Nobody can dispute presidency going to Southeast in 2023 – Prof Akin Osuntokun

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Prof Akin Osuntokun, political scientist and renowned strategist served as political adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and was also a director of the Presidential Campaign of the People’s Democratic Party in 2011.

In this no-holds-barred encounter with Sunday Sun, he came to a damning conclusion that nothing good can come from the President Mohammadu Buhari-led government because its leadership is rooted in incompetence.

He spoke on other critical issues including: restructuring, 2023 presidency, EndSARS protest, and its aftermath. Excerpt:

There are different views on the #ENDSARS protest, some say it was as a result of the anger of the people on what is happening in the country today while some others are saying that it was a ploy to disorganize the government of the day. I don’t know your view on this?

It’s ridiculous that anybody can come to the conclusion that it is directed to unseat the government. We all know, who of those leaders of the protest can you identify in that note? Does any of the leaders conform to this notion of having this ulterior agenda I don’t know how anybody can come to that conclusion from what we all saw and what we all knew happened. Was the protest not hijacked by hoodlums? So, if they wanted to conspire and think like that will it end up in such a manner as it did? I don’t know how anybody could have come to that conclusion. From what we saw they were specific in what they wanted, so I don’t see how anybody could have come to the conclusion that it was targeted at unseating the government, but how will they accomplish that? Are they working with some military officers or top politicians I don’t know, of course, nothing points to that. I can’t see the logic in it.

So, how do you see the freezing of the accounts of some of those alleged sponsors as some are claiming that officials of the government are seizing their passport?

Well, I think they are just using a sledgehammer to kill an ant. This government is incompetent in anything it does, so I shouldn’t even be surprised that they are reacting in such a blind manner to what has happened. They gave an account of all that they received. The last time I read anything about them as regards their account they stated specifically what they will use the outstanding balance for, for the care of people who were injured, for burial or for compensating people, etc. Look, they were that specific, and if the purpose is as transparent as that, where is the need to start chasing them around, freezing their account, or seizing their passport. These guys are not in any way a threat to the government in any shape or manner so I don’t know on what basis they are being harassed. Look, as I said the money they received, they stated what the money is used for and the balance, what they intend to do with it, is any of the purposes they itemized politically subversive? There is nothing that they have done on the account that they operate that indicates any threat to the political stability of a country or points to terrorism. For me, their response is one more demonstration of their gross incompetence in anything they do, so I should not be surprised. If anything, the lesson they should learn from it is that the delegation they sent around the country if they are serious about it they should go round the country listen to what the people are saying and what they want. As at today, there are serious calls for restructuring not only by the opposition parties, but by other well-meaning Nigerians. For instance, the resource person for the Arewa and the Northern Elders Forum are categorical in support of restructuring just as anybody from the Middle Belt. The same is also in the views of their columnists, they have more or less come to the same conclusion that restructuring is the key and have even gone ahead to suggest a return to 12 states structure that General Gowon created in 1967. So, I hope they have come to that conclusion, as well that the only viable option for Nigeria now going forward is restructuring. The government is collapsing, we now have a bankrupt government that can hardly fund payment of salaries let alone capital expenditure, so we have got to a stage in which the government has become bankrupt politically and economically and we have to find a response, despite how negative. It is not an amendment that the Nigerian constitution needs, it’s a replacement. We need to replace it. If you find yourself in a hole you don’t keep digging you try and extricate yourself from that hole. The only means available now for Nigeria to extricate herself from this hole is restructuring. Even the Vice President was saying, somewhere in the US, and I hope he was quoted out of context that what Nigeria needs is not restructuring, but competent leadership. I hope that when he says that he should look in the mirror and look at the reflection from the mirror. How can he say that competent leadership is what we need, so how have they provided it, with the structure that we have? Even as incompetent as they are there is an element of dysfunction about the federal constitutional structure that will undermine the capacity of any government to govern effectively.

So, you mean that the National Assembly that is doing piecemeal constitution amendment is just wasting time?

The National Assembly is another tragedy of this country. What they have revealed of themselves is not an indication of a National Assembly that can do this country any good. If you’re spending $100million to refurbish a building that has been refurbished repeatedly as at the same moment that this country is going through this economic strangulation and they are paying themselves an average of N1million to N1.5 million per day, so what good can we get from them? Every set of new legislatures they buy themselves the latest SUVs in town. I don’t expect anything good from this National Assembly. What they are doing is just to convince people that they are doing something. They cannot review the Constitution without the concurrence of the states in the country, so people are just over-estimating their role in the amendment of the Constitution.

A lot of people are already strategizing for 2023 although it is still far, but politically it is near. Different geopolitical zones are also reaching out in their bid to produce the president in 2023. What is your position on this and your region of preference if any?

It is mindless of any politician in Nigeria today who wishes Nigeria well, who believes in the unity of this country, to dispute the Nigerian presidency with the Southeast. It should be conceded to them. How do you explain if in the next round of election somebody else maybe, from the Southwest, that would just have finished the position of vice president for eight years that had the presidency from 1999 to 2007 and compared to a part of the country that has not had that? From a position of logic and rationale, the Southeast should have it. It’s just a reflection of how degenerate the system has become, but of course, this is subordinate to the more important issue of restructuring. Won’t you have a country in 2023 before you even talk of becoming the president? That is why restructuring is key now. If you have a country in crisis and in fractions in 2023 who will be thinking of where the president will come from? For me, it makes no sense for anybody to dispute it with the Southeast.

How do you react to the latest inflation index? Many have argued that it’s a global phenomenon that even in other countries the economy is going down?

They can deceive themselves that it is a global issue, that the economy can go into recession and all that, but the situation of Nigeria is worse than that with or without the global pandemic, the price of oil which Nigeria solely rely on as a source of revenue has crashed and, of course, on top of it is the economic mismanagement on a large scale of this government. There can be no doubt that this government; this President Buhari-led government has the worst reputation on corruption. Look at what they are doing on the so-called oil subsidy? Have they not just borrowed $33 billion, you are borrowing $33 billion to renovate National Assembly, is that what a serious government does and also $500 million for the Ministry of Information that adds no value to the country and billions of dollars to construct railway to a country outside Nigeria. What is the agenda for? So, like I said, they are simply using the global pandemic as an excuse for their fundamental problem of sabotage and incompetence. This government from every standard in its rating is incompetent.