the past 20 years or so, it has been democracy, with elections taking place, to the extent that a sitting government was ousted during the election.

With the coming of independence, of course you know of the Nigerialization of a lot of things.

We saw how highways were constructed in the country, then oil was discovered in the country which has been the main source of foreign exchange for the country.

With the discovery of oil, there also came some problems with some people in the Niger Delta scrambling for their own benefits.

This agitation during my government made us give them 33 per cent of the revenue which was allocated to the oil-producing states.

I think that brought some semblance of peace in the area and we could see some development in the area.

Politically, things are stabilizing now.

Initially, during the military regime, especially during Babangida’s tenure, two political parties were set up and that gave the ground for the birth of democracy in the country.

So, so far so good is what I will say.


You were there when the country attained democracy, would you say you are satisfied with the state of Nigeria now?

You always hope for the best.

I think and I will say, so far, so good, we have come a long way.

I think we have our ups and downs, the intervention of the military and incursion into politics is one issue that will keep reverberating in the history of Nigeria.

Of course with the attaining of independence, there are some problems.

Remember, before then, basically, there were three regions, autonomous region in the country and there was keen competition then to try and see how each region could develop itself.

Oil had not been discovered then, and our revenue was mainly from farming: in the North, there were the groundnut pyramids; in the South, cocoa; while in the East, you had the palm kernel.


What areas do you think Nigeria needs to work on to attain greatness?

First and foremost, we must be disciplined.

It is very unfortunate that there is still indiscipline in this country.

People don’t obey rules, they do not obey orders; they flout anything you can think about.

There is nothing the government can do besides making rules and regulations.

It’s not the duty of the government to start chasing us up and down to make sure we do the right thing.

It is the citizens’ responsibility to abide by regulations and contribute their quota in governance.

For example, how many people obey traffic light?

And when you talk of traffic light; that brings up our road behavior; how many drivers obey the law, how many are sure that their vehicles are in order?

In order for us to be great, we must impose self-discipline, we must make sure that we help ourselves to help the nation to move forward.

Economically also, we should stop sabotaging the little the government is doing to ensure the economic viability of the country.

In Niger Delta, a lot of oil and gas pipelines are sabotaged; people are doing illegal bunkering.

Also, the government itself should try and provide the wherewithal for the citizens to engage in economic activities since it cannot employ each and every one of us.

So they must provide power, road infrastructure, and for farming, assist farmers by bringing fertilizers, insecticide and others.

With that we can make things a lot easier for the people to go about earning their daily bread.

Also, in security, I think it is unfortunate that in the last couple of years, we have been battling insurgency by the Boko Haram, kidnapping, armed robbery and others.

No nation can prosper under such condition.

So as Nigerians, we can assist by exposing  the miscreants in our society because they live within us, we know some of them, so it is our duty to trust our security agencies, to make a report to our various security agencies so that these miscreants can be arrested and dealt with.

Government should do it’s best to deal with the miscreants by sending them to the law courts so that they can be tried and if found guilty should be dealt with according to the law of the country.

Coming back to the citizen responsibility, we must try to maintain, as much as possible what the govt is providing.

For example for electricity, it is alarming that you find people who go about doing illegal connection of power.

People don’t pay their taxes, pay the revenues they are supposed to pay and at the same time, we expect the government to perform miracles and wonders.

These revenue and taxes are part of the revenue generation that the govt uses to develop the society

Politically, the citizens should be aware of their responsibilities, they shouldn’t sell their votes and when they elect politicians to represent them, they should hold their members accountable and responsible to deliver what is expected of them, they should not sell their votes and they should desist from being used as vanguards to be attacking people.

It is the responsibility of citizens to do the right thing.

If we do the right thing and every hand is on the deck, we will be on our way to being a great nation.


Nigerians have said the regional system of government works better for Nigeria, what  do you say about that?

Before independence, we had a parliamentary system of government but after independence, Nigerians thought we could do away with the parliamentary system of govt, and decided to go presidential.

We found out the presidential system is a very expensive one.

Whether we should go back to the parliamentary system of government, it is left to us to come together, think and decide what we are doing to do.


What do you have to say about the agitation for division of the country?

We have moved from three states when we had the independence to 36 states.

There are agitations and everyone wants to be a nation on itself.

You have the Oduduwa, IPOB, Irobi, Tiv etc, everyone wants to have a state on their own.

To me, that is not the answer, I think we have passed that stage.

What I think we need to do is to sit down and think of how we would work as a nation, how there would be more equity and justice as we move forward as a nation, how do we make sure that there is equal representation in all we do and also how do we disabuse the minds of Nigerians on this issue of religion and dichotomy of trying to split this country.

One thing we should take note of, there is advantage in unity.

Nigeria is being seen today as the biggest black nation in the world and I believe this way, we can make an impact in world politics, in ensuring that we represent the black nation in the world and we should have a bigger voice in maintaining this leadership.

When we try to split this country, we just become a nonentity, our voice will not be heard.

Well, you will ask, how do we make sure, as a country, Nigeria remains one?

As I said, it is to ensure that there are equity and justice and to make sure that there is equal representation as we move ahead.


People are yearning for constitutional conference to address the problems you highlighted. One was held during the Jonathan administration and till today, what the recommendations have not been implemented. Do you think we need another of such?

You see, the issue of nation-building takes time, it’s not a matter of the conference.

You put another conference, what are you going to discuss that hasn’t been discussed.

If you look into the achieves, there are lot of things that were discussed and recommendations made, how many of these recommendation have been implemented?

And if we sit down again and start talking all over again, how long will it take us?

To me, I think the government, our parliamentarians, our legislators,  should go back to the achieves and sieve these recommendations that have been made and implement them.

Now, you ask how do you go and implement them?

We are now in a democratic country, we have got parties and members of various parties representing us at various places, if we can all get together, with the political will, it can be done.


From independence to date, which of the administrations, military or civilian has performed better?

It depends on which side you are coming from.

I don’t think there is a competition between the military and the civilian.

Whether in military or civilian, achievement has been made.

The military recorded some achievements and the democratically elected government are building on those achievements.

The only difference is that in democracy, you spend a lot of time discussing before decisions are taken and if decisions are taken, the implementation is another thing.

While in military, you have a commander in chief who just gives directives and ensures decisions taken are implemented.

If they are not implemented, the organization involved will face the music, but in democracy, you have to make sure you carry people along.

The problem with politics always is that even when you are in a ruling party, you have the problem of the decedents within the party, you have to contain the decedents within your party and you also have to reckon with the opposition party.

So we would not be fair when we say let us compare the achievements of the military with that of the civilians.

Of course, when you ask me, I am a military man, and I will say the military did quite a lot.


Many people see Nigeria as a failed nation, what do you think?

It takes two to tango.

When you say a nation has failed, what causes that failure?

You point accusing fingers at the government but who is the government?

It’s me and you. What have we contributed to cause the so-called failure?

As I said earlier on discipline, have we done our citizen’s right?

Have we done our citizen’s duty? Are we obeying the law of the country? Are we paying our taxes? And so on.

Is it the govt that is bringing insecurity? It is the citizens.

To answer your questions, yes, Nigeria has problems, there is insecurity, there are economic challenges and so on but does that make us a failed nation, in a true sense, I will say we have problems, are we on the way to becoming a failed nation?

It depends on which side you are coming from and where you are looking at.

I agree a lot of things could be done better, so if we as a people are having a feeling that we are becoming a failed nation, what are we doing that is making us a failed nation and what is it that we should do to get out of this bad perception.


You are known for peacemaking, a lot of people thought that blood  would flow at the just concluded Edo election, but that didn’t happen, Ondo State election is coming, what is your advice to the people?

About peace, is it the government that is causing the breach in the peace? It is Nigerians.

Our children, our brothers, our sisters, our wives, our husbands, are the people who take weapons to kill each other because of political lineage.

The government will always preach don’t do this, don’t do that, do people listen? Again, the politicians, are they listening?

They are our leaders, but they are the same people who incite these citizens, who arm these sects to go and kill themselves.

I think for the sake of ourselves, it is absolutely necessary we maintain peace.

As you said, we thank God Edo election has come and gone, and I am sure we have learnt some lessons and I believe that the peace we saw in Edo election, will be replicated in Ondo State.

Nigerians are getting wiser, and the wiser they become, they know it is the citizens and the nation that loses when there is no peace.

You go on destruction trail, after the election and everything have been done and gone, the little you have to develop your state or nation, you now use that fund to repair the damage done.

So, it is absolutely necessary for all of us to realize that peace is mandatory and without peace, there will be no nation, without peace, nothing can be done.

Farmers can’t go to the farm journalists won’t be able to snoop, nobody will be able to do business and we won’t be able to sit down here and talk.

I hope Nigerians will give peace a chance and it is absolutely necessary that there must be peace in the country.


Sir, there are fears especially in the political cycle as we approach 2023 that the country may break if the presidency is not taken to the South…

The issue of governance, I think we should leave them to our politicians who have decided to seek our mandate.

Let us not delve into the affairs of the politicians.

Of course, it is our duty to find out what our politicians are doing, and also to point it to them that there should not lead us to a cold sack or an ally that won’t be beneficial.

Of course, politicians will make all types of noise before the 2023 election, what noise did people not make, that if the then government in power is not re-elected, Nigeria will see doomsday but that didn’t happen.

So the issue of whether there is rotation from the north to the south to east or west is neither here nor there.

The politicians have their rules and regulations, let us hold them to it that they do the right thing.

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