Jimi Agbaje, a two-time PDP’s Lagos State Governorship Candidate says Nigeria is not running a democracy but a civil administration. In this interview with the Acting Editor, NETA NWOSU, he stressed the need for a people oriented government than what currently exists, which he described thus: “It’s government of the privileged few, by the privileged few and for privileged few.” The Pharmacist and Politician provided a template on how to achieve an ideal and workable democratic government as well as build a great nation.
Many Nigerians are of the common view that all promises President Buhari made when he assumed leadership are far from being achieved. What do you think?
Well, it’s obvious that Nigeria is not as we all want it to be. And, don’t forget that there were some key issues at the time he came in; issues of security, issues of the economy, and then, issues of corruption. And I think if you look at the situation, of course, there is a lot of room for improvements; I am sure people will agree with that because that is the reality.
How has the nation fared?
If you look at our country; the nation at 60, I am not sure that we are anywhere near where we would like to be, considering the potential that this country has, both human and material resources. You see, for me, the building blocks for building a great nation are absent. When I say the building blocks, there are fundamentals. When you want to build a nation that is going to be successful, you first have to have a common vision. In order words, we must have common values as to what we are, who we are, why do we want our people to die for Nigeria? Do they feel that they are a part of Nigeria? Now, these are the building blocks, and you can’t have that. So, when you don’t have the vision, there is a problem. And, in getting the vision, there are issues, fundamentals; education.
Our education is nothing to write home about. We are looking at education from the 21st century, a knowledge world. We don’t have the proper education. We are talking of the health; we don’t have health, we don’t have anything. We don’t even have social buffers, and this came out very quickly with the pandemic; the social buffers are not there. So, you are asking the people what it is they are living for? We don’t have the infrastructure; that is the reality. We now have a virtual world where things are moving in a digital manner. We don’t have broad-band connectivity the way we should have. So, I’m saying that there are a lot of things that are not working.
But you can’t address all the issues at a time, you go to the fundamentals. What makes a building stand is not all those blocks that you put together; it is the pillar, and it’s those pillars that I am trying to address that we have not gotten the pillars in place, and therefore, that’s why we are where we are at this point in time, not in a place of envy, definitely, in Africa or the world. That today, until we address: one, as a people what our goal is as a country, what our vision is, what are our values; that’s number one. Number two, there are some basics that you cannot survive well in any country today if you don’t have education right, if you don’t have health right and if you don’t have the immediate infrastructure correct, then, there is nothing we are doing, we will just be running around. Of course, that is why when we go back to your first question, when you talk about security.
You cannot have security if you don’t have the common values, if we are moving in different directions as a people. If today, we look at ourselves first as either Christians, or Catholics, or Pentecostals, or we look at ourselves first as Igbo or Hausa, or Fulani, or we look at ourselves first as Southern Kaduna, and Northern Kaduna, we are pulling the country apart. So, these are the things we need to first address and say we are first and foremost Nigerians when we talk about this country. And therefore, we must put our heads to see that Nigeria survives; that we are ready to die for the county.
What is your assessment of the country’s democracy since we returned to democracy in 1999?
Well, I am one of those that don’t believe we are running a democracy, I believe we are running a civil administration, and that’s what we are running since 1999. I will just tell you very briefly the common understanding of democracy is government of the people, by the people, for the people. Now, when you talk about that, what it suggests is that the people are key; that ultimate power lies with them. It suggests that whatever you are doing must be for the majority of the people. Now, if we look at our country, I tend to change it to say that it is not government of the people, by the people, for the people; but it’s government of the privileged few, by the privileged few, for privileged few because those that are benefiting from Nigeria are the privileged few. Those that are taking decisions for Nigeria are the privileged few; it’s not about the majority of the people. And so, once you have that, then we can’t even say we are talking about democracy. Those who vote even at elections are the minority, not the majority, whereas democracy is about majority of the people. Even the Edo election that we just held, we had a turnout of about thirty something percent; that is not a majority. These are some of the things we need to begin to look at.
How do we get our people to participate in true democracy?
What we have is a civil administration where it’s not the soldier in power, it’s not the military in power; it’s still civilian, but we are still running our country more like in an authoritarian manner. How do we make progress from here? We first have to sit down and agree that we want to be a country, a nation of Nigeria, and therefore, that’s why we keep saying our constitution. You see, every good constitution talks about ‘we, the people.’ The question is can we say our constitution is ‘we, the people’; that’s where we must start from. We must first educate ourselves that we will survive when this country works properly, not when I am in power, it will survive, and then I don’t care what happens after. And if you look at our country even since 1999, you will find that people that have been in power have taken positions, the moment they leave power, they change their positions because it no longer favours them.
“You cannot have security if you don’t have the common values; if we are moving in different directions as a people. If today, we look at ourselves first as either Christians, or Catholics, or Pentecostals, or we look at ourselves first as Igbo or Hausa, or Fulani, or we look at ourselves first as Southern Kaduna, and Northern Kaduna, we are pulling the country apart.
We must begin to say, ‘look, whether we are in or out of power, these are our goals as a people, we must sit down and agree on that. I am not saying we need to have another constitutional conference or anything like that, no. What I am saying is that we have already had constitutional conferences, and those constitutional conferences have brought up positions that are more or less being defamed, let us go by those decisions, and I am sure that Nigeria will be a much better country.
We have continued to hear of increasing insecurity in Northern Nigeria, what do you think is responsible for this bloodshed and why is it that the culprits have not been brought to book?
In terms of insecurity in Southern Kaduna, it’s the same thing. First, we don’t look at ourselves as Nigerians first; there are people looking at them in that place as to be conquered people. There are issues of fighting for land. There are issues where they believe in fact that they are idol worshippers; they don’t even believe that they are Christians in Southern Kaduna. These are the issues that have to be brought to the table to be discussed. They are fighting for land, they are fighting for grazing fields, and like I said, politics has come into it