Ladipo Adamolekun is a Professor of Public Administration at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State. He was a lead public sector management specialist at the World Bank. He is one of the leading scholars on political and administrative management in Africa. In December 2005, he was conferred with the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM) award, the highest national prize for academic and intellectual attainment. Based in his hometown, Iju, Akure North, Ondo State where he has a private Public Affairs Library, Professor Adamolekun, in this interview, spoke on national issues ranging from the collapse of the nation’s security architecture, restructuring, assessment of the President Muhammad Buhari administration, the economy, war against corruption, and way forward for Nigeria among others.
By Dayo Johnson, Regional Editor, South-West
The security architecture in the country appears to have collapsed, what is your take?
My starting point would be when I read in the Daily Trust of January 28 2020, Buhari was quoted to have said, “Surge in Insecurity Baffles me”. Now when our Commander-in-Chief says that the increase in insecurity baffles him, I’m not only baffled, I’m threatened, I’m frightened. I mean, it should not baffle our Commander-in-Chief.
Then, almost a year later, Premium Times reports as follows, “Security will improve in 2021 – Lai Muhammed.” The spokesman of the government is assuring us on paper that security will improve in 2021. It’s no exaggeration to say that the level of insecurity in this country is not just baffling, to use what they said the president said last year, it’s frightening.
There are different dimensions to the problem. You have the farmers/herdsmen insecurity. You have the bandits. The herdsmen/farmers, you can say North-Central and in in the southern part of the country but the bandits are operating in the North. Chibok girls have been released.
Of course, the mother of all insecurity in Nigeria is the Boko Haram insurgency. Again, I was startled, I won’t say baffled. The governor of that state said that maybe it’s time for some mercenaries now technically called the private military contractors in other countries. Indeed, that higher level of terrorism in this country, Boko Haram, that has been raging for more than 11 years, has reached a point that Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka said maybe we need external assistance.
So, here we are with the huge Boko Haram terrorism for which there is a plea for external assistance, financial, technical and possibly military. As far as the insecurity that affects the ordinary citizen, including you and me, I think more can be done. In fact, external assistance cannot help us there because they would lack the local knowledge and so on.
There is so much talk, little action. In the last five years, state police has been accepted by National Assembly, and by the executive. I think it was Vice President, Osinbajo who committed the executive. You can name the majority of state governors who have talked about state police. What is preventing action? The country is under policed. The country’s police efficiency level as internationally measured, I think in 2016, was at the bottom of 127 countries in terms of internal security effectiveness. And the last I checked we’re still bottom of over 130 countries that were assessed.
In a federal system, a centralized police force cannot effectively police a country of 200 million people. It’s not for nothing that we are a federal system. However, it’s because of the military that we have centralized, uniform federation. So, there is a strong linkage between our high insecurity and our failure to devolve. Sooner, rather than later, Nigeria has to choose devolution or the federation will die. And we’re already dying gradually as a result of insecurity. People are being killed.
A Deputy Registrar at FUTA was killed on the road at 5:30 pm, so you can’t say it’s night travel. I’m emphasizing the point that the executive, legislature, state governors agreed, no action. What’s preventing action on state police? Instead, we’re being told decentralizing the Nigerian Police Force through some community policing, which is meaningless. You can only have community policing as a subset of state police, not Abuja based Nigerian Police Force. There is no way Abuja- based Police force would know how to ensure community policing in Ondo State, Ekiti State or any part of the South -West for that matter.
So, instead of action on getting state police, we are getting a distraction of community policing in a totally meaningless manner.
So, I’m really wondering whether the security of property and the lives of citizens that is written in the constitution as a primary duty of government is really taken seriously. What is preventing action?
Next, I go to Amotekun. Because of the inaction with the governors in the South-West facing serious insecurity in their zone, decided to set up a zonal security outfit called Amotekun. I’m very familiar with the operation of the Amotekun in Ondo State. I’m not familiar with the structure in other states, but having coordinators in each of the 18 local governments, the way it’s done in Ondo State is concrete.
So, what I would like to see is increased intelligence in the work they do and adequate finance for the corps. And finally, to make Amotekun rarely effective, I think that Governor Rotimi Akeredolu is the Chairman of South-West Governors, they should consider the desirability of a zonal advisory panel with somebody like General Alani Akinrinade as the chairman so that the Commandant can interface with this credible group of experienced experts in security matters.
I’m sure we have other retired Generals across the South-West. They should be carefully identified and constituted into Amotekun Zonal Advisory body and they should meet twice a year with the Commandant. They can actually brainstorm. It’ll increase the visibility, credibility and capability of the corp.
What’s wrong with us restructuring this country and why are some regions afraid of it?
l do not know. What I know is based on my studies of federal systems worldwide. In 2005, l came with my political cradle that we either devolve or die, failure to embrace devolution which is also the same with restructuring can lead to the death of the federation.
The death of the federation I said could happen in 2005 has not happened. But that doesn’t mean that muddling through like that can be indefinite. And that leads me to the whole question of people who are now campaigning or mobilizing for 2023 elections.
With the inaction about restructuring and devolution we’ve talked about compared to the active mobilization you see for election in 2023, you then wonder whether those who are actively mobilizing for 2023 are sincere or genuinely embrace the devolution and restructuring we’re talking about. Of course, they can answer we’ll do it when we win, but of course, APC told us they are going to do it. It has not happened.
So, the issue is, just as I talked about inaction, about state police that has been accepted generally. There are areas in restructuring and devolution that there is almost a national consensus. Take the 2014 National Conference, take the Governor’s forum resolutions and even take political parties manifestos. So, what is preventing action? I can’t answer that question but I can put it on the table as a question.
Furthermore, I can say that from where I sit as an analyst and observer, I repeat, the alternative to devolution is likely to be the death of the federation. That it has not happened for about 15 years that I said doesn’t mean it’ll be forever. Specifically, we’ve already talked about state police as an example. I give you illustrations of how devolution affects the economy. For example, the South-West has spoken through DAWN commission, connecting the South-West through railway. But the railway is on the exclusive list. You can see how that failure to devolve affects the economy.
Similarly, mining of minerals again is on the exclusive list. Although, when Governor Kayode Fayemi was the Minister of Mining, he tried to bring governors on board. As long as that exclusive list is there, the action is not happening.
To be specific about Ondo State, I left Ife December 1986, you know how many years ago that is? Before I left Ife, Bitumen in Ondo State in large quantities that can transform the economy had been discovered. We’re now in 2021. Somebody will come from Federal, he will be based in Akure. The failure to develop the bitumen resource in Ondo State is part of this problem of concentrating all these functions at the federal level. Ondo State economy would have benefited. Ondo State is not the only state with minerals, it affects other states.
Now, devolution, restructuring, security we’ve already talked about that. The failure to see these interconnections, I don’t understand because the state police we talked about, there is no federal system in the world where you have a centralized police force.
Education, again failure to devolve. In fact, even what’s devolved in the constitution, under Obasanjo, they used the law to take more of the functions of state and local governments to federal. With the result that today, a lot of money which ought to have added to states’ local allocations is now in the federal pocket and then they are dishing it out as UBEC fund.
I will repeat my position on that because I’ve studied it. It’s not effective. State and local councils should run primary and secondary schools. The few secondary schools run by federal is okay, it’s established by the military, but we can’t reverse that. But we should reverse the federal government being involved in primary education because they don’t have the local knowledge. Universal Primary Education that was introduced in Western Nigeria in 1955 was effectively implemented. Isn’t it? Federal Government has not been able to effectively implement any Universal Basic Education.
I want to show you an example of this devolution we talked about because it’s very topical. You saw all the rigmarole of former President Trump about elections. More than 60 cases including going to the supreme court. But the states held firm to say that we have the powers to do this. And their powers were upheld at the supreme court and by congress.
It’s extremely important that we’ve seen the illustrations of proper devolution, preventing the election from being manipulated. This is not something I invented or thought about. This is real from November 7, 2020, to January 6, 2021. So, state powers should be increased in relevant areas that will help the economy, security, education and even the management of elections.
I’m not sure whether we can say the incumbent government is going to act. And those who are aspiring to be our governors or rulers in 2023, I don’t even think they talk about restructuring, and devolution at least in what I’m reading in the media. They are simply talking about the candidate they are pushing in the South-East. South-East wants it zoned to them. South-West too. In that context, devolution, and restructuring have been subordinated. It should not be. Restructuring, and devolution should take place before 2023 elections.
Some leaders have submitted that the country is now more divided than during the Civil War in 1967, do you agree with them?
The unity of Nigeria as conceived by the military and they were argued that they died for it is what led them to the centralization and all of that. When a federal system that was federal, adopted in 1954 and citizens were receiving goods and services from the endowed, well resourced regional government, the unity of Nigeria was not in question.
The military, because of their culture, thought that centralism and uniformity were the roads to unifying the country. I’ll give you an example that I’m very familiar with. In education, they decided that when you post a Vice-Chancellor from the East to Ife, from Yoruba land to Zaria, from Zaria to Nsukka, you’re uniting the country. it did not work, it failed woefully.
For instance, the farmers/herdsmen problem being ethnicized. When Governor Akeredolu said herdsmen should register, he’s totally within his role as the chief security officer. You’re familiar with the fact that we do not have a reliable census in this country. But one step towards that is to register those who are operating in your forest, and that will enable you to ensure the security within your state.
So, Garba Shehu talking about not respecting constitution must just be illogical, it’s the right of the governor.
Nigeria being more divided now than 1967 is simply because we do not have any focus on things that bring us together, and emphasize our oneness. And I say that it’s important to listen to the case that has been made.
I wouldn’t say I’m not aware of the security architecture that needs to be overhauled. What is preventing that from happening? Again, that has been echoed by the executive, by the legislature but there is inaction.
For me, it is not a question of disunity it’s a question of inaction to do things that can improve the standard of living of Nigerians.
Would you subscribe to the sack of the service chiefs in the country?
The sacking of service chiefs, improving security is not the issue, the Security Chiefs have been there since Buhari came. Insecurity is increasing. In fact, the Chief of Army Staff said that spirituality can help. So, it’s very clear that there is a need for fresh ideas. Fresh people to face this issue and indicate new directions.
It’s not a question of sacking. It’s a question that has been demonstrated that we need fresh security chiefs who are selected on the basis of ability, merit and that should be done transparently.
I don’t like calling it reflective federal character, but clearly, it cannot just be one area of the country that you will find security chiefs. There are people across the zones. There is need to re-freshen the current leadership of our military architecture. There is no question about that. And in doing so, it should be done sensitively and with attention to capability and merit.
What’s your assessment of President Buhari’s administration so far?
I will simply provide some observations on what one has seen. It’s important to take as your reference point the agenda that President Buhari campaigned with. Strengthening the economy, fighting corruption and ensuring security.
If we start with the last, we said insecurity has worsened. If the quotation from Daily Trust is correct that he himself was baffled in January last year, today, he will be more than baffled. So, insecurity has worsened.
Now, is it President Buhari’s fault? Of course, the buck ends on his table. However, for instance, newspapers like yours (Vanguard) have argued that governors can do more. Now Akeredolu is trying to do more and you hear some voice from Abuja issuing some illogicalities about not doing what he should do. If you take the security agenda, Buhari has not accomplished what he promised Nigerians.
Is he only responsible? No. The security chiefs we talked about are part of the blame. That is why the buck ends on his table. He is the one who should champion re-freshening them. I share the view that it’s time, in fact, it’s past time for us to have new security chiefs in place.
So, on the security agenda, there is no doubt about that and what can be done. I also agree that state governments can do more, which is the kind of thing South-West governors have done for Amotekun and what Akeredolu is trying to do for the herdsmen and farmers. And I’m saying that that is good practice, not just for South-West, all states that suffered, including North-Central. They should borrow a leaf from him. Let the people who have herdsmen get them registered. It’ll increase the ability to check and prevent the criminalities that are committed.
On corruption, I’ve to admit that I was one of those who believed that having General Buhari as president, given what was in the public domain, that you cannot say he was corrupt compared to other military persons. I was a believer in that he was not corrupt and he was a champion fighting corruption that he will do well, and he started well. But where are we today? Are we better off than where we were in 2015?
I don’t know. If we take the corruption perception index, we’ve not really moved behind scoring 27 per cent. He may be one of two points higher than Jonathan and Obasanjo, an average. We’ve not reached 30 per cent. So, again there is no clear progress.
Buhari’s government came up with a national strategy for fighting corruption, they’ve not gotten the buy-in of state governments and Nigeria citizens to that strategy. Are you familiar with that strategy? I know the answer is no.
In countries where corruption is effectively fought, there must be buy-in of state governments and citizens and all the officials should be familiar with the strategy and what is happening to it. Do we hear much about that any more? No. So, there was some good beginning, but it has almost like petered out. We still have ICPC, the presidential advisory body. You know yourself that we take 2015 and 2021 or just say 2020, the visibility, effectiveness activities of those organizations have gone down.
The economy is in a second recession. Of course, you can’t say the president caused the recession. But again in a presidential system, the buck ends on his desk. I just told you how failure to devolve reduces the prospect for economic development. So, it’s the failure to see these inter-linkages that has affected the implementation of his agenda because APC came to government in 2015 with restructuring clearly ironed agenda, restructuring and devolution of power. Five years later, they’ve done nothing. And that has consequences for the implementation of both the security and economic elements of the agenda. I think it’s that kind of approach to assessing Buhari that I would take.
There will be no progress if we fail to devolve and restructure, and another person comes in 2023 and we are with the same structure, the same revenue allocation that gives more than 54 per cent to federal and others share the rest, instead of what I proposed, 40 to federal, 60 to sub-national governments. I may even say 35 to federal because federal should be doing the coordinating of foreign policy and let the states have the responsibilities for another aspect. Actually, we’ve done it before and it worked.
You asked me to make my observation in Buhari after five years and I’m saying that on each of his three agenda, especially security and economic agenda, he has not recorded a good performance.
These things must change. It’s not changing Buhari in 2023 that will lead to better performance. It’s the need to restructure, to change the allocation of functions, to change the allocation of revenue. If you don’t do that before 2023, the same kind of poor assessment is likely to happen.
His assessment of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu in the last four years
There are two things that directly involved him. The first is the Akure- Ado-Ekiti road. I can put it on record that I was the one pushing the senator, pushing the governor to ensure that the road is made. I was in America when the senator sent me a message that contract had been awarded to dualize the road.
Early this year, I had to send a message to the senator and the Chief of Staff to the governor that road construction is done between October and December but all I see is Dantata signpost. Nothing has happened. So it will not surprise Governor Akeredolu that I have a very strong negative view of what they are doing or not doing about the Akure-Ado-Ekiti dualization. It’s on paper. It should be happening as we speak.
The second direct interface with Governor Akeredolu administration is that he invited me to be one of those to advise about the strategy for his take off in 2017. Based on what I’m familiar with in the strategy, I think that it’s the difference in the quality of lives of citizens has reached the stage that was promised in that strategy.
I had planned to visit the hub that they talked about but I’ve not visited. That’s something that is clearly mentioned. Another is our seaport development with Lagos State. Again, that should not be on paper alone. If that becomes reality during his second term, that will be a real achievement.
The industries that existed in the past. The oil palm industry, wood industry and others are dead. As I said, they say he’s doing something about them but I’ve not visited but I think it’s Buhari who went to commission it.
Bitumen. I’m not sure what has happened there. Regarding education, I interface with the commissioner and I would say that he’s receptive, at least at his level. I’ll put on record that what I’ve suggested to him, he’s bought into it but I think it should be put widely in the state. No Principal of a secondary school should spend less than four years in school. In our days a principal was there 10, 15, 20 years. We’ve passed that stage but at least we cannot be doing six months, one year, six months transfers. The commissioner bought into it but I don’t think it’s become state policy.
The other thing that I’ll put on record is the public-private participation in education. I think there is a need for nurturing that partnership. If not for private participation, school-going children, the role played by private primary and secondary schools is very high. The must be real consciousness of nurturing that partnership, and of course, inspecting and assuring quality.
The world bank in 2019 defined want they called learning poverty. When a 10-year-old cannot read a simple story and show understanding. You can use that as a yardstick of your so call quality control. 10 year-olds in primary school to be able to read and understand a simple story. The world bank had done the research to show that if that is achieved it’ll enhance quality.
Finally, on Akeredolu administration, I’m not sure that his engagement of the public is effective enough. But it shouldn’t be you want to, it should be they seeking, not you. It’s only campaigns that we hear about. Not brainstorming, not town halls. Governor Kayode Fayemi in Ekiti State does that quite a bit. I’ve not seen that here, and I think it’s a way of enhancing the quality and performance of governors.
What about the establishment of Amotekun and your comment on the quit order to rampaging herdsmen in state government forest reserves
l commend the Amotekun initiative. He’s the chairman of South-West governors. They need to strengthen the security outfit. I even suggested that zonal advisory body.
His recent initiative in demanding the registration of herdsmen in the state is absolutely within his responsibilities. It’s part of his responsibilities to assure security in the state. In fact, the Amotekun coordinator in Akure North Local Government mentioned herdsmen/farmers as one of the security issues that they tackle. And armed robbery, kidnappers and bandit. So, the governor has put his fingers on an important problem. The manner in which he’s tackling it is correct, it’s constitutional.
Some spokesperson for the president in Abuja cannot be making an illogical statement, saying that governors have a constitutional right and then says it appears it’s ethnic. It’s nonsense. The governor has the right and registering people operating in your forest. The governor’s action makes eminent sense because it’s through that registration that you know the location and that will inform Amotekun to do their work. All I can do is to commend what he has initiated to other governors in the South-West and across the South and North Central where there are herdsmen/farmers problem. It’s a very good initiative.
In 2023 election, where do you think the Presidency should go and what does 2023 portend for the country?
South-West, South East for 2003, I think what the parties have said broadly is that it’ll be in the south. In terms of what the caucus of some party said I don’t know. I wasn’t in any caucus. I read it in the newspapers. When I hear 2023 what comes to my mind is the need to restructure before 2023, so that the things that prevent us from seeing real development are not carried over to 2023 and whoever becomes president again is unable to act.
Devolution restructuring is one thing the South-West and South-East have talked so much about now that they want presidency zoned to them, I want to put it on record that, they should put restructuring devolution before that election as one of the things they will be saying from now onward. In other words, they should be pushing for actions.
I’ll like to say that it’s a good thing that Nigerians have now accepted that periodic free and fair elections will lead to government emerging. We’ve done that since 1999. We’ve just seen Cote D’ Voire, Guinea extending theirs. So, there’s something positive in talking about 2023. But I want to put it on record that to ensure better development performance by who emerges in 2023, devolution restructuring should take place before that election.
To ensure better development performance devolution or restructuring should take place before the elections
There are some specifics that can take place. How is it that since 1999 we’re stuck with the same revenue allocation formula? I’m sure you’re aware of that. I don’t get it. Are they saying they want that maintained for 2023? The same poor performance will arise.
Similarly on security, let them push to get state police, revised revenue allocation and if you like, a restructured state system. If we want a federal system, creation of more states is a no-no. For me, the choice is maintaining the current 36 or having six regions and having each region carry out another level of devolution within itself. Whichever can be done faster, there must be that structural reorganization before 2023. For me, those are more important things than the election. Let’s focus on substance.
So you’re not bothered where the President comes from in 2023?
Where I stand, in 1964, I obtained a card of the action group. January 1968, I decided that I’ll not be in partisan politics, so I’m independent, a tribe that is not recognized in our electoral law.
However, you remember the reform after Yar Adua that actually supported an independent candidate, but my type is not recognized. Because I’m not in partisan politics, it’s left for the political party to sort it out.
It’s a good question you posed. I’ve given you my parameters, what I consider as my priorities, what I considered as a non-partisan but engaged intellectual. The issues that are important to address before 2023, whoever emerges, if those issues are addressed, the chances of better governance would be higher.