Veteran journalist, former Managing Director of Monitor Newspapers, former Senior Research Fellow, Department of Mass Communication, University of Ilorin and Chairman, Governing Board, Federal College of Education, Iwo, Alhaji Liadi Tella, in this interview with SEYE OLUMIDE (Southwest Bureau Chief) said the last general elections and especially the presidential poll showed that Nigeria’s democracy has improved. He also warned foreign powers not to meddle in the nation’s democratic system, among other issues.
What’s your reaction to President Bola Tinubu’s victory at the Apex court on Thursday?
It was the confirmation of the fact that Nigeria’s democracy has matured. In the new era of popular democracy, it is the right of aggrieved contestants to go to court if they feel they were not properly placed due to whatever reasons. It is also clear the judiciary used the law. The Constitution as the granum and the Electoral Act to decide cases to the best interest of Justice and equity of the Nigerian nation. So I give kudos to the judiciary for what it has succeeded in doing by writing its name in gold. Rising above blackmail, falsehood, subtle stigmatization, open attack, people who feel they could not win Inna care contests resorted to the judiciary and they equally rubbish the judiciary after the verdict of the PEPT. It is strange that those who seek refuge in justice are the ones rubbishing justice now. It is rather very unfortunate that a person who wants to become president in democratic governance to attempt brazenly to blackmail the judiciary, to lie fully and wanting to create insurrection in the country because he didn’t win. I am.talking about Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
The former vice president is supposed to be an experienced politician. Secondly, he is expected to have behaved like a nationalist and a patriot, third he is expected to have held the sanctity of the office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. His attempt to desecrate the standing of the int rational and national level is condemnable. It shows that he was never a democrat. It shows that even his Islamic credentials are questionable. As a Muslim it is God Almighty that makes anybody king. All attempt to rubbish the last election has reduced the glory that should be ordinary have accrued to Nigeria at the international level.
This is the first time in the history of elections in Nigeria that a president would lose in his own state where he governed for eight years and technically led the story to glory globally. It was the first time that progressives would lose an election in a progressive state not like Osun.
It is the first time that somebody would lose Kano and Lagos and would still emerge as president of Nigeria. It has never happened before. So instead of giving kudos to INEC they rubbished the commission. Atiku and Obi are like the ostrich that buried its head inside the sand but exposed the entire body. It has never happened in Nigeria for a person so sectional, parochial, biased to attempt becoming the president of Nigeria. Obi is the least qualified person to rule this country. The Igbo people in Nigeria have made grievous errors in the last election and it will take time to heal. They would have to work hard to heal it. There is no other presidential candidate that scored 10 percent of the vote in the entire Igbo land. In the five states of the east, not one candidate scored 10 percent of the votes except Obi, it has not happened from 1960 to date and yet he wanted to climb over Atiku, who came second that INEC should declare him president. Where is that done?
Nigeria does not have an Electoral College like America. The last election shows clearly that Nigeria of today is better than America when it comes to democratic tenets and practice. The popular vote counts in Nigeria but not in America. Al Gore won election in America but couldn’t be president. Hilary Clinton also won the election but couldn’t be president. Popular vote is more than two million in Al Gore’s case and more than one million margin in Hillary Clinton’s case. So America should stop meddling in our affairs. We are better than America democratically now we can teach America democracy. Nigeria is in the right position to teach American democracy. Government of the people by the people for the people. Nigerians freely gave their mandate to Tinubu. They resorted to blackmail, blatant lies, and fabrication of stories. Let Atiku be president on social media and Obi president of the Igbo and bigotry Christians. This is the first time in the history of Nigeria that religion would be played to the peak in deciding the vote of the people. All the Pentecostal Churches mounted the roof top to fast and pray against Tinubu. Pastors saying that God told them but how many of them did God speak with? Where is the speech of the alleged discussion they had with God over the election? It shows that they are fake.
What is your advice to Tinubu after the Apex court affirmed his victory?
I know Tinubu deeply and inside out. I am saying it with fear of God in my heart. He is going to do the right thing. He is going to take the country to the next level. He will now be focused principally on the economy and the polity. But nobody should expect miracles. I want him to be painstaking. I want him to be thorough with whatever recommendation being forwarded to him for approval. Many self seekers, many individuals who profit from power will try to stampede him to benefit. He should be very careful with them. They were there the day before yesterday, they were there yesterday and also trying to be there today. He should be very careful of sycophants, treacheries, pretenders and men who are dishonorable who always pretends to be honourable.
The Tinubu I know will succeed and he should note that those who stood by him to achieve power should be compensated. I repeat that those who helped him to attain power deserve to be compensated. There is always a second term. Those who are specialists in cornering power may try to blindfold him. The Christians mounted the roof top to campaign against him but they are the one taking the highest benefits of appointments now. They are keeping silent because they are taking the lion share of his appointments. Have you heard the Muslims complaining and condemning Tinubu? They won’t because God placed him there.
This government is not about compensation but bringing the most qualified people to the position. There are qualified Muslim now who can perform in office today and serve their father land. I want Tinubu to look back at the Muslim community. I know he will but when he does let nobody cry.
Would it be advisable for Tinubu to extend a hand of fellowship nationally to those that vehemently opposed him including Atiku, Obi and the Christians?
He is already doing that going by the lists of his appointees. Go and check the list of his appointments, he has done that already. Tinubu doesn’t run a vendetta government. He didn’t run it in Lagos and those who are around him, majority are Christians. Tinubu doesn’t need to be placated; he is already tagging along with Christians even at the settlement of his own religion.
Some are saying that the issue of Chicago State University (CSU) is a big dent on his person and as president and that it may prevent him from recontesting in 2027…
What certificate issues are you talking about? They are all manufactured to discredit him. After all, the University issued a statement that he was their student. What are you talking about? If Atiku has that fact, why didn’t he come out with it before the election? Why did they wait until after he won the election before using it as blackmail? He could not have worked at Mobil with a forged certificate, it is not possible. And he got to the peak there. He couldn’t have worked in America with a fake certificate. Can’t people reason. By 2027, let them bring up the issue again before INEC when he wants to recontest. I am too sure Tinubu didn’t forget any certificates.
What’s your position on the issue of security and high exchange rate?
The problem Nigeria is facing is that the sense of miracle has overtaken the thinking faculty of many of us. There is no miracle in governance. Those who are expecting Tinubu to turn the country around within six months are insincere and deliberately heating up the polity. There is nothing magical about the administration of this nation. The issue is everybody is focusing on the Federal Government but are there no state and local governments? Is everything revolving around the president and is there no Constitution governing Nigeria? Why are people not holding governors responsible? I think we are mistaken about the sense of justice.
My advice to him is that foreign exchange is a function of what we produce, what we sell and what we earn. We don’t manufacture in Nigeria so how do we earn foreign exchange? He should pay attention to the manufacturing of Nigerian products to earn foreign exchange.
I have been hearing people shouting that the border should be opened but the borders are no longer closed. All the borders are open only to the Niger Republic. The CBN has lifted the ban on partially everything except toothpicks. Even I am against what the CBN did but as a fan of Mr. President I have nothing against it. We have to restrict importation. That’s the only way to grow local industries. All these free trade policies are anti development.
The error that former Military Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida committed was the reversal of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). If he didn’t succumb to pressure to reverse SAP and opened our borders for all manners of nonsense goods, we would have become great exporters of goods and services, even cars.
Tinubu should not reverse his policies on fuel subsidy and foreign exchange. We are just going through temporary hardship; those policies will soon work out to our advantage.
It is time to run Nigeria for Nigeria. Let Nigerians be patient with Tinubu. He can do it.
Let us give Tinubu a chance. We are stampeding him too much, that’s how we stampede Babangida. If not for the reversion of SAP Nigeria would have been better.