Recently, Ango Abdullahi said Nigeria’s unity is negotiable. Do you agree with his position?
I disagree with the position of Professor Ango Abdullahi, even though I respect him as my erstwhile vice-chancellor. Let me say, categorically, that Nigeria is indivisible and shall remain indivisible, despite the current glaring deficits in the country’s political unity. The British amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 has created complex connection among various parts of this country based on commonwealth of resources that are being jointly developed, exploited and cherished by all Nigerians. So it would be naive of any section of the country to attempt secession, because it will certainly be brought back by force of arms, as it happened between 1967 and 1970, during which Nigeria lost about two million lives to maintain oneness of the country.
Do you agree that Nigeria’s lack of unity is stunting its development?
Of course, Nigeria’s lack of unity stunts its development process. Lack of unity has undermined political stability and continuity which, in turn, negatively affected this country’s development process. There is a positive correlation between political stability and continuity of economic development. The more politically stable a country is, the more coordinated and solid its economic development process. This partly explains why the countries in Europe, North America and parts of Asia are more economically developed than African countries, which have suffered series of military coups. Even under the democratic dispensation Nigeria still suffers some deficits in political unity otherwise how would you explain the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers, MASOB, etc, who are obviously sponsored by big political barons from those areas?
Should force be used to counter militancy in Niger Delta?
I disagree with the use of the term militancy or militants to describe the Niger Delta Avengers and other similar Nigeria Delta agitators because their modus operandi and the scale of their devastating activities perfectly qualify them as terrorists. They are, in fact, worse than Boko Haram, considering the fact that they are hell-bent on destroying Nigeria’s only lifeline-oil and gas. Since their emergence in March 2016, the Niger Delta Avengers have attacked numerous oil producing facilities in the Delta, causing the shutdown of oil terminals and a significant fall in Nigeria’s oil production to its lowest level in twenty years. Their activities have also significantly undermined Nigeria’s electricity generation. The reduced oil output is at a time of declining global oil price, which together have hampered the Nigerian economy and destroyed its budget. Given the scenario, my candid opinion is obvious on whether or not to use force to counter the destructive activities of terrorist groups in the Niger Delta. I would say, emphatically, that the use of force is an inescapable strategic option, unless the Niger Delta terrorists stop their destructive activities. Even if that happens, they should be sanctioned. I am aware of the unfortunate position recently taken by some people, including a retired army colonel, who tried to dissuade president Buhari from considering the use of force. They merely premised their argument on the envisaged operational difficulties, which they exaggerated. Are they saying that simply because a given course of action is difficult, then, it should be abandoned, no matter what is at sake? Or should the federal government continue to make endless and limitless concessions to hooligans?, lest we forget, force was successfully used in the recent past. Remember the remarkable success recorded by the Odi military operation, which was ordered by ex-president Obasanjo to counter the menace of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) in November, 1999.
Should government swap Chibok girls for Boko Haram insurgents?
I support the view that government should accept the swap arrangement proposed by the Boko Haram, even though it would amount to temporarily suspending the important strategic principle of no negotiation with the terrorists. The fact is that even the United States, the leader of the global war against terrorism, sometimes accepts the strategic necessity of such negotiations, for instance, with Al-qaeda. What is important is for the government to ensure that it is not swindled by the Boko Haram in the process and that the surviving Chibok girls are completely received unhurt.
Do you think government is well positioned to deal with economic recession?
Recession is not depression. In a recession, the economy contracts for between six to 18 months in the average and unemployment stands at about 10 percent, where as in a depression the economic contraction lasts for several years, and unemployment stands at about 25%. Thus, recession is a lesser economic ailment to tackle. So, people should not panic. The Nigerian government already has in place a host of measures to counter the current economic recession. To mention but a few, the measures include targeted spending on social programmes and infrastructure, diversification of the economy away from the dependence on oil, with a new emphasis on increased agricultural production, increased revenue mobilisation and plugging of leakages as well greater focus on power, transport and housing. I am, however, concerned about the issue of internally generated revenue (IGR) at the level of state governments. There is need to put in place a bill to regulate the collection and management of IGR by state governments, because many of the states are not inclined to disclose what they collect as IGR, but spend the revenue anyhow. The IGR is a hidden green pasture for corrupt governors, which the EFCC appears to be unaware of.